Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.Bishop Robert South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk to the one who made us:

Almighty Creator God, I ask you to speak to the spirit of those who now have ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart ready to understand.  Silence the pounding of their tell-tale heart as you show them the Liberator Jesus who is standing invisible in another dimension (the spirit world), and yet with arms wide open He is ready to welcome them.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  Help the chosen say YES, to the invitation from the Liberator Jesus to follow Him, and to put their faith in his rescue mission on spaceship earth.  Thank you Divine Father.  Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”  Benjamin Rush (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask for no more out of life.”  ― Henry Fielding ―

I would like to tell you an inspirational story that I heard many years ago.  The main characters are a successful, well-educated, somewhat self-centered American investment banker and a simple village fisherman.  This little story helped me to decide that it was time to slow down, reevaluate my priorities, and live my life with joy – no matter what the circumstances.  This is a tale of a life well lived.

One day a well-to-do businessman was on vacation in a small coastal Mexican village.  He was standing at the pier about mid-day when a little boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his catch.

“How long did it take you to hook them?” The businessman asked.

“Only a little while.” The fisherman replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The businessman then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs and some extra to share with my friends.” The fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late when I want too, fish a little when I need too, play with my children, take a daily siesta with my beautiful wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip some wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a very full and busy life, señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “Busy life? I am a Harvard MBA”, he said, “and I could really help you”.

To which the fisherman replied, “Help me señor”?

“Yes, help you”, snapped the businessman.  “First, you should spend much more of your time fishing so that you can sell all the fish you do not need.  With the excess profits you can buy a much bigger boat. With the increased earnings from the bigger boat you could then buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the fish processors and eventually open your own cannery. You would then control the product, processing and distribution. Of course, you would eventually need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move first to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman then asked, “But señor, how long will all of this take?”

To which the businessman replied, “About 15-20 years of long hours and hard work, stress and sacrifice.”

The fisherman then asked, “But what then, señor?”

The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions of dollars.”

“Millions of dollars, señor? Then what?”  Said the fisherman.

The businessman replied, “Then you would gather up all of your money and retire!”

“Retire señor? And what would I do when I retire?” Asked the fisherman with a smile.

The business man exclaimed, “Enjoy your life, man! You will move to a small coastal fishing village where you would get to sleep late, leisurely fish for a little while each day, play with your grand-kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip fine wine and play your guitar with all your amigos.”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “But señor, I already have this life. That is what I’m doing right now.”

And that’s when the businessman’s voice grew silent.

– Author Unknown –

Over the many years since I first read this inspiring text, I have stumbled upon many variations of the story. Most versions feature a lone fisherman who lives in a tranquil little village. He owns a small boat (his business) and enjoys a simple life. In short, he personifies a life well lived.

The fisherman has a definite understanding of what it means to be content. He doesn’t see the simple life as unrewarding or insignificant. On the contrary, he explains to the success driven businessman, “I have a very full and busy life.” And he defines his view of “full and busy” like this,

“I sleep late when I want too, fish a little when I need too, play with my children, take a daily siesta with my beautiful wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip some wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a very full and busy life, señor.”

Idealism? For sure. But very instructive. You see, the fisherman’s satisfaction appears to flow from living a balanced life. He works to meet his needs but he also values his relationships and cherishes his commitment to family, friends and community.

My main job is to live with deep contentment, joy, and confidence in my everyday experience of life with God. Everything else is job number two.” ― John Ortberg

In contrast, the businessman seems wise in his own conceit. “I am a Harvard MBA”, he boasts, “I can help you”. Mr. Overdrive appears to be motivated by a desire to accumulate wealth. Ironically, the goal of his empire building mindset is to secure for some future time what the fisherman already enjoyed—a simple and relaxed life. In his blind arrogance he seems to have forgotten that God alone owns the future. It reminds me of a story in the Newer Testament that Jesus shared.

15 …Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.

16-19Then he told them this story: The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: “What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.” Then he said, “Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself – you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. I’ll take it easy and have the time of my life!”

20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barn full of goods—who gets it?’ 21 That’s what happens when you fill your barn with self and not with God. (Luke 12:15-21 MSG)

In this parable we are introduced to a rich farmer who thought he had it made. He was very successful. In his way of looking at life, it was time to kick back, relax, and have the time of his life!  Not so fast. God showed up and called the man a fool. “Tonight you die.” He said.  “And your barn full of goods—who gets it?”

You see, the present is all we really have. Just think about the people who will die unexpectedly today. In spite of all of their plans, wealth, success, etc., etc., they no longer have a future here on spaceship earth. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow – no one!

Please do not misunderstand the purpose of my discourse today. Wise planning is good. Hard work is virtuous and necessary in this lifetime. Success can be a wonderful experience. Money isn’t necessarily bad either (it’s the love of money that is at the root of evil – not the money). But, when we become so future-oriented and success driven that we lose sight of living in the moment, life begins to lose significance.  That’s what happens when your life is mostly about self-interests without attentiveness to the things that please our Creator.

It’s the weight that you carry from the things you think you want. I got everything I need and nothing that I don’t” – Zac Brown Band

I’m not suggesting that we should all run off to a small coastal fishing village and live slow, simple lives (although, personally, I sometimes find the thought of doing so to be very appealing). We should, however, learn to be content in the life that we have right now – even if our present state of affairs are sometimes less than desirable. One of the Newer Testament writers, Paul, put it like this,

11b-13I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me. (Philippians 4:10-13 – PHILLIPS)

Did he say contentment no matter what the circumstance? Yes, he did. Good days or bad days. Highs or lows. Happy or sad. Contentment is the key to a life well lived. Our friend Paul learned this lesson well. In another Newer Testament letter he told his friend Timothy,

6-8There is a real profit, of course, but it comes only to those who live contentedly as God would have them live. We brought absolutely nothing with us when we entered the world and we can be sure we shall take absolutely nothing with us when we leave it. Surely then, as far as physical things are concerned, it is sufficient for us to keep our bodies fed and clothed.

