Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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

History is beset with acts of violence committed by depraved, disturbed and hateful human beings. According to the Genesis account of creation, God brought forth humanity on the earth, mankind fell, and it wasn’t long before a hate fueled murder occurred on the outskirts of Eden. So it began, and hatred continues to plague humanity to this very day. I have read many explanations as to why we have reached a new crescendo of hatred. The fickle finger of blame is blowing in the wind like a weather-vane. To me it is really rather simple: wherever you find a culture that is driven by an “us” versus “them” mentality, you will also find disharmony and all other kinds of evil (James 3:16). Beware the toxic evil spirit of hate. It is a powerful motivator. Spawned in fear, if left to grow unfettered, it will first consume you and in the end it will destroy you.

The 1983 Sci-Fi film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of The Jedi, features a scene in which the evil Emperor Palpatine attempts to persuade young Luke Skywalker to join The Dark Side. Emperor “evil personified” speaks these oft’ quoted words: “Good, good, let the hate flow through you.” In the fantasy world of Star Wars, hate as well as other darker emotions (fear, anger, and aggression) allows one to tap into the power of the dark side.

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it: Does hate resolve problems? Tell me the last time hatred brought about a solution or positive change? Have you ever met a truly happy hater? I don’t think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.

But if you bite and devour one another in partisan strife, be careful that you and your whole fellowship are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15

I’ve got that iconic Beatles tune, A Day In The Life, stuck in my head. It was booming from someone’s boat as I strolled the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida this morning. The old Lennon/McCartney composition got me thinking about our daily headlines. My mind filled with a thousand distressing soundbites ending in one pervasive thought: we’re living in really dangerous times. Now before you break out in a chorus of “Golly, Ya think…” or “Really Sherlock…,” hear me out.

I am generally an optimistic person; a glass half full, we can do all things kind of guy. But, I am also a pragmatist who does not hide inside a bubble of denial or wishful thinking. My Christian worldview continually shapes my outlook on life. So, when the daily headlines start to sound like excerpts from the prophetic texts of scripture, I can’t help but take notice. “I read the news today… oh boy.”

It seems pretty clear to me that if certain cultural trends and vitriolic political rancor continue unabated, days of great distress will surly come upon us all. Perhaps the marvelous man from Galilee said it best, 25 “Every nation divided into groups that fight each other is going to be destroyed. Every city or family divided into groups that fight each other will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25 NLV)

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and yet one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” ― Abraham Lincoln

On June 16, 1858 the Springfield, Illinois, Republican State Convention chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate. That evening, Lincoln delivered an address to the more than 1000 delegates which (borrowing from the words of Jesus) he entitled, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Mr. Lincoln was warned by friends to whom he read the finished address ahead of time that it was too radical and politically incorrect for the occasion. Nevertheless, Lincoln deliver the speech as written; arguing that the expression, (a house divided against itself), “…is a truth of all human experience…”, and that his intention was to use something familiar to his audience in order to “rouse them to the peril of the times.” [1] The threat of his time, of course, was slavery and the looming danger of a civil war. Mr. Lincoln warned the delegates that day,

“… A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Lincoln lost his run for the Senate that year, but two years later, Nov 6th 1860, he would go on to be elected the 16th President of the United States. On Dec. 20 of that same year, South Carolina seceded from the Union; and on April 12, 1861, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. In a nation divided against itself, the Civil War had begun. In the end, the Unionists prevailed, order was restored, and for the time being the nation was saved from utter ruin.

Fast forward 150 years or so and what do we observe? The United States is anything but united. From my perspective, we live in a nation that is not only sharply divided, but continues to fundamentally dilute her national character. It’s getting harder and harder to find unaffected leaders who will defend the righteous principles that inspired our Constitution and enabled the USA to become a one-time envy of the world. Now-a-days, many of our marginally informed, blasé and increasingly lethargic population are eager to trade their liberty, privacy and sovereignty for a promise of freebie prosperity and temporary security. In essence, like biblical Esau who foolishly squandered his heritage for a mere bowl of soup, they unwittingly sell their precious birthright of freedom to satisfy short term desires. (Genesis 25:29–34)

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. George Washington

What about modern religion – Christianity in particular? Is it just me, or do we live in a time where so many of “the faithful” have redefined their traditional values for the sake of maintaining a cultural relevance? Sociological trends have spawned a new “all-inclusive” spiritual movement full of concessions to agnosticism. Today’s religious agnostics can be hard to spot. They often embrace spiritual principles and scriptural values because it helps them to comprehend some aspects of the human condition while still maintaining that any absolute truth is either subjective, unknown, or unknowable. Let’s just call this movement what it is:  The First Church of the Ambiguous.

Then, of course, there are the multitudes who have either lost their faith altogether or never had any belief in a Creator to begin with. Today our society (secular and sacred) has become so fragmented by opinions and viewpoints that we now truly live in a “nation divided into groups that fight each other.” God help us.

One of the great Biblical authors was a man called Paul. He was born around 1 AD in Tarsus, an ancient city in Asia Minor. Paul was a very well educated man, and a passionate religious Jew who came to recognize that Jesus was the long awaited Liberator (Messiah), sent to the earth for the benefit and reclamation of mankind. A collection of his letters account for almost half the written content of the Newer Testament (13 books) and they are a major source of Christian Theology.

In one of those letters, written to his young protégé named Timothy, whom at the time was the overseer of a community of believers in the ancient Greek city known as Ephesus, Paul wrote these cautionary words,

1 “You should know this, Timothy, in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT)

Paul certainly does not mince words in describing how mankind would evolve down a long path of degradation. The way he defines the characteristics of human beings, particularly as we draw closer to the end of the age of man, is unnerving. Like it or not, Paul hit the nail on the head. Just look around. Could we be living in a period of the prophetically predicted, difficult times? An era when “faith in God” to some is little more than outward appearance, and to others utterly meaningless? I am beginning to believe that we are.

“I also believe that without his (God’s) concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a bye word down to future age.” ― Benjamin Franklin

There are contemporary writers and commentators who refer to the discord and social turmoil playing out before our eyes as a war between Political Parties. Others are calling it an ideological conflict between the viewpoints of Progressives, Socialists, and Conservatives. Some even say it is a struggle to defend our Democratic Constitutional Republic from those who wish to fundamentally transform society into a one world system – a.k.a. The New World Order. Listen, you can label the chaos whatever you like. My question is this: what is the underlying cause of it all? Could all of the societal dysfunction really be a spiritual problem? Are we witnessing a free-for-all between light and darkness? If so, what is the proper Christian response?

The political process is inherently dirty, tragically broken and miles away from the teachings of Jesus. Should we have an educated opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Of course. Should we vote? Absolutely. But as men and women of faith, we are not to simply choose sides and then engage in endless partisan arguments that only engender strife. (2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9) It’s time for the children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5) to truly understand what the Newer Testament writer Paul meant when he reminded the believers who lived in ancient Ephesus:

“…our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.” (Ephesians 6:12 Phillips)

Did you hear that? Our fight is a spiritual war waged in the realms of the unseen. Engaging in endless conflicts with our fellow passengers here on spaceship earth will only destroy our productivity, and diminish our effectiveness. If we are busy attacking one another, we can’t fight the real enemy.

