Archive for the ‘Generic’ Category

There is a movement bubbling up today that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, there is coming a generation that stops complaining about the church that it sees and becomes the church that it dreams of.” – Shane Claiborne

Religion’s not your thing?  You say that attending a Church service is passé, or irrelevant?  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. Hanging with the “sinners” is way more fun. I’m basically a happy person. I guess I believe in a higher power; you know, 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. But religion, what’s the point…?  I really don’t get why people even go to church.”

Okay, I catch your drift, and I really do understand how you feel.  But, to my way of thinking, you are just one of a multitude of “happy agnostics” for whom God is… well… whatever God is.

However, you’ve asked a fair question, “Why do people go to church?”  What compels the Sunday-go-to-meeting folks to return week after week to the place where the so-called faithful gather?  Is it just:

  • Tradition?
  • Guilt?
  • Duty?
  • Fear?
  • Emptiness?
  • All of the above?

Yes, for many those are some of the main reasons.  Week after week people all over the world respectfully go through the motions prescribed by their religion more out of blind tradition than genuine devotion.  That’s the problem with vision-less religion in general.

How do you define religion?  Is it just a set of philosophies which help you to understand the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe? Is it something that you follow with blind ritualistic devotion?  Is it an acceptable moral code for 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 help to manage their lives on earth?  Or is religion the hunt for the truth?

What’s that?

“Listen man, religion is all about the higher power dude. Something is out there see and I believe in it, you know. I’m good with that. And life is, you know, being alive.  Religion to me means living like a good person should. And “truth”, that’s whatever works for you at the moment… My truth can be totally different from your truth, and yet they are both still the truth, right?  Anyway, who cares about all this stuff?”

Well for one, I care.  And, no, I do not believe that everyone can have their own private interpretation of “Truth.” Some things are absolute.  To me, knowing the absolute truth is very important.  I suspect that I am not alone in this conviction.  No sane person would deliberately believe in a lie.  Would you?

For some, truth is living in harmony with perceived fact or moral conviction.  But, is that just the product of a cultural consensus?  Is truth subjective or objective; relative or absolute?  Tell me, what is truth?

“You will NEVER know the truth until “The Truth” becomes your life and your life becomes His. Truth requires absolute, total surrender to the Son of God. It is an exchange of life in the most intimate way in the universe. It is a marriage of souls. It is a bond that sets free. It is a paradox. And when you enter this paradox, you will be free indeed AND you will then also know True LOVE.” – Gary Amirault

Have you ever heard of Pontius Pilate? He was in charge of the Roman province of Judaea from 26 -36 AD.  Pilate is perhaps best remembered for his role in the trial and crucifixion of a man called Jesus.  Here is the Biblical account:

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 sentencing Jesus to death 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 was born and came into the world to testify to the truth” and “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.

As a Christian, I accept something as truth only if it is consistent with my understanding of the thoughts and ways of the Supernatural being whom I believe to be the designer of all things. The scriptures teach us that His thoughts and ways are on a much higher level than ours.

“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 mere mortals to think they will ever be fully aware of what the architect of all things knows. God alone delineates truth because He is the truth. The Creator is the basis of all we perceive as reality.

In order for one to discover Divine Truth, one must be willing and able to go beyond the religious dogma that divides, rather than unites, humanity.” ― Jason E. Marshall

When Jesus spoke to the one whom he referred to as our “heavenly father” (God), He asked that His disciples would be made a distinct and separate class of people on the earth.  How?  He asked the Divine Spirit to open our minds to THE truth.  This is what he said to his followers shortly before leaving the earth:

13-19”… 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 sake so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. (John 17:16-19 MSG)

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

Jesus also said,

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

What’s that?

“What do you mean set me free?  I’m already free. I am the master of my own fate and the captain of my soul. I don’t need that God crutch. That’s a bunch of religious BS. I don’t believe it.”

That’s fine.  Suit yourself.  But would you at least hear me out?

According to the Liberator Jesus, Truth is what unshackles mankind from:

  • The bondage of empty religious traditions
  • The prison of endless guilt & fear
  • The pain of loneliness and rejection
  • And the robotic cycle of spiritual obligations void of joy and significance

When this man called Jesus of Nazareth visited planet earth, He claimed to be on a mission to teach us the actual meaning and purpose of life itself. The crux of His message was very clear and simple:

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

Isn’t that what we all want – a way to the truth and genuine life – not mere physical existence?  This Jesus made a very bold declaration:

23-24 “The difference between us,” Jesus said to them, “is that you come from below and I am from above. You belong to this world but I do not. That is why I said you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am who I am, you will die in your sins.”

25-26 Then they said, “Who are you?” “I am what I have told you I was from the beginning,” replied Jesus. “There is much in you that I could speak about and condemn. But he who sent me is true and I am only speaking to this world what I myself have heard from him.”  (John 8:23-26 – PHILLIPS)

Wow.  Jesus claimed to have come from another world.  He spoke of our need to listen to what he was sent to the earth to tell us.  Jesus promised to reveal a definite purpose for our natural terrestrial life and then to guide us into a time without end (eternity) when this temporary physical existence is over.  That’s not religion, philosophy, or dogma – that is the truth.

Many churches of all persuasions are hiring research agencies to poll neighborhoods, asking what kind of church they prefer. Then the local churches design themselves to fit the desires of the people. True faith in God is being replaced by trendy religion that serves the selfishness of man.”Billy Graham

So then, why do people go to church?   Thought I forgot, didn’t you. Yes, we’re back to our original question once again.  Why do I assemble with other people who believe like I do on a regular basis?  Certainly, for me, it’s not out of duty or obligation. It’s not “go to church or die.”  Been there, done that.  If you must have “reasons”, church is a place:

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

Perhaps the most compelling reason for why I still choose to assemble with a group of like-minded people can be found in this passage from the very Book of Truth that forms and feeds my faith in God:

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)

He’s on the way back to the earth.  Soon we shall behold Him – face to face. Until then, I’ll spend my time in comradery with those of like faith and remain occupied in the work that I’ve been called to do.  Hopefully, I am investing my “gifts” wisely. That way, when my day of reckoning arrives, I’ll have something of eternal value to show for my life.  What about you?  Hmmmmm?

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 Junkie®, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by iniquity lie many shades of gray – where most of us live… Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” Sherry L. Hoppe

Pangs of conscience.  Yikes, there’s a quagmire waiting to be stepped in.  The popular meaning of this everyday expression is: “A feeling of shame, guilt, or embarrassment, resulting from behavior which one regrets.”  I’ll buy that.  I’ve been “panged” a time or 2000 in my lifetime.  How about you?  Have you ever suffered the pangs of conscience?  Experienced the pounding of a tell-tale heart?  Hmmm?

Fundamentally, the conscience is a small subtle voice within the human spirit that helps us to distinguish between good and evil, or right and wrong.  This inner witness is not under our control, but operates autonomously and without restrictions.  Try as we might, we cannot persuade ourselves that life is hunky-dory when our conscience tells us otherwise.  Make no mistake, we can fight our conscience tooth and toenail, but why should we?  When we learn to recognize and yield to the pangs of conscience, we seldom regret our behavior.

Let’s talk.

The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.”  Madame de Stael

Here’s a true story.  It happened one day as I was having lunch.  Cloé (not her real name) approached my table and tried to smile, but I wasn’t convinced.  “You look upset,” I said.  She blew a puff of air from the corner of her mouth clearing a few unruly hairs from her eye and then she said with a sigh, “Is it that obvious?” To me it was. I’ve been coming to this Gulf Coast eatery for years.  I’ve spent many an hour writing outside on the “tiki” deck overlooking the water. Cloé has been my server on countless occasions.  We’ve had more than a few casual conversations, and you might say that I have gotten to know a bit about her. Today, she just was not her usual self.

