Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

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

If you ask me what the single most important key to longevity is, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension…”
– George Burns

It is real, it is out there, and it could kill you!  It is waiting…watching… and you might be its next victim.  Let’s just say that it has your number.

Do I have your attention yet?  Wondering, “What is he talking about?”  Isn’t that painfully obvious by now?  I’m talking about – it!  

Now, let’s define it:

  • Something, nothing, the mountains, the molehills, – anything and everything – that leads to WORRY.

And you really need to get over it!

Are you the anxious, tense or uneasy type?  Tend to go over and over and over the same mostly negative scenarios in your mind?  Find yourself stuck on the what-if merry-go-round?

  • What if I lose my job?
  • What if I get a fatal disease?
  • What if my dog gets hit by a car?
  • What if I run out of money before I die?
  • What if I have a heart attack or a stroke?
  • What if terrorists blow up the mall while I’m shopping?

Here’s my personal favorite,

  • What if I don’t live up to everyone’s expectations?

That last one tells me that you are more concerned with the stuff people expect of you than with your own joy, peace and fulfillment in this life.  Yes, the carousel just keeps spinning… what if this…, what if that…, what if the other thing?  OMG what IF…!  Ahhhhhhhhhh!

What if you just chill for a few moments and hear me out; because, if you resonate at all with what I have said so far, you may be worrying your life away.  In the process you could also be deeply wounding your human spirit, distressing your mental health, and taxing your physical well-being (aka: worried sick).  I recently read a medical study that claimed, “Worriers are more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, fatigue, miscellaneous aches, pains, and numerous other maladies.”   Yikes.  I’m not a medical expert, but my powers of observation have shown me that worrywarts are often pretty miserable people.

“Oh, but Dr. Cerreta, you just don’t understand.  I have to worry.  There’s just so much going on.  Things are out of control.  And besides, if I show enough ‘concern’ (a sometimes code word for worry) about it, I just might stop it from happening.

Oh really?  So how’s that been working out for you?  No matter how much you worry, fret and fuss, you cannot “foolproof” your little world.  But, you are right about one thing: life often seems very out of control – more precisely – out of your control.

Look, bad stuff happens.  It doesn’t matter who you are.   Happy people, sad people, good people, bad people, rich people, poor people – even really hardworking, honest, God fearing people; we all experience challenging and deeply painful moments.  Worry cannot resolve nor prevent a single one of them.

If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry about it.  Worry never fixes anything.”
– Mary Hemingway

Thomas S. Kepler (1897-1963) was a respected biblical scholar, prodigious author and professor of New Testament studies at Oberlin College.  Kepler also wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column on religious issues. Some of you may already be aware of a story he once published about a woman who came to the realization that worry was ruining her life. According to Kepler, she began to keep track of what was distressing her.   Evidently Mr. Kepler did a rudimentary statistical analysis of her notes and this is what he found:

  • 40% of the things she worried about never happened.
  • 30% of the things she worried about already happened (i.e. – it’s the past, get over it).
  • 12% of the things she worried about were the expectations, opinions and criticisms of others.
  • 10% of the things she worried about were unnecessary health concerns, which actually made her health worse through prolonged anxiety.
  • 8% of the things she worried about were “reasonable concerns,” since life does have some real challenges to overcome.

So, if just 8% of her fears were actually reasonable, how legitimate are your “worries?”  I’d say there is a high degree of probability that you’re wasting a significant amount of time and energy fretting about things that are best left alone. No wonder you’re so worn-out. Apprehension is zapping your life energy. And for what benefit? As already stated, habitual and needless worry does not solve problems. And, even so called “reasonable concerns” are not an excuse for high anxiety. Most likely, your circumstances are not as ominous as you perceive them to be.

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he too had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
― Winston Churchill

One of the most prolific contributors to the Bible’s New Testament was a pious man of faith named Paul.  He was highly educated, and for a time greatly respected as a spiritual leader among first century Jews.  Paul came to recognize that a man known at that time simply as Jesus was in reality a supernatural human fusion – Divinity incarnate in human form.  The “birth” of Jesus fulfilled prophecies of a long awaited liberator who would come to the earth and deliver humanity from spiritual blindness and iniquity through a plan of redemption.   Paul’s writings total at least 13 of the 27 books that comprise the New Testament. In addition to the theological teachings found in his epistles, he often included specific instructions for the various faith communities to which he wrote. One such letter was addressed to the early Christians living in ancient Philippi (a leading city of the district of Macedonia and an ancient Roman colony – Acts 16:12). Listen to these words of instruction,

6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.  (Philippians 4:6)

Let’s break that down.

  • Don’t worry about anything.
  • Talk to God about everything.
  • Let God know your concerns (what you need).
  • Thank God for His solutions.

Sounds simple, right? Not so much.  Every word we just read is the absolute Truth, but it takes faith (trust) in a Divine power (God) that you cannot see and patient endurance to live it.  There is a Payoff. If we incorporate this way of thinking into our lifestyle, Paul said,

“…you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

The peace of God will calm you down and bring a supernatural rest to your soul (mind, will and emotions) when you put your absolute trust in Jesus, the liberator of spaceship earth.

Now, check out these additional words of wisdom from the Bible,

4-5”If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself alone. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 TLB)

Got it? If you really trust in God, there is no defensible reason to worry. Remember, Jesus came to this planet to introduce us to a personal and relevant unseen “father” (God) – not a religion. You can talk to your other worldly father (God) directly about your concerns and ask Him to help you.

When you finally decide that you will put God above everything else in your life and learn to consult Him first in every decision that you make; He will empower you to succeed at this thing called living.  I didn’t say that you will never fail.  Life is often full of setbacks and even some outright flops.  Continue to acknowledge God first, and ‘He will direct your steps.’ (Proverbs 3:6)  Do this over a lifetime and He will crown your efforts with the recompenses of eternity.

If the Creator of the universe is on your side ‘whom or what shall you fear?’ To be worried sick about anything shows a lack of trust and as such is an insult to God.”
― Unknown

Worrying accounts for hours and hours of invaluable time that you will never get back. Can all the energy you’ve wasted so far on anxiety heal your body, change your grades in school, improve your job performance, resolve a budget shortfall or protect you from identity theft? Has stressing out ever solved anything?   If you are at least willing to be honest with yourself, the answer is NO.