The admonition of the scripture is to steer clear of people who live to make trouble and start fights (Romans 16:17). As I have already said, Christians most certainly should take a stand and speak out whenever necessary, but in doing so we must not become quarrelsome (2 Timothy 2:24). It’s called living in harmony with all mankind. (Romans 12:16, Hebrews 12:14)

“You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out. ― Thomas Kinkade

This world will continue to grow more and more dangerous. People will go right on rejecting one another, their Creator, and his redemptive plan. In fact, the Almighty will eventually expedite their ultimate delusional state. Say what? Absolutely. Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,

5-12 “I expect you remember now how I talked about this when I was with you. You will probably also remember how I used to talk about a “restraining power” which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this evil man (known as anti-christ). Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the “restraining power” (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen—though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – J.B. PHILLIPS)

The Lawless Man? Evil Spirits? Falsified signs and wonders? Deluded by evil? Yes, and a whole lot more. It’s going to get really bad here on spaceship earth. But we’ll save that discussion for another day.

No matter what the future holds, I’m not worried. I believe the teachings of scripture. The Liberator Jesus once said, “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light” (John 12:36). One day, (if our natural death does not occur first), the “restraining power of God will be removed”, and the children of light will be taken from the earth to escaping the wrath that is to come. Either way – we win! How about you?

Peace out.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie®, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com

[1] Herndon, op. cit., p. 325

There is nothing in the world as easy in giving as an opinion; consequently, in general, there are few things so utterly valueless. ― Charles William Day

It’s a beautiful morning. The Gulf waters are placid at the moment. This will most likely change later on today as the developing sea breezes herald the arrival of our prevalent afternoon thunderstorms. But for now, the pelicans are feasting on an abundant fish buffet, and the dolphins are entertaining the tourists who visit the docks while on holiday. Me? Just enjoying another “Floriday at the office” in this wonderful paradise that I call home. What’s that? Calling it a paradise is just my “opinion.” One man’s paradise could be another man’s hell. Well, if you’re not particularly fond of palm trees, beaches, exotic wild life, an abundance of tasty sea food, and fresh locally grown produce most of the year, I suppose that is true. The heat? Yes, it does get hot in the summer. But some love it hot – like me. So, yes, in my humble opinion, I indeed live in a sub-tropic paradise.

Speaking of opinions, have you noticed that just about everyone has an opinion about almost everything imaginable these days? Most share them quite freely and often with great passion. It seems to me that mankind is very… well, opinionated. Of course, that’s just my opinion (tee-hee).

According to the Genesis account of the origins of our species, the Creator brought forth mankind upon the earth and established some basic rules that were to be obeyed. Shortly thereafter man screwed up and when confronted offered his own opinion on what had occurred. It was the female named Eve’s opinion that the tempter Serpent was to blame for her indiscretion. The man Adam had a strong opinion as to who should be held accountable – he blamed “the woman” that the Creator had put in his life. But in the end, the great Architect paid no attention to either of their inapt opinions (or excuses, depending on how you want to look at it). He just stuck to the facts. They disobeyed a Divine directive and now they would suffer the consequences – opinions or excuses notwithstanding.

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” ― Harlan Ellison

Some may argue that everyone is “entitled” to their personal opinion, but I say, not so fast. That assertion has actually been referred to by many philosophers and truth-seekers as a logical fallacy. Proclaiming ones right to an opinion is often used as an excuse to support a position that is factually indefensible. Claiming a “right” to your opinion does not necessarily entitle you to speak out on a matter of which you have little knowledge or relevant expertise. In fact, that would make you opinionated which by definition means “to form (an opinion) prior to actual knowledge or experience.” Let me put it another way, a truly valid opinion is always defensible by facts (proofs, evidence). Like the fictional detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, in the old Dragnet television series would often say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

There are, of course, those for whom facts and truth are a troublesome annoyance. Take former Indiana Congressman Earl Landgrebe for instance. In 1974 he famously uttered these words during the Watergate hearings, “Don’t confuse me with facts: I’ve got a closed mind.” Ah, spoken like a quintessential politician (with a few rare exceptions, of course). And no, he was not a Socialist nor a liberal Democrat, he was actually a Republican. Sorry, just those pesky facts again.

You would think that living in the age of information and social media might just help to put an end to the rampant dispersing of misinformation and half-truths. Think again. It has actually exacerbated the problem. I can remember a time when our ideas were forged in the fires of realistic knowledge. We took our time, weighed the evidence, and pondered the many facets of a challenge or an argument before forming an opinion. Today, not so much. In this the so called “sound bite generation”, positions and decisions are often based upon short, sharp morsels of information and flashy “memes” spread via social media. Quite often the “information” isn’t even factual, thus the term “false news.”

Your opinion is your opinion, your perception is your perception–do not confuse them with “facts” or “truth”. Wars have been fought and millions have been killed because of the inability of men to understand the idea that EVERYBODY has a different viewpoint. ― John Moore

I can’t help but wonder if some people even know what a “fact” is anymore. Do you? I didn’t ask what you think a fact is. That would actually be your opinion. With all due respect, I am not really interested in your opinion right now. My question to you is, “what is a fact?” And by the way, the answer is not subjective. It doesn’t matter how you interpret a “fact”, deal with a “fact”, or if you disagree with a “fact”. A FACT is a fact. End of discussion. Sorry relativists and ye coddled masses, one man’s fact cannot be another man’s fiction.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “fact” is defined this way:

  • something that truly exists or happens
  • something that has actual existence
  • a true piece of information

A fact can be checked and backed up with evidence. For instance, on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In a surprise victory, the Republican ticket of businessman Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence defeated the Democrat ticket of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, despite losing the plurality of the popular vote. Trump took office as the 45th President, and Pence as the 48th Vice President, on January 20, 2017. It doesn’t matter if you like this fact or not. It doesn’t matter if you dispute this fact. It doesn’t matter if you rejected this fact. It doesn’t even matter if you refuse to accept the fact that Donald Trump IS the President. Why? Because it is FACT. It happened. And you can do nothing to change this circumstance. It is a cold hard fact. We can do a “fact check” by looking at the numerous records which document and validate this particular event. That is why substantiated facts are usually considered to be reliable and therefore are often used in conjunction with research and study.

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in fact, logic and argument than others.” ― Douglas Adams

Sometimes an opinion can have validity and therefore carry great weight. For example, when a judge or court of law renders an opinion that is based upon the principles of law in reaching a case decision. Physicians may also refer to a diagnosis as an opinion. In this instance, the medical expert offers a formal statement of judgment or advice based upon substantiable knowledge and experience. These “informed” opinions are vastly different from the everyday, run of the mill, opines usually based on a personal belief or blind indoctrination. Random opinions are seldom grounded in evidence that can be checked. In my experience, many of the avant-garde opinions that barrage us on any given day are frequently worthless. Why? Because, again, these random opinions are simply a viewpoint or judgment formed about something that rests on insufficient grounds (proofs) to produce legitimacy. In other words, you haven’t “shown me the facts”. I like what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone may be entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own set of facts.”

Now here’s the problem: we live in an increasingly opinion energized social order where Just about everyone seems to have strong feelings on just about everything, and of course, their position is ALWAYS right. Frequently, when the highly opinionated person does not want to address a legitimate challenge to their point of view they simply hide behind the well-worn cliché, “Let’s agree to disagree.” Sometimes this can be a legitimate response, but more often than not it seems to be just a convenient cop-out.

From Corporate Boardrooms to the spineless Halls of Government – it’s all about opinions. It has gotten so out of control that our society is now run less by the facts and more by endless and often unreliable opinion polls regurgitated ad nausium by a driveling news media. God forbid we just simply do what is right. Don’t confuse us with the facts; let’s just get everyone’s opinion before we make up our minds on how we should proceed. Truth? Right and wrong? That is just too… messy.