9-10For men who set their hearts on being wealthy expose themselves to temptation. They fall into one of the world’s traps, and lay themselves open to all sorts of silly and wicked desires, which are quite capable of utterly ruining and destroying their souls. For loving money leads to all kinds of evil, and some men in the struggle to be rich have lost their faith and caused themselves untold agonies of mind.

11-12But you, the man of God, keep clear of such things. Set your heart not on riches, but on goodness, Christ-likeness, faith, love, patience and humility. Fight the worthwhile battle of the faith, keep your grip on that life eternal to which you have been called, and to which you boldly professed your loyalty before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:6-12 – PHILLIPS)

Paul understood that a wealth driven success model does not lead to contentment. It is not wrong to be rich. A desire to succeed in our endeavors and better our material position in the world is not inherently evil. But extreme caution is advised as material success often leads to greed. It is always a mistake to place our trust in the uncertainty of riches (1 Timothy 6:17).

You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”   ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

So my friends, what do say we all chill out? Slow down. Smell those proverbial flowers. I don’t care how you say it – JUST DO IT!  Learn to be content with the knowledge that God knows exactly what is best for each of us and He has promised to provide whatever we need from His vast resources (Philippians 4:19).

Got it?  Excellent.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a small fishing boat to clean and later a few friends will be waiting for me in Tarpon Springs… and…

Okay, maybe not.

But, I am content!

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
It is possible to be highly educated and at the same time morally depraved.  There is, in fact, a certain kind of moral depravity that only the highly educated can attain, because it requires sophisticated skills of rationalization and self-deception.”  ― Iain W. Proven ―

Human depravity has been a subject of debate among philosophers and theologians ever since…well…ever since two of them wound up in the same room together in a conversation. In the simplest of terms, the basis of their doctrinal disagreements rest upon this question: Are people basically good or bad? Stay tuned kiddies – among these doctors of dogma, who populate philosophical ivory towers, the debate continues…

Meanwhile, on the streets of modern Sodom (where we live) with its pervasive humanistic “new age” culture, there is this generally accepted assumption that people are essentially good. Of course it is allowable to admit that “no one is perfect”. After all, it is only human to “err.” Sure, there are some really bad people who exhibit very “evil” tendencies but in spite of all the wickedness in the world, there is a “basic goodness” in every human life. In other words, evil does not penetrate to the core of the human spirit.  We are all capable of “self-improvements” and “higher planes of consciousness.”  This will lead to our greater goodness.

My theological term for these widely held beliefs is: Bovine Poopie

The Bible (perhaps the best book ever written on human nature) teaches that mankind is depraved (or corrupt) to the very core of our existence. Wickedness affects our mind, and our soul (will & emotions); even our physical body can suffer the consequences of human immorality.  By nature, every man, woman and child is predisposed to depravity.

While Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Jeffery Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, are all extreme examples of unbridled human depravity, racial and ethnic tensions, riots and looting in our streets, rape and murder in our communities, drug and alcohol addictions, sexual perverts, lying and cheating politicians, and corrupt and immoral clergy are also rooted in the human depravity problem.

Does this mean that humanity is incapable of producing good people? No, it does not. The capacity to do something virtuous and the condition of a depraved inner being (the human spirit) are two entirely different things.  Mankind is certainly capable of decent behavior, good deeds, and even outwardly upholding some portion of the “Divine Law”.  Nevertheless, we are all born with a flawed (depraved) human nature that can never meet the standard necessary to be truly pleasing to the faultless and Divine Creator of human life.  Depravity is first a spiritual problem.

The Biblical writer Paul put it this way in the Newer Testament of the Bible:

10 “As the Scriptures say, No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent. 11 No one has ever really followed God’s paths or even truly wanted to. 12 Every one has turned away; all have gone wrong. No one anywhere has kept on doing what is right; not one.” (Romans 3:10-12 – Living Bible)

Mankind has been weighed in the balance scales of a perfect God and we are all found malevolent. We are the walking dead – in trespasses and depravities (Ephesians 2:1); and our very nature predestines us to be the children of (God’s) wrath. (Ephesians 2:3). For my theologically minded friends, this is also known as the condition of spiritual death. Depravity goes part and parcel with human nature. We are all born with a “spiritual gene” that makes us bad to the bone.

I know what you’re thinking; “compared to some, I am a good person.” I understand.  You’ve never killed anyone. You consider yourself to be kind and compassionate. “Live and let live”, that’s your motto.  I believe you.  That was my mindset heretofore as well.  But, human depravity is not relative – it is absolute. Your behavior is irrelevant. Even one evil thought; one malignant intention, – acted upon or not – is proof of corruption’s seed in your very nature. 23 “Yes, all have transgressed; all have fallen short of God’s perfect ideal.” (Romans 3:23)

We lived depravity and called it truth, silencing our dreaming, and our love, discarding things holy.”  ― John Daniel Thieme

Charles H. Spurgeon was a gifted orator and prolific author. His sermons were said to hold his listeners spellbound at the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London where he was the Pastor for 38 years. He was also known for his outspoken opposition to the open-minded and matter-of-fact theological tendencies in the Church of his day. (Hello?) Here is an excerpt from one of his great discourses:

“There are some professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration; but, from my inmost heart, I loathe such speeches more and more every day that I live. Those who talk in such a boastful fashion must be constituted very differently from me. While they are congratulating themselves, I have to lie humbly at the foot of Christ’s Cross, and marvel that I am saved at all, for I know that I am saved. I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all—to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all—to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all considering what a polluted debased, depraved nature I find still within my soul, notwithstanding all that divine grace has done in me.”