One more thought from the New Testament.  Jesus was talking with some of his followers one day and he said to them,

30 “…You have so little faith! 31 Do not worry. Do not keep saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘What will we wear?’ 32 The people who do not really know God are looking for all these things. Your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 First of all… Be right with Him. All these other things will be given to you also.” (Matthew 6:30b-33)

Why not give up all of your worries and fears by surrendering these so called “concerns” to God? He cares about you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He is also a fantastic listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, talk to Him… Trust Him… Cast all of your cares upon Him… And please, stop worrying yourself to death!

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
Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray – where most of us live… Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” ― Sherry L. Hoppe

She tried to smile, but I wasn’t convinced.  “You look upset”, I said.  Alexa (not her real name) blew a puff of air from the corner of her mouth clearing a few unruly hairs from her eyes and then she said with a sigh, “Is it that obvious?” To me it was. I’ve been coming to this Florida Gulf Coast eatery for years.  I’ve spent many an hour writing at my favorite hi-top outside on the “tiki” deck overlooking the water. Alexa has attended my table regularly. In between serving food and refreshing my beverage glass, we’ve had more than a few conversations. You might say that I have gotten to know a bit about her. Today, she was not her usual self.

It turns out that Alexa had argued with her spouse the night before. I thought to myself, “nothing unusual there”; anyone who has been married more than a week has most likely gone down that road. “It was over nothing”, she said, “but…my words, my tone…I just burst out with some hurtful things and my conscience is really bothering me.” My response? I asked her what her conscience was saying. She laughed and then said, “Tell him I’m sorry.” Grinning, I inquired as to what she planned to do with that advice. She whispered, “I’m gonna listen to my heart.”

Alexa had a troubled conscience – that little voice inside that we so often banter with each day.  Her tell-tale heart kept pounding out a reminder that she was wrong.  But why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if fundamental morality was somehow programed into our human DNA? Consider this verse from the Bible’s Newer Testament writer Paul,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the sea bed.” ~ J. G. Ballard ~

Mark Twain once remarked, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Can you imagine if he were alive today?  Sorry Mr. Twain, in modern Sodom, naked people and other forms of societal perversions seem to be taking over.

Clothing does, in fact, have some impact on a society. What we wear often affects how we identify ourselves and how others perceive us.  But does “dressing for success”, for instance, really make us an overall success in life?  Are we the sum total of all the clothing we’ve ever owned?  When you put it that way, it really sounds quite absurd.

I believe that our memories can have more of an impact on who we are in this life then clothing ever could.  Collective memories are a lifetime’s true narrative – tying past and present together while frequently creating the framework for our tomorrows.  Each new life experience, cataloged and recorded in the recesses of our mind, provide us with a “sense of self.”

What are memories?  My brain, eyes, heart and lungs have physical properties.  But memories don’t exist in the corporeal world.  You cannot touch a recollection.  Try downloading a memory to your computer.  It can’t be done – at least not yet.

Memories are actually complex constructs.  A single trip down memory lane requires imagery to be actively reconstructed from combined data streams stored in many different areas of the human brain.  Scientists have yet to figure out exactly how the system works or what really occurs each time we recall information from the past.  Even after decades of research, the quest to discover exactly how the brain acquires, organizes and stores all the data to reconstruct a myriad of memories goes on.

Now, ask me if I care?  Not really.  The subject is captivating, I suppose, but the knowledge is unnecessary. In the end, I’m just glad I still can remember things I need to function each day (has anyone seen my keys?) and that I have so many wonderful memories from my journey in life (thus far) to enjoy.

Do I have any bad memories? (Que the band, ahem, meme-meeeee…)

“Regrets?  I’ve had a few.  But then again too few to mention…

Okay, Sinatra I am not, but you get the point.  Everyone has some unpleasant memories stored from times past. Some people seem to just naturally downplay their undesirable experiences while others are predisposed to getting stuck in destructive memory ruts.  These “negative” individuals appear to fixate on all of the bad times rather than recalling the good stretches in life.  Some psychologists even say that the ability to minimize the negative impact of bad memories takes a learned and conscious effort.  In other words, “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”, as the late Reverend M. J. Divine (c. 1876 – 1965) liked to say in his sermons.

In 1973 Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand starred in a move called “The Way We Were.” The lyrics to the title song of the same name were written by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman.  The renowned Marvin Hamlisch wrote the music and Streisand performed the memorable vocal.  The song went on to become the number one pop hit of 1974.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Memories may be beautiful and yet
what’s too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter we will remember
whenever we remember the way we were.”

Seems like good advice to me.  Sometimes, we just have to decide to let go of the painful past.  Since we tend to quickly recall the memories that we dwell upon the most – good or bad – it just makes sense to put emphasis on the positive!

There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.”  ~ Nicholas Sparks ~

Let me tell you a little bit about the extraordinary life of a guy who lived almost 2000 years ago. Shaul (Saul) was his Hebrew name and Paulus (Paul) was his Roman name. He’s famous because his writings comprise almost half of the Newer Testament of the Bible.  He was a Roman citizen by birth, well-educated and trained by one of the best Hebrew scholars of his day – Gamaliel.  Saul was also a member of a Jewish socio-religious party that flourished in Palestine during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BC –70 AD) called the Pharisees.

Saul hated Christians.  He pursued his mission to destroy Christianity (known then as The Way) like a rabid animal.  Some say that there was no other man alive at that time who more despised Jesus of Nazareth and His followers.  But that all changed rather abruptly after he was struck to the ground by some kind of otherworldly (supernatural) light and then spoken to directly by an unseen being who identified himself as “the Jesus you are persecuting.”  The Newer Testament Book of Acts describes this incredible encounter as follows:

1 “But Paul, threatening with every breath and eager to destroy every Christian, went to the High Priest in Jerusalem. He requested a letter addressed to synagogues in Damascus, requiring their cooperation in the persecution of any believers he found there, both men and women, so that he could bring them in chains to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, suddenly a brilliant light from heaven spotted down upon him! He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Paul! Paul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who is speaking, sir?” Paul asked.  And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city and await my further instructions.” (Acts 9:1-6)

Talk about drama.  Aside from the amazing details surrounding Paul’s phenomenal conversion, can you imagine what was going on in the mind of this Christian hating Jew who was now on his way to becoming a follower of the Liberator Jesus?  In mere days he would be transformed from someone who killed supporters of the new messianic sect to being a believer himself. This conversion would see Paul loose his influential position of power in the socio-religious world of the Israelites to become just another disciple of the one whom many regarded as the “renegade Jew.”  In the days ahead, his friends would become his adversaries and his former enemies would become his new family.  Paul would now be an outcast in his homeland and above all, the focus of his message and mission would forever change.

