Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller

Horatio Gates Spafford was a prominent American lawyer, a devout Christian and a senior partner in a thriving law firm in mid-1800’s Chicago. By 1870, Horatio and his wife, Anna, were living in comfortable prosperity with their four young daughters in Lake View, located on the city’s North Side.  And then, in October of 1871, came the Great Fire of Chicago.  The Spaffords had significant real estate investments in an area reduced to ashes by the inferno. They were ruined financially.  In spite of their personal misfortunes, Horatio and Anna Spafford worked tirelessly for the next two years helping victims of the blaze put their lives back together.

The Spaffords were close friends and supporters of evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). In November of 1873, Horatio and Anna Spafford were in need of a breather, and so decided to join friends in Europe.  They chose England knowing that D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall.

The family arrived at the docks in New York City on Saturday, November 22nd to board the steam ship Ville du Havre bound for England.  As it happened, Horatio was detained on business and had to return to Chicago.  He sent his family ahead planning to join them as soon as possible.

At about 2 a.m., in the eastern North Atlantic, the Ville du Havre collided with the British iron clipper Loch Earn and sank in less than 15 minutes.  226 people died, including the four Spafford daughters. Among the 61 surviving passengers was Anna Spafford.   Upon arriving at Cardiff in Wales on December the 1st, Anna cabled her husband the following devastating message:

“Saved alone. What shall I do. Mrs. Goodwin children Willie Culver lost. Go with Lorriaux until answer. Reply Porclain 64 Rue Abouckir Paris.”

Horatio Spafford took the next available ship to join his grief stricken wife.  Many years later, Bertha Spafford (a fifth daughter born to Horatio and Anna 5 years after the tragedy) told of how her father, while on that grim voyage, was summoned to the bridge.  The Captain told Spafford that the ship was “…now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked and sank.”  The waters in that area were over 2640 Fathoms (3 miles) deep.

Later that night, while sitting in the solitude of his cabin, Horatio Gates Spafford put to paper the words of a poem that would go on to become one of the most beloved Gospel songs in all of Christendom – It Is Well with My Soul.

 “When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul…”

“… Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Life can be miserable; sometimes downright tragic.  I’m sure Horatio and Anna would agree.  But I think they would also remind us that God does not want His children to lose heart in the face of adversity or give up over things we cannot control. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Sometimes, you will go through awful trials in your life and then a miracle happens–God heals you.” ― Shannon L. Alder

I’d like to tell you about two little words: Even and So.  They don’t seem like much when you first look at them.   All the same, they can be a powerful twosome in the lexicon of your daily life.  Together, these two little words never feign pretense.  They don’t deny reality by disguising the hardships of survival with paste on “everything is just fine” smiles.  In fact, even and so unflinchingly recognize that sometimes life just stinks.

This linguistic dynamic duo helps us to stare courageously at the obstacles we face each day.  With the assistance of their cousins – however, nevertheless, withal, still, yet, all the same, nonetheless, and notwithstanding – we can learn to shift our gaze from finite natural experiences to the infinite things yet invisible to our senses.  In the process, our attention is redirected from the limits of what we know to our Creator whom by nature is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-wise. (1 John 3:20).

And that, my friend, changes everything.

  • Facing situations that are difficult?

Even so, you can do anything if you believe. (Mark 9:23)

  • Up against cliffs of challenge that seem impossible to climb?

Even so, God will see you through. (Hebrews 13:6)

  • Are storm clouds looming and you feel too weak to pray? 

Even so, God will be the strength that you need. (Philippians 4:13)

  • Do you feel like an angel of darkness is harassing you?

Even so, His grace (favor) is all you need. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

  • Are you confused; full of fears and doubts?

Even so, God has given you an overcomer’s spirit of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Yes indeed, they are just two little words.  Even so, they can help you overcome the tribulations of life.  In Brazil they say mesmo assim, in Italy, nonostante ciò, comunque, and in Greece, Akóma ki étsi.  All over the world, in any language, the meaning is clear: in our most desperate hour, God will supply us with the strength to face anything – if we’ll only believe!