“In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish that they might not do so, for it is a painful discovery for anyone to make; but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease from trusting in ourselves, and causing us to glory only in the Lord.”  – Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)

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

Far from being smug, Charles marveled at the wonder of his own rescue from depravity. I like his contrasts:

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

Me too, Charles, me too. Spurgeon laments that, “In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. “Some Christians never seem”, he said “to find this out”.  My God, my God, how true.  Could we all let that sink in for a moment? From the gutter-most to the uttermost – we are all depraved.

True gospel preaching always changes the heart. It either awakens it or hardens it.” ― Chan Kilgore

For me, life has been salted with generous amounts of affirmation (sometimes admiration) and peppered with many a flattering word.  I have regularly experienced the milk of human kindness.  To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed it.  Who wouldn’t?   But the longer I live, the more necessary I find it to explore the ugliness of my own depravity. I recognize the treachery in my heart (human nature) and my propensity for mischief. The duplicity inside of me exposes not only my appetite for self-indulgence but my ability to excuse it. Openly acknowledging that I will always struggle with this sin-nature is liberating. It reminds me that I am at the mercy of my Liberator (Jesus) every day and it makes me grateful for the grace that Almighty God has shown to me.

The Newer Testament writer Paul understood this very well. He said,

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

How is that for transparency? Here is the author of over half of the New Testament letters admitting that he looks at himself as being among the worst of men. He attributes his reformation to the mercy, grace, faith and love of God. In essence Paul says that the Liberator Jesus entered this world to rescue bad people like him. Where does that leave us? At best, we are all bad people in need of reclamation.

Paul also observed that it is human nature to know what is right and yet still do what is wrong.

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

In this never ending tug of war between right and wrong within us, here’s the million dollar question: who or what on this earth can set me free from the control of my corrupt (depraved) nature?  Can Religion?  Not a chance.  A popular preacher?  Sorry.  Self-help gurus?  Please. The Government?  Yea right, I know you’re not that stupid.  Freedom at the very core level of our human nature comes only through the Liberator Jesus who said that He alone was the way, the truth, and the life.  Listen to what the Newer Testament writer Peter said,

3-4 He gives us everything we need for life and for holy living. He gives it through His great power. As we come to know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His own shining-greatness and perfect life. Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh (corrupt human nature). (2 Peter 1:3-4 – NLV)

Herein rests the key: only when we share in the perfect nature of our Creator (his Spirit living within us) through our surrender to and trust in the Liberator Jesus can we experience true freedom.  This is how we escape the depravity of our fallen nature and the corruption that is at work in this world.

On his brief visit to the earth, Jesus offered liberty to all who would choose to follow him. Without that freedom, we are merely drifting toward the rocks of inevitable destruction. Jesus is still reaching out to us pathetic humans. Today he is extending a great opportunity to you. Call it a gift of hope.

Hope? That’s right. According to the scriptures, HOPE is the anchor of the human soul, fixed in the very certainty of the promises that Jesus made to all who believe in him. Promises like this one:

“You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away (from the earth) to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming back again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know the road I am going to take.” (John 14-1-4)

Now, remember, that same Jesus who said that He is the way, the truth and the life, also said that He is the road (pathway) that we must follow!

Can anyone say ROAD TRIP?  Let’s get going!!!

Great God of this universe, you alone know us for who we really are. Your great love for mankind was demonstrated when you sent the Liberator Jesus to implement your plan of rescue for the lost human population of this slowly dying planet. Please help my friends who seek a better way to be drawn to the hope that you offer today – the Liberator Jesus – one way, one truth, one life. I ask this in his 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
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Henry S. Haskins —

History is rife with the periodic destruction of accumulated human erudition. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, for instance, much of the Egyptian-Greco-Roman knowledge base was scattered or lost. The great archives at Alexandria were burned, pillaged and destroyed. And then, during the Middle-Ages, when Baghdad was considered a major intellectual center of the ancient world, the Mongols devastated their library. Scholars at the “House of Wisdom” (as it was called) had by then translated vast amounts of salvaged Greek and Roman scholarship into Arabic. This malicious destruction resulted in another major loss of written material. There are many more examples, of course.

Today, I find myself thinking about the profound impact that the world-wide web has had upon the storage and distribution of human knowledge. Some say that the modern information superhighway may even one day rival the great historical repositories of the past – if it survives.

When I was a growing up, a reliable source for quickly referencing trustworthy information on a wide variety of subjects was an encyclopedia. Some of my younger readers just said to themselves “encyclo…what?”

Basically, an encyclopedia was (and still is) a comprehensive collection of texts, photographs, illustrations, etc. This assemblage of knowledge was usually arranged in alphabetized printed volumes. If you wanted to research the Brazilian Amazon Rain Forrest, for example, you simply opened the “A”, “B” or “R” volume of the encyclopedia and referenced that subject. Today, of course, we have electronic versions of these classic works, including certain avant-garde varieties like Wikipedia.

With the advent of the internet and “search engines” it is now possible to explore practically any subject and read a bazillion differing viewpoints on that topic. However, I have found that many of the articles readily available online are filled with unsubstantiated rubbish. In preparing to write this composition on the subject of confidence, I decided to do a “search” of that word. The result? Contradictory information and sometimes laughable recommendations that could easily lead simple readers down the road to overwhelming confusion. The internet data base of “knowledge” seems to span the ridicules to the sublime.

So my friends, I shall now add my thoughts to this tangled electronic web of information. My subject today is CONFIDENCE.

Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. But they also have confidence and that is why they do not let these feelings stop them.” – Unknown

From a secular perspective, Confidence has been described by some as comfortable certainty. From what I have read, if we feel good about ourselves, have an appropriate level of self-esteem and believe in our own proficiencies, we are confident people. Okay. That sounds plausible.

Sometimes, confidence can be misinterpreted for arrogance and visa-versa. But, arrogance usually involves a condescending attitude toward others. Pompous, patronizing, superior, a legend in your own mind? You’re considered arrogant. Certain about the truth of what you know and who you are? That’s called Confidence.

