Breaking: At Least 25 Dead in Texas Church Massacre

Update: November 5, 2017 at 8:00 PM EST.

At a news conference, Gregg Abbott, the Texas Governor states, “This incident occurred at a place of worship where congregants were innocently gunned down. It has been confirmed that 26 people have been killed including adults and children. There will be long suffering and mourning of those in pain. We ask God’s comfort and guidance in healing. I am very proud of the way that all have responded to this. The Emergency Medical Task Force was deployed from San Antonio. The Red Cross has set up a family assistant center. So many people who have responded have helped to pull all this together. I want to tank President Trump, who called from overseas, Senator Ted Cruz, Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson County, The Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Homeland Security, The FBI, and other law enforcement agencies.”

Then Sheriff Joe Tackitt of Wilson County stated, “To the media, please don’t blow this out there that this should not have happened because it does happen.We don’t know the names of the victims at this time. We are still working the crime scene.”

The last to speak was Freeman Martin of The Texas Department of Public Safety. Martin stated, “We have certain facts that we will release, but are not ready to release them at this time. The suspect was dressed in all black. The suspect entered the church and fired and then exited the church. A neighbor who saw what was going on grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR Assault Rifle and fled from the church. The neighbor pursued the suspect where the suspect crashed his vehicle and was found dead at the scene. The suspect was shot but it is not known at this time if the suspect shot himself or if he died from the neighbor shooting him. There are multiple crime scenes. There are Texas Rangers at all hospitals interviewing victims.  At the end of the investigation, we will be able to answer any reasonable question.”

Sutherland Springs, Texas – November 5th, 2017: A church shooting is being reported on several news outlets. A male gunman opened fire on congregants according to Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt. First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs were conducting their service when a male opened fire killing at least 25 and injuring many more. Sutherland Springs is about 30 miles Southeast of San Antonio. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has responded and has taken lead on the investigation. The shooting occurred about 11:30 AM this morning as reported by witnesses. One witness, Diana Segura, age 69, heard rapid bangs which she thought a truck had exploded on the highway. Segura stated she walked outside and saw multiple bodies on the ground outside the First Baptist Church. KSAT is reporting that the man walked into the church, opened fire and was later killed by police.

The gunman is identified as 26-year-old Devin P. Kelley. Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas stated, “He went there, he walked in, started shooting people and then took off to Guadalupe County, which is northeast of Sutherland Springs.”

Many towns people and family members were seen standing near the church, holding hands, weeping, and praying.

President Trump, who is in Japan, offered his help and condolences:

Photo Credit: Screenshot of President Trump’s Tweet on Twitter

References: The Washington Post, CNN, FOX News, and KSAT.

Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC, © November 5th, 2017.

Less of Myself

“I pray that I will live a life for Jesus that others will see Jesus in me and less of myself.” ~ Foy Hocutt Lee

My Mom wrote the above statement in her devotion book a few years before she went to heaven. She did live a life pleasing to God and she wanted her children to do the same. As she lived her life, she was a wonderful example of walking close with God. The devotion she was reading at the time she wrote that statement was called “Walking Worthy” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

The following are quotes from the study as well as scriptures relating to the subject matter. I will make my own commentary at the end.

Walking Worthy

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

“Paul never lost his wonder at having been called by God. He understood that the way he lived ought to be worthy of the King who had chosen him. He knew that the mystery of the gospel had been hidden for generations and had only been revealed in his day through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26-27). Paul also understood that until people accept the gospel, they are spiritually dead and therefore without hope (Col 2:13). As a result of God’s plan of salvation, those who trust in Jesus are not only made alive in Christ but are also adopted as the Father’s children (Rom. 8:16-17). Paul recognized that though the Gospel sounds like foolishness to the world, it is the power of God that brings eternal life to those who accept it” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“Because Paul’s life had been radically transformed by the gospel, he was intent on living to honor the gospel that gave him life. It would have been tragic to receive the riches of the gospel and then to live as a spiritual pauper. It would have been disgraceful to be saved from death by the blood of Christ and then show no reverence for that sacrifice. It would have been foolish to accept such love from Christ and then to resent what He asked in return” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“The way you live your life ought to be a tribute to the matchless grace that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon you” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“Walking Worthy” is a tall order for men and women of the faith. Living a life pleasing to God is very hard if one does not transform their life into a life of holiness. No one can do this on his or her own. That is why it is important to constantly have a prayer time with God and to study the Bible and reach out to God through the scriptures, which are God inspired.

Walking worthy means that we should be living our lives in a way that is pleasing to the Father. We should do this both in our public lives as well as our private lives. You know what I am talking about. When you are alone and no one is around to see what you are thinking about? What your eyes see or what you do? God sees everything. He knows everything. You might be able to fool your friends but you are not fooling God! We should be living our lives in a manner that others see Jesus in us. But we also need to live our private lives in a manner that God sees Jesus in us. There are consequences of sin. A believer who has accepted Christ should strive to stop sinning and turn from his or her wicked ways. “Less of myself” means more of Christ and our focus should be on God and not ourselves. The way we live our lives should be a tribute to the matchless grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has bestowed on us!

