Posts Tagged ‘Faith in God’

Throughout your life, people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, because in the end, hate in your heart will consume you.” ― Will Smith

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

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

Mere make-believe you say?  Perhaps, but only a fool would deny the profound dark side that grips our world today.  The insidious spread of malevolence which regularly disrupts the peaceful fabric of our social order is seemingly rooted and grounded in HATRED.  Maybe the late Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s observation in his 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” was correct.  He wrote:

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

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

Hate is widespread in our modern culture. Racial, ethnic, homophobic, religious and social class hatred is everywhere. You name it and someone, somewhere probably HATES it with a passion.

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

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

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

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

Frequent readers already know that I’m a follower of the great teacher and redeemer known by the human name “Jesus”. I believe in His message and His mission.  My faith is much more than a mere “religion” – it is my way of life.  Some people have a real problem with that – even to the point of hatred. How bizarre, considering that in most cases, we’ve never spoken nor met. But they have already formed an opinion based upon their biased ideas about Christianity (or religion in general).

My worldview is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic which influences and shapes my character.  When I encounter anything that clearly opposes these values – I choose to reject it.  It’s not open for debate. Genuine “truth” is neither erasable nor amendable.  You will never convince me that some of the clear instructions of Jesus, for instance, need to be modified or repealed.  Contrary to the opinions of pop culture, the ancient scriptures do not need to be “updated”, they need to be revisited.

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

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

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

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

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

Historically, organized Religion (including Christianity) has always been a bit of a mess.  That’s what happens when flawed and inadequate humans attempt to communicate a message of Divine origin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But do keep this in mind, the perfect love and flawless justice of the Almighty One will one day compel Him to keep his word and banish the impenitent portion of mankind into perdition – not because of what you have done (sin), but because you would not accept what He has done through this man called Jesus.  “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”

Wherever you are on this crazy rock floating in the infinity of space, He’s there with you right now to throw you a rescue line. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. Who cares! He is with you now. All you have to do is trust Him. Go ahead, speak to Him. He can take it from here. He doesn’t need my help to open your heart and change your life for the better. He never did.  I’m simply one of His diplomats.

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

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

Hatred is evil and like all wickedness, it will eventually fail. Love will triumph over hate.  Did you hear me? LOVE RULES!  Remember this,

16b-18 God is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men—for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us. Love contains no fear—indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected.” (1 John 4:16-18 – Phillips)

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com

 

Mankind, by the perverse depravity of their nature, regards that which they have most desired as of no value the moment it is possessed, and torment themselves with fruitless wishes for that which is beyond their reach.” – Francois Fenelon

Charles Dickens was a 19th century author who has been acknowledged by critics and scholars alike as a literary genius. Some even regard him as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.  Did you know that he had very little formal education?  It’s true.  He left school at age 15 and began working as a clerk in a solicitor’s office after his father was thrown into a debtors’ prison.   Remarkably, Charles would go on to write 15 novels, hundreds of short stories, non-fiction articles, and letters.  His immortal tale of ghosts and redemption know as A Christmas Carol, first appeared in in 1843, and remains a perennial holiday favorite to this day.   Moreover, A Tale of Two Cities, written in 1859, and from which I shall now quote, is perhaps his best-known work of historical fiction:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity (unbelief), it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Dickens was writing about the disturbing state of affairs which existed in 18th century England, and France.  If you even pay nominal attention to the crumbling state of affairs in our modern social order, then maybe you’ll appreciate the pertinence of his words almost two and a half centuries later.

Since this is not an English Lit class, nor am I a literary scholar, let me simply summarize the observations of Dickens like this: it was a time of contradictions – wisdom and foolishness, faith and disbelief, light and darkness, hope and despair.  Welcome to the timeless human dilemma – the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Take for instance the tyranny of discontent.

On a recent flight from Hartford, Connecticut to Tampa Bay, Florida, I patiently listened as the man seated next to me spoke of his very successful life.  William, (not his real name) seemed to have everything.  He talked about his beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, complete with a 12 seat man cave/home theater, wine cellar, custom designer swimming pool, professional tennis courts and an outdoor entertainment area with a fully equipped kitchen.  Bill showed me a picture of his lovely wife, said she was beautiful inside and out.  He had a daughter whom he described as amazing, talented and attractive.  Bill played golf, owned a boat and dined at the finest restaurants.  Yes indeed, he was a genuine gentleman of leisure.  I said. “Bill, you sure seem like a man who is abundantly blessed, and very content”.  The silent pregnant pause that followed was deafening.  “That’s what’s missing in my life you know”, he said, “I am restless and never content for very long.”  How sad.

Bill is not unique when it comes to discontent.  Rich, poor, young, old, male and female – countless people feel that there is something missing from their lives. As a result, they are frustrated and dissatisfied.

Call it the funk.  Call it the blues, Call it anything you like.  Getting stuck in a “rut” of discontent is anything but fun.  And yet, we’ve all been there.  Sometimes, life can actually seem just a wee bit boring, even become stale, and monotonous.  You know, the same old dull routines.  That’s normal.  But what happens when you are never satisfied?  Let’s talk.

Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” – Warren Wiersbe

I can’t remember exactly when it happened to me.  Actually, it wasn’t a singular epiphany at all.  Over many years I gradually came to realize that my periods of discontent were actually a series of personal wakeup calls.  We all get them you know, and more often than you think.  But far too many of us just choose to keep hitting the snooze button when they come, or worse – we ignore the wakeup calls completely.  Sooner or later you will either have to confront the root cause of chronic dissatisfaction, perhaps even change some things in your life or you’ll continue to exist within the disturbing realm of discontent.

