Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”— William Arthur Ward 

I have always been intrigued by the extraordinary life of a man known simply as Jesus. He was not of this world, but he was born into this space-time continuum with a mission and a message that would alter the course of the human race forever.  When he was here on earth (nearly 2000 years ago) He gained quite a reputation around ancient Israel’s Galilee region for his amazing abilities including the power to heal the sick. Imagine him walking along a dusty road on the outskirts of a town when all at once ten lepers see him approaching. From a distance, perhaps just across a footpath or maybe a small field, they began to shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

A record of this event can be found in the Newer Testament book of Luke:

11-13 In the course of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was approaching a village, ten lepers met him. They kept their distance but shouted out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14-18 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” And it happened that as they went on their way they were cured. One of their number, when he saw that he was cured, turned round and praised God at the top of his voice, and then fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan. And at this Jesus remarked, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

19 And he said to the man, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)

Lepers posed an interesting conundrum.  Under Jewish law, they were not allowed to mingle within society. They were considered perpetually unclean and the good people of the community were forbidden to have any physical contact with them. Lepers lived banished lives, dwelling on the fringes of the social order. This is why Jesus never drew near to the lepers nor did he place his hand upon them as he had so often done before when healing the sick.

Now here is what intrigues me: when Jesus saw them, He shouted, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”  Why would he tell them to do that?  Again, it has to do with Jewish law at the time.  If a leper was truly healed of this horrible affliction, he must go before a priest to validate the cure.  Once confirmed, the formerly leprous individual could then obtain permission to mingle again in society.

Given His growing notoriety as a miracle worker, the words that Jesus spoke to the lepers most likely gave them motivation to believe they would be healed. Nonetheless, advising them to visit the priest (before any visible indication of a cure) was a deliberate test of their trust in Him.  Evidently they did have faith in Jesus as off went the ten men still manifesting the horrible contagion.   Suddenly, as they were walking along, they began to notice their leprosy was disappearing.

One of the ten lepers was a Samaritan. And, just in case you did not know, the Jews at that time hated the Samaritans. They worshiped the same God, but they didn’t get along.  This is why Jesus made note of him. When this particular leper saw that he was now cured, he freaked.  Wouldn’t you?   In his elation the once diseased Samaritan loudly screamed praises to God. But here’s what I really want you to get: filled with gratitude he turned around, found the amazing man from Galilee and “fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him.” (Luke 17:16)

Where were the other nine presumably Jewish lepers? No one really knows.  Only this one Samaritan leper returned to give thanks to the Almighty. This did not escape notice. Jesus said, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

Imagine. An obvious miracle has taken place in the lives of ten desperate people but only one stopped to give thanks with a grateful heart for the saving grace and power of GodBy the way, did you notice that Jesus credited the leper’s faith for his healing?  He said, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.”  Hmmm.

So, ten men took a walk for the cure but only one came back to say thank you. It seems pretty clear to me that leper number ten had the attitude of gratitude. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager he never forgot the lowly Nazarene called Jesus who literally saved his life that day.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”Henry Van Dyke

Paul Harvey, the much beloved American radio broadcaster and writer, passed away in February of 2009. It is estimated that at one time his various programs reached 24 million people each week on over 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations and 300 newspapers. In a 1977 broadcast of his widely popular “The Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey shared this historic tale,

“It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit a broken down pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean…For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”

Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

So, now you know that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, just about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy eye browed, and slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one solitary gull which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.” ***

What do a grateful Samaritan leper, an old war hero, and I – a grateful sinner now redeemed by God’s Amazing Grace – have in common?  It’s the attitude of gratitude.

Maybe you have something to thank God for today.  I hope you will take the time to tell Him. Our Creator loves you no matter what, but I think He likes to hear those two powerful words – THANK YOU – as they fall from your lips.  What’s that? Not feeling very thankful right now?  Life’s treating you unkindly at the moment?  I understand.  The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote,

16-18“Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God (in your life) as expressed to you in (by) Jesus Christ.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Phillips)

We all experience difficult times in life; we fail, loved ones get hurt or die, and we may struggle with many personal challenges as well.  This is spaceship earth, a penal colony for a fallen race.  Every moment of love, joy, peace, and happiness is a blessing from above.  Remember to count your blessings carefully – and give thanks to the Lord above with a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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. facebook.com/inspopoint

***Paul Aurandt, “The Old Man and the Gulls”, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.

These bickerings of opposite parties, and their mutual reproaches their declamations, their sing-song, their triumphs and defiance, their dismal prophecies, are all delusion” – John Adams –

Everyone has told a lie.  On that point I hope we can all agree.  “Not me brother, I have never told a lie.”  Oh Really?  Guess what, you just did.  And we all heard it!  Truth is, we live in an age of lies.  They saturate our culture.  From Madison to Pennsylvania Avenues and right on down good old Main Street USA, liars abound.

