Archive for March, 2017

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.”Paul VI

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 KJV)

The fish was motionless on the water’s surface as it went floating by.  Leaning over the rail I saw it approaching in the current, its scaled body glistening like a thousand tiny jewels in the brilliant sunlight. It was quite dead, of that I am sure, moving lifeless with the rhythms of the tide. A snook I believe or perhaps a redfish, it was hard to tell. Not that my limited knowledge of fish species would have provided much for a more positive identification. It really didn’t matter anyway – the fish was deceased.

For a moment I tried to imagine it living along a mangrove covered coastline or flitting among the pilings near the shore. In my mind’s eye I saw him, full of vigor and freedom, jumping clear of the water and bursting into a long run, or maybe just lying in wait against the moving water, feeding on a smorgasbord of marine life being swept along by the currents. Not today though. Death kept its appointment and this largely unobserved flotilla of one was this fish’s grand finale.

It seems to me that here on earth; we are ever surrounded by the shadow of death.

My good friend Antonio died unexpectedly.  He was a Pastor in suburban New York and a man gifted in so many ways.  His energetic approach to life, compassion for people and most of all his love for God oozed from every fiber of his being.  Tony was a good man who never held back sharing joy wherever he went.  I will miss his wonderfully infectious smile, his no-nonsense approach to life and faith, and his boyish charms – everything that made Tony so unique among men.  Think it unfair, call it unjust – it matters not; in spite of all objections, death comes at its appointed time.

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. In that other room, I shall be able to see.”Helen Keller

I remember when the man who lived across the street from me passed away. We were not particularly close, but we often conversed when retrieving our mail or setting out the trash. He loved fine cigars and good craft beer. Most days I’d see him out walking his two beautiful dogs – always at noon. His politics were decidedly conservative and he had a kind and giving heart as big as all outdoors. We laughed and cried at his memorial. The preacher said he will always live on in our memories even though his physical presence is no longer with us. I miss waving to him nearly every day as we passed on the boulevard. But once again, death kept its appointment and my neighbor left the room and moved on to the land of the living.

Yes indeed, we are surrounded by death’s shadow here on spaceship earth.

The day my father died I was 1100 miles from our childhood home, sitting with my son and some friends in a local “man cave”. That moment in time when I got the call will forever live in the shadows of my mind. Speaking through her tears, my sister said, “Daddy’s gone”. The call ended and I sat for a moment in silence before whispering, “Goodbye dad, I love you and I will sure miss you.” The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as the family gathered to bid a final earthbound farewell to our patriarch. You guessed it, death had kept its appointment and my father left the room; He too moved on to the land of the living.

Truly, the shadow of death surrounds us here on planet earth.

Pete Seeger wrote a song entitled Turn, Turn, Turn in the late 1950’s. Except for the title and the closing verse, the song’s lyrics are lifted almost word for word from the Bible’s Older Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Here’s the text,

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

The lesson offered in these dichotomous phrases (the writing of which is attributed to the ancient Hebrew, King Solomon) is simple there is a time and a purpose for everything in life. Read those verses carefully again. It’s all there – love and hate, war and peace, sowing and reaping, laughing and crying, and of course life and death.  Death is the epilogue.

All the while I thought that I was learning how to live my life, I have been really learning how to die.” – Leonardo da Vinci

We all have an appointment with death – no exceptions. Death is as sure as the daily appearance of the sun in the eastern sky. You can spend a lifetime avoiding the uncomfortable subject of death, but you cannot cancel your appointment with it. At the allotted time, the Angel of Death will come to collect your immortal soul. The Newer Testament writer Paul put it like this,

27“It is appointed unto every man once to die, but after that the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Think about it: There is but one way to leave this earth. Death alone releases our human spirit from the confines of the flesh. When the time comes for our appointment, death will expose the entrance into a new dimension. As a Christian, I have the irrefutable promise of almighty God that my death is merely a transition to a new and better life! This is why I have put my trust in the Liberator Jesus. Do you remember what he said?  I’ve shared it with you before,

9“I am the Door; anyone who enters through me will be saved [will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security).” (John 10:9 Amplified Bible)

The Liberator Jesus is the doorway to the land of the living. Oh, and by the way, contrary to popular belief, earth is not the land of the living.  As long as we are here on this planet, stuck inside these mortal bodies, we live in the land of the dying!  When we leave this terrestrial body through death, our existence is transformed as we enter the land of the truly living – a place where there is no more death!  The Newer Testament writer Paul described it this way,

1-4We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling—these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling (our bodies) we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these “clothes” but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is forever.