It turned out that Cloé had argued with her spouse the night before. I thought to myself, “nothing unusual there,” anyone who has been married more than a week has most likely gone down that road. “It was over nothing,” she said, “but…my words, my tone…I just burst out with some hurtful things and my conscience is really bothering me.”

My response? I asked her what her conscience was saying. She laughed and said, “Tell him I’m sorry.” Grinning, I inquired as to what she planned to do with that advice. She lowered her voice and said, “I’m gonna listen to my heart.” Cloé had a troubled conscience. Her tell-tale heart kept pounding out a reminder that she was wrong.

Ever heard the term moral compass?  Opinions vary on precisely what the expression really means, but here’s my favorite definition: an inner guidance system which distinguishes what is right from what is wrong.  Just like the needle of a tangible compass, it functions as a director for morally appropriate behavior.  Our conscience (the voice of a human spirit) will normally speak to us based upon the “direction” our moral compass is pointing.

From a purely secular perspective, the human conscience is believed to be an innate self-reflective process leading to social and moral evaluations which help us to sense right and wrong.  That’s a mouthful.   As with just about everything that has to do with “defining” human existence, the origin, nature, and purpose of the conscience has occasioned great philosophical debate through much of our history here on spaceship earth. That being said, every human – from the pious to the heathen – possesses the inner voice of conscience.

For science, the end of the evolutionary struggle is simply represented by ‘survival.’ As for the means to that end, apparently anything goes. Darwinism leaves humanity without a moral compass.”  ― Bruce Lipton

I have often reflected upon the glaring absence of elementary core values that should be guiding us as a society.  There was a time when people were routinely schooled in moral philosophy as part of the basic educational process.  It was understood that in order to create a healthy functional social order, some common morality was necessary.  When we do not have a clear sense of where to anchor our identities or how to govern our actions, we can easily become morally adrift in a morass of ever increasing amorality and relativism (a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them).  Thanks in part to a liberal education establishment, a predominantly godless scientific community, and an agenda driven propaganda machine…err…, I mean…news media, the “sheepeople” learn all about how things are, but seldom hear how they truly ought to be.

In this the supposed era of evolutionary “enlightenment”, new age wisdom denigrates most feelings of personal guilt as nearly always undesirable or wounding – especially if they are rooted in the oppressive doctrines of one’s religious faith. Contemporary culture often maintains that an active conscience is more of a defect then an asset. If we let our conscience “beat us up” our self-esteem will suffer. Sometimes this is true, but unfortunately, it is also used as an excuse for numerous therapies, and even alcohol, drugs or extreme entertainment in an effort to thwart the directions of the moral compass and to mute the inner voice of our conscience.

Humanity is lost because people have abandoned using their conscience as their compass.” ― Suzy Kassem

No secular text book witnesses to the existence of a human conscience as does the Bible.  The Newer Testament writer Paul in a letter to Roman Christians actually criticizes those who have knowledge of the universal Law of God but willfully violate it.  In an attempt to explain how the Divine moral code works in mankind, this special messenger points to agnostics saying,

14-15 “When the Gentiles (heathen), who have no knowledge of the Law (of God), act in accordance with it (God’s Laws) by the light of nature, they show that they have a law (written) in themselves, for they demonstrate the effect of a law operating in their own hearts. Their own consciences (the voice of the human spirit) endorses the existence of such a law, for there is something which condemns or commends their actions.” (Romans 2:14-15 – PHILLIPS)

Paul believed that every human being is furnished with a copy of the Creator’s “Law” encoded in the very fabric of their being.  In essence, we are all born with a basic facility to comprehend right and wrong which then continues to develop over our lifetime as we are exposed to spiritual and moral training. Thus the inner voice of conscience can help us to judge our own thoughts and deeds, but it is limited to the highest standard of right and wrong that we recognize. Like a computer, our conscience is only as good as the programs loaded into its memory. Trained correctly, our moral compass will harmonize with the “Law of God” that is written in our heart (encoded in our spiritual DNA) and that inner voice will function as a reliable, albeit not infallible, guide. Otherwise, without proper moral and spiritual training, as they say in computer jargon, “put garbage in – get garbage out.”

I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I think that’s a good way to calibrate your moral compass.” ― Margo MacDonald

Sometimes people will suppress or ignore the voice of conscience by playing the blame game to sidestep accountability or to excuse reprehensible behaviors. And of course, the largely godless psychological community has conveniently re-branded “sin” with clinical terms like condition, disorder or disease. This attempt to placate the conscience by treating the symptoms instead of the root cause (sin) is sheer folly.  The Newer Testament writer Paul once shared this insightful wisdom in a letter to his good friend Titus,

15 “Everything is wholesome to those who are themselves wholesome. But nothing is wholesome to those who themselves are unwholesome and who have no faith in God—their very minds and consciences are diseased. 16They profess to know God, but their actual behavior denies their profession, for they are obviously vile and rebellious and when it comes to doing any real good they are palpable frauds.” (Titus 1:15-16 – PHILLIPS)

As you can see, it is possible for people to become so corrupted that their conscience finally falls silent. Without a functioning inner moral compass they are left to navigate blindly the treacherous waters of life. Paul called these people out for what they had become – diseased in mind and conscience.  You claim to know God he said, but your actual behavior exposes your assertion as nothing but a lie. Vile and rebellious is how he dismisses them. In another letter addressed to his friend and colleague Timothy, Paul said,

1-2 “God’s Spirit specifically tells us that in later days there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of the evil one, teachings given by men who are lying hypocrites, whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 – PHILLIPS)

The warning is clear – erroneous “spiritual instruction, and the depraved influences of relaxed social mores can overtake your mind and degrade your moral compass.  That is why, as a Christian, my standard of absolute truth is always the ancient scriptural texts found in the Bible. I have learned that a regular diet of these time worn “Truths” will strengthen a weak conscience and help contain an overactive one.  Again, turning to the pen of the Newer Testament writer Paul,

18-20 “Timothy my son, I give you the following charge. (And may I say, before I give it to you, that it is in full accord with those prophecies made at your ordination which sent you out to battle for the right armed only with your faith and a clear conscience. Some, alas, have laid these simple weapons (faith and a clear conscience) contemptuously aside and, as far as their faith is concerned have run their ships on the rocks…” (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

How do we end up shipwrecked? It happens when we lay aside our faith in the Almighty and disregard the voice of our human spirit (conscience). It takes faith and a clear conscience to walk confidently in this world. Every day, I look for ways to strengthen my sense of right and wrong so that I can enjoy the freedom and blessings of a clear conscience before God and man.

I really love the redemptive message of the Liberator Jesus. He visited earth to seek out, forgive and salvage a lost, blinded and desperate human race. He did not come to start a religion, but rather to launch a spiritual revolution. If the same Divine Spirit that was alive in Jesus is truly living in those who have been called and chosen (Romans 8:9-11), that Divine Spirit will also speak to our human spirit (conscience) and guide us into all that is true. And when this life is over, He will be there to guide us home.  Ponder that.  Oh, and in the meantime, listen to your conscience, okay?

Love ya’!

Almighty Creator, speak to our inner most being today. Call those who now have ears to hear and reveal your plan to them. Help them to find freedom in the message and the person of our Liberator Jesus. Amen.

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
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

 

May the spirit of love which comes at Christmas fill our homes and our lives and linger there long after the tree is down and the lights are put away for another year.” – Thomas S. Monson –

A long time ago in a stable far, far away…

Multitudes of people around the world pause each December to observe Christmas as a religious and cultural celebration. Numerous popular customs associated with this annual holiday have evolved over hundreds of years. Today, the global Christmas season is a mixture of pagan, Christian, and secular themes.