And let’s not forget good old hubris which is typically a personality flaw found mostly in the rich and/or powerful who overestimate their individual capabilities or significance. The hubristic suffer, to some extent, a disconnection from reality; “thinking of themselves more highly than they should”. These folks are generally delusional. Hubris is also known as politician’s disease. Okay, I made that last one up.

A genuinely confident person is neither arrogant nor delusional (full of hubris). Confident people are however – decisive. They will, as the sayings go, put their money where their mouth is because, actions speak louder than words. Confidence can help us to convert our thoughts and ideas into actions in ways that far exceed the superficial of the daily grind.

You must not lose confidence in God because you lost confidence in a minister or religion.  If our confidence in God had to depend upon our confidence in any human person or institution we would be standing on shifting sand.” – Francis A Schaeffer

What about spiritual confidence? Now, don’t tune me out. I am a Christian, but I am not that stereotypical Bible thumper with the bad hair and dimples. I don’t sell Jordan River water, Holy Land prayer cloths or any other “Jesus Junk” on my website and I am not asking you for any financial support. Conversely, I have studied the Bible for 35+ years and I do have a PH.D in Theology (although I am not asking you to consider that as anything special either).

In my world view, confidence hinges more upon a deep and abiding faith in someone far greater than me and the inner freedom that comes from a clear conscience than it does on just trusting in myself. What has amazed me as a follower of the Liberator Jesus is not only the profound peace that comes from knowing I am free from any form of inner guilt and shame through my acceptance of His redemptive work, but also the tremendous confidence that I have developed because of the empowering message He came to spread while visiting this lost and slowly dying planet.

Listen to this quote from the Bible’s Newer Testament,

19 “Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 And even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him. 23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:19-23 – New Living Translation)

Let that first line sink in: our actions will reveal if we know the truth. I believe that means our actions do indeed speak louder than words. If we look at “truth” as being absolute – black is indeed black – than to know the truth would certainly help one find confidence. It really is that simple.

Anyone can claim “I believe”. But it will always be our actions that prove the legitimacy of such an assertion. Telling you that I can fly like a bird is meaningless if I won’t prove it by jumping off the roof.

I have so much confidence in the reality of Jesus that I feel no pressure to try to make people act or be a certain way. I’m banking everything on the fact that God actually changes people.” – Erwin McManus

I have put my absolute trust in the supremacy of the Almighty (God) who lives outside of the limitations of this (His) created world. As a result, my faith along with a clear conscience yields a confidence that sustains me in this life and it will carry me into that next dimension (with God) when my mortality has run its course. So again, real confidence is a product of a deep and abiding faith (or trust) in the Creator and a conscience that has been made free from guilt and shame.

Our conscience (which is also known as the voice of our human spirit) acts like a validation filter. It is what keeps us honest before God and with ourselves,

21 And, beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us [if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us], we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God.” (1 John 3:21- AMP)

It is this combination of faith and a clear conscience that produces the genuine confidence we all need. Faith says “God, I know you will keep your word to me and you will fulfill every promises you have ever made concerning me”. In a way, faith in itself is CONFIDENCE. Whenever there is an absence of genuine faith (trust in God) there is also an absence of true confidence.

Turning again to the Bible’s Newer Testament.

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 contemptuously aside (faith and a clear conscience) and, as far as their faith is concerned, have run their ships on the rocks. Hymenaeus and Alexander are men of this sort, and as a matter of fact I had to expel them from the Church to teach them not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18-20 – Phillips)

The writer, Paul, was about to give instructions to a Christian Minister named Timothy. But first, he reminded him of his heritage. “You were sent out to do battle on the side of what is right armed only with a clear conscience and your faith”, he told him. Next came this warning: some who have laid aside these simple weapons (faith and a clear conscience) and done so with contempt, end up a shipwreck. Here’s the take away: our confidence in the Almighty will run aground (become a shipwreck) when we fail to listen to the voice of our own human spirit (i.e. our conscience). But, if our heart (our conscience) does not accuse us – in other words, when our conscience is clear – we are full of confidence in both our relationship with the Almighty and in our human existence as we live out each day in accordance with His plan and purpose for our lives. To put it another way; keeping your little life boat afloat requires faith and a clear conscience.

Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends.” – Alphonsus Liguori

Now, here is the best part: when you have placed your absolute trust in that Spirit entity whom we simply refer to as God, and your conscience has been wiped clean of all guilt and shame by Him, prayer is natural and simple. And remember, prayer is nothing more than talking with the one who is able to do extremely and profusely more than we could ever ask of Him or even dream possible. Listen to this:

14-15 “We have such confidence in him that we are certain that he hears every request that is made in accord with his own plan. And since we know that he invariably gives his attention to our prayers, whatever they are about, we can be quite sure that our prayers will be answered.” (1 John 5:14 – Phillips)

That excites me; we can be quite sure that our prayers will be answered as long as they line up with His plan!

Have you had a heart to heart talk with the Divine Spirit today? Have you ever? Forget religion. This is not about the Church, the Mosque, the Synagogue, the Miao, Gong, or Tan. The Liberator Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). His visitation to our planet had but one purpose, “to seek and save that which has been lost” (Luke 19:10). The Creator wants to know you. Go ahead, ask Him about it. He will answer.  He has promised to answer.  We’ve got His word on it:

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you. And I will show you great and wonderful things which you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:3 – NLV)

May God bless you and show you just how much he loves you.

Είθε ο Θεός να σας ευλογεί και να σας δείξει πόσο πολύ σας αγαπά .

Eíthe o Theós na sas evlogeí kai na sas deíxei póso polý sas agapá.

Que Deus abençoe você e lhe mostre  o quanto ele te ama.

Che Dio vi benedica e vi mostrerà quanto ti ama .

Que Dios los bendiga y le mostrará lo mucho que te ama.

Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous montrer combien il vous aime.

