Posts Tagged ‘Encouragemant’

Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” ― Rich Mullins

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here then is the Christmas story according to John:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray – where most of us live… Not perfect but not beyond redemption.” ― Sherry L. Hoppe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Throughout your lifetime, people will make you mad,  They will disrespect you and treat you badly. Let God deal with the things people do, because in the end, hate in your heart will consume you.” ― Will Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to these words from the ancient prophet Jeremiah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
My teaching at this time will be very simple, but I hope it will be highly practical; for my longing is that none of you, that love God, would be reluctant to go fishing for him.”  ― Charles Spurgeon

I’m a coastal junkie.  The sea is in my veins.  Today my writers perch is at Catches Waterfront Grill on Florida’s spectacular gulf coast.  A couple of local boaters have just tied up to pilings and come ashore for lunch.  Me?  I have no boat, but I’m making do with a relaxing view of the Pithlachascotee “Cottee” River as it meanders toward the Gulf of Mexico.  My “desk” (a high top table) is at water’s edge under one of the biggest, tallest, tiki huts in this part of Florida.  Yes indeed, I love life along the shoreline – here in the Sunshine State or almost anywhere in the world.

So, it goes without saying that whenever I have visited Israel, my expedition would always include a boat excursion on the largest body of freshwater in the land of the Book – Yam Kinneret.  This inland “sea” has been called by many different names throughout human history (Gennesaret, Tiberias, Ginosar and Minya), but perhaps it’s best known as the Sea of Galilee.  At roughly 685 feet (209 meters) below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on planet Earth.

In Biblical times there was a fishing village located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee known as Capharnaum.  We learn from the Newer Testament writers that an extraordinary man known simply as Jesus left the village of Nazareth and settled in Capharnaum (Mt 4:12).  It would become His home base and from here He gathered many of His first devotees.  Among them was a fisherman named Simon Barjona (Simon son of Jonah).

The Bible reveals very little about Simon Barjona’s life before he met Jesus.  It appears that he was born in or near Bethsaida (John 1:44), on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, eventually settling a few miles to the west in the Galilean town of Capharnaum where, along with his brother Andrew, he built a fishing partnership with James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10).  Truthfully, it’s not who Simon Barjona was that is of interest to me; it’s who he became.  Let me explain.

Legalism says God will love us if we change. The Gospel says God will change us because He loves us.”  ― Tullian Tchividjian

There was a man living as a recluse in the Jordan River Valley at that time who was called John the Baptist.  He was the last prophet of the Older Testament order, and it is said that he came as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  He was a man with a message about a coming Liberator.

Simon’s brother Andrew and John (one of his business partners) had become adherents of John the Baptist’s preaching. When their teacher pointed to Jesus one day and proclaimed him to be “the Lamb of God”, Andrew went back to Capharnaum and told Simon, “We have found the Savior” (John 1:41). Andrew then introduced his brother to the Liberator.  Jesus looked at Simon and said: “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall now be called Cephas” (John 1:42).  Cephas is an Aramaic word meaning “stone”.  In Greek the word is Petros, which translates into English as Peter.  Ah, so now you know why we call him Peter.

Jesus would regularly teach people along the Galilean shoreline. Over time, He encountered issues with crowd control.  One day the multitude grew so large that they were literally driving Jesus into the water.  Here is the Newer Testament record of that fateful day,

1-3 One day the people were crowding closely round Jesus to hear God’s message, as he stood on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. Jesus noticed two boats drawn up on the beach, for the fishermen had left them there while they were cleaning their nets. He went aboard one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to push out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and continued his teaching of the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Push out now into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master! We’ve worked all night and never caught a thing, but if you say so, I’ll let the nets down.”

6-8 And when they had done this, they caught an enormous shoal of fish—so big that the nets began to tear. So they signaled to their friends in the other boats to come and help them. They came and filled both the boats to sinking point. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Keep away from me, Lord, for I’m only a sinful man!”

9-10 For he and his companions (including Zebedee’s sons, James and John, Simon’s partners) were staggered at the haul of fish that they had made. Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, Simon. From now on your catch will be men.”  (Luke 5:1-10 – Phillips)

First, Jesus engages the services of Simon and his boat so that He could better teach the growing crowds. Remember, they didn’t have PA systems in those days so the water surface would actually help to amplify His voice, making it easier for such a mass gathering to hear Him.

