Posts Tagged ‘spiritual’

It is most remarkable that Abraham Lincoln, when he saw so much that was vulnerable in the leadership of the Christian Church, did not move to the opposite error and become a mocker.”― Elton Trueblood ―

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

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

Let’s talk about the mockers and the scornful.

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

By definition a mocker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask for no more out of life.”  ― Henry Fielding ―

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

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

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

“Only a little while.” The fisherman replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Author Unknown –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got it?  Excellent.

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

Okay, maybe not.

But, I am content!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
You are heir to a heavenly fortune, the sole beneficiary of an infinite spiritual trust fund, a proverbial goldmine of sacred abundance beyond all common measure or human comprehension. But until you choose to exercise your rightful inheritance of this blessed gift, it will remain unclaimed and forever beyond your reach.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

I have grown to loathe what the American political process has become. Endless quibbling, ruthless character assignations, and the lies… my word… the lies. If it were possible, I do believe some of the founders of this once great nation would burst forth from their graves and rebuke the Gypsies, tramps and thieves who are squatting in the various citadels of American Government. I am often embarrassed for my country, and I apologize to the world that this once dazzling beacon of hope and bastion of freedom has become a drifting ship of fools nearly void (at least at the moment) of genuine effective leadership. Sometimes it feels like we are all living a repetitive loop from that old Stealers Wheel classic, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” That’s why, like the ancient Patriarch Abraham, my eyes are ever looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Similar to politics, religion is also often troubled by foolishness and inconsistency. Much evil has been perpetrated and/or justified in the name of God. But is that the fault of the Almighty? Or is it just the tragic acts of spiritually blind and ill-advised humans? I dare say, God is NOT the problem. Au contraire mon ami, He offers one universal solution – His Amazing Grace. It is the gift worth choosing. Stay tuned.

The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the entire mess of life with one word: GRACE.” ― Max Lucado

Does the Master Spirit, the Creator of all things, the Almighty God have a plan to save all of mankind from obliteration, or does He choose some for redemption and predestine others for damnation.  Can anyone receive restoration from the Liberator Jesus, or only the chosen few?  A subject of considerable debate among Christian theologians appears to center on whether or not our faith in God is a matter of personal choice (free will) or a calling and thus a gift bestowed arbitrarily (a sovereign act of the Almighty).

Let’s talk about it.

Faith as a Choice

Some people say that faith in God is entirely a matter of personal choice (a sole act of the human “free will”). They quote scriptures like Deuteronomy 30:19-20 where Moses called upon the people of ancient Israel to make a choice. He admonished the wayward Israelites to choose life over death and blessings over curses by making a decision to love and obey Jehovah:

19“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Later, after the leadership of Israel passes to Joshua from Moses, notice how Joshua continues to urge the indecisive people of Israel:

15“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord (we serve Jehovah).” (Joshua 24:15 – NLT)

Based on this dress-down, it certainly would appear that faith is indeed a choice. Joshua compels the people to “choose today whom you will serve.” And, he makes it quite clear that his family has chosen to serve Jehovah.

In the Newer Testament the Liberator Jesus said it this way,

4“Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.” (John 15:4 NLT)

So again, it appears we have a choice. If we choose to follow Jesus (live in Him), He remains in an on-going and indwelling relationship within us. In fact, we are told that this cooperative connection is a prerequisite for a living a fruitful life.

Faith as a Gift

Flip over the coin and there you’ll find those people who would say that we do not choose to follow God. They reason that we are already chosen by His sovereign will. For them, our rescue from eternal damnation is strictly a matter of election and therefore a sovereign gift. God chooses us and we have nothing to do with the process. They quote scriptures like Deuteronomy 7:6,

6“For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.”

Or, they might quote the ancient prophetic writer Isaiah who was an oracle to the people of Israel:

1“But now listen, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord Who made you, Who put you together before you were born, Who will help you, says, ‘Do not be afraid, O Jacob My servant, and you Jeshurun (Israel) whom I have chosen(Isaiah 44:1-2 – NLV)

And then there are these words from the lips of the Liberator Jesus:

16“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” (John 15:16 – NLV)

So, did the Israelites choose God or did God choose the Israelites? And in this, the Newer Testament era, do we choose God or does He choose us?

Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people choose to withdraw from the gift of God.” ― Augustine
FAITH: Choice and Gift

After considering all of these verses (and many, many others), it would appear that faith in God is both a gift and a choice. I know what you might be thinking, “isn’t that a contradiction?” Not necessarily; a bit perplexing, perhaps, but not conflicting.

Let me explain. Have you ever been in love? Did you choose to fall in love? Did you say to yourself, “Tonight I think I’ll go out somewhere and fall in love?” Sure enough, someone just comes up to you and says, “Hello” (Cue the music and sweet little birds chirping) and, SHAZAM – You fall madly and hopelessly in love!”

Sorry, it does not work like that; you do not choose to fall in love. Be it the right day, wrong day, good timing or bad – It just happens. Some say, it’s all in the chemistry. Think of falling in love as an unexpected gift.

But there is also choice involved in love relationships. We make a choice to pursue the spontaneous spark of “falling in love” to its logical conclusion – a meaningful relationship. The conjugal union does not just happen to you. A lifetime of exclusive love and devotion to another person is the result of a decision (choice).

It’s not the law of religion nor the principles of morality that define our highways and pathways to God; only by the Grace of God are we led and drawn, to God. It is His grace that conquers a multitude of flaws and in that grace, there is only favor. Favor is not achieved; favor is received by choice.” ― C. JoyBell C.

And so the great debate: Is our redemption the result of the sovereignty of God alone or do we exercise our own free will and choose to follow Him? What if the answer is BOTH? Could faith in God involve both a gift and a choice?

Faith is a gift because God choose us before we choose Him. As recipients of this gift of amazing grace (again, His sovereignty), we lose all bragging rights. The New Testament writer Paul said,

8”God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 – NLT)

Since we did nothing to deserve it, we cannot sing our own praises. There remains but one reaction – gratefulness – as we awaken to the consciousness that an eternal life of joy and peace await us in another world when the illusion of time is no more.

Faith is a choice because we alone are accountable for our individual and unique relationship with God. Hypocritical Christians, corrupt clergy or a bad church experience is no excuse to walk away. Jesus said, “Live in me.” Accepting what Jesus offers you is an on-going personal responsibility. Our choice to follow Him is reaffirmed daily.