For many, Christmas offers an opportunity for reflection on the important things in life – a time to become more interested in people and less absorbed in stuff. Christmas inspires the spirit of giving without concern for the getting. As a result, we often rediscover the happiness that comes from the joy we spark in others. And, just for a moment, the minutiae of everyday life is overshadowed by that which has true value.

For Christians, the celebration of Christmas also presents a wonderful time to stop and reflect on the extraordinary arrival of an exceptional child who was sent from another world by a Divine being who has declared himself to be the Almighty One. The Christian Christmas story can be summed up as follows:

The Creator of all things (God) desired to come into a corporal existence upon the earth. To accomplish this, the Almighty elected to take the form of a mortal (one of His own creation). God moved from a timeless dimension (eternity) into the realm of the temporal (time). He picked a young virgin girl called Mary to supernaturally impregnate. She was used as a vessel to deliver the incarnate God-man into this world. All of this was explained to her in a visitation which she received from an otherworldly envoy (commonly called an Angel) prior to the pregnancy. Thus, the Creator entered this world as the man-child called Jesus.

Christmas celebrates this supernaturally orchestrated birth. Jesus lived on the earth for about 30 years before embarking on His mission – to seek out and salvage His stranded creation which had gone astray. This is why He is called the Liberator (aka Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, Rescuer, etc.) To expunge these facts from the Christian celebration of Christmas is impossible, and yet, our contemporary secular festival has become nothing more than a distant cousin to the pagan celebrations (winter solstice, Saturnalia, etc.) from which many historians believe it was first derived.

Just ask a random sampling of today’s general populace to define Christmas; you will hear words like Santa Claus, Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Black Friday and the like. Descriptions of brightly decorated homes, holiday parties and of course the iconic Christmas tree also top the list of images that are used to paint the modern Christmas picture. But none of this imagery is to be found in the original Biblical narrative concerning the birth of the Christ child.

Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.” – Author Unknown

Angels and Shepherds, on the other hand, do have a prominent role in the Christian Christmas chronicle. Messengers from another world were sent to proclaim the arrival of the Liberator on earth. Picture if you will a group of sheep herders passing the night in an open field. Suddenly pandemonium breaks loose.

Here is the scene as described in the Biblical Book of Luke:

8-14 “There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger. And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!” – Luke 2:8-14 (Phillips)

In my mind, I see the shepherds relaxing by a warm crackling fire. The night was calm, and the sky was bright. But then, suddenly, an otherworldly entity (Angel) burst on the scene and shook up everything. In fact, the sky then filled with these strange visitors. When that happened, the shepherds freaked out. Wouldn’t you? They weren’t just unnerved; the Bible says they were, “terror-stricken!” I guess so. Notice what the Angelic being said to them, “Be not afraid.”

Talk about making a scene; the spectacle in the skies that night was not only remarkable, it also scared the living daylights out of those that witnessed the event. It was a good kind of fear, though. In the Older Testament of the Bible, King Solomon said, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” I think they all experienced the fear of God that night.

Oddly, nothing has changed really. The story of Christmas still frightens people today – but not for the same reason. These days, it is facing the reality of Jesus himself that alarms people. Just the mention of His name creates incredible anxiety in some individuals.

The Scriptures are very important to Christmas. For unto us a child was born, and we should be reminded of how Jesus’s amazing journey came to be.” – Monica Johnson

Think about how the Newer Testament writer Matthew describes Jesus:

23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

Matthew shamelessly declares that Jesus is God in human form. He refers to him as Immanuel. This is perhaps the greatest title that Scripture ascribes to this supernatural God-man. After all, He didn’t simply arise as a mere self-proclaimed religious leader or declare Himself a great prophet that was a cut above the others. Neither did he come as a social reformer. Jesus came as Immanuel – God in human flesh. Isn’t that brilliant? Almighty God arrives from another dimension (the place we simply refer to as Heaven) to live on the earth as the son of man (inside of a being he engineered)!

And what about this foretelling statement from the prophet Isaiah as recorded in the Older Testament of the Bible:

6 “For to us a Child will be born. To us a Son will be given. And the rule of the nations will be on His shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Teacher, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

Listen, the nations of this world might tolerate a cute diminutive story about a sweet little baby in a straw-filled feeding-box, but they will hardly accept titles bestowed upon him like, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

When as Christians we affirm these crowning designations ascribed to Jesus, we’re acknowledging that He is infinitely greater than anyone on the earth. It means we accept Him as the highest authority in life. This is why we are willing to place our absolute trust in Him. It is also why we are willing to obey His every word. And that is what alarms (and terrifies) this present world order about Jesus and His followers.

The fear of confronting the “real” Jesus is not a new phenomenon. When a group of distinguished foreigners (the Magi) from the East eventually found their way to Jerusalem looking for the young child Jesus they asked King Herod,

2 “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2 (NIV)

Do you know how King Herod and the religious people of that day reacted when queried by these visiting ancient astrologers?

3 “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.” – Matthew 2:3 (NIV).

Jesus is still disturbing people today.  Let’s face it, He was no ordinary mortal. His arrival on the earth was both foretold and revealed to many in the times leading up to his extraordinary birth. He was Immanuel (God in the form of a man), and once here, it wasn’t possible to control Him! That’s why all the insults, accusations, and even death couldn’t stop Him. In fact, it was not until Jesus was ready to die that He allowed Himself to be taken and put to death. Listen to what he said,

18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 (NLB)

Immanuel appeared on earth to follow a Divine blueprint for the reclamation of humanity. His death was part of that plan. Here is how Jesus Himself described it,

23-24 “… I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:23-24

Death was not the end of Jesus; it was the birth of a new “kingdom” whose builder and maker is the Creator himself (God). That kingdom is here now and it is irrepressible! That is why the spirit of this world (antichrist) fears Him so! Go ahead, deny him if you like, and hate him if it makes you feel good, pretend he never existed; you cannot extinguish the penetrating light of his message. The Newer Testament writer John expressed it this way,

4-5 “In him (Jesus) appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” – John 1:4-5 (Phillips)

Remember those shepherds we talked about earlier? After the angelic messenger from another world came to them and announced the birth of Immanuel (God with us), they were scared and bewildered! So, what did those sheep herders do? Deny the reality of what they heard and saw? Run away and hide? Let their family and friends convince them that they had too much Manischewitz or Mogen David that night? Absolutely NOT!

Here’s what the New Testament writer Luke says they did,

15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”. – Luke 2:15 (NIV)

Incredibly enough the shepherds, in spite of being terrified and confused, searched for the truth! They went to find this “Savior” whose birth was revealed to them in their amazing visitation. Doubtful they understood that this innocent baby, born in obscurity, would one day grow up and traverse their cities and towns exposing them to the truth that would set them free!

God seeks to influence humanity. This is at the heart of the Christmas story. It is the story of light coming into the darkness, of a Savior to show us the way, of light overcoming the darkness, of God’s work to save the world.” – Adam Hamilton

Today, when the Spirit of Jesus (in transcendent form) enters a human soul, His kingdom continues to expand, one disciple at a time. The Scriptures even predict that there will come a time when, “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” – (Habakkuk 2:14)

Before our liberator returned to the timeless dimension from which he came, He promised that in the form of a Divine Spirit, He would always be with us and that one day He would physically return again.  The Newer Testament writer John recorded these words spoken to him by Jesus in a vision. They are found in the last section of the Bible known as The Book of Revelation,

20 “See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house…” – Revelation 3:20 (Phillips)

So what have we learned? The almighty Creator paid a visit to this tiny insignificant spec of a world in the vastness of a universe that he created in order to seek and to rescue a lost and stranded people. It was a salvage mission. A mission of mercy, motivated by perfect love.  You know what? I’m really glad He salvaged me. He’d also like to reclaim you.  Jesus is standing at the door of your life today.  All you have to do is open up your heart and invite Him in.  Hope you will.

