Posts Tagged ‘Devotional’

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

There is an anonymous old adage that dates back to around 1832 which goes something like this: “He who never makes any effort, never risks any failure, nor achieves any success.”  Old or not, it’s the truth.  Be it spiritual, moral or material failures, the risks increase with our level of involvement.  Perhaps a former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, said it best, “The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

I am pretty sure that everyone would like to do well in life – spiritually, morally and fiscally. How many people do you know who actually set out to fail?  And yet, we rarely succeed in anything without numerous disappointments.  Live long enough and you are bound to taste the bitter tears of failure a time or three.  To my way of thinking, it’s all a part of the master plan.  Yes, I believe in intelligent design.

Have you ever put your whole heart and soul into an endeavor only to realize it’s never going to work out the way you had planned?  I sure have.  In the end, we learn to accept the letdowns and chalk them up to experience.  Listen, I have failed more times than I’d like to admit.  Some of my fiascos were just little slip-ups along life’s way, while others were, shall we say, more intense.  Okay, a few really rocked my world for a season.  What I have gleaned is this: real success is built upon the stepping stones of failure.  Someone told me that failure is a bruise – not a tattoo.  I like that.

What about you?  Ever experienced a failure that left you afraid to try again?  You know, feeling like the old get up and go, just got up and went.  We humans are often inclined to wallow in self-pity when we fail.  After all, it hurts when we flop.  Why chance a repeat performance?   It’s a whole lot easier to say “Well, I almost made it, gonna play it safe from now on”, than to face a new and perhaps an even more difficult challenge.  The fear of failure can crush our motivation, paralyze our potential, and even drive us toward despair (i.e. – a serious case of the blues).  That is why some people respond to failure by retreating to a perceived comfort zone.  Sorry, you can run, run, run, but you cannot hide from failure forever.

The Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), once observed that an Ostrich, when frightened, will sometimes attempt to hide from the danger by “thrusting their head and neck into a nearby bush, believing that the whole of their body is concealed.”   How silly that must look.

Hiding from our failures is equally pointless.  It’s like trying to conceal your naked body by wrapping just your head in a towel.  You’re still naked, and only you can’t see it.  Face your fiascos head on; it’s the only unfailing path to recovery from the sting of a letdown.  Incidentally, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger.  That’s a myth.

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” – C. S. Lewis

There is a passage in the Bible’s Older Testament book of Job which reads,

 1 “How frail is humanity!  How short is life, how full of trouble!” (Job 14:1)

In other words, humanity is frail, life is short and you can expect that into every lifetime a little rain must fall. (Longfellow)

I remember my early days as a devotee of Jesus, that great teacher and Liberator.  Somehow I came to believe that following Him imparted an immunity to failure for everyone who had a personal relationship with the Almighty.  By “Faith” we would simply make good confessions until all the bad stuff goes away and only good things come our way.  Make no mistake, Christianity is indeed the great confession and believers should declare with their mouth what they believe in their heart.  But I have now lived long enough to realize that life is full of woe, even for those of us who have chosen to put our absolute trust in God.  The promise of a Divine redemption and our expectation of timeless joy in a future world is no guarantee that our life here on spaceship earth will always be free from problems, sorrow, and, yes, even failure.

Have you ever read the Scriptures for the sheer human drama recorded on its pages?  It doesn’t take a degreed theologian to discover that many members of the Biblical Hall of Fame experienced failure at one time or another.  Abraham, Moses, and David all stand out in my mind as having blown it at some point in their lives.  Examples?

  • Abraham failed more than once on his journey by choosing to follow his own path instead of trusting in the Creator who after first making Himself known through a supernatural visitation, gave Abraham specific instructions to follow.  He had even entering into a sworn agreement with Abraham (covenant) promising He would make him great.
  • Moses failed when he got a bit overzealous (ahead of the Divine plan) and murdered an Egyptian in his anger.  As a result, he was forced to flee into the wilderness.  Years later, as the leader of a now liberated people, he took matters into his own hands once again when, against the instructions of YHWH (pronounced Yahweh), he struck a certain rock a second time (again in his anger) when he was specifically told to only “speak to the rock”.
  • When David was King of Israel and the military commander-in chief of her armies, his rightful place was with his troops on the field of battle.  Where was he?  Home committing adultery with Bathsheba and then orchestrating the murder of her solider husband, Uriah the Hittite, in battle.  David paid dearly for that mistake.

So, what happened to them over the long run?  Eventually they all recovered from their failures, learned valuable lessons along the way and even went on to be successful both in life and in the service of the great Jehovah.  Here’s the bottom line: God knows we’re all going to miss the mark every once in a while. Even so, He stands by us and is there to help as we work through our failures.