When Jesus finished speaking, He told Simon (who was evidently in the boat with him) to go further out into the lake where the water was deeper and to lower his fishing nets (Luke 5:4). At first Simon protested.  “Look Jesus, we have fished here all night and we have caught nothing” is what he told him.  Think about it.  Simon knew his trade.  Fishing the Galilee is usually done at night, not during the day.  On top of that, he had already spent hours cleaning and repairing his nets for the next night’s run.  But, then he said something unexpected, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).

Sometimes, when I read the words of Scripture and they don’t seem to make sense to me, I say to myself, “God, you want me to do what?”  I’m learning not to do that.  It’s a good thing Simon put aside his practical wisdom (doubts) and did as Jesus asked.  Look again at what happened:

6-7 “And when they had done this, they caught an enormous shoal of fish—so big that the nets began to tear. So they signaled to their friends in the other boats to come and help them. They came and filled both the boats to sinking point.”  (Luke 5:6-7)

Simon knew that this was a supernatural event.  He was overwhelmed.  His response tells us all we need to know as he fell on his knees before Jesus and said,

 8“Keep away from me, Lord, for I’m only a sinful man!”  (Luke 5:8)

Like everything else that the Almighty orchestrates here on spaceship earth, there was a purpose in all of this.  Jesus reassured the shaken fisherman with these words:

10“Don’t be afraid, Simon. From now on your catch will be men.” (Luke 5:10).

And so, from that day forward Simon Barjona, the professional fisherman, became Peter – the fisher of men.  His commitment to follow the Liberator Jesus would now be absolute.  The scriptures tell us that he and his business partners:

11 “…brought the boats ashore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11)

I’m sure that Simon Peter & Company had no idea how incredible the next three years of adventure would turn out to be, nor that they would be a part of a movement that would change the course of human history.

Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men, just the keepers of the aquarium.” ― Paul Harvey

This was not the only seafaring escapade that Peter shared with Jesus.  Here’s an account of another adventure, recorded in the Newer Testament:

24 “Night fell, and out on the lake the disciples were in trouble. For the wind had risen and they were fighting heavy seas. 

25 About four o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the (surface of the) water! 26 They screamed in terror, for they thought he was a ghost.

27 But Jesus immediately spoke to them, reassuring them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said.

28 Then Peter called to him: “Sir, if it is really you, tell me to come over to you, walking on the water.”

29 “All right,” the Jesus said, “come along!”

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and rescued him. “O man of little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 And when they had climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

33 The others sat there, awestruck. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.  (Matthew 14:24-33 – TLB)

It’s the fourth watch of the night (between 3 A.M. and 6 A.M) and Team Jesus is in trouble.  They are all on a boat, attempting to cross the Sea of Galilee, when a fierce storm arises.  Fighting a strong headwind and hammering waves, fear for their lives now grips them.  Without warning, they see what looks like a man calmly walking on the water toward the boat.  They freaked.  Wouldn’t you?  “It’s a ghost” they screamed.  But the “ghost” was none other than the Master – Jesus.  He tells them not to be afraid.

Have you ever done anything impulsive?  No?  Don’t be a liar.  We all have.  Simon Peter was habitually impulsive.  So of course he was the first to speak out, “Sir, if it is really you, tell me to come over to you, walking on the water.”  So Jesus told him to have at it.

Now, I will say this for Simon Peter, he showed a willingness to attempt the humanly impossible.  He put his big number 10’s overboard and began to walk toward the Liberator Jesus.  Let’s put that another way; by faith, Peter did the impossible – he walked on the water!

But then something happened.  He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to weigh the circumstances.  Let’s see, howling wind, crashing waves, not to mention people don’t walk on water; Yikes.  Simon Peter panicked and began to sink into the tempestuous sea.  What would you do next?  Exactly. “HELP, save me”! (Matthew 14:30).

Jesus reaches out to Peter and He grabs his arm in a firm grip. Next Jesus yells at him for attempting the impossible, calling him stupid.  Sorry, that is not what happened.  Instead Jesus reprimands him for entertaining distrust; “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

The lesson here is simple; absolute faith in the supernatural power available through our relationship with the Creator of all things means that nothing is impossible in your life.  That does not mean that everything your little heart desires is now possible.  What it does mean is that the impossible is always possible.  You will have to ponder that one on your own; I am not going to do all of your thinking for you.