In Oliver Goldsmith’s 1771 play, She Stoops to Conquer, the popular and flamboyant character Tony Lumpkin quips, “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no fibs.”  The inference of this declaration could easily be interpreted like this, “if you question me, my answer might not always be honest – so, don’t question me.”  In other words, we are most likely to “fib” when it is more expedient than telling the truth.

The late Donald James Wheal (1931-2008) made this rather pithy observation: “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous to them and its speaker a raving lunatic.”

Well now, that just about describes the days in which we live.  Lies have become so commonplace that people often perceive those who are attempting to expose what is false by simply telling the truth as hate mongers, bigots, intolerant or just plain crazy.  Nowhere have lies become more prevalent than in the world of politics.  Surely you must have heard this bit of overused humor, “How do you know when a politician is lying?  Their lips are moving!”  Wahahahahaha… But, I digress.

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it” — George Orwell

The Bible speaks often about deceitfulness.  The Newer Testament book of Ephesians says that people should, 25“Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are all part of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves.” (Ephesians 4:25)  That’s good advice.  No matter the rational, a lie is always intended to either mislead or protect – usually a bit of both.

Moving beyond the simple lies we often tell to one another; there is a “lying spirit” at work in the world.  I am not talking about ghosts, ghouls, zombies, the occult or little green men here.  Mankind’s obsession with that expression of the dark side is just another part of the grand delusion.  The essence of all that is evil in this world is known to Christians as “the spirit of antichrist”.  According to one of the biblical writers, that spirit has been at work in this world for a long time.  Keep in mind that this missive, from which I will now quote, was probably written in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus on the coast of Ionia (in present-day Turkey) roughly 2000 years ago:

1-3 “Don’t trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full of false prophets. You can test them in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the antichrist, which you were warned would come and which is already (working) in the world.”  (1 John 4:1-3 – Phillips)

The spirit of antichrist occupies the very nature of humanity gone astray.  It is this pervasive ambiguous malevolence that hinders the spiritually oblivious from receiving the truth. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:12-14) That spirit of antichrist (aka: the spirit of the world) has so blinded the passengers of spaceship earth that the majority of mankind simply drifts along on the streams of this world’s philosophies, while unconsciously obeying its unseen influences. (Read Ephesians 2:2)  The spirit that is at work in this world does not lead people to pursue the truth, it merely gives them a false impression that they are all doing just fine.  As a result, much of humanity is traveling through space-time without the benefit of a true spiritual or moral compass.  Unable to discern truth from what is false, mankind is easily manipulated by hypocritical liars whose consciences are so scorched that many of them are now incapable of ethical functioning.  The New Testament writer, Timothy, put it this way:

1-3 “The Spirit (of God) makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the (true) faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth.”  (1 Timothy 4:1-3 MSG)

The Nations of the world are in great trouble today.  Many believe that some have moved beyond the Point of a Safe Return and must now face the inevitable – the Creator’s anger.  Just because the Sovereign Almighty (the Master Spirit of Truth) has chosen a prolonged period of outward silence does not mean He will remain inactive forever.  Remember this Biblical warning: 31 “The very worst thing that can happen to a man is to fall into the hands of the living God!”  (Hebrews 10:31)  The Creator will hold all mankind accountable to Himself.  He won’t overlook a single detail, believe me.

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so well established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” — Blaise Pascal

The Bible’s Old Testament offers many great examples that should serve as a warning to all of us.  Here are but a few:

14 “Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.  Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.
15 Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice.”  (Isaiah 59:14-15 – NLT) 

1 “…The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: There is no faithfulness, no kindness, and no knowledge of God in your land.  You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery.  There is violence everywhere—one murder after another.  That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away.  Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea are disappearing.”  (Hosea 4:1-3 – NLT)

The Almighty One never changes.  Yesterday, today and forever, He remains the same.  It matters not how long ago our Creator made his declarations; the Spirit of Truth has warned us exactly what will happen whenever humanity actively and openly forsake His ways (it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t end well).