Once, I lived in my own deluded world where debt, duty and a desk ruled my life.  Searching for inner contentment, I switched careers a number of times; worked for myself, and even went to work for “God” (professionally speaking).  Over time, life became stable, predictable, and comfortable enough.  But something wasn’t quite right.  Deep down inside, I was still a malcontent.  After years of hitting the snooze button, and blaming everyone and everything around me for my restlessness, it dawned on me: I wasn’t really grasping what I was put here on spaceship earth to do.  I had a “God smack” moment – and I didn’t like it at all.  But it did lead me to one great realization: only the Creator Himself can fill the spiritual void inside of me.  Until I let Him invade my life, contentment would never last for very long.  Guess what?  I let Him in.

Now here’s the dichotomy: before I could move beyond my discontent, I had to absorb what it really meant to be contented.  I’ve yet to grasp it perfectly, but I keep pressing on toward that mark.  I learned how to do this from a man named Saul who, like me, was a devotee of the liberator Jesus.  Heard of him?  You can read all about his life in the Bible’s Newer Testament Book of ACTS.

Saul was a Jew, born in the Roman city of Tarsus somewhere between 5 BC and 10 AD.  After quite a dramatic supernatural encounter with the Creator (the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus) he became known as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), It was then that he began to use his Roman name, Paul.

Before his “conversion”, Saul was a fiercely religious zealot known for his relentless persecution of the early Christian movement. He was passionate for his Jewish faith to the point of becoming a religious terrorist.  Saul believed that he was doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. Here is how the Bible describes it:

3 “Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate the believers, even entering private homes and dragging out men and women alike and jailing them.” (Acts 8:3 TLB)

That all changed when Saul got his “wakeup call”.  You can read the full account in the Newer Testament Book of Acts 9:1-22.  It turned his life upside down.  He would spend the rest of his days on spaceship earth as the Apostle Paul, proclaiming a message of hope and redemption throughout the Roman world.  He often claimed to have received his message by supernatural visitations.  Through tremendous hardship and suffering he remained steadfast and unmovable in his faith until they finally put him to death.  But how did he stay so hopeful and full of joy?  Glad you asked.  What he learned and what he helped me to comprehend is revolutionary.  You ready for it?

11I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to get along with little and how to live when I have much. I have learned the secret of being happy at all times. If I am full of food and have all I need, I am happy. If I am hungry and need more, I am happy. 13 I can do all things because God gives me the strength.”  (Philippians 4:11-13 NLV)

Yes indeed, Paul had learned the true meaning of contentment.  In the Almighty, he found inner strength and a deep satisfaction no matter what circumstances he faced each day.

You who 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 Spurgeon

Look, there is a reason why you so often grow discontent and it has less to do with your fleeting circumstances then you may realize. There is a better way of life calling to you. Deep inside you know this to be true.  Your ego, wants you to keep “playing it safe” or believing you are actually “controlling” things. But we all know stability, safety, and control are just man-made delusions.  Our lives could be gone in an instant, in spite of our best laid strategies.  The Newer Testament writer James put it this way:

14 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”  (James 4:14 NLT)

So, you are a malcontent?  Bit of a spiritual Sleepwalker?  Me too. Maybe it’s time to stop hitting the snooze bar.  WAKEUP CALL!  It’s time you let our Creator fill that emptiness inside of you.  Are you ready to let Him in?  Hey, could I ask you to at least think about what Paul wrote to a friend of his named Timothy?

“But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 AMP)

Contentment.  Getting there can be a real struggle.  But it’s worth it.  I’m just now beginning to really find that out.  Oh Happy Days!

Ciao.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya’ man!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the moldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast

And the days are dark and dreary.

 Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Skipping now to the next to last stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“… Even so, it is well with my soul.”

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

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

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

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

And that, my friend, changes everything.

  • Facing situations that are difficult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Are you confused; full of fears and doubts?

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”— William Arthur Ward 

I have always been intrigued by the extraordinary life of a man known simply as Jesus. He was not of this world, but he was born into this space-time continuum with a mission and a message that would alter the course of the human race forever.  When he was here on earth (nearly 2000 years ago) He gained quite a reputation around ancient Israel’s Galilee region for his amazing abilities including the power to heal the sick. Imagine him walking along a dusty road on the outskirts of a town when all at once ten lepers see him approaching. From a distance, perhaps just across a footpath or maybe a small field, they began to shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

A record of this event can be found in the Newer Testament book of Luke:

11-13 In the course of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was approaching a village, ten lepers met him. They kept their distance but shouted out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14-18 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” And it happened that as they went on their way they were cured. One of their number, when he saw that he was cured, turned round and praised God at the top of his voice, and then fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan. And at this Jesus remarked, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

19 And he said to the man, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)

Lepers posed an interesting conundrum.  Under Jewish law, they were not allowed to mingle within society. They were considered perpetually unclean and the good people of the community were forbidden to have any physical contact with them. Lepers lived banished lives, dwelling on the fringes of the social order. This is why Jesus never drew near to the lepers nor did he place his hand upon them as he had so often done before when healing the sick.

Now here is what intrigues me: when Jesus saw them, He shouted, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”  Why would he tell them to do that?  Again, it has to do with Jewish law at the time.  If a leper was truly healed of this horrible affliction, he must go before a priest to validate the cure.  Once confirmed, the formerly leprous individual could then obtain permission to mingle again in society.

Given His growing notoriety as a miracle worker, the words that Jesus spoke to the lepers most likely gave them motivation to believe they would be healed. Nonetheless, advising them to visit the priest (before any visible indication of a cure) was a deliberate test of their trust in Him.  Evidently they did have faith in Jesus as off went the ten men still manifesting the horrible contagion.   Suddenly, as they were walking along, they began to notice their leprosy was disappearing.