So, to believe in God involves absolute trust.  Our faith (absolute trust) is both a choice and a gift. Failure to understand that faith is a choice will lead to self-righteousness. But, if we forget that faith in God begins as a gift, we will live in fear; trying to earn the Divine blessings instead of joyously accepting what God freely gives to us when we believe.

And that brings me back to God’s universal solution – His Amazing Grace. In the words of the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807):

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail, a life of joy and peace.

Today, by His Amazing Grace, God freely offers you forgiveness and redemption, regardless of any wickedness committed in your life.  The Creator of all things is full of compassion.  In fact, there is no end to His mercy.

So I say, AMEN to the God who has chosen me to be His own for eternity.

And I say, AMEN to Jesus the great Liberator whom I choose to follow all of my days.

What about you?   Will you say AMEN?  The key to a prosperous life is found in both the Gift and the Choice.

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Accept the gift that God is offering to you and choose life. To do so is wise indeed.

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

 

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and is as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” ― Thomas Jefferson  ―

I suppose I’m a bit of a rebel. Some say it’s in my genes. Actually, I can be rebellious in dress trousers too. (Insert groan here). Nonconformity just comes natural to me. I’m not a very good Jack in the Box.

Perhaps I should define my use of the term rebel, lest you think that it only applies to nefarious reprobates.  By simple definition a Rebel is someone who resists or defies authority or convention. Since I tend to obey the law of the land, you will rarely, if ever, find me in open defiance of duly constituted authority. I often disagree with the policies of government, but I’m not a radical militant.

I am however an iconoclast (look that one up in your Funk & Wagnalls); a freethinker who often questions the status quo. That would make me an intellectual and spiritual rebel. I’m in good company. Take Martin Luther as an example. This rebellious reformer from the 1500’s got in the face of some pretty powerful people. He took on the religious establishment of his time. And, they didn’t like it; called him a subversive. Really, he was just another rebel with a cause.

History is replete with its illustrious and infamous rogues and rebels. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few. Names like: Alexander the Great, Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Herod, Nero, Cleopatra, William the Conqueror, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and of course the biblical cast of characters like Peter, James, John and Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.

Saint and sinner alike can be found on the list. Visionaries, revolutionaries, and creative thinkers mixed with tyrants, maniacs, scoundrels and scallywags. They all have one thing in common; for better or worse, somewhere along the way they defied convention, broke the rules, took a leap of faith, and in the end made a difference that rocked their world. That’s what rogues and rebels do.

The whole world loves a maverick and the whole world wants the maverick to achieve something nobler than simple rebellion.” ― Kevin Patterson

So again, I too am a rebel and even a tad of a rogue. Friends and family gave me the nickname “Maverick” decades ago. I have tried not to disappoint them. I ask lots of questions and sometimes reject the conventional patterns of society in favor of my deeply held values. I also question blind allegiance to religions. Faithfulness and loyalty to a “cause” requires understanding and insight. Genuine faith says, “I know in whom I have believed.” I believe in GOD.   And yet, I even question Him sometimes. Not in an arrogant, disrespectful or unbelieving way. I merely follow His invitation to be inquisitive. Here is what the Spirit of the Almighty said,

“Call on Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden things, which you do not know (and do not distinguish and recognize, or have knowledge of and understand).” (Jeremiah 33:3 Amplified)

So, that’s what I do. I ask the Creator of all things for His knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

When the liberator Jesus visited the planet, He was quite a rebel Himself. His words were considered subversive as he wandered about challenging the religious authorities and their customs. It’s not a great stretch to say that He bucked the system. Here’s just one example,

12-17 “Jesus, accompanied by his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there a few days. The Jewish Passover was approaching and Jesus made the journey up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he discovered cattle and sheep dealers and pigeon-sellers, as well as money-changers sitting at their tables. So he made a rough whip out of rope and drove the whole lot of them, sheep and cattle as well, out of the Temple. He sent the coins of the money-changers flying and turned their tables upside down. Then he said to the pigeon-dealers, “Take those things out of here. Don’t you dare turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:15-17 Phillips)

Wow. Beating up on people with a rope and throwing their stuff all over the place? Jesus was a Holy Rebel indeed. Imagine if he were here today and behaved as the writer John describes. The powers that be would accuse Him of having an impulse control issue. Most likely Intermittent Explosive Disorder which psychologists define as episodes of aggressive outbursts resulting in either destruction of property or physical assaults on others. Ship him right off to the asylum, they would. Listen to what happened when they wanted to know who gave him the right to act the way he did:

1-2 “One day as he was teaching the people in the Temple, and preaching the Gospel to them, the chief priests, the scribes and elders confronted him in a body and asked him this direct question, “Tell us by whose authority you act as you do—who gave you such authority?” 3-4 “I have a question for you, too,” replied Jesus. “John’s baptism, now—tell me, did it come from Heaven or was it purely human?” 5-7 At this they began arguing with each other, saying, “If we say, ‘from Heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe in him?’ but if we say it was purely human, this mob will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they replied that they did not know where it came from. “Then,” returned Jesus, “neither will I tell you by what authority I do what I am doing.” (Luke 20:1-8 Phillips)

Is it any wonder that the religious establishment hated him? Jesus was so real, genuine, and germane to everyday life. That’s why the common people loved Him. He was brutally honest and yet tender, loving and filled with compassion. This radical revolutionary was on a mission from God. He often broke the rules of religion and yet he was himself true justice mixed with grace. In life He lived as a revolutionary and they put him to death as a rebel.

Today, Jesus would be considered a rebel, if not a terrorist, and definitely a threat to the establishment and the status quo ~ as he most certainly was 2000 years ago.” Allen L Roland, PhD

Religious jealousy and hatred toward the message He brought to mankind eventually turned to false accusation and indefensible murder. As Jesus hung on the executioners cross, our brokenness reached deep within His divine spirit. Creation was now inside the dying bosom of her creator. Gasping out his final human breaths the Savior cries,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)

The Rebel Jesus identified with all who were forsaken as he died a criminal’s death. Elohim – the Creator and Judge of the universe – experienced our hell, and felt the wrath of Almighty justice toward this lost and doomed world. For a few horrific moments, He experienced the revulsion of a total disconnect from the source of true life so that we would no longer have to live in that state of separation.

And then, placing His spirit into the hands of an otherworldly Father, the physical Jesus died. In that solemn, sacred, blessed moment, every struggle, every valley, every circumstance of human existence was corrected and justified.

