Posted in theology

On Writing, and On Writing for the Lord

By Elizabeth Prata

Writing

I subscribe to Sheehan Quirke The Cultural Tutor’s newsletter called Areopagus. (What a perfect name for a Cultural Tutor, isn’t it!). His free newsletter contains short tidbits on the following subjects: Historical Figure • Art • Classical Music • Architecture • Rhetoric • Writing • Historical Anecdote. I love it becuase the newsletter is so well written, and interesting. You had me at well written.

The Number X Edition (or 10 for Roman Numeral innumerate folk 😉 contained the following paragraphs on the topic of Writing:

Words as Thoughts

The importance of writing cannot be understated. And while its usefulness as a life skill is obvious, I think there is something of much profounder importance to writing than effective communication or academic and professional success.

Thinking is difficult – really difficult. Thoughts appear in your mind seemingly at random sometimes, and constructing coherent patterns of thought requires a great deal of effort. Even when you manage to think clearly and thrash out a few conclusions, they’re easily forgotten. And most of the rest of the time our thoughts are contradictory because we’ve barely had the chance to analyse and understand them. No wonder are all so prone to saying stupid things!

That’s where writing comes in: the practice of putting your thoughts into words. Or, more tellingly, the act of taking those thoughts out of your head. You can write a few words, read them, leave them, come back to them, and reconsider them. It’s much harder to do with that with thoughts, which are intangible and changeful.

But if you take those tangled, complex thoughts out of your head and write them down, you’ll see them much more clearly. And you can see the contradictions and inconsistencies, you can find out where you’re stuck and where you’re certain – you can deal with them, edit them, reword them, and make things clear. In the end, you’ll figure out what you actually think.

All of this to say that writing is an effective way of thinking. So when you’re faced with a problem – it could be professional or personal, a complex project at work or a struggling relationship – writing down your thoughts will inevitably help to solve that problem. (By Sheehan Quirke The Cultural Tutor at Areopagus).

I thought about what I had just read about writing for a long time. My first thoughts went to the children I teach. I’m a Literacy Interventionist and reading instructor at a public school. I’ve taught writing for a long time. I love seeing children develop skills. The process is beautiful to watch.

Then I thought about how hard it is, really hard for young children to not only acquire language, then use it to express themselves, but then to engage in the process Sheehan the Cultural Tutor outlined. I vowed to be extra patient with young writers.

Next I thought about me and my writing. I’ve been a writer for a long time. My first memory of writing something was when I was about 7 and I wrote quotes from song lyrics on my little cork bulletin board. Jimmy Buffett, “If we couldn’t laugh we’d all go insane”, and the Beatles, “And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow”. And such like that.

In reorganizing my closet a few years ago I came across my travel journal, my first one. My senior class in High School had an end of year trip to London. I kept a journal of the trip and made notes about what I had seen along with opinions. My entry for the first time I flew above the clouds gushed with awe and contained lots of exclamation marks.

I’ve been writing ever since. Imagine my joy when the internet came along, then blogs that allowed a writer to just write then press ‘publish’! I didn’t care if anyone read it, even, I was just as happy to simply write.

I was saved at around age 42. Now I understood that the talent and drive the Lord gave me was to be used for the glory of the Lord. He had been honing me all those years. My thoughts then turned from my writing in general to writing on theological topics, with Jesus at the center of the goal. This is a totally different animal than just writing a chatty blog.

Anything I write must be theologically accurate, the word must be rightly divided. (2 Timothy 2:15). It must be well written, I do not want to serve up a sloppy joe to Christ when it should be a filet mignon. It should be helpful to the faith, and I don’t mean only ‘positive’ as our finite minds calculate.

I saw this tweet on an education topic.

I am in my head a lot, thinking. I can absolutely relate to that girl.

Even before we are saved by grace through faith, He prepares us for His future use for the kingdom. He gets all the glory, all the time. What talents did God give you that when you became saved, you turned and used for His glory?

Posted in theology

Encouraging news from Mt. Zion Bible Church / Chapel Library

By Elizabeth Prata

I’ve shared before how wonderful the ministry of Chapel Library is. It’s an arm of the Mt. Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, FL. The good folks at their library ministry describe it this way-

Chapel Library’s mission is sending Christ-centered literature worldwide without charge. Chapel Library offers almost 1000 titles in English, 200 in Spanish, and dozens in other languages. The Free Grace Broadcaster, our primary publication, is a collection of 6 to 10 articles on one subject from the best authors from prior centuries.