One of the ten lepers was a Samaritan. And, just in case you did not know, the Jews at that time hated the Samaritans. They worshiped the same God, but they didn’t get along.  This is why Jesus made note of him. When this particular leper saw that he was now cured, he freaked.  Wouldn’t you?   In his elation the once diseased Samaritan loudly screamed praises to God. But here’s what I really want you to get: filled with gratitude he turned around, found the amazing man from Galilee and “fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him.” (Luke 17:16)

Where were the other nine presumably Jewish lepers? No one really knows.  Only this one Samaritan leper returned to give thanks to the Almighty. This did not escape notice. Jesus said, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

Imagine. An obvious miracle has taken place in the lives of ten desperate people but only one stopped to give thanks with a grateful heart for the saving grace and power of GodBy the way, did you notice that Jesus credited the leper’s faith for his healing?  He said, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.”  Hmmm.

So, ten men took a walk for the cure but only one came back to say thank you. It seems pretty clear to me that leper number ten had the attitude of gratitude. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager he never forgot the lowly Nazarene called Jesus who literally saved his life that day.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”Henry Van Dyke

Paul Harvey, the much beloved American radio broadcaster and writer, passed away in February of 2009. It is estimated that at one time his various programs reached 24 million people each week on over 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations and 300 newspapers. In a 1977 broadcast of his widely popular “The Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey shared this historic tale,

“It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit a broken down pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean…For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”

Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

So, now you know that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, just about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy eye browed, and slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one solitary gull which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.” ***

What do a grateful Samaritan leper, an old war hero, and I – a grateful sinner now redeemed by God’s Amazing Grace – have in common?  It’s the attitude of gratitude.

Maybe you have something to thank God for today.  I hope you will take the time to tell Him. Our Creator loves you no matter what, but I think He likes to hear those two powerful words – THANK YOU – as they fall from your lips.  What’s that? Not feeling very thankful right now?  Life’s treating you unkindly at the moment?  I understand.  The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote,

16-18“Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God (in your life) as expressed to you in (by) Jesus Christ.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Phillips)

We all experience difficult times in life; we fail, loved ones get hurt or die, and we may struggle with many personal challenges as well.  This is spaceship earth, a penal colony for a fallen race.  Every moment of love, joy, peace, and happiness is a blessing from above.  Remember to count your blessings carefully – and give thanks to the Lord above with a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

***Paul Aurandt, “The Old Man and the Gulls”, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.

Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the sea bed.” ~ J. G. Ballard ~

Mark Twain once remarked, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Can you imagine if he were alive today?  Sorry Mr. Twain, in modern Sodom, naked people and other forms of societal perversions seem to be taking over.

Clothing does, in fact, have some impact on a society. What we wear often affects how we identify ourselves and how others perceive us.  But does “dressing for success”, for instance, really make us an overall success in life?  Are we the sum total of all the clothing we’ve ever owned?  When you put it that way, it really sounds quite absurd.

I believe that our memories can have more of an impact on who we are in this life then clothing ever could.  Collective memories are a lifetime’s true narrative – tying past and present together while frequently creating the framework for our tomorrows.  Each new life experience, cataloged and recorded in the recesses of our mind, provide us with a “sense of self.”

What are memories?  My brain, eyes, heart and lungs have physical properties.  But memories don’t exist in the corporeal world.  You cannot touch a recollection.  Try downloading a memory to your computer.  It can’t be done – at least not yet.

Memories are actually complex constructs.  A single trip down memory lane requires imagery to be actively reconstructed from combined data streams stored in many different areas of the human brain.  Scientists have yet to figure out exactly how the system works or what really occurs each time we recall information from the past.  Even after decades of research, the quest to discover exactly how the brain acquires, organizes and stores all the data to reconstruct a myriad of memories goes on.

Now, ask me if I care?  Not really.  The subject is captivating, I suppose, but the knowledge is unnecessary. In the end, I’m just glad I still can remember things I need to function each day (has anyone seen my keys?) and that I have so many wonderful memories from my journey in life (thus far) to enjoy.

Do I have any bad memories? (Que the band, ahem, meme-meeeee…)

“Regrets?  I’ve had a few.  But then again too few to mention…

Okay, Sinatra I am not, but you get the point.  Everyone has some unpleasant memories stored from times past. Some people seem to just naturally downplay their undesirable experiences while others are predisposed to getting stuck in destructive memory ruts.  These “negative” individuals appear to fixate on all of the bad times rather than recalling the good stretches in life.  Some psychologists even say that the ability to minimize the negative impact of bad memories takes a learned and conscious effort.  In other words, “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”, as the late Reverend M. J. Divine (c. 1876 – 1965) liked to say in his sermons.

In 1973 Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand starred in a move called “The Way We Were.” The lyrics to the title song of the same name were written by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman.  The renowned Marvin Hamlisch wrote the music and Streisand performed the memorable vocal.  The song went on to become the number one pop hit of 1974.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Memories may be beautiful and yet
what’s too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter we will remember
whenever we remember the way we were.”

Seems like good advice to me.  Sometimes, we just have to decide to let go of the painful past.  Since we tend to quickly recall the memories that we dwell upon the most – good or bad – it just makes sense to put emphasis on the positive!

There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.”  ~ Nicholas Sparks ~

Let me tell you a little bit about the extraordinary life of a guy who lived almost 2000 years ago. Shaul (Saul) was his Hebrew name and Paulus (Paul) was his Roman name. He’s famous because his writings comprise almost half of the Newer Testament of the Bible.  He was a Roman citizen by birth, well-educated and trained by one of the best Hebrew scholars of his day – Gamaliel.  Saul was also a member of a Jewish socio-religious party that flourished in Palestine during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BC –70 AD) called the Pharisees.