It’s hard to accept the truth when the lies you’re being told are exactly what you want to hear.” – Unknown

We are most likely living in the latter days; an age of increasing lawlessness where a strong delusion has empowered people to follow the dictates of their own deceitful heart.  I need to be frank here.  The person who will become known as The Antichrist (the human incarnation of the antichrist spirit) is not beyond your understanding.  He will appear on the earth like any other man, except he will have some extraordinary powers that come from the dark side of the unseen dimensions.  Here is what the Bible says about his eventual arrival on the bridge of spaceship earth:

“This man of sin will come as Satan’s tool, full of satanic power, and will trick everyone with strange demonstrations, and will do great miracles. 10 He will completely fool those who are on their way to hell because they have said no to the Truth; they have refused to believe it and love it and let it save them, 11 so God will allow them to believe lies with all their hearts, 12 and all of them will be justly judged for believing falsehood, refusing the Truth, and enjoying their sins.”   (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Yes my friends, these are the times of strong delusion.  People are abandoning the foundations of truth to embrace a universal lie.  Thankfully, I am neither anxious about the future nor deceived by the delusions of today.  I have placed my absolute trust in the message brought to the earth by Jesus the Anointed One.  The same Spirit that was dwelling in Him while he visited the earth also lives in me.  The Creator is now my spiritual guide.  He steers me in the right direction, provides for my every need, protects me from my enemies and is my refuge in these troubled times.

You and I can neither revise human history nor alter God ordained future events.  We can however change the course of our own lives and perhaps even influence the trajectory of a few fellow passengers here on spaceship earth.  Get to know the real Jesus.  He will chart the course to bring you safely home again.  Are you ready?  Warp factor one… Engage….

Almighty God, speak to those with ears to hear.  Open their eyes to see beyond the strong delusion.  Let them recognize your voice today – the voice of truth.  Let them see the real Jesus.  Thank you Heavenly Father.  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. 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
Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray – where most of us live… Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” ― Sherry L. Hoppe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.Bishop Robert South

The American writer Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Some literary scholars consider him to be the father of the detective fiction genre.  He is also believed to have been one of the first well-known American writers to try earning a living through writing alone.  So, how’d that work out for him?  It didn’t.  Poe suffered financial difficulty most of his short adult life and died in relative poverty in 1849 at the age of 40.

The Tell-Tale Heart is one of his better known short stories, first published in 1843.  It is a fictional account of the gruesome murder of an old man whose dismembered body parts were hidden under the floorboards.  The unidentified storyteller is also the killer. Clearly unbalanced, the murdering butcher is eventually driven to madness while attempting to convince the reader not of his innocence, but of his sanity.  As the tale unfolds, the narrator grows increasingly uncomfortable, believing that he can hear the tell-tale heart of his victim beating from under the flooring.  In the end, his wild imaginings serve as the evidence of his madness.  Strange story? It is indeed.  But for me, here’s the real takeaway: this bizarre little narrative serves to illustrate the inevitable result of a heart that is burdened by unassuaged guilt; it will haunt you.

All but the most profoundly depraved human beings have within them a tell-tale heart.   We do not call it that, preferring the term conscience to describe the voice of our human spirit.  Call it what you will, a tell-tale heart can throb with unrelenting reminders of our guilt, shame, shortcomings and failures.

I once heard the story of a man who believed that his bike had been stolen from outside of his church one Sunday morning.  He goes to see his Pastor for assistance. “Come to the service next week and sit in the front row,” the Pastor tells him, “I will call you up to the platform and ask you to read out loud the Ten Commandments.  When you get to ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ pause and stare intently at all of the people.  Look for the one who fidgets uncomfortably and cannot look you in the eyes because of his guilty heart. That’s your thief.” And so, the man does as the Pastor advises.  He comes to the next Sunday morning service and when called upon, he steps forward and reads the Ten Commandments out loud.  After the service the minister is of course rather curious to learn if his suggestion has flushed out the guilty party.  “Did it work?” he asks the parishioner.  “Like a charm,” the man answers. “The moment I read the 7th commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ I remembered where I left my bike.”

Okay, I know, some will say that’s a really bad joke.  But, it is helpful in making a cogent point: 7-8 God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. (Psalm 19:7-8 TLB)  The Divine Spirit within us – like the symbolic tell-tale heart – reminds us when we have strayed from righteous pathways.  Persistence in a life of stubborn disobedience to what our Creator alone has the right to declare as true or false, good or evil, will eventually find us out.  In the meantime, living with a guilty conscience is no laughing matter.

She heard him speak, but did not recognize the problem in his voice – only later did she realize it was that thing he’d been concealing – known as guilt.” Carla H. Krueger

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is widely known.  The great architects of this planetary creation (God) visited a chaotic earth that was formless and empty, covered in water and surrounded by darkness. As “Project Genesis” unfolded upon the globe, a unique “utopian” ecosystem, The Garden at Eden, was created.  Mankind was fashioned in the image and likeness of the Creator and given complete autonomy and dominion to rule the world.  But something went terribly wrong.