It’s awesome. Their library of quality essays is excellent, and you can download, read online, or have them send hard copy to you for free. Their library looks like this-

Chapel Library

Their monthly pamphlet, Free Grace Broadcaster, a series of essays based on one topic-

As with many ministries, occasionally they send out an update of their activities. I found the recent update to be encouraging. I received it a couple of months ago and I want to share it with you. With all the drastic sin we’re seeing nowadays, the collapse of civic diligence, the rampant violence etc, this ministry update helps remind us that the Lord is in control and He does not leave His people alone. He is with us. He is growing His people. He makes ministries thrive. His Spirit educates people. It’s so uplifting to see the Lord’s activity in the world in these ministry reports.

Here’s Chapel Library:

The Lord’s Faithfulness in the Last Three Years

The Lord has shown Himself faithful and kind to the ministries of Mt. Zion Bible Church in the last three years. With all the turmoil and uncertainties in our own country and around the world, we’ve wondered what this period of crisis holds for our literature ministry and the Bible Institute.

As we mentioned a couple of years ago, in 2019 the Lord blessed us to update our print shop[ and bindery with brand new equipment.

In 2020-2022 we have been blessed with generous giving from donors around North America, as well as some from around the world.

From 2018-2020, we began to see an increase in orders from other countries. We believe two factors contributed to that: the Lord blessed us to negotiate special rates with key international shippers and enabled us to streamline our processing of international orders through our website (www.ChapelLibrary.org).

In 2021, international requests for literature increased even more, twice as many as in 2020.

So far in 2022 (just into August),we’ve already surpassed the figures for all of last year!

We praise the Lord for the increasing volume. Please pray with us for wisdom, effectiveness, and fruit from the Holy Spirit’s work through the tracts, booklets, books, and courses that are going out all over the world!


That is the end of Chapel Library’s update, but wait! There’s more! The Lord has His own in every nation, tribe, and tongue. Chapel Library also lists the following praise reports from many different countries-

Kenya – “I have found your materials to be so useful not only to me but also to our church. I have not only been enriched and enlightened, but also I have found answers to questions that I never knew.”

Cuba – “Since I found your website online, I have dedicated long hours to reading literature in digital format. It has been a great blessing, consolation and edification in my life and that of my family. Less than a year ago I was diagnosed with Severe Dilated Myocarditis and I have spent most of my time at home in prayer and perseverance of the faith.”

Philippines – “Book received. I’m so happy. My heart leaps with joy. It really helped me, my family, and the church.”

Argentina – “Thank you for the shipment of literature for the prison ministry where I am sharing the Gospel.”

Namibia – “I have received my parcel. We trust that the Lord will use all these materials to build His church, even here.”

Yes, even there. The Lord is sovereign over all nations and there is no corner left untouched by His presence in some believing saints. It’s heartening to know that there are solid Christians stationed all over the world, ministering in churches, prisons, families, even the hard places.

As with Chapel Library and so it is with you- you never know where the words you produce, written or vocal, will reach ears needing to hear graceful speech.

Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29).

Pray for ministries that are dear to you. Give, generously if you can. Even if you can’t, there are ways, such as Amazon’s Smile- where a portion of whatever you buy will go to a designated charity. Here is their explanation, “AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you.” FMI about Amazon Smile, go here. To view a list of their approved charities, go here. My designated charity Amazon Smile funds go toward is the Gideons International.

Praise the Lord for His work in the world! No matter how dark the days, His light never dims!

Posted in theology

The valley of the shadow of death

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Psalm 23

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd,
I will not be in need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For the sake of His name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life,
And my dwelling will be in the house of the LORD forever.

This is a most familiar Psalm to many people. It’s beautiful poetry and solid comfort, too.

As with any scripture, just asking a simple question of the scripture will lead you on a path deeper and deeper into God’s truth. The question today is, What IS the valley of the shadow of death? How can I describe it?

The phrase is familiar to us and it makes sense- at first. The valley of the shadow of death is understandable both on a cognitive level and a poetic level. But when you really try to grasp what it is, then suddenly it seems as if we are standing on the precipice of a light-filled mountain so tall we cannot see the top. What is it exactly?

Did you know the phrase ‘shadow of death’ was a common Hebrew poetic phrase? As such, one might expect to find it in numerous scriptures besides the well-known 23. And it is. It’s in Psalm 107:10, Luke 1:79 (repeating it from Ps 107:10), Isaiah 9:2, Job 38:17, and others.

