Posts Tagged ‘Attitude’

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

It is most remarkable that Abraham Lincoln, when he saw so much that was vulnerable in the leadership of the Christian Church, did not move to the opposite error and become a mocker.”― Elton Trueblood ―

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

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

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

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

By definition a mocker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” ― Neil Gaiman

Spaceship earth.  That’s where I live.  Even though it’s a really big and awesome planetary craft – okay, floating orb – I am seldom cognizant of this celestial ride I am taking through the cosmos.  Too busy living out each day, I guess.

Diverse thinkers throughout human history have called “time” an illusion.  They say that time isn’t really “real”, just an artificial construct of the brain. Well, real or not, the perceived clock keeps right on ticking and we can neither slow down nor reverse its relentless march forward.  So, I ask myself, “Why are so many people trying (albeit in vain) to redo yesterday?”  How about you?  Stuck in the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” matrix?  

When I was a child, there was a nursery rhyme, a single quatrain, which went something like this:

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
couldn’t put Humpty back together again.”

In other words, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done.  There are no life “do-overs” or “my life stinks, I think I‘ll just hit the reset button, reload the software and start over from birth.”  Granted, you can change direction, take a new path, even “reinvent yourself” a time or two during your journey; but once that lifetime is over, well, you are out of second (third, fourth and fifth) chances, my friend.

The average life expectancy of a newborn (2016) is about 79 years. Depending upon when you were born (and lifestyle), your average life expectancy may be considerably lower. But even if you were to live to be 100 years old, the question still remains: Are you taking full advantage of the finite number of years that you have?

Instead of waking up every day lamenting what you woulda, coulda, or shoulda done, why not listen to a bit of advice from this very wise Newer Testament biblical writer named Paul.  He said,

13 “…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 of life and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to the heaven because of what Jesus the Christ did for us.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)

So let me ask you, “What are you doing with your life?”  Better yet, “what are you doing today?”  Moment by moment, only you can live your life.  Before you know it, time will expire (real or not).  Perhaps you had better make every second count while you still can.

Many times, the decisions you make affect and hurt your closest friends and family the most. I have a lot of regrets in that regard. But God has forgiven me, which I am very thankful for. It has enabled me to forgive myself and move forward one day at a time.” – Lex Luger

My reference for a solid and reliable world view is rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic as revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture.  The wisdom contained within its numerous stories and illustrations helps me to see the world for what it really is.  Passages like this:

15-17”Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamor of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die.” John 1:9-13 (Phillips)

Did he say, “Never give your heart over to the things of this world?”  I know, I know, that’s a pretty tall order. It requires us to guard our human spirit with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). It takes discipline to keep our mind, will and emotions (the human soul) from being enamored by the ways of this world. It means we have to place our affections on things beyond this brief space-time journey.

All societies have values, principles and philosophies which form their organizational foundations, and we all live in these secular social systems. But what happens when the flow of earthly cultures run ever more contrary to the course of Divine order? How do we respond?  Good question.  The answer is: we defy the flow of those social structures.  Why?  Simple, the bulk of this current world-system is built upon greed driven ambition, base desires and false glamour. In short, our culture is fated to fail. What to do? Avoid the culture trap and you will sidestep the failure. We who have chosen to follow the Divine blueprint are simply no longer comfortable being “of” this world order.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ― C.S. Lewis

I have given up on the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. I only end up despondent and depressed a few weeks later when I fail to live up to them. The nature of most New Year’s resolutions is inherently short-term. I prefer to set priorities for my life and then measure my progress throughout the year. How about you? Have you set any goals for the year? Now is a great time to do so!

With that in mind, let me suggest one or two priorities that you might take under consideration in the coming year.  First, get to know the Divine plan for YOUR life a little better every day. Find ways to be of service to the Almighty by exercising your talents and gifts with joy and faithfulness. “Much is expected from the one who has been given much, and the more a man is trusted with, the more people will expect of him.” (Luke 12:48)

Also, remember to fight the “Good Fight of Faith.”  Here on Spaceship Earth, our battles are against spiritual enemies (not one another). Forget society’s methods when confronting evil. The Almighty One is a boundless resource from whom we draw our strength and wisdom.  The good fight of faith requires that we know our foes and dress appropriately.  Listen to this from the Bible:

“Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the evil one’s methods of attack. For of all, 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 hold 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, which is 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.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Wow.  That’s radical.  But, the rebel Jesus was considered radical too.  So were all of his early disciples.   We who follow after Him today are a spiritually radical bunch also.

Anyway, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done – and so am I.  Let’s fire up the thrusters and buckle-up; it’s time for another crazy trip around the sun!

Happy New Year

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
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller

Horatio Gates Spafford was a prominent American lawyer, a devout Christian and a senior partner in a thriving law firm in mid-1800’s Chicago. By 1870, Horatio and his wife, Anna, were living in comfortable prosperity with their four young daughters in Lake View, located on the city’s North Side.  And then, in October of 1871, came the Great Fire of Chicago.  The Spaffords had significant real estate investments in an area reduced to ashes by the inferno. They were ruined financially.  In spite of their personal misfortunes, Horatio and Anna Spafford worked tirelessly for the next two years helping victims of the blaze put their lives back together.

The Spaffords were close friends and supporters of evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). In November of 1873, Horatio and Anna Spafford were in need of a breather, and so decided to join friends in Europe.  They chose England knowing that D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall.

The family arrived at the docks in New York City on Saturday, November 22nd to board the steam ship Ville du Havre bound for England.  As it happened, Horatio was detained on business and had to return to Chicago.  He sent his family ahead planning to join them as soon as possible.

