Archive for September, 2015

Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it.”Carl Honore –

Florida has been my home for nearly a quarter of a century now. Like so many hybrid Floridians, I arrived in the land of palm trees and beaches full of mistaken expectations about this paradise. My first bumper sticker read “I wasn’t born in Florida, but I got here as fast as I could.” I quickly learned the local vernacular, like responding to the greeting “How are you doing” with the empty reply “living the dream” or “Just another day in paradise”.

Florida is indeed a delightful place and I really do like living here. Our state is known around the world for its balmy weather. Floridians enjoy 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways. We have 1800 miles of coastline with over 1200 miles of sandy beaches. There are roughly 760 species of wildlife that exist nowhere else in the world. A panther is our state animal and we have the largest population of bald eagles in the Continental USA. Palm trees, beaches and the exotic abound. But for those of us who live, work and raise families here in the Sunshine State, Florida is no Garden of Eden.

Floridians face the same perilous uncertainties as every other traveler on spaceship earth. Many live overloaded and hurried lives. Some haven’t been to a beach in years – decades even. No time for that. Palm trees? At times we hardly notice them. Welcome to paradise lost.

In the early 1990’s Christine Dente & Charlie Peacock (two heavy weights in the inspirational music genre) wrote a song called “Taking My Time”. Three outstanding talents – legends really – Susan Ashton, Margaret Becker and Christine Dente recorded the song which can be found on the album entitled Along the Road. There are just two verses in this song and one thought-provoking repetitive chorus.

Here’s the first verse:

“The world is turnin’
Telling me to hurry on
You gotta run to get ahead
Try to take the things you want
But when the sun begins to set
So many things I haven’t done yet” *

Looking back to when I first heard the song, I remember thinking, “That just about sums it up.”  We hurry through our life time, running to get ahead, taking what we want, and there never seems to be enough time in the day.

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” – Walter Hagen –

If I were asked to define modern life in two words, my response would be – hurry and worryThe evil twins. They work together and yet they are at war with each other. Hurry will trouble your heart. Worry will make it afraid. Together, they will ruin your life.

  • Hurry always runs out ahead of things; Worry hesitates and lags behind.
  • Hurry is often reckless; Worry is overly cautious.
  • Hurry sees only those things that speed him on his way; Worry sees only those things that are in the way and therefore are sure to cause a problem.
  • Hurry never sees the countless little things that make life truly worth living. Worry sees nothing but countless little things to be afraid of, most of which have nothing to do with your life at all.
  • Hurry never thinks about the consequences of making hasty choices. Worry never makes a choice at all – for it might be the wrong one.

And so, these two destructive powers are forever pulling you in opposite directions. God have mercy on the man or woman who is consumed by hurry and worry.

That brings me to the second verse of the song, Taking My Time:

“The weight of worry
is never worth the price
of a world of treasures
that can never satisfy.
But I know Heavens up ahead
where the best is yet to come”*

How simple and yet so insightful. The deceitfulness of materialism is hidden in the false promise of satisfaction at the high price of worry.

I don’t worry about being in a hurry anymore, because my faith in God will always deliver me right on time.” – Martha Reeves

I can’t put my finger on exactly when it happened. One day, in the midst of all my hurry and worry, I hit a wall. It was a mini-meltdown. I remember thinking – I am so done with this merry-go-round life. I believe in God. I am a follower of the Liberator Jesus. I accept as true the peace that passes all understanding. So, why don’t I seem to have it? It must be my own fault. So I made a decision. I will no longer live my life trying to meet the expectations of others at the expense of the real me.

That day a significant change occurred– a new beginning. I stopped holding on to the handrail firmly at all times; stood up when I wasn’t supposed to and jumped off the ride while it was still in motion. I was now more determined than ever to understand and follow the Divine plan for my life.

So, how am I doing? Good days and bad days. I have been at it long enough now to know what I should do, but sometimes I get it all wrong. No worries though, one of my mentors had the same problem. His name is Paul. He also was a writer. In fact, He penned almost half of the Newer Testament of the Bible. Like me, Paul struggled with the curse of being human. Listen to what he said,

15 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. 17 But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.