Every example in the Gospels where God shows up, it’s always when the seas are the stormiest, where there is discontinuity.” ― Clark Durant
Listen to me, you may never find yourself on the windswept Sea of Galilee, stepping out of a boat, braving the waves of a roiling sea to walk on the water.  But you will be faced with many challenges that are just as terrifying and froth with danger.   Whenever we take a stand for the ways of our Creator, life can quickly shift against the current of popular cultures, our neighbors and even our families.  You must decide if your commitment to the one true God and His Liberator Jesus are worth “leaving everything to follow him.”

Peter was just a simple fisherman.  But, he was willing to surrender all to follow the Liberator Jesus.  As a result, the Spirit of the Almighty re-purposed him into a fisher of men. Today that same Spirit is calling men and women everywhere to spread the good news of redemption to a lost and rapidly dying world system.  If you say yes to the Liberator Jesus, you too become his fishers of men and women. There is no greater privilege here on the earth.  Just ask Peter.

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
We do not understand the intricate pattern of the stars in their courses, but we know that He who created them does, and that just as surely as He guides them, He is charting a safe course for us.” ― Billy Graham

What would it be like if we were all born with a detailed life map encoded into the little grey cells of our consciousness?  Imagine yourself actually perceiving with the mind’s eye every detail of your life from birth to death – in advance!  How cool would that be?

Want to know what you will be doing a year from now?  Not a problem, consult the life map.  Wondering if you will ever get married?  Again, just access your life map to find the answer.  Talk about the ultimate neural network interface.  Nothing will ever take you by surprise.  How awesome!

But, not so fast.  Here’s the caveat:  You would have access to every moment by moment detail of your life, but you would not be able change a thing.  Your personal life map would simply chart every triumph, pit fall, joy, pain, success and failure that you will ever experience along life’s way, but it’s read only – knowledge without any control.  Are you still keen on that idea?

Many years ago, as a young man in search of the truth, I once prayed, “O’ God, please, show me your will for my whole lifetime.”  I thought it was a noble request.  Why stumble around, making mistake after mistake, trying to discover and live my Divine purpose?   I’ll just ask the Almighty to map it all out for me in advance.  With my own personal life map in hand, I’ll simply follow the plan.  Have you ever prayed anything like that?  Thought about it, maybe?

Deep inside, I think we all would like God to be upfront and spit out the nitty-gritty details of our destiny here on spaceship earth.  “I want to follow you Liberator Jesus, but please let me see everything you have planned for my life so I can make an informed decision.”   You know what I think?  If our Creator ever agreed to show us our life map, and we saw all of its darker moments in advance, we’d opt to take a pass on this journey altogether!   “Thank you God, but, I saw some real yucky things in my life so… I’ll just pass on this whole deal.”  Like it or not, everyday life is a walk in the unknown.  Every step is a revelation.  It requires a natural faith to live out each day.

The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life… Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction… A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port.” Thomas S. Monson

It’s the same when it comes to following the Liberator Jesus.  Genuine Christianity is a calling – not a religion.  If you hear the Creator’s voice, and he offers you an invitation to come aboard the great ship Redemption, there are only two ways you can respond to that call – yes or no.

“But I want to know all about the voyage first; weigh my options and then decide if I am comfortable with following this Jesus and God’s ways.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  To come aboard this ship, you have to first say “yes” to Captain Jesus.  This requires an act of faith on your part as you will now weigh anchor and sail life’s uncharted waters with the Creator Himself.

In the Newer Testament letter to the Hebrews we find this definition of faith:

1-3Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old. And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God’s command—that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 PHILLIPS)

When the ocean fog is rolling in thick and we can hardly see through the gloom, it is by faith that we learn to place our absolute confidence in that which we cannot easily grasp.  But remember, even though faith is trusting in what we cannot see, it is never blind.  The eyes of faith can look beyond the limitations of the human experience. They fix their gaze upon the Liberator Jesus, “the author and the finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)  The Newer Testament writer Paul put it this way,

18 “So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”  (2 Cor. 4:18 TLB)

The eyes of faith can peer into the realm of the Almighty. They see things which, at present, may be non-existent here on spaceship earth, and yet they see those nonexistent things as if they already were a reality.