Today, Father, I pray that others will see more of Christ in me and “less of myself.” I pray that if someone reading this is not right with you, that they will repent of their sin and ask forgiveness and be transformed into the men and women you have called us to be. I pray Father, that you will constantly help me to be more like Christ in all that I do. I pray for our nation will turn back to you! I pray that our nation will have a revival and that our brothers and sisters in Christ will walk tall and walk worthy of you! In Jesus name! Amen!

Scripture References:

Colossians 1:26-27 “26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” New International Version (NIV)

Colossians 2:13 “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (NIV)

Romans 8:16-17 “16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)


Blackaby, Henry T, and Richard Blackaby. EXPERIENCING GOD DAY-BY-DAY: The Devotional and Journal. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 1997.

Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC, © November 5, 2017


Wow! I have lost yet another friend on Facebook! I had 503 and now I have 502. I guess I am going to cry! Not really. Listen, I am trying to live my life the best that I can for God. I will take a stand. Sometimes, taking a stand for God is not popular. But I have never really cared about popularity. I just want to do what is righteous in the eyes of God. I have friends on both sides of the aisle. They know what I believe. I still love them and care for them dearly. But I cannot compromise my beliefs. If I lost all of my friends, it still would not matter. One day, we will all have to make a choice. Either deny Christ or die. I am not looking forward to that day, but I will never deny my God and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If one is a friend with me on Facebook, they are either family, a Christian, someone I have met in business, or a client. My Facebook page is my personal page. It is where I can share my faith and hopefully, minister to others. If someone does not want to see my posts, they could ignore them. To unfriend means rejection. But that is okay with me. If they were TRULY a friend, then they would accept me for being me.

Many people turn to social media as a way to communicate with others. They get caught up into how many “LIKES” that they can get in order to feel accepted and loved by their so-called “Friends.” The fact is those “Friends” probably do not have your best interests at heart. Many people, especially teenagers are looking for acceptance through any means available. Social media is one way of gaining acceptability and sparking their ego with many “Likes.” But if one is “unfriended,” a person’s self-esteem may already be low, and they may be devastated by the fact that someone has rejected them. “Yet for some, being digitally deleted by their contacts can be bruising to the ego — even if the relationships aren’t close” (The Canada Press, 2015).

“There’s this idea that unfriending on Facebook is like an active step that you take to tell somebody: ‘I don’t like you. I don’t want to see your stuff anymore'” (The Canada Press, 2015). People who have a low self-esteem may take this as a rejection and may resort to depression or even harming one self. It appears that some people so wrapped up in social media take offense when someone they actually do not know in real life “unfriends” them. It is very sad that people have stopped building friendships and relationships naturally by personal interaction. I have actually seen families communicate via texting sitting in the same home or at the dinner table.

Technology is a wonderful tool, but if used incorrectly, can be devastating in people’s lives. For example, take a pastor who needs to check on a congregational member who may have had a family loss or who may be facing a surgery. I believe the correct method of contact is either picking up the telephone and calling them or get into his car and go to them, if at all possible. When pastors text a congregational member who is in need of prayer, consultation, or comfort; texting is not appropriate and is impersonal.

The Internet can be an impersonal place and yet many use social media as a way to communicate in their lives. Social media means so much to some people, that they neglect their own family and personal relationships. Some teenagers are so addicted to their smart phones that if a parent took it away, they would almost have a breakdown. Their smart phones are their lifelines to others and if their phone were broken or taken away, I am sure the situation and interaction would not be pleasant to either the child or the parent.

In my opinion, a parent should not ever give a child a smart phone because by doing so, you are introducing that child to a world of information that the child may not be mature enough to process. For example, some cellular companies cannot implement parental controls on certain types of smart phones. If a child wonders on the Internet, they can be exposed to pornography. A parent cannot control what or where a child goes using their smart phone. This is not even scratching the surface. Texting in itself leads to problems. Teenager’s sexting pictures of themselves to boys and girls, and then that picture get circulated. In actuality, the child has just distributed child pornography and has committed a felony and could be found guilty and have to register as a sex offender. Many of you reading this will think I have gone to the extreme, but the fact is that Virginia is prosecuting these types of cases.

As parents, if we allow our children the freedom to do what they want on the Internet or buying and allowing them to use smart phones, we have potentially caused them harm because of the dangers of the Internet. I wonder how many parents look at their kid’s Twitter feeds or their Facebook posts? My child did not like it that I snooped and watched her social media. I did it because I love her! I have always wanted the best for her! I asked questions. I wanted to know what she meant by certain things she said. I got involved and ran interference when I thought something might have been inappropriate language.

Parents. Listen to what I am saying! If you really love your child, PROTECT them from harm. Watch their social media. Know what they are saying. Monitor their computer and smart phones. If your child will not allow you to monitor them, take their phones away as well as their computer. Protect your child from the predators on the Internet. When your child becomes so addictive to social media, then the “friending”, “unfriending” and the “Likes” will dominate their lives. Be their parent and not their friend! If you really love your children, you will be their parent first and guard them against the evil of predators.

