Posts Tagged ‘devotionals’

Zig Ziglar was a motivational teacher and trainer who traveled the world delivering a messages of humor, hope, and encouragement. As a talented author and speaker, he had a unique delivery style and powerful messages that earned him many honors. Ten of his twenty-eight books topped bestseller lists. Zig was a committed family man, an enthusiastic patriot, and an active Christian. He passed away from pneumonia on November 28th, 2012 at the age of 86. Here is a quote from Mr. Ziglar:

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude – Zig Ziglar

 

I totally agree.

Your accomplishments in life (altitude) are determined more by your desire to succeed (attitude) than by your natural talents (aptitude). Attitude is a choice. Nothing – person, place or thing – can force you to have a bad attitude. Yes, our environment and daily circumstances can influence our attitude but in the end, attitude is still your choice. So, choose wisely.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. – Thomas Jefferson

I think Mr. Jefferson can speak with some authority on this subject. He was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). Jefferson believed (in so many words) that your attitude will make or break you. The right attitude moves you forward toward achieving your purpose in life (goals) and a bad attitude renders you helpless.

An Old Testament Proverb says, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… – Proverbs 23:7a (Amp)

Just as our food intake affects our physical health (you are what you eat); our thoughts affect our mental and spiritual health (you are what you think and believe). Dwelling on undesirable thoughts will never result in a good and positive attitude (being around negative people doesn’t help either, but we’ll save that for another lesson).

Here are three things I want you to remember:

  • Thoughts Determine Attitude
  • Attitude Determines Behavior
  • Behavior Determines Outcome

When your mind is focused on negative things, you will develop a bad attitude. As a result of a bad attitude you will behave accordingly. And your behavior (actions) will determine the results you achieve in your life.

Paul, the New Testament writer and apostolic minister, knew the profound impact that our thoughts have upon our attitude. He wrote,

 8 “And now, 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”. – Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

Peace of mind comes from the right kind of thinking. Spiritual peace comes from God, when we pray. Paul knew this also and he told the Christian community at ancient Philippi (a city in eastern Macedonia in the southern Balkans),

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)

The Bible is an awesome book because it contains everything our creator wants us to know about this life and the life beyond. Keep your mind fixed on the promises of God. His assurances (as found in your Bible) are THE TRUTH. That is why we look to it for “… what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”

Chuck Swindoll is an evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher. His radio program, Insight for Living, airs on more than 2,000 stations around the world in 15 languages. He is currently the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church, in Frisco, Texas. Here is his take on Attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Chuck Swindoll

What could I possibly add to that?

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

This may surprise you.

God is not interested in how much we can do for Him. I don’t remember when, but somewhere along the pathway of my years I became enlightened with this important truth.

Let me say it again: God is not interested in how much we can accomplish for Him. (Or about how much “stuff” we can cram into our day – but we’ll save that for another lesson)

Think about it, God created the world in 7 days with just a few words of his power. I hardly think “getting things done” is an issue for Him.

Watching some of my fellow Pilgrims, you’d never know this truth existed. If you ask me, their lives are way too full of activity. Listen, I fully comprehend how a schedule that is bursting at the seams with day-to-day undertakings can cause anxiety. However, it is amazing to me how some Christians can’t see the folly in being all “stressed out” and then claiming their stress is a result of doing the Lord’s work. What happened to:

3“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is kept on You, because he trusts in You”  Isaiah 26:3 New Life Version

Busier is NOT necessarily better. Doing lots of Good things is not the same as doing your GOD thing.

So what have I learned?

God wants two things from me:

  1. Do only what He asks.
  2. And do it only when He wants it done.

The rest of the time I am free to Love Him, to love others and to learn to love myself (remember, we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves). As a result, I am able to live more fully in His Joy and I am at liberty to exist as the unique vessel that the master potter is sculpting.

Do you know what God wants the most from you?

YOU!

Get it? Just as you are, God wants you.

Life with Him is a partnership and a journey. “In Him”, we fulfill His purposes through our lives.

I would like to issue a challenge.