It all began innocently enough.  The Creator would make regular visits to Eden where he would chat with the first humans.   In this garden like paradise, He was cultivating a race unique in all the earth, replete with every resource to be fruitful and multiply.

There was only one restriction – the forbidden fruit.  The precursors of humanity were simply told that they were not to “consume” this one “gotchya” fruit.  If they did, they would have to leave the Garden of Eden. Otherwise, they could stay in this idyllic state forever.  The Creator was letting them choose their destiny through a test of obedience.  No problem, they had little to no interest in said fruit anyway – at least initially.

Enter the antagonist – Satan – the more subtle of the beasts.  He starts with the female.  “Eve” he said, “why not try that forbidden fruit?”  Eve resists, telling Satan that the Creator had told her and Adam not to do that or they would die.  But Satan persisted.  “That’s a lie!” the troublemaker hissed. “You’ll not die! God knows very well that the instant you partake of it you will become like Him, for your eyes will be opened—you will be able to distinguish good from evil! Come on, the forbidden fruit is very good for you and it will make you very wise.” In the end, Eve chose to pursue what she knew was not allowed and so did Adam who gladly followed her down the path of perdition.

Now here’s the consequence: These human archetypes were decisively changed because of their failure to obey the Creator’s instructions.  First, they became aware of their “nakedness”, and were embarrassed by it.  Next, they strung leaves together to cover their private parts. In other words, innocence was lost and thus began mankind’s association with the tell-tale heart.

That evening they heard the Creator arrive in the garden as usual; and they hid themselves among the trees.  Can you hear their guilty tell-tale heart beating?  Imagine the Supreme and all-knowing Being as he plays this little game:  “Oh Adam, where are you?  Why are you hiding?”  Adam replies, “I heard you coming and didn’t want you to see me naked. So I hid.”  To which the Creator replies, “Really, who told you were naked?” You’ve gotten into the forbidden fruit, haven’t you?”  Adam admits, “Well, yes, but it’s all this woman’s fault and anyway, you gave her to me.  She made me do it.”  Talk about passing the buck.  Needless to say, their tell-tale hearts had found them out.

The word Adam actually means man or mankind.  So, humankind’s guilt rests upon the deliberate rejection of Divine instruction (truth) resulting in rebellious acts.  It may seem a trivial matter or even fantasy to the unenlightened reader, but to the spiritual observer with eyes that can see, it can be understood as so calamitous an event that its effects have resonated through all civilizations to this day.  The defiance of humanity personified in the garden not only altered the development of God’s creation, it also triggered the entrance of sickness, disease, human mortality and our exile here on spaceship earth.  More important was the introduction of spiritual death to the human experience.  This deadening of the human soul and subsequent perversion of human spiritual perception would open a Pandora’s Box (to borrow a symbol from ancient Greek mythology) releasing all forms of corruption.

Beginning with Adam’s loss of innocence and mankind’s consequential exile from the source of unending existence (the Tree of Life), people have turned to countless forms of palliatives to fill their inner emptiness.  Some have preferred to inflate their own self-worth as they idolize the creature instead of revering the Creator.  Others seek comfort through sensual pleasures, abusing intoxicating substances, perverting the beauty of sexual desire, and of course, venerating the many headed god of materialism.  In an almost astonishing display of defiance, mankind has removed the Divine entity who made them from His rightful place in the human dispensation.  The result has been and continues to manifest itself in the malignancy of human idolatry and depravity.  How tragic and futile.  Only returning the Creator to His rightful place in our lives can silence the pounding of a tell-tale heart.

I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.” ― Francis Schaeffer

Is there a remedy for this age old planetary madness arising from the tell-tale heart?  I mentioned the symbolic Pandora’s Box a moment ago.  Today the phrase “to open Pandora’s box” is usually interpreted as “an action that seems minor or insignificant, but that turns out to have detrimental and far-reaching negative consequences.”  According to ancient Greek mythology, the “box” was actually a large jar given to Pandora at her creation.  It was said to contain all the woes of the world. Presumably, she wasn’t supposed to open it.  But, like Eve in the garden, curiosity got the best of her and she removed the lid.  All the evils that plague humanity flew out.  When she finally closed the jar, only one item of its content remained – ironically it was “HOPE.”   Pandora managed to hold on to hope!

Please hear me; Pandora’s Box may be nothing more than a made-up fantasy from an ancient civilization; but there is nothing fictitious about genuine hope.  In fact – if you have spiritual eyes to see – the one and only remedy for all of the madness well-maintained by the tell-tale heart is found in the “Blessed Hope” of our eventual rescue from this life of exile.