18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.

21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; 23-25 but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.

So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.” (Romans 7:15-25 TLB)

Do you see the great paradox? We know what to do but we can’t always do it. We know what not to do, but often we do it anyhow. So what’s the point? That question my friends has a very simple answer – Since we cannot meet the standard of Almighty God on our own, we need a knight in shining armor.  Enter the Liberator Jesus.  He can save us from… well… from ourselves (and the curse of the human condition). That is the message of Christianity in a nutshell.

Through the Liberator Jesus, our creator devised a rescue mission for the lost human race. Jesus came to planet earth to set things right in this life of contradictions where we want to serve God with all our heart and mind, but we are pulled away by the influence of wickedness to do something totally different. He came to set the captives free. He called himself the truth, and promised that to know the truth is to attain genuine freedom on the road to real life!

The paradox of faith is that when we conform our lives to Christ then we gain our true freedom. And its fruit is profound and lasting happiness.”Vincent Nichols

I’m still trying to get my arms around all of this freedom stuff. But, I have slowed the pace of my life considerably. Less hurry and worry. Breathing deep and enjoying each day – no – each moment. I have a renewed appreciation for my friends and family. I see the beauty once again in a palm tree swaying in the breeze and I make time to enjoy walks along the beach. A seagull sitting on a piling makes me smile. It’s the simple things that keep me going. Do I have questions? Yes, I still have many. But, in due season, God will answer them all.

Oh, I never did share the chorus from that life changing song – Taking My Time. Here it is:

“So I won’t worry
‘Cause there’s no hurry
The world’s not passin’ me by
‘Cause the Lord he knows
Just where each day goes
I know He won’t leave me behind
And I won’t be bringin’ a single thing
That my heart can’t carry inside
Lord, I’m goin’ home
And I’m only takin’ my time”*

To me these words are very therapeutic. I will not worry because there is no hurry. My God knows where each day of this life will lead me. When all is said and done, he won’t leave me stranded. The Liberator Jesus is my way, my truth and the foundation of my life.

Someday, we will all stand before the Divine judge to give an account for our days on spaceship earth. On that date with destiny, we won’t be bringing a single thing – except the record of how we used our time.  And so, I leave you with this thought from the pages of the book of life,

15-16“Be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to. 18 Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him.” (Ephesians 5:16-18 TLB)

Almighty God, Creator of life throughout the Universe, please help me to make the most of every opportunity. I heard you call me today. Here I am. Show me the way. You have brought me this far. Guide me forward now. I want to know what the Liberator Jesus came here for. Help me to break free from the chains that bind me. Lead me and guide me into the truth that is found in The Liberator Jesus. Amen.

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

*© 1994 Sparrow Song / Andi Beat Goes On Music (BMI)

You can listen to the song “Taking My Time” here:

Hello! Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home?”  Gilmour, Waters

It’s sunny and hot on the Gulf coast of Florida, oh, but that sea breeze is so refreshing. I am sitting outdoors at a favored lunch spot (Mama’s Greek Cuisine in Tarpon Springs, Florida). From my perch along the railing on the back deck, I can watch the endless parade of sightseers and locals alike making their way along Dodecanese Boulevard and spilling onto Athens Street. Today’s lunch crowd seems to be mostly locals (it’s that time of year). Lots of smiling faces and when you add in the nonstop festive music to the island atmosphere, the effect is just short of intoxicating.

After a delicious bowl of avgolemeno soup, a traditional Greek Salad (sans lettuce) and some homemade crusty bread (but no ouzo!), I am sufficiently fortified to put my thoughts into words.

The life and times of one John Heywood (1497 – 1580) recently caught my attention. Heywood was a fairly well known English playwright, poet and composer. He married into a very politically incorrect family for his generation and he was not at all timid about letting his social and religious views be known. Heywood supported the Church of Rome (Catholicism) during the politically unstable years of King Henry VIII’s reign, when the monarchy split from Papal authority and formed the Church of England. His wife, the former Elizabeth Rastell, was a niece of the famous Sir Thomas More who was executed for his religious beliefs which were at odds with King Henry’s new government approved church. Heywood was himself eventually forced to flee England as a result of the oppressive Acts of Uniformity.

