Posts Tagged ‘God’

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

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

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

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

“Only a little while.” The fisherman replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Author Unknown –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got it?  Excellent.

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

Okay, maybe not.

But, I am content!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
It is possible to be highly educated and at the same time morally depraved.  There is, in fact, a certain kind of moral depravity that only the highly educated can attain, because it requires sophisticated skills of rationalization and self-deception.”  ― Iain W. Proven ―

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great God of this universe, you alone know us for who we really are. Your great love for mankind was demonstrated when you sent the Liberator Jesus to implement your plan of rescue for the lost human population of this slowly dying planet. Please help my friends who seek a better way to be drawn to the hope that you offer today – the Liberator Jesus – one way, one truth, one life. I ask this in his name. Amen

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
If God doesn’t soon bring judgment upon America, He’ll have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” – Ruth Graham 

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

You doubt me?  Let’s talk.

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentleman:  Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1-2 “No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are in Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life in Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.” – Romans 8:2 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Henry S. Haskins —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning again to the Bible’s Newer Testament.

18-20 “Timothy my son, I give you the following charge. And may I say, before I give it to you, that it is in full accord with those prophecies made at your ordination which sent you out to battle for the right armed only with your faith and a clear conscience. Some, alas, have laid these simple weapons contemptuously aside (faith and a clear conscience) and, as far as their faith is concerned, have run their ships on the rocks. Hymenaeus and Alexander are men of this sort, and as a matter of fact I had to expel them from the Church to teach them not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18-20 – Phillips)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Che Dio vi benedica e vi mostrerà quanto ti ama .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.” – Ram Dass

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

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

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

Can we talk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Liberator Jesus once said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. (Revelation 21:4)

Let us pray for that day to come swiftly.

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

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

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

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

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

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

According to the NIH, a person with GAD may:

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

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

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

You doubt me? Let’s talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break that down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
I was being called to surrender the very citadel of my “self”. I was completely in the dark. I did not really know what repentance was or what I was required to repent of. It was indeed the turning point of my life.” – Bede Griffiths –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be not deceived.

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

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

You are heir to a heavenly fortune, the sole beneficiary of an infinite spiritual trust fund, a proverbial goldmine of sacred abundance beyond all common measure or human comprehension. But until you choose to exercise your rightful inheritance of this blessed gift, it will remain unclaimed and forever beyond your reach.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

I have grown to loathe what the American political process has become. Endless quibbling, ruthless character assignations, and the lies… my word… the lies. If it were possible, I do believe some of the founders of this once great nation would burst forth from their graves and rebuke the Gypsies, tramps and thieves who are squatting in the various citadels of American Government. I am often embarrassed for my country, and I apologize to the world that this once dazzling beacon of hope and bastion of freedom has become a drifting ship of fools nearly void (at least at the moment) of genuine effective leadership. Sometimes it feels like we are all living a repetitive loop from that old Stealers Wheel classic, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” That’s why, like the ancient Patriarch Abraham, my eyes are ever looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Similar to politics, religion is also often troubled by foolishness and inconsistency. Much evil has been perpetrated and/or justified in the name of God. But is that the fault of the Almighty? Or is it just the tragic acts of spiritually blind and ill-advised humans? I dare say, God is NOT the problem. Au contraire mon ami, He offers one universal solution – His Amazing Grace. It is the gift worth choosing. Stay tuned.

The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the entire mess of life with one word: GRACE.” ― Max Lucado

Does the Master Spirit, the Creator of all things, the Almighty God have a plan to save all of mankind from obliteration, or does He choose some for redemption and predestine others for damnation.  Can anyone receive restoration from the Liberator Jesus, or only the chosen few?  A subject of considerable debate among Christian theologians appears to center on whether or not our faith in God is a matter of personal choice (free will) or a calling and thus a gift bestowed arbitrarily (a sovereign act of the Almighty).

Let’s talk about it.

Faith as a Choice

Some people say that faith in God is entirely a matter of personal choice (a sole act of the human “free will”). They quote scriptures like Deuteronomy 30:19-20 where Moses called upon the people of ancient Israel to make a choice. He admonished the wayward Israelites to choose life over death and blessings over curses by making a decision to love and obey Jehovah:

19“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Later, after the leadership of Israel passes to Joshua from Moses, notice how Joshua continues to urge the indecisive people of Israel:

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

Based on this dress-down, it certainly would appear that faith is indeed a choice. Joshua compels the people to “choose today whom you will serve.” And, he makes it quite clear that his family has chosen to serve Jehovah.

