Posts Tagged ‘God’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk to the one who made us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to these words from the ancient prophet Jeremiah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
People make mistakes all the time. That’s how we learn and grow. If there’s patience and love, and you care for people, you can work them through it, and they can find their greatest heights.” ― Pete Carroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
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
We do not understand the intricate pattern of the stars in their courses, but we know that He who created them does, and that just as surely as He guides them, He is charting a safe course for us.” ― Billy Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
e world The Apocalypse (end of times) speaks powerfully of trouble ahead with storm warnings that carry a booming jolt of truth. The warning is clear: prepare to meet thy God…” ~ Billy Graham ~

I had a dream recently.  The world was at peace.  No wars.  No division.  Everyone had learned to love and respect one another.  It was euphoric.  But when I awoke and switched on the morning news…  So much for that delusion.

Have you ever heard of the Institute for Economics and Peace?   The IEP describes itself as “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.”

A “a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being?”  Really?  So how’s the world doing?

According to a recent annual study released by the IEP, out of roughly 162 countries that they track, less than a dozen were not involved in some form of open conflict. And, many of those “less conflicted” nations face problems that could lead to struggles at some future time according to the IEP report.

With increasing terrorist activity around the world, the perennial conflicts in the Gaza, Syria, Iran and Iraq, civil combativeness in the Ukraine, the continual violence in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sometimes it can appear like the whole world is one homogeneous combat zone.

In reality, if you dream of a land flowing with milk and honey, where peace, harmony and goodwill toward men can be found, your chances of finding such a Shangri-La here on spaceship earth are slim to none. Sorry John Lennon, people don’t seem to have a burning desire to give peace a chance.

Now add to all of this conflict the ever increasing threat of worsening global economic instabilities, toss in a few natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and…, well, is it any wonder that many believe things are only going to get worse from here? Like it or not, humanity will never achieve the utopian vision of a worldwide peace.

We are not at peace with others, because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves, because we are not at peace with God.” ~ Thomas Merton

It’s not like mankind has not been warned of this inexorable dilemma in advance. A man known simply as Jesus of Nazareth spoke to a large gathering of people assembled on a hillside in ancient Israel nearly 2000 years ago:

3-14 “And as he was sitting on the slope of the Mount of Olives his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen? What will be the signal for your coming and the end of this world?”  Be careful that no one misleads you,” said Jesus, “for many men will come in my name saying ‘I am Christ’, and they will mislead many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars—but don’t be alarmed. Such things must indeed happen, but that is not the end. For one nation will rise in arms against another, and one kingdom against another, and there will be famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world. But all that is only the beginning of the birth-pangs. For then comes the time when men will hand you over to persecution, and kill you. And all nations will hate you because you bear my name. Then comes the time when many will lose their faith, and will betray and hate each other. Oh yes, and many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many people. Because of the spread of wickedness the love of most men will grow cold, though the man who holds out to the end will be saved. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed to men all over the world as a witness to all the nations, and then end will come.” (Matthew 24:3-14 – Phillips)

I have always been intrigued by the way that Jesus did not answer the questions of “when” specific events that he spoke of would occur.  He seems to leave that purposely uncertain. Instead, He shifts the focus from the speculative to the practical, warning them to watch out for false teachers. Jesus said that they were to be continually on the lookout because many false liberators will come in my name claiming to be the savior of humanity; they will misinform a lot of people.

Next he spoke of persistent conflicts. Mankind has continued to engage in warfare since the day when Jesus first delivered this Olivet discourse. The regularity of global hostilities should not unduly alarm us because warfare alone is not indicative of the end of the world. Jesus wanted his followers to understand that a proliferation of false liberators, conflict in many forms, global famines and earthquakes, are simply the “beginning of the birth pangs” (also called the beginning of sorrows in Matthew 24:8).

Jesus used the term birth pangs to personify an unspecified period of time when global distresses and sufferings increase exponentially. Think of a woman who is in labor and about to give birth to her child. She will have a painful contraction which will then diminish. But soon another contraction begins, followed by many more which increase in both frequency and intensity. This can continue for a long time. The process doesn’t end until the baby is born.  Jesus employed this analogy to describe end time events in the years, months and weeks leading up to His second visit to planet Earth.

Jesus went on to warn of the coming war on Christianity, culminating in a worldwide hatred of anyone who says “I am a Christian”. He said that this will cause numerous believers to misplace their faith and even betray and hate each other (the great apostasy). The vacuum created by the loss of the Judeo-Christian influence in society will accelerate the rise of false prophets who will continue to spread their strong delusional “new age” message. Thus, wickedness will proliferate and the love of countless men and women will grow emotionless and unsympathetic.

I know what you’re thinking, “Thanks for all the encouragement here, brother.”  What can I say? It’s all the truth. But, Jesus did offer a word of comfort. He said that every believer who hold on to their faith until the very end will be saved!  So, you hang in there baby!

In the end, everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end.” ~ Fernando Sabino

There are many references in the Bible which point to the eventual demise of mankind to be followed by various judgements and finally a genuine “New World Order.” Here are just two which describe life on spaceship earth just before the end:

26-36“In the time of the coming of the Son of Man, life will be as it was in the days of Noah. People ate and drank, married and were given in marriage, right up to the day when Noah entered the ark—and then came the flood and destroyed them all. It will be just the same as it was in the days of Lot. People ate and drank, bought and sold, planted and built, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. That is how it will be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17: 26-30 – NLT)

2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 – Phillips)

As sure as the sun rise appears in the eastern sky, the end of this age (the world as we now know it) will eventually come. If you happen to be one of my agnostic, apathetic, apostate or otherwise dazed and confused readers who are having a hard time grasping all of this; just keep observing the daily newscasts. Why?  Because every headline is a warning from God – the end of time is drawing near.  If, on the other hand, you are a genuine follower of the Liberator Jesus, then your mission remains the same;

15And then Jesus told them, “You are to go into the entire world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. 16 Those that believe you and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe what you tell them will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

Why is this mandate to share the message of forgiveness and liberation even more critical today? Because it appears that we may indeed be witnessing the prelude to the end of the age of man.

The Liberator Jesus stepped out from eternity into what we call time to rescue a lost people stranded on a doomed planet. He told of how the creator of all things (God) offers to transform our renegade existence into one of freedom, peace and joy. Eventually he left the earth. But His spirit remains here with us to this day. And when all is said and done, he’ll be back to give us a free ride to a new home.

I am not a Christian because God changed my life; I am a Christian because of my convictions about who Jesus Christ really is.” ~ Josh McDowell

By the way, anticipating the end of the world is not all that dreadful if you are a follower of the Liberator Jesus.  Humanity lacks the true knowledge of how to bring peace to the world. That is why the Creator Himself will return to this doomed planet.  He will establish himself as the supreme leader of mankind, and act swiftly to put down all rebellion against His rule. The return of the Liberator is when this world will finally know genuine, everlasting PEACE!  Until then, believers can enjoy the inner peace that God has put into our human spirit by our faith.

If you do not believe this, a final word of warning – not from me – from the Spirit of the Almighty who made us:

12 “What sorrow awaits you who build cities with money gained through murder and corruption!  13 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has promised that the wealth of the nations will turn to ashes.  You work so hard, but it is all in vain!  14 For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.”  (Habakkuk 2:12-14)

On the other hand, if you are a disciple of the Liberator Jesus, never lose sight of what He said that day on the Mount of Olives,

14 “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nation will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14 – NLT)

Got it? Great! Now get busy… go holler the good news – from the mountains… to the prairies… to the oceans white with foam, and to the uttermost parts of spaceship earth!

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