So, why my interest in John Heywood who lived over 500 years ago? Because, among his assorted literary works we find that he penned this oft’ quoted maxim:

“There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”

How profound is the blindness of those who will not see. God would always have us show His mercy to the truly blind – those who for whatever reason cannot see. But what of the deluded who choose to ignore what they already know? They have eyes to understand what is right, but they shut them tightly against the truth. Let’s talk about the Comfortably Numb.

In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” ― Blaise Pascal

As I was waiting for my lunch to be served, I could hear the conversation of a rather smart looking couple seated at the table to my left. They appeared to be in their late twenties to early thirties, dressed in casual business attire. To the best of my recollection, this is what I overheard:

Him: “What do ya think about all the madness going on in this country and around the world?”

Her: “It’s like, crazy! But, what can you do about it? Besides, I have my own problems to think about.”

Him: “Yea, that’s why I don’t listen to the news that much. It’s way too depressing. As long as it doesn’t affect me, not going to let it ruin my life.”

The conversation quickly shifted to their weekend plans and something about a going to a concert.

I was somewhat surprised at how succinctly they could dismiss the sum total of today’s global madness. This world is nothing short of a remarkable and overwhelming mess, and if these two lunchtime patrons are any indication, an increasing number of people simply view the collective insanity as “somebody else’s problems.”

Of course, it would not be healthy to turn into a full time pessimist. I think we all know someone who is so obsessed with endless thoughts of doom, gloom and destruction that they are a drag to be around. But still, I see a swelling number of people growing indifferent toward wicked and deplorable occurrences in our society. Headline shock is giving way to social apathy. It’s easier to turn blind eyes to all of the depravity than to open them wide and face the truth. As long as we are relatively happy, healthy and have a few bucks in our pocket, let’s all just become comfortably numb. Or, is that uncomfortably numb? Not sure.

By default, most of us have taken the dare to simply survive. Exist. Get through. For the most part, we live numb to life – we’ve grown weary and apathetic and jaded… and wounded.” ― Ann Voskamp

And what of the faith community who claim to believe in God and know his ways?

Not long ago I was invited to speak at a Sunday morning church service. I rose early to be sure I would arrive on time. As it turned out, I was the first person to show up – 10 minutes prior to the designated start time. The parking lot had only one other vehicle beside my own. No worries, a Pastor met me at the door.

“You’re early” he said, “Service will start in a few minutes.”

I’m early? Okay. I was escorted into the church hall and invited to make myself at home. Sitting in the empty room I thought, “This congregation must rush the doors in wild abandon moments before the service begins.” I sat awaiting the stampede. Well, the teeming masses never did make it. The musicians and singers eventually arrived. As the service began (20 minutes late), there were more people on the platform then in the seats. In time the room did fill quite a bit, with the last stragglers stumbling in about 35 minutes late. Most people seemed to listen as I spoke. A few thanked me on the way out. The building emptied so quickly the fire inspector would have been proud. But this is not unusual. I have just described the normal pattern in most churches today. Welcome to postmodern casual Christianity. Come as you are whenever you like.

Don’t get mad at me because I tell you the truth (Galatians 4:16). I’m not being harsh or judgmental. I have been guilty of indifference now and then myself. It’s just so easy to become comfortably numb.

Little by little, over the centuries, compromise, conformity and even heathenish practices have corrupted “The Way” introduced to mankind by the Liberator Jesus. The humble simplicity of faith in God has slowly given way to human theories, pagan traditions and the doctrines of mere men. Cloaked in a form of righteousness, but void of any true and divine power, a severely weakened and impotent Christian church has emerged to dominate the mainstream landscape of modern times. The postmodern church is fast becoming the perfect place for the comfortably numb with an atmosphere that is ripe and ready for that great leader, the man of all things nasty – Antichrist – to debut.