Welcome to the Order of the Holy Rebels. We are the waifs and strays who follow that marvelous incarnate Liberator who once came to the earth from a place known to us only as heaven. Daily we struggle to follow His instructions as we “work out the salvation that God has given to us with a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (Philippians 2:12). Care to join us? Membership is free and among us you will always be safe to share your individual fears, disappointments and pressing concerns. We will laugh with you, we will cry with you, we will pray with you and, I promise you, one day we will understand it all.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
What do you mean, Phib?” asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little mirror, where, like most of us, she saw – not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image held in her own brain.” ― Charles Dickens ―

I recently came across some research conducted a number of years ago at the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University. It appears that 1,200 children ranging in age from 2 to 17 took part in an “honesty” test. The study concluded that only about 20 percent of the 2-year-olds were able to tell a lie. But by age 4, 90 percent were capable of cognitive dishonesty. Deceitfulness reached a peek at age 12 according to these researchers.

In another study conducted in 2002 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, researchers found that 60 percent of adults lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and most spoke an average of two or three lies in that time frame. The data suggests that while men and women lie about different things, the quantity of their “fibs” was about the same. I could quote from dozens of additional research studies, but in the end we would reach this simple conclusion; we are all big, fat liars. Not necessary compulsive deceivers. But in the strictest sense, even embellishing a story just a bit is considered deceitful by some. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Of course, we don’t like to think of ourselves as a liar; that kind of transparency bruises our self-esteem. So, we lie to ourselves about that too. Even you pillars of conversational truthfulness may be living a life oblivious to the lies we tell ourselves.

Every lie is really two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it.” ― Robert Brault

By definition, lying means: “to express what is false or to convey a false impression.”  Examples of “self-deception” might include a husband who is lying to himself as he ignores the obvious signs that his wife is carrying on with another man or, an alcoholic who is lying to himself as he seeks to reassure family and friends that his excessive drinking is completely under control. What about you? Do any of these lies sound familiar to you?

Lie #1: “I am not a judgmental person.”

Sorry, we are all judgmental. Researchers have discovered that on average we take less than a second to form preliminary judgments. It’s just how we are wired. Not all forms of judgment are bad. Sound judgment is a balanced process of evaluation ending with well-considered conclusions. On the other hand, judgmentalism is emotional reasoning with only superficial evaluations ending in snap decisions.

I like what the late reggae singer Bob Marley once said,

“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect – and I don’t live to be – but before you start pointing fingers…make sure your hands are clean!”

For all of my bible touting fundamentalist friends now upset with me for quoting a Rastafarian, the New Testament writer James put it this way,

11-12 “Never rip each other to pieces, my brothers. If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticize the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbor’s judge?” (James 4:11-12 – Phillips)

Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone”. In other words, if you aren’t perfect, stop judging my imperfections (believe me, I have not forgotten them).

I am politically incorrect, that’s true. Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism. I find that really scary, and I won’t be intimidated into changing my mind. Everyone isn’t going to love you all the time.” ― Mel Gibson

Lie #2: “It is ‘politically incorrect’ or ‘insensitive’ to take a strong stand for what you believe in.”

By widely held definition, Political Correctness is an attitude or policy whereby we do not offend or upset any group of people in a society who are believed to have a disadvantage or differing point of view. In the USA, political correctness is most frequently embraced by pseudointellectuals who use this premise to infringe upon the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion and speech. There will always be people with whom you disagree. Never allow them to shame you into silence and submission under the ruse of not offending or upsetting another group of people in society. Blind subservience will always compromise your good judgment.

Can you imagine if the Newer Testament writer Paul were alive today? What would he say around the PC crowd? Do you think he would tell his followers to tone down the rhetoric because the Gospel might offend someone? I don’t think so. Listen to what he actually said,

16-17  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes it, both Jew and Greek. I see in it God’s plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says: ‘the just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:16-17 – Phillips)

Politically Correct? Not so much. But it is the truth. Remember, “…God is always true even if every man lies.” The Holy Writings say, “Speak the truth and you will not be proven wrong.” (Romans 3:4)

You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself.” ― W. Clement Stone

Lie #3: “I have no choice, this is just who I am.”

Do you really believe that? We always have a choice – even if it’s only a choice to control our own attitude. But I admit, it’s much easier (and less painful) to place blame on someone or something rather than to accept personal responsibility. Life is all about choices.  There is no such thing as doing nothing. A failure to make a choice is in itself a choice. In the end, the sum of your existence here on earth is the outcome of all the choices you make, whether intentional or by default.

Even our religious faith is a choice. Christianity teaches that Jesus opened a door for us to return to our Creator through trust. Actually, faith (which is absolute trust) is both a choice and a gift. Failure to understand that faith is a choice will lead to self-righteousness. But, if we forget that faith is also a gift, we will live in fear; trying to earn God’s blessing instead of joyously accepting His Amazing Grace.

I like what the Older Testament Prophet Joshua wrote in the scriptures,

15 “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will choose to serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Absolute trust in the gift of God’s grace is the single most important choice you could ever make.   Choose to love God and He chooses to show you His love. And nothing – sickness, sorrow, oppression, failure, hostilities, or even your own death – can take that love away.

And so my fellow liars; let’s all get a grip. “There are none as blind as those who will not see”. The most deluded people on earth are those who choose to ignore what they already know. At worst, lying to ourselves can destroy us. At best, it makes life much more difficult. What other lies do you tell yourself? Think about it.

Oh, and I have one more tall tale to share. Consider this the bonus lie:

Lie #4: “I’m just fine. I don’t need to believe in a God. I know what is best for me.”

Sure you do, my friend. Sure you do.  Just keep telling yourself that and let me know how well it’s working.  I’d like to tell you that you might be right, but I’m trying to cut back on the lies.

Peace!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
Idiots are not responsible for what they do. The real guilt falls on the rational people who sit on their hands while the morons run wild. You can opt out if you want to. Play it safe. But if you do, don’t complain when the roof comes down.” Jack McDevitt (1)

In a well-mannered society it would usually be considered bad form to call someone an idiot. But since it appears as if you and I no longer live in a social order that would even recognize the meaning of the word polite, let me make this one thing perfectly clear; we are undeniably surrounded by idiots. Really stupid people have somehow gained the upper hand. It’s as if all the guards have fled the building leaving only the inmates to run the asylum. In this case the “guards” are all of the rational people who sit on their hands while the morons run wild.