In the Newer Testament the Liberator Jesus said it this way,

4“Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.” (John 15:4 NLT)

So again, it appears we have a choice. If we choose to follow Jesus (live in Him), He remains in an on-going and indwelling relationship within us. In fact, we are told that this cooperative connection is a prerequisite for a living a fruitful life.

Faith as a Gift

Flip over the coin and there you’ll find those people who would say that we do not choose to follow God. They reason that we are already chosen by His sovereign will. For them, our rescue from eternal damnation is strictly a matter of election and therefore a sovereign gift. God chooses us and we have nothing to do with the process. They quote scriptures like Deuteronomy 7:6,

6“For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.”

Or, they might quote the ancient prophetic writer Isaiah who was an oracle to the people of Israel:

1“But now listen, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord Who made you, Who put you together before you were born, Who will help you, says, ‘Do not be afraid, O Jacob My servant, and you Jeshurun (Israel) whom I have chosen(Isaiah 44:1-2 – NLV)

And then there are these words from the lips of the Liberator Jesus:

16“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” (John 15:16 – NLV)

So, did the Israelites choose God or did God choose the Israelites? And in this, the Newer Testament era, do we choose God or does He choose us?

Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people choose to withdraw from the gift of God.” ― Augustine
FAITH: Choice and Gift

After considering all of these verses (and many, many others), it would appear that faith in God is both a gift and a choice. I know what you might be thinking, “isn’t that a contradiction?” Not necessarily; a bit perplexing, perhaps, but not conflicting.

Let me explain. Have you ever been in love? Did you choose to fall in love? Did you say to yourself, “Tonight I think I’ll go out somewhere and fall in love?” Sure enough, someone just comes up to you and says, “Hello” (Cue the music and sweet little birds chirping) and, SHAZAM – You fall madly and hopelessly in love!”

Sorry, it does not work like that; you do not choose to fall in love. Be it the right day, wrong day, good timing or bad – It just happens. Some say, it’s all in the chemistry. Think of falling in love as an unexpected gift.

But there is also choice involved in love relationships. We make a choice to pursue the spontaneous spark of “falling in love” to its logical conclusion – a meaningful relationship. The conjugal union does not just happen to you. A lifetime of exclusive love and devotion to another person is the result of a decision (choice).

It’s not the law of religion nor the principles of morality that define our highways and pathways to God; only by the Grace of God are we led and drawn, to God. It is His grace that conquers a multitude of flaws and in that grace, there is only favor. Favor is not achieved; favor is received by choice.” ― C. JoyBell C.

And so the great debate: Is our redemption the result of the sovereignty of God alone or do we exercise our own free will and choose to follow Him? What if the answer is BOTH? Could faith in God involve both a gift and a choice?

Faith is a gift because God choose us before we choose Him. As recipients of this gift of amazing grace (again, His sovereignty), we lose all bragging rights. The New Testament writer Paul said,

8”God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 – NLT)

Since we did nothing to deserve it, we cannot sing our own praises. There remains but one reaction – gratefulness – as we awaken to the consciousness that an eternal life of joy and peace await us in another world when the illusion of time is no more.

Faith is a choice because we alone are accountable for our individual and unique relationship with God. Hypocritical Christians, corrupt clergy or a bad church experience is no excuse to walk away. Jesus said, “Live in me.” Accepting what Jesus offers you is an on-going personal responsibility. Our choice to follow Him is reaffirmed daily.

So, to believe in God involves absolute trust.  Our faith (absolute trust) is both a choice and a gift. Failure to understand that faith is a choice will lead to self-righteousness. But, if we forget that faith in God begins as a gift, we will live in fear; trying to earn the Divine blessings instead of joyously accepting what God freely gives to us when we believe.

And that brings me back to God’s universal solution – His Amazing Grace. In the words of the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807):

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail, a life of joy and peace.

Today, by His Amazing Grace, God freely offers you forgiveness and redemption, regardless of any wickedness committed in your life.  The Creator of all things is full of compassion.  In fact, there is no end to His mercy.

So I say, AMEN to the God who has chosen me to be His own for eternity.

And I say, AMEN to Jesus the great Liberator whom I choose to follow all of my days.

What about you?   Will you say AMEN?  The key to a prosperous life is found in both the Gift and the Choice.

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Accept the gift that God is offering to you and choose life. To do so is wise indeed.

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:
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