There were those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Prisoners in misery and chains
, (Ps 107:10)

To shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Luke 1:79)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2, KJV)

This is the best explanation I could find about that exactly the shadow of death means. It is from Barnes’ Notes on Isaiah 9:2-

In the land of the shadow of death – This is a most beautiful expression, and is special to the Hebrew poets. The word צלמות tsalmâveth, is exceedingly poetical. The idea is that of death, as a dark substance or being, casting a long and chilly shade over the land – standing between the land and the light – and thus becoming the image of ignorance, misery, and calamity. It is often used, in the Scriptures, to describe those regions that were lying as it were in the penumbra of this gloomy object, and exposed to all the chills and sorrows of this melancholy darkness. Death, by the Hebrews, was especially represented as extending his long and baleful shadow ever the regions of departed spirits; Job 38:17

By the way, the definition of penumbra is – the partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an opaque object.

In Job 3:1-5 we read

Job Laments his Birth: After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job spake, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. (KJV).

Barnes again explains the phrase ‘shadow of death’,

It occurs frequently in the sacred Scriptures; compare Job 10:21-22Psalm 23:4Job 12:22Job 16:16Job 24:17Job 34:22Job 38:17Amos 5:8Jeremiah 2:6. It is used to denote the abode of departed spirits, described by Job as “a land of darkness, as darkness itself; of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness;” Job 10:21-22. The idea seems to have been, that “death” was a dark and gloomy object that obstructed all light, and threw a baleful shade afar, and that that melancholy shade was thrown afar over the regions of the dead. The sense here is, that Job wished the deepest conceivable darkness to rest upon it.

I can’t read Hebrews (or Greek) 2 of the original languages the Bible was written in (the others being Aramaic and a few words in Ugaritic). Knowing the verses in the original language would indeed illuminate the poetic qualities of our Lord who is the author and the Spirit who inspired it. But just knowing the phrase’s origin, its use in many verses, and reading Barnes’ explanation of the phrase, is enough to make me praise the Lord, author of the written, eternal word.

Posted in theology

The Attributes of God: Peace, Righteousness, Perfection

By Elizabeth Prata

Sundays are a good time to ponder who God is. He is worthy of service and worship. We have been taking a look at God’s attributes each Sunday. Links to previous weeks are below. Most definitions are taken from Tim Challies’ visual theology chart of the attributes of God.

Remember, God’s attributes are not parts that make up a whole. Everything good that there is, is 100% contained in God. He is 100% beauty, 100% aseity, 100% omniscient, etc. He is complete in Himself.

Tim Challies explained: “To study God’s attributes is to study his character, to answer questions like, Who is God? and What is God like? A typical classification of God’s attributes divides them into those that are incommunicable (those that he does not share or “communicate” to anyone or anything else) and communicable (those that he shares with other beings). Like most theological classifications, this one is imperfect but still helpful as we seek to understand what is so far beyond ourselves. God’s communicable attributes can be further categorized into: attributes of God’s being, mental attributes, moral attributes, attributes of purpose, and “summary” attributes (attributes that, in a more particular way, modify each of the others).”

PEACE
Moral attribute. God, in his being and actions, is separate from all confusion and disorder.

Jonathan Edwards on peace: “My peace I give unto you.” Christ by calling it his peace signifies two things,

1. That it was his own, that which he had to give. It was the peculiar benefit that he had to bestow on his children, now he was about to leave the world as to his human presence. 
2. It was his peace that he gave them, as it was the same kind of peace which he himself enjoyed. The same excellent and divine peace which he ever had in God, and which he was about to receive in his exalted state in a vastly greater perfection and fullness.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

RIGHTEOUSNESS
Moral Attribute
God is the final standard of what is right and he always acts in accordance with what is right. (This is also known as God’s justice).

RC Sproul on God’s righteousness: “His righteousness is of two sorts. We distinguish God’s internal righteousness from His external righteousness. What God does is always consistent with who God is. He always acts according to His holy character. God’s “internal righteousness” is the moral excellence of His character. It is rooted in his absolute purity. There is no shadow of turning in Him. As a holy God, He is utterly incapable of an unholy act. Only unholy beings commit unjust and unrighteous acts.

Psalm 11:7, “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will see His face.

PERFECTION
Summary Attribute
God fully possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no qualities that would be desirable for him.

Charles Spurgeon on God’s perfection: “Perfection, indeed, seems to be the sole prerogative of God. He is perfect in everything. In all his attributes there is no lack; from whatever point of view we regard him, he is without blot or blemish; and no man, speaking truthfully of God, can say that there is aught of imperfection in him.” 

Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Previous entries of the Attributes of God-

1. Attributes of God: Aseity, Beauty, Blessedness
2. Eternity, Freedom, Glory
3. Goodness, Holiness, Immutability
4. Invisibility, Jealousy, Knowledge
5. Love
6. Mercy, Omnipotence, Omnipresence

Posted in beauty, Uncategorized

Art and beauty have a place in church

By Elizabeth Prata

I love church. I love the music, hymns & songs connecting me to my ancestors in the faith, all the way back. I love the sermons, God’s word expositionally preached is thrilling and fascinating every moment the preacher speaks truth to his flock. I love the people, singing praises to the Lord and singing His attributes to each other. Communion is an especially sweet time with the Lord. Just the thought that I can pray to Him asking for forgiveness of sins, and He will forgive them, is humbling. Dipping the bread into the wine is an act that Jesus performed as His last supper, when He instituted the ritual. My arm picking up the bread and dipping it feels like a long line holding me to time past, and in between, and the now with a oneness with all the other believers who have done the same thing. Continue reading “Art and beauty have a place in church”

Posted in biblical worldview, immorality, judge not, morality, putnam, society

The plague of non-judgmentalism

By Elizabeth Prata

I saw an essay by Gene Veith, titled “Class, children, & the social costs of nonjudgmentalism.”

The Veith title and the essay itself is based on the work of Robert Putnam, “a very important social scientist”, who has written a new book called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. It deals in part with what happens to a society that refuses to hold anyone else to a moral standard. The collapse of moral standards (in the face of unwillingness to call out bad behavior and set expectations for good behavior) is causing a crisis among families. We do feel sympathy for latchkey kids, abused kids, families split, drug culture ruining lives. NY Times columnist David Brooks opined about “Our Kids”,

But it’s increasingly clear that sympathy is not enough. It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms. The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.

Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary. These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.

I am familiar with Putnam’s work, most notably his 2001 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

I referenced Putnam’s earlier work from Bowling Alone in a blog essay, Churching Alone: The Collapse of American Churches. I’d written about the lack of a thriving biblical presence in communities, the Christian parallel to what Putnam had been saying about civic responsibility in his 2001 book. However, his new book “Our Kids” actually touches on the Christian relativism, ‘judge not’ mentality problem even more insightfully, albeit unknowingly. There IS a cost to relativism that affects both the secular society AND the biblical church. Let’s see from the Bible what the cost to the church is when it sinks into ‘non-judgmentalism.’

We see that clearly in the letter from Jesus to the Church at Thyatira. The church there had refused to set moral, biblical standards. Jesus was angry that they were tolerating sin. They were too tolerant, just like the ‘judge not!’ crowd screeches at the Christian who attempts to set biblical standards of morality. We all know Jesus did not mean for that to become a cover for their own immoral behavior.

The church at Thyatira was commended for being loving, faithful, having a service-oriented attitude, and for their perseverance. They were the only church to be so heartily praised in such a wide range of attitudes. (Revelation 2:18-19)

The problem at Thyatira was that they were tolerating a false prophetess. They were tolerant. This false prophetess, metaphorically named Jezebel, was declared to be leading the Thyatirans to idolatry, apostasy and infidelity (of the Lord).

Being busy, serving, loving, and persevering is not enough, if sin is allowed to take hold. The situation was so serious, Jesus promised that unless the Jezebel false prophetess repented and her followers with her, He would —

–throw her onto a sickbed,
–and those who commit adultery with her He will throw into great tribulation,
–and He will strike her children dead. (Revelation 2:20-23)

THAT is how seriously Jesus takes sin in the church. Tolerant love is no love at all, if it includes allowing false wolves to lead people away from Jesus.

Within the church, failure to set a moral standard based on His word brings death, either through the wages of sin or via direct intervention from Jesus. Outside the church, even secular people wonder about the long-term effects of a general lack of agreed-upon moral standards, as Mr Brooks stated in his NY Times article here,

People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late. It’s in part because we won’t have social repair unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.

Yet of late, the rapid decline in morality has occurred precisely because of a general refusal- in the church and out- to define morality and to stick by the standards. It must be acknowledged that in order to function effectively, a society needs to have moral standards, and these standards need to be agreed upon. Where does on obtain a moral standard? They ALL originally came from God.

At no time in any epoch and at no place upon the earth did all people ever agree on the truth…but enough people agreed so that the false ones felt pressure to conform at least superficially to the moral standards the bulk of society lived out. Now, since no one agrees even upon the basics, such as ‘what is marriage?’, it’s a free-for-all.