I challenge you to embrace who you are in Christ. (Forget anyone else.)

I challenge you to do all the “peculiar” stuff that defines you. (By the way, peculiar is synonymous with weird! Ha-ha.)

I challenge you to be true to yourself and to stop listening to the voices coming from the world around you claiming to know what is “right” for you!

And, I challenge you to trust that little voice inside of you (the voice of your spirit) that ever whispers to your soul. You are filled with the Holy Spirit of God Himself. He will show you everything (including what is right for you). If you need to make changes – He will let you know. And remember, His teaching voice is calm, life giving and encouraging.

Are you up for the challenge?  I hope so.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

Rabbi Harold Kushner tells of a personal tragedy that changed the course of his life. He began to question everything he had been taught about God. Rabbi Kushners son, Aaron, died at age 14 of progeria. If you are unfamiliar with this disease, it is best described as the accelerated aging disease. At his death, Aaron was a short, bald and wrinkled old man in appearance even though he was only 14. In his book, Rabbi Kushner asked: “If God existed, if He was minimally fair, let alone loving and forgiving, how could He do this to me?”

Why do the innocent suffer?

Why should anyone suffer for that matter?  It’s a question that has haunted mankind since the beginning of our time. It may be one of the most important issues of our lives. Rabbi Kushner asked the question this way, “why do bad things happen to good people?”

Can we make sense of our world, and our sufferings in this world?

Maybe. Maybe not. But we can turn to the word of God for help in dealing with the challenges of our lives here on this planet we call earth.

Why ME God?

Questions about suffering affect all of us in some way. Even if we are fortunate enough to escape tragic accident or severe illness, we all have our problems. For some it may be fear or loneliness. Others battle depression due to rejection, divorce, relationship issues, etc., etc. Hunger, war and brutality plague humanity. And none of us will escapes the final tragedy known as death.

 Is there a purpose for all this Distress?

  1. Suffering keeps us focused on the true state of this broken world.
    • 18 I am sure that our suffering now cannot be compared to the shining-greatness that He is going to give us. 19 Everything that has been made in the world is waiting for the day when God will make His sons known. 20 Everything that has been made in the world is weak. It is not that the world wanted it to be that way. God allowed it to be that way. Yet there is hope. 21 Everything that has been made in the world will be set free from the power that can destroy. These will become free just as the children of God become free. 22 We know that everything on the earth cries out with pain the same as a woman giving birth to a child. 23 We also cry inside ourselves, even we who have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the first of God’s gifts to us. We are waiting to become His complete sons when our bodies are made free. [Rom. 8:18-23 – New Life Version]
  1. Suffering teaches us to depend more on God and less on this world system.
    • 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. [Heb. 12:1-4 – New Living Translation]
  1. Suffering reminds us that future eternal bliss trumps temporary happiness.
    • 18 I am sure that our suffering now cannot be compared to the shining-greatness that He is going to give us. [Rom. 8:18 – New Life Version]
    • 13 Be happy that you are able to share some of the suffering of Christ. When His shining-greatness is shown, you will be filled with much joy. [1 Pet. 4:13 – New Life Version]
    • Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. [Ps. 126:4-6 – New Living Translation]
    • To those who have sorrow in Zion I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored. [Isa. 61:3 – New Life Version]
  1. Suffering can focus our attention on the sovereign work of God in our lives.
    • 1 As Jesus went on His way, He saw a man who had been born blind. 2 His followers asked Him, “Teacher, whose sin made this man to be born blind? Was it the sin of this man or the sin of his parents?” 3 Jesus answered, “The sin of this man or the sin of his parents did not make him to be born blind. He was born blind so the work of God would be seen in him. 4 We must keep on doing the work of Him Who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no man can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 After Jesus had said this, He spit on the ground. He mixed it with dust and put that mud on the eyes of the blind man. 7 Then Jesus said to him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” (Siloam means Sent.) The man went away and washed. When he came back, he could see. [John 9:1-6 – New Life Version]
  1. Our trials help others see that God is the source of all things in our lives.
    • For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.[a] This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” [2 Cor. 4:8-9].