Saul hated Christians.  He pursued his mission to destroy Christianity (known then as The Way) like a rabid animal.  Some say that there was no other man alive at that time who more despised Jesus of Nazareth and His followers.  But that all changed rather abruptly after he was struck to the ground by some kind of otherworldly (supernatural) light and then spoken to directly by an unseen being who identified himself as “the Jesus you are persecuting.”  The Newer Testament Book of Acts describes this incredible encounter as follows:

1 “But Paul, threatening with every breath and eager to destroy every Christian, went to the High Priest in Jerusalem. He requested a letter addressed to synagogues in Damascus, requiring their cooperation in the persecution of any believers he found there, both men and women, so that he could bring them in chains to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, suddenly a brilliant light from heaven spotted down upon him! He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Paul! Paul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who is speaking, sir?” Paul asked.  And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city and await my further instructions.” (Acts 9:1-6)

Talk about drama.  Aside from the amazing details surrounding Paul’s phenomenal conversion, can you imagine what was going on in the mind of this Christian hating Jew who was now on his way to becoming a follower of the Liberator Jesus?  In mere days he would be transformed from someone who killed supporters of the new messianic sect to being a believer himself. This conversion would see Paul loose his influential position of power in the socio-religious world of the Israelites to become just another disciple of the one whom many regarded as the “renegade Jew.”  In the days ahead, his friends would become his adversaries and his former enemies would become his new family.  Paul would now be an outcast in his homeland and above all, the focus of his message and mission would forever change.

Forgiveness does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”  ~ Lewis B. Smedes ~

What about His sordid past?  Surely he must have carried memories of the blind hatred he once felt toward followers of the Liberator Jesus; to say nothing of the murders he authorized and the innocents he jailed.  How do you forget those things?  Was Paul ever troubled by his former life after he became a follower of Jesus?  No one really knows for sure.

Certainly, Paul had more to forget than most. Your average convert to the new “Way” (Christianity) may have been immersed in false religions, various crimes, misfortunes, wicked behaviors and bad decisions in their past, but few were as guilty of Paul’s extreme loathing of Jesus and His followers. Think about it, how many of the early believers (or even converts up to this day) had actually hunted down fellow humans like so many wild beasts with sword and stones.  If anyone had the potential to be haunted by memories of a messed up past life – Paul was a prime candidate.

Here is what we do know, Paul often acknowledged his past mistakes in his writings, but he never spoke of them as lingering regrets or haunting memories directly. In his letter to Christians living in ancient Ephesus, he refers to himself as “less than the least of all Christians” (Ephesians 3:8). He almost contritely told the believers living in the Roman city of Corinth that he was “the least of all the messengers”, going on to say, “I do not deserve that title (special messenger) at all, because I persecuted the Church of God. But what I am now I am by the grace of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9). But perhaps his most telling confession was made in a letter to a close friend named Timothy,

12-15 “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.”  (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

Whatever emblematic demons Paul may have suffered mentally, he never let them stand in his way.  He focused not on self-pity or unproductive anxiety. Rather, he learned how to let go of his past, saying,

12 “I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

13 No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” (Philippians 3:12-14 TLB)

When Paul talked of his intention to “forget the past”, he was saying, in effect, “I no longer care about those things which are behind me.  I refuse to focus on my past – both the good and the bad.”  Paul now understood that not one single worldly accomplishment from the best of his past nor one tormenting recollection of his worst mistakes had any relevance when compared with the priceless gain that comes from knowing the Liberator Jesus (C.f. – Philippians 3:8)

I have memories ~ but only a fool stores his past in the future.” ~ David Gerrold ~

Granted, some of our past experiences may be nearly impossible to simply erase forever.  I’m not recommending that we all look for some kind of miraculous mind cleanse.  The key here is this: when we focus on the present and look expectantly toward the future, we can be freed from the ball and chain of our negative past.  If Almighty God is willing to forgive us for ALL past mistakes, who are we to hold on to them?

It’s so easy to “live in the past.” Whether it’s some bygone victory that our mind continually replays like an old movie to prop up our self-importance or a previous defeat that hangs over us like a smothering shroud, both need to be left behind. A truly happy and healthy life is possible only when we refuse to allow past successes to inflate our pride; past failures to deflate our self-worth and instead, leaving it all behind, we adopt our new identity as revealed to us by the Spirit of the Liberator Jesus.  (C.f. – 2 Corinthians 5:17).

When we choose to answer the calling of our Creator and in so doing grow into a genuine follower of the Liberator Jesus, then no judgment remains for any of our haunting memories or regrets. (Romans 8:1). Instead we lay aside the encumbering weight of every failure – past, present and future (Hebrews 12:1), learning instead to embrace the incredible future promised by the Almighty One to those who love Him. (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10).

That my friends is true freedom.  Freedom to forget the past.  Freedom to enjoy as best we can life in the present – one day at a time.  And, Freedom to look forward with great expectation toward a future that has been carefully planned for us by the one who knows us better than we know ourselves – our Liberator, our Creator, our Lord and our God!

God, please let the blinders fall away so that some may find revelation at this moment and turn from the darkness of their past to your marvelous light.   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

If all the printers in all the world were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” – Benjamin Franklin –

Florida in July is…, well… it is hot.  Okay, at times it is really hot.  Thankfully, I like the heat.  Plus, Florida is nearly perfect in the fall, winter and early spring when it can seem like everyone else is trying to visit us here in “Paradise” to escape ice, snow, howling winds, freezing rain and bitter cold temperatures somewhere else.  Today, I am at one of my favorite writing spots – Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill in Tarpon Springs.  Seated outdoors at a table perched dockside on the Anclote River, I am revising and updating an article from a few years ago, so I get to review the United States Bill of Rights.

What’s that?

Yes, I am reading the United States Bill of Rights.

You think that must be a bit boring?

Not really.  I’ll admit it’s not Ian Fleming, but neither is it uninteresting.

If more Americans knew what their Constitution actually said, there is a strong possibility that we would not be living at present under the tyrannical overreach of a profoundly corrupt Federal Government, replete with an inept Executive Branch, an activist Supreme Court, and a Congress that as of late is about as useful as a sunroof on a submarine. Of course, you do have to actually know how to read and speak English to understand the constitution. But that is another subject altogether.

