Archive for April, 2015

Time, like water, is fluid.  Today it seems to stand still.  I’m sitting at the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs enjoying lunch and watching a sentinel pelican preening on the piling.  It’s another idyllic moment here in Florida. And then a startling blast from a truck horn breaks the spell.  In the midst of what some would consider to be a paradise, my mind flashes with the thought: we’re living in really dangerous times.

Tarpon Springs 1Now before you break out in a chorus of “Golly, Ya think…” hear me out.  I have never tried to hide the fact that my faith in the Creator of all things (God) shapes my world view.  When the headline news starts to sound like excerpts from the biblical books of Ezekiel, Daniel or Revelation, I can’t help but take notice.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy named Paul the Apostle.  He was born Saul around 1 AD in Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor.  His letters account for almost half the written content of the New Testament (13 books) and they are the major source of Christian theology.  Paul was a zealous Jew who came to realize that Jesus was the long awaited Liberator of mankind (The Messiah).  He had a close friend named Timothy.  Let me tell you a little about him.

Timothy also lived in the first century AD.  He became Paul’s student, and later his trusted companion, co-worker and fellow traveler. Timothy’s name appears as the co-author of the New Testament letters known as, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  It is believed that in the year 64 AD, Paul left Timothy at the ancient city of Ephesus, to govern a local church as its Pastor. In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote these cautionary words,

1-5Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 MSG)

Paul does not mince words in describing how mankind (void of God’s grace) would continue down the path of degradation.  The way he defines the characteristics of human beings (especially as we draw close to the end of the world as we know it) is unnerving.  I particularly like that descriptor “allergic to God”.  I don’t know what makes some people more irritable, a nasty allergy season or bringing up God in a conversation.  Like it or not, Paul nailed it.  We are living in the predicted “difficult times”.  Religion to some is little more than appearance.  It’s amazing how many people assume the form of pious belief when it suits their purposes but their lifestyle nullifies its validity.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” ― C.S. Lewis

How many characteristics from that list could have described you at one time or another?  Thank God for His grace!  Without divine favor we too would be the people that Paul warned Timothy to avoid. (I suppose that would make us the people our parents warned us about.)  Seriously, even though we still behave badly on occasion, a true Christian is being transformed into the image of Jesus a little more each day by the power that is at work within us.

Times are getting worse

 10-13You’ve been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings—suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me! Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it. Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. They’re as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 MSG)

Paul was always down for the fight.  He epitomizes the real deal.  This unassuming follower of Jesus understood what it truly means to live a life that respects and honors the Creator of all things (GOD).  He also knew how easy it is to deceive people who are naive (sadly, many Christians, it seems) and who are openly searching for meaning in life.  Paul warns of the fraudulent “con men” for a reason. They gain your confidence and then exploit your trust.  Can anyone say “Pray cloths for sale?”  Their misrepresentation of God helps to worsen the public perception of the Christian faith. Don’t let that discourage you.  Listen again to what Paul went on to tell Timothy,

 14-17…Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 MSG)

Wow.  Through the (written) Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  The Truth (which is another term for God and His Word) defines who really has it together.  If we are (as the scriptures declare) but lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel; God is the Master Potter and He is shaping our earthen vessels for a specific purpose.

Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness and bad days give you experience. Both are essential. ― Anonymous

The world will continue to grow more and more dangerous.  People will go right on rejecting the creator of all things (GOD).  In fact, God will facilitate their ultimate delusional state.  Say what?  Absolutely.  Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,

5-12 I expect you remember now how I talked about this when I was with you. You will probably also remember how I used to talk about a “restraining power” which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this evil man (anti-christ). Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the “restraining power” (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen—though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow.  (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – J.B. PHILLIPS)

The Lawless Man?  Evil Spirits?  Falsified signs and wonders?  Deluded by evil?  Yes, and a whole lot more.  It’s going to get really bad here on planet earth.  But we’ll save that discussion for another day.

For you are with a better captain, you are with a true sailor, a true leader; You are sailing with Christ, and He is always sure to lead us home. T.B. LaBerge

You can be spared the wrath that is to come.  You can live now and in eternity with the true champion of Truth and Justice.  His name is Jesus and as I have told you before, He is the doorway through which we enter and the road upon which we find our way back home.  Follow Jesus and you’re on the path that will lead you to genuine life here on earth and, after death, eternity with the Creator of all things. (GOD).  Follow the ways of this present darkness and, well, you’re lost, delusional and on your own. Your call.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
Hypocrites in the Church?   Yes, and in the lodge and at the home.   Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite.   Go home and look in the mirror.   Hypocrites?   Yes.   See that you make the number one less.      – Billy Sunday –
Why do people go to church anyway?

Church not your thing? Tell me your story.

“I tried that church thing. Bunch of hypocrites mixed in with losers and assorted other misfits who can’t (or won’t) have any real fun. Who needs the drama? Bible thumpers really annoy me anyway. So called sinners are more fun. I’m basically a happy person. I guess I believe in a higher power; the man upstairs. Just not sure what or who that is. I’ll live my life the way I like and do good things whenever I can.”