 Conclusion

There isn’t always a cut and dry answer to the question of why we suffer.

And maybe, it’s really the wrong question to ask. Perhaps we should ask these questions instead:

  • What purpose is there to life?
  • What future does God have beyond this life of suffering for me?

As unfair as it may appear at times, our lives have a definite purpose.

Jesus lived, suffered and died by the same rules of life that we live and suffer and die by. Jesus, as God incarnate, suffered and died for human beings, to take away their sins and open up salvation for those who would believe on Him.

The crucifixion is proof of how much God cares about us. And, in the future resurrection of the righteous dead, God will transform our mortal human flesh into immortal bodies and make our new lives suffering-free. The tormented souls, the cancer stricken, the accident victims, the unloved, lost and lonely — everyone who has suffered — will suffer no more.

God will swallow up suffering and death in the victory of eternal life. In that day, God will be acknowledged by all humanity. He will act as eternal healer and life-giver. He will be recognized by all as the one who is fair and just. In that day, He will take no pleasure in human suffering.

As described in the book of Revelation – In that new world order – God will dwell with his people. Revelation chapter 21:4 tells us: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.

Let us pray for that day to come swiftly.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

16-18 We know and, to some extent realize, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!  19-20 If we live like this, we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own hearts make us feel guilty; For God is infinitely greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  21-23 And if, dear friends of mine, when we realize this, our hearts no longer accuse us, we may have the utmost confidence in God’s presence. We receive whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his orders and following his plans. His orders are that we should put our trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another—as we used to hear him say in person.  24 The man who does obey God’s commands lives in God and God lives in him, and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Spirit he has given us. 1 John 3:16-24 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

One of the great threats to our faith is our tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves. Every time our heart finds us guilty of some new transgression, we struggle with loving ourselves. I mean really, how do I love myself when I do bad things (or even when I think about doing bad things)?

The problem is, we can’t love others if we do not love ourselves. You have heard people (including me) say we should shun self-admiration. That doesn’t mean we are not to love ourselves. There is a big difference between being “IN” love with yourself and LOVING yourself. Jesus said that we were to love others the same way that we love ourselves. In fact, he does not suggest that we do this, He commands it. Listen to what he said,

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

The more insecure and uptight we are, the more difficult it is to keep from spiraling into self-debasement. When you have a low opinion of who you are in Christ, it doesn’t take much pressure for your heart to denounce you.

Even when we feel pretty good about who we are, daily shortfalls present us with opportunities to marinate in guilt, shame and self-condemnation.  We can then become our own worst critic and consequently we fall into a trap of our own making. I recognize (based on the lessons of the scriptures) that God forgives me. And, I am always learning to forgive “those who trespass against me”. So why is it so hard to forgive my own under-performance and daily nastiness?

Good question. I think it is because all of us walk around with a picture of an ideal self in our minds. We can see with reasonable clarity the person we would like to be and sometimes we even pay attention to the person God wants us to be. Try as we do to live up to that idyllic imagining, we fail.   And let’s not forget all of the helpful voices reminding us we are not so good.

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

And what about our society? How many ways do we fail to measure up? Let me count the ways.

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

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

The good news is that God does not condemn us like we condemn ourselves.  John reminds us, God knows everything. That means God sees the positive in us. God recognizes our intentions, even if our actions don’t always bring about the result of what we envisioned. Our hearts may condemn us, but as John explains, God is greater than our hearts.  Remember, we have only a limited picture of ourselves. It is easy to measure our lives by one mistake, one failure, and one defeat at a time. God sees the big picture – all that we are and even more importantly, all that we can become.

This is the truth of which our hearts need to be reassured:

  • We are loved so much by God that through Jesus Christ, He was willing to lay down his life – to give everything – to get us back.

A Divine rescue was required and God refused to let anything, even our depravity, stand in the way of our redemption. He prepared a great sacrifice – his Son – in order to provide the means by which we can be liberated from the burden of our sin nature (the seat of condemnation).   If God loved us that much, John reasons, we too, out of genuine love for others, ought to be willing to share whatever we can with a brother or sister in need. Real love always leads to action.