Please hear me out. I am not some angry right wing, gun touting, bible thumping crazy, nor am I a whinny, anything goes, Utopian social left winger. I do not carry water for any particular political party. And while I drink tea, I have not joined that group of partisans either (although I do empathize with many of their concerns). Since I pay my own bills, and shoulder numerous responsibilities, I have long ago abandoned the naïve, and somewhat delusional mindset displayed by so many of todays’ coddled college students. My life path is one of mostly traditional moral values and I am a devout follower of the teachings of the Liberator Jesus. That would make me a Conservative Christian, I suppose, if you really must attach one of your labels upon me.

So why do I speak so harshly of some people, calling them Idiots and stupid? Isn’t that rather judgmental? Perhaps. But I think not. Normally, a conversational reference to someone as an idiot might be perceived as rude, insensitive, and/or critical. But my observations are not merely idle chatter. And, I have not singled anyone out for specific reproach. I will say it again, societal idiocy has run amuck. Look around you. From the White House to the Court House to School House; madness, folly, foolishness and stupidity reign.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.― Mark Twain

Just out of curiosity, do you even know from whence the contemporary word Idiot originates? Thought so. Our English word Idiot appears to come from the Greek word ἰδιώτης (idiōtēs) which was often used when referring to an individual or private citizen who lacked a “professional” skill. Similarly, the Latin word idiota was used for a commoner (layman). I found it rather amusing that for a time the ancient Greeks viewed anyone who was selfishly concerned with only private matters (as opposed to serving the greater interests of “The Democracy”) to be an idiot. Not much has changed there. Many politicians still seem to think that “we the people” who would like to be left alone as we pursue “life, liberty and happiness” are just a bunch of idiots.

Anyway, over time, the term “idiot” morphed and by the Late Latin period (3rd to the 6th centuries AD) it came to mean an “uneducated or ignorant person”.  Today, in modern English, an idiot is a person who regularly engages in the extremes of foolishness (or stupidity) and consistently exercises overall bad judgment. Often the idiot is either incapable or unwilling to separate what is good from wickedness. In the end an idiot is slow to understand, makes poor decisions, careless mistakes, and is often marked by a lack of intelligence. In other words, they are stupid and foolish.

“You’re not a very nice person… so offensive. Right and wrong are relative. It’s whatever works for me. You are the real idiot… urrrrr… I mean… you suffer from “profound intellectual disability.

Really?  Thank you.  That’s very Politically Correct of you to say so.

The problem is that it has become politically awkward to draw attention to the absolutes of bad and good. In place of manners, we now have doctrines of political correctness …Therefore if you say people are bad, you are the one who is bad.” ― Lynne Truss

In the Bible’s Older Testament Book of Jeremiah, the prophet laments over the condition of his people and the great nation that he loved. Through tears he said,

19”My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries. 20 Waves of destruction roll over the land, until it lies in complete desolation. Suddenly my tents are destroyed; in a moment my shelters are crushed. 21 How long must I see the battle flags and hear the trumpets of war?  (Jeremiah 4:19-21 TLB)

Jeremiah recognized the negative spiritual and social changes of his day and the destructive consequences those changes were bringing down upon the land. And so he asks of the Divine Spirit,

21”How long must I see the battle flags and hear the trumpets of war?” (Jeremiah 4:21 – TLB)

No direct answer is given to his question. Instead the Spirit of the Almighty tells Jeremiah the cause of Judah’s calamity is,

22 “My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the Lord. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!” (Jeremiah 4:22 – TLB)

The people of Jeremiah’s times had effectively become “idiots” – deniers of the one true God. They had sown to the wind and now they were reaping the whirlwind. But here’s the troubling part, this rejection of God and His ways is happening in our time too – right now – all over the world. If you don’t believe me, just look with discernment at modern politics, entertainment and popular culture. They are swarming with idiots – fools who do not know God.  And even those who profess to “believe in God” often act like “stupid children who have no understanding. …no idea how to do right!”  Decades of ignoring God has accelerated our societal downward spiral. As human acts of wickedness, deception and defiance accumulate, the truth is hidden or distorted.

“I’m all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.” ― Leo Szilard, Nuclear Physicist (1898-1964)

Even so, whenever sincere men and women open their eyes and begin a search for meaning, they can find the truth. It is imprinted on every human soul and each atom of creation reflects the reality of its Creator. Hence, no human being has a legitimate excuse for denying God. The New Testament Apostolic writer Paul expressed it this way,

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all wicked, evil men who push the truth away from themselves. 19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day. 21 Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools (idiots) instead. (Romans 1:18-22 – TLB)

Foolish minds filled with darkness? Men and women who think up silly ideas of what God is like and what he wants them to do? Yes, that is exactly what Paul said.  Modern idiots who “Claiming to be wise without God, …became utter fools instead.” No wonder the Psalmist declared,

53 “Only a fool would say to himself, “There is no God.” And why does he say it? Because of his wicked heart, his dark and evil deeds. His life is corroded with sin.” (Psalm 53:1 – TLB)

You’ll find these idiotic fools, among: politicians, the media, university professors, Hollywood superstars, even friends and family. Because of a conscience corroded by iniquity, they cannot separate right from wrong (classic idiot). Some of them may feign Spirituality, and even speak of God with platitudes, but their foolish hearts are far from Him. Consequently, by their actions they proclaim “I do not really know God”. Thus, they are fools.

Don’t argue with idiots because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with their experience.”Greg King

I am a recovering idiot. God, in His amazing Grace, opened my foolish eyes and let me see the wretched man that I am without Him. And even though I still may act foolishly on occasion, I am no longer an idiot by definition. I know the Divine Spirit. I follow the liberator Jesus Christ. His message of absolute truth trumps all of the wisdom of mankind combined. Of course, it’s your right to disagree with me. Call me the idiot if it will make you feel any better. Laugh out loud as you heap ridicule and scorn upon my words. I will not argue the point any further with you.  Why not? Because I am coward and thus afraid to do so?  No, simply because of this verse I read in the Older Testament book of Proverbs,

4”Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool;  you’ll only look foolish yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4 – MSG)

And on that note, I rest my case.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656

(1)Odyssey (2006), Ch. 6, p. 48

Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me that I shall one day die, I know not where. Saying: “[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.” ― Thomas Wolfe

Hmmm. Through the door of death we will find greater knowledge, greater life, and greater love. A land that is more kind then our home and bigger than all the earth. Really? Is this true? We’ll get back to that thought shortly.

It’s late morning and 83°f here at the Sponge Docks on the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I’ve been watching a shrimp boat that just returned from a three week run in the Gulf being tied up to the pilings. The winter “season” in the land of palm trees and sunshine is in full swing, so the multitudes are lively and loud, milling about the streets and filling the restaurants, gift shops and bars. Me? I’m daydreaming in my seat by the water. It’s New Year’s Eve and I find myself mentally revisiting days long gone but not forgotten.

I once knew a young boy who was just about as carefree as youthful innocence permits. The world was his oyster and by sheer resolve he was determined to pry it open – a thousand times if necessary – to find his “pearl” of fortune, fame and significance. But everyday life, with all of its inequitableness and malice, fought back. And so it was that the toll of living eventually broke his heart, leaving him cynical, sometimes angry, or if nothing else, growing older and wearier with each passing season. Who was this poor mortal?  It could be anyone of us, I suppose. But once upon a time long ago, it was me.

One never knows when it will happen; that instant when you see the world with such a crystal clarity that you are left much sadder and yet wiser for the awareness you have gained. And the worst part of it all, you can never go back to the innocence of not knowing what you have now learned. Sad, so sad. But in the circle of life, as painful as it may be, we call these moments growing up.

When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The very first day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

I remember when the Spirit of the Almighty first got my attention. Initially I resisted, being a young man who looked to science and education for answers. Religious fanatics parroting words that they could neither adequately explain nor exemplify in their own lives had always repulsed me. Please God, talk to someone else. But, He would not leave me alone. He made sure I heard things like,

36-38 “The man who tries to save his own life will lose it… What good can it do a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What can a man offer to buy back his soul once he has lost it?” (Excerpted from Mark 8:36-38 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

“God”, I thought to myself, “just let me be.” But he would broker no denial. There was a testimony that I needed to hear; a message that spoke of a mysterious rescue mission motivated by a Divine love for a stranded people living on a doomed planet. The communique’ from another world revealed a liberator named Jesus who desired to save all who would answer His call. It warned of the pervasive God haters who would continue to contest His very existence as they attempted to bring a Babylonian (Humanistic) global order to their dying Utopian dreams. But, this life-giving message also contained a comforting reassurance that the arrogance of mankind’s wickedness would never topple the providence of an Almighty God.

And that my dear friends brings me back to the words of Thomas Wolfe who spoke of death as a doorway to a much better place than life here on spaceship earth. Whether or not Mr. Wolfe new it, he had stumbled upon an absolute truth. Death is indeed an entrance. Find the right door, cross its wondrous threshold and you will pass into an even greater life; one that is full of timeless knowledge and absolute love.

Whenever I hear the droning cacophony of mere human opinion regarding “pathways” to God, I think about these words spoken by the Creator Himself,

13 “There are two paths before you; you may take only one path. One doorway is narrow. And one door is wide. Go through the narrow door. For the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it; but the wide, broad, easy, crowded path leads to death. 14 Now then that narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to life. It is hard to find that road. Not many people manage it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 – The Voice)

Is that so hard to understand? There are just two paths before us. But, we only get to travel on one. Every human being will determine their ultimate (eternal) destiny by the singular and specific spiritual path they choose to follow. And remember, a failure to make a choice is a choice.

In describing the wide door, Jesus said,

“…the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it.”

Hey, that sounds cool to me. A big attractive door that opens up to reveal a substantial road that is accommodating, easy to travel and filled with all kinds of interesting people – I’m down for that!

But… that is not the door He tells us to choose. Jesus said we’re to go through the narrow door. And, it was not a suggestion.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ― Robert Frost

Of course there are reasons why He said to choose the narrow door. First, the big attractive door that opens up to reveal a road that is very large, accommodating, filled with the “in crowd” and easy to travel – leads to destruction. The big door and the big road are a BIG mistake!

Jesus said of the narrow door,

“…the narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to a real life. It is hard to find that road.

We are to seek the narrow doorway. Why? Because that’s the right choice.  No further explanation is necessary.   If you really want to find the Divine Spirit, the Supreme Being, the Almighty or whatever name you may have heard Him called, the Liberator Jesus said that He is the only door through which you gain access to the road that leads to a timeless afterlife with God. No, it’s neither tolerant nor politically correct. Do you want to argue with our Creator about it? Here is what He said,

…“For sure, I tell you, I am the Door of the sheep. All others who came ahead of Me are men who steal and rob. The sheep did not obey them. I am the Door. Anyone who goes in through Me will be saved from the punishment of sin. He will go in and out and find food. 10 The robber comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I came so they might have life, a great full life. (John 10:7-10)

Not to put too fine a point on this but, again, according to Jesus,

6-7 “I myself am the road…and the truth and the life. No one approaches the Father except through me. If you had known who I am, you would have known my Father. From now on, you do know him and you have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Think of it like this, God’s way on God’s terms = God’s Life. You don’t get to pick your own version of the Truth.

Right now, you might be standing at a fork in the road. Do nothing, and you’ll just keep drifting along the wide, broad, easy, crowded path that leads to destruction, or choose to make a change by passing through that narrow gate (which we now know as the “Jesus” door) and begin to follow the road less traveled. The decision here is simple. No confusion. No overload. Choose his way and gain a timeless life, filled with inner joy and peace. Or just keep rolling the dice and doing things your way. It’s your life, your decision, but I do hope you choose wisely.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get back to my daydreams. You know, it’s nice to be free of the demons carried by that disillusioned and cynical young man from the past.  And while I sometimes wish I could go back to the innocence of youth, I am glad to be at peace within myself and with my Creator. Sure, life is still hard sometimes, but God is always there to help me cope.

Happy New Year! – Happy New YOU!

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the 25th of December. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give thanks to God for the gift of His dear Son.” – Charles Spurgeon –

So how goes the war? You know; the war over Christmas. It sure seems like some people want to pick a fight, at least with the Christian commemoration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. The hostilities appear to reside most notably with the nonreligious crowd who seek to expunge every “sacred” overtone from the Christmas season. Of course, this has outraged many in the Christian community. Tempers flare and so the battles rage.

For the sake of honesty (if not accuracy), there have been periods in the history of Christendom when “Believers” waged a war on Christmas as well. Some “factions” within the faith denounce participation in this annual celebration to this day.

The Puritans, for instance, couldn’t stand the Christmas celebration. First of all, there was entirely too much joy and revelry associated with it (a big no-no for that crowd). And besides, December 25th wasn’t really Jesus’ birthday anyway. (Some bible scholars place his actual date of birth sometime in our modern month of September while others claim he was born in March).

Christmas celebrations were outlawed in New England from 1659 until sometime in the mid-1680s. Even after the founding of the United States, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that Christmas began to work its way into the national psyche. In 1836, Alabama was actually the first State to officially declare December 25th a public holiday. But alas, those Puritans of New England remained staunchly…well…Puritanical. In defiance of a Christmas holiday, schools and businesses remained open on December 25th well into the mid-1800s. In fact, it wasn’t until 1907, that Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. In time, nations all over the world came to identify Christmas as a day set aside for celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

Historically, associating the advent of Jesus with December 25th began in the 4th century AD.  Christianity essentially co-opted the Roman festivals honoring Saturnus (the harvest god) and Mithras (the ancient god of light). Church leaders of that time succeeded in converting large numbers of heathens into followers of Jesus by promising them that they could continue to celebrate their Pagan holidays as Christians.  The concluding day of the festivities, December 25th, was given a new name – the birthday of Jesus.

Much later, in the year 1223, Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the emblematic nativity scene. He was inspired by a trip to the Holy Land and hoped the crèche would cultivate the worship of Jesus.  For many Christians, the nativity scene is still an enduring symbol of the entrance of the architect of all things into the very world which he created. Okay, I confess, mine is displayed every year too.

It seems quite absurd that our modern secular society wants to revel in the sights and sounds of the Christmas holiday season, but despises (in some cases to the point of persecution) the joy of Christians who openly celebrate the birth of their Redeemer at Christmas time. It’s acceptable for shopping malls, public squares, town centers, businesses and homes to be awash in decorations of every possible description, but God forbid if we dare try to include a manger scene in a public display. That’s just way too offensive.

The religion of secular humanism has a choke-hold on Western culture at the moment.  Humanists have their own philosophies and doctrines as well as their PC Police to enforce them.  Christmas is gradually returning to its pagan roots as our post-modern society rejects the traditional incorporation of Jesus into their now mostly secular “Holiday” observances.

Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.” – Author Unknown

As a follower of the Liberator Jesus, I understand the anger and frustration that many feel toward the anti-Christian bigots or Christmaphobics. But, it makes no sense for people of faith to turn this beautiful season into a time of hatred & bitterness. Go ahead; boldly declare the reason for the season! Say MERRY CHRISTMAS with impunity and without apology. That is your RIGHT!  But, if you’re really going to celebrate the true spirit of the Liberator Jesus at Christmas time, do so with joy and love – especially in the face of blind ignorance.

Our Redeemer was born to bring enlightenment into the darkness of a spiritually deaf, dumb and blinded world. According to Jesus, mankind will find its way out of darkness by following the illumination that He came here to spread.  Without that guiding light, humanity is hopelessly lost and groping in the shadows; futilely stumbling through life in search of that elusive road to an everlasting fulfillment.  Humanism and this “new age” of enlightenment may offer a plethora of distractive substitutions, but they are counterfeits for the truth.  Jesus alone can resurrect a human spirit and revitalize the human soul. He said so,

“…I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father [God] except by (through) Me.” – John 14:6 (AMP)

Nothing can stand as His equal.  Deny him, hate him, pretend he never existed; you cannot extinguish the penetrating light of his message. The Newer Testament writer John expressed it this way,

4-5“In him (Jesus) appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.”  – John 1:4-5 (Phillips)

Remember those shepherds we talked about in the New Testament book of Luke, Chapter 2? After the angelic messenger from another world came to them and announced the birth of Emanuel (which means, God with us), they were terrified!  So, what did those sheep herders do?  Deny the reality of what they heard and saw? Run away and hide? Let their family and friends convince them that they had too much Manischewitz that night?  Absolutely NOT!

Here’s what the New Testament writer Luke says they did,

15“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”. – Luke 2:15 (NIV)

Incredibly enough, the shepherds, in spite of being terrified and perhaps even a bit bewildered, searched for the truth!  They went to find this “Savior” whose birth was revealed to them in their amazing visitation.  Doubtful they understood that this innocent baby, born in obscurity, would one day grow up and traverse their cities and towns exposing them to the truth that would set them free!

Christmas in Bethlehem… The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” – Lucinda Franks

Many years ago I read a Christmas reflection by Ron Hutchcraft entitled You Can Have My Room.  The story was about a boy named Harold and a Christmas play in the little town of Cornwall. Here’s what Ron shared,

“It was the biggest night of the year in a little town called Cornwall. It was the night of the annual Christmas pageant. It’s an especially big deal for the children in town — they get to try out for the roles in the Christmas story. Everybody wants a part; which leads us to the problem of Harold.

Harold really wanted to be in the play, too, but he was – well, he was kind of a slow and simple kid. The directors were ambivalent – I mean, they knew Harold would be crushed if he didn’t have a part, but they were afraid he might mess up the town’s magic moment. Finally, they decided to cast Harold as the innkeeper – the one who turns Mary and Joseph away the night Jesus is to be born. He had only one line – “I’m sorry, we have no room.” Well, no one could imagine what that one line was going to do to everyone’s Christmas.

The night of the pageant the church was packed, as usual. The Christmas story unfolded according to plan – angels singing, Joseph’s dream, and the trip to Bethlehem. Finally, Joseph and Mary arrived at the door of the Bethlehem inn, looking appropriately tired. Joseph knocked on the inn door, and Harold was there to open the door. Joseph asked his question on cue – “Do you have a room for the night?” Harold froze. After a long pause, Harold mumbled his line, “I’m sorry – we have no room.” And, with a little coaching, he shut the door. The directors heaved a sigh of relief – prematurely.

As Mary and Joseph disappeared into the night, the set suddenly started shaking again – and the door opened. Harold was back! And then, in an unrehearsed moment that folks would not soon forget, Harold went running after the young couple, shouting as loud as he could — “Wait! Don’t go Joseph. Bring Mary back! You can have MY room!” (1)

Well, little Harold turned out to be a very wise young man.  He simply would not turn his back (or shut his door) on the soon to be born liberator and King.

What about you? Jesus is no longer with us in human form. He has departed spaceship earth. But before our liberator ascended back into timelessness, he promised to be with us always in Spirit form and to one day physically return again.

The Newer Testament writer John recorded these words spoken to him by Jesus in a vision. They are found in the last section of the bible known as The Book of Revelation,

20“See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house…”  Revelation 3:20 (Phillips)

Jesus paid a visit to this tiny spec of a world in the vastness of the universe that he created to seek and to rescue a lost and stranded people. He’d like to salvage you.  Will you be like Herald and offer him your room?  His Spirit wants to move into your house… your spiritual house.