Yes, failure to “judge” immoral behavior in the church angers Jesus. That was a problem in Corinth. Paul charged the Corinthians for failing to specifically articulate a moral standard about incest and adultery. A man had his father’s wife, and all the church AND the pagans knew it. (1 Corinthians 5:1). The Corinthians ‘did not judge,’ and the problem grew scandalous and destroyed their witness. Failure to live by Christian boundaries then leaks over into the world, where even the peer pressure to even pretend to be moral declines and eventually evaporates. Pretty soon, the tipping point is reached where no one will stand up for any standard at all, and all is deemed good and acceptable.

We are called to be a holy people so as to be pure for Jesus and to be an example to the people of the world. (Romans 11:13-16; 1 Corinthians 10:33). A young Christian lady who remains a virgin is committing a moral act, all the brighter for the darkness that surrounds her. A married Christian man who doesn’t look at porn, or tell dirty jokes at work, is committing a moral act. Couples who stay together and don’t divorce are performing a radical, moral act.

In a healthy society, social morality is comparatively “thick.” One consequence of the cultural revolution of the 1960s was a weakening, a thinning out, of social morality. The result is that the standards of right and wrong are reduced to the minimalist test of whether a particular action is legal. This is an unthinkable degradation of standards from the America of earlier periods, when society assumed that an individual’s moral responsibilities encompassed far more than merely observing the law. The decline in social morality and the rise of legalism are illustrated in Figure 1.2 below. (Source)

Christians who speak out against sins like fornication, homosexuality, divorce, gossip, anger, impetuousness, fiscal irresponsibility … are doing Christ’s work by pointing to His moral lines He has set. Further, as Putnam said, we need a moral vocabulary. In the Christian world, call sin as sin, not a mistake, or a stumble. It is up to us to set the lines and stay behind them, because we know where they are.

–we have an absolute line, it does not move nor does it change with the culture. Share it.
–call sin what it is: sin. Use the word.
–call it out in the church. When Ananias and Sapphira were killed by Jesus on the spot for being hypocrites and liars, all who heard of it feared greatly. The church grew. (Acts 5:1-10, Acts 6:1). Paul opposed Peter to his face. (Galatians 2:11). Peter called out Simon the magician and exhorted him to repent. (Acts 8:20).
–live morally in the world. We are meant to be the Light in the world, our own sin and non-judgmental tolerance doesn’t help anyone. Tolerating sin dims our Light.

Non-judgmentalism has a cost. Yes, we are living in a time that is pretty bad, morally speaking. Perhaps even worse than the well known immorality of the Corinthians lived among. Pastor Phil Johnson thinks so. I do too.

Again, as Mr Brooks said in his review of Putnam’s book,

The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens…They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another.


My son, if you receive my words

and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;

Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

(Proverbs 2:1-2, 9-10)

Posted in aliens and strangers, encouragement, heaven tourism, macarthur, prayer, sermons

The RIGHT kind of Heaven Tourism

By Elizabeth Prata

Mike Riccardi at The Cripplegate began an excellent essay on the times in which we live this way:

The last few months have been emotionally tiring for Christians in America.

You can say that again.

The last few months have been emotionally tiring for Christians in America.

Weary with burdens? Climbing an endless mountain?
Let the Lord refresh you. (EPrata photo)

I don’t need to go over it all, we know what Pastor Riccardi means. We all know we are living in a sinful world, we all know we contribute to the sins that are piling up to heaven (though thank the Lord we are forgiven for them.) We are tired and we are weary. And it has only just begun.

The love of Jesus is a mystery in its depth and breadth and height and width and its eternality since before time began. This love given to us from heaven is incomprehensible and would overflow us if we received it openly in unglorified bodies.

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(Ephesians 3:17-19a)

Similarly, the hatred of satan is a mystery to us. We are unable to fully comprehend its evilness. We all know that the depths of sin and its ugliness is still a mystery to us, until some heinous acts are then exposed and we very nearly succumb to the shock. Remember, these heinous acts have been ongoing since the beginning of the world. Yet Christ in His mercy doesn’t reveal them all to us at once, else we would veritably collapse from emotional exhaustion and spiritual despair. The last month has been hard enough.

the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matthew 12:35a)

But it’s still difficult to deal with when we see previously unrevealed depths of depravity.

So what can we do when faced with incomprehensible evil? We can remember we are missionaries, aliens and strangers and this is not our home.

Our home is over yonder. EPrata photo

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. (1 Chronicles 29:15)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)

We all know the summary of the verse at John 17:16, ‘we are in the world but not of it.’ In practical terms, I heard it explained best by Alistair Begg, “The boat is supposed to be in the water, but the water isn’t supposed to be in the boat.” ~Alistair Begg.