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
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
Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.” – Unknown

Have you ever been conflicted? Divided on the inside? When we are conflicted, life can resemble a ride on the Kumba. For all of my non-Floridian friends, the Kumba is a rollercoaster located at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida. It stands 143 feet tall, travels at up to 60 miles per hour and features multiple inversions including a 114-foot-tall vertical loop, a dive loop, a cobra roll, a zero-g roll and two interlocking corkscrews. Ride the Kumba and you will experience upwards of 3.8 times the force of gravity. Okay, it’s not quite the vomit commit (look that one up yourself) but it will leave you a tad conflicted on the inside (if not severely nauseated).

Sometimes, I feel at odds with myself; churning up a mixture of opposing emotions within. It’s difficult enough dealing with the inevitable external conflicts in life. Being conflicted only compounds the daily warfare. In some respects, it’s like being in a personal tug of war. You are on both sides of the mud hole.   Any way you look at it YOU still lose. Ponder that for a while.

My Christian faith reminds me that emotions are, more often than not, unreliable. After all, our feelings are based upon perception. And while people may say that perception is reality; that cannot possibly be true. Why? Because perceived reality differs from person to person since we all see and interpret things differently.

I have an absolute faith in an unseen Creator. God is the definitive reality; I look to Him and not to my fleeting emotions. When I tell you that my trust is in the Almighty and Universal Spirit (God) – that trust is unconditional. Therefore, my perception of reality from moment to moment is irrelevant. No matter what appears “real” to my senses, I must look beyond perception and my immediate feelings. By faith, I can pierce the veil between the illusion of time and the “really real” of eternity. Through the eyes of my faith, I can see into the unseen world that controls this projection of reality that we all live in.

I know, some of you think I’m just plain crazy. Poor guy, he contemplates way too much. His religion has twisted his brain. Been in the mushrooms again. That’s fine. They thought Jesus was two fries short of a happy meal too, so who am I to complain about what you think.

When conflicted, we can behave as if we had two “selves” living within us. These “selves” are in a contest for control. It’s classic Jekyll and Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was a reserved, righteous and amenable man, while Mr. Hyde was indulgent, reprobate and hostile. In our case, one “self” may desires to improve by working harder, exercising more or finding a better job, but the other “self” would rather watch TV, hang out at the beach or drink beer while socializing with friends all day. Ah, which “self” will win in this contest?

Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast, and each will wrestle for the mastery there.” ― Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Now let’s get spiritual. The Newer Testament writer known as Paul was also conflicted sometimes. He wrote about it in a letter to the Christian community living in ancient Rome:

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

For Paul, “The Law” was not only reality, it was absolute truth. He wanted to obey the law. His mind knew that it was the right thing to do. But he was engaged in a continual inner “conflict”. On the one hand, Paul had made up his mind to be a willing disciple of the Creator. And yet, his corrupt human nature kept him in bondage to his reprehensible tendencies. Here we have this brilliant, dedicated Jewish scholar turned follower of the liberator Jesus caught in an inner tug of war that he describes as “an agonizing situation”. He asks this question, “…who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature?”

Who indeed. Happily, Paul new the answer to his own question. He said, “I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The universe is exquisitely balanced and every aspect and detail of this beautiful creation, you, me and everything else is perfectly vibrating in its proper and rightful place. For only when we lose faith and trust, and resist the natural flow and unfolding of this magnificent plan, do we experience pain, conflict and suffering.” – David Cunliffe

Perhaps you have read (or at least heard of) the mythological story of Odysseus. In Book 12 of the Odyssey, the goddess Circe warns Odysseus about the power of the Sirens; beguiling female cannibals who would lure unsuspecting mariners to their island of death with a mesmerizing song (temptation). Following Circe’s advice, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears with beeswax. He himself, curious to hear the Sirens song (temptation), orders the crew to tie him tightly to the mast and leave him bound no matter what. The voice of the Sirens, crying out to him, (temptation) proved stronger than his ability to resist. He became severely conflicted. Even though Odysseus knew how dangerous the Sirens were, he still begged to be released so that he might go to them – but his men did not comply. Restrained by the ropes (of his convictions), he was kept from the certain death that awaited both he and his crew as they approached and safely passed the island of enticement.

Like mythical Ulysses, Paul recognized that he could not resolve a conflicted heart on his own. He knew that our human nature is fatally flawed, and intrinsically given to wickedness. Utopian dreams of nirvana are just the folly of fools. We can only escape the corruption that is in this world through the single door to freedom that has been offered to mankind by the Creator himself. That door is the Liberator Jesus. He alone can free mankind from the clutches of our wicked nature – the conflicted human spirit. Another of the Newer Testament writers, Peter wrote:

3-4 He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one (the Divine Spirit) who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him (the Liberator Jesus) that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 – Phillips)

How cool is that? We can share in the very characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of the one who made us. Divine nature overriding human nature. That is the great mystery of the Christian faith. The spirit of the liberator Jesus dwelling inside of us provides all we need to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of this temporal life, and provides us with hope for our eventual transportation to a new world when this life is over. Plus, that same spirit helps us to resolve every conflict with which we struggle while in exile here on penal colony earth.

Look, I know that life is hard sometimes. But there are also many wonderful moments to be savored in our allotted time here on spaceship earth as well. Joy and happiness are likewise part of the human experience. Nevertheless, we will all find ourselves conflicted every now and then. When you want to laugh but you just have to cry.  When everything seems to be going crazy, your world is crumbling and you don’t know why; please remember these words from the inspired pen of the Newer Testament writer Paul,

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Conflicted sometimes? You bet I am. Worried? Not on your life. How about you?

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: InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.” – Ram Dass

For those old enough to remember the summer of 1967, you may recall the monumental telecast called Our World. It was the first ever live global television link. Over 400 million people in 25 countries watched the program which was broadcast live via satellite on the 25th of June. The British pop superstars known collectively as The Beatles were asked to write a song for this historical event. The result was titled, “All you need is Love”. The song had a very simple (if not repetitive) message; love is all you need. To put it another way; there is nothing you cannot do if you do it in love.