5-8Now the power that has planned this experience for us is called God, and he has given us his Spirit as a guarantee of its truth. This makes us confident, whatever happens. We realize that being “at home” in the earthly body means that to some extent we are “away” from God, for we have to live by trusting him without seeing him. We are so sure of this that we would really rather be “away” from the body (in death) and be “at home” with Him.  (2 Corinthians 5: 1-8 Phillips)

If you believe these words and you have placed your faith in the Liberator Jesus, then your sojourn here on this floating penal colony is only a temporary inconvenience. But if you have not placed your hope in the one who was sent to this earth by the Almighty to rescue a lost race from a death doomed planet, then you are not ready to walk through destiny’s door. Please listen to just a few more words spoken by the man known as Jesus,

1-4 “You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know the road I am going to take.”  (John 14:1-4 Phillips)

The Liberator Jesus – He came, He saw, and He set us free from the sting of death! Then he went away. But he did not leave without a solemn assurance that one day he would return for all those who cling to his promises.

Yes indeed, death is all around us. And someday we too will keep our appointment with it and like all of those who have gone before us, we shall also leave the room.   Thankfully, there is a better place – a different room – prepared by the Liberator Jesus himself waiting for our arrival.

And then my dear friends – WE SHALL BE SURROUNDED BY DEATH NO MORE!

Almighty God, we know that death is part of this life. There is no way to stop it. Grief is real. Please comfort my friends today who have felt the pain caused by death. We trust in you and hold on to the promise that when our time on earth is finished, our life has only just begun. By faith we receive the never-ending comfort of your presence. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. Facebook.com/inspopoint
It is most remarkable that Abraham Lincoln, when he saw so much that was vulnerable in the leadership of the Christian Church, did not move to the opposite error and become a mocker.”― Elton Trueblood ―

With all of the exotic wildlife here in Florida, our official State bird is the mosquito.  Just kidding, it is actually the northern mockingbird.  These little feathered virtuosos have extraordinary vocal abilities. They can learn as many as 200 distinct songs over their lifetime, including those of any other bird as well as the sounds of many insects and amphibians. A mocker’s song is an echo of the sounds that surround them. Mockingbirds can sing for hours and never repeat the same thing twice. In fact, they are such skilled mimics; they have been known to imitate washing machines, car alarms and sirens. They do this so well, that you would not know you were listening to a bird.

I wonder how many people live their lives like the mockingbird; echoing the cultural noise that surrounds them by repeating beliefs, attitudes and ideas that they know little to nothing about.   Mockingbird people lack originality, vision and revelation. They become just another someone saying something about something that someone said something about.  This is where our comparison to the innocent little songbird will have to end, because human mockers can be far more treacherous than a perfunctory little birdie.

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

I suppose we’ve all been guilty of mockery at one time or another.  I sure have.   But I’m in rehab now – “Hi, my name is Joe and I am a recovering mocker.”

By definition a mocker:

  • Treats people with ridicule or contempt
  • Is scornful or arrogant
  • Causes others to appear irrelevant, ineffectual, or intolerable

My worldview is rooted in what has become widely known as the Judeo-Christian ethic.  The scriptures have literally shaped the way I see and live in the world.  When I encounter anything that seems to oppose my comprehensive understanding of right and wrong, I examine it carefully in light of scriptural truth, and if it contradicts that reality, I simply reject it.  Men and women of faith who routinely scrutinize the beliefs and teachings of any individual, organization or social structures (including governments) in this way are not necessarily narrow-minded bigots.  We are simply being true to our heartfelt convictions and thus obedient to the will of our Divine Creator (GOD).

It seems to me that people of deep religious or moral conviction, who believe in traditional family values and what in many cases were once generally accepted normative social behaviors, are regularly treated with ridicule and contempt (mocked).  Our social order appears to have devolved into a quasi-free-for-all.  It reminds me of a passage in the Biblical Book of Judges,

25“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25 (Amp)

This text refers to a period in the history of the nation of Israel that began sometime after the death of Joshua and ended around the beginning of the reign of King Saul. When Joshua and his governance team were in power, the nation enjoyed relative decency and order. But after his death, times changed and there gradually came chaos.  No distinct leadership existed in Israel during the era of the multiple Judges.  And, there was no genuine reverence for the laws of our Creator in the land.

“Well now Dr. Cerreta, are you saying that nobody believed in God anymore?”

