Posts Tagged ‘Discouragement’

I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when he is silent.” – Author Unknown

I got a little tearful today.  In public, no less. Relaxing by the Gulf waters here on Florida’s West Coast, I was watching the pelicans perform their aerial ballet; endlessly swooping down from the pilings to dive for their daily bread.  In spite of the peaceful surroundings, my mind was busy sorting through the details of the latest tragedy to dominate the news cycles and the inevitable discourse in the arena of public debate.  That’s when it happened.  I could not help myself.  The salty pools filled my eyes as I softly whispered “Where are you God?  Why do you remain so silent?”  I know better than to ask that question, but I still do it.

A friend of mine lost a loved one to the Grim Reaper this week.  Through sorrow and tears he posted this observation on social media:

“It always seems to feel like a defeat when we pray and the outcome does not change.  It is hard to understand why.  But, God says to pray and that is what we are to do even if His plan is different from our own…” 

I understand his frustration.  It is difficult to see the goodness of God when we feel like He has let us down.  But has He really failed us?  I think not.  Still, that’s how it feels sometimes.

Musician and author Andrew Peterson said it well in a song entitled, “The Silence of God”, penned in 1998:

“It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.”*

Wow.  Moaning for some comfort, and the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.   I’ve been there a time or three myself.  If you are a contemplative type, just nod your head, as I am sure you have experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer as well.

Clearly, unless God chooses to explain Himself to us, which quite often He does not, His motivation and purposes are beyond the reach of mortal man.” James Dobson

Have you ever felt like God was playing hard to get?  I sure have. I’ve become angry and cursed when my prayers were not answered (or more truthfully, when I didn’t like the answer). I’ve walked through many a valley and spent seasons in the spiritual desert.  I’ve doubted God and even wondered if He really exists.  In those desperate moments, as far as I was concerned, God had let me down.

“Oh but brother, God will never let you down.  Just keep on waiting.  Hang in there.  Don’t go by feelings.  Doubt your doubts…not your faith.  Seek the Lord.  Keep on believing.  Call those things which are not as though they were…”

Thank you.  I’ve heard all that a thousand times before, and for the record, I agree.   Yes indeed, no matter how unbearable my problems seem to be, “…Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27b) The power of the Almighty can still heal the woes of mankind today – including yours and mine. But knowing that truth does not mean we will never feel cast off.

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

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

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

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

There are no easy answers to any of these questions or countless others like them.  The uncooked concerns of real life are painful to confront. It’s easier to suffer in silence as we live under the pretense that everything is going to be just fine. We keep telling ourselves, “God is going to make all this crummy stuff disappear one day soon and everything will be much better.”  What happens when “someday soon” never seems to come?

Hiding your hurt, anger, and disappointment behind facades of God-speak and mechanical piety is poison to the soul. Your spirit slowly fills with a contagion that destroys your genuine faith in God.  If perception is your reality, then I might as well just say it; from where some of you sit right now, it sure appears that God has gone silent.

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

Let’s talk.

When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is… Remember, the teacher is always quiet during a test.” – Author Unknown

Unconsciously, we absorb many erroneous and unconfirmed “facts” about the Almighty in the course of a lifetime. We read books about what He (supposedly) has promised to do for us whenever we pray. All of the sermons, seminars, and a million casual conversations have molded our interpretation of what we can expect from the Creator. Some of these expectations are spot-on. Some are not. The trouble begins when things don’t go the way we believe they should.   Uncertainty and hesitation starts to replace our confidence in the plan of God.   Over time, our faith may even grow steadily weaker.

Actually, it is okay if you occasionally feel like God has grown silent and even turned a deaf ear in your direction. It can really have a positive effect on your spiritual growth.  Why?  Because when God appears to be silent:

  • We tend to cry out to Him more frequently and with greater intensity.
  • We listen more carefully for His still small voice whispering to our spirit.
  • We realize that the well intentioned advice of “others” sometimes just isn’t good enough.

If it seems like God is just not there for you, or worse, like He doesn’t care – consider this: In the Bible, Joseph waited 13 years, Abraham waited 25 years, and Moses waited 40 years for the clear direction and purpose of God to unfold in their lives. If God is making you wait, you’re in good company.

