Archive for March, 2015

“My life really sucks”

I hear that a lot from people that I meet. Many seem to live with endless drama and uncertainty; hanging onto emotional and spiritual sanity by a thread. Some complain about being trapped in the status quo. Others are exhausted, anxious, and feel like they are running out of options. They often feel helpless, with little control over their state of affairs.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you ever wondered if it was time to throw in the towel?

Let’s talk.

When you reach the end of your rope, you just may find the hem of HIS garment. Author Unknown

So you’ve reached the end of the rope and you’re slipping fast. Some would tell you to hold on to that rope for dear life. Re-claim control of your circumstances. Not me. Here’s my suggestion. Let go of the rope.

The burden of life’s uncertainties were never yours to carry. I’m not saying that letting go of the rope won’t hurt. Some things in your life may even get worse. But once you let go of the worry and give up the struggle to control everything, God can take over.

Check out this verse from the Bible,

6-7”So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 Phillips)

Isn’t that awesome?  God is always watching everything that concerns you. He will grip you in His strong hand and hold on to you as long as it takes. The French say, La vie est dure mais Dieu es bon si bon. In English it translates, Life is hard but God is good, so good.

But God is more than good. If you will trust Him, in time, He will lift you out from under the mess you’ve made (or the one you got sucked into). In the interim, you will learn all about endurance.

Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance. – Virgil

Endurance is the capacity to withstand hardship or stress. In the New Testament letter written to the Hebrew Christians, the writer encouraged them by saying,

35-38”Don’t throw away your trust now—it carries with it a rich reward in the world to come. Patient endurance is what you need if, after doing God’s will, you are to receive what he has promised. ‘For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him’.” (Hebrews 10:35-38 Phillips)

When you remain determined in the face of a struggle and trust God to deliver you from your current miseries – that too is endurance. As a Christian, I have learned that no matter what I face in this life, I can confidently wait with patient endurance for God to act. He can do the impossible. I cannot.  

20”God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20 The Message)

Stressed out people have generally allowed inward or outward pressures to consume them. For some, constant anxiety is a way of life. But the Scriptures admonish us to have a single mind; an undivided resolve. We are to press in and learn God’s unique purpose for our lives. And when troubles come, God wants us to welcome the challenge as an opportunity to test our trust in Him. The New Testament writer James put it this way,

2”…is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience (endurance) has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience (endurance) is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.(James 1:2-4 TLB)

It always comes back to this: Who do you trust? Yourself? The doctrines of the cultural, social, and political elite? Or is your trust in God and His word? Where you place your faith is critical. When you really learn to trust in the Lord, you can let go of your rope and with confidence enter life’s endurance run.

The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials.  – George Muller

1-3”Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message)

Get it? Life is an endurance race. The joy of knowing that you will come out a winner in the end should motivate you to endure every test and trial. No, it isn’t easy – nothing of any real value ever is. One day we will all pass through the veil of death. It is then we will cross that great and glorious finish line into eternal rest. But first, this earth will enter a time of great sorrow and extreme tribulation. So expect bad days, but remember, Jesus made a promise to everyone who endures the trying times,

10“Because you have kept my command to persevere (endure), I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Do not grow weary in the struggle. Learn to find your rest in the God. Stay focused on the truth that Jesus shared. And always run with patient endurance the race that lies before you. One day, you will reap the harvest of God’s faithfulness – if you do not quit!

Just hang in there baby!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ― Robert Frost

Traveling on unfamiliar roads can provide many opportunities to enjoy some new sights, sounds, and experiences. However, aimless wandering is not the best approach when you have a specific destination in mind. Especially if you’re running late. There’s nothing more frustrating when I travel than getting lost, or worse, not knowing where I am going.

What about you? Do you know where you’re going in life? How about after you die? Your destiny is not a twist of fate. You have choices to make –especially regarding your spiritual life. Let’s talk.

