Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  It is the storm within which endangers him most, not the storm without.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Living Bible translation of this verse reads:

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

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

Another Biblical writer named John put it like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
and the founder of Living faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. and the Coastal JunkieTM, LLC.
The intellectual property published above is © 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.
For additional information write to: Coastal Junkie, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.
Check us out at http://www.coastaljunkie.com
Throughout your life, people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, because in the end, hate in your heart will consume you.” ― Will Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciao.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya’ man!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the moldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast

And the days are dark and dreary.

 Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Skipping now to the next to last stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we talk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would like to issue a challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

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

By definition a mocker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

There once was in man a true happiness of which now remains to him only the mark and an empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings… But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.” – Blaise Pascal

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

Let’s talk…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” ― Neil Gaiman

Spaceship earth.  That’s where I live.  Even though it’s a really big and awesome planetary craft – okay, floating orb – I am seldom cognizant of this celestial ride I am taking through the cosmos.  Too busy living out each day, I guess.

Diverse thinkers throughout human history have called “time” an illusion.  They say that time isn’t really “real”, just an artificial construct of the brain. Well, real or not, the perceived clock keeps right on ticking and we can neither slow down nor reverse its relentless march forward.  So, I ask myself, “Why are so many people trying (albeit in vain) to redo yesterday?”  How about you?  Stuck in the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” matrix?  

When I was a child, there was a nursery rhyme, a single quatrain, which went something like this:

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
couldn’t put Humpty back together again.”

In other words, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done.  There are no life “do-overs” or “my life stinks, I think I‘ll just hit the reset button, reload the software and start over from birth.”  Granted, you can change direction, take a new path, even “reinvent yourself” a time or two during your journey; but once that lifetime is over, well, you are out of second (third, fourth and fifth) chances, my friend.

The average life expectancy of a newborn (2016) is about 79 years. Depending upon when you were born (and lifestyle), your average life expectancy may be considerably lower. But even if you were to live to be 100 years old, the question still remains: Are you taking full advantage of the finite number of years that you have?

Instead of waking up every day lamenting what you woulda, coulda, or shoulda done, why not listen to a bit of advice from this very wise Newer Testament biblical writer named Paul.  He said,

13 “…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 of life and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to the heaven because of what Jesus the Christ did for us.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)

So let me ask you, “What are you doing with your life?”  Better yet, “what are you doing today?”  Moment by moment, only you can live your life.  Before you know it, time will expire (real or not).  Perhaps you had better make every second count while you still can.

Many times, the decisions you make affect and hurt your closest friends and family the most. I have a lot of regrets in that regard. But God has forgiven me, which I am very thankful for. It has enabled me to forgive myself and move forward one day at a time.” – Lex Luger

My reference for a solid and reliable world view is rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic as revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture.  The wisdom contained within its numerous stories and illustrations helps me to see the world for what it really is.  Passages like this:

15-17”Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamor of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die.” John 1:9-13 (Phillips)

Did he say, “Never give your heart over to the things of this world?”  I know, I know, that’s a pretty tall order. It requires us to guard our human spirit with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). It takes discipline to keep our mind, will and emotions (the human soul) from being enamored by the ways of this world. It means we have to place our affections on things beyond this brief space-time journey.

All societies have values, principles and philosophies which form their organizational foundations, and we all live in these secular social systems. But what happens when the flow of earthly cultures run ever more contrary to the course of Divine order? How do we respond?  Good question.  The answer is: we defy the flow of those social structures.  Why?  Simple, the bulk of this current world-system is built upon greed driven ambition, base desires and false glamour. In short, our culture is fated to fail. What to do? Avoid the culture trap and you will sidestep the failure. We who have chosen to follow the Divine blueprint are simply no longer comfortable being “of” this world order.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ― C.S. Lewis

I have given up on the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. I only end up despondent and depressed a few weeks later when I fail to live up to them. The nature of most New Year’s resolutions is inherently short-term. I prefer to set priorities for my life and then measure my progress throughout the year. How about you? Have you set any goals for the year? Now is a great time to do so!

With that in mind, let me suggest one or two priorities that you might take under consideration in the coming year.  First, get to know the Divine plan for YOUR life a little better every day. Find ways to be of service to the Almighty by exercising your talents and gifts with joy and faithfulness. “Much is expected from the one who has been given much, and the more a man is trusted with, the more people will expect of him.” (Luke 12:48)

Also, remember to fight the “Good Fight of Faith.”  Here on Spaceship Earth, our battles are against spiritual enemies (not one another). Forget society’s methods when confronting evil. The Almighty One is a boundless resource from whom we draw our strength and wisdom.  The good fight of faith requires that we know our foes and dress appropriately.  Listen to this from the Bible:

“Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the evil one’s methods of attack. For of all, our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still hold your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Wow.  That’s radical.  But, the rebel Jesus was considered radical too.  So were all of his early disciples.   We who follow after Him today are a spiritually radical bunch also.

Anyway, good or bad, right or wrong, what is done is done – and so am I.  Let’s fire up the thrusters and buckle-up; it’s time for another crazy trip around the sun!

Happy New Year

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