To be fair, some writers and commentators will mix fact with personal opinion, and at times it can be difficult to tell whether an article is based on truth that can be checked (facts) or someone’s point of view (opinion). So, read and listen wisely. Do your own homework. Just because somebody claims that something is factual – doesn’t mean it is true.

The proud wish God would agree with them. They are not interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. ― Ezra Taft Benson

One more thing. I often talk about my faith in God and how the Scriptures are among the most accurate of all the ancient texts – religious or secular. Is that just me being opinionated, is it my factually informed opinion?

Let’s see: There are now in excess of 25,000 archaeological findings that validate various scriptural texts. There are well over 20,000 manuscripts and partial transcripts that corroborate scriptural accuracy. There are also many extra-biblical writings that confirm the extraordinary life and times of the man known as Jesus. And remarkably, every prophecy recorded in the scriptures – except for those pertaining to future end time events – have been accurately fulfilled. I could continue laying out one fact after another, but that is not my purpose here today.

Some say that the claims of scripture are nothing more than fanciful opinion. But given the substantiable evidence available, I think not. The Bible records within its pages things which truly exist and events which have occurred. It contains truth that can be checked and backed up with proof. The Bible contains factual and reliable information – not just conjecture and opinion. It contains the 10 commandments – not the 10 suggestions. To categorically reject the Bible’s teachings requires a measure of intellectual dishonesty, let alone spiritual blindness. And again, that is not simply my random belief. Given the evidences, this is my factually well informed opinion.

And on that note, it is now – in fact – time for me to bid thee farewell.

You know, this is a really great essay! (Ha-ha-ha… that, by the way, is just my not so humble opinion.)

14-17 “Yet you must go on steadily in all those things that you have learned and which you know are true. Remember from what sort of people your knowledge has come, and how from early childhood your mind has been familiar with the Holy Scriptures, which can open the mind to the salvation which comes through believing in Jesus Christ. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher.
The intellectual property published above is © 2018 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie®, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  It is the storm within which endangers him most, not the storm without.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am not a motion picture aficionado.  In fact, I cannot even recall the last time I went out to “the movies”.  I have a very nice home theater system and it provides me with all of the entertainment options that my heart desires – sans the huddled masses.  Needless to say, I have little to no interest in 99% of the rubbish produced by the Hollywood elite.

Recently though, I read that Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining is considered the most popular Stephen King inspired film ever made. In the flick, well know actor Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who accepts a job as the winter caretaker for some place in Colorado called the Overlook Hotel.  Torrance is aware that the previous caretaker had gone insane there and murdered his entire family.  Does that deter ol’ Jack from taking the job?  Naw.  In short order (this is a movie, remember) both Jack and his “psychically” gifted son are communing with the evil spirit manifesting at the Overlook.  And, you guessed it, things go from bad to worse.

I would like to submit my own movie script for the consideration of the motion picture moguls.  It is also a story of demonic possession, and it contains all of the wild, salacious, violent, and frightening elements that Hollywood loves. Here’s a plot synopsis: we begin with a naked man, living in a graveyard, scaring the bejesus out of the townspeople.  He is so powerful that chains cannot hold him.  Eventually, along comes the hero of our film who sets the possessed man free by exercising a legion of indwelling demons and sending them into a nearby herd of swine.  The pigs, rather than live full of demons, rush off, wildly plunging headlong into the sea where they drown.  Wow!

Fantasy?  Believe it or not, it actually happened a long time ago.  Here’s the historical account as written the Bible’s Newer Testament:

26 “So they arrived at the other side, in the Gerasene country across the lake from Galilee. 27 As he was climbing out of the boat a man from the city of Gadara came to meet him, a man who had been demon-possessed for a long time. Homeless and naked, he lived in a cemetery among the tombs. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!”

29 For Jesus was already commanding the demon to leave him. This demon had often taken control of the man so that even when shackled with chains he simply broke them and rushed out into the desert, completely under the demon’s power. 30 “What is your name?” Jesus asked the demon. “Legion,” they replied—for the man was filled with thousands of them!  31 They kept begging Jesus not to order them into the Bottomless Pit.

32 A herd of pigs was feeding on the mountainside nearby, and the demons pled with him to let them enter into the pigs. And Jesus said they could. 33 So they left the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the whole herd rushed down the mountainside and fell over a cliff into the lake below, where they drowned. 34 The herdsmen rushed away to the nearby city, spreading the news as they ran.

35 Soon a crowd came out to see for themselves what had happened and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened. 36 Then those who had seen it happen told how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone (for a deep wave of fear had swept over them). So he returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.

38 The man who had been demon-possessed begged to go too, but Jesus said no.

39 “Go back to your family,” he told him, “and tell them what a wonderful thing God has done for you.”

So he went all through the city telling everyone about Jesus’ mighty miracle.” (Luke 8:26-39 TLB)

If you are at all familiar with this story, your attention has most likely been drawn to the more sensational (and supernatural) elements of the narrative. Nonetheless, be you a seasoned Bible scholar or first time reader of this Newer Testament account, let me ask you, have you ever considered the underlying fear factor?  Let’s talk.

Can you imagine a life with no fear?  What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” – Max Lucado

Read that narrative again carefully.  With the exception of Jesus, everyone was dealing with some form of fear.  The good people of Gadara were certainly scared of their local bogeyman and later of the miracle man called Jesus.  The disciples were creeped out by the crazy guy, and even the demoniac – a deranged man who was known for his delight in frightening anyone who happened to wander by the tombs – showed fear in the presence of the great liberator.  Yes, fear factored deeply in the lives of the Gadarenes.

I’m beginning to wonder if our modern world is any different where fear is concerned.  Seems like just about everyone is a tad apprehensive these days.  How about you? What are you afraid of?  Terrorists?  Serial killers? Catastrophic storms?  Road rage?  Burglary?  Be honest.  I know people who fear they might fall into poverty, contract a terminal disease, or suffer violence at the hands of the felonious.

And what about the fear of man?  Pardon me, you’ve not heard of this?  By definition, the Fear of Man is an inner dread of rejection, ridicule, or disapproval.   Now that covers a lot of ground.  Is it any wonder that the great book of wisdom known as Proverbs declares,

“The fear of human opinion disables us; trusting in God protects you from that.” – (Proverbs 29:25 MSG)

The result of all these fears?  Survey says: we buy guns for protection, build walls, install alarms and cameras, move to gated communities, live in isolation or simply try to escape our worries through drugs, alcohol or excessive “entertainment”.  Those who suffer from the fear of man become incessant people pleasers.  And let’s not forget the biggest fear of all – Death.  That one terrifies the multitudes.

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” – Anne Frank

Sometimes I pass a familiar local bag lady on my excursions around town, disheveled, half-crazed looking and always talking to herself.  On this particular day, licking wounds from one of my own mental scuffles, I thought to myself, “At least I’m not her.”   After all, “She’s plain nutty.” And then it hit me; there but for the grace of God, go I.  When you stop to think about it, she wanders the streets in open turmoil talking to herself out loud.  My relentless self-dialogue is kept bottled up inside.  Are we any less tormented because we can manage to contain our fears better than her?  And therein lies the problem; we are not supposed to contain fear at all.

The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote a letter to his young friend Timothy saying,

7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Living Bible translation of this verse reads:

“For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.”  (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB)

Like today, there was much to fear in those ancient times.  But Paul reminded Timothy that an enlightened child of God is given the powerful Spirit of love and sanity to replace the demonic spirit of excessive uncertainty (fear) and madness.