“It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” Jean Nidetch

Whenever I hear the cacophony of opinion regarding “pathways” to God, I think about these words spoken by Jesus,

13 There are two paths before you; you may take only one path. One doorway is narrow. And one door is wide. Go through the narrow door. For the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it; but the wide, broad, easy, crowded path leads to death. 14 Now then that narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to life. It is hard to find that road. Not many people manage it. – Matthew 7:13-14 – The Voice

Is that so hard to understand? There are two paths before you. But, you only get to travel on one. Your choice. Every human being will determine their ultimate (eternal) destiny by the singular and specific spiritual path they choose to follow. And remember, a failure to make a choice is a choice.

Jesus spoke of two entrance points. One door is very large and by implication much easier to see and perhaps even more appealing. There is also a narrow door, not as conspicuous and doubtless less alluring.

In describing the wide door, Jesus said, the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it.

Hey, that sounds cool to me. A big attractive door that opens up to reveal a substantial road that is accommodating, easy to travel and filled with all kinds of people – I’m down for that!

But… that is not the door He tells us to choose. Jesus said we’re to go through the narrow door. And, it was not a suggestion.

Of course there are reasons why Jesus said to choose the narrow door. First, the big attractive door that opens up to reveal a road that is very large, accommodating, filled with the “in crowd” and easy to travel – leads to death. Ok, it’s the road to hell. You have heard it said “the road to hell is paved with good intention?” I say that it is paved with ignorance and deception and foolishness. The big door and the big road are a BIG mistake!

Why? Because the narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to a real life. Jesus said, go through the narrow door. That’s the right choice.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Joanne Kathleen Rowling

Still cynical? You won’t find critical answers to life’s most important questions on the emblematic superhighways where the in crowd hangs out. For that matter, the numerous paths to spirituality or inner peace peddled in the vast marketplace of subjective religious conviction won’t cut it either.

Conversely, that narrow and often obscure little door that opens to reveal a constricted and undeniably difficult road is the only one that leads to real life – now and in eternity. That doorway and that road is the only way to the one true God.

Some would take issue with me for saying that there is a singular and specific path to the one true God. Pack me off to diversity training camp they would. How could I be so narrow minded? It’s simple really. I am a Christian. The author of my faith made the statements I have quoted. If I take issue with a portion of His word, why believe it at all. Jesus either spoke the absolute truth or He is a liar and Christianity is a charade. Truth is never subjective.

I am not a hypocrite. If Jesus said it then I believe it. End of story. It’s not up for debate. Like it or not, the Christian Faith is anchored to this fundamental truth: If you really want to find God, Jesus Christ is the door through which you gain access to the road that leads to an eternity with Him.

…“For sure, I tell you, I am the Door of the sheep. All others who came ahead of Me are men who steal and rob. The sheep did not obey them. I am the Door. Anyone who goes in through Me will be saved from the punishment of sin. He will go in and out and find food. 10 The robber comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I came so they might have life, a great full life. (John 10:7-10)

Not to put too fine a point on this but again, according to Jesus, He is the only door through which you gain access to God now and forever. Think of it like this, God’s way on God’s terms = God’s Life. You don’t get to pick your own version of the Truth.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” ― Led Zeppelin

Not sure which path you’re on? No worries. You can change. Consider yourself fortunate. Jesus said, it is hard to find that narrow road and not many people manage to do it. But right now, there’s a fork in the road you are on. You can keep drifting along the wide, broad, easy, crowded path that leads to destruction, or make a change by passing through that little gate to the right and follow the road less traveled.

One more thing. Jesus also said,

6-7 “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father (God) apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father (God) as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!” (John 14:6 – The Message)

Truth and Life are yours when you get to know Jesus. See Him and you get a glimpse of God. Jesus is the door, the road, the truth and the genuine life. Can’t think of anything else we need on this journey. Bon Voyage!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

Each day is a step we make towards eternity and we shall continue thus to step from day to day until we take the last step, which will bring us into the presence of God.

