Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

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:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
In a storm of struggles, I have tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But stress can be an addiction, and worry can be our lunge for control, and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.” Ann Voskamp

I strongly dislike dreary, wet days.   To me, a week of rainy weather is downright depressing!  Guess I won’t be visiting Seattle anytime soon, eh?  What’s that?  SNOW?  Get thee behind me…

I’ve come to terms with our frequent but usually brief seasonal thunderstorms here in Florida.  After all, some rain is absolutely necessary for survival.  The way I look at it, if it has to rain, we might as well get quick moving monsoonal downpours and be done with it.  Rain at night is acceptable as I am usually sleeping anyway, and the tapping sound on my bedroom skylight is like nature’s own lullaby.

Speaking of rain, it is hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast, and that means preparing for the possibility of a bad storm.  Time once again to amass some extra batteries, flashlights, bottled water, canned goods, and other “survival” necessities.  Truthfully, many coastal dwellers are complacent, doing nothing to get ready until a calamitous storm looms on the horizon.   Suddenly, the stores are swamped with people frantically buying food, water, plywood and other essentials. By then, it is often too late.  After the storm, when folks are without sufficient provisions for days or even weeks, the need for storm readiness finally hits home.

What about navigating “life storms?”  Should we be prepared in both mind and spirit for the inevitable periods of difficulty and misfortune we may encounter?  Is that even possible?  Indeed it is.  In fact, without a spiritual and mental survival plan we risk being blown away by the fierce winds of adversity when the unexpected makes landfall at our door.  There be squalls ahead mates.  Let’s talk.

It’s easy to praise God in the good times, but what about when the storms of your flesh are a-brewin’? Not so easy then!” ― Monica Johnson

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was possibly the most popular and celebrated American poet of the nineteenth century.  He is said to have enjoyed a kind of “rock star” status in his day.  In 1825, Longfellow graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.  After three years of travel and study overseas, this future epic poet and writer returned to the Pine Tree State and to his Alma mater where he started teaching French, Spanish, and Italian.  He soon wed Miss Mary Potter of Portland, and he publish six foreign language textbooks.  His creative efforts earned him the Smith Professorship of Modern Languages at Harvard College, but only if he agreed to study abroad for another year.  Longfellow returned to Europe accompanied by his now pregnant wife and two of their friends.  While on this trip, Mary not only lost the child she was carrying, she too died of complications resulting from the miscarriage.  The couple had been married for only four years when the squalls of adversity blew hard upon young Henry. Needless to say, he was devastated.  Years later, Longfellow penned this poem entitled “The Rainy Day:”

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the moldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast

And the days are dark and dreary.

 Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

Into each life some rain must fall.  Trials and tribulations come upon the just and the unjust alike.  Longfellow was made painfully aware of this proverb.  But in spite of his grave misfortunes, this poet extraordinaire reminds his own broken heart that the storm clouds of life only hide the sunshine for a season.

There are some things we learn on stormy seas that we never learn on calm smooth waters. We don’t look for storms but they will surely find us. The “God of the Storm” has something to teach us, and His love always motivates His actions.” ― Danny Deaubé

Time passed and Henry eventually found happiness in the sunlight of life once again.  While traveling in the Swiss Alps during the summer of 1836, he met and fell in love with the wealthy, sophisticated and beautiful Frances (Fanny) Appleton.  He was absolutely smitten, but she spurned his persistent affections for over seven years.  Perseverance finally paid off as Longfellow eventually succeeded in winning her heart, and the couple married in 1843.

The newlyweds took up residence at Craigie House, a 1759 colonial mansion in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Longfellow had been living as a lodger.  When the couple married in 1843, her wealthy father purchased Craigie House and gave it to them as a wedding gift.  Henry and Fanny produced six children: Charles, Ernest, Fanny (who succumbed to illness at 16 months), Alice, Edith, and Anne Allegra.  Longfellow’s loving family life (so often reflected upon in His poetry) became an icon of American domestic tranquility, comfort, and innocence.  The couple enjoyed many happy and successful years together.