By the way, sometimes, life really does stink.  Even so brethren… even so…

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:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”— William Arthur Ward 

I have always been intrigued by the extraordinary life of a man known simply as Jesus. He was not of this world, but he was born into this space-time continuum with a mission and a message that would alter the course of the human race forever.  When he was here on earth (nearly 2000 years ago) He gained quite a reputation around ancient Israel’s Galilee region for his amazing abilities including the power to heal the sick. Imagine him walking along a dusty road on the outskirts of a town when all at once ten lepers see him approaching. From a distance, perhaps just across a footpath or maybe a small field, they began to shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

A record of this event can be found in the Newer Testament book of Luke:

11-13 In the course of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was approaching a village, ten lepers met him. They kept their distance but shouted out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14-18 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” And it happened that as they went on their way they were cured. One of their number, when he saw that he was cured, turned round and praised God at the top of his voice, and then fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan. And at this Jesus remarked, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

19 And he said to the man, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)

Lepers posed an interesting conundrum.  Under Jewish law, they were not allowed to mingle within society. They were considered perpetually unclean and the good people of the community were forbidden to have any physical contact with them. Lepers lived banished lives, dwelling on the fringes of the social order. This is why Jesus never drew near to the lepers nor did he place his hand upon them as he had so often done before when healing the sick.

Now here is what intrigues me: when Jesus saw them, He shouted, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”  Why would he tell them to do that?  Again, it has to do with Jewish law at the time.  If a leper was truly healed of this horrible affliction, he must go before a priest to validate the cure.  Once confirmed, the formerly leprous individual could then obtain permission to mingle again in society.

Given His growing notoriety as a miracle worker, the words that Jesus spoke to the lepers most likely gave them motivation to believe they would be healed. Nonetheless, advising them to visit the priest (before any visible indication of a cure) was a deliberate test of their trust in Him.  Evidently they did have faith in Jesus as off went the ten men still manifesting the horrible contagion.   Suddenly, as they were walking along, they began to notice their leprosy was disappearing.

One of the ten lepers was a Samaritan. And, just in case you did not know, the Jews at that time hated the Samaritans. They worshiped the same God, but they didn’t get along.  This is why Jesus made note of him. When this particular leper saw that he was now cured, he freaked.  Wouldn’t you?   In his elation the once diseased Samaritan loudly screamed praises to God. But here’s what I really want you to get: filled with gratitude he turned around, found the amazing man from Galilee and “fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him.” (Luke 17:16)

Where were the other nine presumably Jewish lepers? No one really knows.  Only this one Samaritan leper returned to give thanks to the Almighty. This did not escape notice. Jesus said, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”

Imagine. An obvious miracle has taken place in the lives of ten desperate people but only one stopped to give thanks with a grateful heart for the saving grace and power of GodBy the way, did you notice that Jesus credited the leper’s faith for his healing?  He said, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.”  Hmmm.

So, ten men took a walk for the cure but only one came back to say thank you. It seems pretty clear to me that leper number ten had the attitude of gratitude. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager he never forgot the lowly Nazarene called Jesus who literally saved his life that day.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”Henry Van Dyke

Paul Harvey, the much beloved American radio broadcaster and writer, passed away in February of 2009. It is estimated that at one time his various programs reached 24 million people each week on over 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations and 300 newspapers. In a 1977 broadcast of his widely popular “The Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey shared this historic tale,

“It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit a broken down pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean…For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”

Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

So, now you know that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, just about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy eye browed, and slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one solitary gull which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.” ***

What do a grateful Samaritan leper, an old war hero, and I – a grateful sinner now redeemed by God’s Amazing Grace – have in common?  It’s the attitude of gratitude.