This would be the first step in apostasy; men first forget the true, and then adore the false.” ― C.H. Spurgeon

The Newer Testament biblical writer Paul, in his letter to the Christian community living in ancient Thessaloniki warned about the future days of the comfortably numb; a time when people would lose their faith in God. Here is what he told them,

 3”Let no one in any way deceive or entrap you, for that day [the return of the Liberator Jesus] will not come unless the apostasy comes first [the great rebellion, the abandonment of the faith by professed Christians], and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [the Antichrist].” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Apostasy means to fall away from the truth. An apostate is someone who was once enlightened by the Creator of all things – the Divine Spirit (God). Apostasy is actually a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against his revealed truth. The comfortably numb are drifting dangerously close to that slippery slope of abandonment or neglect.

The Older Testament Prophet Jeremiah tried to shake the comfortably numb of his generation. He spoke some very significant and timeless words to the people. Here is what he said,

21 ‘Hear this, O foolish people without understanding, who have eyes but do not see and who have ears but do not hear. 22 Do you not fear me?’ says the Lord… 23But these people have a strong-will and a heart that has turned against me. They have turned aside and gone away.” (Jeremiah 5:21-23)

Once, when the Liberator Jesus was here on the earth, his followers asked him, “Why do you talk to the people in parables (stories, allegories)?” He responded by telling them that they (his followers) were receptive to the insight (truth) that he came to share. Whenever someone has an open spirit, the insight (truth) and understanding can flow freely. Jesus spoke in parables as a way to create readiness, and receptiveness to the truth. But of those who will not see he said,

13 “This is why I speak to them in picture-stories; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear. They are the living fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them’. (Matthew 13:13-15)

Whether you’ve been asleep in the light or blinded by the darkness, the result is nearly the same – you are living the delusion of the comfortably numb. It’s time to break the apathy and flee the apostasy. Open your eyes. Clean out your ears. Pay attention. The days are growing short – but, there is still time. You can change your direction. One last thought from the pages of the good book,

12 My friends watch out! Don’t let evil thoughts or doubts make any of you turn from the living God. 13 You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn. 14 We were sure about Christ when we first became his people. So let’s hold tightly to our faith until the end. 15 The Scriptures say, “If you hear his voice today, don’t be stubborn like those who rebelled.” (Hebrews 3:12-15)

The Liberator Jesus is calling you. Take the time to listen. He’ll do the rest. Ask him anything, but above all, ask for his help. Right now – Just do it!

Forgive me God for allowing the worries of this world, the false glamour of materialism and all of my foolish ambitions to creep in and choke the life out of what you really want me to be. Today, I am yours once again. I surrender my flawed desires in favor of you perfect will for my life. Jesus, please help me. I want to trust you. I want to believe in you. Please show me the way and teach me your ways. Lead me to the next step. Amen

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5 –

It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook in such a negative world. Doom, gloom, death and destruction are served up piping hot 24-7 by the modern-day soothsayers (news media). Consume that fodder all the time and you may sink deep into manic depression.

I was reminded by a good friend recently that in spite of all the darkness and desperation here in modern Sodom and Gomorrah, this is still a world filled with much beauty and wonder. You know, he is right. This world is chock-full of marvelous things that we can all enjoy.

Sure, the spiritual, social and personal depravity of mankind is a present reality that is often difficult to escape. But, as a Christian, I can shine the light of truth into the black abyss of human depravity without allowing that darkness to consume my joy and happiness in the process.

Allow me to share a bit of history with you. Over a century ago, the luxury steamship RMS Titanic met a calamitous end in the North Atlantic after sideswiping an iceberg. The collision slashed a 300-foot gash far below the ship’s waterline, and from that moment forward the good Titanic was doomed. No amount of human intervention could alter the now determined outcome. Upon assessing the damage, the crew of the Titanic abandoned all hope of making repairs in an effort to save the ship. The focus turned to saving as many lives as possible. The mighty Titanic, once considered unsinkable, would now plunge two miles to the bottom of the dark cold depths of the briny deep. Of the estimated 2,208 passengers and crew on board, roughly 1496 people perished in the disaster. Only 712 people were saved. How were their lives spared? They were rescued.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King