But alas, in 1861, storm clouds gathered on the horizon and Henry’s pleasant life was shattered once again.  While melting sealing wax, Fanny accidentally set her clothing on fire.  She was quickly engulfed in flames and died of her injuries the next day.  In his futile efforts to put out the fire, Longfellow severely burned his hands and face leaving him permanently scarred.

On August 18th, 1861, Longfellow sent a letter to his late wife’s sister in which he wrote:

“How I am alive after what my eyes have seen, I know not. I am at least patient, if not resigned; and I thank God hourly – as I have from the beginning – for the beautiful life we led together, and that I loved her more and more to the end.”

I submit to you my friends, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a man who suffered much tragedy in his personal life.  But it is also apparent, at least to me, that his soul was prepared to endure the squalls of adversity.  In spite of some scholarly debates over Longfellow’s “Theological” leanings, (he was Unitarian) Henry appears to have had a strong and abiding faith in a higher providential power many simply call the Almighty.  Why else would he continue to be thankful to “God hourly” for that which the storms of life had ravaged?

After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.” ― William R. Alger

And the squalls continued for Henry.  On December 1, 1863, while still grief-stricken over the loss of his beloved wife less than two years earlier, Longfellow was informed by telegram that his first-born son, Charles, while serving as a lieutenant in the Union Army, was severely wounded in Battle. He would eventually pull through but not before a long period of recovery.

And so it was, a few weeks later on Christmas day, 1863, heartbroken over his family tragedies and outraged over the deaths of so many in America’s Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard church bells ringing.  The sound of the belfries stirred bitterness in his heart toward a world so full of injustice and violence that it mocked the truthfulness of the Christian Christmas message.  So, Henry wrote a poem.  Perhaps you know it?  It begins this way:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Skipping now to the next to last stanza:

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!”

But Longfellow does not leave it there.  Call it sudden inspiration, righteous indignation, or an unexpected touch from the Holy Spirit – it matters not to me – for in this poem’s final glorious verse our much tormented poet cries:

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.”

My Liberator, friend and mentor, a man who while visiting the earth was called Jesus, once said,

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.  28 Remember what I told you—I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me.  (John 14:27-29 TLB)

33”I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 TLB)

Years later, one of His early followers, a man named John wrote:

2-5”The test of the genuineness of our love for God’s family lies in this question—do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God’s “heredity” within us will always overcome the world outside us. In fact, this faith of ours is the only way in which the world has been conquered. For who could ever be said to overcome the world, in the true sense, except the man who really believes that Jesus is God’s Son?” (1 John 5:2-5 PHILLIPS)

Yes, these are trying times with so many unanswered questions.  Death seems to surrounds us.   Our traditional values are under assault on so many fronts.  Decency and integrity have all but disappeared.  We go on hoping for the best, and yet things seem to worsen.   Friends, there be squalls ahead, but I’m not worried.  I have the conquering power of the Almighty within me.  It’s called FAITH.

God is not dead, nor doth He asleep.  One day sorrow, heartbreak and even death itself will be no more.  The ungodly elements of this world will ultimately fail; what is right and true will prevail.  Jesus said so.  I believe Him.  Mark my words.

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
The masses do not see the Sirens. They do not hear songs in the air. Blind, deaf, stooping, they pull at their oars in the holds of the earth. But the more select, the captains, they harken to a Siren within them… and royally squander their lives with her.” – Nikos Kazantzakis

Have you ever heard the expression: It’s nothing but a Sirens’ Song?   English dictionaries commonly define that figure of speech as:

The enticing appeal of something that is very alluring but potentially dangerous.”

The idiom itself alludes to the Sirens of ancient Greek mythology who were often portrayed as intensely seductive sea nymphs.  According to legend, the Sirens lived on a beautiful enchanted island with a deceptively dangerous coastline.  Lured by their irresistible beauty, compelling music and mesmerizing voices, passing mariners would perish in shipwrecks on the hidden reefs off the perilous shores.

The lesson in the lore is simple enough: Beware the Sirens’ song; while very tempting and hard to resist, it can mislead you into going places or doing things that can lead to unforeseen consequences.

Sometimes I hear a strange kind of Siren song playing inside my own head.  It seduces me with an endless stream of reasons why I should embrace the modern rat race – an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle of earthly pursuits that leaves little to no time for relaxation or enjoyment.

Lured by today’s seductive Sirens, we regularly invest inordinate amounts of our time and effort running at breakneck speeds, but at the end of the day, have we really achieved anything meaningful?

Recently, while appearing in another episode of “adventures at the airport”, I again performed this now well-rehearsed piece of traveler’s choreography:

And a 1, 2, 3…
Hurry, hurry, hurry up…
Slow down, slow down…
And… hurry up again…Now wait, and wait…
Okay, go, go, go and stop!
Belt and shoes off… Belt and shoes on…
Now run… run… run… and stop…,
Wait, wait, wait… now SIT!

Fly much? Then you know a bit about this piece of fancy footwork.  Hey, it is what it is, right?  So, what’s your favorite pressure cooker dance?

Anyway, there I was in the midst of the insanity called modern travel when a song playing on the background music system at the air-side caught my attention:

“Ain’t in no hurry
Be a fool now to worry
About all those things I can’t change
And the time that I borrow
Can wait till tomorrow
Cause I ain’t in no hurry
Ain’t in no hurry
Ain’t in no hurry today.”*

Laughing out loud, I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me”

Granted, there are times when the rush is impossible to avoid.  It would be foolish to think we can live anxiety free.  Those “slower times” often remembered with nostalgic fondness is simply not where most of us live today.  This is an era when people accelerate through their lives with the pedal to the metal.

Maybe every once in a while we can take a break from doing everything faster and quicker to reflect on who we are and where we are going.” ― Joe Plumeri

What concerns me though is the lack of unaffected downtime; those intervals when our human systems go offline.  Before the age of overloaded schedules and the endless distractions of social media, fake news and smartphone aps, many of us enjoyed interludes when we really didn’t do anything at all. Today the very idea of real downtime sounds unproductive or lazy to some folks.

In all honesty, I accomplish so much more when my spirit and soul are allowed regular times of rest than I do when I’m endlessly running through life on fumes. What has happened to humanity that we habitually fail to listen for that still small voice deep inside of our human spirit?  Call it by whatever name you like, that inner voice gives understanding and balance to our ambitions and dreams – if we’ll learn to pause and really listen for it.

In the Bible’s older testament there is a verse penned by a man known as Isaiah.  Here is what he wrote:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Basic enough – pause, reflect, relax, wait upon the Lord, and your strength is renewed.

Isaiah was an interesting guy.  He lived about 2800 years ago in a time of great change, uncertainty and disorder on the earth.  It was an age filled with turmoil and fear.  This divinely inspired sage spoke a message to his contemporaries that offered them great hope for a better future and a place where they could find respite for their weary souls.  For the most part, Isaiah’s generation didn’t want to hear it; choosing instead a treadmill of ceaseless activity with no genuine tranquility in their greatly distressed society.  Isaiah wound up despised and rejected, often enduring the contempt of an arrogant and godless population.  Gee, why does that sound so familiar?  Hmmm.

You see, historically, nations routinely rise and fall, but the human condition has remained predictable and consistent over time.   The enemies of decency and truth are present in every age, always ready to circulate their positions.  They are with us today.  The atheists mock the existence of an omnipotent supreme being as just another grand delusion weighing down the progress of humanity.  The scientific evolutionists put-down any belief in an intelligent designer (Creator) as foolishness.  The adherents of the new postmodern theologies assert that all truth is relative (never absolute), so just believe whatever floats your boat.