But here’s the irony; we cannot be free to love sacrificially, as Christ has loved us, if we continue to spend our time wallowing in self-condemnation. Instead we must realize that since God has not condemned us, we are fools to condemn ourselves.  Once we have given up self-condemnation, we discover a new sense of boldness before God. As our confidence grows, we begin to ask God for anything and everything we need in order to serve him better. According to John, when our heart is right, we receive from him whatever we ask. And then as we obey God, we discover that he is pleased to abide in us and we abide in Him.

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

No matter what happens, never give up on yourself. If God chooses not to condemn us; we have no business condemning ourselves.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

Charles H. Spurgeon   (1834 – 1892)

“There are some professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration; but, from my inmost heart, I loathe such speeches more and more every day that I live. Those who talk in such a boastful fashion must be constituted very differently from me. While they are congratulating themselves, I have to lie humbly at the foot of Christ’s Cross, and marvel that I am saved at all, for I know that I am saved. I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all—to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all—to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all considering what a polluted debased, depraved nature I find still within my soul, notwithstanding all that divine grace has done in me. If God were ever to allow the fountains of the great deeps of depravity to break up in the best man that lives, he would make as bad a devil as the devil himself is. I care nothing for what these boasters say concerning their own perfections; I feel sure that they do not know themselves, or they could not talk as they often do. There is tinder enough in the saint who is nearest to heaven to kindle another hell if God should but permit a spark to fall upon it. In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish that they might not do so, for it is a painful discovery for anyone to make; but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease from trusting in ourselves, and causing us to glory only in the Lord.”  – Charles H. Spurgeon   (1834 – 1892)

Charles H. Spurgeon was an anointed orator and prolific author. His sermons were said to hold his listeners spellbound in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London where he was the Pastor for 38 years. He was also known for his outspoken opposition to the open-minded and matter-of-fact theological tendencies in the Church of his day. (Hmmmm)

Spurgeon did not mince words when it came to his disdain for self-centered Christians or as he put it, “professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration”.

Charles marveled at the wonder of his own salvation. I like his dichotomies:

  • I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all
  • I have to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all
  • I have to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all

Me too, Charles. Me too.

Spurgeon laments that, “In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out”.

How true.

We are all depraved. At home with our self-absorption and imagining our every desire should be met. I, Me & Mine. I think we’ve forgotten that we are the “creature” not the “creator”. I am a created being. What can I really know about myself that God does not already know?

It just so happens that I have been blessed with a life filled with affirmation (and, sometimes admiration as well). I regularly experience showers of kind and flattering words. To be honest, I like it. Who wouldn’t?

But the longer I live, the more necessary I find it to expose the ugliness of my own depravity. I recognize the treachery of my heart (human nature) and my propensity for wickedness. The duplicity inside of me exposes not only my appetite for sin but my ability to excuse it. Openly acknowledging that I will always struggle with the “sin-nature” is liberating. It reminds me that I am at the mercy of my Heavenly Father every day and makes me grateful for the grace He has shown me.

The Apostle Paul understood this very well. He said,

12-16 I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself. This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted:—“Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners”. I realize that I was the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to me. It was a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience towards the worst of men; to serve as an example to all whom in the future should trust him for eternal life”. 1 Timothy 1:15 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

Paul looked at himself as being among the worst of men. He attributes his rescue to the Mercy, Grace, Faith and Love of God. Jesus Christ, he says, entered this world to rescue bad people. Like Paul, we are all bad people in need of reclamation.

Paul also observed that it is human nature to know what is right and yet to still often practice evil.

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

Who on earth can set me free from the control of my sinful nature?