In the Bible’s Newer Testament, Paul, the great Apostolic Teacher had this to say as he wrote to a young preacher named Titus:

11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with great hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus (the Christ), will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.  15 You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.  (Titus 2:11-15)

No matter how loud the beating of your tell-tale heart, there is a great HOPE offered to you this day.  Not merely an “I’d like to think so” or “with any luck” kind of hope; rather, a definite assurance that you can find freedom from guilt, shame and blame.

The Liberator Jesus visited spaceship earth to offer salvation to all who were called according to His purpose.  His message of freedom, redemption and life beyond the grave would become the “Blessed Hope” of the disheartened passengers here on spaceship earth.  The ancient writings of scripture put it like this:

 11-13 “But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of who Jesus was. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises to Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of (the liberator) Jesus — dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.” (Ephesians 2:11-13 MSG)

Are you getting this?  You don’t have to live as an “outsider” any longer.  There is a “Blessed Hope” that can become a transforming reality in your life.  It can bring you joy and help with your navigation through the treacherous waters of trials and tribulations in this world. Oh, and it does wonders in silencing the guilt and condemnation of a tell-tale heart.  Interested?

Let’s talk to the one who made us:

Almighty Creator God, I ask you to speak to the spirit of those who now have ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart ready to understand.  Silence the pounding of their tell-tale heart as you show them the Liberator Jesus who is standing invisible in another dimension (the spirit world), and yet with arms wide open He is ready to welcome them.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  Help the chosen say YES, to the invitation from the Liberator Jesus to follow Him, and to put their faith in his rescue mission on spaceship earth.  Thank you Divine Father.  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)
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”  Benjamin Rush (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)

Is the United States of America still “one nation under God”?  Was it ever?  It makes some people happy to think that we are, at present, a society of God-fearing men and women.  Of course, that assumption can also make some people very angry as well.   And let’s not forget the millions who could simply care less.  Clearly, the Pledge of Allegiance declares the USA to be “one nation under God”.  But detractors are quick to point out that the words “under God” were not even incorporated into the Pledge until June 14, 1954.  And what about U.S currency?  Isn’t it boldly inscribed with the words: IN GOD WE TRUST?  So, we must be a Godly nation, right?  Wrong.  Empty declarations do not a reality make – regardless of the national sentiment at the time these mottoes were first introduced.

Think about it, do you actually believe that the Almighty Creator is impressed by insincere slogans that have little to no significance for the citizens of modern Sodom?  For that matter, what about the multiplied thousands of people who vainly recite meaningless spiritual platitudes without any genuine knowledge of or faith in the God to whom they purportedly offer prayers?  The Divine entity that we call God is not some good luck charm, or extraterrestrial talisman invoked when blessings are desired.

Not wishing to be accused of intolerant, dogmatic, judgmental religious bigotry, I prefer to let the scriptures speak for themselves on a subject of this gravity. Here is what Jesus – that great religious reformer, liberator and the founder of what many call the Christian faith had to say:

3“And why do your behaviors violate the direct commandments of God? You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce, for they follow man-made ideas and not the instructions that come from God.’”
(Matthew 15:3, 7-9)

Hmm.  People who honor God with only “lip service.”   Jesus called them a farce (a sham).

The last time I checked, the sacred Biblical texts still proclaim that the Ancient of Days (God) is the originator of all things here on spaceship earth.  He is said to have planted the human species on this planet and engineered man in His own image. His blueprint made us a self-replicating and adaptive species with limited free moral agency. Man is the creature (that which was made). God is the creator (the one who designed us).  Foolish mortals are forever trying to remake the Creator into the image of the creature, or they simply disregard His existence altogether.

So, I ask the question again, is the USA “one nation under God?”  Millions would like to believe that it is, and they site the many religious men and women living among the population.    But when you consider how far askew modern America has shifted from the sure foundation of a dependence upon Divine providence, I’m afraid the answer to that question is NO.

“We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”  – Samuel Adams, 1776 (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)

Some will insist that the USA was unequivocally established as a Christian nation.  Sorry, that statement is simply not true.  Even though many of the founding fathers of the United States were men of deep religious convictions, some were not. To say that the founders were of unanimous resolve on establishing a strictly “Christian” nation would be a distortion of the known facts.  A few of them even sharply criticized structured Christianity as a repulsive distortion of the intentions of Jesus himself.  In a letter dated April 11, 1823 Thomas Jefferson wrote the following to John Adams:

“The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy, absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.”1 

Jefferson was not a fan of organized religion. He even branded a belief in the virgin birth of Jesus and the doctrine of the trinity as “fables” in his writings.  However, he wrote with great admiration about the teachings of Jesus Himself. In a letter to Benjamin Rush dated April 1, 1803 he remarked:

“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.”2

Whatever personal interpretation of the Scriptures Thomas Jefferson held dear, we know that he at least acknowledged the existence of our Creator. Jefferson wrote these now immortal words in The Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There is no disputing that the Bible played an important and significant role in the shaping of the American dream. Our Founders possessed strong moral and spiritual convictions which helped them to form the fundamentals of this nation. With the inspiration of the scriptures and Divine foresight; they forged a constitutional framework by which we were to be governed.