How?  Now you ask of mysteries.  Grasp this if you can; faith is reality.  It gives substance to our hopes and acts as the evidence of what, at least at this moment, cannot be seen with natural eyes.

By faith we enter the regatta (race) that is set before us. And, it is faith which enables us to stay true to the appointed course as we endeavor to finish our race with patient endurance. Swiftly, steadily, the winds of faith move us forward.  By faith we avoid obstacles and if necessary, even move mountains.  By faith our lives are spent in the service of the Almighty and as a result, we fulfill our destiny.

Seeing that a Divine Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, one who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.” John Calvin

By the way, that life map we spoke of earlier really does exist, but only the Creator can see every detail in advance.  Thankfully, we have an otherworldly pilot living inside of us called the Holy Spirit.  He lets us grasp what we need to understand on this amazing voyage of adventure whenever it suits the Divine purpose and serves as our navigator in this life.

And on that note, anchors aweigh my friends; be there glassy seas or squalls on the horizon, steady as she goes. With our life compass set by the indwelling Spirit of our Creator, we’re on our way home.  Ahoy mates!

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
If God doesn’t soon bring judgment upon America, He’ll have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” – Ruth Graham 

It seems to me dear reader that, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, “Times they are a changing”.  But, many of the cultural shifts may not necessarily be for the better.  Now, I’m not one of those people who whine about how much we’ve lost since “the good old days.”  No sir, every generation has faced difficulties, struggles and uncertainties.  Still, something is very different in this most disturbing hour here on Spaceship earth.  Our societies are devolving at an accelerated pace and becoming what the Biblical writers would call “a wicked and perverse generation” controlled by “a brood of vipers.”

You doubt me?  Let’s talk.

In the USA, we kill thousands of tiny preborn human beings every day with impunity; giving no regard to their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”   If you dare question this practice you are usually met by a screaming horde of feminists and assorted liberal whines that defend the practice under the ruse of “choice” and “freedom over my body.”

And what about all of this gender confusion.  Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl?  Maybe you should enroll in an anatomy class.  Frankly, young man, I do not care what sex you “identify” with today, you do not belong in a restroom with my daughter.  Transgender rights?  You can label it anything you like.  I’m sticking with the old word – perversion.  What ever happened to the societal practice of passing sound judgment upon the goodness or badness of human action and character (i.e.: moral scrutiny)?  I guess that responsibility was usurped by freaks and the lunatic fringe after we started deportation proceedings against Almighty God and began electing valueless and spineless politicians to rule our land (with a few notable exceptions, of course).

Children are murdering their parents and one another.  In some cities, law and order is despised. Racism is the new catchphrase to justify certain antisocial and criminal behaviors.  Wicked and perverse practices are now deemed acceptable while Christians are routinely abused, smeared and in some cases utterly reviled – right here in the USA.  Need I go on?

Ladies and Gentleman:  Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.

He that becomes protector of evil shall surely become its prisoner.” ― Augustine of Hippo

Why the correlation to these extinct Biblical metropoleis? That’s a fair question. Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with unrepentant social depravity. They also represent the outcome of such societies – sudden collapse and destruction.

The Bible’s Newer Testament writer Peter once made this cogent observation:

5“And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. Later, God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment” – 2 Peter 2:5-9 – NLT

Referenced in this ancient text is a man called Lot. He was a righteous person living in a wicked city. The relentless depravity he experienced as a citizen of Sodom really stressed him out. I can commiserate. There are no shortages of “spiritual and social agonies” in my neck of the woods either. But truthfully, I also find it rather exciting to be alive at this moment in time. The decline and fall of a civilization doesn’t happen every day and, here we are with front row seats!

Some of my friends and colleagues get a bit irritated with me because I am not perpetually foaming at the mouth over the condition of the world. To what end? The world is what it is. I do pray for my nation regularly, but I have also read the back of the book (Bible). Depravity and the eventual decline and collapse of humanity has been predicted for thousands of years. My perpetual anxiety over the condition of the fallen human race would fix nothing. Instead, the constant irritation would just steal my joy and depress me.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr

Of course, I take the dictates of my Christian faith as serious as a heart attack. I am not ashamed to speak the truth that I have learned from the scriptures whenever possible and prudent. If you are a regular reader, you already know that. Swimming against the tide of popular culture has become for me an Olympic sport. But, like Noah, I am also quietly preparing my ark and waiting for the dreadful storm to begin.