Forgiveness does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”  ~ Lewis B. Smedes ~

What about His sordid past?  Surely he must have carried memories of the blind hatred he once felt toward followers of the Liberator Jesus; to say nothing of the murders he authorized and the innocents he jailed.  How do you forget those things?  Was Paul ever troubled by his former life after he became a follower of Jesus?  No one really knows for sure.

Certainly, Paul had more to forget than most. Your average convert to the new “Way” (Christianity) may have been immersed in false religions, various crimes, misfortunes, wicked behaviors and bad decisions in their past, but few were as guilty of Paul’s extreme loathing of Jesus and His followers. Think about it, how many of the early believers (or even converts up to this day) had actually hunted down fellow humans like so many wild beasts with sword and stones.  If anyone had the potential to be haunted by memories of a messed up past life – Paul was a prime candidate.

Here is what we do know, Paul often acknowledged his past mistakes in his writings, but he never spoke of them as lingering regrets or haunting memories directly. In his letter to Christians living in ancient Ephesus, he refers to himself as “less than the least of all Christians” (Ephesians 3:8). He almost contritely told the believers living in the Roman city of Corinth that he was “the least of all the messengers”, going on to say, “I do not deserve that title (special messenger) at all, because I persecuted the Church of God. But what I am now I am by the grace of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9). But perhaps his most telling confession was made in a letter to a close friend named Timothy,

12-15 “I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself.”  (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

Whatever emblematic demons Paul may have suffered mentally, he never let them stand in his way.  He focused not on self-pity or unproductive anxiety. Rather, he learned how to let go of his past, saying,

12 “I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

13 No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” (Philippians 3:12-14 TLB)

When Paul talked of his intention to “forget the past”, he was saying, in effect, “I no longer care about those things which are behind me.  I refuse to focus on my past – both the good and the bad.”  Paul now understood that not one single worldly accomplishment from the best of his past nor one tormenting recollection of his worst mistakes had any relevance when compared with the priceless gain that comes from knowing the Liberator Jesus (C.f. – Philippians 3:8)

I have memories ~ but only a fool stores his past in the future.” ~ David Gerrold ~

Granted, some of our past experiences may be nearly impossible to simply erase forever.  I’m not recommending that we all look for some kind of miraculous mind cleanse.  The key here is this: when we focus on the present and look expectantly toward the future, we can be freed from the ball and chain of our negative past.  If Almighty God is willing to forgive us for ALL past mistakes, who are we to hold on to them?

It’s so easy to “live in the past.” Whether it’s some bygone victory that our mind continually replays like an old movie to prop up our self-importance or a previous defeat that hangs over us like a smothering shroud, both need to be left behind. A truly happy and healthy life is possible only when we refuse to allow past successes to inflate our pride; past failures to deflate our self-worth and instead, leaving it all behind, we adopt our new identity as revealed to us by the Spirit of the Liberator Jesus.  (C.f. – 2 Corinthians 5:17).

When we choose to answer the calling of our Creator and in so doing grow into a genuine follower of the Liberator Jesus, then no judgment remains for any of our haunting memories or regrets. (Romans 8:1). Instead we lay aside the encumbering weight of every failure – past, present and future (Hebrews 12:1), learning instead to embrace the incredible future promised by the Almighty One to those who love Him. (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10).

That my friends is true freedom.  Freedom to forget the past.  Freedom to enjoy as best we can life in the present – one day at a time.  And, Freedom to look forward with great expectation toward a future that has been carefully planned for us by the one who knows us better than we know ourselves – our Liberator, our Creator, our Lord and our God!

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656

Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray – where most of us live… Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” ― Sherry L. Hoppe

She tried to smile, but I wasn’t convinced.  “You look upset”, I said.  Alexa (not her real name) blew a puff of air from the corner of her mouth clearing a few unruly hairs from her eyes and then she said with a sigh, “Is it that obvious?” To me it was. I’ve been coming to this Florida Gulf Coast eatery for years.  I’ve spent many an hour writing at my favorite hi-top outside on the “tiki” deck overlooking the water. Alexa has attended my table regularly. In between serving food and refreshing my beverage glass, we’ve had more than a few conversations. You might say that I have gotten to know a bit about her. Today, she was not her usual self.

It turns out that Alexa had argued with her spouse the night before. I thought to myself, “nothing unusual there”; anyone who has been married more than a week has most likely gone down that road. “It was over nothing”, she said, “but…my words, my tone…I just burst out with some hurtful things and my conscience is really bothering me.” My response? I asked her what her conscience was saying. She laughed and then said, “Tell him I’m sorry.” Grinning, I inquired as to what she planned to do with that advice. She whispered, “I’m gonna listen to my heart.”

Alexa had a troubled conscience – that little voice inside that we so often banter with each day.  Her tell-tale heart kept pounding out a reminder that she was wrong.  But why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if fundamental morality was somehow programed into our human DNA? Consider this verse from the Bible’s Newer Testament writer Paul,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.” – Unknown

Have you ever been conflicted? Divided on the inside? When we are conflicted, life can resemble a ride on the Kumba. For all of my non-Floridian friends, the Kumba is a rollercoaster located at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida. It stands 143 feet tall, travels at up to 60 miles per hour and features multiple inversions including a 114-foot-tall vertical loop, a dive loop, a cobra roll, a zero-g roll and two interlocking corkscrews. Ride the Kumba and you will experience upwards of 3.8 times the force of gravity. Okay, it’s not quite the vomit commit (look that one up yourself) but it will leave you a tad conflicted on the inside (if not severely nauseated).

Sometimes, I feel at odds with myself; churning up a mixture of opposing emotions within. It’s difficult enough dealing with the inevitable external conflicts in life. Being conflicted only compounds the daily warfare. In some respects, it’s like being in a personal tug of war. You are on both sides of the mud hole.   Any way you look at it YOU still lose. Ponder that for a while.

My Christian faith reminds me that emotions are, more often than not, unreliable. After all, our feelings are based upon perception. And while people may say that perception is reality; that cannot possibly be true. Why? Because perceived reality differs from person to person since we all see and interpret things differently.