Being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.” – Oprah Winfrey

So you haven’t been very successful as of late?  Failures are often great opportunities to do some deep soul searching.  Who knows what you’ll discover.  Perhaps a particular shortcoming or weakness of character needs correction.  Maybe a new road or a fresh vision is in your future.  Only time will tell – so be patient.

What’s that?  You’ll never succeed?  Nonsense.  Look, I’m not your mother, but you need to stop with the pity party, Okay?  You can pick up the pieces and move on – especially if you will let the Creator help you.  Please do not give yourself over to the chains of hopelessness and despair.

The lessons we learn from our failures are often the formula for our future successes.  Disappointments help us to recognize that we all need help, particularly from the Greater One who designed us in the first place.  The Liberator Jesus put it like this:

“I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5 NLV)

Let me tell you a personal story.  One day, (many years ago) I was teaching my then young son the fine art of catching a baseball in our back yard.  He greeted each successful catch with a broad smile.  His delight brought me great joy.  Of course, he missed the ball a lot too and those near catches evoked his whimsical frown – more like a puckered pout.  My boy did not like missing as much as he liked catching.  Who does?  Then it happened.  A high fly bounced off the tip of his glove striking him on the cheekbone.  The impact wasn’t life threatening, but it shook his confidence a bit.  Disappointment and failure seem to have a way of doing that.  I still remember the startled look as he buried his face in the glove and stood motionless on the grass.

“Are you OK?” I yelled, my voice cracking with fatherly concern.  “Yes”, came a weak, unconvincing reply.  And then, with his face still covered up by the glove, little Joe began to cry.  So I ran toward him, touched with the feelings of his pain and I held him in my arms.  “It’s all right son”, I said, “You tried.”  Mistakes are bad enough, but this one hurt.  He cried for a few moments and drying his tears I said, “Let’s get back to the game.”  Without hesitation he replied, “No thanks, dad”, as he ran off to take up a new, less threatening activity.

Yes indeed, sometimes in the face of distress and failure, it’s hard to try again – especially as a child.  But eventually we all must grow up and learn to do just that.

Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failures.” – Tullian Tchividjian

You know, I’ve been thinking about this guy named Peter who was an original follower of the man called Jesus.  You can read all about him in the Bible’s Newer Testament.  Peter tried really, really hard to be a good follower of the master.  I’m sure he truly wanted to please that perplexing man from Nazareth.  Quite often though, he would do what he thought was right only to be reprimanded for it.  Peter had an overabundance of selfconfidence which often manifest in the form of foot in mouth disease.  Ever had that?

Perhaps the low point in Peter’s life came on the night Jesus was arrested and tortured.  First, he cut off some guys’ ear.  Later, when people in the lynch mob recognized him as a friend and supporter of the Nazarene, fearing for his own life and with cursing on his lips, Peter denied he even knew Jesus.  Some would say that at that moment he was a total failure.  What a disloyal looser.  Fair-weather friend.  Coward.  Yes sir, that’s what some would say.  But, not the otherworldly visitor called Jesus.

According to the Biblical narrative, Jesus was executed on a bunch of trumped up charges, but a few days later, amazingly, He came back to life.  There were enough witnesses to prove that fact in any court of law.  Soon thereafter, Jesus materialized in front of Peter on a Galilean beach where He confronted his friend the “failure” like this:

15 “Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these others?” “Yes, Lord,” he replied, “you know that I am your friend.”

16 “Then feed my lambs,” returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” returned Peter. “You know that I am your friend.”

17 “Then care for my sheep,” replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus’ third question to him was “Are you my friend?”, and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!”  18 “Then feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-18a Phillips)

Yea, Peter had a big mouth.  Sometimes he played the fool.  Once he acted like a coward.  He even failed under pressure.  But on a lonely stretch of Judean beach, a resurrected liberator stopped by to see a dejected fisherman.  In a few short comforting moments, Peter was humbled, forgiven, chosen, called and commissioned by the only one in the universe who really matters – the Intelligent Designer.  Peter?  He went on to do great things.

You say you’re a failure?  Me too.  Hey, it is okay, we’re in good company!  Just ask Peter.  Maybe you’re ready to do what he did…trust in what Jesus came to this earth to tell us.  I have.  Sweet success!

Love ya’ man!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
In a storm of struggles, I have tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But stress can be an addiction, and worry can be our lunge for control, and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.” Ann Voskamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the moldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast

And the days are dark and dreary.

 Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Skipping now to the next to last stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” ― Rich Mullins

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. Facebook.com/inspopoint
Want to keep Christ in your Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ― Steve Maraboli

Christmas time is here.  Some say that it is the most wonderful time of the year.  Their lists of reasons vary, of course.  The anticipation of Christmas morning with bright paper packages filling the void beneath the festive tree is high on many a list, no doubt.  Family, friends and parties are certainly there as well.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional Christmas story as told by Christendom.  There is that manger scene in Bethlehem with Joseph and Mary, and the Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.  Suddenly, Angels appear announcing to them the birth of a savior.  And, let’s not forget the Wise Men who traveled from afar, led by the very special Christmas star.

