Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

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

ISIS… Global Warming… Terrorism… Economic Collapse… Racism… Airport Security… Riots… Murder… Retirement… College…

So how is your ANXIETY level? That’s what I thought. Let’s talk.

Anxiety is sometimes defined as uneasiness associated with vague or unknown threats, both real and imagined. Fear is often defined as an emotional response to a clear and present danger – usually real, and immediate. There are subtle differences between anxiety and fear. Ironically, fear can cause anxiety, and anxiety can cause fear. But, both produce physical stress responses.

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. ― Charles Spurgeon

I want to focus on the anxiety that results from the undercurrent of future uncertainties. In other words, worry over things that might or might not happen:

  • Will I ever find my true love?
  • Will the economy collapse?
  • What if an asteroid strikes the planet?
  • What if I go to the bank and get killed in a robbery?
  • What if I am on an airplane and it crashes?
  • What if I am hit by a car trying to cross the street?
  • What if I lose my job and become homeless?

Yes, the anxiety list is filled with endless scenarios. Every morning we awaken to a myriad of new opportunities to make us feel uneasy about the future (let alone all the stuff we keep overanalyzing and replaying from our past, but that is an entirely different subject).

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith. ― Henry Ward Beecher

I have referenced the work of Thomas S. Kepler (1897-1963) in a previous commentary. He 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. He published a story about a woman who came to the realization that anxiety was ruining her life. According to Kepler, she began to keep track of what was worrying her.   This is what she found:

  • 40% of the things she was anxious about never happened.
  • 30% of the things she was anxious about already happened (i.e. – it’s the past, get over it).
  • 12% of the things she was anxious about were the opinions and criticisms of others.
  • 10% of the things she was anxious about were unnecessary health concerns, which actually made her health worse through nervousness.
  • 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 anxieties were actually reasonable concerns, how legitimate is your relentless undercurrent of dread? No wonder you’re so worn-out. Anxiety is zapping your energy. And for what benefit? Worrying does not solve problems (especially the ones that are only in your mind). And even your reasonable concerns are never an excuse for unnecessary apprehension. There are occasions when brief anxiety can be appropriate (uneasiness about that math test later today or an impending job interview, etc.), but when anxiety becomes a steady companion, that’s not so good. How many hours of your invaluable time have you invested in worry? What a waste. You’ll never get a single moment back.

In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we’re pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our maker’s praise without anxiety. ― Aiden Wilson Tozer

In the New Testament book of 1st Peter you will find this good word,

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 planet is of personal concern to Him. And since I actually believe this is true, how can I justify worry?

“Well now brother, I just cannot comprehend how GOD can know every detail of every human life and all at the same time.”

Neither can I. That’s why He is GOD and we’re NOT!

Look, I’m no fool. I’ll readily concede this; there are plenty of opportunities to worry. But that does not excuse living with persistent anxiety (and fear). Please consider these words that came from the lips of the Jesus,

25”Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?”   (Luke 12:25-26 NLT)

The point is; anxiety is useless. It accomplishes nothing of value. And modern science tells us that it can contribute too many ailments – physical and mental. The bottom line: anxiety is a killer. So, how do you stop anxieties grip on your life?

Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment. ― J. Donald Walters

First, change your focus. Clearly you are spending way too much time dwelling on potential problems (real or imagined) instead of concentrating on 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).

Listen again to the words of the Jesus as recorded in the Bible’s New Testament,

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with the getting, so that you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:30-33 – The Message)

That is incredible! Jesus wants me to chill. Relax, He said. Get to know God. Learn His ways. He will handle the details that you have no control over and make provision for everything that concerns you. All we have to do is trust Him. We have His word on that.

Second, talk with God. When you hear the word PRAY, think of a conversation. Prayer is talking with the creator of all things (GOD). Can you imagine that – an honest conversation with the source of life itself? Consider your closest friend. It is easy to talk with them. They know you and they love you. That level of intimacy can only spring from the depths of your human heart. Prayer is talking to your closest friend (GOD) about your most pressing concerns. The New Testament writer Paul said,

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 -NLT)

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 enough, right? Well, it’s not. Like any relationship, your comfort level grows over time. Imagine waking up at home in the middle of the night. The power is out and the interior of your bedroom is very dark. You must navigate your way to another room. Can you do it? Sure you can. You are familiar enough with your surroundings to walk that walk. But what if you were sleeping in a strange hotel room? That walk in the dark might prove challenging because the surrounds are unfamiliar. Every word we just read is the absolute Truth. But it takes faith and patience to live it. The more you do it, the more comfortable it will become.

