Archive for February, 2018

I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when he is silent.” – Author Unknown

I got a little tearful today.  In public, no less. Relaxing by the Gulf waters here on Florida’s West Coast, I was watching the pelicans perform their aerial ballet; endlessly swooping down from the pilings to dive for their daily bread.  In spite of the peaceful surroundings, my mind was busy sorting through the details of the latest tragedy to dominate the news cycles and the inevitable discourse in the arena of public debate.  That’s when it happened.  I could not help myself.  The salty pools filled my eyes as I softly whispered “Where are you God?  Why do you remain so silent?”  I know better than to ask that question, but I still do it.

A friend of mine lost a loved one to the Grim Reaper this week.  Through sorrow and tears he posted this observation on social media:

“It always seems to feel like a defeat when we pray and the outcome does not change.  It is hard to understand why.  But, God says to pray and that is what we are to do even if His plan is different from our own…” 

I understand his frustration.  It is difficult to see the goodness of God when we feel like He has let us down.  But has He really failed us?  I think not.  Still, that’s how it feels sometimes.

Musician and author Andrew Peterson said it well in a song entitled, “The Silence of God”, penned in 1998:

“It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.”*

Wow.  Moaning for some comfort, and the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.   I’ve been there a time or three myself.  If you are a contemplative type, just nod your head, as I am sure you have experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer as well.

Clearly, unless God chooses to explain Himself to us, which quite often He does not, His motivation and purposes are beyond the reach of mortal man.” James Dobson

Have you ever felt like God was playing hard to get?  I sure have. I’ve become angry and cursed when my prayers were not answered (or more truthfully, when I didn’t like the answer). I’ve walked through many a valley and spent seasons in the spiritual desert.  I’ve doubted God and even wondered if He really exists.  In those desperate moments, as far as I was concerned, God had let me down.

“Oh but brother, God will never let you down.  Just keep on waiting.  Hang in there.  Don’t go by feelings.  Doubt your doubts…not your faith.  Seek the Lord.  Keep on believing.  Call those things which are not as though they were…”

Thank you.  I’ve heard all that a thousand times before, and for the record, I agree.   Yes indeed, no matter how unbearable my problems seem to be, “…Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27b) The power of the Almighty can still heal the woes of mankind today – including yours and mine. But knowing that truth does not mean we will never feel cast off.

Tell me, what happens when you are sitting at lunch with someone who looks you straight in the eye, struggling to hold back tears, and they say,

“I love God. I go to church and I even tithe. I talk to the Lord regularly about the things that weigh heavy on me. In my prayers, I ask… I seek… I knock. Then I wait and wait and wait some more. In the end, God remains silent. He takes no action that I can see. Instead, the awful often happens. I am hurt and angry. I don’t understand why he chooses not do things that seem so clearly right to me. Why doesn’t God keep His word like the preacher said He would? What happened to all those exceeding great and precious promises that I read about in His book?” I’m confused and empty inside. God has forsaken me.

Clearly this is a sincere human being who is very disillusioned. From where he sits, it feels like God has left the building. And he is not alone.

  • “Why did I pray so intently for my husband’s healing… and he died?”
  • “Why did I ask God for a child for twenty years… but I never conceived?”
  • “Why didn’t the Lord help me raise the money to save my home?
  • “If God is so good, why is His world so miserable and unhappy?”

There are no easy answers to any of these questions or countless others like them.  The uncooked concerns of real life are painful to confront. It’s easier to suffer in silence as we live under the pretense that everything is going to be just fine. We keep telling ourselves, “God is going to make all this crummy stuff disappear one day soon and everything will be much better.”  What happens when “someday soon” never seems to come?

Hiding your hurt, anger, and disappointment behind facades of God-speak and mechanical piety is poison to the soul. Your spirit slowly fills with a contagion that destroys your genuine faith in God.  If perception is your reality, then I might as well just say it; from where some of you sit right now, it sure appears that God has gone silent.

But here is what I believe; it’s your imperfect expectations of God that have been dashed upon the rocks of disappointment. And now, it’s hard to navigate the waves of this life with a faith that has run aground.

Let’s talk.

When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is… Remember, the teacher is always quiet during a test.” – Author Unknown

Unconsciously, we absorb many erroneous and unconfirmed “facts” about the Almighty in the course of a lifetime. We read books about what He (supposedly) has promised to do for us whenever we pray. All of the sermons, seminars, and a million casual conversations have molded our interpretation of what we can expect from the Creator. Some of these expectations are spot-on. Some are not. The trouble begins when things don’t go the way we believe they should.   Uncertainty and hesitation starts to replace our confidence in the plan of God.   Over time, our faith may even grow steadily weaker.

