Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

These bickerings of opposite parties, and their mutual reproaches their declamations, their sing-song, their triumphs and defiance, their dismal prophecies, are all delusion” – John Adams –

Everyone has told a lie.  On that point I hope we can all agree.  “Not me brother, I have never told a lie.”  Oh Really?  Guess what, you just did.  And we all heard it!  Truth is, we live in an age of lies.  They saturate our culture.  From Madison to Pennsylvania Avenues and right on down good old Main Street USA, liars abound.

In Oliver Goldsmith’s 1771 play, She Stoops to Conquer, the popular and flamboyant character Tony Lumpkin quips, “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no fibs.”  The inference of this declaration could easily be interpreted like this, “if you question me, my answer might not always be honest – so, don’t question me.”  In other words, we are most likely to “fib” when it is more expedient than telling the truth.

The late Donald James Wheal (1931-2008) made this rather pithy observation: “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous to them and its speaker a raving lunatic.”

Well now, that just about describes the days in which we live.  Lies have become so commonplace that people often perceive those who are attempting to expose what is false by simply telling the truth as hate mongers, bigots, intolerant or just plain crazy.  Nowhere have lies become more prevalent than in the world of politics.  Surely you must have heard this bit of overused humor, “How do you know when a politician is lying?  Their lips are moving!”  Wahahahahaha… But, I digress.

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it” — George Orwell

The Bible speaks often about deceitfulness.  The Newer Testament book of Ephesians says that people should, 25“Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are all part of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves.” (Ephesians 4:25)  That’s good advice.  No matter the rational, a lie is always intended to either mislead or protect – usually a bit of both.

Moving beyond the simple lies we often tell to one another; there is a “lying spirit” at work in the world.  I am not talking about ghosts, ghouls, zombies, the occult or little green men here.  Mankind’s obsession with that expression of the dark side is just another part of the grand delusion.  The essence of all that is evil in this world is known to Christians as “the spirit of antichrist”.  According to one of the biblical writers, that spirit has been at work in this world for a long time.  Keep in mind that this missive, from which I will now quote, was probably written in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus on the coast of Ionia (in present-day Turkey) roughly 2000 years ago:

1-3 “Don’t trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full of false prophets. You can test them in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the antichrist, which you were warned would come and which is already (working) in the world.”  (1 John 4:1-3 – Phillips)

The spirit of antichrist occupies the very nature of humanity gone astray.  It is this pervasive ambiguous malevolence that hinders the spiritually oblivious from receiving the truth. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:12-14) That spirit of antichrist (aka: the spirit of the world) has so blinded the passengers of spaceship earth that the majority of mankind simply drifts along on the streams of this world’s philosophies, while unconsciously obeying its unseen influences. (Read Ephesians 2:2)  The spirit that is at work in this world does not lead people to pursue the truth, it merely gives them a false impression that they are all doing just fine.  As a result, much of humanity is traveling through space-time without the benefit of a true spiritual or moral compass.  Unable to discern truth from what is false, mankind is easily manipulated by hypocritical liars whose consciences are so scorched that many of them are now incapable of ethical functioning.  The New Testament writer, Timothy, put it this way:

1-3 “The Spirit (of God) makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the (true) faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth.”  (1 Timothy 4:1-3 MSG)

The Nations of the world are in great trouble today.  Many believe that some have moved beyond the Point of a Safe Return and must now face the inevitable – the Creator’s anger.  Just because the Sovereign Almighty (the Master Spirit of Truth) has chosen a prolonged period of outward silence does not mean He will remain inactive forever.  Remember this Biblical warning: 31 “The very worst thing that can happen to a man is to fall into the hands of the living God!”  (Hebrews 10:31)  The Creator will hold all mankind accountable to Himself.  He won’t overlook a single detail, believe me.

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so well established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” — Blaise Pascal

The Bible’s Old Testament offers many great examples that should serve as a warning to all of us.  Here are but a few:

14 “Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.  Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.
15 Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice.”  (Isaiah 59:14-15 – NLT) 

1 “…The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: There is no faithfulness, no kindness, and no knowledge of God in your land.  You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery.  There is violence everywhere—one murder after another.  That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away.  Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea are disappearing.”  (Hosea 4:1-3 – NLT)

The Almighty One never changes.  Yesterday, today and forever, He remains the same.  It matters not how long ago our Creator made his declarations; the Spirit of Truth has warned us exactly what will happen whenever humanity actively and openly forsake His ways (it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t end well).

It’s hard to accept the truth when the lies you’re being told are exactly what you want to hear.” – Unknown

We are most likely living in the latter days; an age of increasing lawlessness where a strong delusion has empowered people to follow the dictates of their own deceitful heart.  I need to be frank here.  The person who will become known as The Antichrist (the human incarnation of the antichrist spirit) is not beyond your understanding.  He will appear on the earth like any other man, except he will have some extraordinary powers that come from the dark side of the unseen dimensions.  Here is what the Bible says about his eventual arrival on the bridge of spaceship earth:

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

Yes my friends, these are the times of strong delusion.  People are abandoning the foundations of truth to embrace a universal lie.  Thankfully, I am neither anxious about the future nor deceived by the delusions of today.  I have placed my absolute trust in the message brought to the earth by Jesus the Anointed One.  The same Spirit that was dwelling in Him while he visited the earth also lives in me.  The Creator is now my spiritual guide.  He steers me in the right direction, provides for my every need, protects me from my enemies and is my refuge in these troubled times.

You and I can neither revise human history nor alter God ordained future events.  We can however change the course of our own lives and perhaps even influence the trajectory of a few fellow passengers here on spaceship earth.  Get to know the real Jesus.  He will chart the course to bring you safely home again.  Are you ready?  Warp factor one… Engage….

Almighty God, speak to those with ears to hear.  Open their eyes to see beyond the strong delusion.  Let them recognize your voice today – the voice of truth.  Let them see the real Jesus.  Thank you Heavenly Father.  Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.Bishop Robert South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk to the one who made us:

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the sea bed.” ~ J. G. Ballard ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12-15 “I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself.”  (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s that?

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

You think that must be a bit boring?

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

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

What’s that?

You find my opinions offensive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first amendment is quite interesting. It says,

Amendment I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and sees his value not in life but in his Lord

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

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

Thank you God for your willingness to forgive us our foolishness and set aside the judgement we deserve because of your great mercy and grace.  I pray my friends will all find their way within the one you sent in human form to set our spirits free.  Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My teaching at this time will be very simple, but I hope it will be highly practical; for my longing is that none of you, that love God, would be reluctant to go fishing for him.”  ― Charles Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr. ―

Ahoy Mates!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul had more words of wisdom for young Timothy,

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

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

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

Listen now to what Paul went on to tell Timothy,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now if you’ll excuse me, my grouper and romaine salad awaits.  Thank you God for those who have heard your voice today; May they all have ears to hear and eyes to see.  And, thank you for my food.  Amen.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance; we find delight in the most loathsome things; some furtherance of Hell each new day brings, and yet we feel no horror in that rank advance.” ― Charles Baudelaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groan… sigh… groan…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pray.

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask for no more out of life.”  ― Henry Fielding ―

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

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

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

“Only a little while.” The fisherman replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Author Unknown –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got it?  Excellent.

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

Okay, maybe not.

But, I am content!

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