What’s that?

You find my opinions offensive?

Good. That was my objective – to offend you.  Now, let’s talk about freedom from offense.

I’ve never really been one to try to be politically correct. I just feel truth is truth, and sometimes I probably offend some people.” – Franklin Graham

It seems like just about everyone is offended by someone or something these days. Even when you speak innocently, it often gets taken out of context and the next thing you know, somebody is at your throat because you offended them. Well, now it’s my turn. I am offended by all of the people who think they have some kind of right to be protected from being offended.

Recently, I read a great quote from Stephen Fry, the English comedian, writer and actor. Mr. Fry said,

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more than a whine. Or they say, ‘I find that offensive.’ The statement has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so what.”

I could not agree more. You are offended? I am too, at times – so what!

The United States of America is a Republic (that’s right, we are NOT a democracy – look it up).  A republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic each individual citizen is sovereign (autonomous, self-governing). In a democracy the sovereignty is shared by the collective population where the governance often shifts to a small number of social elites.  Major difference.

The Republic of the United States was framed by a document known as the Constitution.  This amazing document has a brilliant little section of amendments called The Bill of Rights.  At the very top of the list, in amendment numero uno, you will find the guaranteed right to freedom of speech. Perhaps you have never been properly instructed in regard to the meaning of free speech (which would not surprise me given the state of modern education in the USA).  Please allow me to school you in a bit of Political Science.

The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. The House of Representatives originally approved 17 amendments. The Senate considered the 17 and approved just 12 in August of 1789. Next, the 12 were sent to the States for their approval (aka ratification). Only 10 made the cut. On December 15, 1791, the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution were dually ratified and adopted. These 10 Amendments became known collectively as “The Bill of Rights” and they limit the powers of the Federal Government.  I said they are meant to LIMIT the powers of the FEDERAL Government!

The first amendment is quite interesting. It says,

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First of all, some of our Founders wanted to make it absolutely clear – the government must stay out of religion. No State or Federal government entity may establish a religion of preference in the United States of America. But, nowhere is it stated or implied that religion had no place in the government. The Founders were very clear on this subject.  Their intent was to guarantee the freedom OF religion and not the freedom FROM religion. We the people have a constitutionally protected right to express our religious beliefs publicly or in private at any time – including in the halls of government buildings and in or on any public property for that matter. We the people will ultimately determine – by our participation in and our support of – what philosophies (i.e. religion, values, morals, etc.) will prevail and dominate in the land of the free.  It should come as no surprise that this fundamental freedom was at the top of the list.

Next up in amendment one comes the freedom of speech.  We the people also have a constitutionally protected right to express our point of view (i.e. speak our mind) even if others find our speech to be offensive. You may not like what some people say, and you may not agree with what they say, but you have no right to stop them from saying it – even when it offends you.

I live in America. I have the right to publish whatever I want. And it’s equaled by another right just as powerful: the right not to read it. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people.” – Brad Thor

So what about this supposed right to “Freedom from Offense”? Where is that one in the Bill of Rights? (Que the Crickets…).

Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – including the supplementary Bill of Rights – will you find a promise of protection from anything that you might find offensive. The Constitution was written to assure freedom for everyone – not just you! Freedom of speech is not restricted when the words might offend someone. Sure, it would be nice if we all took into consideration the feelings of others before we spoke, but it is not a requirement.

This nation is filled with idiots of every possible description – including me. You may not like them and you may want to silence them. Too bad. If they infuriate you, change the channel, leave the room, express your opposition to the things that they have to say, boycott the movies they make, the businesses they operate, or the events they promote. That is your right. You do not have the right to silence them – period.  Likewise, they do not have the right to silence you.

“Oh my, but all the ‘hate speech’. We must not allow it anymore. We must have new laws to stop all the hate.  People should not be allowed to ridicule or insult other people.”

That’s liberal twaddle. Labeling everything you do not like or agree with as hate speech is just another social progressive code word for control. A method of intimidation meant to suppress your right to have and express a unique opinion – even if it turns out that your point of view is extremely stupid and offensive.  In the United States of America, be ye saint or sinner, believer or heathen, agnostic, atheist, social activist, etc., you have a constitutionally protected right to speak what you believe.

Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views. It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.” – Alan Dershowitz

Now before you run out with new boldness to offend everyone you don’t agree with, listen carefully. If you are a practicing Christian (or even just a decent and courteous human being), it is your responsibility to be as loving and non-offensive as possible. Here is part of the philosophy by which I try to govern my own life as it is written in the New Testament book of Romans:

16 “Work happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. 18 Don’t quarrel with anyone but be at peace with everyone, just as much as is possible.” (Romans 12:16-18 – TLB)

Christians are encouraged to live in harmony and to take a genuine interest in all people. It really saddens me when I meet a follower of Jesus who lives in perpetual anger at the world and everyone in it.  Sharing the message of Christianity does not require you to pick a fight with everybody who opposes what you have to say. Chill out man.  It’s okay to hate wickedness, but it’s not okay to hate the offenders. Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers.