Another Biblical writer named John put it like this:

 18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”  (1 John 4:18)

 So the Divine Spirit replaces our fears with His powerful love and clarity.  When we experience the “perfect love” that IS, and comes from the Almighty One, the fear factor cannot control our lives – unless, of course, we allow it to do so.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure to it. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” -Helen Keller

We all wrestle with fear and doubt from time to time.  Honestly, I do not believe that true mental and spiritual freedom is possible as long as we run from our uncertainties or simply pretend that they do not exist.  Why not face your fears and take a good look at what troubles you.  Do it now.  When you finally see that mess before you; that frightened little inner child that has become so proficient at the game of pretense, remember this: there is an all-consuming Spirit of mercy and grace who can help.  All He asks of you is honest humility in facing who you really are.  I like what a very early follower of the Galilean Prophet wrote in a letter that eventually became the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter:

6-7 “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties (fears) upon him, for you are his personal concern.”  (1 Peter 5:6-7 PHILLIPS)

It is no easy task to practice genuine spiritual humility.  Placing our lives in the hands of an invisible entity (God) does not come natural to a fallen, spiritually deadened race of beings who are deceived, distracted and hopelessly stranded on a dying home world.  Do you have the courage to let the liberating Spirit of truth (Jesus) call out and name your demons?  Are you ready to replace your broken paradigms – even if that means leaving behind everything that does not conform to the “Way, Truth, and Life?”  Then take my hand friend, let’s walk on the wild side together and watch as the god of our egos – driven by our fears – is replaced with the God of compassion driven by perfect love.  What do you have to loose – except your life among the walking dead?  Today, the Creator of all things, the Divine Spark, and our Kinsman Redeemer invites you to abandon the fear factors controlling your life by fearlessly reaching out to Him.  I hope you will.

Almighty Creator, I am asking you to make the reality of your presence known to my friends today.  Help them to release their fears to you.  Let them know you are with them, so that they can find liberation in the message and mission of the man we call Jesus – the one you once sent on a rescue mission to free the captives on spaceship earth.  Amen

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
Mankind, by the perverse depravity of their nature, regards that which they have most desired as of no value the moment it is possessed, and torment themselves with fruitless wishes for that which is beyond their reach.” – Francois Fenelon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciao.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.  http://www.facebook.com/coastaljunkie
The masses do not see the Sirens. They do not hear songs in the air. Blind, deaf, stooping, they pull at their oars in the holds of the earth. But the more select, the captains, they harken to a Siren within them… and royally squander their lives with her.” – Nikos Kazantzakis

Have you ever heard the expression: It’s nothing but a Sirens’ Song?   English dictionaries commonly define that figure of speech as:

The enticing appeal of something that is very alluring but potentially dangerous.”

The idiom itself alludes to the Sirens of ancient Greek mythology who were often portrayed as intensely seductive sea nymphs.  According to legend, the Sirens lived on a beautiful enchanted island with a deceptively dangerous coastline.  Lured by their irresistible beauty, compelling music and mesmerizing voices, passing mariners would perish in shipwrecks on the hidden reefs off the perilous shores.

The lesson in the lore is simple enough: Beware the Sirens’ song; while very tempting and hard to resist, it can mislead you into going places or doing things that can lead to unforeseen consequences.

Sometimes I hear a strange kind of Siren song playing inside my own head.  It seduces me with an endless stream of reasons why I should embrace the modern rat race – an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle of earthly pursuits that leaves little to no time for relaxation or enjoyment.

Lured by today’s seductive Sirens, we regularly invest inordinate amounts of our time and effort running at breakneck speeds, but at the end of the day, have we really achieved anything meaningful?

Recently, while appearing in another episode of “adventures at the airport”, I again performed this now well-rehearsed piece of traveler’s choreography:

And a 1, 2, 3…
Hurry, hurry, hurry up…
Slow down, slow down…
And… hurry up again…Now wait, and wait…
Okay, go, go, go and stop!
Belt and shoes off… Belt and shoes on…
Now run… run… run… and stop…,
Wait, wait, wait… now SIT!

Fly much? Then you know a bit about this piece of fancy footwork.  Hey, it is what it is, right?  So, what’s your favorite pressure cooker dance?

Anyway, there I was in the midst of the insanity called modern travel when a song playing on the background music system at the air-side caught my attention:

“Ain’t in no hurry
Be a fool now to worry
About all those things I can’t change
And the time that I borrow
Can wait till tomorrow
Cause I ain’t in no hurry
Ain’t in no hurry
Ain’t in no hurry today.”*

Laughing out loud, I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me”

Granted, there are times when the rush is impossible to avoid.  It would be foolish to think we can live anxiety free.  Those “slower times” often remembered with nostalgic fondness is simply not where most of us live today.  This is an era when people accelerate through their lives with the pedal to the metal.

Maybe every once in a while we can take a break from doing everything faster and quicker to reflect on who we are and where we are going.” ― Joe Plumeri

What concerns me though is the lack of unaffected downtime; those intervals when our human systems go offline.  Before the age of overloaded schedules and the endless distractions of social media, fake news and smartphone aps, many of us enjoyed interludes when we really didn’t do anything at all. Today the very idea of real downtime sounds unproductive or lazy to some folks.

In all honesty, I accomplish so much more when my spirit and soul are allowed regular times of rest than I do when I’m endlessly running through life on fumes. What has happened to humanity that we habitually fail to listen for that still small voice deep inside of our human spirit?  Call it by whatever name you like, that inner voice gives understanding and balance to our ambitions and dreams – if we’ll learn to pause and really listen for it.

In the Bible’s older testament there is a verse penned by a man known as Isaiah.  Here is what he wrote:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Basic enough – pause, reflect, relax, wait upon the Lord, and your strength is renewed.

Isaiah was an interesting guy.  He lived about 2800 years ago in a time of great change, uncertainty and disorder on the earth.  It was an age filled with turmoil and fear.  This divinely inspired sage spoke a message to his contemporaries that offered them great hope for a better future and a place where they could find respite for their weary souls.  For the most part, Isaiah’s generation didn’t want to hear it; choosing instead a treadmill of ceaseless activity with no genuine tranquility in their greatly distressed society.  Isaiah wound up despised and rejected, often enduring the contempt of an arrogant and godless population.  Gee, why does that sound so familiar?  Hmmm.

You see, historically, nations routinely rise and fall, but the human condition has remained predictable and consistent over time.   The enemies of decency and truth are present in every age, always ready to circulate their positions.  They are with us today.  The atheists mock the existence of an omnipotent supreme being as just another grand delusion weighing down the progress of humanity.  The scientific evolutionists put-down any belief in an intelligent designer (Creator) as foolishness.  The adherents of the new postmodern theologies assert that all truth is relative (never absolute), so just believe whatever floats your boat.

On and on it goes, the chaotic cries of conflicting voices spew a kind of melded white noise that often sounds like little more than incoherent babble to the casual listener.  Alas, the unknowingly dazed and confused masses are simply left to float through life stressed-out and uncertain; drawn ever nearer the perilous rocks of destruction by the songs of the Sirens.

How about you?  Are you enjoying genuine tranquility, even in the midst of a world in crisis?  Are you at peace, or is an undercurrent of uneasiness and fear punctuating your daily routines?

Can we talk?

 We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

As many of my frequent readers already know, I follow the teachings of a great liberator called Jesus.  I suppose that makes me a Christian if you are one who must attach a defining label.  Somewhere along the pathway of my life’s journey, I became enlightened by this important truth: the Almighty Creator of all things is not the least bit interested in my busyness.  Thankfully, I no longer measure productivity and purpose by how much activity I cram into a single day.  Speaking now to all my hyper-zealous religious friends, it is amazing to me how some of you can’t see the folly in being so “stressed out” and then claiming your anxiety is a result of doing the Lord’s work.  That is ridiculous.

“Oh but Brother Cerreta, you don’t understand, this is what God wants from me.  We must work, work, and work while it is called today.  I must burn myself out serving Jesus. Hallelujah, Amen.”

Yea… right.  So, how’s that working for you?  Do you know what I think our Creator really wants the most from us?  He just wants US – you and me!  Reality check: busyness is NOT a spiritual gift.  Rest is NOT a four letter vulgarity.

Think about it, in the Biblical picture of the creation (which is intended to help us ponder the unfathomable power of the vastly superior being we call God), our world order was established in 6 periods of “Earth-shaping” (Genesis Chapter 1), and all with just a word of his power (Hebrews 1:3, 11:3).  The Great Architect deliberately engineered the surface and climate of a planet that was without form and void (Genesis 1:2) into an environment hospitable to life.  Based upon these explanatory teachings, I hardly think getting things done in a well-timed manner is an issue for the Almighty, and by the way, He rested when he was finished (Genesis 2:2).  What’s your excuse?

So, let me ask you, when was the last time you had some real downtime?  When was the last time you walked along an empty beach alone for an hour at sunset, or sat in your favorite chair and did nothing at all?  Do you even have a favorite chair?

Downtime helps us recharge our physical and mental batteries. It provides opportunities to receive new and often inspired ideas, to remember simple things so easily forgotten, and even to daydream about all the stuff we would love to do if we weren’t so busy doing all the stuff we have to do.

I quit the rat race.  It’s not worth it.  Consider this: when you’re dead, your dreams won’t matter anymore.  That is why I regularly wait upon the Lord, as Isaiah put it.  My connection to the source of all life renews my strength and motivates me as I move forward through time.  What matters to me now is what matters to HIM.

Listen to this verse of truth from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

17 “But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17–NLT)

Get it? Joined to the Creator we become one in spirit with Him.  Living “joined to the Lord” is both a partnership and a journey.  As we learn to stay focused on the things that matter most and not fall prey to the Siren’s songs, God can fulfill His purpose in and through each of us.

I would like to issue a challenge.

I challenge you to embrace the man or woman that our Creator truly intends for you to be.

I challenge you to do all the unique stuff that he has chosen to define the unique you.

I challenge you to be true to your visions and dreams, and to stop listening to the voices coming from this generally godless world claiming to know what is “right” for you!  And,

I challenge you to trust the still small voice of the spirit that ever whispers to your soul. If you have followed the instructions brought to the earth by the Liberator Jesus, you are filled with the Holy Spirit of Divinity Himself. He will show you everything you need to know (including what is right for you). If you need to make changes – He will let you know that too. And remember, His voice is calm, life giving and reassuring.  Most importantly, if unfamiliar with the man called Jesus, I encourage you – get to know Him.

So, are you up for the challenge?  I hope so.  Text me and let me know… just kidding.

Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.” ― Oriah

By the way, that song I heard playing at the airport the other day is by the Zack Brown Band. Sitting at the gate I caught the last few lines:

“Heaven knows that I ain’t perfect
I’ve raised a little Cain
And I plan to raise a whole lot more
Before I hear those angels sing
(Gonna get right with the lord)
But there’ll be hell to pay
Still I ain’t in no hurry…
…Ain’t in no hurry today.”*

I smiled for a moment.  Heaven knows I’m not perfect either.  I’ve raised a bit of Cain myself, and I may slip up a time or two before this life of mine is over.  But there is one thing I haven’t put off for tomorrow – “getting right with the Lord.”  Me and the maker are on good terms, of that I am sure.  How about you?

Here are a few more great verses from the Bible for you to consider:

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

Not everyone can hear his voice.  Some never will.  Is today your day?

God, there are many who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in this world. Some of my friends have heard your voice inside of their spirit today.  Please help them find their way to freedom from the seductive delusion of the Sirens’ songs as they discover true freedom in the simple message of our Liberator Jesus. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. Facebook.com/inspopoint

*Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., REACH MUSIC PUBLISHING

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.”Paul VI

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 KJV)

The fish was motionless on the water’s surface as it went floating by.  Leaning over the rail I saw it approaching in the current, its scaled body glistening like a thousand tiny jewels in the brilliant sunlight. It was quite dead, of that I am sure, moving lifeless with the rhythms of the tide. A snook I believe or perhaps a redfish, it was hard to tell. Not that my limited knowledge of fish species would have provided much for a more positive identification. It really didn’t matter anyway – the fish was deceased.

For a moment I tried to imagine it living along a mangrove covered coastline or flitting among the pilings near the shore. In my mind’s eye I saw him, full of vigor and freedom, jumping clear of the water and bursting into a long run, or maybe just lying in wait against the moving water, feeding on a smorgasbord of marine life being swept along by the currents. Not today though. Death kept its appointment and this largely unobserved flotilla of one was this fish’s grand finale.

It seems to me that here on earth; we are ever surrounded by the shadow of death.

My good friend Antonio died unexpectedly.  He was a Pastor in suburban New York and a man gifted in so many ways.  His energetic approach to life, compassion for people and most of all his love for God oozed from every fiber of his being.  Tony was a good man who never held back sharing joy wherever he went.  I will miss his wonderfully infectious smile, his no-nonsense approach to life and faith, and his boyish charms – everything that made Tony so unique among men.  Think it unfair, call it unjust – it matters not; in spite of all objections, death comes at its appointed time.

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. In that other room, I shall be able to see.”Helen Keller

I remember when the man who lived across the street from me passed away. We were not particularly close, but we often conversed when retrieving our mail or setting out the trash. He loved fine cigars and good craft beer. Most days I’d see him out walking his two beautiful dogs – always at noon. His politics were decidedly conservative and he had a kind and giving heart as big as all outdoors. We laughed and cried at his memorial. The preacher said he will always live on in our memories even though his physical presence is no longer with us. I miss waving to him nearly every day as we passed on the boulevard. But once again, death kept its appointment and my neighbor left the room and moved on to the land of the living.

Yes indeed, we are surrounded by death’s shadow here on spaceship earth.

The day my father died I was 1100 miles from our childhood home, sitting with my son and some friends in a local “man cave”. That moment in time when I got the call will forever live in the shadows of my mind. Speaking through her tears, my sister said, “Daddy’s gone”. The call ended and I sat for a moment in silence before whispering, “Goodbye dad, I love you and I will sure miss you.” The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as the family gathered to bid a final earthbound farewell to our patriarch. You guessed it, death had kept its appointment and my father left the room; He too moved on to the land of the living.

Truly, the shadow of death surrounds us here on planet earth.

Pete Seeger wrote a song entitled Turn, Turn, Turn in the late 1950’s. Except for the title and the closing verse, the song’s lyrics are lifted almost word for word from the Bible’s Older Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Here’s the text,

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

The lesson offered in these dichotomous phrases (the writing of which is attributed to the ancient Hebrew, King Solomon) is simple there is a time and a purpose for everything in life. Read those verses carefully again. It’s all there – love and hate, war and peace, sowing and reaping, laughing and crying, and of course life and death.  Death is the epilogue.