No, I am not saying that all of the people had renounced their faith and become impious boasters, agnostics and atheists.  Not at all; it was actually worse than that. The people simply paid lip service to the creator (GOD). They were mock believers. Their worship was meaningless even though many still followed the ridged formalities of what had become an empty religious system. The scriptures describe their condition perfectly,

13 “The Lord said, “These people show respect to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Their worship of me is worth nothing. They teach rules that men have made.” – Isaiah 29:13 – New Life Version

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because we also live in a time when many people simply pay lip service to the creator (GOD) as well.  This is an age where the darkened hearts of the spiritually blind routinely recite hollow prayers and follow the ridged formalities of lifeless religions. Paganism now abounds as every man does what is right in his own eyes.

Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there you will find the very least of real liberty.”  – Henry Martyn Robert.

What about those who are in positions of power? It seems to me that much of the world is suffering from an acute shortage of genuine leadership because of little to no reverential fear of God in the land. When our heads of state are wise in their own arrogance (and not people of good reputation who are both practical and spiritually-minded), you have the potential for wicked leadership. With the blind leading the blind, the likelihood for a disaster increases exponentially.  The scriptures put it concisely,

1-5 “… in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian. For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God (mocking), disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad. They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at (mock) those who try to be good. They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God. They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – Living Bible

That’s quite an indictment; hardly a positive description of human character as the end of the age draws near. Just remember, if you look behind the masks of (spiritual and moral) pretense, you’ll most likely find patterns of behavior that negate its validity. The warning is clear; do not be deceived by the songs of these mockingbirds.

To mock God is to pretend to love and serve him when we do not; to act in a false manner, to be insincere and hypocritical in our professions… anything that amounts to insincerity is mockery” – Charles G. Finney

Mockers and scoffers are often the outspoken freethinkers of the world.  When it comes to men and women of faith, they ridicule, discredit, misrepresent and oppose the devotees and the teachings of the scriptures. This brand of skeptic and scoffer has been around since the foundation of Christianity and they will be here until the final trumpet sounds.  Not merely content to disagree, they look for ways to make the beliefs of millions appear irrelevant, incompetent, or intolerable.  The Newer Testament writer Peter warned about them,

“First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will come scoffers (mockers) who will do every wrong they can think of and laugh at the truth. This will be their line of argument: “So Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? He’ll never come! Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly as it was since the first day of creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3-4

Maybe it’s just me, but I think every family has at least one of these mockers. You can do and say just about any crazy thing you like in their presence – except tell the truth from a scriptural perspective.

To be fair, not all who fit the biblical description of a mocker are loud and obnoxious. Some quietly scoff or laugh under their breath, while others politely dismiss faith in God with self-deceiving defenses like “that’s not my thing” or “God is not for everyone”.  Since the Almighty himself has set the rules for the redemption of mankind, to dismiss Him is to mock him.  It really doesn’t matter how polite or kindhearted you are about it. God makes the rules, not us.  If you want His help, His blessings and all of His many benefits, then you will have to learn to come to the Creator on His terms.

Don’t be a fool. Recognize your dependence on God. As the days become dark and the nights become dreary, realize that there is a God who rules above.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Our Creator once took human form as a man called Jesus.  While living among us, He worked to make Himself and the Divine strategy known to all who have eyes to see. Jesus left no room for debate. He said unequivocally,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 – New Living Translation

Mockers will continue to heap contempt upon those who maintain that there is but one revealed way of redemption.  Christians are told to pay them no mind.  We are instructed to remain faithful and obedient to the Word of Truth. Continue to declare His certainty to all who will listen and “All things will work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Just one more thing to all who would mock and scorn, consider this verse from the scriptures,

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those that live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. – Gal 6:7-8 – New Living Translation

It is called the law of the harvest:A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). This law applies to everyone, including those who do not believe in Biblical truth. If your focus in life is merely self-centered and worldly, you are sowing seeds to your lower nature.  This action will have consequences.  What you do will come back to you.  Sow your seeds to the wind and you will reap the whirlwind.  (Hosea 8:7)

It can hurt deeply to be ridiculed, mocked and scorned – out loud or in secret.  As followers of the Liberator Jesus, we will get over it.  On the other hand, those of you who continually mock and scorn, remember this: the Creator sees all things and one day He will have the final say – whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not.  You can ridicule, mock and scorn me all you like,but God will not be mocked.

Lord, please let the blinders fall away so that some may find revelation at this moment and turn from their darkness to your marvelous light. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint