Posted in theology

The sea is restless

By Elizabeth Prata

But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. (Isaiah 57:20)

[The ungodly are] wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:13)

The sea is an apt metaphor for the restlessness of the ungodly. They toss and turn, go to and fro, casting up muck and mire with ungodly thoughts and deeds. In Jude, he is speaking of infiltrating false teachers, but the metaphor is apt also to apply in general to the ungodly, their foaming spray prevents clear vision and in fact has no substance.

Continue reading “The sea is restless”
Posted in bride, complementarian, egalitarian, encouragement, Eve, women

The first and last women mentioned in the Bible

By Elizabeth Prata

I recently studied the four women of Revelation. My favorite books are Genesis and Revelation. I love firsts and lasts, the beginnings and endings of things. The 4 women of Revelation are the Jezebel of Revelation 2 representing the pagan church, Woman clothed with the Sun in Revelation 12 representing Israel, the Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 representing the apostate church, and the Wife of Revelation 21 representing the true church.

And then I realized that in my penchant for thinking of extremes, firsts and lasts, that if I learned in my study time the last woman mentioned in the Bible is “Wife/Bride”.

Continue reading “The first and last women mentioned in the Bible”
Posted in discernment, social media, witness

The Pros and Cons of Social Media for the Christian

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m a lay person, a Christian woman, who happens to write. I’ve made my living from writing in the past and I’m thrilled to be able to use the talent God gave me for His glory now, writing as a Christian about biblical things.

I’m older and I distinctly remember life before internet. As a writer wanting to publish, bumping up against the monoliths of the Madison Avenue publishing companies, and the chokehold of the magazines and literary journals, (and the publishing rejection letters) having a free platform in which to share one’s thoughts and words with the world was a revelation. I took to it instantly and with glee, going online in 1996 and becoming an Amazon.com customer in 1997. Finally, an equalizing global conversation could be had.

I don’t think young people have a well-developed sense of just what a privilege it is to have global access to speaking one’s mind on any topic. I remember the frustration of rejection letter after rejection letter, of seeking the underground, mimeographed ‘zines as they were called then, of a regular person not having a voice. Or seeing the ones with voices squander them or limit them or censor them. Conglomerates purported to speak for the masses, and more often they didn’t, but their lobbyist money did speak to the corruption. Journalists were supposed to speak for the voiceless but more often they were kowtowing to Corporate. Benjamin Franklin felt the same frustration so he started his own papers and printed them on his own presses. The Second Amendment gave the promise of free speech, but never made any promises about how or where. No platforms were ever promised. That, one had to figure out for one’s self.

Of course all my words back then were unfettered into in the civic or personal/creative realms, but were wind and chaff to God because they were not for His glory.

I converted to Christianity late in life at around age 42. Until then I’d been occupied with writing for my weekly newspaper and curating its online version. When I sold the paper in 2006 and moved down south I needed to fill the void left by not writing intensively, so I started my personal blog The Quiet Life in August of that year. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a decade since I founded it. What a joy to play with the Layout format, press ‘publish’ and one’s thoughts and words could be seen by the world. Of course, back in 2004-2006 blogging exploded and there were a million blogs starting a day, it seemed. How to make one’s own blog rise to the top amid the sea of cacophonous voices also clamoring to be heard was something left to one’s creative problem solving. Now we had the platform, but how to make people listen…

Social Media pinwheel

As the Holy Spirit solidified my faith and grew me in sanctification, I founded this blog in January 2009, and once again it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since then. Though I write intermittently on The Quiet Life I am committed to using the gift of writing and proclamation and exhortation for the Lord and I’ve been faithful to write daily on this blog since the beginning. Though I’ve been writing longer at The Quiet Life and there are 70 pages over there, there’s double the amount here, containing about 3,600 essays. And fortunately, I don’t have to stress over about whom to make listen. The Holy Spirit takes care of disseminating the message to whom He desires.

I joined Facebook in 2008, and joined Twitter then also. This year I added another Facebook page, The End Time. Online newspapers and journals enabled comment sections. People from the great to the small posted their email address, allowing direct conversation. Cell phones, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Flickr, Podcasts…Suddenly, there were platforms everywhere and it seemed like the cacophony grew but so did the possibilities for getting the Gospel out.

The question today is, just because social media exists, does that mean it is wise, profitable, or even safe to enter the fray?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

That is a question for each Christian to answer and there are different considerations if one is a parent, a missionary, or is living under a restrictive regime or just to personally consider in the face of doing our utmost for His highest (to paraphrase O. Chambers).