Look, when you’re suffering the silence of God – take a deep breath, have a good cry, scream out loud if it will make you feel better, but don’t give up. In reality, the Creator is never truly silent or absent from our lives – it just appears that way.  I know this both from experience, and because He so plainly promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and His word is always good.

Do me a favor, listen carefully as I recap some important spiritual realities that you may or may not have learned on your journey thus far:

  • Life on earth isn’t fair and you cannot change that.  Get over it and move on.
  • Praying to God isn’t a mystical process for getting things to go your way every time.
  • Pain and struggle cannot be removed with a quick plea of faith and a votive candle.  Generally, our Creator doesn’t wave a supernatural God wand and instantly change things just because you think He should.
  • God exists outside of our dimension and, because we are chained to the illusionary ticking of the clock, He will often seem to move agonizingly slow in our present reality.

One day, a long time ago, when the great Liberator Jesus walked the earth, He encounter a man who had struggled for many years.  His son was a mute, and prone to awful seizures which were attributed to demonic possession.  The man had tried everything to help the boy to no avail.  Until one fateful day when the Liberator Jesus said to him,

19 “…Bring the boy to me.”  20 So they brought the boy, but when he saw Jesus, the demon convulsed the child horribly, and he fell to the ground writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has he been this way?” Jesus asked the father.

And he replied, “Since he was very small, 22 and the demon often makes him fall into the fire or into water to kill him. Oh, have mercy on us and do something if you can.”

23 “If I can?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if you have faith.”

24 The father instantly replied, “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more!” (Mark 9:19-24)

It is easy to say “I believe in God” or “I have faith” when your life is sailing along on an even keel.  But when that “trust” is severely put to the test, then what?  Perhaps it takes those seasons in the wilderness, suffering the silence of God, for us to come face to face with the doubt and unbelief that still lurks within our own human spirit.  And just like that father who cried out in despair “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more”, we too may need assistance believing from time to time.

Just remember, God is listening – even when it seems like He isn’t.  The Biblical writer Paul told the faith community in Rome, 28And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.  (Romans 8:28 TLB)   Humanly speaking, your present circumstances may seem unbearable and impossible to overcome, “but with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)  I really do believe that.  I do, I do, and I do!  Lord, help us in those silent moments of doubt and despair.  Strengthen our spirit so that we might have more faith in you.  Amen.

*P.S.  Listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cY4SJ_aBnY

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal JunkieTM, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
 Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” ―  Marcus Aurelius

Albert Einstein once wrote. “Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.”

Say what?

Einstein believed that existence is singular.  For him it was always “now” with no real separation between the past and the future. In the mind of Albert Einstein, the past, present, and future all exist in parallel and any separation between them was nothing more than a convincing illusion.

Diverse thinkers throughout human history have also called “time” an illusion.  They say that time isn’t really “real” at all, just a social construct which allows us a degree of comprehension into what might otherwise be unfathomable.

Is time just an intricate illusion?  Perhaps, but we’ll leave the endless debates on that subject for the philosophers, scientists and physicists. This much I do know for sure: none of them has been able to fully answer the question, “What is time?”

Meanwhile, the perceived clock keeps right on ticking and we can neither slow down nor reverse its relentless march forward.  So, I ask myself, “Why are so many people trying (albeit in vain) to redo yesterday?”  How about you?  Stuck in the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” matrix?  

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

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

In other words, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done.  In life, there are no “do-overs”.  We do not have the luxury of saying, “Gee, my life really stinks, I think I‘ll just hit the reset button, reload the software and start over from birth.”

Granted, you can change direction, take a new path, even “reinvent yourself” a time or two during your journey on spaceship earth; but once a lifetime is over, well, you are out of second (third, fourth and fifth) chances, my friend.

The average life expectancy of a newborn (2017) is about 78 years. Depending upon when you were born (and how you live), your average life expectancy may be considerably lower. But even if you were to live to be 100 years old, this question still remains: Are you taking full advantage of the finite number of years that you have?

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

13 “…I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race of life and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to the heaven because of what Jesus the Christ did for us.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)

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

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

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

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

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

All earthly societies have values, principles and philosophies which form their basic organizational foundations, and we all live in these secular social systems. But what happens when the flow of earthly cultures run ever more contrary to the course of Divine order? How do we respond?  Good question.  The answer is: we defy the flow of those social structures.  No, we do not become anarchists, we simply continue to live by and follow the Divine order.

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

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

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

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

“Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the evil one’s methods of attack. For of all, our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still hold your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

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

Anyway, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done – and so am I for that matter.  Just remember: yesterday is but a memory, tomorrow but a dream – now is your time.

Let’s weigh anchor mates, as we set sail for another crazy trip around the sun!

Happy New Year

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal JunkieTM, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
People make mistakes all the time. That’s how we learn and grow. If there’s patience and love, and you care for people, you can work them through it, and they can find their greatest heights.” ― Pete Carroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” – Tecumseh

I was listening to some old Jackson Brown songs the other day. Not sure why. Just felt like it I suppose. A trip down memory lane chasing days long ago forgotten. This one song titled “For a Dancer” caught my attention. More about that later.

I recently read an interview with this singer, songwriter, and liberal social activist. Jackson (his first name is actually Clyde) was asked about his religious beliefs and part of his response included these remarks:

“I’m not a member of an organized religion or faith. My grandmother was Lutheran. My mother belonged to the Unitarian Church… (Unitarianism) it’s a way of applying progressive ideas, social ideas, ideas about society, to the form of worship. But the truth is, I am religious. I think I practice a kind of religion, though I don’t have to say that I do at all.”

I tried to wrap my brain around Mr. Brown’s logic. His Grandmother was a denominational Christian, his mother a quasi-Christian (Unitarian) and Jackson, well, he seems unsure about how to define his spiritual position, He claims to be “religious” and “thinks” he practices “a kind of religion.” But really, what does that mean?

During the interview, Jackson Brown spoke of his Baptist friend (a youth choir director) named Fred. He recalled how he had once told him,

“Fred, I believe in the teachings of Christ …but these same beliefs are held by others.” (He then mentioned Hindus and Islamists). “One of the things that Christianity believes that I can’t really adhere to is the idea that unless you are a Christian (a follower of Jesus), you won’t go to heaven. That’s leaving an awful lot of people out.”

Apparently, Jackson Brown follows a creed that is a conglomeration of everything that he is comfortable believing. Hundreds of millions of people around the world sit in that pew. Their “religion” is whatever they deem as spiritually acceptable to them. In simple terms, they create a god-concept in their own tolerable image. This god will only be what they think he should be and never what they find objectionable. Does that sound like a holy, all powerful, and self-determining God to you? Not really.

Try calling this group to spiritual accountability and they often bristle with anger as they attempt to defend their position with some nebulous response like, “I don’t believe in a god who would do, or say, or require something like that.” Really? On what do you base this perception of God? Frequently, their doctrines are pulled from thin air. Eventually many of them end up atheists or “happy agnostics” at the very least. Listen to me, any god that answers to YOU and must pass YOUR test of acceptability is no god at all. An omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God could care less what you think about how he runs the universe. He is in control and you are NOT. Period. Even if you chose to deny His existence, nothing changes. People who deny gravity still fall out of trees.

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

In all honestly, I actually like some of Jackson Browns music. We may have very little in common socially or politically, but he is an exceptionally gifted, and thoughtful singer songwriter and a caring human being. That brings me back to his 1973 composition “For a Dancer”. Here is some of what Mr. Brown had to say about this song in the interview,

“I wrote the song… for a friend of mine who died in a fire. He was in the sauna in a house that burned down, so he had no idea anything was going on. It was very sad. He was a really interesting guy… He had this great-spirit, and when he died, it was a tragedy to everyone that knew him… He was a Renaissance man.”

Clearly, Jackson Brown thought very highly of his friend, and to lose him in such a tragic way touched Brown’s heart. His friend suffered an untimely demise, and Jackson Brown suffered a painful loss. Grief often causes us to pause and ask questions, like, “what is death all about anyway?” Here is a brief excerpt from that tribute song, For a Dancer,

“I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening.”