During that same summer of 1967, the hippie counterculture movement reached an apex in the United States as an estimated 100,000 people converged upon a neighborhood in San Francisco known as Haight-Ashbury. This human fondue of rock music, psychedelic drugs, unbridled creativity and uninhibited sexual and social behaviors put on an unforgettable spectacle. It had a profound effect on western societies worldwide as people began to question just about everything once defined as normal. Today, historians often refer to this societal phenomenon as the Summer of Love, and it is still considered a defining moment of the 1960s.

I think it’s safe to say that love has always been a pervasive topic among the human species. It is celebrated in the arts and entertainment, used as a social hammer and anvil and dragged through the mud of human insincerity ad nauseam. And yet, in all my life, I have never met anyone who really understood (let alone practiced) true unconditional love.

Can we talk?

Confession time: I’m really good at covetousness, lust and greed – love’s counterfeits. Occasionally, I have stumbled into a genuine expression of unadulterated love, and of course I expected a congressional medal of honor for such selfless acts. One thing I have learned about unconditional love; you will know it when you see it – it’s that rare.

You doubt me. Okay, let me ask you a question, how do you react when someone lets you down or fails to live up to your expectations? Thought so. Wish I had a dime for every time I have heard someone say, “If he/she really loved me…” This phrase is usually followed by a “condition”. Why not just say, “When you do and say what makes me happy, that will prove that you love me and then I will love you back.” Here’s the problem, I can’t seem to find that definition of love anywhere in the scriptures. What I do find is just the opposite. The Bible teaches us to take no account for how we are treated but instead to treat others the way you would like them to treat us. (Luke 6:31)  In fact, Jesus put it this way,

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:43-48 – The Message)

Listen, there is no excuse for those who are abusive, callous, cruel, or unfaithful in relationships. Sometimes we must be confrontational for the sake of correction. But we should avoid abusive, callous or cruel language to “correct” an abusive, callous, or cruel person. That’s hypocrisy.

I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love.” – Mosab Hassan Yousef

Here is how the Newer Testament writer Paul defines real love,

 4 “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Incredible (and embarrassing). Let’s bullet point that list of love’s characteristics. Love is:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Never jealous or envious
  • Never boastful or proud
  • Never arrogant or selfish
  • Not demanding
  • Not irritable or touchy
  • It does not hold a grudge
  • Doesn’t keep records of peoples mistakes
  • Hates injustice
  • Rejoices in the truth

Does that sound like you? Me neither. But wait, there is more. Paul said, if you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.

Sure, it sounds a bit idealistic. Who could possibly love like that? We can. But not without great effort. This ideal love may seem beyond your grasp, but no one will fault you for trying to attain it. Remember, everything in this life has an expiration date – except love. Love is eternal, and love never fails!

Unconditional love is dangerous. It leaves you vulnerable. That’s why some people avoid it altogether. They like to play it safe. C.S. Lewis wrote,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be made vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis

The Liberator Jesus once said,

9-15 “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love. I have told you this so that you can share my joy, and that your happiness may be complete. This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.” (John 15:13-15 – Phillips)

I almost can’t believe that the Creator of all things, The Almighty, has called me His friend. I’m flabbergasted really (knowing that I am so unworthy of this privilege). All He asks of our friendship is obedience to His truth and that I learn how to love like He does. That is a pretty tall order. I’m sure to stumble and fall on occasion. It’s okay, He will pick me up, set me straight, and I will try again. That is what unconditional love does.

Today, the Divine Spirit of the Almighty invites us to love with wild abandon. Are you up for the challenge? Then let’s get started right away. All you need is love… Love is all you need…

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
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

He was vigorously pounding the pulpit. I was daydreaming. The commotion drew me back into the sermon which had not been particularly interesting up to that point. But the preacher’s next sentence caught my attention.   “Worry is a sin”, he bellowed, all red faced, voice straining to make his point. “Everyone who worries is a SINNER!” I remember thinking, “Well that covers just about everybody in the room.” And before claiming that you never worry, remember, lying is also a sin. I can recall little of the minister’s talk after that. I was too busy thinking about how much of our time we do in fact devote to worries and fears.

It might be health issues, money woes, or family problems. Perhaps it’s those troublesome infectious disease fears, terrorist threats, global economic instabilities, and the possibility of another world war. Toss in a few natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes and, well… as you can see there are plenty of reasons to feel uneasy about the future. But truthfully, none of these troubles are an excuse for living under a cloud of persistent worry and fear.

Anxiety will not solve a single problem (especially the ones that are either out of your control or only exist in your mind). And even those uncertainties that we might call reasonable concerns are never justification for unnecessary or obsessive apprehension. Granted, there are times when brief anxiety can be appropriate (uneasiness about an important meeting later today or experiencing the “butterflies” over an impending job interview, etc.), but when worry becomes a steady companion, that’s not so good.

In the field of mental health, a compulsive worrier might be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), people with GAD are exceedingly uptight about everything in life, even if there is little or no reason for them to worry. We used to call these people extreme pessimists but nowadays there has to be a clinical classification for every imaginable phobia in order to prescribe some drug or expensive therapy in an attempt to solve the problem.

The NIH claims that the person with GAD is often anxious about just getting through the day because they are terrified that anything can, and most likely will, go wrong. For them, Worry has taken control of their life.

According to the NIH, a person with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their constant worries
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable, sweat a lot, and feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot.

Is it just me, or do some of those warning signs seem to be the same as those that appear on lists for a few hundred other “disorders”? Unless I’m mistaken, most of the population could identify with more than half of these symptoms. I sure can and (thankfully) I do NOT suffer with GAD or any other malady that I am aware of.  But I digress.