– Catherine McAuley

Eternity is frequently defined as duration without beginning or end. Some call this infinite time. On Earth, our time is finite. We measure our brief appearance on this planet in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, etc. When we pass away, our measured time comes to a close. However, we do not cease to exist. Only the body dies. Our life-force (the spirit that animates the flesh; aka the soul) will continue to live on in infinite time. But have you considered that simply living forever and having an eternal life are not the same? Let’s talk.

In truth, we are living in eternity at this very moment. That’s right. Forever is forever. No beginning and no end. So it stands to reason that time without end – was, is and always shall be. The reason we do not view our lives from a never-ending perspective is simple enough; our finite time-based existence on earth obscures our awareness of the vast eternal.

Christians understand the significance of the term eternal life because it was defined for us by Jesus. He was sent to earth by God with a specific mission – to seek and to salvage lost human beings (Luke 19:10) and to give them everlasting life (John 17:1-5). When His time on the earth was drawing to a close, He told his friends and followers,

28 “I came from the Father and have come into this world. I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28)

And then, raising his eyes toward the heavens, he said,

1 …“Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you. For you have given him authority over every man and woman in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth! I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. 5And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

Jesus makes some extraordinary claims. For one, He asserts that His authority comes directly from Almighty God and it extends over every man and woman in all the earth. Jesus also declares that He can grant everlasting life to everyone whom God has given to Him. But nestled in the narrative is the most significant declaration. According to Jesus, the definition of eternal life is:

  • To know the one and only true God
  • To know Jesus as the Christ (anointed one) sent by God

Know God + Know Jesus = Eternal Life. It’s not about picking the right church or getting religion. Our relationship with God through Jesus (the one whom God sent to free us) is how we receive His eternal life for all eternity.

By the way, the only other eternal existence spoken of in the scriptures is the one that provides never-ending payback for those who reject God. (Matthew 25:46). Hmm.

We ought to get out of the judging business. We should leave it up to God to determine who belongs in one arena or another when it comes to eternity. What we are obligated to do is to tell people about Jesus, and that’s what I do.

– Tony Campolo

 So, Jesus left the planet to return to God. But the Spirit of God remains present in all the earth. And eternal life is still being imparted to everyone who places their trust in the one true God and the liberator Jesus Christ.

One day, when our finite time is up and the eternal becomes instantly visible to us, we will see Jesus again. For now, He is only discernible to the eye of faith. Do you have faith?

Faith sees beyond the moment

The nature of mankind is to trust only what can be observed and verified. Think of it as the “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach to living. Consequently, the faithless masses stumble through their days trying to make sense out of this quagmire called “life”.

In contrast, faith empowers the believer to live by trusting without seeing. Faith is the eye of the soul. By faith we can grasp what is not yet revealed to our physical senses. Faith is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it just yet.

Jesus makes God’s greatest and most precious promises available to those who put their trust in Him. It is now possible to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust (in all of its forms) is rapidly producing in the world. And, because of Jesus, believers now share in God’s essential nature. We accept as true and receive all these things by believing, not by seeing.

The New Testament writer Paul said it this way.

“We walk (live our life) by faith (absolute trust in the unseen eternal God) and not by sight (things that are seen and experienced)”. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Take a good look around. All that you see with your eyes and believe to be important in the physical world will cease to exist in the future. And yet, so many are preoccupied with the material world and filled with anxiety because of what they see and experience every day. This world is full of troubles. Paul wrote to the Christians living in ancient Corinth and told them,

18“…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT)

We all experience difficulties. But when we turn to God for help, He allows us to see beyond our temporary distresses, into His domain – the invisible realm of eternity. From that unseen dimension we find His help in our darkest hours.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Jesus plans to return to our planet. We don’t know when. It could be at any time. We only know for sure that He is coming. He said so. And when he does, we’re taking an awesome trip beyond the stars. Read about it and rejoice!

1“Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in me also. There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with me. Then you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know how to get there.”