Fine. I hear you. A happy agnostic.

Now, let’s turn our attention to all you faithful Sunday-go-to-meeting folks. What compels you to return week after week to the place where the faithful gather for worship?

  • Tradition?
  • Guilt?
  • Duty?
  • Fear?
  • Emptiness?
  • Etc., etc.

How many church services have you attended over the years? Ever wondered, “What am I doing here?” Week after week you respectfully go through the motions prescribed by your religion. To what end? Just to feel better?

And what is religion anyway?

  • Is it just a set of dogmas which help you to understand the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe?
  • Is it just something that you follow with blind ritualistic devotion?
  • Is it a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs? (And if so, does that make church an assembly of persons who share a common adherence to a particular set of doctrines and practices which govern their lives on earth?)

And what is life anyway?

  • Is it just living out our allocated time and then disappearing in death?
  • Is it just learning to subsist while we pass these earthly years?
  • Is it just chasing after the elusive brass rings of happiness and fulfillment while simultaneously dodging as much pain and sorrow as possible?

And what is truth anyway?

  • Is it just living in harmony with fact or conviction?
  • Is it subjective or objective; relative or absolute?
  • Is it just the product of a cultural consensus?

Wait, I hear the voice of the confused and the misinformed,

“Religion is about the higher power. Something is out there and I believe in it, you know. I’m good with that. And life is, you know, being alive and living like a good person should. Now Truth, that’s whatever works for you, man. My truth can be totally different from your truth but they are still both truths, you know?  Anyway, who cares about all this stuff?”

I care.   And, I suspect that I am not alone.   For most people, knowing the truth is very important. No sane person would deliberately believe in a lie.

I hate how hard spiritual transformation is and I hate how long it takes.   I hate thinking about how many people have gone to church for decades and remain joyless or judgmental or bitter or superior.        – John Ortberg  –

Have you heard of Pontius Pilate? He was in charge of the Roman province of Judaea from 26–36 AD. He is best remembered for his role in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. 34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”   37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. (John 18:30-38)

At first, Pilate finds no reason why Jesus should be sentenced to death. He even tried to persuade the crowd to let him go. However, being a quintessential politician; he soon caves to the madness of an unruly special interest group (the angry mob). But, not before attempting to avoid personal responsibility for the death of Jesus by ceremonially washing his hands of the whole matter.

Let’s not miss the significant statements Jesus made regarding the truth when he was being interrogated by Pilate. He said,

  • I came into the world to testify to the truth
  • All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true

Pilate’s well-known response to Jesus still reverberates in the hearts of mankind to this day. He said, “What is Truth?”

When it comes to that question, you may be more like Pontius Pilate than you care to admit. You see, a genuine Christian will accept something as truth only if it is consistent with the thoughts and ways of the architect of all things (God). The scriptures teach that His thoughts and ways are on a much higher level than those of mankind.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
   (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)

Oh the foolishness of humans who think they will ever be fully aware of what the architect of all things knows. God alone delineates truth because He IS truth. God is the basis of all we perceive as reality.

The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones. – Henry Ward Beecher –

When Jesus spoke (prayed) to the creator (God) on our behalf, He asked that we would be made a distinct and separate people in the earth (Holy) by way of our knowing the truth.

13-19”Now I’m returning to you (God). I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them.  I gave them your word; the godless world hates them because of it.  …They didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.  I’m not asking that you take them out of the world, but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. (John 17:16-19 MSG)

Truth as revealed to us by the creator of all things is what sets us apart from the ordinary inhabitants of earth. When you are in tune with the one true God, you are the genuine “illuminate” – the enlightened ones.

Jesus also said,

“You will KNOW the truth and the TRUTH will free you”. (John 8:32)

Wait, I hear the voice of the cynic and the skeptic,

“Free me from what? Like, I’m already a free man. I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. I don’t need the God crutch. That’s a bunch of @#$%.”

Yeah, right. You keep telling yourself that.

For the rest of us, knowing the truth is what liberates us. We are freed from,

  • The Law of Sin and Death
  • The bondage of empty traditions
  • The prison of endless guilt & fear
  • The pain of loneliness and rejection
  • And the robotic cycle of religious obligation without joy and significance

Jesus, our liberator, came to this planet to teach us the actual meaning and purpose of life. In essence His message was very simple:

  • You are lost – I AM the way.
  • You are deceived – I AM the truth.
  • You are the walking dead – I AM the unlimited life you need.

Isn’t that what we all want – genuine life – not mere physical existence? The Spirit of life in Jesus compels us onward with a definite purpose for our natural terrestrial life and then propels us into eternity with the creator when this physical existence is over.

Sunday morning church service is not an enormous priority;   spending time with other believers is.    – Donald Miller –

So why attend church?