At about 2 a.m., in the eastern North Atlantic, the Ville du Havre collided with the British iron clipper Loch Earn and sank in less than 15 minutes.  226 people died, including the four Spafford daughters. Among the 61 surviving passengers was Anna Spafford.   Upon arriving at Cardiff in Wales on December the 1st, Anna cabled her husband the following devastating message:

“Saved alone. What shall I do. Mrs. Goodwin children Willie Culver lost. Go with Lorriaux until answer. Reply Porclain 64 Rue Abouckir Paris.”

Horatio Spafford took the next available ship to join his grief stricken wife.  Many years later, Bertha Spafford (a fifth daughter born to Horatio and Anna 5 years after the tragedy) told of how her father, while on that grim voyage, was summoned to the bridge.  The Captain told Spafford that the ship was “…now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked and sank.”  The waters in that area were over 2640 Fathoms (3 miles) deep.

Later that night, while sitting in the solitude of his cabin, Horatio Gates Spafford put to paper the words of a poem that would go on to become one of the most beloved Gospel songs in all of Christendom – It Is Well with My Soul.

 “When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul…”

“… Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Life can be miserable; sometimes downright tragic.  I’m sure Horatio and Anna would agree.  But I think they would also remind us that God does not want His children to lose heart in the face of adversity or give up over things we cannot control. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Sometimes, you will go through awful trials in your life and then a miracle happens–God heals you.” ― Shannon L. Alder

I’d like to tell you about two little words: Even and So.  They don’t seem like much when you first look at them.   All the same, they can be a powerful twosome in the lexicon of your daily life.  Together, these two little words never feign pretense.  They don’t deny reality by disguising the hardships of survival with paste on “everything is just fine” smiles.  In fact, even and so unflinchingly recognize that sometimes life just stinks.

This linguistic dynamic duo helps us to stare courageously at the obstacles we face each day.  With the assistance of their cousins – however, nevertheless, withal, still, yet, all the same, nonetheless, and notwithstanding – we can learn to shift our gaze from finite natural experiences to the infinite things yet invisible to our senses.  In the process, our attention is redirected from the limits of what we know to our Creator whom by nature is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-wise. (1 John 3:20).

And that, my friend, changes everything.

  • Facing situations that are difficult?

Even so, you can do anything if you believe. (Mark 9:23)

  • Up against cliffs of challenge that seem impossible to climb?

Even so, God will see you through. (Hebrews 13:6)

  • Are storm clouds looming and you feel too weak to pray? 

Even so, God will be the strength that you need. (Philippians 4:13)

  • Do you feel like an angel of darkness is harassing you?

Even so, His grace (favor) is all you need. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

  • Are you confused; full of fears and doubts?

Even so, God has given you an overcomer’s spirit of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Yes indeed, they are just two little words.  Even so, they can help you overcome the tribulations of life.  In Brazil they say mesmo assim, in Italy, nonostante ciò, comunque, and in Greece, Akóma ki étsi.  All over the world, in any language, the meaning is clear: in our most desperate hour, God will supply us with the strength to face anything – if we’ll only believe!

By the way, sometimes, life really does stink.  Even so brethren… even so…

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 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
Those who keep saying that the voice of the people is like the voice of Almighty God should not be listened to, since the unruliness of the crowd is always very close to madness.” Alcuin of York

Madness.  Having looked the word up in a variety of modern lexicons, I was intrigued by the resulting interpretive meanings that I read.  Most described madness as a state of severe mental illness.  But the Merriam-Webster’s characterization really caught my attention as it also defined madness as behavior or thinking that is very foolish, unreasonable or dangerous.

I read that description of madness and erupted out loud in laughter, which caused some of the lunchtime crowd at Rusty Bellies (where I was busy reviewing research for this article) to stare at me momentarily.  “Madness”, I said, smiling back at them.  They quickly looked away.

Why did I laugh out loud?  Because at times it seems to me that we all live in a society which is being overrun by people whose thinking is very foolish, quite unreasonable and in some cases very dangerous.  Our modern culture appears to be suffering a very bad season of madness!

Catch a news report on any given day and you will likely hear accounts of deranged bombers and crazed gunmen randomly killing the innocent, rioters and looters destroying their own communities as a form of “protest”, men and women fighting over bathroom rights, and the list just goes on and on.  All of this “madness” can be worrisome indeed.  Toss in our concerns over the latest global “hotspots”, add a pinch of general human cruelty, negativity, and, well it’s enough to drive you crazy.  At the very least, it can be difficult to remain a positive person in a world gone mad.  So what can we do to endure as beacons of optimistic light and real hope in a very pessimistic atmosphere?  Let’s talk.

To think that the specter you see before you is an illusion does not rob it of its terrors: it simply adds the further terror of madness itself — and then on top of that the horrible surmise that those of us whom the rest call mad have, all along, been the only people who see the world as it really is.”C.S. Lewis

Did you know that anxiety disorders have become one of the most common form of mental illness in the United States? Some estimates put the number of affected people over the age of 18 at more than 45 million.  One study claims that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. is now considered depressed.

Granted, anxiety and depression can have many points of origin, including genetic predispositions, brain disorders and trauma. But, there is no denying that consistent pessimism and harmful thought patterns are major contributing factors to both.  I recently read that we experience anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day!  For those possessed with a negative outlook, it’s a mental journey on the dark side.

Staying calm, positive, and happy at all times may be an admirable goal, but it’s also unrealistic.  Furthermore, it is impossible to have nothing but “happy thoughts”.  However, learning to change negative thought patterns, can lower anxiety levels and help to ease some forms of depression.  Remember, our thinking not only influences the way that we feel, it also plays a major role in shaping who we are as a person.