On and on it goes, the chaotic cries of conflicting voices spew a kind of melded white noise that often sounds like little more than incoherent babble to the casual listener.  Alas, the unknowingly dazed and confused masses are simply left to float through life stressed-out and uncertain; drawn ever nearer the perilous rocks of destruction by the songs of the Sirens.

How about you?  Are you enjoying genuine tranquility, even in the midst of a world in crisis?  Are you at peace, or is an undercurrent of uneasiness and fear punctuating your daily routines?

Can we talk?

 We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

As many of my frequent readers already know, I follow the teachings of a great liberator called Jesus.  I suppose that makes me a Christian if you are one who must attach a defining label.  Somewhere along the pathway of my life’s journey, I became enlightened by this important truth: the Almighty Creator of all things is not the least bit interested in my busyness.  Thankfully, I no longer measure productivity and purpose by how much activity I cram into a single day.  Speaking now to all my hyper-zealous religious friends, it is amazing to me how some of you can’t see the folly in being so “stressed out” and then claiming your anxiety is a result of doing the Lord’s work.  That is ridiculous.

“Oh but Brother Cerreta, you don’t understand, this is what God wants from me.  We must work, work, and work while it is called today.  I must burn myself out serving Jesus. Hallelujah, Amen.”

Yea… right.  So, how’s that working for you?  Do you know what I think our Creator really wants the most from us?  He just wants US – you and me!  Reality check: busyness is NOT a spiritual gift.  Rest is NOT a four letter vulgarity.

Think about it, in the Biblical picture of the creation (which is intended to help us ponder the unfathomable power of the vastly superior being we call God), our world order was established in 6 periods of “Earth-shaping” (Genesis Chapter 1), and all with just a word of his power (Hebrews 1:3, 11:3).  The Great Architect deliberately engineered the surface and climate of a planet that was without form and void (Genesis 1:2) into an environment hospitable to life.  Based upon these explanatory teachings, I hardly think getting things done in a well-timed manner is an issue for the Almighty, and by the way, He rested when he was finished (Genesis 2:2).  What’s your excuse?

So, let me ask you, when was the last time you had some real downtime?  When was the last time you walked along an empty beach alone for an hour at sunset, or sat in your favorite chair and did nothing at all?  Do you even have a favorite chair?

Downtime helps us recharge our physical and mental batteries. It provides opportunities to receive new and often inspired ideas, to remember simple things so easily forgotten, and even to daydream about all the stuff we would love to do if we weren’t so busy doing all the stuff we have to do.

I quit the rat race.  It’s not worth it.  Consider this: when you’re dead, your dreams won’t matter anymore.  That is why I regularly wait upon the Lord, as Isaiah put it.  My connection to the source of all life renews my strength and motivates me as I move forward through time.  What matters to me now is what matters to HIM.

Listen to this verse of truth from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

17 “But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17–NLT)

Get it? Joined to the Creator we become one in spirit with Him.  Living “joined to the Lord” is both a partnership and a journey.  As we learn to stay focused on the things that matter most and not fall prey to the Siren’s songs, God can fulfill His purpose in and through each of us.

I would like to issue a challenge.

I challenge you to embrace the man or woman that our Creator truly intends for you to be.

I challenge you to do all the unique stuff that he has chosen to define the unique you.

I challenge you to be true to your visions and dreams, and to stop listening to the voices coming from this generally godless world claiming to know what is “right” for you!  And,

I challenge you to trust the still small voice of the spirit that ever whispers to your soul. If you have followed the instructions brought to the earth by the Liberator Jesus, you are filled with the Holy Spirit of Divinity Himself. He will show you everything you need to know (including what is right for you). If you need to make changes – He will let you know that too. And remember, His voice is calm, life giving and reassuring.  Most importantly, if unfamiliar with the man called Jesus, I encourage you – get to know Him.

So, are you up for the challenge?  I hope so.  Text me and let me know… just kidding.

Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.” ― Oriah

By the way, that song I heard playing at the airport the other day is by the Zack Brown Band. Sitting at the gate I caught the last few lines:

“Heaven knows that I ain’t perfect
I’ve raised a little Cain
And I plan to raise a whole lot more
Before I hear those angels sing
(Gonna get right with the lord)
But there’ll be hell to pay
Still I ain’t in no hurry…
…Ain’t in no hurry today.”*

I smiled for a moment.  Heaven knows I’m not perfect either.  I’ve raised a bit of Cain myself, and I may slip up a time or two before this life of mine is over.  But there is one thing I haven’t put off for tomorrow – “getting right with the Lord.”  Me and the maker are on good terms, of that I am sure.  How about you?

Here are a few more great verses from the Bible for you to consider:

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 glamour of sin. For we continue to share in all that Jesus has to offer 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 in rebellion’.”  (Hebrews 3:12-15)

Not everyone can hear his voice.  Some never will.  Is today your day?

God, there are many who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in this world. Some of my friends have heard your voice inside of their spirit today.  Please help them find their way to freedom from the seductive delusion of the Sirens’ songs as they discover true freedom in the simple message of our Liberator Jesus. Amen.

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

*Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., REACH MUSIC PUBLISHING

Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” ― Rich Mullins

The focal point of the Christian faith is an extraordinary man known around the world as Jesus Christ.  Some of you may be surprised to learn that “Christ” is not His last name.  He’s not the son of Joseph and Mary Christ who owned the little carpentry shop in Nazareth a very long time ago.  “Jesus” is his given name, and “Christ” is His title.

The term “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos which means “anointed one” or “chosen one.”   Hence, “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus the Anointed One.”  According to the Bible, He was sent from God as our “chosen” Liberator (see Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 32:1).

I have always been captivated by the extraordinary events in the life and times of Jesus.  The New Testament says that He arrived on our planet through a supernatural amalgamation of the Creator and His creation.  It was a Divine visitation.  Jesus grew up to be a good man, loved by the people, but hated by the corrupt and wicked.  He was eventually arrested, publicly tried and heinously executed for seemingly no good reason – except that it was all part of an incredible plan.

Are you at all familiar with Jesus’s stopover here on spaceship earth?

Let’s talk.

To understand the need for a Divine visitation by our creator, we must go back in time to the moment when Human life began.  According to the ancient book of Genesis, mankind was fashioned from the very elements of earth itself, and brought to life by a supreme architect whom we know as God (Genesis Chapters 1 & 2).

“Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.” (Gen 2:7 – GNT)

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

12 “This, then, is what happened. Sin made its entry into the world through one man (Adam), and through sin, death. The entail of sin and death passed on to the whole human race, and no one could break it for no one was himself free from sin.”  (Romans 5:12 – PHILLIPS)

13 “Sin was in the world before the Law was given. But sin is not held against a person when there is no Law. 14 And yet death had power over men from the time of Adam until the time of Moses. Even the power of death was over those who had not sinned in the same way Adam sinned. Adam was like the One Who was to come.”   (Romans 5:13-14 – NLV)

The moment Adam (man) knowingly transgressed, there were consequences.  The whole dynamic of the earth and the human relationship with the architect of humanity was now in disarray. The disobedience of Adam brought “death” to the human race. It is helpful to think of this death as separation from God rather than a simple cessation of life.  Physical death is just one byproduct of this disconnect from the giver of life.  It was not until the time of Moses (2500 years after the incident at Eden) that God communicated the magnitude of the disruption between Himself and His creation:

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

Every human being born on this earth inherits the consequence of Adam’s breaking the rules. We are all born in “sin” (spiritual death).   Eternity is where we belong, but time is where we are marooned. The human dilemma (spiritual death) is a huge rift separating us from our maker.  According to the ancient scriptures, the only remedy for mankind was a Divine rescue mission.

But who can do this for us?  Meet Jesus – The Real Superhero

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

Ironically, Adam, the one who personifies this mess we find ourselves in, is also (symbolically) the one who helps us look ahead to the rescue mission planned for mankind.  When Adam transgressed, The Creator declared that a Liberator would eventually come to the earth; born of the “seed of the woman” (a child) on a very special assignment that would set the captives free.