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”  – Alexander Hamilton (1787 after the Constitutional Convention)

In spite of their differences, our nation’s designers seemed to understand that without the blessing of Almighty God, this republic would not survive. Some of them even believed that the very laws upon which our society functions could only be understood and obeyed by a “moral and religious” people. On October 11th, 1798, John Adams wrote:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 3

While it may be true that this great nation was not established on an exacting structure of religious doctrine or dogma, it was formed by men who were deeply and profoundly influenced by religious belief – particularly the Christian faith.

If you doubt this statement, consider the denominational affiliations of the 55 core delegates to the Constitutional Convention,

28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and only 3 deists (Benjamin Franklin being one of them) 4

We may never know with absolute certainty just how sincere any particular individual founder was in the practice of their faith. But that really doesn’t matter. Even if we were to conclude that the majority of them were only minimal Christians at best, their lifetime exposure to the fundamental religious and moral teachings of the Bible had a profound influence on them as they framed the documents that would ultimately structure the laws of the land.  The United States of America was born in godliness and reverence for the Divine Creator.  But times have changed dramatically and this once free and righteous nation has gradually become home to a wicked and perverse generation.

Today the fading echoes of America’s Christian heritage are engraved in the stones of her national monuments and written on the pages of her carefully preserved historical documents.  They serve to remind us of just how far we have strayed – a testimony well maintained as a witness against us.

The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them[society and government] if faith in these [biblical] teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.”President Calvin Coolidge, 1923

The Liberator Jesus faced a similar national crisis when he visited the earth. The details are recorded in the New Testament book of Luke,

41-44And as he came still nearer to the city, he caught sight of it and wept over it, saying, “Ah, if you only knew, even at this eleventh hour, on what your peace depends—but you cannot see it. The time is coming when your enemies will encircle you with ramparts, surrounding you and hemming you in on every side. And they will hurl you and all your children to the ground—yes, they will not leave you one stone standing upon another—all because you did not know when God Himself was visiting you!”  (Luke 19:41-44 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

How profoundly sad. The Creator visits His own creation, and the spiritually blinded people reject Him and His message.  But, He expected that.  The good news is, whenever someone did accept His message, Jesus invited them to follow Him.  “I am the Way”, He told them, “the road back to the God who made you”.  He is still doing that today – but for how much longer?

I am certainly proud to be an American. But at times I am not proud of America. I am prouder still to be called a follower of the Liberator Jesus.  Like him, I weep for the lost and foolish people wandering the decks of spaceship earth in darkness at this eleventh hour, unable or unwilling to grasp what we all really need.

Recorded in the 2nd chapter of the New Testament book of acts is a powerful and persuasive speech given by Peter, one of the first followers of Jesus.  In a way, he too was a founder – a pioneer of this sect of Judaism that would go on to become Christianity. His audience at the time was a cross-section of the Nation of Israel. Here is what he told them:

36 “Now therefore the whole nation of Israel must know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this Jesus, whom you crucified, God has declared to be both Lord and Christ.” 37 When they heard this they were cut to the quick, and they cried to Peter and the other apostles, “Men and fellow-Jews, what shall we do now?” 38-39 Peter told them, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that you may have your sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this great promise is for you and your children—yes, and for all who are far away, for as many as the Lord our God shall call to himself!40 Peter said much more than this as he gave his testimony and implored them, saying, “Save yourselves from this perverted generation!  (Acts 2:36-40 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Perhaps it is time for you to dig in and learn about the true mission of Jesus and the message he brought to the earth. This will require of you both an open mind and teachable spirit.  Genuine faith comes when we have heard the truth.  Are you willing to listening?  After all, they say that only fools reject that of which he/she has no real knowledge or understanding.   Why not start by looking at the message Jesus and ask God to make it real in your life by the power of His Spirit?  Our Creator is still gathering rogues like us to follow His “road” to a new and better home world.  Hope to see you on the other side.

Almighty God, we really need you. Forgive us for the fools we have been. Accept us just as we are. Set us free and begin the remolding process that will transform us into the men and women you truly want us to be. In the name of the Liberator Jesus we pray. 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

1 412-3. Recipient’s copy at the Library of Congress. The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827

2 Lipscomb, Andrew A. and Albert E. Bergh, eds. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States, 1903-04. 20 vols.