We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct.”Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

The Bible’s Older Testament Book of Proverbs makes an interesting observation,

“For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…”  (Proverbs 23:7)

According to the sage wisdom of Scripture, we are literally the sum of all that we think.  Why?  Because what we think is also what we believe and what we truly believe is what we ultimately say and do.  And folks, you ARE what you say and do.

So let me ask you a question, what are your mental deliberations like as you duke it out with that still small voice inside?  What thoughts fill your mind every day?

  • The worries of daily life?
  • The emotional pain you are suffering at present?
  • Hurt feelings from your past that still haunt you?
  • Physical aches, pains or ailments that you suffer?
  • Your fears and uncertainties over economic circumstances?

If these are the thought patterns that predominantly populate your daily mental landscape, you suffer from, thinking stenchinitis! (Aka: Stinking Thinking)

As a Bible believing Christian, I have learned that it is unwise to dwell on all the negatives in the world – especially when I can do little to change most of them anyway.  Instead, I regularly work to realign my thought patterns by focusing my attention on the things that are above earthbound circumstances!  According to the ancient Biblical texts, everything we need comes to us from the Creator of all things (GOD) when we set our mind on what is beyond this temporary existence.  The Liberator Jesus put it this way:

32-33 “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over so many 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 6:32-33 MSG)

If I am reading the words of Jesus correctly, those who know how God “works” can change negative thought patterns by immersing themselves in the reality, initiatives and provisions of the Creator of all things (God).  Anxiety is often a tell-tale symptom of a lack of faith or at least a lack of focus on the things that truly matter – i.e., things beyond this temporary existence on spaceship earth.

Once you become aware that the main business that you are here on this earth for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”J.I. Packer

In Biblical times there was a city known as Colossae.  Located 120 miles east of Ephesus in ancient Phrygia, Colossae was part of the Roman territory known as Asia Minor.  It was also the location of a vibrant Christian community to which the Newer Testament writer Paul inscribed a letter.  He told the followers of Jesus living there to…

1-4 “…Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of this earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead anyway, and your true life is now hidden in the anointed one. Someday, Jesus, the secret center of our lives, will show himself openly again, and you will all share in that magnificent final outcome.”  (Colossians 3:1-4)

Paul’s instruction were pretty clear; do not be attached to the “things” of this earth.  He reasoned that as followers of the Liberator Jesus, we are all “dead” to this world because our life now belongs to another world.  Right now, it is an unseen realm, but one day what is now invisible will be seen openly when the Liberator makes His return trip to the earth.  Paul went on to tell them,

8 “…dear brothers and sisters, one final thing; fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not the thoughts upon which modern society commonly focuses. The news media, business world, governments and sometimes even our educational institutions do not bring about this type of thought pattern. Therefore, to remain positive amidst the madness, we must sidestep this world’s agenda and see life from a heavenly perspective.  Refocusing our thinking helps to change negative thought patterns so that we can enjoy an optimistic point of view even as we pass through this “illusion” known as time here on spaceship earth.

As we rehabilitate our thought patterns and focus more attention on what the Creator has said instead of what this present world order is saying and doing, “…everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:33 MSG)    With the Divine Spirit of the Almighty actively helping us each day, we can overcome the blues; deal with bad attitudes, solve unresolved problems, settle disputes, and calm our anxiety and fear.  In other words, we can escape the madness.  Surrounded by madness?  Yes my friends, many in this world have gone crazy, but yours truly has simply decided not to go there with them.  How about you?

13 “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”  (Romans 15:13 PHILLIPS)

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
What really matters in life is how God sees me. He is not concerned with outward appearance; He is concerned about the state of a man’s soul.” – Billy Graham

Something just wasn’t quite right.  I could tell.  Billy (not his real name) was usually Mr. Charisma, flashing his broad toothy smile, as he yakked away with the daily lunchtime parade.  Not today.  Instead he sat quietly, staring into his glass and occasionally drumming his fingers on the counter top.

It’s been somewhat stormy as of late here on Florida’s Gulf Coast – trapping me indoors.  Now, with the return of the bright summer sunshine, I’m perched at one of my favorite inspiration points, the outside Tiki on the water at Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs.   The tropical morning air is thick with those familiar salty sea smells. I’m fine with that.  Thankfully, there is also a very nice leeward breeze to keep me cool as I write.

When Billy got up to use the rest room, I motioned for him to come my way.  I don’t know him that well, but we have exchanged small talk on several occasions.  As he approached the table I said, “How are you, buddy?”  His terse reply caught me off guard; “what does it matter how I am?

Normally, I’d crack a few jokes to lighten the mood and then move on.  Not today.  I said, “It matters to me Billy, what’s wrong?”  He began by telling me how upsetting life in, as he put it, a “deaf, dumb and blind” world had become.  “So many people don’t seem to get it at all”, he said, “misunderstanding is everywhere and some folks don’t even care if something is true or just a lie.”  Billy then summed up his frustrations this way, “You asked me what’s wrong so I will tell you; everything is going crazy, people are paranoid and afraid.  It’s like nothing matters – not even the truth!  What’s worse, I’m beginning not to care anymore myself.”  And with that, he walked away.

So, the world has gone crazy and nothing matters?  That’s what Billy believes.  What about you?  Have you ever felt like what you think or do doesn’t matter all that much?  And what about the truth? Does the truth matter?  And if so, have you taken a stand for the right stuff, you know, the things that truly matter most in life?  Or are you like Billy, beginning not to care anymore?