Maybe you have something to thank God for today.  I hope you will take the time to tell Him. Our Creator loves you no matter what, but I think He likes to hear those two powerful words – THANK YOU – as they fall from your lips.  What’s that? Not feeling very thankful right now?  Life’s treating you unkindly at the moment?  I understand.  The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote,

16-18“Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God (in your life) as expressed to you in (by) Jesus Christ.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Phillips)

We all experience difficult times in life; we fail, loved ones get hurt or die, and we may struggle with many personal challenges as well.  This is spaceship earth, a penal colony for a fallen race.  Every moment of love, joy, peace, and happiness is a blessing from above.  Remember to count your blessings carefully – and give thanks to the Lord above with a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

***Paul Aurandt, “The Old Man and the Gulls”, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656. facebook.com/inspopoint
Those who keep saying that the voice of the people is like the voice of Almighty God should not be listened to, since the unruliness of the crowd is always very close to madness.” Alcuin of York

Madness.  Having looked the word up in a variety of modern lexicons, I was intrigued by the resulting interpretive meanings that I read.  Most described madness as a state of severe mental illness.  But the Merriam-Webster’s characterization really caught my attention as it also defined madness as behavior or thinking that is very foolish, unreasonable or dangerous.

I read that description of madness and erupted out loud in laughter, which caused some of the lunchtime crowd at Rusty Bellies (where I was busy reviewing research for this article) to stare at me momentarily.  “Madness”, I said, smiling back at them.  They quickly looked away.

Why did I laugh out loud?  Because at times it seems to me that we all live in a society which is being overrun by people whose thinking is very foolish, quite unreasonable and in some cases very dangerous.  Our modern culture appears to be suffering a very bad season of madness!

Catch a news report on any given day and you will likely hear accounts of deranged bombers and crazed gunmen randomly killing the innocent, rioters and looters destroying their own communities as a form of “protest”, men and women fighting over bathroom rights, and the list just goes on and on.  All of this “madness” can be worrisome indeed.  Toss in our concerns over the latest global “hotspots”, add a pinch of general human cruelty, negativity, and, well it’s enough to drive you crazy.  At the very least, it can be difficult to remain a positive person in a world gone mad.  So what can we do to endure as beacons of optimistic light and real hope in a very pessimistic atmosphere?  Let’s talk.

To think that the specter you see before you is an illusion does not rob it of its terrors: it simply adds the further terror of madness itself — and then on top of that the horrible surmise that those of us whom the rest call mad have, all along, been the only people who see the world as it really is.”C.S. Lewis

Did you know that anxiety disorders have become one of the most common form of mental illness in the United States? Some estimates put the number of affected people over the age of 18 at more than 45 million.  One study claims that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. is now considered depressed.

Granted, anxiety and depression can have many points of origin, including genetic predispositions, brain disorders and trauma. But, there is no denying that consistent pessimism and harmful thought patterns are major contributing factors to both.  I recently read that we experience anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day!  For those possessed with a negative outlook, it’s a mental journey on the dark side.

Staying calm, positive, and happy at all times may be an admirable goal, but it’s also unrealistic.  Furthermore, it is impossible to have nothing but “happy thoughts”.  However, learning to change negative thought patterns, can lower anxiety levels and help to ease some forms of depression.  Remember, our thinking not only influences the way that we feel, it also plays a major role in shaping who we are as a person.

We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct.”Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

The Bible’s Older Testament Book of Proverbs makes an interesting observation,

“For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…”  (Proverbs 23:7)

According to the sage wisdom of Scripture, we are literally the sum of all that we think.  Why?  Because what we think is also what we believe and what we truly believe is what we ultimately say and do.  And folks, you ARE what you say and do.

So let me ask you a question, what are your mental deliberations like as you duke it out with that still small voice inside?  What thoughts fill your mind every day?

  • The worries of daily life?
  • The emotional pain you are suffering at present?
  • Hurt feelings from your past that still haunt you?
  • Physical aches, pains or ailments that you suffer?
  • Your fears and uncertainties over economic circumstances?

If these are the thought patterns that predominantly populate your daily mental landscape, you suffer from, thinking stenchinitis! (Aka: Stinking Thinking)

As a Bible believing Christian, I have learned that it is unwise to dwell on all the negatives in the world – especially when I can do little to change most of them anyway.  Instead, I regularly work to realign my thought patterns by focusing my attention on the things that are above earthbound circumstances!  According to the ancient Biblical texts, everything we need comes to us from the Creator of all things (GOD) when we set our mind on what is beyond this temporary existence.  The Liberator Jesus put it this way:

32-33 “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over so many things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:32-33 MSG)

If I am reading the words of Jesus correctly, those who know how God “works” can change negative thought patterns by immersing themselves in the reality, initiatives and provisions of the Creator of all things (God).  Anxiety is often a tell-tale symptom of a lack of faith or at least a lack of focus on the things that truly matter – i.e., things beyond this temporary existence on spaceship earth.

Once you become aware that the main business that you are here on this earth for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”J.I. Packer

In Biblical times there was a city known as Colossae.  Located 120 miles east of Ephesus in ancient Phrygia, Colossae was part of the Roman territory known as Asia Minor.  It was also the location of a vibrant Christian community to which the Newer Testament writer Paul inscribed a letter.  He told the followers of Jesus living there to…

1-4 “…Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of this earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead anyway, and your true life is now hidden in the anointed one. Someday, Jesus, the secret center of our lives, will show himself openly again, and you will all share in that magnificent final outcome.”  (Colossians 3:1-4)

Paul’s instruction were pretty clear; do not be attached to the “things” of this earth.  He reasoned that as followers of the Liberator Jesus, we are all “dead” to this world because our life now belongs to another world.  Right now, it is an unseen realm, but one day what is now invisible will be seen openly when the Liberator makes His return trip to the earth.  Paul went on to tell them,

8 “…dear brothers and sisters, one final thing; fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not the thoughts upon which modern society commonly focuses. The news media, business world, governments and sometimes even our educational institutions do not bring about this type of thought pattern. Therefore, to remain positive amidst the madness, we must sidestep this world’s agenda and see life from a heavenly perspective.  Refocusing our thinking helps to change negative thought patterns so that we can enjoy an optimistic point of view even as we pass through this “illusion” known as time here on spaceship earth.

As we rehabilitate our thought patterns and focus more attention on what the Creator has said instead of what this present world order is saying and doing, “…everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:33 MSG)    With the Divine Spirit of the Almighty actively helping us each day, we can overcome the blues; deal with bad attitudes, solve unresolved problems, settle disputes, and calm our anxiety and fear.  In other words, we can escape the madness.  Surrounded by madness?  Yes my friends, many in this world have gone crazy, but yours truly has simply decided not to go there with them.  How about you?

13 “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”  (Romans 15:13 PHILLIPS)

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved. For more information write to:
INSIGHT TODAY, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656
What really matters in life is how God sees me. He is not concerned with outward appearance; He is concerned about the state of a man’s soul.” – Billy Graham

Something just wasn’t quite right.  I could tell.  Billy (not his real name) was usually Mr. Charisma, flashing his broad toothy smile, as he yakked away with the daily lunchtime parade.  Not today.  Instead he sat quietly, staring into his glass and occasionally drumming his fingers on the counter top.

It’s been somewhat stormy as of late here on Florida’s Gulf Coast – trapping me indoors.  Now, with the return of the bright summer sunshine, I’m perched at one of my favorite inspiration points, the outside Tiki on the water at Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs.   The tropical morning air is thick with those familiar salty sea smells. I’m fine with that.  Thankfully, there is also a very nice leeward breeze to keep me cool as I write.

When Billy got up to use the rest room, I motioned for him to come my way.  I don’t know him that well, but we have exchanged small talk on several occasions.  As he approached the table I said, “How are you, buddy?”  His terse reply caught me off guard; “what does it matter how I am?

Normally, I’d crack a few jokes to lighten the mood and then move on.  Not today.  I said, “It matters to me Billy, what’s wrong?”  He began by telling me how upsetting life in, as he put it, a “deaf, dumb and blind” world had become.  “So many people don’t seem to get it at all”, he said, “misunderstanding is everywhere and some folks don’t even care if something is true or just a lie.”  Billy then summed up his frustrations this way, “You asked me what’s wrong so I will tell you; everything is going crazy, people are paranoid and afraid.  It’s like nothing matters – not even the truth!  What’s worse, I’m beginning not to care anymore myself.”  And with that, he walked away.