3 The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States; With A Life of the Author Notes and Illustrations of his Grandson Charles Francis Adams. Vol. IX, Books For Libraries Press, Freeport, New York, (First Published 1850-1856, Reprinted 1969), 228-29.

4 John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), p. 43.

Religious and non-religious people alike have heard the story of “Jonah and the Fish.” But has this fairy tale fame distracted us from the deeper meaning and purpose of this powerful little book?”

Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city located in Upper Mesopotamia.  Its archeological ruins are situated on the east bank of the Tigris River, opposite the modern-day city of Mosul in northern Iraq.  Nineveh is counted among the oldest and greatest cities of antiquity.  At one point in its long and often sordid history, it was briefly the largest municipality in the world. Founded by Nimrod, the Bible first mentions Nineveh in the Older Testament book of Genesis chapter 10, verse 11:

11 “From that land Nimrod went to Assyria, and built Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah”. (Gen 10:11)

Nineveh would go on to prosper for thousands of years and eventually become the flourishing capital of the sprawling Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36).  It was home to the likes of King Sennacherib who reigned during the time when Hezekiah was the King of Israel and the prophet Isaiah was alive on the earth.  In fact, Sennacherib is credited with making Nineveh a truly splendid city complete with the famed “palace without a rival” (c. 700 BC).

Several books of the Bible’s Older Testament reference Nineveh including much of the writings of the Prophet Nahum and the books of Zephaniah and Jonah.  But in spite of the splendor ascribed to this once great metropolis, the scriptures declare it to have been a wicked, extremely cruel and perverse city.  Numerous prophecies predicted that the Almighty would ultimately see that it was laid to waste.  And In time, it was.  But not before the Ninevites were offered a window of opportunity to change their evil ways.

And that brings me to the Biblical book of Jonah; a diminutive Older Testament manuscript (just 48 verses) unique in that it focuses more on the life and times of the messenger (Jonah) than it does on the message he was to deliver.  It is a fascinating story.

Thought to be one of the earliest Older Testament prophetic voices, Jonah was a Galilean from Gath-hepher in Zebulun.  When the Divine Spirit of the Almighty came to Jonah and told him to go and warn the violent and decadent Ninevites of their impending doom, he rose up in stubborn disobedience.

You see, Jonah was a zealous Jewish nationalist.  The Assyrians were the sworn enemies of Israel and he hated them.  Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent; He wanted the Ninevites dead.  To him, these Assyrians were a major threat to the national security of Israel and the worst kind of human trash.  Offer them hope through repentance?  Forget about it!

When God told Jonah to go and prophesy against Nineveh, Johana fled to Joppa and then hopped on a ship sailing for Tarshish (which was in the opposite direction of Nineveh).  In essence, Jonah tried to escape his responsibility to obey God by attempting to run from his presence.  Can anyone say futile?  Think about it, how does one hide from a God who is all seeing and all knowing?  I think the Psalmist put it best when he wrote:

7-12 “Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit, to be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!  If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!  At night I’m immersed in the light!”  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12 MSG)

Nonetheless, Jonah set out to evade his Divine calling by hiding from the Divine being who had called him. Sometimes, I wonder how many of us are just like this wayward prophet – trying to escape our accountability to the Creator simply because we don’t like our assignment. Sure you can run – but you can’t hide.  God still holds us answerable to Himself, regardless of how hard we try to ignore or deny Him.

At any rate, Jonah ends up on a ship, thinking he can now just calmly sail off into the sunset.  Not gonna happen.  The Spirit of God causes a great storm to batter and buffet the ship (1:4).  Everyone on board now faced disaster.  The crew tried throwing their cargo overboard to lighten the load.  That didn’t work.  Finally, being superstitious pagans, they decided to cast lots to see why they were at the mercy of this raging storm.  Guess who got the short straw.  Yup, the lot fell to Jonah.

When we run from God, His response is more likely to be stormy and upsetting than quiet and subtle. He knows how to make us miserable. And it makes those around us miserable as well.” Tullian Tchividjian

So, the prophet comes clean.  He had already told the captain and crew that he was hiding from his God (1:10). He said they would now have to toss him into the sea if they wanted to be saved.  At first that seemed like a bad idea to the sailors – even pagans can have morals.  Instead they tried in vain to navigate their ship to dry land.  In the end, the seafarers reluctantly threw him overboard, but not before they shouted out to Jehovah (Jonah’s God) saying, “don’t hold us responsible for his death, for it is not our fault – you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons” (1:14).