Merry Christmas my friends.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.  He is also
the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc., and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 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
The narrow path that ‘Uncommon’ people will take, that the Lord wants you to go down, that really is the ultimate way to go.” ― Coach Tony Dungy ―

Traveling unfamiliar roads can provide many opportunities to enjoy new sights, sounds, and experiences. However, aimless wandering is not the best approach when you have a specific destination in mind – especially if you’re running late. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting lost, or worse, not knowing where you are going in the first place. This is also true in life and in death. Let’s talk.

Thomas Clayton Wolfe, an American novelist of the early 20th century wrote:

“Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me that I shall one day die, I know not where. Saying: “[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”

Wolfe believed that when one passes through the door of death they find greater knowledge, greater life, and greater love in a land that is more kind then our home and bigger than all the earth. Okay, but is this true? We’ll get back to that thought shortly.

I once knew a boy who was just about as carefree as youthful innocence permits. The world was his oyster and by sheer resolve he was determined to pry it open – a thousand times if necessary – to find his pearl of fortune, fame, and significance. Alas, the inequitable wickedness of the “world” fought back, eventually breaking his heart, leaving him cynical, and sometimes angry. And so the boy grew older and wearier with each passing season. Who was this poor mortal soul? It could be any one of us, I suppose. But once upon a long time ago, that boy was me.

We never know when it will happen; that instant when you see the world with such crystal clarity that you are left much sadder and yet wiser for the awareness you have gained. The worst part of it all, you can never go back to the innocence of not knowing what you have now learned. In the circle of life, as painful as it may be, we call these moments growing up.

When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The very first day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

I remember when the Spirit of the Almighty first got my attention. Initially I resisted. I was a young man who looked to science and education for all the important answers. Religious fanatics parroting words that they could neither adequately explain nor truly exemplify in their own lives had always repulsed me.

“Please God, talk to someone else.” He would not leave me alone. The Divine Spirit made sure I heard things like,

36-38 “The man who tries to save his own life will lose it… What good can it do a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What can a man offer to buy back his soul once he has lost it?” (Excerpted from Mark 8:36-38 – J.B. Phillips)

“God,” I thought to myself, “just let me be.” The Almighty would broker no denial. There was something that I needed to hear, a message that spoke of a mysterious rescue mission motivated by a Creator’s divine love for his stranded people living on a doomed planet. His communique from another world was revealed by a liberator named Jesus who arrived on this planet with a mandate to salvage all who would answer His call. The dispatch warned of the ever present pervasive God haters who would continue to contest His very existence; endlessly attempted to bring a Humanistic global order to their dying Utopian dreams. But, His life-giving message also contained a comforting reassurance that the foolish arrogance of human wickedness would never topple the providence of an Almighty God.

And that my dear friends brings me back to the words of Thomas Clayton Wolfe, who spoke of death as a doorway to a much better place than life here on spaceship earth. Whether or not Mr. Wolfe new it, he had stumbled upon an absolute truth. Death is indeed an entrance. Find the right door, cross its wondrous threshold and you will pass into an even greater life; one that is full of timeless knowledge and absolute love.

Whenever I hear the modern discord of those who downplay or deny the importance of faith in God, and who claim that there are unlimited “pathways” to “enlightenment”, I think about these words spoken by the Creator Himself,

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

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

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

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

You might be thinking, hey the easy way sounds pretty cool. A big attractive entry that opens up to reveal a sizable road that is very accommodating, easy to travel upon, and filled with all kinds of interesting pleasures and people – I’m down for that!

Not so fast… that is not the door Jesus tells us to choose. He said we’re to look for and go through the narrow gate. And, it was not a suggestion.

Of course there are reasons why He said to choose the narrow way. First, the magnificent entryway that opens up to reveal a road that is very large, accommodating, filled with the “in crowd” and easy to travel – leads to destruction. The big door and the big road are a BIG mistake! Remember, the narrow way is the true path to a genuine life.

Are you still skeptical? Look, you won’t find critical answers to existence’s most important questions on the abounding superhighways where the in crowd hangs out. For that matter, the numerous paths to spirituality or inner peace peddled in the vast marketplace of subjective religious conviction won’t cut it either.

Conversely, that narrow and often obscure little gate that opens to reveal a constricted and undeniably difficult road is the only one that promises a real life – now and forever. If we are to believe what the Liberator Jesus said, that doorway and that road is the only way that can bring us face to face with our maker.

Some will take issue with me for saying that there is a specific pathway to the Creator. Pack me off to diversity training camp they would. How could I be so intolerant? It’s simple really. I truly follow the teachings of Jesus. The author of my faith made the statements I have quoted. If I take issue with a portion of His message, why believe any of it? Jesus either spoke the absolute truth or He is a liar and Christianity is a charade. The truth is never subject to private interpretations. Like it or not, the Christian faith is anchored to this fundamental reality: Jesus the Appointed One is the door through which you access the road that leads to reclamation and a timeless afterlife.

6-7 “…I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father (God) apart from me…” (John 14:6 MSG)

To follow the Divine Spirit, the Supreme Being – the Almighty One – (He is known by many names), begins at the narrow gate and progresses along a narrow way. It is hard to find that slender gate and road. Many people will never manage to do it. In our modern times it’s considered fanatical or politically incorrect to say these things so emphatically. Say them I must! We don’t get to pick our own version of the Truth.

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

Right now, you may have reached a fork in your road. Do nothing, and you’ll just keep drifting along the wide, broad, easy, crowded path that eventually leads to destruction, or you can choose to make a change by passing through that narrow gate (which we now know is the “Jesus” door) and begin to follow the road less traveled. The decision here is simple. No confusion. No overload and no donation required. Choose His way and gain a timeless life, filled with inner joy and peace. Or just keep rolling the dice and doing things your way. It’s your life, your decision, but I do hope you will choose wisely.

The Liberator Jesus is the gateway, and the path we follow to freedom and a sincere life. Sure, survival on spaceship earth will still be hard sometimes, but the Spirit of our Creator is always there to help us cope. Can’t think of anything else we need on this voyage mates. Time to cast off!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.  He is also
the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc., and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 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
The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  It is the storm within which endangers him most, not the storm without.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am not a motion picture aficionado.  In fact, I cannot even recall the last time I went out to “the movies”.  I have a very nice home theater system and it provides me with all of the entertainment options that my heart desires – sans the huddled masses.  Needless to say, I have little to no interest in 99% of the rubbish produced by the Hollywood elite.

Recently though, I read that Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining is considered the most popular Stephen King inspired film ever made. In the flick, well know actor Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who accepts a job as the winter caretaker for some place in Colorado called the Overlook Hotel.  Torrance is aware that the previous caretaker had gone insane there and murdered his entire family.  Does that deter ol’ Jack from taking the job?  Naw.  In short order (this is a movie, remember) both Jack and his “psychically” gifted son are communing with the evil spirit manifesting at the Overlook.  And, you guessed it, things go from bad to worse.