Sometimes we may actually find justification for such a mindset.  Take the farce of modern politics, for example.  Do you actually believe that all of the high-profile candidates and elected representatives are on a mission to accomplish what matters most to “John Q Public?”  Survey says; “Not really.”  With a few notable exceptions, politicians will give the impression of deep concern for what is important to the voting public only during the campaign season.  After the election, far too many contemporary political figures hardly ever seems to take into account the sentiments of the people who voted for them.  Once these disingenuous candidates gain entrance into the egocentric money driven political class, they quickly grow deaf to the voice of the citizens they are sworn to represent.  The Lords and Ladies of our modern plutocracy would like nothing better than for the serfs of the fiefdom to remember their station, respect their betters, and shut their collective mouths.  But of course, we better continue to pay their ever more oppressive taxes.

And what of the corporate behemoths in the research and pharmaceutical community?  Certainly “we the people” matter to them.  They’re all humanitarians, right?  Why else would the cost of a vital and widely used anaphylaxis treatment device called the EpiPen® cost the consumer in some cases over $400.00 a dose?  This recent headline grabbing example of how much people “matter” to the masters of the medical universe prompted social media outrage and a campaign by patients and their families to persuade Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, to reduce the price. Numerous critics noted that the actual cost of the epinephrine (the drug included in the auto-injector) is about $1.00 and the entire delivery system can be produced for about $20.00.

Shall we banter about your health insurance providers or the big banks?  They’re all about you, aren’t they?  Look, I am really not here to deliberate human corruption and greed.  The point I’d actually like to make is very simple; living in modern Sodom, it’s easy to feel like your life doesn’t matter all that much.

Now here is what distresses me; more and more honest, hardworking people have given in to that most insidious of little voices that can creep inside your human spirit and whisper the greatest destructive lie of all, “Why bother trying, you don’t matter – just give up.”

So again I ask you, do we matter at all?  Let’s talk.

I resent being taken for a ride to the place where anything goes and nothing matters. And especially where nothing matters less than clear thinking and straight talk.” – James Howard Kunstler

The Book of Psalms can be found in the Older Testament of the Bible.  Psalm 8 contains this enlightening observation:

“When I look up into the night skies and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you have made— I cannot understand how you can bother with mere puny man, to pay any attention to him!”  (Psalm 8:3-4 – TLB)

How direct.  The Psalmist wonders why the Great Architect of the universe would pay any attention at all to what he calls “puny man”.  In essence he says, “Given who you are, how or why would insignificant humanity possibly matter to you?”  The writer of another ancient book that is also found in the Bible – Ecclesiastes – phrased the question more cynically when he asked, “Does anything matter?”  Here is how he felt:  “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Nothing has any meaning.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8 – NIRV)

So far, it sounds like those who side with the “nothing matters” crowd might have a two point advantage.  Not so fast.  Let me introduce you to an ancient sage who claimed he had received visions and predictive messages directly from the Almighty (God).  His name was Isaiah, a Judean Prophet who for over 40 years saw himself as a messenger of the Creator.  Isaiah lived during one of the most unstable political and religious periods in the history of ancient Jerusalem.

You will find the record of his adventurous life as well as his revelatory writings in the Bible’s Older Testament Book that bears his name.  Its 66 chapters deal with the Creator’s message to His disobedient creation – at that time the chosen people of ancient Israel. The Almighty had entered into a covenant arrangement with the Israelites based on very specific conditions.  However, over time they refused to live by the terms of the agreement; choosing rebellion, pride, and self-will over obedience, humility and surrender.  As spiritual insensitivity increased, ancient Israel elected to do more things their way and without Divine help.

Isaiah was a member of the aristocracy and as such he enjoyed a good relationship with the various heads of state and he had free access to the hallowed halls of the palace. However, his position in society and associations with the politically elite did not deter him from being outspoken.  In fact, he is considered one of the most politically active of all the Biblical prophets.  He is well known for his verbal attacks on the ruling classes, criticizing their corruption and the way they treated the common citizen.

A man of deep seated spiritual principles, he unequivocally believed in the supernatural power of the Almighty Creator.  Isaiah was appalled by the general lack of trust in the one true God so widespread in his time.  He unabashedly proclaimed that the whole of creation belongs to the Almighty (i.e. God owns this planet and all it contains).  He foretold of a coming day of judgement and ultimately the destruction of this world order.  His challenge to mankind was not complex: turn to God for everything in life – or else you will suffer the consequences.  He was one of the early Turn or Burn preachers.

One day Isaiah had a Divine visitation in which he saw the Glory of the otherworldly Lord of Hosts.  During this visionary encounter, the Almighty communicated with him.  The dialogue began with a question (his calling), followed by specific instructions (his mission):

Then I heard the Lord God asking, “Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go?”

And I said, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.”

And he said, “Yes, Go and say to this people, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.”  (Isaiah 6:8-10 – Septuagint)

Herein is revealed the true nature of spiritual blindness.  Without divine perception you can “hear” the words of truth given to humanity by the Creator Himself and yet comprehend nothing.  You can witness (see) the handiwork of the Almighty all around you and fail to understand what it means.  Without ears to hear and eyes to see your hardened heart is not able to recognize the need to seek the one who made you.  The pursuit of the God who controls all things is more important than anything else that happens here on spaceship earth.  You might say, it’s all that REALLY matters.  Find God and you discover what life is really all about.  Find what life is really all about and you will recognize that indeed you really DO matter – where it counts.