But remember, Christians believe in absolute truths. Good and evil, right and wrong, Heaven and Hell. It’s God’s way or burst!  Many people are offended by this absolute view of truth simply because it is not relative. (Relativism refers to the view that beliefs cannot be absolutely true or valid but instead are relative to situations and perspectives.)  Relative interpretations change nothing. If someone says, “I believe there is no God,” that does not affect the existence of God. It only demonstrates that he or she is spiritually blind and ignorant.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, Jesus didn’t do it the world’s way. He came here and offended the whole world. He came here and did everything the wrong way.”  ― Eric Ludy

Whenever Jesus spoke with people, He was more concerned with communicating the absolute truth than with their feelings.  One time, some of His followers told Him that many of the religious leaders were highly offended by his message.  (Matthew 15:12).   Did Jesus apologies?  Nope.   He shrugged it off by saying,

13-14 “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”  (Matthew 15:13-14)

Jesus continued to speak His view of reality, even when it offended people.  He even offended his own followers on occasion (John 6:61-65).  Careful scrutiny of the Newer Testament Scriptures reveal that the truth acts as a two edged sword.  It will either bring freedom and life to those who hear it or become a stumbling block and a rock of offensiveness to them. (Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 2:8).  If you are committed to the “Christian Lifestyle” and you are not shy about speaking Biblical truth, without a doubt, people will be offended!  Jesus may be meek and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29), but listen to what He said about His mission on spaceship earth:

34-36 “Never think I have come to bring peace upon the earth. No, I have not come to bring peace but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his own father, a daughter against her own mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those who live in his own house. (Matthew 10:34-36).

We are to be peace makers whenever possible, but sometimes our message will be very divisive. Absolute truth makes people angry. This is why Christians are so often accused of being “narrow minded.”  Genuine Christianity is rooted and grounded in love. The Newer Testament writer Paul describes Christian love like this,

“This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.  5-6 Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men whenever truth prevails.  7-8a Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Phillips)

Everything we do or say as a Christian should be infused with this kind of love.  But make no mistake, when it is essential to take a stand, we must do so without hesitation and sometimes without regard for a person’s delicate “sensibilities”.  It is okay to speak out from a Christian worldview whenever necessary on any subject no matter how controversial or politically incorrect our position may be. In the end, we only have one entity in this entire universe to please. Down here on spaceship earth, we call him the Almighty God. His opinion of us is the only judgement that actually matters. Remember that.

Sooner or later we’ll all have to face our Creator, even those whom the Bible refers to as “fools” because they refuse to believe in His existence. At that time we will receive what we deserve as the end result of our actions here on spaceship earth, either good or bad. Those who have placed their absolute trust in the Liberator Jesus will not be remanded to the blackness of an eternal night but remain free in the light of His everlasting love. The Liberator Jesus alone is the one whom God sent to the earth to rescue the stranded human race.  End of story.  If that offends you… well… read the first amendment.  I can assure you, I am not being belligerent.  My words flow from a heart filled with concern for the lost, misguided and confused passengers traveling here on spaceship earth.  I mean you no offense.

Many years ago (in the early 1980’s), I heard a song written by Philip Sandifer. It changed my life. Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:

And when the time arrives
to leave behind our earthly lives
and go before the God
that calls our souls to be
will you answer Lord I knew you well
I walked your way
I lived a life that caused another man to see

Now you can spend your time
turning tricks for all mankind
and you can base your life on meaningless reward
but a wiser man is he who knows himself eternally

and sees his value not in life but in his Lord

For when it’s all been said
and when it’s all been done – He’ll ask me:
did you go my way child?
Did you know my son?
And when it’s all been said
and when it’s all been done – He’ll ask me
did you find your way within my son? (1)

When this life is over, our Creator and Liberator will ask but one question, “did you do it my way, did you know and follow the one I sent to your planet?”  I know how I will answer those questions. And, I won’t need to plead the 5th Amendment.  How about you?

Thank you God for your willingness to forgive us our foolishness and set aside the judgement we deserve because of your great mercy and grace.  I pray my friends will all find their way within the one you sent in human form to set our spirits free.  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) © Phillip Sandifer (www.phillipsandifer.com)
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr. ―

Ahoy Mates!

I caught my reflection in the water just now.  I’m sitting at Gill Dawg.  It’s a little tiki joint tucked away on the Cotee river in Port Richey, Florida.  My “office” for the day is a table perched at water’s edge.  Yeah, it’s another one of those tranquil moments here in Florida.

Staring at the mangroves along the riverbank, my mind wandered to the days of unconcerned youth.  I saw my daddy, both annoyed and amused.  Mother had just given me an earful (again) for yet another adolescent “faux pas” which has greatly distressed her.   “That was irresponsible.  What’s a matter with you? It’s a dangerous world out there and you can’t afford to be stupid”, she said.  I laughed out loud as that distant memory slowly melted into the present.  “Compared to today, mom”, I thought, “My behavior was virtuous.”

If you are a regular reader then you already know that I am rather transparent about my faith in the Architect of all things (God).  Biblical reality shapes my world view.  I’m far from perfect and certainly not clairvoyant, just a sinner made safe by the Creator’s grace.  But when the headline news starts to sound like excerpts from scriptural books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah or Revelation, I can’t help but take notice.  Friends, we’re living in exceptionally difficult times.  Okay, before you break out in a chorus of “No scitan Sherlock, ya think…” please hear me out.

I assume that most of you are familiar with this guy named Paul from the Bible’s Newer Testament.  At the risk of being repetitious, here’s some background for the newbies: He was born Saul around 1 AD in Tarsus, a city in ancient Asia Minor.  His compiled letters account for almost half the written content of the Bible’s New Testament (13 of the 27 books) and they are the major source of orthodox Christian theology.  Paul was initially a zealous Jew who hated those who followed the way of the Nazarene.  But through a series of incredible events, he came to recognize that Jesus was indeed the long awaited Liberator of mankind (The Messiah).

Paul had a close friend named Timothy.  Let me tell you a little about him.  Timothy also lived in the first century AD.  He became Paul’s ardent student, and later his trusted companion, co-worker and fellow traveler. In fact, Timothy’s name appears as coauthor of the Newer Testament letters known as, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  It is believed that in about the year 64 AD, Paul left Timothy at an ancient Greek city called Ephesus to oversee a local assembly of the faithful.  In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote these predictive and cautionary words,

1-5 “Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.”  (2 Timothy 3:1-5 MSG)

Okay, so Paul does not mince words when describing how mankind (void of God’s amazing grace) would simply continue down the path of decadence.  The way he defines the characteristics of lost humanity (especially as we draw closer to the end of the era of mankind) is unnerving.  I particularly like his characterization of those gone astray as “allergic to God”.  I don’t know what makes some people more irritable, political discussion or bringing up a Supernatural being in a conversation.  Like it or not, Paul nailed it.  We are living in the predicted “difficult times” when for many, Religion is little more than a pretense.   It’s amazing how easily a person can assume the outward form of pious belief when it suits a purpose and yet their overall lifestyle nullifies any validity of true spirituality.