Let us never forget to pray. God lives. He is near. He is real. He is not only aware of us but cares for us. He is our Father. He is accessible to all who will seek Him. ― Gordon B. Hinckley

You may be going through a tough time right now. Life has swamped your little boat. Sometimes you struggle just to find meaning in your day to day existence. Talk to the creator of all things (GOD) and let Him have all your worries and cares. Decide right now, I will not be defeated and I will not quit.

Here are a few parting words of encouragement penned long ago by the New Testament writer Paul as he refreshed a group of struggling Christians who lived in the ancient city called Ephesus,

10-18 In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray…” (Ephesians 6:10-18 – PHILLIPS)

Be strong in the Lord and remember; He is keeping His eye on everything that concerns you. He alone holds the future. Stop fretting about tomorrow and experience the joy that comes when you seize the day and learn to live in His all sufficient grace.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

Have you ever felt forsaken?

I sure have. I’ve doubted God and even wondered if He really exists. I’ve become angry and cursed His name when my prayers were not answered (or more truthfully, when I didn’t like the answer). I’ve walked through many a valley and spent seasons in the spiritual desert. As far as I was concerned, God had let me down.

Wait, I hear the Christian RAP club… Hit it guys,

Yo dear brother, God can never let you down. 

Just keep on waiting and He’ll surly come around

I see miracles ahead, around the next bend

Keep believing till’ the very end

Seek the lord while he can be found

And all of your problems will soon leave town

Bravo!, Well played.

But, I’ve heard all that before.

For the record, I agree, no matter how impossible my problems seem to me, “…Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27b) The power of the almighty can still heal the woes of mankind today. But knowing the truth does not mean that we will never feel abandoned.

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

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

Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. – Bono

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

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

There are no easy answers to any of these questions or countless others like them. And please, spare us all those well-ordered one liners from your promise box. They may be true, but rarely helpful at moments like these.

The raw concerns of real life are painful to confront. It’s easier to suffer in silence. So, we live under the pretense that everything is going to be just fine. We keep telling ourselves, “God is going to make all this crummy stuff disappear one day soon and everything will be much better”.

What happens when “someday soon” never seems to come?

Hiding your hurt, anger, and disappointment behind facades of God-speak and perfunctory piety is poison to the soul. Your spirit slowly fills with a contagion that destroys your genuine faith in God.

If perception is your reality, then I might as well just say it; from where some of you sit right now, it sure appears that God has let you down.

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

Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations. – Earl Nightingale

Unconsciously, we absorb many erroneous and unconfirmed “facts” about God in the course of a lifetime. We read books about what He (supposedly) has promised to do for us when we pray. All of the sermons, seminars and a million casual conversations have molded our interpretation of what we can expect from Him. Some of these expectations are spot-on. Some are not. The trouble begins when things don’t go the way we believe they should. We can feel deceived. And over time, our faith grows weaker.

Unfulfilled expectations are worse than low expectations.  It is okay if you sometimes feel like God has grown silent and even turned away. In reality, He has not. I know this because He so plainly promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

But that is not how you feel right now.

Listen, take a deep breath. Cry if it helps. Curse out loud if it will make you feel better. But please, do me this favor, listen carefully as I reiterate some important spiritual realities.

  • Prayer isn’t a mystical process for getting things to go your way.
  • Prayer isn’t a guarantee of satisfaction.
  • Pain and struggle cannot be removed with simple requests.
  • As a rule, God doesn’t wave supernatural wands and instantly change things.
  • God exists outside of our time dimension and, because we are chained to the ticking of the clock, He will often seem to move agonizingly slow.
  • Life isn’t fair and you cannot change that.
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

It brings me great comfort to know that the Liberator of mankind had human feelings too. The creator of all things (GOD) took human form and appeared on earth as the Nazarene. Jesus became one with the damned so that we could be free from the damnation. Human hatred toward the message Jesus came to deliver turned to false accusation and indefensible murder. As Jesus hung on the executioners cross, our brokenness reached deep within His spirit. Creation was now within the dying heart of her creator. Gasping out his final human breaths the Savior cries,

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

The creator of all things (GOD) forsook Jesus as he died a criminal’s death. Elohim – the Creator and Judge of the universe – turned away as Jesus experienced our hell, and felt the wrath of the Almighty toward this lost and doomed world. For a few horrific moments, He experienced a total disconnect from the source of true life so that we would no longer have to live in that state of separation.