(Knock, knock.)  Do you hear what I hear?  (Knock, knock.)  He’s waiting.  Answer the door.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656

(1) © Ron Hutchcraft

Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees; tinsel and reindeer, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One must wonder how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.” ― Ronald Reagan ―
A long time ago in a stable far, far away…

1-7 “At that time a proclamation was made by Caesar Augustus that all the inhabited world should be registered. This was the first census, undertaken while Cyrenius was governor of Syria and everybody went to the town of his birth to be registered. Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s town, Bethlehem, in Judea, because he was a direct descendant of David, to be registered with his future wife, Mary, now in the later stages of her pregnancy. So it happened that it was while they were there in Bethlehem that she came to the end of her time. She gave birth to her first child, a son. And as there was no place for them inside the inn, she wrapped him up and laid him in a manger.” – Luke 2:1-7

Billions of people around the world observe Christmas as a religious and cultural celebration. Many popular customs associated with this annual holiday have evolved over hundreds of years. Today, the Christmas season is a mixture of pagan, Christian, and secular themes which vary throughout the world.

In Christian theology, the Birth of Jesus is the reason for the “Christ’s Mass” celebration. Christmas commemorates the extraordinary conception and divine nature of an exceptional child who was born in fulfillment of the divine will of God. The Christian Christmas story can be summed up as follows:

The Creator of all things (God) chose to enter into a corporal existence upon the earth. To accomplish this, the Almighty elected to take the form of a human (one of His own creation). God moved from a timeless dimension (eternity) into the realm of the temporal (time). He picked a young virgin called Mary to supernaturally impregnate. She was used as a vessel to deliver the incarnate God-man into this world. All of this was explained to her in a visitation which she received from an otherworldly being (Angel) prior to the pregnancy. The creator entered this world as the man-child called Jesus. Christmas celebrates this birth. Jesus lived on the earth for about 30 years before embarking on His mission – to seek out and salvage His stranded creation which had gone astray. This is why He is called the Liberator (aka Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, Rescuer, etc.).

To expunge these facts from the Christian celebration of Christmas is diabolical. And yet, our modern festival is systematically reverting back to the pagan holidays (winter solstice, Saturnalia, etc.) from which many historians believe it was first derived. Consequently, Christmas has lost its legitimate meaning for most of humanity.  Today, when a random sampling of the general public is asked to define Christmas, you will hear words like Santa Claus, Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Black Friday and the like. Descriptions of brightly decorated homes, holiday parties and of course the iconic Christmas tree also top the list of images that are used to paint the modern Christmas picture. But none of this imagery has a place in the original Christian Christmas narrative.

The supernatural birth of Christ, his miracles, his resurrection and ascension, remain eternal truths, whatever doubts may be cast on their reality as historical facts.” – David Friedrich Strauss

Angels, on the other hand, do have a prominent role in the Christian Christmas chronicle. These messengers from another world were sent to proclaim the arrival of the Liberator on earth. Picture if you will a group of sheep herders passing the night in an open field. Suddenly all heaven breaks loose. Here is the scene as described in the Gospel of Luke:

8-14 “There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger. And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!” – Luke 2:8-14 (Phillips)

In my mind, I see the shepherds relaxing by a softly burning fire. The night was calm, and the sky was bright. But then, suddenly, an Angel burst on the scene and shook up everything. In fact, the sky filled with these beings from another world. When that happened, the shepherds freaked. They weren’t just unnerved; the Bible says they were, terror-stricken! Who wouldn’t be?

Almighty God sure knows how to make an entrance. The spectacle in the skies that night certainly frightened those that witnessed the event. It was a good kind of fear. In the Older Testament of the Bible, King Solomon said, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” So, the Christian Christmas story would not be complete without reverent “fear”.

Nothing has changed really. The story of Christmas still frightens people today – but not for the same reason. These days, it is Jesus who frightens people. Just the mention of His name creates incredible apprehension in some individuals.

Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season.” ― Thomas S. Monson

Think about how the Newer Testament writer Matthew describes Jesus:

23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

Immanuel is perhaps the highest title that Scripture ascribes to Jesus. After all, He didn’t come as a mere religious leader or a great prophet that was a cut above the others. He didn’t come as a social revolutionary either. Jesus came as Immanuel – God in human flesh. Isn’t that brilliant?  Almighty God arrives from another dimension (the place we simply refer to as Heaven) to live on the earth as a man!

And what about this foretelling statement from the prophet Isaiah as recorded in the Older Testament:

6”For to us a Child will be born. To us a Son will be given. And the rule of the nations will be on His shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Teacher, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Listen, the nations of this world might put up with a story about a cute little baby in a straw-filled feeding-box, but they will hardly accept the titles, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

When, as Christians, we attach these crowning designations to Jesus we’re acknowledging that He is infinitely greater than anyone on the earth. It means we accept Him as the highest authority in life. This is why we are willing to place our absolute trust in Him. It is also why we are willing to obey His word.

And that is what alarms (and terrifies) this present world order about Jesus and His followers.

This is not a new phenomenon. When the Magi from the East eventually found their way to Jerusalem looking for Jesus they asked King Herod,

2“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2 (NIV)

Do you remember the reaction of Herod and the religious leaders when they heard that news?

3“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.” – Matthew 2:3 (NIV).

The empires of this earth know how to handle one of their own. They do not know how to handle somebody from another world who claims to be the giver of life, the embodiment of truth and the only way to find the one true God.

If Jesus had been a mere human the establishment could have easily contained Him. The authorities would have mounted an elaborate smear campaign in an attempt to eliminate all of his credibility with the multitudes. If that did not work, they would have threatened Him and perhaps He would have withdrawn. If threats proved ineffective, the powers that be would have arrested Him. And, if all else failed, the “system” would simply kill Him off, and that would have ended the work of a mere mortal. Oh, that’s right, they did all that.

But Jesus wasn’t an ordinary human. That’s why insults, accusations, and even death couldn’t contain Him. He was Immanuel – God in the flesh – and it wasn’t possible to control Him! In fact, it was not until Jesus was ready to die that He allowed Himself to be taken and put to death. Listen to what he said,

18“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 (NLB)

Immanuel appeared on earth to follow a Divine blueprint for the reclamation of humanity. His death was part of that plan. Here is how Jesus described it,

23-24“… I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:23-24

Today, Jesus (in transcendent form) enters a human spirit and grows His kingdom from within, one disciple at a time – all over the world. The Scriptures predict that there will come a day when, “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

The God made man – Jesus – is the Liberator of mankind (the created beings who have been marooned on this planet for a long time awaiting rescue). The empire He came to inaugurate is not of this space-time continuum; nevertheless it is here and it is irrepressible! And that is why the spirit of this world fears Him!