What can we do to get the water out of our boat?

Take a missionary leave to heaven. Yes, enjoy some heaven tourism. All missionaries get leave to go home once in a while. We all need a vacation from our daily grind. So go home to heaven. Here is how to do it:

First, pray. The Lord will call us home bodily in His good timing. But every day we can visit our home through prayer. When your kids go on mission, or go to college, or move a distance away, don’t they Skype with you? Don’t they call? They are not there in body to be with their father but they communicate with home base. Who doesn’t remember being a shaky, tearful kid alone at college, or on the Army base, and calling home to receive some love from Dad or comfort from Mom?

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)

Stuck on this planet, our friends and colleagues perhaps have made it back home before us, lonely, shaky, tearful wanderer, pray. It is the “ET phone home” of Christianity.

Next, read the Bible. It is the security blanket the alien and stranger on this planet needs to stay warm, stay energized, stay effective. It is the energy pill, immunization shot, protein drink we need as we go out and complete our missionary tasks on planet Earth. When we are overcome with darkness because of the world, then overcome darkness with Light! The light is reading God’s word and seeing the face of Jesus. We can’t actually go to heaven and see Him yet, but we can behold His countenance by reading His words and having the Spirit point us toward Him. Behold His glory through the Word.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Third, wash yourself, wrap yourself in the Word by listening to a good sermon. Stay away from secular radio, avoid even Christian radio. Most times even Christian radio with its sad news coupled with songs that are only doctrine-light will not uplift you but bring you down. There is no better refreshment than the Living water to enliven the weary traveler, as we are.

When you listen to a good expositor plumb the beauteous depths of God’s word it washes over you like a flood of love and light. When you do this you are wrapping yourself in liquid sunlight, chasing away the vaporous darkness and illuminating the corners of your soul with heavenly love. Choose sermons that exegete verse on the beauty of heaven, or the strength of Jesus’ love, or the promises of things to come.

I can heartily recommend John MacArthur for this purpose. Phil Johnson on the Psalms is a wonderfully encouraging resource. Or choose another expositor who preaches verse by verse the word only. We do not want to hear some silly personal story from the pulpit when we’re faced with depths of sadness and are crying out to God. We don’t need practical tips for living, or topical studies. We want THE WORD, for that is the only ticket us expatriates require when it’s necessary to go on temporary leave to heaven.

Another good resource is just listening to an audio book that speaks the word. I listen to RefNet and at times they read aloud huge segments of the Bible. The word fills me and its vapors stream from the radio to my ears to my mind and glide along my veins and fill my innermost parts. It is His word that encourages, uplifts, transforms. When you want to visit heaven on a missionary reprieve, listen to a narrator read His eternal word. It is a living and active word, thus you WILL be refreshed.

Listen to hymns. Let strong, doctrinal music flood your soul, cleaning out the leaves and twigs that have accumulated in the corners of our our soul. Let good music wash away the despair and cleanse our mind. What a balm to bask in pure words from heaven! Choose your music carefully, and make a playlist that encompasses encouraging lyrics which include verses as straight from the Bible as you can. Again it is communication with heaven that we are after in order to visit heaven, they have to be His words, not man’s. Here is a list of good, doctrinal hymns from Religious Affections Ministries. They are grouped by category.

EPrata photo

So pray, read the Bible, listen to the Word, and enjoy good, doctrinal music. We are aliens on this planet. Taking time each day to temporarily visit home will please the Father, who sent us abroad. It will liven our heart, to further Jesus’ kingdom. It will allow us to partake of the peace, that Jesus gave us.

Be encouraged, Brother, be heartened Sister, be strong Pastor…

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)











Posted in theology

The Lord’s tenderness

By Elizabeth Prata

I was reading Genesis 16 & 21, Hagar. I love the Hagar scenes. I admit that the Woman at the well and the Hagar scenes are dear to me and I love those passages. I am amazed with how wonderful the Savior is.

Two of my favorite scenes in the Bible are the Woman at the Well, and Hagar in the Wilderness. In the former, the Lord ministered to a marginalized woman whose sins had given her an illustrious reputation which preceded her wherever she went.

Hagar was Abraham’s slave and her sin was forced upon her: Sarah (Sarai) concocted a plan to hurry-up God’s plan to get the promised child. She convinced Abram to use Hagar as the maternal vessel. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah’s jealousy grew, and Sarah death harshly with Hagar.