Here are some thoughts in my experience, in my opinion, and remember I’m just one lay-woman with a small sphere of influence. There have been pros and cons with being so present on social media. Just as with anything, there are considerations and there are joys.

  • I am a single woman so there are safety issues with being too open.
  • Yet I feel compelled to be truthful and transparent, openly proclaiming the message to as many as possible.
  • If The Lord allowed the internet to be invented then I resolve to use it to the best of my ability to honor Him and spread His message.
  • Yet there are also a great many temptations to sin with my mind and with my mouth (typing fingers) and present a poor witness.
  • I have stumbled before in being so present online.
  • Yet when I sadly do, it presents more opportunities to repent, grow, obey and rely on Him- and to be mindful next time.
  • Seeing before me in living color so vividly the woes and successes of fellow believers; and being accountable to an online community of believers widens my perspective and reminds me of how large His body really is.
  • It presents a tendency to want to focus on just the virtual believers to the exclusion of those in real life.
  • When someone is encouraged by something I’ve written, it offers a high incomparable to any other.
  • When I receive letters from people who have come out from under a false teacher, or have strengthened their walk because of anything I’ve written, it makes it all worth it
  • People online can be mean, nasty, and hide behind cowardly anonymous comments. Combating their effects can steal your joy and re-direct your energy better used in other ways.

So, you see, the pros and cons are similar to laboring in any other medium or any other sphere. No better, no worse, just different considerations to consider.

Unlike other people who have expressed distrust or disdain over social media use to share a holy Christian witness, I don’t believe social media is the devil. It is merely a vehicle into which we can pour our energy and message depending on what the Lord has called us to do. Some pour their message into children through motherhood. Others who are not called to motherhood became missionaries and brought the message to orphans overseas. Some who were writers without the advantage of social media got the message out anyway using the vehicles of their own day- hymns.

So be mindful of the medium you choose to employ to spread God’s message, from your own tongue in real life to the cold virtual reality of a laptop keyboard, to… whatever else. As a matter of fact I’ve always held that the internet is one of the world’s great inventions. The Gospel message can be disseminated in podcast, tract, devotional, online bible, visually through art and animation, Youtube, the ancient writers’ work is spoken alive online to new generations or can be read anew for those who can’t afford the precious tomes but can afford the lower price of an online connection or even free at a library. Wow!

Through online blogs and sermons and devotionals I was strengthened by John MacArthur’s preaching and discovered the Puritans and Reformers. I connected with solid doctrine at The Master’s Seminary and learned of Paul Washer’s fire. I learned that I, too, had a platform that may strengthen even one woman seemed too good an opportunity to pass up- as long as I kept my priorities straight. But that’s like any ministry, it’s life, isn’t it? It is all a struggle and no matter the sphere or means the Lord provides, the devil will attempt to corrupt it.

So make your decisions about social media with your husband or pastor or family. Decide how “out there” you feel led to be, and which means to use. Elisabeth Eliot, Gladys Aylward, Eliza Spurgeon, Fanny Crosby, Katharina von Bora (Mrs Martin Luther) all used the means at their disposal and through obedience to the Lord to influence those in their spheres. How large or small or what that means the Lord will use through you within that sphere is a personal decision. But don’t let scary stories or condescension about social media taint your view of how useful it can be to getting the message out there. Just be safe, be wise, and the Lord will take care of the rest.

Posted in theology

The Carpenter

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of reading old books. I’d found out about a 1900s missionary William Borden, and in a biography Borden mentioned attending a sermon by Campbell Morgan. Curious about Morgan and the sermon that impacted this burgeoning missionary, I followed up. What I found was wonderful. I wrote about the evangelist Campbell Morgan yesterday, but today I’d like to share with you about the sermon he preached, one of hundreds I’m looking forward to learning about.

I think we’re all curious about Jesus in his “hidden years at Nazareth” as Morgan called them. We see much about the baby when he was born, and then when he was about two years old when the Magi worshiped him in the house. We see nothing else of Jesus until he was twelve and at the temple questioning the priests and listening to them. That was the incident when the caravan left Jerusalem to return to Nazareth but Jesus wasn’t among them. Joseph and Mary had to return and look for the boy. Then…nothing until he stepped foot in the Jordan at John the Baptist’s baptism of Him.

What was Jesus like in the in-between? In his sermon, Morgan said there were two verses from which we could glean much. The Hidden Years at Nazareth is based on his sermons from Mark 1:11 and 6:3, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, and “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” we learn of man’s view and God’s view. Morgan said that the 18 years between Jesus entering manhood and seen questioning the elders at the temple, and his step into public ministry at the baptism are the hidden years, but that we have much to learn from the silence and the one or two Bible verses about it.

We think of the triumph of the cross but that would not have been a triumph if Jesus had sinned along the way. With Easter just passed we rightly focused on the cross, but we often gloss over the import of the part where we say “He lived a sinless life.”

Morgan wrote: “Let us, then, try and see Him in those eighteen hidden years. The two verses that I have read are the only two that give us any definite or detailed account of what Jesus was doing from the time He was twelve until He was about thirty. Take the two statements and fix them on your minds for a moment: “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  “Is not this the carpenter?”  These two passages supply the story of the eighteen years. Jesus was a carpenter pleasing God.” end Morgan quote.

Jesus was baptized, overcame the temptation in the wilderness, then returned and ascended the teaching seat in the synagogue and read from Isaiah. The men assembled in that solemn Sabbath day said, “Is this not the carpenter?”

As Jesus stood between the dividing line of his hidden life and his public ministry, God spoke from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Was God’s pleasure in Jesus on the cross? It was yet to be. Was it of his temptation in the wilderness? That was still to happen. Morgan makes the case that what God was pleased with was Jesus’ daily life in common work- as a carpenter.

Campbell Morgan again: “For the greater part, then, of the life of Jesus, He worked with His own hands for His own living. That brings the Son of God, in living, pulsating life, close to every man who works. The man Jesus rose at daybreak, and, picking up His tools, made yokes and tables in order that He might have something to eat, and that, not for a brief period, but for eighteen years. He was an apprentice boy, a young man improving His craft, a master in His little shop with the shavings round Him and the tools about Him.”

Picture this scene in Nazareth 2000 years ago. Note that the men in the synagogue said is this not THE carpenter? It was not likely that a small town such as Nazareth would have had more than one carpenter. Jesus was THE single carpenter, toiling in this manual labor daily.

“Sometimes we have overshadowed the carpenter’s shop with Calvary’s cross. We have no right to do it. We have come to forget the fidelity of the Son of God in the little details of life as we have gazed upon His magnificent triumphs in the places of passion and conflict.” ~Campbell Morgan

It means that for all those 18 years between 12 and 30, Jesus never once did “shoddy work.” It was always his best work for the customer. He never once became impatient with a customer. He never cut a corner. He was never late with an order.

Morgan said in addition to His common work, Jesus was perfect in his relations with his community. “In the second place, the divine approval meant that the influence of the life had been pure and bright and good. You all know the effect of influence. What sort of influence has He exerted? Pure and strong! But he would have lived a bright, strong, glad life before Him, for no life ever touched the life of the Son of God but was the brighter and purer and stronger for the contact; and so, when the years of the carpenter’s shop are over, God sets His seal of approval upon them, first, because the work has been well done; and secondly, because the influence of the life has been true and right and noble.”

It was Jesus’s delight to do the will of His Father, and for those 18 years the will of God was for Jesus to labor in obscurity in the carpenter’s shop…to live a perfect life, and to produce good goods, be pure in heart, and honorable to all. Why? Why not incarnate and go right to the cross? No! It was the daily accumulation of the steps toward that pinnacle that Jesus must tread. He had his foot on the neck of every sin, every day, as he toiled.

Morgan: “Let me put it superlatively, and say, Calvary’s cross would have been nothing but the tragic ending of a mistaken life, it had not been for the carpenter’s shop! In that carpenter’s shop He fought my battles. My hardest fight is never fought when there is a crowd to applaud or oppose, but when I am alone. There was necessity for it, and because of Nazareth’s shop there came Gethsemane’s garden and Calvary’s cross, and so, abiding in the will of God, by victory upon victory, He won His final triumph, and so opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The carpenter’s shop made Calvary not a battle-field merely, but a day of triumph that lit heaven and earth with hope.”