Why am I sharing this story with you? Because of this correlation: we too are all passengers on a marvelous ship floating upon a celestial sea. Like the Titanic, spaceship earth is also doomed. The fate of this planet was determined long ago. In fact, the final moments of world history are described in the ancient texts of the scriptures:

8 “But don’t forget this, dear friends, a day or a thousand years from now is like tomorrow to the Lord. He isn’t really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent. 10 The day of the Lord is surely coming, as unexpectedly as a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the heavenly bodies will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be burned up.  11 And so since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives we should be living! 12 You should look forward to that day and hurry it along—the day when God will set the heavens on fire, and the heavenly bodies will melt and disappear in flames.” (2 Peter 3:8-12 – Living Bible)

Talk about massive global warming. This world is going out in flames. Rather than try to change the inevitable, the Bible actually says we humans should look forward to that day and hurry it along! It amuses me to no end as I pass my time here in Sodom to watch the blind masses being whipped up into a frenzy over climate change. It’s going to get warm alright. Really warm. If you believe the Bible, the whole planet is going to catch fire!

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” – Charles Spurgeon

Never the less, our modern day Babylonians – ever rebellious toward a dependence upon a supreme God – continue to spread the religion of humanism as they build a tower to the sky. Their futile attempts to rewrite the laws of society and nature in hope of saving the planet and humanity will ultimately fail miserably. Like their distant Babylonian cousins of the past, they cannot succeed. It’s simply not the Great Architect’s plan for the planet earth. This world was damned in the distant past and mankind can do nothing to change the final outcome. As detailed in the ancient texts of scripture, much of the human race and the spaceship we call earth will perish one day in a cosmic meltdown.

Knowing all of this should not depress men and women of faith. These are exciting days in which we live. There is plenty for us to do. It’s time to man the lifeboats! Remember what the liberator Jesus said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned. (Mark 16:15-16) It’s called the great commission. We are to help facilitate the rescue of as many as the Almighty has called to himself before it is too late. Listen to the words of the Newer Testament writer Peter once again,

38-39 “You must repent and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that you may have your sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this great promise is for you and your children—yes, and for all who are far away, for as many as the Lord our God shall call to himself!” (Acts 2:39 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Do you know why I am so glad to be a Christian? Okay, there isn’t a single answer to that question. But among the many reasons is this one: I know how all of the chaos and depravity will end. My future is secured. I have escaped from the world’s contaminations through knowing the Liberator Jesus. This freedom allows me to really enjoy my life. Sure, I have bad days. I have cried many tears and had my share of sorrows and even questioned God’s wisdom a time or two (imagine that). But I am learning to look beyond the momentary difficulties in life. The Newer Testament writer Paul said,

15-18 “We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Today, I am happy. Tomorrow? Who knows? But every day – happy or sad – I am filled with joy. And the joy that my God gives to me supplies the strength to see beyond this present gloom. The world is indeed a very dark and dangerous place. But at this moment, sitting by the Gulf of Mexico in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I have the joy of writing these words to encourage you. I love the smells here by the shore, and the cry of the gulls. The gentleness of the breeze, the smallness of the boats bobbing along atop the majestic grandeur of the mighty seas. And suddenly, my soul breaks out in song,

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art!”*

Remember: Negative world – Positive you! Greater is he that is in us than he that is in this world! Now, take a deep breath and enjoy your life!

Almighty God, before there was time, before the particles of matter were arranged to form the heavens and coalesce into the stars and the planets – there was you. We know so little. There is nothing you do not know. That is why I have placed my absolute trust in you. I pray that my friends will also find the joy and freedom that comes from trusting in the Liberator Jesus, sent to earth by you to seek out and save that which had been lost. I thank you for watching over us today. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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

* HOW GREAT THOU ART © 1949 and 1953 by the Stuart Hine Trust. All rights in the USA its territories and possessions, except print rights, administered by EMICMG Publishing. USA print rights administered by Hope Publishing Company. All other North, Central and South American rights administered by Manna Music Inc. Rest of the world rights administered by Kingsway Communications Ltd.