So let me ask you once again: how many hours of irreplaceable time do you invest in worry and fear? You’ll never get a single one of those wasted moments back. As long as you continue to focus on the endless stream of future uncertainties in life, you will remain trapped in a prison of your own creation.

You doubt me? Let’s talk.

Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.” ~ General Douglas MacArthur

First of all, I am well aware of the suffering that many people endure because of extreme anxiety issues. The mental health community does their best to manage an observed condition from a limited human perspective. But sometimes science and medicine can do little or nothing to effectively eliminate a problem. This is especially true when the cause is spiritual and not simply mental or physical. While a mental health practitioner may help you handle a disorder like GAD, only God can help you get to the spiritual root of this problem and set you on the road to true freedom.

In the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter you will find these very encouraging words,

7 Let him (GOD) have all your worries and cares (anxieties), for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

To me that is so awesome. The creator of all things (GOD) knows who I am. He actually thinks about me. Every detail of my life here on this little orbiting orb is of personal concern to Him.  Since I actually believe this is true, I must ask myself, “How then can I justify worry?”

“Well now brother, I just cannot comprehend how this God you speak of can possibly know every detail of every human life and all at the same time. That is impossible.”

Listen, there are some things that I can’t comprehend either. That is why He is the All-knowing One and we’re NOT! Our Creator requires just one thing from us – faith in Him. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about the real (unseen) world in which He dwells and from which we are temporarily exiled. It will always come down to this:

6“…without faith it is impossible to please him (The Almighty). The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.” (Hebrews 11:6 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

You may be going through a tough time right now. Unforeseen circumstances have swamped your little boat. You may be struggling just to find meaning in your day to day existence. That’s normal when you live primarily within the domain of your physical senses. It is within this natural realm of temporal reality that worry and fear form the clouds of doubt in your mind and blind your spirit from seeing the truth.

Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there.” ~Author Unknown

For the Christian, The New Testament is all about a brand-new arrangement between the Creator and His creation. The most prolific contributor to the New Testament was the Apostle Paul. In addition to the general Christian instruction found in his letters, Paul often included specific direction for the congregation to which he wrote the epistle. Listen to these words of instruction written to the Christians living in the ancient city of Philippi,

6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 – Living Bible)

Let’s break that down.

  • Don’t worry about anything.
  • Talk to God about everything.
  • Let God know your concerns (what you need).
  • Thank God for His solutions.

Sounds naive, right?  Do I detect a bit of incredulity?   You’ve heard it all before?   Me too. And you’ve decided it doesn’t work? I agree, sometimes it appears that is the case. But we’re talking about developing an ongoing relationship with the Creator of all things here. This is not Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Merely reading the words of the ancient scriptures can make the process sound oversimplified. Working out this life changing truth – day by day – is not so easy. Every word we just read from the Bible is spot-on. But it will take persistent faith and patience to live it. Don’t forget the Payoff. If we make this our way of life, Paul said,

“…you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:7 – Living Bible)

The supernatural peace that can only come from the Divine Spirit of God is what will calm you down. You will find rest for your soul when you put your absolute trust in Jesus, the liberator. Now, check out these words of wisdom from the Bible,

4-5 “If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself alone. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 TLB)

Get it? When you put your complete trust in God, there is no longer a valid reason to worry. There will still be plenty of opportunities to worry, but they will not be effective at immobilizing you through fear. Here is a promise from the pages of scripture that you can claim as your very own:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” (2 Timothy 1:7 – Amplified Bible)

When our creator visited this water world in human form, He was disguised as a meek and humble man called Jesus. He grew up among His own creation until that precise moment when it was time to introduce us to a personal and relevant God – not a Religion. The Almighty One, clothed in humility and living in obscurity, went about doing good and healing the sick and oppressed. As Jesus of Nazareth, he demonstrated to mankind how to talk directly to the Divine Spirit about our concerns and ask for His help. The liberator Jesus assured His devotees that when we strive for the otherworldly Kingdom of God – above everything else – He will make all things work together for our good.

Let me ask you one more question, “has all the energy you’ve wasted on anxiety and fear ever changed your grades in school, improve your job performance, or protected your family from harm? Will worry keep you free of contagious diseases?” If you are at least willing to be honest with yourself, the answer is NO. So then tell me again, “Why do you worry all the time?”

It is not the cares of today, but the cares of tomorrow, that weigh a man down. For the needs of today we have corresponding strength given. For tomorrow we are told to trust. It is not ours yet. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” ~ George MacDonald

One more thought from the New Testament.  Jesus was talking with some of his followers one day and he said to them,

30 “…O you of little faith. 31 Do not worry and be anxious, saying, what are we going to have to eat? Or, what are we going to have to drink? Or, what are we going to have to wear? 32 For the heathen wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. 33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things (that you need) taken together will be given to you besides.” – (Matthew 6:30b-33 Amplified Bible)

Why not give all of your worries and fears to the One who formed you? He really does care about you and He knows you far better than you think you know yourself. Our Liberator and Creator is a great listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, talk to Him… say what you need to say… and please, stop worrying.

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 was being called to surrender the very citadel of my “self”. I was completely in the dark. I did not really know what repentance was or what I was required to repent of. It was indeed the turning point of my life.” – Bede Griffiths –

The ancient city of Laodicea was a wealthy and industrious cosmopolitan community located in the province of Phrygia (modern day western Turkey). Benefiting from a prosperous economy, due in part to an advantageous location on a busy trade route, the average Laodicean citizen enjoyed the fruits of affluence. Ancient Laodicea was also an early focal point of Christianity. The Newer Testament writer Paul mentions Laodicea in his letter to the Colossians (2:1, 4:13–16). But the Christians of Laodicea are perhaps best known for the severe rebuke they received from the risen Liberator Jesus as recorded in the Book of Revelation. Having appeared to the exiled writer John of Patmos (Ἰωάννης ὁ Θεολόγος), Jesus refers to himself as: the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Ruler of God’s Creation, and then goes on to chastise the Laodicean church for being lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, and for failing to recognize their apathy and spiritual blindness (Revelation 3:16–17).   Why such harsh words?