Nothing else matters much — not wealth, nor learning, nor even health — without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep a passion for living. This is the creed of creeds, the final deposit and distillation of faith itself: that you should be able to believe in the true purpose of life.” — Unknown

When the Liberator Jesus (our creator appearing in the form of a human) was here on spaceship earth he would often tell illustrative stories called parables to the crowds who gathered to listen to him speak.  One day, at the conclusion of one such parable (Matthew 13:1-8) he told the assemblage that had gathered to listen to him speak, 9 “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

As the crowd was dispersing, His close associates asked this question, 10 “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”  Here is how he replied to that inquiry,

11 “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, for they (the many) look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.”  (Matthew 13:11-13)

What about you?  Do your eyes really see the truth?  Can you really hear what the Spirit of our Creator is saying today?  Do you care?  If so, count yourself blessed.  Many cannot see nor hear – at least not yet, and many more refuse to even try.  Listen carefully then to these urgent words from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

12-15You 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 done for us so long as we steadily maintain until the end the trust with which we began. These words are still being said for our ears to hear: ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’.

Can you hear that?  He is speaking to you even now.  To some He is saying, “Help each other to stand firm in the faith every day, while it is still called “today”.  To others He is saying, “…if you will hear my voice, do not harden your hearts in rebellion any longer”.

Everything I have said today matters.  The question is, does anything I’ve said here matter to you? Because you see my friend, you really do matter to the only one who really matters – the God who made you.  And that’s what matters most!

Care to pray?

Father of all creation, some have heard your voice today.  Something is stirring inside of them right now.  I’m sure that they still have many questions.  There are so many mysteries yet to be understood and hurts to be healed.  Please help those with newly opened eyes and ears to place a measure of trust in you and in the message spoken to us all by the Liberator Jesus.  Help them to say, “Here I am.”  Guide them on their journey homeward, I pray.  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

If all the printers in all the world were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” – Benjamin Franklin –

Florida in July is…, well… it is hot.  Okay, at times it is really hot.  Thankfully, I like the heat.  Plus, Florida is nearly perfect in the fall, winter and early spring when it can seem like everyone else is trying to visit us here in “Paradise” to escape ice, snow, howling winds, freezing rain and bitter cold temperatures somewhere else.  Today, I am at one of my favorite writing spots – Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill in Tarpon Springs.  Seated outdoors at a table perched dockside on the Anclote River, I am revising and updating an article from a few years ago, so I get to review the United States Bill of Rights.

What’s that?

Yes, I am reading the United States Bill of Rights.

You think that must be a bit boring?

Not really.  I’ll admit it’s not Ian Fleming, but neither is it uninteresting.

If more Americans knew what their Constitution actually said, there is a strong possibility that we would not be living at present under the tyrannical overreach of a profoundly corrupt Federal Government, replete with an inept Executive Branch, an activist Supreme Court, and a Congress that as of late is about as useful as a sunroof on a submarine. Of course, you do have to actually know how to read and speak English to understand the constitution. But that is another subject altogether.

What’s that?

You find my opinions offensive?

Good. That was my objective – to offend you.  Now, let’s talk about freedom from offense.

I’ve never really been one to try to be politically correct. I just feel truth is truth, and sometimes I probably offend some people.” – Franklin Graham

It seems like just about everyone is offended by someone or something these days. Even when you speak innocently, it often gets taken out of context and the next thing you know, somebody is at your throat because you offended them. Well, now it’s my turn. I am offended by all of the people who think they have some kind of right to be protected from being offended.

Recently, I read a great quote from Stephen Fry, the English comedian, writer and actor. Mr. Fry said,

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more than a whine. Or they say, ‘I find that offensive.’ The statement has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so what.”

I could not agree more. You are offended? I am too, at times – so what!

The United States of America is a Republic (that’s right, we are NOT a democracy – look it up).  A republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic each individual citizen is sovereign (autonomous, self-governing). In a democracy the sovereignty is shared by the collective population where the governance often shifts to a small number of social elites.  Major difference.

The Republic of the United States was framed by a document known as the Constitution.  This amazing document has a brilliant little section of amendments called The Bill of Rights.  At the very top of the list, in amendment numero uno, you will find the guaranteed right to freedom of speech. Perhaps you have never been properly instructed in regard to the meaning of free speech (which would not surprise me given the state of modern education in the USA).  Please allow me to school you in a bit of Political Science.

The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. The House of Representatives originally approved 17 amendments. The Senate considered the 17 and approved just 12 in August of 1789. Next, the 12 were sent to the States for their approval (aka ratification). Only 10 made the cut. On December 15, 1791, the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution were dually ratified and adopted. These 10 Amendments became known collectively as “The Bill of Rights” and they limit the powers of the Federal Government.  I said they are meant to LIMIT the powers of the FEDERAL Government!

The first amendment is quite interesting. It says,

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First of all, some of our Founders wanted to make it absolutely clear – the government must stay out of religion. No State or Federal government entity may establish a religion of preference in the United States of America. But, nowhere is it stated or implied that religion had no place in the government. The Founders were very clear on this subject.  Their intent was to guarantee the freedom OF religion and not the freedom FROM religion. We the people have a constitutionally protected right to express our religious beliefs publicly or in private at any time – including in the halls of government buildings and in or on any public property for that matter. We the people will ultimately determine – by our participation in and our support of – what philosophies (i.e. religion, values, morals, etc.) will prevail and dominate in the land of the free.  It should come as no surprise that this fundamental freedom was at the top of the list.

Next up in amendment one comes the freedom of speech.  We the people also have a constitutionally protected right to express our point of view (i.e. speak our mind) even if others find our speech to be offensive. You may not like what some people say, and you may not agree with what they say, but you have no right to stop them from saying it – even when it offends you.

I live in America. I have the right to publish whatever I want. And it’s equaled by another right just as powerful: the right not to read it. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people.” – Brad Thor

So what about this supposed right to “Freedom from Offense”? Where is that one in the Bill of Rights? (Que the Crickets…).

Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – including the supplementary Bill of Rights – will you find a promise of protection from anything that you might find offensive. The Constitution was written to assure freedom for everyone – not just you! Freedom of speech is not restricted when the words might offend someone. Sure, it would be nice if we all took into consideration the feelings of others before we spoke, but it is not a requirement.

This nation is filled with idiots of every possible description – including me. You may not like them and you may want to silence them. Too bad. If they infuriate you, change the channel, leave the room, express your opposition to the things that they have to say, boycott the movies they make, the businesses they operate, or the events they promote. That is your right. You do not have the right to silence them – period.  Likewise, they do not have the right to silence you.

“Oh my, but all the ‘hate speech’. We must not allow it anymore. We must have new laws to stop all the hate.  People should not be allowed to ridicule or insult other people.”

That’s liberal twaddle. Labeling everything you do not like or agree with as hate speech is just another social progressive code word for control. A method of intimidation meant to suppress your right to have and express a unique opinion – even if it turns out that your point of view is extremely stupid and offensive.  In the United States of America, be ye saint or sinner, believer or heathen, agnostic, atheist, social activist, etc., you have a constitutionally protected right to speak what you believe.

Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views. It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.” – Alan Dershowitz

Now before you run out with new boldness to offend everyone you don’t agree with, listen carefully. If you are a practicing Christian (or even just a decent and courteous human being), it is your responsibility to be as loving and non-offensive as possible. Here is part of the philosophy by which I try to govern my own life as it is written in the New Testament book of Romans:

16 “Work happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. 18 Don’t quarrel with anyone but be at peace with everyone, just as much as is possible.” (Romans 12:16-18 – TLB)

Christians are encouraged to live in harmony and to take a genuine interest in all people. It really saddens me when I meet a follower of Jesus who lives in perpetual anger at the world and everyone in it.  Sharing the message of Christianity does not require you to pick a fight with everybody who opposes what you have to say. Chill out man.  It’s okay to hate wickedness, but it’s not okay to hate the offenders. Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers.

But remember, Christians believe in absolute truths. Good and evil, right and wrong, Heaven and Hell. It’s God’s way or burst!  Many people are offended by this absolute view of truth simply because it is not relative. (Relativism refers to the view that beliefs cannot be absolutely true or valid but instead are relative to situations and perspectives.)  Relative interpretations change nothing. If someone says, “I believe there is no God,” that does not affect the existence of God. It only demonstrates that he or she is spiritually blind and ignorant.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, Jesus didn’t do it the world’s way. He came here and offended the whole world. He came here and did everything the wrong way.”  ― Eric Ludy

Whenever Jesus spoke with people, He was more concerned with communicating the absolute truth than with their feelings.  One time, some of His followers told Him that many of the religious leaders were highly offended by his message.  (Matthew 15:12).   Did Jesus apologies?  Nope.   He shrugged it off by saying,

13-14 “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”  (Matthew 15:13-14)

Jesus continued to speak His view of reality, even when it offended people.  He even offended his own followers on occasion (John 6:61-65).  Careful scrutiny of the Newer Testament Scriptures reveal that the truth acts as a two edged sword.  It will either bring freedom and life to those who hear it or become a stumbling block and a rock of offensiveness to them. (Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 2:8).  If you are committed to the “Christian Lifestyle” and you are not shy about speaking Biblical truth, without a doubt, people will be offended!  Jesus may be meek and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29), but listen to what He said about His mission on spaceship earth:

34-36 “Never think I have come to bring peace upon the earth. No, I have not come to bring peace but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his own father, a daughter against her own mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those who live in his own house. (Matthew 10:34-36).

We are to be peace makers whenever possible, but sometimes our message will be very divisive. Absolute truth makes people angry. This is why Christians are so often accused of being “narrow minded.”  Genuine Christianity is rooted and grounded in love. The Newer Testament writer Paul describes Christian love like this,

“This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.  5-6 Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men whenever truth prevails.  7-8a Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Phillips)

Everything we do or say as a Christian should be infused with this kind of love.  But make no mistake, when it is essential to take a stand, we must do so without hesitation and sometimes without regard for a person’s delicate “sensibilities”.  It is okay to speak out from a Christian worldview whenever necessary on any subject no matter how controversial or politically incorrect our position may be. In the end, we only have one entity in this entire universe to please. Down here on spaceship earth, we call him the Almighty God. His opinion of us is the only judgement that actually matters. Remember that.

Sooner or later we’ll all have to face our Creator, even those whom the Bible refers to as “fools” because they refuse to believe in His existence. At that time we will receive what we deserve as the end result of our actions here on spaceship earth, either good or bad. Those who have placed their absolute trust in the Liberator Jesus will not be remanded to the blackness of an eternal night but remain free in the light of His everlasting love. The Liberator Jesus alone is the one whom God sent to the earth to rescue the stranded human race.  End of story.  If that offends you… well… read the first amendment.  I can assure you, I am not being belligerent.  My words flow from a heart filled with concern for the lost, misguided and confused passengers traveling here on spaceship earth.  I mean you no offense.

Many years ago (in the early 1980’s), I heard a song written by Philip Sandifer. It changed my life. Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:

And when the time arrives
to leave behind our earthly lives
and go before the God
that calls our souls to be
will you answer Lord I knew you well
I walked your way
I lived a life that caused another man to see

Now you can spend your time
turning tricks for all mankind
and you can base your life on meaningless reward
but a wiser man is he who knows himself eternally

and sees his value not in life but in his Lord

For when it’s all been said
and when it’s all been done – He’ll ask me:
did you go my way child?
Did you know my son?
And when it’s all been said
and when it’s all been done – He’ll ask me
did you find your way within my son? (1)

When this life is over, our Creator and Liberator will ask but one question, “did you do it my way, did you know and follow the one I sent to your planet?”  I know how I will answer those questions. And, I won’t need to plead the 5th Amendment.  How about you?