The Liberator Jesus also made reference to the times of Noah on his visit to the earth. Here is what he said,

37“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man, comes.” – Matthew 24:37-39

As in the days of Noah, the warning signs are everywhere today but people simply refuse to believe them. The “preachers of righteousness” are routinely mocked, scorned, despised and rejected. It’s a “new awakening”.  Out with the old ways; welcome the new world order and (soon) a one world government.  Such an amazing deception as the rank and file of our society slowly succumbs to an unquestioned belief in a “new age” philosophy.  In so doing, the propaganda of an anti-Christ whose spirit has long been at work in the world continues to spread.   This too was predicted nearly 2000 years go in the ancient scriptures:

1, 3-4 “… And now, what about the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ? …For that day will not come until two things happen: first, there will be a time of great rebellion against God, and then the man of rebellion himself will come—the son of hell. He will defy every god there is and tear down every other object of adoration and worship. He will go in and sit as God in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.

9-12 …This man of sin will come as Satan’s tool, full of satanic power, and will trick everyone with strange demonstrations, and will do great miracles. 10 He will completely fool those who are on their way to hell because they have said no to the Truth; they have refused to believe it and love it and let it save them, 11 so God will allow them to believe lies with all their hearts, 12 and all of them will be justly judged for believing falsehood, refusing the Truth, and enjoying their sins.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3-4, 9-12

I for one do not really care what happens to this planet as a whole.   This world is not my home; just passing through folks.  My true concern is for the people who are blindly wandering the decks of spaceship earth in search of the true meaning of existence.  The secular education establishment, news media, social media, entertainment industry and liberalized religions are all doing their best to sow the seeds of destruction.  I want to spend my time reaching out to this doomed and dying world with a message about God’s love and His liberating grace toward mankind.

When the Liberator Jesus first visited our earth, He made the scandalous claim that He was the emissary of God.  His mission: liberate the doomed and stranded human race.  Here is something straight from his lips that our politically correct society really hates:   

“I am the Way – yes, and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father (GOD) except by means of me.” – John 14:6

Yikes – so much for religious diversity.  How insensitive and intolerant.  Jesus was a BIGOT!

I agree. The unvarnished message of the Christian faith is offensive and radical to a lot of people. Perhaps this is why so many of our present-day mainstream denominational churches seem to care little about spreading the real message of the Liberator Jesus.  Churchianity has replaced genuine Christianity in our culture. The power of a simple faith in the Almighty One is now diluted and in some respects made ineffectual by religious traditions.  Some postmodern churches are so busy trying to be culturally relevant that they have become evangelically impotent.

Jesus never asked me to give to an organization the kind of exclusive devotion he demands from his disciples. Over and over, Jesus calls people to himself – out of the church, the culture, the economy, and the family.”Michael Spencer

The Liberator Jesus said “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life” (John 14:6).  How much clearer does his message have to be stated?  He is THE way to God. He delivered THE absolute Truth when he visited earth embodied in human form.  He alone can give passage to THE infinite life beyond this time space continuum to those who put their trust in him.  It baffles me how such a plain and simple statement can be so misrepresented and misunderstood – especially among the supposed Christian population.

It comes down to this: do you want the freedom and the life that only the Creator of all things – your creator – (God) can give to you? Then you must decide if you believe what Jesus said. He made the bold (and to some infuriatingly intolerant) assertion that there is only one pathway to the one true God and he is that pathway.  Like it or not, Jesus alone controls the power to set you free from the grip of your corrupt nature.

Apostate Clergy, Godless governments and the countless New Age gurus are useless when it comes to freeing a doomed human spirit.  There is but one solution to escape condemnation – the Liberator Jesus and the message that He came to share.