Simple, the Laodicean Christians were wealthy and blessed in material things, but they were bankrupt and blinded to their pitiful spiritual condition. Theirs was a church filled with self-deceived pretenders. And so, the Anointed One, the Liberator Himself, called these backslidden Laodicean Christians to repentance. If they would just repent; Jesus would come in and take His rightful place in the midst of them (Revelation 3:20). You know what? I think our Creator is issuing the same call to those who claim to be following Him today.  Is it time for Christians to repent?

Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” ~Thomas Carlyle

Look around. In many places (especially prosperous nations and particularly the United States of America), multitudes of professing Christians have become apathetic in their passion to truly live for the God whom they supposedly follow. The deceitfulness of an affluent society, the overabundance of modern distractions, and the desires for material possessions have come in and choked the reality of their convictions, making them void of any genuine power. (Mark 4:19). As a result, the contemporary cultural influence of Christianity in the marketplace of philosophies is conspicuous only by its absence.

On more than one occasion the Liberator Jesus referred to His followers as the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Salt is both a preservative and a flavor enhancer. The Christian Church was intended to be a preservative in the world, stabilizing it from the evils found in a social order corrupted by covetousness, greed and wickedness. Christians who are full of faith and the Holy Spirit, (Acts 11:24) will naturally enhance the world for good.

But, much of the modern Christian Church is broken. The “enlightened” Christian community of our day is in many ways a re-embodiment of the Laodicean church of the ancient past.   Instead of boasting in our comforts and accomplishments, we should be repenting for the impotence of our message.

I submit to you that repentance is one of the least used words in contemporary  Christianity. Not surprising. Calling people to repentance is not politically correct. To compel someone to repent you must first accuse them of wickedness (sin). In a culture nearly intolerant of the mere mention of personal accountability for one’s own depravity (sin), teaching biblical repentance in any form has largely been whitewashed or it is merely ignored.

In the classic Christian world view, repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action. The Newer Testament writer Paul wrote, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their actions (Acts 26:20). If our repentance is sincere, we will first turn to God for His Saving Grace through the Liberator Jesus and as a result our life choices (and thus our actions) will be governed by the wisdom that comes from the principles and precepts of His word (the Scriptures). Listen again to apostolic writer Paul:

17“Every part of the Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

Sadly, you won’t hear that message in many mainline Christian churches anymore. The modern place of worship is far too busy entertaining the “troops” or embracing worldly ways of opportunity for service and growth. There are exceptions of course. But we cannot ignore the many self-proclaimed Christians who are living on their own terms, following the “doctrines of men” (Matthew 15:7-9) and in conformity with the secular world. The New Testament writer James put it quite bluntly,

4“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NLT)

Aligning yourself (friendship) with the god of this world makes you an enemy of the God of the universe.  Any questions?

The mystery of the Christian life is that Christ expects us to flee sin and the devil, but does not expect us to rid ourselves of either on this side of glory. Repentance is a way of life, and so is the pursuit of godliness. I wish every Christian could be reminded of these two things.” ~Kevin DeYoung

In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, Chapter 30, the prophet describes how God feels about His chosen people making alliances that are inappropriate.  It’s not pleasant reading.  The Chapter begins like this,

1“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade. But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced. For though his power extends to Zoan (an ancient city in the Nile River delta) and his officials have arrived in Hanes (a fortress on the N.E. frontier of Egypt), all who trust in him will be ashamed. He will not help you. Instead, he will disgrace you.” (Isaiah 30:1-5)

In this narrative, God is angry with His people because they did not seek the direction of His Holy Spirit. Without consulting Him, Judah hatched a plan that was contrary to the Divine will. God stirs the ancient seer Isaiah to warn them that trusting their adversary for protection (in this case the Pharaoh of Egypt) would end in their humiliation. But Judah did not want to hear it. They wanted a “feel-good” message – something upbeat. And so Isaiah writes,

10-11 “They tell my prophets, “Shut up—we don’t want any more of your reports!” Or they say, “Don’t tell us the truth; tell us nice things; tell us lies. Forget all this gloom; we’ve heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel’ and all he has to say.” (Isaiah 30:10-11)

Many believe we could apply much of the Isaiah indictment to the modern Church. Perhaps they have a point. It sure does appear that today’s secularized Christians have grown indifferent to the unadulterated truth. The prophetic writings warned us of a coming period of delusion well in advance:

“For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 TLB)

I would say that the time has come, no? The blind are leading the blind. The inmates have taken over the asylums. It’s a dangerous world we live in, bereft of much genuine Divine revelation but full of counterfeit supernatural fascinations. The problem is not with the Almighty One – it never is.

Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms… This process of surrender… is what Christians call repentance.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Fear not, God still has a voice today. The Liberator Jesus said of His followers,

27“The sheep that are my own can hear and are listening to my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 AMP)

We who still hear His voice are His voice in these last days!

So once again, Should Christians repent?  Well, that’s really between you and your Creator.  But it couldn’t hurt to ponder the question.

Maybe it’s time to change your way of thinking (repent) and get in step with the will of God for your life. Be prepared to admit that you have been wrong.  Accept the fact that you do not have all of the answers.  Acknowledge that you may have failed to faithfully follow in the footsteps of the one you claim to believe in – The Liberator Jesus.  Confession (and repentance) is good for the soul! Don’t just talk about repentance – DO IT!

The Christian message always begins with a call to repent. Before you run off and proclaim the good news of faith in God to others, try to live the message Jesus brought to the earth yourself, as best as you can, every day. God has something far greater in mind for all of us than any of life’s illusions could ever deliver.

Be not deceived.

20 “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 TLB)

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