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of an authentic Christian experience.” ― N.T. Wright

The Divine rescue mission began with a visitation from the supernatural equivalent of a Western Union messenger.  An otherworldly envoy, which we call an Angel, appeared to a young virgin peasant girl named Mary.  Here is the Biblical account of what took place that day:

30 “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you! 31 Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you are to name him ‘Jesus.’ 32 He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God. And the Lord God shall give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he shall reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom shall never end!”  34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”  35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Almighty One shall overshadow you; so the baby born to you will be utterly divine—the Son of God Himself. (Luke 1:26-38)

The long awaited and greatly anticipated liberation would now commence with the birth of a God/man blend called Jesus.  His arrival on spaceship earth (about 4000 years after Adam’s transgression) was without pomp or circumstance and in less than posh surroundings:

“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in the country of the Galilee to the town of Bethlehem.  It was known as the city of David. He went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph went to have his and Mary’s names written in the books of the nation. Mary was his promised wife and soon to become a mother. While they were there in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth to her baby. Her first son was born. She put cloth around Him and laid Him in a place where cattle are fed. There was no room for them in the place where people stay for the night.” (Luke 2:4-7 – NLV)

Once born in the form of human flesh, Jesus Christ lived a rather benign life for roughly 30 years.  When the time was just right, the “Anointed One” commenced to circulate a potent message leading up to the fulfillment of a singular mission:  to seek and to salvage a lost civilization (mankind).   Jesus is also called by another title – Emanuel (Isaiah 7:14 – KJV), which means God is with us.  As such,

  • He is fully God and fully human thus a “relative” to us all
  • He is our Kinsman- Redeemer, and our Liberator
  • He is our entry point and pathway into the dimension we often call eternity
  • He came from infinity to live briefly on the time line
  • He is the Light being that stepped into the darkness of planet earth

Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and man.   The breach produced by our congenital sin nature is what keeps us separated from the unseen giver of all life.  Jesus is the doorway through which we gain access to an eternity reunited with our creator.   He is also the road upon which we find our way home.

The only way all people can have the opportunity to choose or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ is for us, without judgment, to invite them to follow the Savior. ― Clayton M. Christensen

Perhaps some of this information that I am sharing today is nothing new.  You may have heard it all before and some of you may even believe it.  Others may not.  To everyone – searcher, skeptic and Bible thumpers alike – we hold these Biblical truths to be quite evident:

  • The “sin” nature is inherent (it’s genetic), and all human wickedness is fundamental to our fallen nature (Genesis 3, Romans 7:14–25)
  • Sin brought separation from God—both spiritual and physical—to humanity (Genesis 2:17)
  • Sin merits a never-ending separation (spiritual death) from a holy and righteously divine creator (Romans 6:23)
  • Sin cannot be overcome on our own no matter how desperately we try to do what is right (Romans 7:14, 15)

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

Now, just In case someone is still wondering why we need to be rescued at all, let’s break it down one more time:  We are all reprobates marooned on a dying world, and estranged from the God who made us.  We cannot meet the standards of a holy and righteous Creator without His direct involvement.

Therefore, behold the solution: The Liberator Jesus.    Christ alone claims to be the chosen one of God.  He is a genuine Superhero.  Why?  Because death could not stop Him; the grave could not hold him, and we cannot be set free from the chains of death without Him.

The good news – He’s waiting to show you the way back home.  You need only ask.  Really, just ask…

Almighty God, you are perfect Love.  Jesus came because of love, and it is Your love that is calling us back to where we truly belong.  Please help my friends see past the confusion so often caused by institutional religious agendas, false prophets and the emptiness of man-made philosophies so that they can get to know the real Jesus as a friend, a brother and our Liberator.  Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. Facebook.com/inspopoint
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.”Paul VI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

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

By definition a mocker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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