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 –

Here is what I know for sure, God has anchored my drifting heart to Himself through the message and the mission of the Liberator Jesus. He has shown me the way out from under the weight (vicious circle) of man-made religion and its laws.  In the message of Jesus, I have found a new “spiritual principle of life”. I know that my right standing with God results from His love for me – not my good behavior.  I am no longer a prisoner of my fallen nature.  That malevolent side of me is still lurking deep inside but the Holy Spirit (who now lives within me) has control and His power unfettered my once wicked soul.   As long as I continue to walk in harmony with that Holy Spirit within, my wicked nature is kept in check and if I stumble he picks me up and forgives me.  I can do all things because His spirit living within my human spirit empowers me.

Judgement will eventually come to our modern Sodom.  I’m not worried.  Like Lot, I plan to “flee the city” before that great and terrible day of the Lord.  How about you?

14-15 “And if no one will welcome you or even listen to what you have to say, leave that house or town, and once outside it shake off the dust of that place from your feet. Believe me, Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better in the Day of Judgment than that town.” ― Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 10:14-15)

Almighty God, I have many friends who long to know honest, untainted truth. Some have been confused, hurt and angered by the conflicting messages of organized religion. Others struggling with misconception, somehow just got lost. I understand their frustration. I too walked away from you for a season in the prodigal days of my youth.  Please help my friends to see that you are calling them to get to know you. Show them that this is not about joining a religion or embarking on a new church experience. You want a relationship with them.  Thank you for touching their lives somehow, someway. I ask these things in the name of my redeemer – the 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
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and is as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” ― Thomas Jefferson  ―

I suppose I’m a bit of a rebel. Some say it’s in my genes. Actually, I can be rebellious in dress trousers too. (Insert groan here). Nonconformity just comes natural to me. I’m not a very good Jack in the Box.

Perhaps I should define my use of the term rebel, lest you think that it only applies to nefarious reprobates.  By simple definition a Rebel is someone who resists or defies authority or convention. Since I tend to obey the law of the land, you will rarely, if ever, find me in open defiance of duly constituted authority. I often disagree with the policies of government, but I’m not a radical militant.

I am however an iconoclast (look that one up in your Funk & Wagnalls); a freethinker who often questions the status quo. That would make me an intellectual and spiritual rebel. I’m in good company. Take Martin Luther as an example. This rebellious reformer from the 1500’s got in the face of some pretty powerful people. He took on the religious establishment of his time. And, they didn’t like it; called him a subversive. Really, he was just another rebel with a cause.

History is replete with its illustrious and infamous rogues and rebels. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few. Names like: Alexander the Great, Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Herod, Nero, Cleopatra, William the Conqueror, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and of course the biblical cast of characters like Peter, James, John and Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.

Saint and sinner alike can be found on the list. Visionaries, revolutionaries, and creative thinkers mixed with tyrants, maniacs, scoundrels and scallywags. They all have one thing in common; for better or worse, somewhere along the way they defied convention, broke the rules, took a leap of faith, and in the end made a difference that rocked their world. That’s what rogues and rebels do.

The whole world loves a maverick and the whole world wants the maverick to achieve something nobler than simple rebellion.” ― Kevin Patterson

So again, I too am a rebel and even a tad of a rogue. Friends and family gave me the nickname “Maverick” decades ago. I have tried not to disappoint them. I ask lots of questions and sometimes reject the conventional patterns of society in favor of my deeply held values. I also question blind allegiance to religions. Faithfulness and loyalty to a “cause” requires understanding and insight. Genuine faith says, “I know in whom I have believed.” I believe in GOD.   And yet, I even question Him sometimes. Not in an arrogant, disrespectful or unbelieving way. I merely follow His invitation to be inquisitive. Here is what the Spirit of the Almighty said,

“Call on Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden things, which you do not know (and do not distinguish and recognize, or have knowledge of and understand).” (Jeremiah 33:3 Amplified)

So, that’s what I do. I ask the Creator of all things for His knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

When the liberator Jesus visited the planet, He was quite a rebel Himself. His words were considered subversive as he wandered about challenging the religious authorities and their customs. It’s not a great stretch to say that He bucked the system. Here’s just one example,

12-17 “Jesus, accompanied by his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there a few days. The Jewish Passover was approaching and Jesus made the journey up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he discovered cattle and sheep dealers and pigeon-sellers, as well as money-changers sitting at their tables. So he made a rough whip out of rope and drove the whole lot of them, sheep and cattle as well, out of the Temple. He sent the coins of the money-changers flying and turned their tables upside down. Then he said to the pigeon-dealers, “Take those things out of here. Don’t you dare turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:15-17 Phillips)

