Port Austin Bible Campus

PO Box 474    Port Austin, Michigan, USA 48467-0474    989-738-7700    pabc@portaustin.net

Letter of February 5, 2007

Dear Fellow-Worker,

In our efforts to represent ourselves in the Michigan court system, we now have a case pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals. This may well produce a landmark decision for non-incorporated churches and ministries in Michigan. The date of our Trial has been set back to June 14, 2007.

Should a christian Be in Court?

Before we get into the details, let us first address the issues of why we are involved in court cases to begin with. Some brethren do not believe that we should be. I hope everyone will hear me out before deciding. I hope all who read this are striving to be in the First Resurrection, to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev 20:6). But during the past few years, I have come to see how little knowledge I have had about judgment—both from the Biblical perspective and the world’s systems. Judgment is the process of being fair as well as working with people so they can learn the lessons that they need to learn to reach their full potential in Christ. “For whom the LORD loves He chastens…” (Heb 12:6). 

I believe that God has caused us to become involved in these court cases so that we can learn the tough lessons that are necessary to be kings and priests (Rev 5:10). I hope to live these things, and write about them, so that all of you can learn as well. God does promise believers that they are likely to be brought before Judicial authorities:

Luke 12:11 “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

He tells us that we do not need to worry about what we will say, but that we should rely on the Holy Spirit. This sounds easy until you have to do it. There is a great tendency to be overwhelmed by the papers and procedures of things, and just to do what the judges and other court personnel tell you. I have been advised by other believers to “just leave God out of it”. One of the things almost all of the court personnel tell me is “you need to be represented by an attorney”. Yet the scripture does not say that the Holy Spirit will inspire your attorney. The Spirit will speak through believers. Even as I write this, I realize that I should be using the above scripture as one of the reasons why a non-attorney church trustee should be able to represent the interests of the church.

Jesus’ ExampleS of Judgment

As we go on reading in Luke 12, we find a scripture that is frequently misunderstood and misused.

Luke 12:13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”

This has been so often repeated as a proof to avoid participation in civil government that many people believe it without thinking about it. I did for years. But the scripture raises no issues about civil government at all. To the contrary, it teaches lessons about using civil government properly. Jesus knew that the Torah taught:

Deut 16:18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

Jesus was not one of the judges or officers appointed to hear such cases. The man in the crowd should have taken the case to the judges “in his gates”. If he believed their decision was wrong, he should have taken it to a higher human judge, and ultimately God. (At that time, Jesus was recognized as a “teacher”, not as God.) Jesus upheld a very important legal principle here: a case should only be tried once in the proper jurisdiction, and then go only to the proper appeals courts. The USA largely follows the Biblical model in this. Deut 16:18 mentions “your gates” and “your tribes”, which roughly correspond to our local courts, and state appellate courts, and then Deut 16:9 talks about a single central court for the very hardest of cases, corresponding to our nation’s supreme court.

Long-time church members might consider: do you know of a story where church-members had a dispute, and one party kept going to minister after minister, until they finally found someone who agreed with him? Do you know of people who wanted to either marry or divorce under questionable circumstances and who continued to look for a minister until they found one who would agree to do it?

The verses immediately following Luke 12:14 warn about greed. If Jesus is continuing the same subject, it is likely that the man who wanted the inheritance divided was already wealthy—either through his own efforts or by marrying a woman with property (Num 36:1-9). It is possible that his brother was poor and would be impoverished if he had to divide his inheritance. The judges may have already ruled against dividing the inheritance, but the man wanted to keep trying to maximize his gains.

Believers to Settle AMONG
Themselves if Possible

We must realize that Matthew 5:15 and 18:15 instruct believers to settle disputes among themselves without going to court if possible. When that does not work, they can go to an individual or the church to help, rather than a court (Matt 18:16-17, 1Cor 6). The big requirement for these forms of dispute resolution is that both people must submit themselves to the judgment process. When the man in the crowd called to Jesus, he did not say “my brother and I are here, please hear our case and decide it”, but he appeared to be asking for an “ex parte” (one sided) order against his brother. In general, the legal systems of today do not allow this, but would insist on both parties being able to present their case.

Again, I ask long time church members: How many times do you remember when two people had a disagreement and one went without the other to a minister or deacon and obtained a decision in his/her favor without both sides being heard? Some may say, “The minister has the wisdom to discern the truth from one side of the story”. But, Solomon, the wisest of all said, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, even more discerning than Solomon, but he set the example of not judging an issue when both parties are not requesting a judgment and when he had no legal responsibility to judge it.