All the while I thought that I was learning how to live my life, I have been really learning how to die.” – Leonardo da Vinci

We all have an appointment with death – no exceptions. Death is as sure as the daily appearance of the sun in the eastern sky. You can spend a lifetime avoiding the uncomfortable subject of death, but you cannot cancel your appointment with it. At the allotted time, the Angel of Death will come to collect your immortal soul. The Newer Testament writer Paul put it like this,

27“It is appointed unto every man once to die, but after that the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Think about it: There is but one way to leave this earth. Death alone releases our human spirit from the confines of the flesh. When the time comes for our appointment, death will expose the entrance into a new dimension. As a Christian, I have the irrefutable promise of almighty God that my death is merely a transition to a new and better life! This is why I have put my trust in the Liberator Jesus. Do you remember what he said?  I’ve shared it with you before,

9“I am the Door; anyone who enters through me will be saved [will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security).” (John 10:9 Amplified Bible)

The Liberator Jesus is the doorway to the land of the living. Oh, and by the way, contrary to popular belief, earth is not the land of the living.  As long as we are here on this planet, stuck inside these mortal bodies, we live in the land of the dying!  When we leave this terrestrial body through death, our existence is transformed as we enter the land of the truly living – a place where there is no more death!  The Newer Testament writer Paul described it this way,

1-4We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling 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 bodies) 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 to be absorbed into the life that is forever.

5-8Now the power that has planned this experience for us is called God, and he has given us his Spirit as a guarantee of its truth. This makes us confident, whatever happens. We realize that being “at home” in the earthly body means that to some extent we are “away” from God, for we have to live by trusting him without seeing him. We are so sure of this that we would really rather be “away” from the body (in death) and be “at home” with Him.  (2 Corinthians 5: 1-8 Phillips)

If you believe these words and you have placed your faith in the Liberator Jesus, then your sojourn here on this floating penal colony is only a temporary inconvenience. But if you have not placed your hope in the one who was sent to this earth by the Almighty to rescue a lost race from a death doomed planet, then you are not ready to walk through destiny’s door. Please listen to just a few more words spoken by the man known as Jesus,

1-4 “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 to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming 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 Phillips)

The Liberator Jesus – He came, He saw, and He set us free from the sting of death! Then he went away. But he did not leave without a solemn assurance that one day he would return for all those who cling to his promises.

Yes indeed, death is all around us. And someday we too will keep our appointment with it and like all of those who have gone before us, we shall also leave the room.   Thankfully, there is a better place – a different room – prepared by the Liberator Jesus himself waiting for our arrival.

And then my dear friends – WE SHALL BE SURROUNDED BY DEATH NO MORE!

Almighty God, we know that death is part of this life. There is no way to stop it. Grief is real. Please comfort my friends today who have felt the pain caused by death. We trust in you and hold on to the promise that when our time on earth is finished, our life has only just begun. By faith we receive the never-ending comfort of your presence. Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. Facebook.com/inspopoint
It is most remarkable that Abraham Lincoln, when he saw so much that was vulnerable in the leadership of the Christian Church, did not move to the opposite error and become a mocker.”― Elton Trueblood ―

With all of the exotic wildlife here in Florida, our official State bird is the mosquito.  Just kidding, it is actually the northern mockingbird.  These little feathered virtuosos have extraordinary vocal abilities. They can learn as many as 200 distinct songs over their lifetime, including those of any other bird as well as the sounds of many insects and amphibians. A mocker’s song is an echo of the sounds that surround them. Mockingbirds can sing for hours and never repeat the same thing twice. In fact, they are such skilled mimics; they have been known to imitate washing machines, car alarms and sirens. They do this so well, that you would not know you were listening to a bird.

I wonder how many people live their lives like the mockingbird; echoing the cultural noise that surrounds them by repeating beliefs, attitudes and ideas that they know little to nothing about.   Mockingbird people lack originality, vision and revelation. They become just another someone saying something about something that someone said something about.  This is where our comparison to the innocent little songbird will have to end, because human mockers can be far more treacherous than a perfunctory little birdie.

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

I suppose we’ve all been guilty of mockery at one time or another.  I sure have.   But I’m in rehab now – “Hi, my name is Joe and I am a recovering mocker.”

By definition a mocker:

  • Treats people with ridicule or contempt
  • Is scornful or arrogant
  • Causes others to appear irrelevant, ineffectual, or intolerable

My worldview is rooted in what has become widely known as the Judeo-Christian ethic.  The scriptures have literally shaped the way I see and live in the world.  When I encounter anything that seems to oppose my comprehensive understanding of right and wrong, I examine it carefully in light of scriptural truth, and if it contradicts that reality, I simply reject it.  Men and women of faith who routinely scrutinize the beliefs and teachings of any individual, organization or social structures (including governments) in this way are not necessarily narrow-minded bigots.  We are simply being true to our heartfelt convictions and thus obedient to the will of our Divine Creator (GOD).

It seems to me that people of deep religious or moral conviction, who believe in traditional family values and what in many cases were once generally accepted normative social behaviors, are regularly treated with ridicule and contempt (mocked).  Our social order appears to have devolved into a quasi-free-for-all.  It reminds me of a passage in the Biblical Book of Judges,

25“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25 (Amp)

This text refers to a period in the history of the nation of Israel that began sometime after the death of Joshua and ended around the beginning of the reign of King Saul. When Joshua and his governance team were in power, the nation enjoyed relative decency and order. But after his death, times changed and there gradually came chaos.  No distinct leadership existed in Israel during the era of the multiple Judges.  And, there was no genuine reverence for the laws of our Creator in the land.

“Well now Dr. Cerreta, are you saying that nobody believed in God anymore?”

No, I am not saying that all of the people had renounced their faith and become impious boasters, agnostics and atheists.  Not at all; it was actually worse than that. The people simply paid lip service to the creator (GOD). They were mock believers. Their worship was meaningless even though many still followed the ridged formalities of what had become an empty religious system. The scriptures describe their condition perfectly,

13 “The Lord said, “These people show respect to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Their worship of me is worth nothing. They teach rules that men have made.” – Isaiah 29:13 – New Life Version

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because we also live in a time when many people simply pay lip service to the creator (GOD) as well.  This is an age where the darkened hearts of the spiritually blind routinely recite hollow prayers and follow the ridged formalities of lifeless religions. Paganism now abounds as every man does what is right in his own eyes.

Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there you will find the very least of real liberty.”  – Henry Martyn Robert.

What about those who are in positions of power? It seems to me that much of the world is suffering from an acute shortage of genuine leadership because of little to no reverential fear of God in the land. When our heads of state are wise in their own arrogance (and not people of good reputation who are both practical and spiritually-minded), you have the potential for wicked leadership. With the blind leading the blind, the likelihood for a disaster increases exponentially.  The scriptures put it concisely,

1-5 “… in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian. For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God (mocking), disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad. They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at (mock) those who try to be good. They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God. They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – Living Bible

That’s quite an indictment; hardly a positive description of human character as the end of the age draws near. Just remember, if you look behind the masks of (spiritual and moral) pretense, you’ll most likely find patterns of behavior that negate its validity. The warning is clear; do not be deceived by the songs of these mockingbirds.