Thank you God for your willingness to forgive us our foolishness and set aside the judgement we deserve because of your great mercy and grace.  I pray my friends will all find their way within the one you sent in human form to set our spirits free.  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
  • (1) © Phillip Sandifer (www.phillipsandifer.com)
Throughout your lifetime, people will make you mad,  They will disrespect you and treat you badly. Let God deal with the things people do, because in the end, hate in your heart will consume you.” ― Will Smith

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

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

Mere make-believe?  Perhaps, but only a fool would deny the profound dark side that grips our world today.  The insidious spread of the malevolent which regularly disrupts the peaceful fabric of the social order has now become rooted and grounded in HATRED.  Maybe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was right.  In his 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” he wrote:

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

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

Hate is widespread in our modern culture. Racial, ethnic, homophobic, religious and social class hatred is everywhere. Many people even hate politicians…well, let’s skip that one. You name it and someone, somewhere probably HATES it with a passion.

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

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

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

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

If you are a regular reader, you already know that I’m a disciple of the ancient Nazarene known as Jesus. I believe in His message and His mission.  My faith is much more than a “religion” – it is my way of life.

Some people have a real problem with that – even to the point of hatred. How bizarre. They don’t even know me.  In most cases, we’ve never spoken nor met. But they have already formed an opinion based upon their biased ideas about Christianity (or religion in general).

My worldview is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic which influences and shapes my character.  When I encounter anything that clearly opposes the teachings of scripture – I choose to reject it.  It’s not open for debate. I do not believe in an erasable or amendable Bible. You will never convince me that some of the teachings of Jesus, for instance, need to be modified or repealed.  Contrary to the opinions of pop culture, the ancient scriptures do not need to be “updated”, they need to be revisited.

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

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

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

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

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

Historically, organized “Christianity” (the Church) has always been a bit of a mess.  That’s what happens when inadequate humans attempt to communicate a message they believe has been entrusted to them by a perfect redeemer and a faultless creator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But remember, His perfect love together with his flawless justice will one day compel Him to banish the impenitent portion of mankind into an everlasting darkness – not because of what we have done (sin) but because we would not accept what He has done through this man called Jesus.  “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”

Wherever you are on this crazy planet, He’s there with you right now to throw you a rescue line. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. Who cares? He is with you now. All you have to do is trust Him. Go ahead, speak to Him. He can take it from here. He doesn’t need my help to change your life for the better. He never did.  I’m just a diplomat.

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

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

Hatred is evil and like all wickedness, it will eventually fail. Love will triumph over hate.  Remember, God is love.

Almighty Creator, I ask that you would help those who have read my words to reach out to you. May their eyes be opened so they too can see Jesus who came to our earth, taking human form to show us the way home again. Forgive them as they acknowledge they are no more than an outlaw who desperately needs your favor and forgiveness. As they open their heart to you, let them find the peace and joy that comes to those who are born again in spirit and set free from all hate. I ask this in Jesus name. 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, FL 34656

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People make mistakes all the time. That’s how we learn and grow. If there’s patience and love, and you care for people, you can work them through it, and they can find their greatest heights.” ― Pete Carroll

Have you ever made a dumb mistake? Acted inappropriately? Had a moment when you suddenly realized that your path was a bit wide of the mark? Ever exercised bad judgment or poor reasoning because of carelessness or insufficient knowledge?

Good. I like you. We have a lot in common. I also thought I was wrong once – but of course, I was just mistaken. Hahahaha.

Seriously, we all make mistakes.  But some people don’t handle their blunders very well. Have you ever had a difficult time “getting over it”?  Ever catch a bad case of the “what if’s”?

  • What if I hadn’t made this or that decision?
  • What if I had just kept quiet and had not said those words?
  • What if I had acted sooner, later or differently?

All aboard the emotion coaster! Have you ever been on that ride?  Your mind fills with an unbridled torrent of doubt, remorse, guilt or shame. The process will often lead to what some have called the paralysis of over analysis.

  • I am so stupid, and everybody knows it.
  • What was I thinking?
  • I’m such an idiot, a looser, I’ll never get it right.
  • I will never be useful to anyone again – even God – not after this…etc., etc.

Look, it is normal to question our choices in life – even the good ones. We deliberate just about everything. It’s so common, we’re not even aware of the process most of the time.  Problems arise when we obsess over our past decisions – especially the disappointing ones – and fail to move on. The paralysis of over analysis can trap us in a quagmire of regrets. Think about it, when you are overwhelmed by an unrelenting cycle of guilt and remorse from past mistakes, it can be nearly impossible to enjoy the goodness present in your life every day.

So, how do we move beyond our mistakes?  Let’s talk about that.

I think it’s harder to forgive ourselves for mistakes that we’ve made because we keep dwelling on them. We want to know how it affects other people, if they liked us for it, if they didn’t like us. I think we stress over it… It becomes an old recording that years later we continue to play in our mind.” ― Sherri Shepherd

I will assume that most of you are familiar with the Biblical writer known as Paul the Apostle. He was born about 10 A.D. in Tarsus, located on the south-central coast of modern day Turkey. Paul was both a Jew and a Roman national. His parents were likely influential citizens and of moderate wealth. He trained to be a Rabbi in Jerusalem under the renowned Gamaliel. Paul was a zealous Pharisee with a fiery temperament and tenacious convictions.