Let us not dare to think our work in the common hours is meaningless. Our tentmaking jobs, the jobs in which God is pleased to serve us as His will, are the steps t the place of triumph. Stay at home mothers, for you, as well, the daily grind of overcoming temptation to impatience, to sloth, to shoddy work, are the jewels in the crown that Jesus shares with you.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). Does this verse now have more meaning as we picture Jesus in his carpenter shop, toiling daily for years upon years, living the grind of life, step by step climbing over the temptations as he exudes purity and honor among all who see Him? It pleased God to station us as cleaners, plumbers, manufacturers, stay at home mothers, God having served up to us a daily toil in obscurity where we meet life with honor and purity and overcoming temptations. Let us be walking daily toward our reward in heaven, living the common life in our toil, toward the Carpenter who will receive us with the words that show He, also, is pleased with us.

Further Reading

Christian Tentmaking

Campbell Morgan’s Hidden Life at Nazareth, a .pdf

Posted in theology

Here’s why we should read old books

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m reading a biography of the short missionary life of William Borden, turn of the last century. It’s called Borden of Yale ’09 by Mrs. Howard Taylor. It’s considered to be a good bio of the young millionaire who gave it all up to be a missionary, but tragically died before he reached his intended field. It’s a good book that paints a sweet picture of a godly man raised in a godly family. As a boy, Borden attended Moody Church in Chicago and sat under the preaching of RA Torrey. At home, he was under the influence of his mother, who had a vibrant prayer life. He went to the academy at The Hill in PA and then to Yale for college, hence the title of the biography. Borden had an incredible missionary influence at his own sphere in college while he was training to be a missionary.

When he was a teenager at The Hill academy, Borden heard a sermon by G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd Jones’ mentor. I was intrigued by Borden’s short summary of the sermon, as recorded in his letter home to his mother. I had never heard of Campbell Morgan.

G. Campbell Morgan

G. Campbell Morgan, 1863-1945 –

"A contemporary of Rodney "Gipsy" Smith, Morgan preached his first sermon at age 13. He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, pausing for 14 years to teach at Biola in Los Angeles, and returning to the Chapel from 1933 to 1943 when he handed over the pastorate to the renowned Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after having shared it with him and mentored him for some years previous". (Source Wikipedia).

In 1910 Morgan contributed an essay entitled The Purposes of the Incarnation to the first volume of The Fundamentals, 90 essays which are widely considered to be the foundation of the modern Fundamentalist movement. (source StudyLight)

Morgan is considered an excellent expositor, some calling him the prince of biblical expositors. His 10-volume “Analyzed Bible” is considered culturally important and a wonderful addition to the body of commentaries. Most of Morgan’s sermons, booklets, and books can be found online and are accessible for free. One place is the Internet Archive. Did you know that the Internet Archive not only caches web pages, but stores books in an open library, available to read online for free? (Also audio, TV programs, and movies). Here is the Open Library at the Internet Archive for Campbell Morgan (including The Analyzed Bible).

I had no idea of this 20th century expositor, and one who was friend to Charles Spurgeon and mentor to Martyn Lloyd Jones. This week I’ll be writing about the sermon that so impacted young William Borden, which can be found in Campbell Morgan’s booklet “The Hidden Years at Nazareth”. I had discovered Borden a few months ago by reading another ‘old book’ which led me to Borden of Yale ’09, and now mention of G. Campbell Morgan led me to that great expositor, is another reason to hold onto these saints’ books from the past. They are written about for our edification and instruction, and for an encouragement of learning about past deeds for Christ.

Read old books. They have a lot to tell us.

Posted in theology

Negotiating with God

By Elizabeth Prata

In the early 2000’s, Priceline, the discount travel outfit, produced a series of ads starring William Shatner as “The Priceline Negotiator.” You’d see him negotiating for lower prices on hotels, air flights, and so on. They were funny ads. C’mon, you’re hearing the jingle in your head right now, aren’t you 😉

I’ve never been good at negotiating. I’ve always been intimidated by it. Even where it was expected, like in places abroad where I’ve traveled, I didn’t bargain and I just always paid the price set.

I think most of us are familiar with the verse from James 2:19 that says, You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

Continue reading “Negotiating with God”
Posted in theology

I died … to the law

By Elizabeth Prata

Such is the confidence we have toward God through Christ. Not that we are adequate in ourselves so as to consider anything as having come from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

In this 2 Corinthians verse, Paul is explaining that following the ‘letter’ of the law is a shallow, external conformity to the commands of the Law and not an internal faith and belief. Think: Pharisees. The Pharisees were rebuked for swallowing a camel but straining out a gnat. It means they were hyper-vigilant over little things (going after a gnat), but ignored the big need- forgiveness from sin. They tithed cumin but their sacrifices to God were empty. They observed rites and ceremonies to the letter but missed the spiritual significance of its intent- to demonstrate their need for a Savior.