Once Jonah was tossed into to the briny deep, Jehovah the Almighty calmed the stormy seas (1:15).  The good ship and crew were now safe (and they quickly decided to follow Jonah’s God from now on).  “Fine, fine, you say, but what about Jonah?”  Calm yourself, I’m getting there.

To save Jonah from death by drowning, the Lord dispatched some form of monster fish to swallow the rebel (1:17). I know what you’re thinking, “monster fish…really?”  Look, we are dealing with the Creator of all things here; do you truly think he would have a hard time doing this?

Anyway, for the next three days and nights, Jonah endured an unscheduled adventure in a very large sea creature’s gut.  It was during this ordeal that our defiant rebel had the Older Testament equivalent of a “come to Jesus moment”.  He changed his mind (repentance) and asked the almighty, all powerful creator of all things for help (he prayed).  God caused the sea creature to swim toward land and there it puked Jonah out onto dry ground somewhere along the shores of ancient Palestine (2:10).  I guess even giant sea creatures can’t stomach disobedient prophets. (Teehee)

What happened next is truly remarkable.  The now regurgitated Jonah is told by the Almighty once again: “Go to that great city, Nineveh…, and warn them of their doom, as I told you to once before!” (3:2 TLB).

Hmmm…, seems the assignment wasn’t going to change.  This time however, Jonah obeyed Jehovah and went to Nineveh.  As a result of his warnings, the whole population fasted and sincerely repented. God spared the city as an act of His mercy toward the ignorant and non-discerning people who lived there, and life, as they say, went on.  But Nineveh’s day of reckoning was merely deferred for a season. Eventually, their wickedness returned and in the end judgement befell the Assyrians.

Listen to these words from the ancient prophet Jeremiah:

Whenever I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be taken up and destroyed, then if that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will make a certain nation strong and great, 10 but then that nation changes its mind, turns to evil, and refuses to obey me, then I, too, will change my mind and not bless that nation as I had said I would.”  (Jeremiah 18:7-10 TLB)

At this our most desperate hour of wickedness here on spaceship earth, let that also be a warning to the Nations of the world.

A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble.” ― C.S. Lewis

There’s more to our tale of course.  Jonah was not pleased at all with Nineveh’s turnaround.  He told the great Jehovah,

2 “O Lord, is this not what I said you would do while still in my own country? That is why I ran away to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a kind and loving God Who shows pity. I knew that you are slow to anger and are filled with loving-kindness, always ready to change your mind and not punish. So now, O Lord, take my life from me. For death is better to me than life.”  (Jonah 4:2-4 NLV)

Poor Jonah, the proud, stubborn, disobedient, unfaithful, grumbling prophet with a bad temper, was now also a very unhappy camper.  You know something, if the Almighty is willing to work with this guy – there is hope for all of us.

How did God answer Jonah?  He questioned his anger.  Read the end of the book and you will discover how Jehovah used a simple object lesson with a giant gourd and a parasitic worm to make a very cogent point:

11 “… should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons not [yet old enough to] know their right hand from their left, and also many cattle [not accountable for sin]?” (Jonah 4:11)

Our Creator is merciful.  He wishes no one to perish – especially the innocent. When Jehovah beheld the Ninevites at that point in human history, He saw 120,000 people in utter spiritual darkness (“children who don’t know their right hands from their left.”)  His compassionate understanding of the human condition provided them an opportunity to repent and abandon their wickedness.

Jonah’s story is also filled with object lessons for you and me.  To begin with, our modern world is filled with Ninevites.  This is not the time for people of faith to sport condescending attitudes of superiority toward the spiritually ignorant or immature – grow up – you’re the only Jesus some will ever see.

Perhaps the most import takeaway today is this: trying to hide from our Creator doesn’t discharge us from obedience to His will.  If we are called and chosen by the Almighty; we will be pursued by His Divine Spirit.  You can refuse Him outright, chase your own self-interests and agendas, and even fill your life with abundant distractions – but you cannot silence His call.  God will relentlessly dog your trail.  He will disrupt your diversions and frustrate your selfish plans until He has your attention.  It seems to me that it would be most prudent to obey Him promptly rather than squander precious time and talent by running away from your destiny.

On the other hand, you can continue to be like Jonah.  Maybe life as fish bait isn’t that bad.  But, I think not.

Master of this universe; Creator of all that we see, please help  keep us from the shallow spirituality and personal pride that can so easily lead us astray.  Help us to listen to the voice of your Spirit and the redemptive call of our Liberator Jesus.  Help us learn what it really means to surrender to you and say, “not my will, but Yours be done.” 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