Thought I forgot, didn’t you. Yes, we’re back to that question once again. Why assemble with other people who seek to know the truth about God? Certainly not out of duty or obligation. Here are just a few reasons:

  • To celebrate life beyond existence
  • To encourage and to be encouraged
  • To see the Truth unfold more clearly
  • To grow in genuine wisdom and knowledge
  • To learn how to serve the purpose of God almighty by becoming an instrument for His use in this lost and rapidly decaying world order

But perhaps the most compelling reason to find an assembly you can be comfortable in calling your “church” home is that the scriptures (God’s Word) tell us we should,

25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord’s return to earth is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:25)

Soon we shall behold Him – face to face. Until then, spend time with those of like faith and be occupied in the work He’s given you to do. Invest your “talents” wisely. That way, when he returns, you’ll have something of eternal value to show for your life.

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

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)

The story of Adam and Eve is meant to help people grasp the dilemma of humanity. In Adam, the whole future of the human race is personified. He was placed upon the earth by God, provided with a soul-mate to complete him and instructed as to what they could and could not do. Eventually, Adam listened to the wrong voice, overlooked the rules and violated the will of God. In the parlance of Christianity, this singular act of disobedience is often referred to as “Original Sin”.

13”Yes, people sinned even before the law was given (to Moses). But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did…” (Romans 5:13-14)

From the incident at Eden with Adam & Eve to the rise of the prophet Moses was about 2500 years. But, from the moment Adam knowingly transgressed, there were consequences. The whole dynamic of the earth and the human relationship with God – the architect of humanity – was now in disorder. It was not until the time of Moses that God communicated the magnitude of the disruption.

19”Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.” (Galatians 3:19)

The disobedience of Adam brought “Death” to the human race. It is helpful to think of this death as separation from God rather than cessation of life. Physical death is just one byproduct of this disconnect from the giver of life.  Every human being born on this earth inherits the consequence of Adam’s breaking the rules. We are all born in “sin” (death).   Eternity is where we belong, but time is where we are marooned. The human dilemma (death) is a huge abyss separating us from God. The only remedy is a rescue mission.

But who can do this for us?

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.”  ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
The Real Superhero

14”…Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. (Romans 5:14-16)

Ironically, Adam, the one who got us into this mess, also points ahead to the One who will set the captives free. When Adam transgressed, God declared that the Seed of the woman (a child) would one day come to the earth as the Liberator of humanity. The long awaited and greatly anticipated “rescue mission” commenced with the birth of the God/man fusion called Jesus. He arrived on the earth without pomp or circumstance about 4000 years after the blunder of Adam.

“And she (Mary) will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus is a visitation by the creator to this planet embodied in human form. The purpose of His visit: to seek and to salvage a lost civilization (mankind).   He came here to save us from the human dilemma (death). Jesus is also called Emanuel which means God is with us.

  • He is fully God and fully human thus he is a relative to us all
  • He is our Redeemer, and our Liberator
  • He is the Entry Door and the Pathway to eternity
  • He came from infinite time to live briefly in finite time
  • He is the Light being that stepped into the darkness of the earth

Our congenital Sin nature is what keeps us at odds with the great designer. That breach needed a link. Jesus became that connection. He is the doorway through which we find the road. He is also the road upon which we bridge the great abyss. Follow Jesus and you’re on the path that will lead you to a genuine life here on earth and an eternity with the Almighty.

“The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.” ― Francis Chan

If this information is not new to you, I offer a word of caution; knowing that as a true Christian you are no longer estranged from God is not a free pass to live recklessly. In a broken and dysfunctional world system we still can (and do) behave in ways that are displeasing to God. We sometimes refer to these inappropriate behaviors collectively as “sins”. We need to apologize to our Maker and ask His forgiveness for our indiscretions as we become aware of them. Especially our secret sins like…

  • worry
  • unrighteous anger
  • gossip
  • addictions
  • lust
  • impurity
  • envy
  • etc., etc., etc.
Remember:
  • Sin is born through our thoughts and intentions (James 1:14–15)
  • Sin is intrinsic – wickedness is in our nature (Romans 7:14–25)
  • The Sin Nature was inherited from our ancestor Adam who was the first of our kind to go against our maker. (Genesis 3)
  • Sin brought separation from God—both physical and spiritual—to humanity (Genesis 2:17)
  • Sin merits an (eternal) death penalty before a holy and righteous God
  • Sin cannot be overcome on our own no matter how desperately we try to do what is right.

Jesus is our Superhero because He alone can give us freedom from our depravity and a pardon from our well-deserved condemnation. As Divinity in the form of man, the Liberator Jesus came into this world to both buy us back (redeem) and to set us free (save). Like an attorney in a court of law, Jesus is our advocate. He has obtained for us an eternal acquittal.

“Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do.  He is himself the way.”Karl Barth

Still wondering why you need a Liberator? Because, we are all reprobates and we cannot meet the standards of a holy and righteous God without His involvement. Resistance is ill-advised. Behold Jesus – the chosen one. He is our Liberator; a genuine Superhero. Death could not handle Him. The Grave could not hold him. We cannot know genuine life without Him.

The good news – He’s waiting to walk you home.

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