This is true religion, to approve what God approves, to hate what he hates, and to delight in what delights him.” ― Charles Hodge

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how many characteristics from that list in 2 Timothy chapter 3 could have described us at one time or another.  Thank God for His undeserved favor (grace)!  Without divine intervention we too would be the people that Paul warned Timothy to avoid. Listen, we all still behave badly on occasion, but a true follower of the Liberator Jesus is being transformed into the image of our Creator a little more each day by that otherworldly influence that is at work within us.

Paul had more words of wisdom for young Timothy,

 10-11a “But you, Timothy, have known intimately both what I have taught and how I lived. My purpose and my faith are no secrets to you. You saw my endurance and love and patience as I met all those persecutions and difficulties at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra.

11b-13 And you know how the Lord brought me safely through them all. Persecution is inevitable for those who are determined to live really Christian lives, while wicked and deceitful men will go from bad to worse, deluding others and deluding themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:10-13 PHILLIPS)

This once Pharisaical man was always down for the good fight.  He epitomizes the real deal.  As an unassuming follower of Jesus, he understood what it truly means to live a life that respects and honors the Creator of all things (GOD).  He also knew how easy it is to deceive people who are naive (sadly, even many of today’s Christians, it seems), and who are openly searching for meaning in life.  Paul warns of the fraudulent “con men” for a reason. They gain your confidence and then exploit your trust.  Their misrepresentation of God helps to worsen the public perception of the Liberator Jesus. Don’t let that discourage you.

Listen now to what Paul went on to tell Timothy,

14 “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Wow.  Scriptural Truth defines us.  If we are but a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, then God as the Master potter uses His truth to prepare and equip us to do His work. The Almighty is shaping our earthen vessels for a specific purpose.

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire most.”  ― Thomas Merton

It’s inescapable; this current world system will continue to grow more and more dangerous and deceived.  People will go right on rejecting the Creator of all things (GOD) and His Liberator.  In fact, the Almighty will eventually expedite mankind’s ultimate delusional state.  Say what?  Absolutely.  It begins when an imposter savior – an anti-Christ – arrives on the world scene.  Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,

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

Pay attention now: when someone hears the truth but habitually refuses to obey it, they leave themselves wide-open to every lie and deception disseminated in the midst of humanity. Paul told the Jesus followers living in ancient Rome that as a result of mankind’s foolishness and their arrogant disdain for the ways of the Almighty, people will subsequently:

28 “…give up on God and will not even acknowledge him, so, God will give them up to doing everything their evil minds can think of.”

“Although they know of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they will not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of others who practice them” (Romans 1:28, 32).

Yes indeed, it’s going to get really – really – bad here on spaceship earth.  But, here’s some good news; you can be spared the worse of what is to come – the wrath of an angry Sovereign.  How does a life of certainty (now and ever after) that is personally guaranteed by the only legitimate champion of truth and justice sound to you?  I’d like you to meet Jesus.  Really get to know Him.  I have told you a few things about Him before. He claims to be the doorway through which we must pass in order to enter a new dimension of living.  He also referred to himself as the road upon which we must travel to make our way back where we belong.  Follow Jesus and you’re on the path of a “real life” here on earth.  When you die, now that’s the best part. You get to spend timelessness with the Creator of all things. (GOD).  On the other hand, you could just keep drifting along with the currents, following the ways of this present darkness and, well, you’ll remain lost, delusional and on your own. Your call.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my grouper and romaine salad awaits.  Thank you God for those who have heard your voice today; May they all have ears to hear and eyes to see.  And, thank you for my food.  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
The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance; we find delight in the most loathsome things; some furtherance of Hell each new day brings, and yet we feel no horror in that rank advance.” ― Charles Baudelaire

It’s been dubbed the ‘ostrich problem’ by a British research team – disregarding reality in order to sidestep unpleasant situations.  The expression ‘ostrich problem’, is apparently a reference to the urban myth that an ostrich, when surrounded by danger, will bury its head in the sand.  The notion is that the supposedly dumb bird believes that if it doesn’t see the problem then the problem will go away.  According to this study, people often ignore what is going on around them to avoid the “negative feelings” associated with confronting the truth – in other words, they either ignore or reject the facts.  Evidently, denial can also be therapeutic.  I guess for some folks, ignorance really is bliss.

Meanwhile, here in modern Sodom and Gomorrah, the decline and fall of decency and rudimentary moral behaviors continues unabated.  Everyday a new “evil” is declared to be “good”.  What was once shunned by polite society is now not only embraced and promoted, it is also being forced upon those who continue to recognize it as sinful or inappropriate.

The 8th-century BC prophet Isaiah ben Amoz, penned a warning aimed at his own malevolent culture:

18 Woe to those who drag their sins behind them like a bullock on a rope. 19 They even mock the Holy One (God) and dare the Lord to punish them. “Hurry up and punish us, O Lord,” they say. “We want to see what you can do!” 20 They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter21 Woe to those who are wise and shrewd in their own eyes!”  (Isaiah 5:18-21 – TLB)

This ancient text got me wondering; is there a word that can help us to grasp the mechanism that drives a cultural breakdown?  Sin comes to my mind.  But for so many post-moderns, sin is “so yesterday”.  Okay, let me offer you a new “old” word.  Maybe we can hash tag it.  Make it “so today.”  Here it is: Decadence.