I have an absolute faith in an unseen Creator. God is the definitive reality; I look to Him and not to my fleeting emotions. When I tell you that my trust is in the Almighty and Universal Spirit (God) – that trust is unconditional. Therefore, my perception of reality from moment to moment is irrelevant. No matter what appears “real” to my senses, I must look beyond perception and my immediate feelings. By faith, I can pierce the veil between the illusion of time and the “really real” of eternity. Through the eyes of my faith, I can see into the unseen world that controls this projection of reality that we all live in.

I know, some of you think I’m just plain crazy. Poor guy, he contemplates way too much. His religion has twisted his brain. Been in the mushrooms again. That’s fine. They thought Jesus was two fries short of a happy meal too, so who am I to complain about what you think.

When conflicted, we can behave as if we had two “selves” living within us. These “selves” are in a contest for control. It’s classic Jekyll and Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was a reserved, righteous and amenable man, while Mr. Hyde was indulgent, reprobate and hostile. In our case, one “self” may desires to improve by working harder, exercising more or finding a better job, but the other “self” would rather watch TV, hang out at the beach or drink beer while socializing with friends all day. Ah, which “self” will win in this contest?

Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast, and each will wrestle for the mastery there.” ― Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Now let’s get spiritual. The Newer Testament writer known as Paul was also conflicted sometimes. He wrote about it in a letter to the Christian community living in ancient Rome:

21-25 “When I come up against the Law I want to do well, but in practice I do evil. My conscious mind whole-heartedly endorses the Law, yet I observe an entirely different principle at work in my nature. This is in continual conflict with my conscious attitude, and makes me an unwilling prisoner to the law of sin and death. In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25 – PHILLIPS)

For Paul, “The Law” was not only reality, it was absolute truth. He wanted to obey the law. His mind knew that it was the right thing to do. But he was engaged in a continual inner “conflict”. On the one hand, Paul had made up his mind to be a willing disciple of the Creator. And yet, his corrupt human nature kept him in bondage to his reprehensible tendencies. Here we have this brilliant, dedicated Jewish scholar turned follower of the liberator Jesus caught in an inner tug of war that he describes as “an agonizing situation”. He asks this question, “…who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature?”

Who indeed. Happily, Paul new the answer to his own question. He said, “I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The universe is exquisitely balanced and every aspect and detail of this beautiful creation, you, me and everything else is perfectly vibrating in its proper and rightful place. For only when we lose faith and trust, and resist the natural flow and unfolding of this magnificent plan, do we experience pain, conflict and suffering.” – David Cunliffe

Perhaps you have read (or at least heard of) the mythological story of Odysseus. In Book 12 of the Odyssey, the goddess Circe warns Odysseus about the power of the Sirens; beguiling female cannibals who would lure unsuspecting mariners to their island of death with a mesmerizing song (temptation). Following Circe’s advice, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears with beeswax. He himself, curious to hear the Sirens song (temptation), orders the crew to tie him tightly to the mast and leave him bound no matter what. The voice of the Sirens, crying out to him, (temptation) proved stronger than his ability to resist. He became severely conflicted. Even though Odysseus knew how dangerous the Sirens were, he still begged to be released so that he might go to them – but his men did not comply. Restrained by the ropes (of his convictions), he was kept from the certain death that awaited both he and his crew as they approached and safely passed the island of enticement.

Like mythical Ulysses, Paul recognized that he could not resolve a conflicted heart on his own. He knew that our human nature is fatally flawed, and intrinsically given to wickedness. Utopian dreams of nirvana are just the folly of fools. We can only escape the corruption that is in this world through the single door to freedom that has been offered to mankind by the Creator himself. That door is the Liberator Jesus. He alone can free mankind from the clutches of our wicked nature – the conflicted human spirit. Another of the Newer Testament writers, Peter wrote:

3-4 He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one (the Divine Spirit) who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him (the Liberator Jesus) that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 – Phillips)

How cool is that? We can share in the very characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of the one who made us. Divine nature overriding human nature. That is the great mystery of the Christian faith. The spirit of the liberator Jesus dwelling inside of us provides all we need to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of this temporal life, and provides us with hope for our eventual transportation to a new world when this life is over. Plus, that same spirit helps us to resolve every conflict with which we struggle while in exile here on penal colony earth.

Look, I know that life is hard sometimes. But there are also many wonderful moments to be savored in our allotted time here on spaceship earth as well. Joy and happiness are likewise part of the human experience. Nevertheless, we will all find ourselves conflicted every now and then. When you want to laugh but you just have to cry.  When everything seems to be going crazy, your world is crumbling and you don’t know why; please remember these words from the inspired pen of the Newer Testament writer Paul,

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Conflicted sometimes? You bet I am. Worried? Not on your life. How about you?

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

He was vigorously pounding the pulpit. I was daydreaming. The commotion drew me back into the sermon which had not been particularly interesting up to that point. But the preacher’s next sentence caught my attention.   “Worry is a sin”, he bellowed, all red faced, voice straining to make his point. “Everyone who worries is a SINNER!” I remember thinking, “Well that covers just about everybody in the room.” And before claiming that you never worry, remember, lying is also a sin. I can recall little of the minister’s talk after that. I was too busy thinking about how much of our time we do in fact devote to worries and fears.

It might be health issues, money woes, or family problems. Perhaps it’s those troublesome infectious disease fears, terrorist threats, global economic instabilities, and the possibility of another world war. Toss in a few natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes and, well… as you can see there are plenty of reasons to feel uneasy about the future. But truthfully, none of these troubles are an excuse for living under a cloud of persistent worry and fear.

Anxiety will not solve a single problem (especially the ones that are either out of your control or only exist in your mind). And even those uncertainties that we might call reasonable concerns are never justification for unnecessary or obsessive apprehension. Granted, there are times when brief anxiety can be appropriate (uneasiness about an important meeting later today or experiencing the “butterflies” over an impending job interview, etc.), but when worry becomes a steady companion, that’s not so good.

In the field of mental health, a compulsive worrier might be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), people with GAD are exceedingly uptight about everything in life, even if there is little or no reason for them to worry. We used to call these people extreme pessimists but nowadays there has to be a clinical classification for every imaginable phobia in order to prescribe some drug or expensive therapy in an attempt to solve the problem.

The NIH claims that the person with GAD is often anxious about just getting through the day because they are terrified that anything can, and most likely will, go wrong. For them, Worry has taken control of their life.

According to the NIH, a person with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their constant worries
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable, sweat a lot, and feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot.

Is it just me, or do some of those warning signs seem to be the same as those that appear on lists for a few hundred other “disorders”? Unless I’m mistaken, most of the population could identify with more than half of these symptoms. I sure can and (thankfully) I do NOT suffer with GAD or any other malady that I am aware of.  But I digress.

So let me ask you once again: how many hours of irreplaceable time do you invest in worry and fear? You’ll never get a single one of those wasted moments back. As long as you continue to focus on the endless stream of future uncertainties in life, you will remain trapped in a prison of your own creation.

You doubt me? Let’s talk.

Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.” ~ General Douglas MacArthur

First of all, I am well aware of the suffering that many people endure because of extreme anxiety issues. The mental health community does their best to manage an observed condition from a limited human perspective. But sometimes science and medicine can do little or nothing to effectively eliminate a problem. This is especially true when the cause is spiritual and not simply mental or physical. While a mental health practitioner may help you handle a disorder like GAD, only God can help you get to the spiritual root of this problem and set you on the road to true freedom.

In the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter you will find these very encouraging words,

7 Let him (GOD) have all your worries and cares (anxieties), for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

To me that is so awesome. The creator of all things (GOD) knows who I am. He actually thinks about me. Every detail of my life here on this little orbiting orb is of personal concern to Him.  Since I actually believe this is true, I must ask myself, “How then can I justify worry?”

“Well now brother, I just cannot comprehend how this God you speak of can possibly know every detail of every human life and all at the same time. That is impossible.”

Listen, there are some things that I can’t comprehend either. That is why He is the All-knowing One and we’re NOT! Our Creator requires just one thing from us – faith in Him. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about the real (unseen) world in which He dwells and from which we are temporarily exiled. It will always come down to this:

6“…without faith it is impossible to please him (The Almighty). The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.” (Hebrews 11:6 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

You may be going through a tough time right now. Unforeseen circumstances have swamped your little boat. You may be struggling just to find meaning in your day to day existence. That’s normal when you live primarily within the domain of your physical senses. It is within this natural realm of temporal reality that worry and fear form the clouds of doubt in your mind and blind your spirit from seeing the truth.

Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there.” ~Author Unknown

For the Christian, The New Testament is all about a brand-new arrangement between the Creator and His creation. The most prolific contributor to the New Testament was the Apostle Paul. In addition to the general Christian instruction found in his letters, Paul often included specific direction for the congregation to which he wrote the epistle. Listen to these words of instruction written to the Christians living in the ancient city of Philippi,

6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 – Living Bible)

Let’s break that down.

  • Don’t worry about anything.
  • Talk to God about everything.
  • Let God know your concerns (what you need).
  • Thank God for His solutions.

Sounds naive, right?  Do I detect a bit of incredulity?   You’ve heard it all before?   Me too. And you’ve decided it doesn’t work? I agree, sometimes it appears that is the case. But we’re talking about developing an ongoing relationship with the Creator of all things here. This is not Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Merely reading the words of the ancient scriptures can make the process sound oversimplified. Working out this life changing truth – day by day – is not so easy. Every word we just read from the Bible is spot-on. But it will take persistent faith and patience to live it. Don’t forget the Payoff. If we make this our way of life, Paul said,

“…you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:7 – Living Bible)

The supernatural peace that can only come from the Divine Spirit of God is what will calm you down. You will find rest for your soul when you put your absolute trust in Jesus, the liberator. Now, check out these words of wisdom from the Bible,

4-5 “If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself alone. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 TLB)

Get it? When you put your complete trust in God, there is no longer a valid reason to worry. There will still be plenty of opportunities to worry, but they will not be effective at immobilizing you through fear. Here is a promise from the pages of scripture that you can claim as your very own:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” (2 Timothy 1:7 – Amplified Bible)

When our creator visited this water world in human form, He was disguised as a meek and humble man called Jesus. He grew up among His own creation until that precise moment when it was time to introduce us to a personal and relevant God – not a Religion. The Almighty One, clothed in humility and living in obscurity, went about doing good and healing the sick and oppressed. As Jesus of Nazareth, he demonstrated to mankind how to talk directly to the Divine Spirit about our concerns and ask for His help. The liberator Jesus assured His devotees that when we strive for the otherworldly Kingdom of God – above everything else – He will make all things work together for our good.

Let me ask you one more question, “has all the energy you’ve wasted on anxiety and fear ever changed your grades in school, improve your job performance, or protected your family from harm? Will worry keep you free of contagious diseases?” If you are at least willing to be honest with yourself, the answer is NO. So then tell me again, “Why do you worry all the time?”

It is not the cares of today, but the cares of tomorrow, that weigh a man down. For the needs of today we have corresponding strength given. For tomorrow we are told to trust. It is not ours yet. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” ~ George MacDonald

One more thought from the New Testament.  Jesus was talking with some of his followers one day and he said to them,

30 “…O you of little faith. 31 Do not worry and be anxious, saying, what are we going to have to eat? Or, what are we going to have to drink? Or, what are we going to have to wear? 32 For the heathen wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. 33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things (that you need) taken together will be given to you besides.” – (Matthew 6:30b-33 Amplified Bible)

Why not give all of your worries and fears to the One who formed you? He really does care about you and He knows you far better than you think you know yourself. Our Liberator and Creator is a great listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, talk to Him… say what you need to say… and please, stop worrying.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
“And you tell me over and over and over again my friend, ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction… no, no, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction” – P.F. Sloan –

 Confidence in a Crisis

If you harbor dreams of a world filled with peace, harmony and goodwill toward men, your chances of finding such a Shangri-La here on spaceship earth are slim to none.  Sometimes it can appear like the whole planet is a combat zone. Is the world teetering on the eve of destruction? Let’s see, racial unrest, economic chaos, proliferating global terrorism, widespread natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, etc., and, well…, is it any wonder that many believe things are only going to get worse from here? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t look to the daily news for confidence building.

The ancient scriptures predict the eventual demise of mankind here on spaceship earth. We do not know exactly when that will happen. Even the Liberator Jesus on his visit to this planet said that he did not know the precise moment:  But about that actual day and time no one knows—not even the angels of Heaven, nor the Son, only the Father. (Matthew 24:36) There are a few clues scattered among the words of the prophets, but only the Ancient of Days (God, the father of all spirits) knows for sure. In the interim, we only have this one life to live, so let’s enjoy it as best we can and make the most of our time.

Have you ever considered that God may allow all of this bedlam for a reason? Through crisis, we often learn to have confidence in Him and not in human resourcefulness alone.  In the face of situations that seem hopeless, I find this quote from the Newer Testament scriptures to be a persuasive reminder:

18 “So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys… which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

On earth, we live a transitory life. The visible things happening all around us are only temporary. The invisible realm that exists beyond the laughter and tears of this momentary existence is everlasting. As a Christian, I am always learning to look beyond what I can touch and see. It is from within that eternal dimension – the dwelling place of our unseen Creator – that I draw my confidence and my strength every day.

Paul, knew this better than most.  A great leader of the early New Testament era, he traveled extensively sowing the seeds of “The Way” that would eventually be called Christianity.  His journeys traversing the ancient world are nothing short of extraordinary.  More than once he faced the possibility of imminent death.  In a letter to the Christian community at ancient Corinth (a city-state located about midway between Athens and Sparta), he wrote:

8-10 “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”  2 Corinthians 1:8-10 – New Living Translation –

Looking back on the difficulties that his missionary team faced, Paul concedes that at one point they all expected to die.  Out of options and overwhelmed by extreme anxiety, he told the Corinthian Christians “…we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God…”  Paul believed that the extreme adversity they endured served to demonstrate that our trust must always be in God.  “We have placed our confidence in him”, he said, “and he will continue to rescue us.”

In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Meaning is strength. Our survival may depend on our seeking and finding it.” Dawna Markova

The Liberator Jesus – God within You

Think about this, the Divine Spirit (God) is both above all things and at the same time living within all things.  When the Liberator Jesus came to the earth, he was called Emanuel (which means God-with-us). God with us is now God within us. Paul told the ancient Galatian Christians,

20As far as religion is concerned; I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old “I”, but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

The scriptures teach us that Jesus himself was the payment for the recovery of the human race – he swapped his life for our lives. Paul told the Galatians that he was vicariously put to death on that Roman cross “with Christ”. In theological terms, it is known as the substitutionary death. Every true believer (genuine Christian) goes through this same process. Our metaphorical death triggers an internal makeover (also known as being Born Again).  We then inherit the nature and the power of the Divine Spirit who comes to live within our human spirit.   Yea, I know, all of this can sounds pretty wild. But not too long ago, so did space travel.

Paul put it this way when he wrote to the Christians at ancient Colossae,

27For I am a minister of the Church by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God’s word—that sacred mystery which up to now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendor of his secret plan for the sons of men. And the secret is simply this: Jesus Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.” Colossians 1:27 – J. B. Philips –

It’s no longer a secret: the Creator of the universe actually lives in us!  Thus, his indwelling Divine Spirit provides the confidence we need to move forward assertively in life. Sure, we will face some obstacles and threatening circumstances.  But, like Paul, we can boldly declare, “God will continue to rescue us”.  Our creator wants us to learn to operate in the faith that Jesus demonstrated when He visited this planet. If His Spirit and power are truly in us, His confidence is also in us. It all comes back to TRUST. Do YOU trust God?  In hopelessness, helplessness or extreme anxiety – absolute trust in the Almighty (God) is essential. As the creator and sustainer of the Universe, He is NOT worried about anything!

Faith without work is dead and work without Faith is dead. For those who aren’t familiar with Faith, it’s simply to have absolute confidence in God.” —Author Unknown

Confidence in God has Benefits

Confidence in God makes things possible.  It relieves us of worry and mental torment and it brings healing into our lives.  It enables us to move in the spiritual gifts, to hear the voice of God and to fulfill our calling. Confidence in God opens the door for all of His promises to be made clear and visible.  The benefits of confidence in the divine, supernatural, unseen Almighty One are incalculable.

But first, you must trust in the completed mission of Jesus for the cleansing of all your past failures. Through the substitutionary atonement, God legally exchanged your imperfect record for the perfect blamelessness of Jesus. It’s a gift you receive by placing your confidence in the one “who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20 – J. B. Phillips)

The Creator of all things can and does speak to his creation in our day. You must learn to listen for His voice and to be obedient when He speaks to you.  Your confidence will grow as you see how God works in and through your life.

The next time you are overcome by worry, fear and doubt, try this; take a walk outside on a cloudless night and gaze at the splendor of the visible universe above.  Now, consider the wisdom, understanding and omnipotent power of the architect of it all. Could that magnificent and unequaled master builder possibly look after your every need? Could He work supernatural power in your life to fulfill the purposes He has given to you? Could He make you a conduit of the gifts and power of His Holy Spirit?

I believe that He can. Indeed, I do.

May we pray?

God, it is easy to feel overwhelmed living in this dangerous world of darkness. Sometimes we feel trapped. Helplessly hopeless. When we forget who really is in control, remind us to put our absolute trust in you. And if we should have to face the gales of life head on, we are confident that you will either calm the storm or calm your child – but you will always be there to rescue us. In the name of the Liberator Jesus we pray. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656

 

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute of your life with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley –

I recently traveled to New England for a long overdue visit with family and friends. Driving through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire afforded me a trip down memory lane. I let my mind wander to what were the nurturing and more genteel times of my youth. While in Connecticut, I spent a few days with my Mother, whom for me is a living testimony of life before social tinkering and political correctness.

You see, mom raised us in a time when they still displayed Old Glory and The Ten Commandments proudly at the courthouse. Department stores were not afraid to have separate sections for “boys” and “girls”. We had a mailman, paperboy, milkman and various repairmen. It was okay to say a prayer in school, carry a bible in the building and pledge our allegiance to the good old US of A.   Heck, we even sang God Bless America at public assemblies and sporting events.

In those good old days a man was a man and a woman was a woman. There was no widespread sexual confusion. The gender neutralization of society had yet to begin in earnest. Dumb people were… well… dumb, but most decent people loved them just the way they were. Really smart people were celebrated not shunned and they only gave out one trophy for first place at school because the education establishment actually recognized that in the real world everybody doesn’t win a prize for participation. People didn’t sue one another if they fell down in their neighbor’s back yard at a barbecue. We actually said “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” – not “Seasons Greetings” or Happy Holidays”. And, let’s not forget the nativity scenes that adorned so many front yards and public places back then. Today, in some people’s minds, placing Jesus, Mary and Joseph on your front lawn poses more of a treat to the nation than radical Islamic terrorists.