Who indeed. Clergy, Governments and Gurus are all useless when it comes to freeing the human spirit. There is one solution. Freedom comes only “through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

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

God has secured my drifting heart to Himself through Jesus Christ. He has shown me the way out from under the weight (vicious circle) of religion and its laws. In Jesus, I have found a new “spiritual principle of life”. I am now in right standing with God simply because he loves me. I am no longer a prisoner of my fallen nature. That malevolent side of me is still lurking inside but the Holy Spirit in now in control. The power of the Holy Spirit has made me free from the power of sin and death. As long as I continue to walk in harmony with the Holy Spirit my wicked nature is kept in check. I can do all things because Christ strengthens me. I am nothing without Him.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

7-8a “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen”. – 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

I think I’m in Love.

Really!

I LOVE everything I have learned about unconditional (divine, agape) love.

  • LOVE has no limit to what it can endure.
  • LOVE has a never ending capacity to TRUST.
  • LOVE has HOPE that never becomes hopeless.
  • LOVE will stare you down and outlast every attack.

Unconditional LOVE cannot and will not fail.

Did you hear me?

Unconditional love never fails. It never heads off to the divorce court (Human lust and fleeting infatuations do), it never cheats on the object of its affection, and it can withstand the abuse of those who in their ignorance often hurt us so deeply with their fiery darts (words and deeds).

When everything in your life is crumbling into rubble at your feet, unconditional LOVE will still be standing with you. In fact, it’s the only thing that will stand the test of time.

8b “For if there are prophecies they will be fulfilled and done with, if there are “tongues” the need for them will disappear, if there is knowledge it will be swallowed up in truth. For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete. 11 When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me. 12 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! 13 In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love”.  1 Corinthians 13:8b-13 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

Stay with me now and we’ll digest these verses together:

  • Prophecies will end in their ultimate fulfillment
  • Tongues will become unnecessary, and
  • Our finite human knowledge will be absorbed by THE truth

THE truth?

Yes. THE TRUTH. Jesus said I am the Way, THE TRUTH and the Life. The sum total of all human knowledge (i.e.: what we believe to be “true”) is incomplete. Jesus is our completion. And if we are complete in him, when he returns, the age of incomplete will end.

It’s time for us to grow up. Put the childish ways behind us (unless you would rather continue to live in childish insignificance). We may only see things as splintered and puzzling reflections at the moment. Our grasp of the truth is often fractional – at best. But the time is closer now than ever to when we will know God as fully as He already knows us!

Faith is important. Hope is essential. Both pale next to the awesome, divine power of Unconditional LOVE!

More Love. More Power. More of the spirit and nature of God in my life.

What more can I say?

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. 
The intellectual property published above is © 1995 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
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#1 Get in the Game

It is our responsibility to discover and develop our unique aptitudes and apply ourselves in developing our full potential.

10 “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither you go.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

God expects us to use our talents in profitable and productive ways here on earth.

22 “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:22

  • POINT: Be a DO what the word says person, not someone who sits on the sidelines of life. This is NOT a spectator sport.

13 I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

  • POINT: I can do all things. All things? That is what he said – ALL THINGS!

Why? Because, my strength comes from God; it isn’t up to me to be strong on my own.

#2 Maintain a Positive Focus

Negative emotions often result from focusing on mistakes of the past. If God has forgiven our sins, then why should we not forgive ourselves? Dwelling on past blunders perpetuates negative thought patterns and emotions. We must live for the day and focus on the future, not the past.

13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.  – Phil. 3:13-14

Paul made some mistakes in his past. He said that he chose to forget what is in the past and focus instead on the future. The goal of fulfilling our calling is in THE PRESENT and THE FUTURE, not the past.

#3 Ask God for His Assistance

If you find yourself spiraling downward into depression, ASK God to help you.

First: Remember:

  • God is the source of our strength.
  • He knows the proper responses for our particular situation.
  • He has given us His Spirit to overcome negative forces impacting our lives.

Since God is the source of all good things, we must ask for His aid.