Three of the four Biblical narratives contain this customary Christmas chronicle. Not so the Gospel of John.  His New Testament writing is unique as it refers to the birth of Jesus as “The Word” becoming a human being and living among mankind.

Here then is the Christmas story according to John:

1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 That light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

 6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

 10 He came into the very world he had created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are the reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:1-14)

Clearly the birth of this man known simply as Jesus is presented by all of the Gospel writers as part of a supernatural plan.  The Almighty Creator took on human form in order to visit the world that He created.  But why did He do this?  Let me suggest four reasons:

We are each one on a road going toward home, but we’re not trying to get there for Christmas. We’re trying to get there for eternity. We want to arrive home safely to our loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to make it safely there, so He has sent a guiding light for us to follow: a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect example.” ― Margaret D. Nadauld

God wants to relate to us.  It is difficult to relate to someone if you have nothing in common with them.  The Newer Testament writer Paul said,

20 “When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Jesus. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. 21 When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence[a] and help them too.  22 When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Jesus and let Christ save him. 23 I do this to get the Gospel to them and also for the blessing I myself receive when I see them come to know Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)

Paul learned this concept of ministry from his encounters with the Almighty.  He understood that you can’t communicate with someone unless you relate to them. To relate to His creation in a most intimate way, the Word became flesh – God became a man.  Just as light is focused into a sharp image through the lens of a camera, Jesus was the Almighty God in focus.  His life says to all who will pay attention, “This is what God is like and this is what he wants from you”.

Jesus lived his life on earth in much the same way as we live our lives.  He was exposed to the same temptations.  He is familiar with our fears.  He felt life’s pressures.  He relates to us and we can relate to him.  Because of this relationship, we can approach our Creator as one who knows what it is like to be human.

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift –  Jesus the Christ.” ― Frank McKibben

God wants to enlighten us.  We live in the professed “age of enlightenment.”  It’s an era of awareness as we all travel on the information superhighway.  We’re caught in the World Wide Web.  Knowledge travels at light speed.  And yet, confusion is everywhere.  People are wondering what to do and where to turn for the answers.  Of course, advice is dispensed on every cyber-corner.  Much of it is no more than the blind leading the blind.  Seekers everywhere cry out for direction as they search for truth and illumination.  Many wonder, “Whom do we trust?”  In the midst of it all, the message and invitation of Jesus, first proclaimed when he came aboard space ship earth, remains the same: “I am the way, the truth and the light of life… Learn of me…”

God wants to adopt us.  Jesus knew that his visit to earth in human form would be brief.  So he made two important promises; I will not leave you on your own and one day you will be with me.  Followers of the Liberator Jesus are not strays; we are children of the light.  Look at what several verses found in the Bible’s Newer Testament have to say about our position:

 15 “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

5 “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (Galatians 4:5)

5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  (Ephesians 1:5)

It is obvious; God wants to welcome us into his family!  Remember what John wrote “… to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

God wants to redeem us.  There is another reason why the Eternal Word became a man.  In fact, it is the most important reason of all.  For without this one reason, the others would have no significance.  Our creator was born embodied in a baby called Jesus so that he could grow up among us, reveal himself to us, die in our place to liberate us, and show us the way back home.

The baby Jesus (God born in human form) grew into a great man.  He lived a normal life until the day when he commenced the mission for which he had come into the world.  He then traveled extensively teaching the truth (to all who would listen) about who he was and why he came to the earth.  It was (and still is) a radical message which promised eternal life to everyone who would put their trust in him.  He upset the religious establishment of his day, and as a result he was executed at the urging of the Jewish leaders by the Romans who occupied Israel.  But that was always part of the plan.  His death was the doorway to another dimension (eternity).  He took our guilt and shame upon himself.  When he cried out in his final moments of life as a human, “it is finished,” the debt owed for the original transgression of mankind was settled once and for all.

It is because of His death that the Almighty One can relate to us and enlighten us.  The death of that one unique solitary man called Jesus has made possible our adoption as sons and daughters of the Creator and our liberation from spiritual death.

Remember that, when you see a manger scene this Christmas, when you think of that star shining brightly in the ancient Bethlehem sky, when you read of the angelic beings announcing his birth to the shepherds, and especially when you see a reference to the Magi.  They are called wise men that came in search of the truth.  Indeed, they were very wise.  How about you?  Wise men and wise women still seek Him today.  Do you?

Merry Christmas!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“… Even so, it is well with my soul.”

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

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

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

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

And that, my friend, changes everything.

  • Facing situations that are difficult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Are you confused; full of fears and doubts?

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
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.

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:
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