Interesting. Jackson Brown can’t grasp what happens when we die. He can hear deaths song clearly; He is drawn to listen to it, but he cannot comprehend the meaning nor sing along. If I am correct in my interpretation, Brown doesn’t understand the profound implications of every human death. This is what happens when your house is built on shifting sand and you have no anchor for your soul. As a Christian, my source of wisdom, knowledge and understanding is found in the amazing words of Scripture. Passages like this:

18“So in this matter, God, wishing to show beyond doubt that his plan was unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath. So that by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world might have a source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. 19This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, 20awhere Jesus has already entered on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:18-20a – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

We who are refugees from this dying world can find strength in times of adversity by looking to the one who created human kind, and holding on to the hope we find in every promise he has made to us. Wow.

Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.” ― C.S. Lewis

Today is a good day for me. It’s February in Florida. I’m sitting outside writing, and enjoying the sunshine of a 70 degree afternoon . But I am also thinking about my youngest sister. Two years ago this month she died a miserable death riddled with and ravaged by cancer. She suffered greatly near the end. She was only 46. It broke my heart. I cried. But I never questioned why. Because I knew the answer. Thankfully, I can grasp what happens when people die.

That knowledge did not come to me from a “god-concept” based upon what I pick and choose to accept as true and thus use to create for myself a comfortable “religion”. I am an ordinary Bible believing Christian. I have faith in what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures teach about death and that gives me both peace and comfort in a world short on both. Here are just two theological statements on this difficult subject taken from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

27“It is appointed for all men to one day die and after that they will pass to their judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27)

1-4 “We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling (our body) were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling—these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling (our body) we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these “clothes” but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life (on earth) to be absorbed into the life that is eternal (when we die).” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

Death, my dear friends, is not the end. Death is only the beginning. Nevertheless, people fight to stay alive and many will even spend all that they have to keep death at bay. No matter, we’ll still succumb to the hand of this grim foe. Death is inevitable. It is our destiny. There is nothing we can do to stop it.

Christianity teaches the positive side of death. Those who have placed their trust in the Liberator Jesus know that death is simply the doorway into a new dimension of freedom from this earthly life in exile from the God who made us. According to the ancient texts, we are all estranged from our creator and stranded here on spaceship earth. Death will one day free us from the burden of earthly suffering and absorb us back into the eternal realm where we belong. Until then, we are subject to the ever changing state of affairs produced by the progressive decline and fall of planetary societies due largely to human depravity.

Christianity, while acknowledging the presence of suffering, declares that life can be infinitely worth living and opens the way to eternal life in fellowship with God Who so loved the world that He gave Himself in Christ.” – Kenneth Scott Latourette

I know what some of you are thinking, “But why all the innocent suffering?” and “Where is this loving and caring God you talk about. Why doesn’t he intervene? It just does not seem fair. Even if God is not the cause, why doesn’t he just put an end to this madness once and for all?” He will. If you have ever studied Biblical texts you should already be familiar with how he plans to do it. As to when, only He knows. And that is what can make this journey seem so hard. Here is an interesting verse of scripture for you to ponder:

6-8 “And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that (Jesus, the) Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that (Jesus, the) Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Jesus lived, suffered and died by the same rules of life that we all must follow. As the Liberator of mankind, He suffered and breathed His last breath to open a pathway into an eternal dimension. The execution of Jesus was a necessary part of His redemption strategy. Within its mystery lies the proof of how much God cares about us and a promise of a future life clothed in an immortal body that is suffering-free. The tormented souls, the cancer stricken, the accident victims, the unloved, lost and lonely — everyone who has suffered — will suffer no more. As described in the book of Revelation – In that new world order – God will dwell with his people.

4“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”. (Revelation 21:4)

Let us pray for that day to come swiftly.

Almighty God, some will hear your voice today. Perhaps they will choose to look more carefully at what they believe. Over thousands of years you have caused the scriptures to be compiled, preserved and protected so that we might acquire an accurate understanding of who you are and what you have done for the rescue of mankind. Many are called. Few are chosen. Work in the hearts of your chosen today I pray. In the name of my Liberator Jesus, AMEN.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656