To mock God is to pretend to love and serve him when we do not; to act in a false manner, to be insincere and hypocritical in our professions… anything that amounts to insincerity is mockery” – Charles G. Finney

Mockers and scoffers are often the outspoken freethinkers of the world.  When it comes to men and women of faith, they ridicule, discredit, misrepresent and oppose the devotees and the teachings of the scriptures. This brand of skeptic and scoffer has been around since the foundation of Christianity and they will be here until the final trumpet sounds.  Not merely content to disagree, they look for ways to make the beliefs of millions appear irrelevant, incompetent, or intolerable.  The Newer Testament writer Peter warned about them,

“First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will come scoffers (mockers) who will do every wrong they can think of and laugh at the truth. This will be their line of argument: “So Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? He’ll never come! Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly as it was since the first day of creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3-4

Maybe it’s just me, but I think every family has at least one of these mockers. You can do and say just about any crazy thing you like in their presence – except tell the truth from a scriptural perspective.

To be fair, not all who fit the biblical description of a mocker are loud and obnoxious. Some quietly scoff or laugh under their breath, while others politely dismiss faith in God with self-deceiving defenses like “that’s not my thing” or “God is not for everyone”.  Since the Almighty himself has set the rules for the redemption of mankind, to dismiss Him is to mock him.  It really doesn’t matter how polite or kindhearted you are about it. God makes the rules, not us.  If you want His help, His blessings and all of His many benefits, then you will have to learn to come to the Creator on His terms.

Don’t be a fool. Recognize your dependence on God. As the days become dark and the nights become dreary, realize that there is a God who rules above.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Our Creator once took human form as a man called Jesus.  While living among us, He worked to make Himself and the Divine strategy known to all who have eyes to see. Jesus left no room for debate. He said unequivocally,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 – New Living Translation

Mockers will continue to heap contempt upon those who maintain that there is but one revealed way of redemption.  Christians are told to pay them no mind.  We are instructed to remain faithful and obedient to the Word of Truth. Continue to declare His certainty to all who will listen and “All things will work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Just one more thing to all who would mock and scorn, consider this verse from the scriptures,

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those that live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. – Gal 6:7-8 – New Living Translation

It is called the law of the harvest:A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). This law applies to everyone, including those who do not believe in Biblical truth. If your focus in life is merely self-centered and worldly, you are sowing seeds to your lower nature.  This action will have consequences.  What you do will come back to you.  Sow your seeds to the wind and you will reap the whirlwind.  (Hosea 8:7)

It can hurt deeply to be ridiculed, mocked and scorned – out loud or in secret.  As followers of the Liberator Jesus, we will get over it.  On the other hand, those of you who continually mock and scorn, remember this: the Creator sees all things and one day He will have the final say – whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not.  You can ridicule, mock and scorn me all you like,but God will not be mocked.

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint

 

If you ask me what the single most important key to longevity is, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension…”
– George Burns

It is real, it is out there, and it could kill you!  It is waiting…watching… and you might be its next victim.  Let’s just say that it has your number.

Do I have your attention yet?  Wondering, “What is he talking about?”  Isn’t that painfully obvious by now?  I’m talking about – it!  

Now, let’s define it:

  • Something, nothing, the mountains, the molehills, – anything and everything – that leads to WORRY.

And you really need to get over it!

Are you the anxious, tense or uneasy type?  Tend to go over and over and over the same mostly negative scenarios in your mind?  Find yourself stuck on the what-if merry-go-round?

  • What if I lose my job?
  • What if I get a fatal disease?
  • What if my dog gets hit by a car?
  • What if I run out of money before I die?
  • What if I have a heart attack or a stroke?
  • What if terrorists blow up the mall while I’m shopping?

Here’s my personal favorite,

  • What if I don’t live up to everyone’s expectations?

That last one tells me that you are more concerned with the stuff people expect of you than with your own joy, peace and fulfillment in this life.  Yes, the carousel just keeps spinning… what if this…, what if that…, what if the other thing?  OMG what IF…!  Ahhhhhhhhhh!

What if you just chill for a few moments and hear me out; because, if you resonate at all with what I have said so far, you may be worrying your life away.  In the process you could also be deeply wounding your human spirit, distressing your mental health, and taxing your physical well-being (aka: worried sick).  I recently read a medical study that claimed, “Worriers are more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, fatigue, miscellaneous aches, pains, and numerous other maladies.”   Yikes.  I’m not a medical expert, but my powers of observation have shown me that worrywarts are often pretty miserable people.

“Oh, but Dr. Cerreta, you just don’t understand.  I have to worry.  There’s just so much going on.  Things are out of control.  And besides, if I show enough ‘concern’ (a sometimes code word for worry) about it, I just might stop it from happening.

Oh really?  So how’s that been working out for you?  No matter how much you worry, fret and fuss, you cannot “foolproof” your little world.  But, you are right about one thing: life often seems very out of control – more precisely – out of your control.

Look, bad stuff happens.  It doesn’t matter who you are.   Happy people, sad people, good people, bad people, rich people, poor people – even really hardworking, honest, God fearing people; we all experience challenging and deeply painful moments.  Worry cannot resolve nor prevent a single one of them.

If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry about it.  Worry never fixes anything.”
– Mary Hemingway

Thomas S. Kepler (1897-1963) was a respected biblical scholar, prodigious author and professor of New Testament studies at Oberlin College.  Kepler also wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column on religious issues. Some of you may already be aware of a story he once published about a woman who came to the realization that worry was ruining her life. According to Kepler, she began to keep track of what was distressing her.   Evidently Mr. Kepler did a rudimentary statistical analysis of her notes and this is what he found:

  • 40% of the things she worried about never happened.
  • 30% of the things she worried about already happened (i.e. – it’s the past, get over it).
  • 12% of the things she worried about were the expectations, opinions and criticisms of others.
  • 10% of the things she worried about were unnecessary health concerns, which actually made her health worse through prolonged anxiety.
  • 8% of the things she worried about were “reasonable concerns,” since life does have some real challenges to overcome.

So, if just 8% of her fears were actually reasonable, how legitimate are your “worries?”  I’d say there is a high degree of probability that you’re wasting a significant amount of time and energy fretting about things that are best left alone. No wonder you’re so worn-out. Apprehension is zapping your life energy. And for what benefit? As already stated, habitual and needless worry does not solve problems. And, even so called “reasonable concerns” are not an excuse for high anxiety. Most likely, your circumstances are not as ominous as you perceive them to be.

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he too had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
― Winston Churchill

One of the most prolific contributors to the Bible’s New Testament was a pious man of faith named Paul.  He was highly educated, and for a time greatly respected as a spiritual leader among first century Jews.  Paul came to recognize that a man known at that time simply as Jesus was in reality a supernatural human fusion – Divinity incarnate in human form.  The “birth” of Jesus fulfilled prophecies of a long awaited liberator who would come to the earth and deliver humanity from spiritual blindness and iniquity through a plan of redemption.   Paul’s writings total at least 13 of the 27 books that comprise the New Testament. In addition to the theological teachings found in his epistles, he often included specific instructions for the various faith communities to which he wrote. One such letter was addressed to the early Christians living in ancient Philippi (a leading city of the district of Macedonia and an ancient Roman colony – Acts 16:12). Listen to these words of instruction,

6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.  (Philippians 4:6)

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 simple, right? Not so much.  Every word we just read is the absolute Truth, but it takes faith (trust) in a Divine power (God) that you cannot see and patient endurance to live it.  There is a Payoff. If we incorporate this way of thinking into our lifestyle, 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)

The peace of God will calm you down and bring a supernatural rest to your soul (mind, will and emotions) when you put your absolute trust in Jesus, the liberator of spaceship earth.