Wow. Beating up on people with a rope and throwing their stuff all over the place? Jesus was a Holy Rebel indeed. Imagine if he were here today and behaved as the writer John describes. The powers that be would accuse Him of having an impulse control issue. Most likely Intermittent Explosive Disorder which psychologists define as episodes of aggressive outbursts resulting in either destruction of property or physical assaults on others. Ship him right off to the asylum, they would. Listen to what happened when they wanted to know who gave him the right to act the way he did:

1-2 “One day as he was teaching the people in the Temple, and preaching the Gospel to them, the chief priests, the scribes and elders confronted him in a body and asked him this direct question, “Tell us by whose authority you act as you do—who gave you such authority?” 3-4 “I have a question for you, too,” replied Jesus. “John’s baptism, now—tell me, did it come from Heaven or was it purely human?” 5-7 At this they began arguing with each other, saying, “If we say, ‘from Heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe in him?’ but if we say it was purely human, this mob will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they replied that they did not know where it came from. “Then,” returned Jesus, “neither will I tell you by what authority I do what I am doing.” (Luke 20:1-8 Phillips)

Is it any wonder that the religious establishment hated him? Jesus was so real, genuine, and germane to everyday life. That’s why the common people loved Him. He was brutally honest and yet tender, loving and filled with compassion. This radical revolutionary was on a mission from God. He often broke the rules of religion and yet he was himself true justice mixed with grace. In life He lived as a revolutionary and they put him to death as a rebel.

Today, Jesus would be considered a rebel, if not a terrorist, and definitely a threat to the establishment and the status quo ~ as he most certainly was 2000 years ago.” Allen L Roland, PhD

Religious jealousy and hatred toward the message He brought to mankind eventually turned to false accusation and indefensible murder. As Jesus hung on the executioners cross, our brokenness reached deep within His divine spirit. Creation was now inside the dying bosom of her creator. Gasping out his final human breaths the Savior cries,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)

The Rebel Jesus identified with all who were forsaken as he died a criminal’s death. Elohim – the Creator and Judge of the universe – experienced our hell, and felt the wrath of Almighty justice toward this lost and doomed world. For a few horrific moments, He experienced the revulsion of a total disconnect from the source of true life so that we would no longer have to live in that state of separation.

And then, placing His spirit into the hands of an otherworldly Father, the physical Jesus died. In that solemn, sacred, blessed moment, every struggle, every valley, every circumstance of human existence was corrected and justified.

Welcome to the Order of the Holy Rebels. We are the waifs and strays who follow that marvelous incarnate Liberator who once came to the earth from a place known to us only as heaven. Daily we struggle to follow His instructions as we “work out the salvation that God has given to us with a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (Philippians 2:12). Care to join us? Membership is free and among us you will always be safe to share your individual fears, disappointments and pressing concerns. We will laugh with you, we will cry with you, we will pray with you and, I promise you, one day we will understand it all.

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
What do you mean, Phib?” asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little mirror, where, like most of us, she saw – not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image held in her own brain.” ― Charles Dickens ―

I recently came across some research conducted a number of years ago at the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University. It appears that 1,200 children ranging in age from 2 to 17 took part in an “honesty” test. The study concluded that only about 20 percent of the 2-year-olds were able to tell a lie. But by age 4, 90 percent were capable of cognitive dishonesty. Deceitfulness reached a peek at age 12 according to these researchers.

In another study conducted in 2002 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, researchers found that 60 percent of adults lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and most spoke an average of two or three lies in that time frame. The data suggests that while men and women lie about different things, the quantity of their “fibs” was about the same. I could quote from dozens of additional research studies, but in the end we would reach this simple conclusion; we are all big, fat liars. Not necessary compulsive deceivers. But in the strictest sense, even embellishing a story just a bit is considered deceitful by some. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Of course, we don’t like to think of ourselves as a liar; that kind of transparency bruises our self-esteem. So, we lie to ourselves about that too. Even you pillars of conversational truthfulness may be living a life oblivious to the lies we tell ourselves.