There are times when Jesus did gently judge an issue brought to him by believers:

Luke 10:38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus was gave a judgment on this dispute when both parties were there and both wanted his decision. We should be willing to do this for disputes between believers in our congregations, today. But if the parties are not willing to submit to any church judgment, or if the people in the church group are not willing to go to the effort of conducting a fair hearing, then the civil courts are the only means of solving the matter. While Matthew 18:17 indicates that a person should be regarded as an unbeliever for not hearing the church, there are so many congregations today that people simply leave one and join another.

Whether we have a dispute with a believer who will not settle among the brethren, or whether a dispute with an unbeliever or against some branch of our government, the courts of this land are the biblically mandated way to solve it. There are times to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39) or “accept wrong” (1Cor 6:7), but there are also times to stand up for what is right and “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

What About Corrupt Courts?

But the courts of today are corrupt! I have said that, and you have probably said that. And it is true. And it was true in both the Old and the New Testament. That is why the Bible is filled with admonitions for judges to do that which is right and just. The Bible teaches the avoidance of this worlds courts if possible, but it nowhere tells believers that they must not go.

But the Bible does tell us how to deal with corrupt courts! We go to them, and if they are unjust, we ask God to do justice for us. The judges need to realize that they, whether they believe in God or not, are sitting in the place of these biblically mandated offices and that they will be judged for what they do. Paul did explained this to Felix:

Acts 24:25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

There are many places where the Eternal promises to hear the cause of the needy and those who are afflicted in judgment—and to take action on their behalf. Please read all the scriptures below, especially the last one from the New Testament:

Ex 22:21  You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

Ex 22:26 “If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 “For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.

Deut 24:15 “Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.

Job 34:27 Because they turned back from Him, And would not consider any of His ways, 28 So that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him; For He hears the cry of the afflicted. 29 When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble? And when He hides His face, who then can see Him, Whether it is against a nation or a man alone? --

Pslm 10:17  LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, 18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

Pslm 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain The cause of the afflicted, And justice for the poor.

Pslm 146:7 Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners. 8 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.

Prov 22:22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, 23 for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them (NIV).

Luke 18:7 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Faith in God DURING Court Situations

Will he find faith in us? Do we have faith that God will really be there with us in court situations? Or, do we believe that God will primarily protect us “during the tribulation” and “in the Millennium”? Too often, I think we believers see our protection from God as a kind of a group thing—that some big event will happen which we will see as “the great tribulation” and then there will be sudden and obvious protection from God. We need to grow in faith that God will protect us and that we will be able to call upon him in vital day-to-day situations that will affect us—sometimes only us.

I included a summary of these concepts in a response to a motion that went before the court. A copy of that paragraph follows:

Defendants [which are myself and the church trust] believe that self-representation is a very important issue and that precedents for it will be set primarily by in propria persona litigants, not by attorneys. The Michigan constitution was established by God-fearing men as its preamble states: “We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, and earnestly desiring to secure these blessings undiminished to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.” The Bible commands the establishment of systems of just judgment at the local and tribal (state) levels (Deuteronomy 16:16-18) and commands the people to use them (Deuteronomy 17:8-9). It is our purpose to operate within the system to encourage legal principles that are also biblical principles. If injustice is done, God himself promises to uphold those oppressed in judgment (Exodus 22:20-24) and everyone will ultimately be judged by the way they judge others (Matthew 7:2; 12:36-37). Self-representation is practiced in numerous places in the scriptures and was an important issue to the framers of the Constitution of Michigan (Article 1, Sec. 13).

On to the Court of ApPeals

On January 8, 2007, our motion in court to allow our church trust to be represented without an attorney was denied. No Michigan law or case law was stated by either the opposing attorney or the judge as the reason for this. The opposing attorney simply said this was “basic law”. The judge asked if I had found a specific case where a trustee represented a trust in court. I told them I had not, but nor had I found any case where a trustee was prohibited from doing so. Had I raised the issue that the burden of proof is on the other side to prove that I cannot do it, he might have granted our motion. But this may have been the Holy Spirit, as promised, giving me the words that I needed. It would be far better to establish this precedent at the Appellate Court level than in the Circuit Court that was hearing this motion.

I did more research and concluded that the basis of these arguments was solid. I filed a request for Leave to Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals on January 26, and have already received confirmation that it has been assigned case number 275819. I will file a more detailed brief, later.

The appeals court has authority to decide the case from what they have already seen, but it is more likely that they will ask for the brief and answer with a written opinion, or just decline to hear the case at all. If they decline, I can either ask the Michigan Supreme Court to hear it (which can also decline), or wait until our case is over, at which time the Appeals Court must hear the matter. As time permits, I will attempt to post the documents on the Internet and explain them in more detail in another letter.