By living a life “against nature,” the deviant or pervert becomes a hero or heroine in decadent fiction.” ― Asti Hustvedt

Are you at all familiar with the term decadence?  The word literally means to descend from a higher order to a lower level in quality, character, or vitality.  A decadent person is sometimes also referred to as a degenerate – one who is in spiritual, intellectual, or especially moral decline.  Social decadence is a process; a slow and sometimes barely perceived deterioration in the moral fiber of a culture. Like hidden decay, the rot can often go unnoticed for a very long time; eventually reaching a point where the damage produced is well beyond mending.

Here in the United States of Sodom, concepts like honesty, decency, honor and ethics have already lost much of their significance in these post-modern times. It appears that our culture operates in such a state of delusion that people believe society is actually moving forward in a progressive triumph when in truth it is crumbling at its very foundations.  Have you heard this Proverb?

“When the righteous (honest and upright) are in (positions of) authority and become great, the people rejoice; but when the wicked man rules, the people groan and sigh.  (Proverbs 29:2 – AMP)

Groan… sigh… groan…

I’m fairly certain you are familiar with the idiom “it’s my lot in life.” That is actually a Biblical reference.  In the Older Testament book of Genesis, Lot parts ways with Abraham to seek his own future and he “pitched his tents toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). Unfortunately for him, he also parts ways with what God had planned.  This places Lot on the wrong life path.  Consequently, his days are filled with much trouble and sorrow. And that my friends is the origin of the idiom, “it’s my lot in life.”

Sometimes, I cannot help but notice the growing number of people who wish to focus the blame for their lot in life on someone or something other than themselves.  Whatever happened to individual responsibility; the understanding that we are each accountable for our own actions and outcomes?   There was a time when attainment came from hard work and perseverance. People once took delight in getting an honest education, acquiring useful skills and learning self-sufficiency. Today these qualities are being replaced by a dependence on various forms of public assistance as the proletariat population continues to become ever more reliant on various forms of “tax payer” handouts to earn a living.

Promises of freedom through economic equality (socialism), and a quasi-fascist approach to governance (quite often championed by our modern liberal reformists) are regularly advanced through a highly sophisticated deception perpetrated upon an under-informed population.  As a result, moral and religious beliefs are routinely attacked, and the once cherished traditions of faith, virtuous family values and a genuine sense of community are quietly being eradicated.  Modern progressives call this “fundamentally transforming society”.  I call it the new Babylon.

Some would argue that we are simply discovering alternative ways to look at community. In this current Cultural Revolution, our society is progressing for the furtherance of the collective through diversity.  But others see a new way of life emerging where the people are being methodically stripped of any remaining self-determination. Weighed down by our post-modern confused logic and inconsistent (or non-existent) morality, we are losing sight of the higher purpose in and for our human existence.

The mother tongue of politicians is that of ancient Babylon: a language designed to severely limit discourse within a tower of praise to elitism, a language carried on breath’s reeking of the fecal matter from their paymasters” ― Dean Cavanagh

The United States of America was once firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian certainty. Our traditional way of life (born of a faith in the providence of a Divine Creator) was central to our well-being as individuals and as a nation. It was a shared moral code which allowed our founding fathers to find common ground and mutual cooperation. The “great experiment” called the USA cannot survive the death of the very system of belief that brought it into being. When we lose touch with the Divine order of our Creator, the culture will most certainly decay precipitously.

Nearly 2000 years ago, a man named Saul of Tarsus (who later become known as Paul, an Apostle of the Liberator Jesus) waxed eloquent as he predictively saw the future,

18-23 But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to reverence him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figures you can buy at any roadside stand.

24-25 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us.”  (Romans 1:21-25 – MSG)

The morality and justice of God set against the wickedness of mankind is nothing new. The Creator will eventually put a stop to all of this abject stupidity. He alone can and will impartially judge mankind. Our days are numbered here on spaceship earth.  In the meantime, we who know the one true Spirit will indeed cling to our cherished traditions of faith, virtuous family values and a genuine sense of community as best as we can.

The Newer Testament writer Paul also once wrote a word of instruction to his friend and fellow believer, Pastor Timothy,

2“Everything that you have heard me preach in public you should in turn entrust to reliable men (and women), who will be able to pass it on to others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2 – PHILLIPS)

That is an assignment we can all embrace!  Fighting “Caesar” is not the answer.  Obsessive preoccupation with the tomfoolery of partisan politics will only stress you out.  Right and truth are neither Republican nor Democrat.  Governments may turn oppressive, but it’s always the TRUTH that sets you free.  That is why I follow the Liberator Jesus, He said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life” (John 14:6).

Let me share these additional thoughts from the pen of the Newer Testament writer Paul as originally written to the Christians living in the ancient city of Philippi,

8-9 “Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of Almighty God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will always be with you.”  (Philippians 4:9 – PHILLIPS)

There are many righteous, pure and beautiful things still crying out for our attention here on space ship earth.  Never ignore the dangers of this present darkness and “bury your head in the sand.”  But likewise, never let the sands of adversity entomb your faith and destroy your effectiveness.  The Newer Testament writer Matthew quoted the Liberator Jesus as saying,

5-8 “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the (spiritually) dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”  (Matthew 10:7-10 – MSG)

Look out mates, there may be many squalls ahead.  But come hell or high water, we can be ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within us.  Never give up on hope, it is the anchor of your soul.

Let’s pray.

Father of all life, we your people on spaceship earth, called by your name, are humbling ourselves today, calling out to you, seeking your presence, and turning away from the wickedness that has become so pervasive in our nations.  We respectfully call your attention to the promise recorded in the older covenant book of 2 Chronicles, 14 “…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”  We put you in remembrance of your word today.  And we ask you to watch over us, protect us and if it is not already too late, to heal our land.  Thank you Sovereign Creator.  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