I would like to submit my own movie script for the consideration of the motion picture moguls.  It is also a story of demonic possession, and it contains all of the wild, salacious, violent, and frightening elements that Hollywood loves. Here’s a plot synopsis: we begin with a naked man, living in a graveyard, scaring the bejesus out of the townspeople.  He is so powerful that chains cannot hold him.  Eventually, along comes the hero of our film who sets the possessed man free by exercising a legion of indwelling demons and sending them into a nearby herd of swine.  The pigs, rather than live full of demons, rush off, wildly plunging headlong into the sea where they drown.  Wow!

Fantasy?  Believe it or not, it actually happened a long time ago.  Here’s the historical account as written the Bible’s Newer Testament:

26 “So they arrived at the other side, in the Gerasene country across the lake from Galilee. 27 As he was climbing out of the boat a man from the city of Gadara came to meet him, a man who had been demon-possessed for a long time. Homeless and naked, he lived in a cemetery among the tombs. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!”

29 For Jesus was already commanding the demon to leave him. This demon had often taken control of the man so that even when shackled with chains he simply broke them and rushed out into the desert, completely under the demon’s power. 30 “What is your name?” Jesus asked the demon. “Legion,” they replied—for the man was filled with thousands of them!  31 They kept begging Jesus not to order them into the Bottomless Pit.

32 A herd of pigs was feeding on the mountainside nearby, and the demons pled with him to let them enter into the pigs. And Jesus said they could. 33 So they left the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the whole herd rushed down the mountainside and fell over a cliff into the lake below, where they drowned. 34 The herdsmen rushed away to the nearby city, spreading the news as they ran.

35 Soon a crowd came out to see for themselves what had happened and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened. 36 Then those who had seen it happen told how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone (for a deep wave of fear had swept over them). So he returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.

38 The man who had been demon-possessed begged to go too, but Jesus said no.

39 “Go back to your family,” he told him, “and tell them what a wonderful thing God has done for you.”

So he went all through the city telling everyone about Jesus’ mighty miracle.” (Luke 8:26-39 TLB)

If you are at all familiar with this story, your attention has most likely been drawn to the more sensational (and supernatural) elements of the narrative. Nonetheless, be you a seasoned Bible scholar or first time reader of this Newer Testament account, let me ask you, have you ever considered the underlying fear factor?  Let’s talk.

Can you imagine a life with no fear?  What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” – Max Lucado

Read that narrative again carefully.  With the exception of Jesus, everyone was dealing with some form of fear.  The good people of Gadara were certainly scared of their local bogeyman and later of the miracle man called Jesus.  The disciples were creeped out by the crazy guy, and even the demoniac – a deranged man who was known for his delight in frightening anyone who happened to wander by the tombs – showed fear in the presence of the great liberator.  Yes, fear factored deeply in the lives of the Gadarenes.

I’m beginning to wonder if our modern world is any different where fear is concerned.  Seems like just about everyone is a tad apprehensive these days.  How about you? What are you afraid of?  Terrorists?  Serial killers? Catastrophic storms?  Road rage?  Burglary?  Be honest.  I know people who fear they might fall into poverty, contract a terminal disease, or suffer violence at the hands of the felonious.

And what about the fear of man?  Pardon me, you’ve not heard of this?  By definition, the Fear of Man is an inner dread of rejection, ridicule, or disapproval.   Now that covers a lot of ground.  Is it any wonder that the great book of wisdom known as Proverbs declares,

“The fear of human opinion disables us; trusting in God protects you from that.” – (Proverbs 29:25 MSG)

The result of all these fears?  Survey says: we buy guns for protection, build walls, install alarms and cameras, move to gated communities, live in isolation or simply try to escape our worries through drugs, alcohol or excessive “entertainment”.  Those who suffer from the fear of man become incessant people pleasers.  And let’s not forget the biggest fear of all – Death.  That one terrifies the multitudes.

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” – Anne Frank

Sometimes I pass a familiar local bag lady on my excursions around town, disheveled, half-crazed looking and always talking to herself.  On this particular day, licking wounds from one of my own mental scuffles, I thought to myself, “At least I’m not her.”   After all, “She’s plain nutty.” And then it hit me; there but for the grace of God, go I.  When you stop to think about it, she wanders the streets in open turmoil talking to herself out loud.  My relentless self-dialogue is kept bottled up inside.  Are we any less tormented because we can manage to contain our fears better than her?  And therein lies the problem; we are not supposed to contain fear at all.

The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote a letter to his young friend Timothy saying,

7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Living Bible translation of this verse reads:

“For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.”  (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB)

Like today, there was much to fear in those ancient times.  But Paul reminded Timothy that an enlightened child of God is given the powerful Spirit of love and sanity to replace the demonic spirit of excessive uncertainty (fear) and madness.

Another Biblical writer named John put it like this:

 18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”  (1 John 4:18)

 So the Divine Spirit replaces our fears with His powerful love and clarity.  When we experience the “perfect love” that IS, and comes from the Almighty One, the fear factor cannot control our lives – unless, of course, we allow it to do so.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure to it. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” -Helen Keller

We all wrestle with fear and doubt from time to time.  Honestly, I do not believe that true mental and spiritual freedom is possible as long as we run from our uncertainties or simply pretend that they do not exist.  Why not face your fears and take a good look at what troubles you.  Do it now.  When you finally see that mess before you; that frightened little inner child that has become so proficient at the game of pretense, remember this: there is an all-consuming Spirit of mercy and grace who can help.  All He asks of you is honest humility in facing who you really are.  I like what a very early follower of the Galilean Prophet wrote in a letter that eventually became the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter:

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

It is no easy task to practice genuine spiritual humility.  Placing our lives in the hands of an invisible entity (God) does not come natural to a fallen, spiritually deadened race of beings who are deceived, distracted and hopelessly stranded on a dying home world.  Do you have the courage to let the liberating Spirit of truth (Jesus) call out and name your demons?  Are you ready to replace your broken paradigms – even if that means leaving behind everything that does not conform to the “Way, Truth, and Life?”  Then take my hand friend, let’s walk on the wild side together and watch as the god of our egos – driven by our fears – is replaced with the God of compassion driven by perfect love.  What do you have to loose – except your life among the walking dead?  Today, the Creator of all things, the Divine Spark, and our Kinsman Redeemer invites you to abandon the fear factors controlling your life by fearlessly reaching out to Him.  I hope you will.

Almighty Creator, I am asking you to make the reality of your presence known to my friends today.  Help them to release their fears to you.  Let them know you are with them, so that they can find liberation in the message and mission of the man we call Jesus – the one you once sent on a rescue mission to free the captives on spaceship earth.  Amen

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
Throughout your life, people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, because in the end, hate in your heart will consume you.” ― Will Smith

In the 1983 Sci-Fi film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of The Jedi, there is a scene in which the evil Emperor Palpatine attempts to persuade young Luke Skywalker to join The Dark Side.  Emperor “evil personified” speaks these oft’ quoted words:  “Good, good, let the hate flow through you.”

In the fantasy world of Star Wars, hate as well as other darker emotions (fear, anger, and aggression) allows one to tap into the “power of the dark side”.

Mere make-believe you say?  Perhaps, but only a fool would deny the profound dark side that grips our world today.  The insidious spread of malevolence which regularly disrupts the peaceful fabric of our social order is seemingly rooted and grounded in HATRED.  Maybe the late Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s observation in his 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” was correct.  He wrote:

“And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; for hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear of some horrendous act spurred on by hate.  The vitriol of hatred can divide friends, family, a nation and the world. Hate destroys.  People who are filled with hatred look upon life through a jaundice eye of extreme disdain. Fueled by this odium, they often passionately spew discord – even hostility – that is forged in the narrow-minded fires of resentment, distrust, bigotry, and contempt.