But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:6-8).

The Angel of the LORD is interpreted to be Jesus, pre-incarnate. He told Hagar to go back and to submit, and she did. Genesis 16 has the full account.

The child born to Abraham and Hagar was Ishmael, but as Ishmael grew, Sarah became jealous again. Dissension came up between the two women. Sarah expelled Hagar from the community and with her child, Hagar fled to the desert.

The wilderness is a harsh place and when the water in her pouch ran out, Hagar knew that death would soon come. She placed the boy down near bushes and went to die herself a little ways off, not bearing to see the death of her child.

Again The LORD came to Hagar, this time by voice, and comforted her.

Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:16-19)

Hagar and Ismael’ by Jean-Charles Cazin. 1841-1901, work painted before 1880. Musée d’Orsay artwork ID: 69708. Source Wikimedia Commons

Can you imagine? Being a slave? The owner taking you sexually? The wife mistreating you? Preparing to die in the desert? Worst, preparing to watch your son die in the desert? And you thought you had a bad day!

Both times Hagar was in the wilderness, God immediately heard the plea of her heart and the piteous lonely cries from her mouth. He asked her a similar question as He had asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, Genesis 16:8). Both times Jesus was dispatched to provide life to her, with water. Jesus is the Living Water. He gives life and He sustains life.

Our God is mighty. He is sovereign. He has His plan, which none can thwart. Yet He is tender, and caring, and gentle with His people. I hope the beauty of the painting and the even greater beauty of the Word comforts you today. Cast all your cares upon Jesus, who is the Living Water.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)

Posted in theology

Sunday Martyr Moments: A series

By Elizabeth Prata

Though I write every day on the blog, on Sundays over the years I’ve rested and did not write much. I’ve also presented content that is more aligned with a day of rest and reflection on Christ and His word. I’ve posted Kay Cude’s poetry. I’m currently doing a series on God’s Attributes. In the past I posted excerpts from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Sundays are a good time to think about those who preceded us in death for the cause of Christ.

Here are a few links to some of those essays

Sunday Martyr Moment: Sanctus, Blandina, and Ponticus

Sunday Martyr Moment: Justin Martyr, Felicitatis, others

Sunday Martyr moment: Germanicus and Polycarp

Sunday Martyr Moment: John Huss, “The goose is cooked”

Sunday Martyr Moment: Apostle John

Sunday Martyr Moment: James, Timon, Parmenas, Philip

There are other entries in the Sunday Martyr Moment in the series. Just search using the title I just named and search bar above at the right. After you read enough of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, your heart clenches and you gain perspectives about Christ’s power in dire circumstances to give courage, about the dedication of those who died, and of man’s inhumanity to man. I pray-

Lord, we know that the unregenerate heart and unsanctified mind can devise horror after horror. The Holocaust showed us the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and the future Tribulation will exceed even those horrors. It’s unimaginable what the Christians who preceded us went through, but thank You for your grace and comfort to them while they were under trial. I know that many hearts were converted upon seeing their courage, which was the strength of the Holy Spirit in them. As this time at the end of the Age of Grace draws to a close, I pray You deliver the same strength and courage to today’s martyrs. So that once more, many hearts are converted as they see dark evil of hate and torture against Your light of holy eternity in pure hearts proclaiming Your name even as they die under the sword.

Posted in theology

Donkey milk? Yes, donkey milk.

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

There are a lot of animals, plants, and activities in the Bible that I have little knowledge about. It was fun learning the process for creating purple dye from murex shells. Or the process of plucking reeds growing along the Nile to make into linen garments. And what was it about the sweet onions that the Wandering Hebrews complained that they missed them so much? I wrote about that one some years ago.

I’ve been thinking about donkeys. Ever since I read in Charles Swindoll’s book on Job in the Bible that a delicacy of the day was donkey milk. Wait, wut? And that was ALL he said about it! I’m intrigued, Mr. Swindoll, intrigued.

The other day I saw a meme on Twitter, of a hypothetical conversation between God and an Angel. God remarks on the slew of people these days drinking almond milk. The angel says the people are getting milk from almonds now. God says I sent them like 8 animals to get milk from! The angel replies, “They don’t like that milk”.

I’ve often mused on the strangeness of getting milk from almonds. It makes a funny imaginative picture in my mind, milking an almond. Of course I know that’s not how they get almond milk, it’s a totally different process, but it still gives me a chuckle.

Donkey milk. What’s up with that? First I looked up donkeys. Donkeys are mentioned in Old Testament 133 times.