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way to get there?” Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can go to the Father except by Me. If you had known me; you would know My Father also. From now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:1-7 NLT)

You’re invited to join us on this fantastic voyage. Just get to know Jesus. He is the way. His truth will set you free. And his eternal life, now that’s really cool.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

I was sitting in a restaurant having lunch in mixed company when someone asked, “What is your candid opinion of our current president.” I paused for a moment and then replied, “He is smart and very persuasive, but he is also a fool”. Reaction was swift. “Don’t you think that is rather harsh? How disrespectful. You must be tea party or a right wing conservative republican.” Honestly, my response to the question was not politically motivated. Observant scrutiny over an extended period of time has shaped my view. The President and for that matter many of the political and social elite of our day behave foolishly. I did try to clarify my position. But when things went from bad to worse, I politely changed the subject.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. Plato

Let me explain. I read the Bible. In its pages I have discovered many things. I encountered the real Jesus by reading the scriptures (not the one so often presented by structured religion). He is a remarkable teacher. Through Him, I found the path to a genuine life – now and forever. Over many years of study, I also came to understand the true meaning of the word fool.

In the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, the prophet laments over the condition of his people and the great nation that he loved. Through tears he said,

19”My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries. 20 Waves of destruction roll over the land, until it lies in complete desolation. Suddenly my tents are destroyed; in a moment my shelters are crushed. 21 How long must I see the battle flags and hear the trumpets of war? (Jeremiah 4:19-21 TLB)

Jeremiah recognized the negative spiritual and social changes of his day and the destructive consequences those changes were bringing down upon the land. And so he asks of God,

21”How long must I see the battle flags and hear the trumpets of war?”

The Lord gives no direct answer to his question. Instead God states the cause of Judah’s calamity,

22 “My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the Lord. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!” (Jeremiah 4:22 – TLB)

The people of Jeremiah’s times had effectively become deniers of the one true God. They had sown wind and now they were reaping the whirlwind. But here’s the troubling part, this rejection of God and His ways is happening in our time too – right now – all over the world. If you don’t believe me, just look with discernment at modern politics, entertainment and popular culture. They are swarming with fools who do not know God. And even those who profess to “believe in God” often act like “stupid children who have no understanding. …no idea how to do right!”

31”It is a fearful (formidable and terrible) thing to incur the divine penalties and be cast into the hands of the living God!” Hebrews 10:31

Decades of ignoring God has accelerated our societal downward spiral. As human acts of wickedness, deception and defiance accumulate, the truth is hidden or distorted. Even so, whenever sincere men and women open their eyes and look around, they can find God. There is this God imprint on every human soul and each atom of creation reflects His reality. Hence, no human being has a legitimate excuse for denying God. The New Testament Apostolic writer Paul expressed it this way,

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, evil men who push the truth away from themselves. 19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day. 21 Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead. (Romans 1:18-22 – TLB)

Foolish minds filled with darkness? Men and women who think up silly ideas of what God is like and what he wants them to do? Yes, that is what Paul said. “Claiming to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead.” No wonder the Psalmist declared,

53 Only a fool would say to himself, “There is no God.” And why does he say it? Because of his wicked heart, his dark and evil deeds. His life is corroded with sin.” (Psalm 53:1 – TLB)

You’ll find these fools among politicians, universities professors, Hollywood superstars, even friends and family. Because of a conscience corroded by sin, they cannot separate right from wrong. Some may feign Spirituality, and even speak of God with platitudes, but their foolish hearts are far from Him. Consequently, by their actions they proclaim “I do not know God”. Thus, they are fools. I was once that kind of fool. But God, in His amazing Grace, opened my foolish eyes and let me see the wretched man that I am without Him. And even though I still may act foolishly on occasion, I am not a fool. I know God. I know the liberator Jesus Christ. I know that His absolute truth trumps all of the wisdom of mankind. Of course, it’s your right to disagree with me. Call me crazy if it will make you feel any better. Laugh in my face. But, I will not argue the point any further with you. Why? For the same reason I politely changed the subject in the restaurant that day:

4”Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4 – MSG)

I rest my case.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.