Hate is widespread in our modern culture. Racial, ethnic, homophobic, religious and social class hatred is everywhere. You name it and someone, somewhere probably HATES it with a passion.

I’m no saint (far from it), but I can honestly say that I have never – even in anger – said with passion, I hate you to anyone. Sadly, I’ve been on the receiving end of those three terrible words more than I care to remember. The wounds heal with time, but they leave little telltale scars.

Every now and then I laugh when stepping out of the shower (no, not from seeing myself in a mirror).  My eyes catch a glimpse of a very weird little tattoo forever engraved on my glorious sun kissed body. It’s ever there to mock me, a permanent reminder of a brief youthful impulse. Thankfully, I had it positioned where the sun doesn’t shine. My “body art” means nothing to me now, nevertheless I will always bear its mark. Hate is a lot like my tattoo. The wicked ink of hatred forever scars the human soul.

Why all the hate anyway? Does hate resolve problems? Tell me the last time hatred brought about unity or positive change? Have you ever met a truly “happy hater”?  I don’t think so.

This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Frequent readers already know that I’m a follower of the great teacher and redeemer known by the human name “Jesus”. I believe in His message and His mission.  My faith is much more than a mere “religion” – it is my way of life.  Some people have a real problem with that – even to the point of hatred. How bizarre, considering that in most cases, we’ve never spoken nor met. But they have already formed an opinion based upon their biased ideas about Christianity (or religion in general).

My worldview is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic which influences and shapes my character.  When I encounter anything that clearly opposes these values – I choose to reject it.  It’s not open for debate. Genuine “truth” is neither erasable nor amendable.  You will never convince me that some of the clear instructions of Jesus, for instance, need to be modified or repealed.  Contrary to the opinions of pop culture, the ancient scriptures do not need to be “updated”, they need to be revisited.

Genuine Biblical Christianity is defined by a system of well-worn spiritual and moral beliefs, rooted and grounded in the Newer Testament writings.  Believers hold these “truths” to be absolute (i.e. set in stone). They are a filter through which we scrutinize this present-day world system. I dissect the philosophies and traditions of its various peoples, organizations, religions and (especially) governments by the principles and precepts found in the sacred writings of contained in the Bible. This does not make me better than or superior to anyone, but neither does it make me a hate filled narrow-minded intolerant bigot.

I have never burned the Koran. I’m not a homophobic crusader.  You will never find me yelling horrible things at frightened young women going into abortion clinics, and I have never stood on a street corner holding placards that condemn every passing motorist to an eternity in hell because of their sinfulness. Forcing others to accept my way “or else” has never even entered my mind.  In fact, it never entered Jesus’ mind either.  He merely spoke the truth and warned of the penalties associated with its rejection.  I’ve made my choices in life; you must make yours, and we’ll each live with the interminable consequences.

Truthfully, there will be times when I cannot accept a political, moral, or lifestyle position simply because you think I should. Being true to my heartfelt convictions is not the same as intolerance or hatred. Even the “Lex terrae” (Law of the Land), if it is contrary to the clear teachings of scripture, may need to be defied if that law ever put me in direct disobedience to the higher laws of our Creator.

Listen, I am really sorry for all of the misinformed zealots, and assorted religious wackos you may have encountered over the years. I’ve run into a few of them myself. If ignorance is bliss, some have truly reached “nirvana.”  It saddens me when I see so-called “followers of Jesus” attack and insult the very people whom they are called to love.  I readily concede that any supposed Christian who lives as a self-righteous, prideful and hate-filled bully is a blight on the fruit of genuine truth.  I can’t do anything about them or your unfortunate experiences with them.  It’s not my monkey, not my circus, Okay?  Please, don’t hate nor reject the Almighty One, or me, because of them.

You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people that you do.” ― Anne Lamotte

Historically, organized Religion (including Christianity) has always been a bit of a mess.  That’s what happens when flawed and inadequate humans attempt to communicate a message of Divine origin.

I have spent most of my adult life learning about and sharing the way, the truth and the life of the Liberator Jesus. It has been quite an adventure for me.  Mind blowing really.  I’ve discovered that when this other worldly being emerged here on spaceship earth, He claimed to have been sent to mankind from the designer of all things (GOD).  He said that he took on human form to communicate with people in a relevant and understandable way.  As a prophet and teacher, He familiarized mankind with the source of their existence. His message was rooted in perfect love – not tolerance, as there is a huge difference. Jesus was not politically correct, and He often offended more people than I ever will. He was despised and rejected by the mainstream during His time on earth, but he readily identified with those who faced rejection, sorrow and grief. Finally, He was put to death at the hands of a vengeful and hate filled people.   Incredibly, the grave could not hold him.  His well-documented resurrection vindicated everything He taught. This humble man of sorrows overcame the hatred of ignorant humanity, and his Spirit continues to offer forgiveness and acceptance to all who answer the call.  But that is what unpretentious love always does, right?

Look, I may not agree with nor be able to accept your way of life or your viewpoints.  You can reject me and everything I believe too. We may even oppose one another outright in the marketplace of ideas. I will still choose to love you as a human being and that love comes without conditions.

Maybe you’re just not sure what to believe in these senseless days.  Here’s something from the Newer Testament writings of Paul that I would really like to share with you:

12-15 “You should therefore be most careful, my brothers, that there should not be in any of you that wickedness of heart which refuses to trust, and deserts the cause of the living God. Help each other to stand firm in the faith every day, while it is still called “today”, and beware that none of you becomes deaf and blind to God through the delusive glamor of sin. For we continue to share in all that Christ has for us so long as we steadily maintain until the end the trust with which we began. These words are still being said for our ears to hear: ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’.” – Hebrews 3:12-15 – J.B. Phillips New Testament

Our Creator is in conflict with all forms of depravity and wickedness. Thankfully, the Almighty can separate sin from the sinner. Some say it this way; God hates the sin but loves the sinner. I like to say; God loves us even when we do things that He doesn’t like at all. Either way, one fact will never change; when we admit our faults to this great God, He is faithful and unbiased in forgiving our shortcomings and failures.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr

But do keep this in mind, the perfect love and flawless justice of the Almighty One will one day compel Him to keep his word and banish the impenitent portion of mankind into perdition – not because of what you have done (sin), but because you would not accept what He has done through this man called Jesus.  “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”

Wherever you are on this crazy rock floating in the infinity of space, He’s there with you right now to throw you a rescue line. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. Who cares! He is with you now. All you have to do is trust Him. Go ahead, speak to Him. He can take it from here. He doesn’t need my help to open your heart and change your life for the better. He never did.  I’m simply one of His diplomats.

Oh, one more thing, Longfellow closed his 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” with these words:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Hatred is evil and like all wickedness, it will eventually fail. Love will triumph over hate.  Did you hear me? LOVE RULES!  Remember this,

16b-18 God is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men—for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us. Love contains no fear—indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected.” (1 John 4:16-18 – Phillips)

Almighty Creator, I ask that you would help those who have read my words to reach out to you. May their eyes be opened so they too can see Jesus who came to our earth, taking human form to show us the way home again. Forgive them as they acknowledge they are no more than an outlaw who desperately needs your favor and forgiveness. As they open their heart to you, let them find the peace and joy that comes to those who are born again in spirit and set free from all hate by the truth. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com

 

Mankind, by the perverse depravity of their nature, regards that which they have most desired as of no value the moment it is possessed, and torment themselves with fruitless wishes for that which is beyond their reach.” – Francois Fenelon

Charles Dickens was a 19th century author who has been acknowledged by critics and scholars alike as a literary genius. Some even regard him as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.  Did you know that he had very little formal education?  It’s true.  He left school at age 15 and began working as a clerk in a solicitor’s office after his father was thrown into a debtors’ prison.   Remarkably, Charles would go on to write 15 novels, hundreds of short stories, non-fiction articles, and letters.  His immortal tale of ghosts and redemption know as A Christmas Carol, first appeared in in 1843, and remains a perennial holiday favorite to this day.   Moreover, A Tale of Two Cities, written in 1859, and from which I shall now quote, is perhaps his best-known work of historical fiction:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity (unbelief), it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Dickens was writing about the disturbing state of affairs which existed in 18th century England, and France.  If you even pay nominal attention to the crumbling state of affairs in our modern social order, then maybe you’ll appreciate the pertinence of his words almost two and a half centuries later.