THIS CASE IS IMportant to ChurchES
THAT TAKE ACTION

While this case may seem academic and unimportant, I think it is very important for the future. We continue to receive requests from churches that want to get out from under their corporations and 501(c)(3) status that essentially make them subservient to the government. I realize that many of you have read our Servants’ News articles about this in the past, but for those of you who don’t remember, the 1954 laws allowing churches to receive a tax-exempt letter from the IRS as long as they

·      do not significantly influence legislation,

·      do not influence campaigns for public office

·      do not carry on propaganda.

These laws sat un-enforced for years with some activist churches almost exclusively responsible for the election of certain candidates and the passing of certain laws. Now, the IRS has a whole department that receives complaints against churches that violate these first two points, and warns them or removes their tax exempt status. This writer does not yet know of cases where the issue of carrying on propaganda has been raised, but it will have more impact than the other two. “Propaganda” in this law does not mean a disinformation campaign of lies and deceits, but simply the propagation of any message. The USA Supreme Court confirmed this definition in Meese v Keene, 481 U.S. 465 (1987). Whenever they choose, the IRS can tell 501(c)(3) churches that they must stop proclaiming the gospel or any significant message.

The churches that are attempting to shed their 501(c)(3) and corporate status are doing this so they can speak out on the important issues of the day. The world certainly needs to hear biblical messages from as many sources as possible. But there will certainly be opposition to the churches and individuals that do this. How will that opposition come?

We must not forget the simple and obvious lessons from Jesus and the apostles being in court. Were they there because they did so much wrong? No! There were there because they were falsely accused of doing much wrong. Evil leaders in non-Christian societies frequently just kill or imprison those who oppose them. That is not acceptable in Christian societies, so the evil leaders there usually falsely accuse those who oppose them and have the “justice system” do their dirty work for them. They hope that most of the people will go on thinking that their leaders are good.

As these churches drop their corporate and 501(c)(3) status, and speak out where others are silent, they can expect to be accused and sued in court by various government and other entities. If church groups must hire attorneys to defend frivolous cases, they can lose all they have paying their attorney’s fees. One lawyer told us that the court could appoint some attorney to represent our trust, and then even if we won the case, we could still be required to sell the campus to pay the attorney’s fees imposed on us.

The ability to defend oneself and the property used by one’s church is utterly essential to continuing to preach and proclaim the gospel. We are glad to have a small part in being able to defend this.

Losing Our FreeDOM to OBEY GOD

Month by month, and day by day, one can see our freedoms slipping away and moving closer to the time described in the book of Revelation. Recent news items have shown that the President of the USA (which is a nice way of saying any agency he authorizes) is asserting the right to open anyone’s mail and tap anyone’s telephone. The President has claimed the need to hold prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without charges for indefinite (forever) periods of time, and to torture them to get information. All that is required is for them to be designated an “illegal combatant” or a “terrorist”. No court or trial determines that a person indeed is an “illegal combatant” or a “terrorist”. You could be one! This is a violation of the Geneva Convention our county has signed and a step backward from the Magna Carta of 1215 AD!

Does our President claim that these things are necessary to fight terrorism? Yes. Does the Bible teach that the way to protect oneself from enemies is to put lots of restrictions on your own people? No! Serious enemies are wise enough to use coded language in the phone calls and mail, because they expect that our government will try to intercept their communications. Radical Moslems are ready to die for their cause—they do not give up fighting because they might be captured and held in Guantanamo bay. The money spent on the Iraq war would be far more than enough to develop all the alternate energy we need and to completely secure our own borders. Does the Bible teach that we should not have people living among us that serve other Gods? Yes! (Deut 13:1-18; 17:1-7).

But instead of attempting to secure our country from Islamic influence, in March of 2005 our President signed an agreement to gradually turn over the security of our borders to an international organization which has no elected officials: the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America. It has a website at www.spp.gov which claims that it is not removing the sovereignty of the USA, but never explains how they will have the authority or funding to implement all of the things that they say they are going to do unless the USA, Canada and Mexico turn it over to them.

Another related project is titled North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc.—an organization planning a collection of super-highway from Mexico through the USA to Canada. It has a web site: www.nascocorridor.com. Again, it is a corporation and contains no members elected by the people. One of the features of the highway is that it will be “secure”. While that is not defined on their web site, it almost certainly means that one will need government identification in order to use it—a record will be made when you get on and where you get off.