And then, placing His spirit into the hands of the Father, the physical Jesus died. In that solemn, sacred, blessed moment, every struggle, every valley, every circumstance of human existence was corrected and justified.

Welcome to the ragamuffins. We are the waifs and strays who follow that marvelous incarnate man from heaven who once visited this planet by way of the Galilee. Daily we struggle to “work out the salvation that God has given us with a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (Philippians 2:12). As one among us, it will always be safe for you to share your individual fears, disappointments and pressing concerns. We will laugh and cry with you as we patiently await His return. And I promise you, one day all will be understood.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

Each day is a step we make towards eternity and we shall continue thus to step from day to day until we take the last step, which will bring us into the presence of God.

– Catherine McAuley

Eternity is frequently defined as duration without beginning or end. Some call this infinite time. On Earth, our time is finite. We measure our brief appearance on this planet in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, etc. When we pass away, our measured time comes to a close. However, we do not cease to exist. Only the body dies. Our life-force (the spirit that animates the flesh; aka the soul) will continue to live on in infinite time. But have you considered that simply living forever and having an eternal life are not the same? Let’s talk.

In truth, we are living in eternity at this very moment. That’s right. Forever is forever. No beginning and no end. So it stands to reason that time without end – was, is and always shall be. The reason we do not view our lives from a never-ending perspective is simple enough; our finite time-based existence on earth obscures our awareness of the vast eternal.

Christians understand the significance of the term eternal life because it was defined for us by Jesus. He was sent to earth by God with a specific mission – to seek and to salvage lost human beings (Luke 19:10) and to give them everlasting life (John 17:1-5). When His time on the earth was drawing to a close, He told his friends and followers,

28 “I came from the Father and have come into this world. I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28)

And then, raising his eyes toward the heavens, he said,

1 …“Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you. For you have given him authority over every man and woman in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth! I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. 5And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

Jesus makes some extraordinary claims. For one, He asserts that His authority comes directly from Almighty God and it extends over every man and woman in all the earth. Jesus also declares that He can grant everlasting life to everyone whom God has given to Him. But nestled in the narrative is the most significant declaration. According to Jesus, the definition of eternal life is:

  • To know the one and only true God
  • To know Jesus as the Christ (anointed one) sent by God

Know God + Know Jesus = Eternal Life. It’s not about picking the right church or getting religion. Our relationship with God through Jesus (the one whom God sent to free us) is how we receive His eternal life for all eternity.

By the way, the only other eternal existence spoken of in the scriptures is the one that provides never-ending payback for those who reject God. (Matthew 25:46). Hmm.

We ought to get out of the judging business. We should leave it up to God to determine who belongs in one arena or another when it comes to eternity. What we are obligated to do is to tell people about Jesus, and that’s what I do.

– Tony Campolo

 So, Jesus left the planet to return to God. But the Spirit of God remains present in all the earth. And eternal life is still being imparted to everyone who places their trust in the one true God and the liberator Jesus Christ.

One day, when our finite time is up and the eternal becomes instantly visible to us, we will see Jesus again. For now, He is only discernible to the eye of faith. Do you have faith?

Faith sees beyond the moment

The nature of mankind is to trust only what can be observed and verified. Think of it as the “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach to living. Consequently, the faithless masses stumble through their days trying to make sense out of this quagmire called “life”.

In contrast, faith empowers the believer to live by trusting without seeing. Faith is the eye of the soul. By faith we can grasp what is not yet revealed to our physical senses. Faith is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it just yet.

Jesus makes God’s greatest and most precious promises available to those who put their trust in Him. It is now possible to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust (in all of its forms) is rapidly producing in the world. And, because of Jesus, believers now share in God’s essential nature. We accept as true and receive all these things by believing, not by seeing.

The New Testament writer Paul said it this way.