Some say that everyone was narrow-minded and ignorant in those days.  I say bovine poop.  For sure there were social injustices that needed correcting. Some people couldn’t grasp the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal”. Many still can’t. We will always have fools and bigots to deal with in society. But the greater ignorance seems to rest with those who today think that 95 percent of the population should be inconvenienced because of 5% that might be offended. I have no desire to engage in a prolonged discussion on the mistakes and shortcomings of previous generations of Americans. We all make mistakes. Love covers a multitude of sins. My nostalgic drive simply reminded me that in spite of our own unique set of problems all those years ago, we were much less confused than this generation.  Mom says that in many ways, we were a whole lot better off.  I have learned not to argue with my mother.

At 88 years young, mom is still a reminder to me of God’s amazing grace. She has always tried to love the unlovely. She believed that all lives matter long before it was a T-shirt slogan. Mom just seemed to know how to love people even when they didn’t deserve it. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t perfect, but she is full of grace.

The concept of God’s grace ranks among the most important truths taught in the scriptures. Biblical grace is the love, peace and unmerited favor of God given to the unholy and undeserving. Mankind can never be worthy of God’s grace. But, He is merciful and therefore he pours out his grace freely upon us. The bible describes humanity as a lost race, desperately wicked, spiritually dead and banished on the earth. As such, we do not deserve to be blessed at all – we deserve damnation. Thankfully, as we live out our days on this orbiting penal colony called earth, God has chosen to continually offer his redeeming grace to us in abundance – along with blessings too!

To even begin to grasp the concept of the grace of God, we all must learn the truth about the mission and message of the man called Jesus. The Holy Spirit of God becomes our inner guide, teaching us everything we need to know. He will show you how the good news that Christians commonly refer to as The Gospel is really all about God’s grace extended to exiled mankind through the Liberator Jesus. God is the source of all grace – Jesus IS that grace!  Listen to this quote from the New Testament book of Acts: 11“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11 – New Living Translation)

My trust in God flows out of the experience of his loving me, day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I’m sick or in good health, whether I’m in a state of grace or disgrace. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am.” – Brennan Manning

If you are a sincere and devout Christian, one of the great threats to living a life filled with God’s grace is the tendency to be extremely hard on yourself. I mean really, how do I love myself when I do so many bad things (or even when I think about doing bad things)?  It is one thing to acknowledge God’s grace and forgiveness, quite another to forgive ourselves.

The problem is that we can’t extend God’s grace and love toward others if we do not first love ourselves. While it is prudent to shun too much self-admiration; there is a big difference between an ego trip and loving who you are. Jesus taught that we were to love one another the same way that we love ourselves. Here is what he said,

28“Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion, and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?”   29-31 “The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with your entire mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:31 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

The more insecure and uptight we are, the more difficult it is to keep from spiraling into guilt and condemnation. Even when we feel pretty good about our progress in living the Christian life, daily shortfalls will always present us with opportunities to marinate in blame and shame.  We can then become our own worst critic and consequently we fall into a trap of our own making. Just remember what the scriptures teach – God always forgives our mistakes even as we are always to forgive those who trespass against us. (Mark 11:25)

So why is it so hard for me to forgive my own failures? Good question. I think it’s because we all have an inner consciousness of an ideal self in our minds. But try as we might to live up to that picture-perfect image, we still miss the mark.

And let’s not forget all of the helpful voices reminding us that we are not so good.

Voices you say?

Yes, many voices.   Like an overly critical parent, an angry spouse, an insensitive boss, an infuriating colleague, a selfish neighbor, and even the innocent observations of impertinent children can hurt.  Teenage children are experts in making parents feel totally inadequate and completely inept.

The meaning of life, the wasted years of life and the poor choices of life – God answers the mess of life with one word: Grace.” – Max Lucado

What about our society?

How many ways do we fail to measure up in this man-centered age of humanism? Let me count but a few:

  • We don’t look the way we should
  • We don’t dress the way we should
  • We don’t make the money we should
  • We don’t have all the material possessions we should
  • We don’t have the popularity or the prestige we should
  • We don’t have the independence, power, or control we should

Need I continue? The sad thing is, we should know better.  But, we often buy into this garbage, and when we do, we stumble over our guilt.  Self-condemnation leads to a life of discouragement.  When we are discouraged, it is hard to do much of anything. All we feel is the pain of defeat and disappointment.

The good news is that God does not condemn us like we condemn ourselves.  God knows everything. That means He sees the positive in us. God recognizes our objectives, even if our actions don’t always bring about the results we intended. Again, we have only a limited picture of ourselves. It is easy to measure our lives by one mistake, one failure, and one defeat at a time. God sees the big picture – all that we are and even more importantly, all that we can become. (1 John 3:20)

Here is a truth of which our hearts need to be absolutely reassured: We are loved so much by God that through Jesus, He was willing to lay down his life – to give everything – to get us back.

A Divine rescue was required and God refused to let anything – even our depravity – stand in the way of our redemption. Jesus was sent to the earth by the Creator of all things (God). He endured humiliation rejection and death in order to provide the means by which we can be liberated from the burden of our wickedness. If God loves us that much than we too, out of genuine love for others, ought to be willing to share whatever we can with a brother or sister in need. Real love always leads to action. (1 John 3:16-19)

But here’s the irony; we cannot be free to love selflessly, as Jesus has loved us, if we continue to spend our time wallowing in a loser mentality. Do you believe the scriptures? They teach us that God has not condemned us. We are therefore fools to condemn ourselves.

Once we have given up self-condemnation, we discover a new sense of boldness before God. As our confidence grows, we begin to ask God for anything and everything we need in order to serve him better. When our spirit is in a right relationship (righteousness) with the Creator of all things (God), we receive from him whatever we ask of him. And then as we obey God, we discover that he is pleased to abide in us and we abide in Him. (1 John 3:21-24) Never forget these two incredible verses from the New Testament book of Romans:

1-2 No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

No matter what happens from now until the day that your body dies, never give up on yourself. If God chose not to condemn those who turn to him for life; we have no business condemning ourselves.