7 “Ask, and what you are asking for will be given to you. Look and what you are looking for you will find. Knock and the door you are knocking on will be opened to you. 8 Everyone who asks receives what he asks for. Everyone who looks finds what he is looking for. Everyone who knocks has the door opened to him. 9 What man among you would give his son a stone if he should ask for bread? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, would he give him a snake? 11 You are bad and you know how to give good things to your children. How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”  – Matt. 7:7-11

#4 Get Your Thinking Straight

What are your mental debates like? What contemplations fill your mind?

  • The worries of daily life?
  • The emotional pain you are suffering?
  • Hurt feelings?
  • Physical pains?
  • Your economic circumstances?

If so, your’ thinking stinks!

  • Instead, set your mind on THE truth!
  • Focus on the kingdom of God above everything else!
  • Live as a man or woman who is true and transparent before God

Jesus put it this way…

33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need”.  – Matt. 6:33

Everything we need comes to us when we fix our mind on things above and focus on God’s kingdom while we live within a right (i.e. righteous) relationship with Him.

Paul told the Christians at Colossi…

1 “If then you have been raised with Christ, keep looking for the good things of heaven. This is where Christ is seated on the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds thinking about things in heaven. Do not think about things on the earth.” – Col. 3:1-2

Paul’s instruction to God’s people makes it crystal clear that we must refocus our thinking to a different level, to have an optimistic view in this mundane evil world.

8 “and now, 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”. – Phil. 4:8-9

Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not views upon which the world commonly focuses. The news media, business community, governments and educational institutions do not generally bring about this type of thought pattern. Therefore, to remain positive in a negative world, we must sidestep this world’s agenda and reflect on God’s point of view.

#5 Obedience Promotes a Positive Outlook

God’s Word tells us that to obey is better than sacrifice (I Sam. 15:22). Obedience to God’s Way brings many blessings, not the least of which is an optimistic view of our life. Being in harmony with God’s laws brings confident assurance that our lives have value and that God will guide us. Notice the tangible blessings that bring contentment into our lives when we obey God:

  • Peace: “Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
  • Vision: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18).
  • Favor: “My son, forget not my law; but let your heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of your heart: So shall your find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:1-4).
  • Requests Granted: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22).

As we walk with God, we will recognize our need to claim more of His promises. Our faith will increase as we see God 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.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

Have you ever wondered, “What am I doing here?”   It’s OK if you have. Believe me, you’re not alone. Sometimes we struggle with identifying where we “fit” in this great adventure called life. If you are a Christian, the importance of knowing your place in God’s plan for His church and for your individual life is difficult to overstate.

Every true believer is a member of the Body (Church) of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head of that body. Just as the physical human body contains many specific parts, every Christian is a uniquely qualified and gifted member of the body of Christ. The sovereignty of Almighty God determines our position and our function in the church.

“But as it is, God has placed and arranged the limbs and organs in the body, each [particular one] of them, just as He wished and saw fit and with the best adaptation. Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function].” – I Corinthians 12:18, 27 Amplified Bible –

Let me share something very therapeutic; you cannot be what God has not called and equipped you to be. It’s really that simple. Serving God is not a matter of selecting a ministry, but rather a matter of identifying your own unique gifting and sharpening those areas in which God has ordained you to serve.

“Are all Apostles (special messengers)? Are all prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purpose of God)? Are all teachers? Do all have the power of performing miracles? Do all possess extraordinary powers of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?”  – 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 Amplified Bible –

The singular answer to these questions is no! If we could function in any calling or operate any spiritual gift at will, we would have no need for one another. As surely as the eyes need the ears, the hands need the arms, and the legs need the feet, the body of Christ needs each of its members working together.

“For because of Him the whole body (the Church in all its various parts) closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:16 Amplified Bible –

When Jesus Christ was physically present on the earth, He had the Holy Spirit without measure. Jesus embodied all the offices of ministry and operated in every spiritual gift.

As individual Christians, we move in the Spirit by measure. No one person occupies every office of ministry nor operates in every spiritual gifting.