Actually, it is okay if you occasionally feel like God has grown silent and even turned a deaf ear in your direction. It can really have a positive effect on your spiritual growth.  Why?  Because when God appears to be silent:

  • We tend to cry out to Him more frequently and with greater intensity.
  • We listen more carefully for His still small voice whispering to our spirit.
  • We realize that the well intentioned advice of “others” sometimes just isn’t good enough.

If it seems like God is just not there for you, or worse, like He doesn’t care – consider this: In the Bible, Joseph waited 13 years, Abraham waited 25 years, and Moses waited 40 years for the clear direction and purpose of God to unfold in their lives. If God is making you wait, you’re in good company.

Look, when you’re suffering the silence of God – take a deep breath, have a good cry, scream out loud if it will make you feel better, but don’t give up. In reality, the Creator is never truly silent or absent from our lives – it just appears that way.  I know this both from experience, and because He so plainly promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and His word is always good.

Do me a favor, listen carefully as I recap some important spiritual realities that you may or may not have learned on your journey thus far:

  • Life on earth isn’t fair and you cannot change that.  Get over it and move on.
  • Praying to God isn’t a mystical process for getting things to go your way every time.
  • Pain and struggle cannot be removed with a quick plea of faith and a votive candle.  Generally, our Creator doesn’t wave a supernatural God wand and instantly change things just because you think He should.
  • God exists outside of our dimension and, because we are chained to the illusionary ticking of the clock, He will often seem to move agonizingly slow in our present reality.

One day, a long time ago, when the great Liberator Jesus walked the earth, He encounter a man who had struggled for many years.  His son was a mute, and prone to awful seizures which were attributed to demonic possession.  The man had tried everything to help the boy to no avail.  Until one fateful day when the Liberator Jesus said to him,

19 “…Bring the boy to me.”  20 So they brought the boy, but when he saw Jesus, the demon convulsed the child horribly, and he fell to the ground writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has he been this way?” Jesus asked the father.

And he replied, “Since he was very small, 22 and the demon often makes him fall into the fire or into water to kill him. Oh, have mercy on us and do something if you can.”

23 “If I can?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if you have faith.”

24 The father instantly replied, “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more!” (Mark 9:19-24)

It is easy to say “I believe in God” or “I have faith” when your life is sailing along on an even keel.  But when that “trust” is severely put to the test, then what?  Perhaps it takes those seasons in the wilderness, suffering the silence of God, for us to come face to face with the doubt and unbelief that still lurks within our own human spirit.  And just like that father who cried out in despair “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more”, we too may need assistance believing from time to time.

Just remember, God is listening – even when it seems like He isn’t.  The Biblical writer Paul told the faith community in Rome, 28And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.  (Romans 8:28 TLB)   Humanly speaking, your present circumstances may seem unbearable and impossible to overcome, “but with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)  I really do believe that.  I do, I do, and I do!  Lord, help us in those silent moments of doubt and despair.  Strengthen our spirit so that we might have more faith in you.  Amen.

*P.S.  Listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cY4SJ_aBnY

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal JunkieTM, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy.  But being a genuine Christian, now that’s a tough call.  Actually, that’s called rebellion.” ― Alice Cooper ―

I am a bit of a rebel.  Some say it’s in my genes. Actually, I can be rebellious in dress trousers too (groan…).  Nonconformity just comes natural to me. Mama says that I just never was a very good jack-in-the-box.

Perhaps I should define my use of the term rebel, lest you think that I am some sort of nefarious reprobate.  By simple definition a Rebel is someone who resists or defies authority or convention. Since I tend to obey the laws of the land, you will rarely, if ever, find me in open defiance of duly constituted authority.  I often disagree with the policies and practices of government, but I’m not a law breaker.  I am, however, an iconoclast – a freethinker who often questions the status quo (convention). That would make me an intellectual and spiritual rebel.

I’m in good company. Take Martin Luther as an example. This rebellious reformer from the 1500’s got in the face of some pretty powerful people. He took on the religious establishment of his time. And, they didn’t like it; called him a dissident. But in reality, he was a rebel with a noble cause.

History is replete with its illustrious and infamous rogues and rebels. Names like: Alexander the Great, Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Herod, Nero, Cleopatra, William the Conqueror, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and of course the Biblical rebels like Abraham, Moses, Peter, James, John and Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.  Perhaps you’ve heard of a few?

Saint and sinner alike can be found on the list. Visionaries, revolutionaries, and creative thinkers mixed with tyrants, maniacs, scoundrels and scallywags. They all have one thing in common, somewhere along the way they defied convention, broke the rules, or took a leap of faith, and in the end made a difference that rocked their world – some for the better, and some for the worse.  That’s what rogues and rebels do.