At Christmas, in spite of what the kingdoms of this world may say or do – Jesus is still the reason Christians celebrate the season!

(To Be Continued next week)

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656

 

I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God’s fool, and all His works must be contemplated with respect.” ― Mark Twain ―

Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist who lived from 384 – 322 BC. He studied for 20 years at the legendary Academy in Athens under its celebrated founder, Plato. After Plato’s death around 348 BC, Aristotle left the Academy and returned to his native Macedonia where he would later tutor the young Alexander the Great. In 335 BC he traveled once again to Athens, establishing his own school at the Lyceum. Like Socrates and Plato, Aristotle is considered one of the great intellectuals of Western history. I am neither fan nor follower of ancient Greek philosophers, but I did come across a quote from Aristotle which I found intriguing,

“The best form of philosophy is the contemplation of the universe of nature; it is for this purpose that God made human beings and gave them a godlike intellect. All else—strength, beauty, power, and honor—is worthless.” – Aristotle

Aristotle was a monotheist. He believed in the existence of one God who is eternal, and separate from the natural world (his creation). Aristotle also believed that we should all contemplate God. He supposed this to be the purpose for which God (the creator) made human beings and gave them a godly intellect. To Aristotle, contemplation of the creator and the universe of nature (His creation) was the supreme objective. To focus on the creature is insignificant by comparison. It seems that Aristotle believed that man was best served in this life through contemplating the thoughts of God. That’s quite an observation for a pagan.

So, if God is the creator of all things and nature (creation) is His reflection, why does humanity struggle with acceptance of the Almighty?

The New Testament writer Paul said,

18-21Now the holy anger of God is disclosed from Heaven against the godlessness and evil of those men who render truth dumb and inoperative by their wickedness. It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became fatuous in their argumentation, and plunged their silly minds still further into the dark. (Romans 1:18-21 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Interesting. Paul argues that mankind has always known that there is a God but simply refuses to acknowledge him as such.  He points to the natural world as proof of the Gods’ eternal power and divinity. So, it appears that ol’ Aristotle had a point; contemplating the universe of nature is indeed wise. It will lead you to God. The humanistic pursuits of mankind (strength, beauty, power, honor, and everything else) are of little worth by comparison. Paul went on to further accuse the God deniers,

25-26a These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie, paying homage and giving service to the creature instead of to the Creator, who alone is worthy to be worshiped for ever and ever, amen. God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions… (Romans 1:25-26a – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, the deniers deliberately chose to believe lies. They became worshipers of the creature (humanists) rather than the creator (GOD) who made all things.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ― Plato

The ancient Greeks had a word that I believe is perfect for describing this extreme pride or self-confidence which would lead a person to forfeit the truth of God. The word is hubris.

The meaning of this word has changed somewhat over time. Today hubris can be defined as overconfidence, pride and arrogance. While often associated with a lack of humility, hubris does not presuppose a lack of knowledge. Hubris is presumption that leads to a disregard of the divinely fixed parameters for mankind.

Simply refusing to acknowledge the existence of God (Atheists) has no effect whatsoever on reality. God exists. If you don’t like it, then you can go to hell. (I mean, Hell is where you will spend eternity if you refuse to believe.) Modern philosophies and the opinions of those blinded by hubris are meaningless since God has allowed their silly minds to plunge still further into the dark. Let’s cut to the chase—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall ― Proverbs 16:18

Hubris also gives birth to genuine fools who are defined in the Book of Psalms:

14 “That man is a fool who says to himself, “There is no God!” Anyone who talks like that is warped and evil and cannot really be a good person at all.” (Psalm 14:1 TLB)

Well, that about sums it up. You don’t believe in God? You are a fool.

“Oh my, he is so rude.  So intolerant.  He said people who don’t believe in God are fools. I am offended. This is a hate crime. How dare you! I don’t like this at all. You Christians are the fools. You have no right to say these things. I demand you apologize immediately.”

Sorry. No can do. And besides, I didn’t say it anyway. I quoted a verse from the scriptures. It is not my opinion. It is a statement of Biblical fact. If you do not like it, well, that’s between you and God. Don’t shoot the messenger.

The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.” ― Benjamin Franklin

Listen to what Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians who lived in the ancient city-state of Corinth (then located on the isthmus of Corinth, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta.)

18”I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. 19 For God says, ‘I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.’

20 So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. 21 For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. 22 It seems foolish to the Jews because they want a sign from heaven as proof that what is preached is true; and it is foolish to the Gentiles because they believe only what agrees with their philosophy and seems wise to them. 23 So when we preach about Christ dying to save them, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it is all nonsense.

24 But God has opened the eyes of those called to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, to see that Christ is the mighty power of God to save them; Christ himself is the center of God’s wise plan for their salvation. 25 This so-called ‘foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man, and God in his weakness—Christ dying on the cross—is far stronger than any man.” (1 Corinthians 1:25 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Perhaps I seem like a fool to you. Ignorant. Narrow-minded. An intolerant bigot. I have heard these and a hundred more pejoratives a thousand times before. For the record, I love all people.  If it’s legal, I don’t care what you do.  I am not your judge.  But, I will concede – I am a Fool. And the great Apostle Paul – the biggest fool of all. He said so, listen,

9-13”I sometimes think that God means us, the messengers, to appear last in the procession of mankind, like the men who are to die in the arena. For indeed we are made a public spectacle before the angels of Heaven and the eyes of men. We are looked upon as fools, for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in the Christian faith. We are considered weak, but you have become strong: you have found honor, we little but contempt. Up to this very hour we are hungry and thirsty, ill-clad, knocked about and practically homeless. We still have to work for our living by manual labor. Men curse us, but we return a blessing: they make our lives miserable but we take it patiently. They ruin our reputations but we go on trying to win them for God. We are the world’s rubbish, the scum of the earth, yes, up to this very day.”  (1 Corinthians 4:9-13 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Yes, I am proudly a fool for the sake of the liberator Jesus. I make no apologies for his message to mankind. I will broker no denial of the core message of Christianity: Jesus is the only way to reconcile with the creator of all things (God).

Foolish? Perhaps to you it is.

But again, I am a fool for Jesus Christ.

The real question is, whose fool are you?

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.