They adhered to the letter of the Law but entirely missed its intent: which was to make a person recognize his sinfulness and total inability to reach the Law’s required perfection. Anyone who relied on the Law for salvation would die (i.e the Law/letter kills). Paul admitted his own inability to reach perfection after salvation, seeing in hindsight that his adherence to the Law was only shallow works that meant nothing to God, it was all rubbish.

Paul explains further in Galatians. He is re-teaching the Galatians that justification is by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law of Moses. Legalistic Jews had insisted that Christians must keep the Mosaic Law and their stance had confused the Galatians. Galatians 2:19 says –

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live for God.

Barnes’ Notes says of that verse’s meaning:

that by contemplating the true character of the Law of Moses itself; by considering its nature and design; by understanding the extent of its requisitions, he had become dead to it; that is, he had laid aside all expectations of being justified by it.”

Or, if you’re Italian like me, “the Law is dead to me!” It’s all of grace!

Knowles in The Bible Guide says,

The key question is this: did they receive the Holy Spirit by following the law or by receiving the gospel? And if keeping the law can achieve salvation, why did Jesus go to the cross? The answer is, of course, that they have come to spiritual life only through the death of Jesus and faith in the gospel.

I’m reminded of the Dagon incident of 1 Samuel 5. Dagon was a false deity in the form of a half-man, half-fish. He was supposedly the father of Baal. The Philistines were feeling joyful because they had captured the Ark of the Covenant and put it in their temple next to Dagon. When they got up the next morning, the Dagon statue was on its face. They set it right. The next morning, the Dagon statue’s trunk was in its place, but the head and hands had been cut off and were on the threshold. Gulp! They were so spooked, “This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.” (1 Samuel 5:5). Whether a false god is a fish or any other image, it is empty. Clinging to the Law as a work for salvation is just as empty as the mere block of wood that Dagon was.

People have been trying since Cain to approach God in the way they want to, not in the way He demands. The Gentiles think they will be heard for their many words repeated in prayers. The modern version of this is Contemplative prayer, or for Catholics, penance (repeating the same prayer a certain number of times, or doing a work, or making an offering). The Judaizers thought that works like circumcision were the pathway to God. The modern version of this is Oprah’s good works and generosity religion being one pathway to God – among many. (Oprah’s words- “There are many paths to what you call God. Her path might be something else, and when she gets there she might call it the Light, but her loving and her kindness and her generosity, if it brings her to the same place it brings you, it doesn’t matter whether she calls it God or not.”) Mystics think that pursuing wisdom and higher knowledge will get them to God, as satan said to Eve in the Garden, ‘you will be wise’.

Satan is the originator of all the paths to God that aren’t Jesus, and he recycles them over and over. Why? Because they are successful on the unwary. There are two religions. Jesus as the way to God, and all the others which are satan’s. In those ways, satan has twisted even the New Testament’s Gospel into a killing letter. Matthew Henry said:

But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power. (2 Timothy 3:5).

Faith is through grace alone. Beware of twisting even the good and great Gospel into mere rites and ceremonies and form letters. The power of the Spirit quickens us, enlivens us, gives power and might to live according to all that is holy and right. “Such is the confidence we have toward God through Christ.

Letter of the Law
Posted in theology

Open Hearts in a Closed World conference: “Reverence in Radical Times”

By Elizabeth Prata

I posted this last week and I’m going to re-post frequently until the date. It’s a worthwhile conference. There is no registration and it is totally free.

This summer there is a free, online-only conference that I encourage you to ‘attend’. It will be live but also recorded so if you miss it you can see it later on American Gospel TV, again for free. The line-up of women speaking is solid, the topic is relevant, and the material will be edifying. The founder of this conference, now in its second year, is Brooke Bartz. In just a year, the conference has gained the backing of Media Gratiae, The Master’s Seminary, and American Gospel TV, which will broadcast it! For the second year, CityAlight will perform the music!

Brooke Bartz is the founder of the “Open Hearts in a Closed World” online Women’s conference, bringing together biblically based solid women teachers to encourage and exhort women to live Christ honoring lives from the scripture.

Continue reading “Open Hearts in a Closed World conference: “Reverence in Radical Times””