So how did we go from an adult being “unfriended” to teenagers and children? The fact is that social media has affected everyone’s lives. Social media has almost become one’s church and god. It has become people’s lives and many may live their lives through other people’s experiences. When social media becomes more important than having personal relationships in “real life,” then it becomes an addiction. The Bible says in Exodus 20: 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” When we as Christians place more emphasis on social media than reading and studying God’s Word, then we have in fact placed social media on a higher level than God.

Think about it! If we put anything ahead of God, we are sinning. I am not saying not to have a social media account. What I am saying is that moderation is the key! Please do not let the “Like”, “Friending” or “Unfriending” affect your walk with Christ. God wants a personal relationship with each of you. He loves you and He sent His one and only Son to die for you and to redeem you from your sins. In John 3: 16-17, the Bible says “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” If you are looking for acceptance and you do not want to be “unfriended”, then God will never “unfriend” you if you give your heart to Christ.

As a Christian who is in love with Christ and loves God, there will be many people who despise God. And if they despise God, they will despise a follower of Jesus Christ. But I would rather be despised by the world than to be rejected by God. I love my God and I have committed my life to a lifetime of service to Christ.  Service to Christ means living one’s life in a manner that is pleasing to God. It means to follow God’s standards of living and obeying God’s commandments as well as acting as Christ would act. It means sharing one’s faith with others. I pray that you will find love and acceptance that is found only through Jesus Christ and only in God’s love.


The Canada Press. (2015). CBCNews / Science & Technology. Retrieved 2015, from CBCNews :

 Joseph T. Lee, Managing Partner, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC © November 4, 2017.

Why Love People?

Many wonder why I continue to harp on and post to love your neighbor as yourself? The answer is this. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:12-14, “This is my command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command.” This is what Jesus did for us. He laid down His life for us. Therefore, we are to love one another, for He loves us. If we don’t love others, then we do not love Him and do not love God.

To continue to espouse hatred against others, even your enemies is not keeping Christ Jesus’ commandment to love others as Christ Jesus has loved us. We must show the world that we truly are followers of Christ. If you hate others, then you hate God. We get so caught up with defending statues that we miss the point of loving others. We get caught up in thinking our lives matter more than other people’s lives. This is not love. This is not showing the love of Christ. Love does not have to be defended. Love overcomes evil. For those who fight so hard to save historical statues, where have you been to fight hard to love others and share your faith for the cause of Christ? We live in a society who places a higher value on history than the love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ! We live in a society who places a higher value on certain lives of color as opposed to valuing the life of every person who lives on God’s earth. According to what I read in God’s Holy Word, all lives matter to Christ Jesus. For He said in John 15:17, ” This is what I command you, love one another.” It does not say to love only White people. It does not say love only Black people. It does not say love only Indian, Asian, or Middle-Eastern people. It says to love one another! People, we need to STOP the hatred and forgive one another. We need to do this NOW! If not for the sake of our nation but for the sake of God. If we do not, we are breaking Christ Jesus commandment. And if we are breaking Christ’s commandment, then we have turned our backs on God. And if we continue this track, then God will not honor or bless our nation.

Joseph T. Lee © November 4, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC


Breaking: Update on Halloween Terror Attack in NY City

According to FOX News, the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov,  was shot in the abdomen and is from Tampa, Florida. The suspect is originally from the Asian nation of Uzbekistan and came to the United States in 2010. Saipov is 29 years old.

President Donald Trump Tweeted: “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”

Trucks are being used as weapons of mass destruction. ISIS is taking credit for these attacks. A top ISIS figure has called for lone wolf attacks using whatever method possible to kill as many people as possible.

According to CNN, since 2016, there have been five major vehicle attacks.

  • July 2016: Nice, France
  • December 2016: Berlin, Germany
  • March 2017: London, England
  • June 2017: London, England
  • August 2017: Barcelona, Spain
Photo Credit: Associated Press

NY Congressman Pete King states, “Islamic terror is a worldwide movement. We have to stop being politically correct. Stop being apologetic. To run over people in a bike path, to attack a Disabled Children’s School Bus, what a disgrace!”



BREAKING: “This Was An Act of Terror” – Halloween Terror Attack in New York City

Manhattan, NY – At least eight people are dead and fifteen more are injured after a truck driven by a male ran over several people on bicycles as well as crashing into a school bus. A witness states that the truck was traveling between 40 to 50 MPH when it struck the bicyclists and pedestrians. The New York Mayor states, “This was an act of terror.” According to witnesses, the suspect yelled “Allahu Akbar” after ramming the school bus. The suspect was shot by police and is in custody. The suspect had rented a Home Depot Truck, which was used in this terror attack. According to law enforcement, the truck was rented in Jersey City, NJ and was driven into New York and then used in this terror attack on a bike path, striking several bikers. He struck at least twenty or more people and killed eight. The suspect had two weapons on him, a BB Gun and a Pellet Gun. That was when New York Police shot him. This happened right across the street from “Ground Zero” at One World Trade Center. The NYC Mayor stated, “The Halloween Parade will continue tonight. We will not change our way of life. We will not change our activities.”


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