Section 666

This brings to mind another piece of legislation that has existed for about 10 years and is just now beginning to be enforced. United States Code Title 42, Section 666 is part of the laws attempting to make absent parents pay child support, but contains a provision, Section 666(13)(c), insisting that states require a Social Security Number for “any applicant for a professional license, driver's license, occupational license, recreational license, or marriage license”. You can read the law yourself, here: caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/ts_search.pl?title=42&sec=666. The theory is that any person could some day owe child support, so the government must keep track of everybody. Many people still have their original social security cards which contain the phrase “Not to be used for identification purposes”. But without that number, can a person buy or sell or work?

Lawrence D. Lewis, of Idaho, tried to apply for a driver’s license without giving that number and was denied. He was once assigned a social security number but stopped using it because he…”

…believes the number issued to him by the federal government is either the precursor to, or actually is, the biblical “mark of the beast.”

The above quote was from his appellate brief, available at www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/lewis8.pdf. Mr. Lewis was denied his request for a religious exemption by the appeals court and the Idaho Supreme Court as well. His attorneys are now working on an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. More information is available at www.christianliberty.org/art/religiouslaw-666.html.

I do not claim to have any prophetic revelation that this section 666 is the Mark of the Beast spoken of in Revelation. However, I cannot prove that Mr. Lewis is wrong. The nice thing about Mr. Lewis is that he is not just talking, but doing.

There is another law in progress that will require everyone to have a national identity card by 2008. It is important to realize that our nation was once a place where one could have religious freedom as long as it did not affect others. It is rapidly losing that freedom.

The state of Michigan has recently passed a law requiring all farm animals to be marked with an RFID chip within the next few years (explained at www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-1568-86002--,00.html). Electronic devices can read these RFID chips from a long distance away. People will need to notify the government before they move their animals anywhere—even 4-H shows. The government will know if they do it without permission. It is part of the National Animal Information System (NAIS), a program intended to extend nation-wide. While RFID chips for people are not law yet, it would be very easy to someday extend this “mark for the beasts” to people. Such things have already been proposed for “good purposes”, such as finding kidnapped children. But with the electronics in place to locate the animals, strict control of people could be instantly achieved. Some proponents have recommended that the chips be installed in the hand or forehead. Indeed, the scripture would seem to be fulfilled.

Rev 13:16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

We have a tendency to see a prophecy as pointing to some great and obviously recognized event—and at that time each Christian will have to decide to follow God or follow the Beast. But we need to realize that when Ancient Israel and Judah fell, and when the church was persecuted historically, it was done a piece at a time—here a little, there a little. Evil leaders do not usually attack everyone all at once, they do it here a little, then there a little, so that not everyone rebels at once. We are loosing our freedoms and pushed to obey evil practices a little at a time—a little in one area, a little in another area. Some states are worse, some are better. Sometimes, too many freedoms are taken away at once, so some are given back. But the tendency is always to take them away, not to give them back.

I do not intend to have RFID chips installed in any of the animals here at PABC. I certainly do not intend to accept an RFID chip for myself. I belong to my Father in heaven, not the state. If that means going to court over the issue, to tell the officials that I trust in God and not in their systems, I plan to do it.

Man is Unreliable, God is GooD

I do not agree with most “conspiracy theorists”, but do agree both the Bible and publicly available information show that there are some conspiracies. Most of the information here is documented by the websites of the governments and organizations that we are telling you about. It can be very saddening to read and think about all the evils of our world today. However, this sadness is a good thing. We need to realize that God wants us to be sad about the evils we see:

Ezk 9: 2 And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer's inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. 3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; 4 and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” 5 To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity.”

But we must realize that Christ has overcome all of these evils, and that we can ask for and receive hope in him.

Rom 15:12 And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

We look forward to the day when “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev 11:15).

We want to thank those who have helped us. Virtually every offering and gift we have received has been utterly essential to our ministry, as we continue to have almost “just enough” to pay our bills. We are presently three months behind on our main property payments ($5000 per month), but we are negotiating with our seller and other individuals to take care of this problem at least temporarily.

In Christian Love,

Norman Scott Edwards


 

Legal Status: The author asserts his right to produce this document according to the rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are upheld by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

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The purpose of this document is to provide useful teaching. The author grants permission for this paper to be copied in whole or in part, as long as it is distributed free of charge. The author believes the information in this document to be accurate, but realizes that he is fallible, so he would appreciate corrections of any errors. This document is not professional or legal advice. Anyone making a decision based upon this document should seek God in prayer first, and realize that they are making their own decision and that the author of this document and those who distribute it are not liable for their decision and its consequences. People not capable of making their own decision or wanting “legal advice” should seek a “licensed professional”. This is a private publication, not public.