Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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
Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” ― Rich Mullins

The focal point of the Christian faith is an extraordinary man known around the world as Jesus Christ.  Some of you may be surprised to learn that “Christ” is not His last name.  He’s not the son of Joseph and Mary Christ who owned the little carpentry shop in Nazareth a very long time ago.  “Jesus” is his given name, and “Christ” is His title.

The term “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos which means “anointed one” or “chosen one.”   Hence, “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus the Anointed One.”  According to the Bible, He was sent from God as our “chosen” Liberator (see Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 32:1).

I have always been captivated by the extraordinary events in the life and times of Jesus.  The New Testament says that He arrived on our planet through a supernatural amalgamation of the Creator and His creation.  It was a Divine visitation.  Jesus grew up to be a good man, loved by the people, but hated by the corrupt and wicked.  He was eventually arrested, publicly tried and heinously executed for seemingly no good reason – except that it was all part of an incredible plan.

Are you at all familiar with Jesus’s stopover here on spaceship earth?

Let’s talk.

To understand the need for a Divine visitation by our creator, we must go back in time to the moment when Human life began.  According to the ancient book of Genesis, mankind was fashioned from the very elements of earth itself, and brought to life by a supreme architect whom we know as God (Genesis Chapters 1 & 2).

“Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.” (Gen 2:7 – GNT)

The story of Adam and Eve is meant to help people grasp the dilemma of humanity.  In Adam, the whole future of the human race is personified.  He was placed upon the earth by God, provided with a soul-mate to complete him, told to be fruitful, to procreate and instructed as to what was and was not permissible.  Eventually, Adam listened to the wrong voices, overlooked the rules and violated the will of our Creator.  In the parlance of Religion, this singular act of disobedience is often referred to as “Original Sin”.

12 “This, then, is what happened. Sin made its entry into the world through one man (Adam), and through sin, death. The entail of sin and death passed on to the whole human race, and no one could break it for no one was himself free from sin.”  (Romans 5:12 – PHILLIPS)

13 “Sin was in the world before the Law was given. But sin is not held against a person when there is no Law. 14 And yet death had power over men from the time of Adam until the time of Moses. Even the power of death was over those who had not sinned in the same way Adam sinned. Adam was like the One Who was to come.”   (Romans 5:13-14 – NLV)

The moment Adam (man) knowingly transgressed, there were consequences.  The whole dynamic of the earth and the human relationship with the architect of humanity was now in disarray. The disobedience of Adam brought “death” to the human race. It is helpful to think of this death as separation from God rather than a simple cessation of life.  Physical death is just one byproduct of this disconnect from the giver of life.  It was not until the time of Moses (2500 years after the incident at Eden) that God communicated the magnitude of the disruption between Himself and His creation:

19 “Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the one who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.” (Galatians 3:19)

Every human being born on this earth inherits the consequence of Adam’s breaking the rules. We are all born in “sin” (spiritual death).   Eternity is where we belong, but time is where we are marooned. The human dilemma (spiritual death) is a huge rift separating us from our maker.  According to the ancient scriptures, the only remedy for mankind was a Divine rescue mission.

But who can do this for us?  Meet Jesus – The Real Superhero

14b “… Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of the Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins..”   (Romans 5:14-16 – NLT)

Ironically, Adam, the one who personifies this mess we find ourselves in, is also (symbolically) the one who helps us look ahead to the rescue mission planned for mankind.  When Adam transgressed, The Creator declared that a Liberator would eventually come to the earth; born of the “seed of the woman” (a child) on a very special assignment that would set the captives free.

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of an authentic Christian experience.” ― N.T. Wright

The Divine rescue mission began with a visitation from the supernatural equivalent of a Western Union messenger.  An otherworldly envoy, which we call an Angel, appeared to a young virgin peasant girl named Mary.  Here is the Biblical account of what took place that day:

30 “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you! 31 Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you are to name him ‘Jesus.’ 32 He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God. And the Lord God shall give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he shall reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom shall never end!”  34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”  35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Almighty One shall overshadow you; so the baby born to you will be utterly divine—the Son of God Himself. (Luke 1:26-38)

The long awaited and greatly anticipated liberation would now commence with the birth of a God/man blend called Jesus.  His arrival on spaceship earth (about 4000 years after Adam’s transgression) was without pomp or circumstance and in less than posh surroundings:

“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in the country of the Galilee to the town of Bethlehem.  It was known as the city of David. He went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph went to have his and Mary’s names written in the books of the nation. Mary was his promised wife and soon to become a mother. While they were there in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth to her baby. Her first son was born. She put cloth around Him and laid Him in a place where cattle are fed. There was no room for them in the place where people stay for the night.” (Luke 2:4-7 – NLV)

Once born in the form of human flesh, Jesus Christ lived a rather benign life for roughly 30 years.  When the time was just right, the “Anointed One” commenced to circulate a potent message leading up to the fulfillment of a singular mission:  to seek and to salvage a lost civilization (mankind).   Jesus is also called by another title – Emanuel (Isaiah 7:14 – KJV), which means God is with us.  As such,

  • He is fully God and fully human thus a “relative” to us all
  • He is our Kinsman- Redeemer, and our Liberator
  • He is our entry point and pathway into the dimension we often call eternity
  • He came from infinity to live briefly on the time line
  • He is the Light being that stepped into the darkness of planet earth

Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and man.   The breach produced by our congenital sin nature is what keeps us separated from the unseen giver of all life.  Jesus is the doorway through which we gain access to an eternity reunited with our creator.   He is also the road upon which we find our way home.

The only way all people can have the opportunity to choose or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ is for us, without judgment, to invite them to follow the Savior. ― Clayton M. Christensen

Perhaps some of this information that I am sharing today is nothing new.  You may have heard it all before and some of you may even believe it.  Others may not.  To everyone – searcher, skeptic and Bible thumpers alike – we hold these Biblical truths to be quite evident:

  • The “sin” nature is inherent (it’s genetic), and all human wickedness is fundamental to our fallen nature (Genesis 3, Romans 7:14–25)
  • Sin brought separation from God—both spiritual and physical—to humanity (Genesis 2:17)
  • Sin merits a never-ending separation (spiritual death) from a holy and righteously divine creator (Romans 6:23)
  • Sin cannot be overcome on our own no matter how desperately we try to do what is right (Romans 7:14, 15)

The Liberator Jesus alone can give us freedom from our depravity and grant us a pardon from our well-deserved condemnation.  As Divinity in the form of humanity, our Kinsman-Redeemer came into this world to both buy us back (redeem) and to set us free (save).  Like an attorney in a court of law, Jesus is our advocate who has obtained for us a timeless acquittal.

Now, just In case someone is still wondering why we need to be rescued at all, let’s break it down one more time:  We are all reprobates marooned on a dying world, and estranged from the God who made us.  We cannot meet the standards of a holy and righteous Creator without His direct involvement.

Therefore, behold the solution: The Liberator Jesus.    Christ alone claims to be the chosen one of God.  He is a genuine Superhero.  Why?  Because death could not stop Him; the grave could not hold him, and we cannot be set free from the chains of death without Him.

The good news – He’s waiting to show you the way back home.  You need only ask.  Really, just ask…

Almighty God, you are perfect Love.  Jesus came because of love, and it is Your love that is calling us back to where we truly belong.  Please help my friends see past the confusion so often caused by institutional religious agendas, false prophets and the emptiness of man-made philosophies so that they can get to know the real Jesus as a friend, a brother and our Liberator.  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
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.”Paul VI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

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

By definition a mocker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Now, let’s define it:

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

And you really need to get over it!

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

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

Here’s my personal favorite,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break that down.

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

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

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

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

Now, check out these additional words of wisdom from the Bible,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2017 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
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:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Want to keep Christ in your Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ― Steve Maraboli

Christmas time is here.  Some say that it is the most wonderful time of the year.  Their lists of reasons vary, of course.  The anticipation of Christmas morning with bright paper packages filling the void beneath the festive tree is high on many a list, no doubt.  Family, friends and parties are certainly there as well.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional Christmas story as told by Christendom.  There is that manger scene in Bethlehem with Joseph and Mary, and the Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.  Suddenly, Angels appear announcing to them the birth of a savior.  And, let’s not forget the Wise Men who traveled from afar, led by the very special Christmas star.

Three of the four Biblical narratives contain this customary Christmas chronicle. Not so the Gospel of John.  His New Testament writing is unique as it refers to the birth of Jesus as “The Word” becoming a human being and living among mankind.

Here then is the Christmas story according to John:

1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 That light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

 6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

 10 He came into the very world he had created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are the reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:1-14)

Clearly the birth of this man known simply as Jesus is presented by all of the Gospel writers as part of a supernatural plan.  The Almighty Creator took on human form in order to visit the world that He created.  But why did He do this?  Let me suggest four reasons:

We are each one on a road going toward home, but we’re not trying to get there for Christmas. We’re trying to get there for eternity. We want to arrive home safely to our loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to make it safely there, so He has sent a guiding light for us to follow: a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect example.” ― Margaret D. Nadauld

God wants to relate to us.  It is difficult to relate to someone if you have nothing in common with them.  The Newer Testament writer Paul said,

20 “When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Jesus. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. 21 When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence[a] and help them too.  22 When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Jesus and let Christ save him. 23 I do this to get the Gospel to them and also for the blessing I myself receive when I see them come to know Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)

Paul learned this concept of ministry from his encounters with the Almighty.  He understood that you can’t communicate with someone unless you relate to them. To relate to His creation in a most intimate way, the Word became flesh – God became a man.  Just as light is focused into a sharp image through the lens of a camera, Jesus was the Almighty God in focus.  His life says to all who will pay attention, “This is what God is like and this is what he wants from you”.

Jesus lived his life on earth in much the same way as we live our lives.  He was exposed to the same temptations.  He is familiar with our fears.  He felt life’s pressures.  He relates to us and we can relate to him.  Because of this relationship, we can approach our Creator as one who knows what it is like to be human.

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift –  Jesus the Christ.” ― Frank McKibben

God wants to enlighten us.  We live in the professed “age of enlightenment.”  It’s an era of awareness as we all travel on the information superhighway.  We’re caught in the World Wide Web.  Knowledge travels at light speed.  And yet, confusion is everywhere.  People are wondering what to do and where to turn for the answers.  Of course, advice is dispensed on every cyber-corner.  Much of it is no more than the blind leading the blind.  Seekers everywhere cry out for direction as they search for truth and illumination.  Many wonder, “Whom do we trust?”  In the midst of it all, the message and invitation of Jesus, first proclaimed when he came aboard space ship earth, remains the same: “I am the way, the truth and the light of life… Learn of me…”

God wants to adopt us.  Jesus knew that his visit to earth in human form would be brief.  So he made two important promises; I will not leave you on your own and one day you will be with me.  Followers of the Liberator Jesus are not strays; we are children of the light.  Look at what several verses found in the Bible’s Newer Testament have to say about our position:

 15 “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

5 “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (Galatians 4:5)

5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  (Ephesians 1:5)

It is obvious; God wants to welcome us into his family!  Remember what John wrote “… to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

God wants to redeem us.  There is another reason why the Eternal Word became a man.  In fact, it is the most important reason of all.  For without this one reason, the others would have no significance.  Our creator was born embodied in a baby called Jesus so that he could grow up among us, reveal himself to us, die in our place to liberate us, and show us the way back home.

The baby Jesus (God born in human form) grew into a great man.  He lived a normal life until the day when he commenced the mission for which he had come into the world.  He then traveled extensively teaching the truth (to all who would listen) about who he was and why he came to the earth.  It was (and still is) a radical message which promised eternal life to everyone who would put their trust in him.  He upset the religious establishment of his day, and as a result he was executed at the urging of the Jewish leaders by the Romans who occupied Israel.  But that was always part of the plan.  His death was the doorway to another dimension (eternity).  He took our guilt and shame upon himself.  When he cried out in his final moments of life as a human, “it is finished,” the debt owed for the original transgression of mankind was settled once and for all.

It is because of His death that the Almighty One can relate to us and enlighten us.  The death of that one unique solitary man called Jesus has made possible our adoption as sons and daughters of the Creator and our liberation from spiritual death.

Remember that, when you see a manger scene this Christmas, when you think of that star shining brightly in the ancient Bethlehem sky, when you read of the angelic beings announcing his birth to the shepherds, and especially when you see a reference to the Magi.  They are called wise men that came in search of the truth.  Indeed, they were very wise.  How about you?  Wise men and wise women still seek Him today.  Do you?

Merry Christmas!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For additional information write to:
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