God, there are many who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in this slowly decaying world. Please help those who have heard these words to find their way in the grace you offer them today. I ask this in the name of our Liberator Jesus. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
I often think about, ‘How do we return to a simpler way of living? Is there some way that we can start to think of each other as human beings again, instead of worshiping money, instead of worshiping electronics, instead of worshiping getting ahead just for me?” – Giancarlo Esposito

Henry Ford, was an industrialist, and founder of the Ford Motor Company. He is perhaps best known for his refinement of the assembly line technique of mass production. Ford helped to revolutionize transportation by making the automobile more affordable to the masses. In 1909, he decided to reduce the number of model choices his company offered the motoring public. In his autobiography, My Life and Work, Mr. Ford wrote:

“…I announced one morning, without any previous warning, that in the future we were going to build only one model, that the model was going to be the “Model T,” and that the chassis would be exactly the same for all cars. I cannot say that any one agreed with me.” (1)

Ford was looking to simplify his business. He would now offer only one model available in four different body styles: a town car, a roadster, a coupe, and a landaulet. Ford also remarked:

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” (1)

I love it! Mr. Ford liked to keep it simple so he narrowed the choices. Let’s talk about choices and the simple life.

When people have too many choices, they make bad choices.” – Thom Browne

Have you visited a new car showroom lately? It can take hours just to pick a color, let alone choose from all of the available options. I’ve seen families spend weeks trying to decide what style and model of car to buy. It has become such an ordeal that some people may soon need counseling to get through the experience.

What about choosing a telephone? When I was growing up we got to pick from one model – The Western Electric 500 series. It was available in a few styles; the two most prominent were the table top and the wall mounted versions. This nifty little rotary dial gadget reigned supreme in the homes of North America from 1950 through 1984Western-Electric-500-Vintage-Rotary-Telephone-Black-1971

With the introduction of touch-tone service, the trusty old 500 series was refit with a push-button keypad. First a 10 button model was introduced in 1963 followed by the 12 button model we know today in 1968. And get this, you didn’t own it! That’s right. You rented the phone for a monthly fee. Even worse – everyone in the household used the same phone and it was attached to the wall by a wire! Oh the pain, the pain of it all.

Today, choosing a phone can be more nerve racking than a broken front tooth the day before your wedding. Right now, there are no less than 103 different cell phone brands available. Collectively, they offer multiplied thousands of models.

Let’s not forget all the monthly “plans” and the associated need to decide which one is right for you. Will you choose the family and friends plan, or maybe the neighbor and coworker package, or perhaps the friends, Romans and countrymen plan? (Okay, they don’t have that last one).

Fear not, when you finally settle on the combination of data, text messaging and who you can call, when you can call and how many minutes you can talk – surprise – that plan will be phased out.

I did the best I could, and in some arenas, my best was not good enough. I’ve made some bad choices.” – Amy Grant

Have you ever sat down and tried to choose a family vacation destination or even just a place for the whole family to dine out? In my household we must approach this task delicately – and unarmed – or we’d all be on death row by now. There are too many “options”, making a group consensus nearly impossible.

Everywhere you turn – decisions that involve multiple choices await you.  Like grocery stores. Forget about it, there are dozens of selections for just about any single item you want to buy.

What about appliance centers? I want a refrigerator. Who knew they made hundreds of different models? They’ve got ones that practically grow and process the food.

Look at all the furniture outlets. No wonder they have a going out of business sale every two weeks, there are not enough people alive on earth to purchase all that stuff. I saw a man sleeping on one of the sofas at the local mega-décor store. I believe he collapsed from exhaustion just trying to see everything.

And, let’s not bring up clothing. Some people are ready to convert the garage into a walk-in closet and that’s just for their shoes. It already takes them over an hour to pick out a shirt. Soon they will be unable to make that choice as well. Probably join a nudist colony – hey, no clothing decisions there.

I now understand why so many people are walking around malls and other shopping centers murmuring in a semi coherent state. They can’t decide on anything. Better to just keep wandering, texting and hoping for the best.

Okay, I’ll cut the drama now. There is a point here. Choice overload is very real.

Alvin Toffler, the writer, futurist and former associate editor of Fortune magazine wrote, “Over-choice takes place when the advantages of diversity and individualization are canceled by the complexity of a buyer’s decision-making process.” (2) To put that in simple terms – when you have too much to choose from you can become confused and overwhelmed to the point that you cannot make a decision at all. And often, you don’t. Or, you make poor choices.

For years we’ve heard the clarion calls of culture declare “more is better” or “he who dies with the most toys wins!” Bunkum!

Unfortunately, some of our poor choices are irreversible, but many are not. Often, we can change course and get back on the right track.” – James E. Faust

The man from Galilee had it right nearly 2000 years ago,

15 Then Jesus said to them all, “Watch yourselves! Keep from wanting all kinds of things you should not have. A man’s life is not made up of things, even if he has many riches.” (Luke 12:15 NLV)

36 “And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? 37 For is anything worth more than his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37 TLB)

What is your peace of mind (soul) worth? Will you continue to sacrifice your soul for the latest cell phone, more money, a newer car, boat, or house? To lead a better life, we need to rediscover the simple life. The pressure to accumulate what you really do not need or to climb to new heights where you really do not belong can kill you. No, I take that back, if you are empty inside, you are already dead.

When Jesus visited our planet, people were busy doing all the same things people do today – buying, selling, accumulating, lying, cheating, stealing, and pretending there is no God. Politicians were duping the public and raping the treasury. Need I continue? Jesus walked onto the stage of humanity and in the midst of all the noise and confusion he issued an invitation,

28 “Come to me, all of you who work and have heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Follow my teachings and learn from me. I am gentle and do not have pride. You will have rest for your souls. 30 For My way of carrying a load is easy and my load is not heavy.” (Matthew 11:28-3 NLV)

The choice here is simple. No confusion. No overload. Choose his way and gain a timeless life, filled with inner joy and peace. Or just keep doing things your way. It’s your life, your decision, but I do hope you choose wisely.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my toes in the water and my… well, you know the rest. Life is good today.

My Father in Heaven, please help my friends to find rest. Show them how to slow down and how to avoid the overload of too many choices. To shed the weight they carry and find forgiveness and a new life in Jesus. Thank you my God. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
  • (1) From My Life and Work by Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther, Copyright, 1912 by Doubleday, Page & Company. Pages 71, 72
  • (2) From Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1971