Since this is not an English Lit class, nor am I a literary scholar, let me simply summarize the observations of Dickens like this: it was a time of contradictions – wisdom and foolishness, faith and disbelief, light and darkness, hope and despair.  Welcome to the timeless human dilemma – the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Take for instance the tyranny of discontent.

On a recent flight from Hartford, Connecticut to Tampa Bay, Florida, I patiently listened as the man seated next to me spoke of his very successful life.  William, (not his real name) seemed to have everything.  He talked about his beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, complete with a 12 seat man cave/home theater, wine cellar, custom designer swimming pool, professional tennis courts and an outdoor entertainment area with a fully equipped kitchen.  Bill showed me a picture of his lovely wife, said she was beautiful inside and out.  He had a daughter whom he described as amazing, talented and attractive.  Bill played golf, owned a boat and dined at the finest restaurants.  Yes indeed, he was a genuine gentleman of leisure.  I said. “Bill, you sure seem like a man who is abundantly blessed, and very content”.  The silent pregnant pause that followed was deafening.  “That’s what’s missing in my life you know”, he said, “I am restless and never content for very long.”  How sad.

Bill is not unique when it comes to discontent.  Rich, poor, young, old, male and female – countless people feel that there is something missing from their lives. As a result, they are frustrated and dissatisfied.

Call it the funk.  Call it the blues, Call it anything you like.  Getting stuck in a “rut” of discontent is anything but fun.  And yet, we’ve all been there.  Sometimes, life can actually seem just a wee bit boring, even become stale, and monotonous.  You know, the same old dull routines.  That’s normal.  But what happens when you are never satisfied?  Let’s talk.

Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” – Warren Wiersbe

I can’t remember exactly when it happened to me.  Actually, it wasn’t a singular epiphany at all.  Over many years I gradually came to realize that my periods of discontent were actually a series of personal wakeup calls.  We all get them you know, and more often than you think.  But far too many of us just choose to keep hitting the snooze button when they come, or worse – we ignore the wakeup calls completely.  Sooner or later you will either have to confront the root cause of chronic dissatisfaction, perhaps even change some things in your life or you’ll continue to exist within the disturbing realm of discontent.

Once, I lived in my own deluded world where debt, duty and a desk ruled my life.  Searching for inner contentment, I switched careers a number of times; worked for myself, and even went to work for “God” (professionally speaking).  Over time, life became stable, predictable, and comfortable enough.  But something wasn’t quite right.  Deep down inside, I was still a malcontent.  After years of hitting the snooze button, and blaming everyone and everything around me for my restlessness, it dawned on me: I wasn’t really grasping what I was put here on spaceship earth to do.  I had a “God smack” moment – and I didn’t like it at all.  But it did lead me to one great realization: only the Creator Himself can fill the spiritual void inside of me.  Until I let Him invade my life, contentment would never last for very long.  Guess what?  I let Him in.

Now here’s the dichotomy: before I could move beyond my discontent, I had to absorb what it really meant to be contented.  I’ve yet to grasp it perfectly, but I keep pressing on toward that mark.  I learned how to do this from a man named Saul who, like me, was a devotee of the liberator Jesus.  Heard of him?  You can read all about his life in the Bible’s Newer Testament Book of ACTS.

Saul was a Jew, born in the Roman city of Tarsus somewhere between 5 BC and 10 AD.  After quite a dramatic supernatural encounter with the Creator (the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus) he became known as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), It was then that he began to use his Roman name, Paul.

Before his “conversion”, Saul was a fiercely religious zealot known for his relentless persecution of the early Christian movement. He was passionate for his Jewish faith to the point of becoming a religious terrorist.  Saul believed that he was doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. Here is how the Bible describes it:

3 “Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate the believers, even entering private homes and dragging out men and women alike and jailing them.” (Acts 8:3 TLB)

That all changed when Saul got his “wakeup call”.  You can read the full account in the Newer Testament Book of Acts 9:1-22.  It turned his life upside down.  He would spend the rest of his days on spaceship earth as the Apostle Paul, proclaiming a message of hope and redemption throughout the Roman world.  He often claimed to have received his message by supernatural visitations.  Through tremendous hardship and suffering he remained steadfast and unmovable in his faith until they finally put him to death.  But how did he stay so hopeful and full of joy?  Glad you asked.  What he learned and what he helped me to comprehend is revolutionary.  You ready for it?

11I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to get along with little and how to live when I have much. I have learned the secret of being happy at all times. If I am full of food and have all I need, I am happy. If I am hungry and need more, I am happy. 13 I can do all things because God gives me the strength.”  (Philippians 4:11-13 NLV)

Yes indeed, Paul had learned the true meaning of contentment.  In the Almighty, he found inner strength and a deep satisfaction no matter what circumstances he faced each day.

You who say, “If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.” You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” – Charles Spurgeon

Look, there is a reason why you so often grow discontent and it has less to do with your fleeting circumstances then you may realize. There is a better way of life calling to you. Deep inside you know this to be true.  Your ego, wants you to keep “playing it safe” or believing you are actually “controlling” things. But we all know stability, safety, and control are just man-made delusions.  Our lives could be gone in an instant, in spite of our best laid strategies.  The Newer Testament writer James put it this way:

14 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”  (James 4:14 NLT)

So, you are a malcontent?  Bit of a spiritual Sleepwalker?  Me too. Maybe it’s time to stop hitting the snooze bar.  WAKEUP CALL!  It’s time you let our Creator fill that emptiness inside of you.  Are you ready to let Him in?  Hey, could I ask you to at least think about what Paul wrote to a friend of his named Timothy?

“But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 AMP)

Contentment.  Getting there can be a real struggle.  But it’s worth it.  I’m just now beginning to really find that out.  Oh Happy Days!

Ciao.

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.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

There is an anonymous old adage that dates back to around 1832 which goes something like this: “He who never makes any effort, never risks any failure, nor achieves any success.”  Old or not, it’s the truth.  Be it spiritual, moral or material failures, the risks increase with our level of involvement.  Perhaps a former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, said it best, “The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

I am pretty sure that everyone would like to do well in life – spiritually, morally and fiscally. How many people do you know who actually set out to fail?  And yet, we rarely succeed in anything without numerous disappointments.  Live long enough and you are bound to taste the bitter tears of failure a time or three.  To my way of thinking, it’s all a part of the master plan.  Yes, I believe in intelligent design.

Have you ever put your whole heart and soul into an endeavor only to realize it’s never going to work out the way you had planned?  I sure have.  In the end, we learn to accept the letdowns and chalk them up to experience.  Listen, I have failed more times than I’d like to admit.  Some of my fiascos were just little slip-ups along life’s way, while others were, shall we say, more intense.  Okay, a few really rocked my world for a season.  What I have gleaned is this: real success is built upon the stepping stones of failure.  Someone told me that failure is a bruise – not a tattoo.  I like that.