I’ve always been independent-minded, a bit of an eccentric and a nonconformist for sure. Friends and family gave me the nickname “Maverick” decades ago.   You see, I ask lots of questions and at times discard the default patterns of modern society in favor of my deeply held values.   I even question God on occasion.  Not in an arrogant, disrespectful or unbelieving way.  That would be pointless.  I think one of the Older Testament writers put it best when he wrote,

Does a clay pot dare argue with its maker, a pot that is like all the others?  Does the clay ask the potter what he is doing?  Does the pot complain that its maker has no skill?”  (Isaiah 45:9 GNT)

Get it?  The creature doesn’t tell the Creator He got it wrong.  So, I simply accept the Master Potter’s invitations to be inquisitive. Here is one case in point found in the ancient scriptures,

2-3 “Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.” (Jeremiah 33:3 MSG)

That’s what I do. I query the Almighty Creator (God), calling on Him to reveal His knowledge to me so that I may understand the meaning and purpose of my life.  It’s a tall order, but He is all-knowing, and each day brings new insight.

A creature revolting against a creator is really revolting against the source of his own powers–including even his power to revolt. It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower.” ― C.S. Lewis

When the Liberator Jesus visited this planet, He was quite a rebel Himself. His words were considered subversive as he wandered about challenging the religious authorities and their practices. It’s not a great stretch to say that He bucked the status quo. Here’s just one example,

12-17 “Jesus, accompanied by his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there a few days. The Jewish Passover was approaching and Jesus made the journey up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he discovered cattle and sheep dealers and pigeon-sellers, as well as money-changers sitting at their tables. So he made a rough whip out of rope and drove the whole lot of them, sheep and cattle as well, out of the Temple. He sent the coins of the money-changers flying and turned their tables upside down. Then he said to the pigeon-dealers, “Take those things out of here. Don’t you dare turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:15-17 Phillips)

Wow, beating up on people with a rope and throwing their stuff all over the place. Really?  Jesus was a Holy Rebel indeed.  Imagine if he were here today and behaved as the writer John describes.  The powers that be would undoubtedly accuse Him of having an impulse control issue. Most likely Intermittent Explosive Disorder which psychologists define as episodes of aggressive outbursts resulting in either destruction of property or physical assaults on others. Ship him right off to therapy, they would.  Rightfully so, under our laws, you just don’t do things like that.   Those were different times for sure and He was unique among mankind.

Listen to what happened when the religious establishment in ancient Jerusalem wanted to know who gave him the right to act the way he did:

 1-2 “One day he was teaching the people in the Temple, proclaiming the Message. The high priests, religion scholars, and leaders confronted him and demanded, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to speak and act like this?”

3-4 Jesus answered, “First, let me ask you a question: About the baptism of John—who authorized it, heaven or humans?”

5-7 They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him; if we say ‘humans,’ the people will tear us limb from limb, convinced as they are that John was God’s prophet.” They agreed to concede that round to Jesus and said they didn’t know.

Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.”  (Luke 20:1-8 MSG)

Is it any wonder that they hated him? Jesus was so real, genuine, and germane to everyday life. That’s why the common people loved Him. He was brutally honest and yet tender, loving and filled with compassion. This radical revolutionary from our home world was on a mission from God. He often broke the rules of organized religion and yet he represented true justice mixed with grace. In His life on earth, Jesus lived as a radical and they put him to death as a rebel.

Today, Jesus would be considered a rebel, if not a terrorist, and definitely a threat to the establishment and the status quo ~ as he most certainly was 2000 years ago.” ― Allen L Roland, PhD

Religious jealousy and hatred toward the message the Liberator Jesus brought to mankind eventually turned to false accusation and indefensible murder.  Jesus was irrationally sentenced to death.  As he hung on the executioners cross, mankind’s brokenness reached deep within His Divine spirit. Creation was now inside the dying bosom of her creator. Gasping out his final human breaths the Liberator cries,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)

In the closing moments of his mortal incarnate life, the Rebel Jesus identified with the forsaken human race.  Here was the Elohim – the Creator and Judge of the universe – experiencing the wrath of Divine justice toward this lost and doomed world. For a few horrific moments, He experienced the revulsion of a total disconnect from the source of pure life so that we would no longer have to live in a perpetual state of spiritual separation from our Maker.

And then, placing His spirit into the hands of an otherworldly Father, the physical Jesus died. In that solemn, sacred, blessed moment, the darkest hour of human existence was corrected as He cried, “It is finished.”  (John 19:30) The Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” When Jesus uttered those words, “It is finished”, He was declaring the debt owed by mankind was expunged completely and forever.

Ladies and Gentleman; let me introduce you to the Order of the Holy Rebels (aka: genuine Christianity).  We are the followers of that marvelous incarnate Liberator who once came to the earth from a place known to us only as Heaven.  They called Him the Rebel Jesus.  To many He was nothing but a rogue, to be despised and rejected.  Only a few would welcome and receive His message.   That’s sad, because according to the ancient scriptures, 12 “…to all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God.  All they needed to do is to trust him to liberate them.”  (John 1:12 TLB)

Care to join our rebellion?

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal JunkieTM, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com