“We walk (live our life) by faith (absolute trust in the unseen eternal God) and not by sight (things that are seen and experienced)”. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Take a good look around. All that you see with your eyes and believe to be important in the physical world will cease to exist in the future. And yet, so many are preoccupied with the material world and filled with anxiety because of what they see and experience every day. This world is full of troubles. Paul wrote to the Christians living in ancient Corinth and told them,

18“…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT)

We all experience difficulties. But when we turn to God for help, He allows us to see beyond our temporary distresses, into His domain – the invisible realm of eternity. From that unseen dimension we find His help in our darkest hours.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Jesus plans to return to our planet. We don’t know when. It could be at any time. We only know for sure that He is coming. He said so. And when he does, we’re taking an awesome trip beyond the stars. Read about it and rejoice!

1“Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in me also. There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with me. Then you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know how to get there.”

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way to get there?” Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can go to the Father except by Me. If you had known me; you would know My Father also. From now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:1-7 NLT)

You’re invited to join us on this fantastic voyage. Just get to know Jesus. He is the way. His truth will set you free. And his eternal life, now that’s really cool.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

“I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?”

– Henry Ford

The year was 1833. A pair of Presbyterian ministers, John Jay Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart signed a covenant to form a Christian perfectionist community in northern Ohio. The settlement was envisioned to bring together the spiritual and physical worlds of its residents through a simple and holy lifestyle. They named the town Oberlin after Jean Frédéric Oberlin, a French minister whom they both admired. At the same time, they founded Oberlin College. Among the early faculty was the renowned Charles G. Finney, an American Presbyterian minister and leader of the Second Great Awakening in the United States. Finney began teaching at Oberlin College in 1835. He served as its second president from 1851 to 1866. The School of Theology at Oberlin was non-denominational and remained in existence until 1966. The board of trustees, believing that the Theology Department had outlived its usefulness on the campus, voted to discontinue graduate instruction in theology at Oberlin in 1965. Part of the Great Apostasy? Perhaps. But we’ll save that discussion for another time. Fast Forward. Now let me tell you about Thomas S. Kepler (1897-1963). He 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. He published a story about a woman who came to the realization that fears were ruining her life. According to Kepler, she began to keep track of what was worrying her.   This is what she 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 opinions and criticisms of others.
  • 10% of the things she worried about were unnecessary health concerns, which actually made her health worse through anxiety.
  • 8% of the things she worried about were “reasonable concerns,” since life does have some real challenges to overcome.

“If we spend our time with regrets over yesterday, and worries over what might happen tomorrow, we have no today in which to live.”

– Author Unknown

So, if just 8% of her fears were actually reasonable concerns, 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. Anxiety is zapping your energy. And for what benefit? Habitual and needless worry does not solve problems. And, even “reasonable concerns” are not an excuse for high anxiety. Most likely, your circumstances are not as ominous as you perceive them to be.

Worrying Accomplishes Absolutely Nothing

I will assume that you are familiar with the Bible. The New Testament is a grouping of 27 books.  For the Christian, this collection of writings is all about a new arrangement between God and humanity through the mediator Jesus. Most of the books are actually letters (also known as “epistles”). The most prolific contributor to the New Testament was the Apostle Paul. His letters total at least 13 of the 27 books, almost half of the New Testament. In addition to the Christian teachings found in his epistles, Paul often included specific instructions for the congregation to which he wrote. One such letter was addressed to the Christian community living in ancient Philippi. According to The Book of Acts, Philippi was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a 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. 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.” 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? So why do I suspect a possible skeptic or two (hundred)? Because as easy as it may sound, walking it out day by day is not so easy. Every word we just read is the absolute Truth. But it takes faith and patience to live it. Don’t forget the Payoff. If we incorporate this truth 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.”   The peace of God will calm you down. You will find rest 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 reason to worry. Remember, Jesus came to this planet to introduce us to a personal and relevant God – not a Religion. You can talk to God directly about your concerns and ask Him to help you. Put God first and He will make you a success at this thing called life. Worrying accounts for hours and hours of invaluable time that you will never get back. Can all the energy you’ve wasted on anxiety change your grades in school, improve your job performance, solve the budget shortfall or protect you from identity theft and contagious diseases? Has it ever?   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 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 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 NLV)

Why not surrender all of your worries and fears to God? He cares about you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He is a great listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, Talk to Him… And stop worrying…

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.