It is still possible for the body of Christ to enjoy the manifestation of the Holy Spirit without measure today. To do so we must recognize and accept our own spiritual gifts and calling, recognize and accept the spiritual gifts and calling in other believers, and learn to harmonize with one another by walking in the unity of the faith. Then the Spirit can move without measure and the Church can truly fulfill the great commission.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

“For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

Have you ever experienced a failure that left you afraid to try again?  I have.  We all have.  Somehow the old get up and go just gets up and goes.  Deep inside we remember how badly it hurt.  Why chance a repeat performance?  Isn’t it easier (or is that safer?) to say “I almost made it”, than to face anew life’s more difficult challenges?  Apprehension can paralyze our potential.

One day,  I was teaching my 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 a lot too and those near catches evoked his whimsical frown – more like a puckered pout.  My son 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.  Disappointments seem to have a way of doing that.  I still remember that startled look as he hid his face in the glove and stood motionless on the grass.

“Are you OK?” I yelled, my voice cracking with fatherly concern.  “Yes”, came the weak, unconvincing reply.  And then, with his face still buried in 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 Joe”, 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”, as he ran off to take up a new, less threatening activity.

Sometimes, in the face of distress, it’s hard to try again.

I’ve been thinking about the Apostle Peter. He tried very hard to be a disciple.  I’m sure he really wanted to please Jesus.  Quite often he would do what he thought was right only to be rebuked.  His overabundance of self-confidence often manifest in the form of foot in mouth disease.

Ever had that?

Hey, it’s OK.  I love you!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc.
The intellectual property published above is © 1990 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
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I have always liked gadgets. Machine age contraptions for example, were often an amazing collection of unique parts working together for a single purpose. In this age of technology, we seldom appreciate the inner workings of the devices that we see and use every day. As a result, we fail to understand them for what they really are. Old machines and your favorite smart phone have something in common. They are all a collection of individual components that interact with precision to perform a useful (sometimes even vital) function.

When was the last time you described a device of yours that way? “Say Bill, have you seen my new collection of individual components that interact with precision to perform a useful function?” I don’t think so. It’s more like “have you seen my new smart phone?”

Old machines and modern gadgets remind me of the greatness of Teamwork.

In many sectors of our society, collaboration is all but dead. Hi-tech tools are making it possible for everyone to be an almost expert at just about anything. I suppose it’s an interesting trend from a few perspectives. It’s empowering to be able to do so many things yourself. If you look at it from the management standpoint, well, it’s the best thing since the introduction of the PC. Business owners now reason, “We don’t need all those extra people. One person does the job of three, four or five!”

But, let’s take a good look at that reasoning. I believe that we are all really good at something. Yea, we’re pretty good at a lot of things, but we each have one or two gifts that really shine.

In the last three decades or so, I have worn a lot of hats. I have been a businessman, an author, a Bible teacher, a Pastor, and a school administrator. I have also been a professional broadcaster, audio editor and mix engineer, producer, program and newscast director, and more. As a commentator, I interviewed paupers, kings and everyone in-between. Once, I broadcast live from on top of Masada and the Temple Mount in Israel.

But it seems that no matter how many “roles” I’ve played, I was never truly all alone. There were always other team members there to help me with the job. Even when I stood alone in the spotlight, it was “my team” that made better collectively what I might have hobbled through on my own.

I have been blessed to work with some of the most creative and talented people in the world. In some cases, I knew that I could do their job too. With few exceptions I also knew I couldn’t do it as well. If I had a dime for every time someone made a suggestion that resulted in my own personal growth and improved upon my project, I’d be retired and living in the Caribbean (yes, I’m a closet “Beach Bum”).

When practiced at its highest level, life is a team sport. Every day our society functions because we are a collection of individuals that interact to perform useful (and sometimes vital) functions for the greater good. When the process is right, when collaboration, mutual respect and enthusiasm are in the mix, the results are so much better (and fulfilling) than they can ever be when one person slogs away all alone.

And what about the Church? Is it a coincidence that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are unique and yet referred to as one? I think not. The New Testament writer Paul (a follower of Jesus) hit the nail on the head when he compared the Christian community to the human body. Listen to what he said:

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.  – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27  New Living Translation –

What could I possibly add to that? Except maybe, Hooray for the team!

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.