So, the world has gone crazy and nothing matters?  That’s what Billy believes.  What about you?  Have you ever felt like what you think or do doesn’t matter all that much?  And what about the truth? Does the truth matter?  And if so, have you taken a stand for the right stuff, you know, the things that truly matter most in life?  Or are you like Billy, beginning not to care anymore?

Sometimes we may actually find justification for such a mindset.  Take the farce of modern politics, for example.  Do you actually believe that all of the high-profile candidates and elected representatives are on a mission to accomplish what matters most to “John Q Public?”  Survey says; “Not really.”  With a few notable exceptions, politicians will give the impression of deep concern for what is important to the voting public only during the campaign season.  After the election, far too many contemporary political figures hardly ever seems to take into account the sentiments of the people who voted for them.  Once these disingenuous candidates gain entrance into the egocentric money driven political class, they quickly grow deaf to the voice of the citizens they are sworn to represent.  The Lords and Ladies of our modern plutocracy would like nothing better than for the serfs of the fiefdom to remember their station, respect their betters, and shut their collective mouths.  But of course, we better continue to pay their ever more oppressive taxes.

And what of the corporate behemoths in the research and pharmaceutical community?  Certainly “we the people” matter to them.  They’re all humanitarians, right?  Why else would the cost of a vital and widely used anaphylaxis treatment device called the EpiPen® cost the consumer in some cases over $400.00 a dose?  This recent headline grabbing example of how much people “matter” to the masters of the medical universe prompted social media outrage and a campaign by patients and their families to persuade Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, to reduce the price. Numerous critics noted that the actual cost of the epinephrine (the drug included in the auto-injector) is about $1.00 and the entire delivery system can be produced for about $20.00.

Shall we banter about your health insurance providers or the big banks?  They’re all about you, aren’t they?  Look, I am really not here to deliberate human corruption and greed.  The point I’d actually like to make is very simple; living in modern Sodom, it’s easy to feel like your life doesn’t matter all that much.

Now here is what distresses me; more and more honest, hardworking people have given in to that most insidious of little voices that can creep inside your human spirit and whisper the greatest destructive lie of all, “Why bother trying, you don’t matter – just give up.”

So again I ask you, do we matter at all?  Let’s talk.

I resent being taken for a ride to the place where anything goes and nothing matters. And especially where nothing matters less than clear thinking and straight talk.” – James Howard Kunstler

The Book of Psalms can be found in the Older Testament of the Bible.  Psalm 8 contains this enlightening observation:

“When I look up into the night skies and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you have made— I cannot understand how you can bother with mere puny man, to pay any attention to him!”  (Psalm 8:3-4 – TLB)

How direct.  The Psalmist wonders why the Great Architect of the universe would pay any attention at all to what he calls “puny man”.  In essence he says, “Given who you are, how or why would insignificant humanity possibly matter to you?”  The writer of another ancient book that is also found in the Bible – Ecclesiastes – phrased the question more cynically when he asked, “Does anything matter?”  Here is how he felt:  “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Nothing has any meaning.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8 – NIRV)

So far, it sounds like those who side with the “nothing matters” crowd might have a two point advantage.  Not so fast.  Let me introduce you to an ancient sage who claimed he had received visions and predictive messages directly from the Almighty (God).  His name was Isaiah, a Judean Prophet who for over 40 years saw himself as a messenger of the Creator.  Isaiah lived during one of the most unstable political and religious periods in the history of ancient Jerusalem.

You will find the record of his adventurous life as well as his revelatory writings in the Bible’s Older Testament Book that bears his name.  Its 66 chapters deal with the Creator’s message to His disobedient creation – at that time the chosen people of ancient Israel. The Almighty had entered into a covenant arrangement with the Israelites based on very specific conditions.  However, over time they refused to live by the terms of the agreement; choosing rebellion, pride, and self-will over obedience, humility and surrender.  As spiritual insensitivity increased, ancient Israel elected to do more things their way and without Divine help.