Now, check out these additional 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)

Got it? If you really trust in God, there is no defensible reason to worry. Remember, Jesus came to this planet to introduce us to a personal and relevant unseen “father” (God) – not a religion. You can talk to your other worldly father (God) directly about your concerns and ask Him to help you.

When you finally decide that you will put God above everything else in your life and learn to consult Him first in every decision that you make; He will empower you to succeed at this thing called living.  I didn’t say that you will never fail.  Life is often full of setbacks and even some outright flops.  Continue to acknowledge God first, and ‘He will direct your steps.’ (Proverbs 3:6)  Do this over a lifetime and He will crown your efforts with the recompenses of eternity.

If the Creator of the universe is on your side ‘whom or what shall you fear?’ To be worried sick about anything shows a lack of trust and as such is an insult to God.”
― Unknown

Worrying accounts for hours and hours of invaluable time that you will never get back. Can all the energy you’ve wasted so far on anxiety heal your body, change your grades in school, improve your job performance, resolve a budget shortfall or protect you from identity theft? Has stressing out ever solved anything?   If you are at least willing to be honest with yourself, the answer is NO.

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

30 “…You have so little faith! 31 Do not worry. Do not keep saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘What will we wear?’ 32 The people who do not really know God are looking for all these things. Your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 First of all… Be right with Him. All these other things will be given to you also.” (Matthew 6:30b-33)

Why not give up all of your worries and fears by surrendering these so called “concerns” to God? He cares about you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He is also a fantastic listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, talk to Him… Trust Him… Cast all of your cares upon Him… And please, stop worrying yourself to death!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remains to him only the mark and an empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings… But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.” – Blaise Pascal

Well, it’s late January and due to the Earth’s axial tilt, we call it winter here in the Northern Hemisphere of spaceship earth.  Thankfully, my lodgings are located on the peninsula known as Florida, just about as close to the equator as one can get while still remaining on the continental United States.  Me?  I’m hanging out once again in the Gulf Coast city of Tarpon Springs to do a little writing.  With temperatures hovering in the high 70s, a seat at Rusty Bellies, one of my favorite waterfront bistros, seemed like the perfect office for the day.  Always grateful for the beautiful view, right now, I’m quite happy.  I say “right now because in the rough and tumble of everyday life, happiness can be somewhat elusive and very fleeting. So, it’s great to be happily enjoying the moment.  But what is happiness anyway?

Let’s talk…

When people say to me “I’m happy”, they often seem to imply that things are going “their” way at the moment.  It appears that for them, happiness is based on how they feel at the present time. If life is unfolding the way they desire, an emotionally good feeling results.  We call that feeling happiness.

There was a time in my own life when I thought that happiness was the most important feeling in the world.  After all, according to the U.S. Constitution, the pursuit of happiness is an absolute right given to all mankind by the creator.  Therefore, the Almighty must be first and foremost interested in our happiness.  I mean really, if He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing one, how could He possibly let me be unhappy?  And then one day, someone turned me on to the mission and the message of an extraordinary man called Jesus.  My life was transformed.  All of a sudden, the bondage of man-made religion went out the window and a genuine revelation of what we call “God” walked through my innermost door.

Imagine the shock and awe when my spiritual eyes were opened and I came to understand that my personal happiness was not the Creator’s principal concern.  Really, when you stop and think about it, if God’s highest purpose for us on spaceship earth is never-ending individual bliss, we wouldn’t be riding on this doomed hellhole in the first place now would we?  In fact, the Liberator Jesus said, that “in this lifetime, you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33).  Do you even know what the word tribulation means?  Try suffering, trouble, distress, difficulty, pain and misfortune – to name but a few synonyms.

It took a while, but eventually I came to comprehend that a follower of Jesus simply cannot chase a life based primarily upon the pursuit of one’s own happiness.  Those who “preach” only such narrow doctrine have embraced a very shallow theology indeed.  Overall, spiritual success is not measured by material prosperity, comfort, or the ability to live a life of indulgence.  The Almighty is not some galactic talisman that we beseech to conjure up a blessing.  Frankly, we are given a lifetime of passage here on spaceship earth so that we might find “the way, the truth and the life” and through obedience secure a return trip to that place from whence we came.

The bottom line in the Christian life is obedience and most people don’t even like the word.” – Charles Stanley

In the continuing (and expanding) age of global cyber consumerism, mankind would love nothing more than an “on demand” God who grants “instant-access” to everything through a “you-deserve-it” theology.  Thus says the Lord:  “Call on me and I will answer thee and I shall give unto thee what you want, whenever you want it.”  Problem is, I can’t seem to find this verse anywhere in the Bible.

Instead, I am confronted with a value system based not on a temporal standard of materialism and earthly significance, but on the transcending principles of faith in and obedience to a message brought to earth by the Genesis man himself, the Liberator Jesus. And yet, millions continue to join the “church of the happy campers” because it is so much easier than surrendering personal desires to a Creator Spirit we can’t see, feel, or touch in the flesh.

I believe that the widespread focus on human bliss so often enshrined in much of western culture (including Christendom) stems from a failure to differentiate between joy and happiness.  At the risk of oversimplification, let me say this:  Joy flows from the depths of a limitless inner well of peace and contentment.  Happiness is just a temporary feeling produced by favorable emotional stimulation.

As Christians, joy is the direct result of our reclamation by Jesus and the subsequent indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Unlike happiness, Joy can be present in our daily lives regardless of the circumstances or challenges we might be facing at any given moment.  Real Joy is supernatural and as such it cannot be obtained without the innermost presence of the Divine.

While visiting the earth, Jesus delivered a message meant to fill His followers with great joy (John 15:11). The Newer Testament writer Paul encouraged all believers to “rejoice (express joy) always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and to do so even in times of unhappiness (2 Corinthians 6:10). In the Older Testament of the Bible, the Prophet Nehemiah boldly declares that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens. Only Jesus gives that joy.” – S.D. Gordon

Let me make something very clear before we go our separate ways: God is not anti-happiness.  Sometimes the blessings of our Creator are tangible, wonderful – even amazing.  As such, they make us very happy.  But suffering – whether physical, spiritual or emotional – is also a part of being human, and often God will allow us to go through some very unpleasant experiences for the sake of our greater good.

I love happy times.  Who doesn’t?  Making people happy brings me tremendous satisfaction.  Nevertheless, our happiness and success are not God’s end goals.  Like it or not, some “blessings” from God may not have you dancing and shouting hallelujah.  If you are a genuine follower of the Liberator Jesus, the primary purpose of life here on spaceship earth is to learn to obey His voice and to draw closer to Him. Sometimes this process will make you very happy and your joy will be full.  But when moments of suffering and hardship darken your door, remember what the Spirit of the Almighty said to the Newer Testament writer Paul when he was going through an “unhappy” episode in his life,

He answered me, “I am all you need. I give you My loving-favor. My power works best in weak people.”   Therefore, I (Paul) am happy to be weak and have troubles so I can have Christ’s power in me. 10 I receive joy when I am weak. I receive joy when people talk against me and make it hard for me and try to hurt me and make trouble for me. I receive joy when all these things come against me because of Jesus. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLV)

Supernatural strength can manifest when we are in our weakest hours.  Happiness may be eluding you at the moment, but the joy of the Lord is your strength.  You won’t find that joy in a bottle, a bed, a pill or the crisis hotline.  Try this number found in the scriptures – Jer-3303 – here’s the message you’ll hear,

“Call me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”  (Jeremiah 33:03)

Hey, it’s a toll free number.  Call now.

Peace.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
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