Every lie is really two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it.” ― Robert Brault

By definition, lying means: “to express what is false or to convey a false impression.”  Examples of “self-deception” might include a husband who is lying to himself as he ignores the obvious signs that his wife is carrying on with another man or, an alcoholic who is lying to himself as he seeks to reassure family and friends that his excessive drinking is completely under control. What about you? Do any of these lies sound familiar to you?

Lie #1: “I am not a judgmental person.”

Sorry, we are all judgmental. Researchers have discovered that on average we take less than a second to form preliminary judgments. It’s just how we are wired. Not all forms of judgment are bad. Sound judgment is a balanced process of evaluation ending with well-considered conclusions. On the other hand, judgmentalism is emotional reasoning with only superficial evaluations ending in snap decisions.

I like what the late reggae singer Bob Marley once said,

“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect – and I don’t live to be – but before you start pointing fingers…make sure your hands are clean!”

For all of my bible touting fundamentalist friends now upset with me for quoting a Rastafarian, the New Testament writer James put it this way,

11-12 “Never rip each other to pieces, my brothers. If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticize the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbor’s judge?” (James 4:11-12 – Phillips)

Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone”. In other words, if you aren’t perfect, stop judging my imperfections (believe me, I have not forgotten them).

I am politically incorrect, that’s true. Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism. I find that really scary, and I won’t be intimidated into changing my mind. Everyone isn’t going to love you all the time.” ― Mel Gibson

Lie #2: “It is ‘politically incorrect’ or ‘insensitive’ to take a strong stand for what you believe in.”

By widely held definition, Political Correctness is an attitude or policy whereby we do not offend or upset any group of people in a society who are believed to have a disadvantage or differing point of view. In the USA, political correctness is most frequently embraced by pseudointellectuals who use this premise to infringe upon the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion and speech. There will always be people with whom you disagree. Never allow them to shame you into silence and submission under the ruse of not offending or upsetting another group of people in society. Blind subservience will always compromise your good judgment.

Can you imagine if the Newer Testament writer Paul were alive today? What would he say around the PC crowd? Do you think he would tell his followers to tone down the rhetoric because the Gospel might offend someone? I don’t think so. Listen to what he actually said,

16-17  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes it, both Jew and Greek. I see in it God’s plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says: ‘the just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:16-17 – Phillips)

Politically Correct? Not so much. But it is the truth. Remember, “…God is always true even if every man lies.” The Holy Writings say, “Speak the truth and you will not be proven wrong.” (Romans 3:4)

You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself.” ― W. Clement Stone

Lie #3: “I have no choice, this is just who I am.”

Do you really believe that? We always have a choice – even if it’s only a choice to control our own attitude. But I admit, it’s much easier (and less painful) to place blame on someone or something rather than to accept personal responsibility. Life is all about choices.  There is no such thing as doing nothing. A failure to make a choice is in itself a choice. In the end, the sum of your existence here on earth is the outcome of all the choices you make, whether intentional or by default.

Even our religious faith is a choice. Christianity teaches that Jesus opened a door for us to return to our Creator through trust. Actually, faith (which is absolute trust) is both a choice and a gift. Failure to understand that faith is a choice will lead to self-righteousness. But, if we forget that faith is also a gift, we will live in fear; trying to earn God’s blessing instead of joyously accepting His Amazing Grace.

I like what the Older Testament Prophet Joshua wrote in the scriptures,

15 “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will choose to serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Absolute trust in the gift of God’s grace is the single most important choice you could ever make.   Choose to love God and He chooses to show you His love. And nothing – sickness, sorrow, oppression, failure, hostilities, or even your own death – can take that love away.

And so my fellow liars; let’s all get a grip. “There are none as blind as those who will not see”. The most deluded people on earth are those who choose to ignore what they already know. At worst, lying to ourselves can destroy us. At best, it makes life much more difficult. What other lies do you tell yourself? Think about it.

Oh, and I have one more tall tale to share. Consider this the bonus lie:

Lie #4: “I’m just fine. I don’t need to believe in a God. I know what is best for me.”

Sure you do, my friend. Sure you do.  Just keep telling yourself that and let me know how well it’s working.  I’d like to tell you that you might be right, but I’m trying to cut back on the lies.

Peace!

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