Isaiah was a member of the aristocracy and as such he enjoyed a good relationship with the various heads of state and he had free access to the hallowed halls of the palace. However, his position in society and associations with the politically elite did not deter him from being outspoken.  In fact, he is considered one of the most politically active of all the Biblical prophets.  He is well known for his verbal attacks on the ruling classes, criticizing their corruption and the way they treated the common citizen.

A man of deep seated spiritual principles, he unequivocally believed in the supernatural power of the Almighty Creator.  Isaiah was appalled by the general lack of trust in the one true God so widespread in his time.  He unabashedly proclaimed that the whole of creation belongs to the Almighty (i.e. God owns this planet and all it contains).  He foretold of a coming day of judgement and ultimately the destruction of this world order.  His challenge to mankind was not complex: turn to God for everything in life – or else you will suffer the consequences.  He was one of the early Turn or Burn preachers.

One day Isaiah had a Divine visitation in which he saw the Glory of the otherworldly Lord of Hosts.  During this visionary encounter, the Almighty communicated with him.  The dialogue began with a question (his calling), followed by specific instructions (his mission):

Then I heard the Lord God asking, “Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go?”

And I said, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.”

And he said, “Yes, Go and say to this people, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.”  (Isaiah 6:8-10 – Septuagint)

Herein is revealed the true nature of spiritual blindness.  Without divine perception you can “hear” the words of truth given to humanity by the Creator Himself and yet comprehend nothing.  You can witness (see) the handiwork of the Almighty all around you and fail to understand what it means.  Without ears to hear and eyes to see your hardened heart is not able to recognize the need to seek the one who made you.  The pursuit of the God who controls all things is more important than anything else that happens here on spaceship earth.  You might say, it’s all that REALLY matters.  Find God and you discover what life is really all about.  Find what life is really all about and you will recognize that indeed you really DO matter – where it counts.

Nothing else matters much — not wealth, nor learning, nor even health — without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep a passion for living. This is the creed of creeds, the final deposit and distillation of faith itself: that you should be able to believe in the true purpose of life.” — Unknown

When the Liberator Jesus (our creator appearing in the form of a human) was here on spaceship earth he would often tell illustrative stories called parables to the crowds who gathered to listen to him speak.  One day, at the conclusion of one such parable (Matthew 13:1-8) he told the assemblage that had gathered to listen to him speak, 9 “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

As the crowd was dispersing, His close associates asked this question, 10 “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”  Here is how he replied to that inquiry,

11 “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, for they (the many) look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.”  (Matthew 13:11-13)

What about you?  Do your eyes really see the truth?  Can you really hear what the Spirit of our Creator is saying today?  Do you care?  If so, count yourself blessed.  Many cannot see nor hear – at least not yet, and many more refuse to even try.  Listen carefully then to these urgent words from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

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

Can you hear that?  He is speaking to you even now.  To some He is saying, “Help each other to stand firm in the faith every day, while it is still called “today”.  To others He is saying, “…if you will hear my voice, do not harden your hearts in rebellion any longer”.

Everything I have said today matters.  The question is, does anything I’ve said here matter to you? Because you see my friend, you really do matter to the only one who really matters – the God who made you.  And that’s what matters most!

Care to pray?

Father of all creation, some have heard your voice today.  Something is stirring inside of them right now.  I’m sure that they still have many questions.  There are so many mysteries yet to be understood and hurts to be healed.  Please help those with newly opened eyes and ears to place a measure of trust in you and in the message spoken to us all by the Liberator Jesus.  Help them to say, “Here I am.”  Guide them on their journey homeward, I pray.  Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk to the one who made us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s that?

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

You think that must be a bit boring?

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

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

What’s that?

You find my opinions offensive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first amendment is quite interesting. It says,

Amendment I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and sees his value not in life but in his Lord

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

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

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

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