What about you?  Ever experienced a failure that left you afraid to try again?  You know, feeling like the old get up and go, just got up and went.  We humans are often inclined to wallow in self-pity when we fail.  After all, it hurts when we flop.  Why chance a repeat performance?   It’s a whole lot easier to say “Well, I almost made it, gonna play it safe from now on”, than to face a new and perhaps an even more difficult challenge.  The fear of failure can crush our motivation, paralyze our potential, and even drive us toward despair (i.e. – a serious case of the blues).  That is why some people respond to failure by retreating to a perceived comfort zone.  Sorry, you can run, run, run, but you cannot hide from failure forever.

The Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), once observed that an Ostrich, when frightened, will sometimes attempt to hide from the danger by “thrusting their head and neck into a nearby bush, believing that the whole of their body is concealed.”   How silly that must look.

Hiding from our failures is equally pointless.  It’s like trying to conceal your naked body by wrapping just your head in a towel.  You’re still naked, and only you can’t see it.  Face your fiascos head on; it’s the only unfailing path to recovery from the sting of a letdown.  Incidentally, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger.  That’s a myth.

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” – C. S. Lewis

There is a passage in the Bible’s Older Testament book of Job which reads,

 1 “How frail is humanity!  How short is life, how full of trouble!” (Job 14:1)

In other words, humanity is frail, life is short and you can expect that into every lifetime a little rain must fall. (Longfellow)

I remember my early days as a devotee of Jesus, that great teacher and Liberator.  Somehow I came to believe that following Him imparted an immunity to failure for everyone who had a personal relationship with the Almighty.  By “Faith” we would simply make good confessions until all the bad stuff goes away and only good things come our way.  Make no mistake, Christianity is indeed the great confession and believers should declare with their mouth what they believe in their heart.  But I have now lived long enough to realize that life is full of woe, even for those of us who have chosen to put our absolute trust in God.  The promise of a Divine redemption and our expectation of timeless joy in a future world is no guarantee that our life here on spaceship earth will always be free from problems, sorrow, and, yes, even failure.

Have you ever read the Scriptures for the sheer human drama recorded on its pages?  It doesn’t take a degreed theologian to discover that many members of the Biblical Hall of Fame experienced failure at one time or another.  Abraham, Moses, and David all stand out in my mind as having blown it at some point in their lives.  Examples?

  • Abraham failed more than once on his journey by choosing to follow his own path instead of trusting in the Creator who after first making Himself known through a supernatural visitation, gave Abraham specific instructions to follow.  He had even entering into a sworn agreement with Abraham (covenant) promising He would make him great.
  • Moses failed when he got a bit overzealous (ahead of the Divine plan) and murdered an Egyptian in his anger.  As a result, he was forced to flee into the wilderness.  Years later, as the leader of a now liberated people, he took matters into his own hands once again when, against the instructions of YHWH (pronounced Yahweh), he struck a certain rock a second time (again in his anger) when he was specifically told to only “speak to the rock”.
  • When David was King of Israel and the military commander-in chief of her armies, his rightful place was with his troops on the field of battle.  Where was he?  Home committing adultery with Bathsheba and then orchestrating the murder of her solider husband, Uriah the Hittite, in battle.  David paid dearly for that mistake.

So, what happened to them over the long run?  Eventually they all recovered from their failures, learned valuable lessons along the way and even went on to be successful both in life and in the service of the great Jehovah.  Here’s the bottom line: God knows we’re all going to miss the mark every once in a while. Even so, He stands by us and is there to help as we work through our failures.

Being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.” – Oprah Winfrey

So you haven’t been very successful as of late?  Failures are often great opportunities to do some deep soul searching.  Who knows what you’ll discover.  Perhaps a particular shortcoming or weakness of character needs correction.  Maybe a new road or a fresh vision is in your future.  Only time will tell – so be patient.

What’s that?  You’ll never succeed?  Nonsense.  Look, I’m not your mother, but you need to stop with the pity party, Okay?  You can pick up the pieces and move on – especially if you will let the Creator help you.  Please do not give yourself over to the chains of hopelessness and despair.

The lessons we learn from our failures are often the formula for our future successes.  Disappointments help us to recognize that we all need help, particularly from the Greater One who designed us in the first place.  The Liberator Jesus put it like this:

“I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5 NLV)

Let me tell you a personal story.  One day, (many years ago) I was teaching my then young son the fine art of catching a baseball in our back yard.  He greeted each successful catch with a broad smile.  His delight brought me great joy.  Of course, he missed the ball a lot too and those near catches evoked his whimsical frown – more like a puckered pout.  My boy did not like missing as much as he liked catching.  Who does?  Then it happened.  A high fly bounced off the tip of his glove striking him on the cheekbone.  The impact wasn’t life threatening, but it shook his confidence a bit.  Disappointment and failure seem to have a way of doing that.  I still remember the startled look as he buried his face in the glove and stood motionless on the grass.

“Are you OK?” I yelled, my voice cracking with fatherly concern.  “Yes”, came a weak, unconvincing reply.  And then, with his face still covered up by the glove, little Joe began to cry.  So I ran toward him, touched with the feelings of his pain and I held him in my arms.  “It’s all right son”, I said, “You tried.”  Mistakes are bad enough, but this one hurt.  He cried for a few moments and drying his tears I said, “Let’s get back to the game.”  Without hesitation he replied, “No thanks, dad”, as he ran off to take up a new, less threatening activity.

Yes indeed, sometimes in the face of distress and failure, it’s hard to try again – especially as a child.  But eventually we all must grow up and learn to do just that.

Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failures.” – Tullian Tchividjian

You know, I’ve been thinking about this guy named Peter who was an original follower of the man called Jesus.  You can read all about him in the Bible’s Newer Testament.  Peter tried really, really hard to be a good follower of the master.  I’m sure he truly wanted to please that perplexing man from Nazareth.  Quite often though, he would do what he thought was right only to be reprimanded for it.  Peter had an overabundance of selfconfidence which often manifest in the form of foot in mouth disease.  Ever had that?

Perhaps the low point in Peter’s life came on the night Jesus was arrested and tortured.  First, he cut off some guys’ ear.  Later, when people in the lynch mob recognized him as a friend and supporter of the Nazarene, fearing for his own life and with cursing on his lips, Peter denied he even knew Jesus.  Some would say that at that moment he was a total failure.  What a disloyal looser.  Fair-weather friend.  Coward.  Yes sir, that’s what some would say.  But, not the otherworldly visitor called Jesus.

According to the Biblical narrative, Jesus was executed on a bunch of trumped up charges, but a few days later, amazingly, He came back to life.  There were enough witnesses to prove that fact in any court of law.  Soon thereafter, Jesus materialized in front of Peter on a Galilean beach where He confronted his friend the “failure” like this:

15 “Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these others?” “Yes, Lord,” he replied, “you know that I am your friend.”

16 “Then feed my lambs,” returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” returned Peter. “You know that I am your friend.”

17 “Then care for my sheep,” replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus’ third question to him was “Are you my friend?”, and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!”  18 “Then feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-18a Phillips)

Yea, Peter had a big mouth.  Sometimes he played the fool.  Once he acted like a coward.  He even failed under pressure.  But on a lonely stretch of Judean beach, a resurrected liberator stopped by to see a dejected fisherman.  In a few short comforting moments, Peter was humbled, forgiven, chosen, called and commissioned by the only one in the universe who really matters – the Intelligent Designer.  Peter?  He went on to do great things.

You say you’re a failure?  Me too.  Hey, it is okay, we’re in good company!  Just ask Peter.  Maybe you’re ready to do what he did…trust in what Jesus came to this earth to tell us.  I have.  Sweet success!

Love ya’ man!

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:
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