We first meet him in the Newer Testament record as Saul of Tarsus – a man committed to the pursuit and destruction of a new heresy within Judaism (which would eventually become known as Christianity). Saul hated the followers of Jesus. He thought Yahweh (GOD) did too. Saul believed he was on a mission for the Almighty to stop the spread of Christianity. That was his first BIG mistake. The Newer Testament Book of Acts says,

1“And a great wave of persecution of the believers began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. (But some godly Jews came and with great sorrow buried Stephen.) Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate the believers, even entering private homes and dragging out men and women alike and jailing them.”  (Acts 8:1-3)

After observing the execution of a supposed heretic named Stephen, Saul was off to Damascus to continue his brutal crusade against the Jesus people. But the Creator decided that it was time to put an end to Saul’s BIG mistake. So, in a blaze of blinding light which appeared out of nowhere, the Spirit of Jesus himself knocked him to the ground and corrected his inappropriate behavior. The details of this encounter are also recorded in the the Newer Testament Book of Acts,

3-4 “But on his journey, as he neared Damascus, a light from Heaven suddenly blazed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” was the reply. “But now stand up and go into the city and there you will be told what you must do.” 7-9 His companions on the journey stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. There he remained sightless for three days, and during that time he had nothing either to eat or drink.” (Acts 9:3-9)

Dazed and confused after his day of reckoning, Saul (now temporarily blind) had to be led into Damascus by the hand. He was so shaken that he neither ate nor drank for three days. But I’m sure he prayed!  Have you ever noticed how people seem to pray more when they’re scared spitless?

Anyway, in the interlude, God aroused a local believer named Ananias by entering into his dreams one night where he told him to head over to Straight Street and find Saul from Tarsus.  God dream or not, Ananias was troubled by this assignment. He reminded the Creator that Saul was a very dangerous enemy of the followers of Jesus. Once again we’ll pick up the narrative from the Book of Acts,

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I have heard about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And we hear that he has arrest warrants with him from the chief priests, authorizing him to arrest every believer in Damascus!” 

15 But the Lord said, “Go and do what I say. For Paul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the nations and before kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for me.”

17 So Ananias went over and found Paul and laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Paul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit and get your sight back.”

18 Instantly (it was as though scales fell from his eyes) and Paul could see…”  (Acts 9:13-18)

Talk about exciting. This is better than Indiana Jones. I just love adventure. Saul (called Paul after his “come to Jesus” moment,) went on to become Christianity’s most zealous ambassador. In spite of some horrific past mistakes, he would end up traversing the ancient world spreading the message of the Liberator Jesus to the Gentiles (all the non-Jews). Even today, Paul towers as a charter member of the Christian Hall of Fame.

Victorious living does not mean freedom from temptation, nor does it mean freedom from mistakes.” ― E. Stanley Jones

What about the Apostle Paul’s mistakes, regrets, and potential to suffer the paralysis of over analysis?  How did he live with himself as one who was responsible for persecuting so many of the very people that God had appointed and ordained?  Did Paul ever have to deal with any thoughts of guilt and remorse? I think he did. He certainly acknowledged his past mistakes. He even spoke about them:

“For I am the least important of all the missionaries. I should not be called a missionary because I made it so hard for God’s church. 10 I am different now. It is all because of what God did for me by His loving-favor. His loving-favor was not wasted. I worked harder than all the other missionaries. But it was not I who worked. It was God’s loving-favor working through me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 – NLV)

I worked hard and killed men and women who believed as I believe today. I put them in chains and sent them to prison. The head religious leader and the leaders of the people can tell you this is true. I got letters from them to take to our Jewish brothers in the city of Damascus. I was going there to put the Christians in chains and bring them to Jerusalem where they would be beaten. (Acts 22:4-5 – NLV)

Yes indeed, after he became a follower of the Liberator Jesus, Paul certainly had a lot to think about. He had every reason to be overwhelmed by guilt and remorse.  But Paul understood the power of God to forgive even our most heinous mistakes. He eventually left the past exactly where the past should be left – in the past!  He learned to take his life one day at a time and live for each moment. Here’s what he wrote,

11“…How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Jesus and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead. 12-14Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep moving on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Jesus grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward is the honor of being called by God in Christ.(Philippians 3:11-15 – PHILLIPS)

The moral of our story today, my friends, is that God can change anyone no matter how BIG their mistakes may be. Life’s slip-ups need to be left behind so that we can move forward. And whenever regrets echo through the corridors our mind they should serve only as a reassuring reminder of the amazing power of the Creator’s grace to erase every past blunder.

I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but he does make miracles. I am one. You are, too.” ― Nick Vujicic

That’s what I love the most about the Christian life; correctly understood, it’s guilt free. My former transgressions have been expunged. The liberator Jesus removes ALL of my mistakes – past, present and future. As a result, I am free to live each day in the joy that comes from absolute dependence upon God. Like Paul, I have chosen to forget all those things which are behind me because no matter what comes my way, I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.

Today, your life may seem like just another BIG mistake. Do you really want to drag that entire poop pile into your tomorrow? The late actor John Wayne once said,

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

Have you learned something from your mistakes? I hope so. It’s your life, but remember; God has boundless resources and he makes them available to all who turn to him in absolute trust.  Liberty in Jesus – it works for me. How about you?  It certainly couldn’t hurt to find out.

Jesus, please help my friends to leave their past mistakes behind and take a giant step of faith toward you today. I know your arms are open wide to receive, forgive and love them. Show them the genuine side of Christianity that is found only in you.  Thank you Lord, 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, FL 34656