Genesis (20)
Exodus (12)
Numbers (16)
Deuteronomy (6)
Joshua (4)
Judges (12)
1 Samuel (16)
2 Samuel (4)
1 Kings (7)
2 Kings (5)
1 Chronicles (3)
2 Chronicles (1)
Ezra (1)
Nehemiah (2)
Job (8)
Psalm (1)
Proverbs (1)
Isaiah (6)
Jeremiah (3)
Ezekiel (1)
Daniel (1)
Hosea (1)
Zechariah (2)

And in the New Testament 7 times.
Matthew (3)
Luke (1)
John (2)
2 Peter (1)

In Genesis 32:15 female donkeys (called a jenny/jennies) are mentioned. When Jacob was preparing to reunite with Esau, unsure of the reception he’d receive, he collected his best milk animals to give his brother, in case Esau was still intent on killing Jacob.

Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. (Genesis 32:13-15).

Donkeys are first mentioned in Genesis 12:16. It was when Abram met Pharaoh and Pharaoh liked the look of Sarai and took her, believing as per Abram that she was Abram’s sister, not his wife. Pharaoh gave Abram some gifts in exchange for Sarai, including male donkeys and female donkeys.

Wild donkeys are good hunters, aggressive if challenged, defend themselves with hard kicks, and are perfectly suited to the desert. They can go without water for days, and have acute vision, hearing, and smell.

Further, wild donkeys have been found to be great well diggers in the desert! (wild horses too). NatGeo writes,

As described in a paper published April 29 in the journal Science, the animals use their hooves to dig more than six feet deep to reach groundwater for themselves, in turn creating oases that serve as a boon to wildlife.

It makes sense, then, that donkeys were domesticated. By 4000 BC the tribes living in what we now call Saudi Arabia had them in flocks. They were used on farms and in caravans as beasts of burden. The cave paintings in Egypt’s Beni Hasan, estimated to have been drawn at about 1890 BC, depict one such caravan.

What are the animals the Bible people actually got milk from?

1 Samuel 6:10 – cow. Goat (Proverbs 27:27). Camel (Genesis 32:15). Sheep (Isaiah 7:21-22 . And…donkey. Donkey milk was the BEST milk.

A female donkey is a jenny. She produces 1 liter per day of delicious milk. Why was donkey milk such a delicacy? First of all, donkey milk most closely resembles human breast milk. This is highly convenient for nursing.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, In the last few decades, there has been a renewed interest in donkeys by the scientific community involved in the recovery of biodiversity, in the rescue of some donkey breeds that have become almost extinct, and in the rediscovery of donkey milk. In addition, due to the increase in food allergies, attention has been focused on the need for a “natural” milk with a good taste, which could be used in some childhood illnesses such as allergy to cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). Donkey milk is very similar to human milk, especially in terms of its protein profile and lactose content.

It’s not only nutritious and delicious, but it’s medicinal too. USDA says,

The high content of lysozyme in this milk favors selective action against pathogenic microorganisms. In addition, the mineral content (such as calcium) and liposoluble vitamins make it an excellent nutraceutical product.” A neutraceutical product is a pharmaceutical alternative which claims physiological benefits. A drug substitute.

Donkey with pack saddle unchanged from Incan times, Papallacta, Ecuador. EPrata photo

There is a project going on now in Tuscany Italy to create a supply chain of donkey milk. The early results of that project were reported:

Donkey milk was characterised by high lactose content, low caseins, low fat, higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids compared to ruminant milks. Unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids in particular have become known for their beneficial health effect, which is favourable for human diet. These characteristics make it suitable for infants and children affected by food intolerance/allergies to bovine milk proteins and multiple food allergies as well as for adults with dyslipidemias. It is also recommended to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The ancients knew it was medicinal. The National Library of Medicine reports, “Hippocrates (460–370 BC.), the father of medicine, was the first to describe the medicinal virtues of donkey milk. He prescribed donkey milk for numerous ailments, such as liver problems, edemas, nosebleeds, poisonings, infectious diseases, the healing of sores, and fevers.

Further, we read that In Roman times, donkey milk was used as a universal remedy: Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), in his encyclopedic work Naturalis Historia, has widely described its health benefits. In particular, Pliny writes about 54 medicinal uses of donkey milk, ranging from its use as an anti-venom or as a relief for external irritations (itching) to the use of it in a pomade (ointment) for the eyes. He states that donkey milk is the most effective as a medicine, followed by cow’s milk, and then goat’s milk. (Source).

I wonder if donkey milk was prescribed for Paul’s problem with his eyes…

So far we learn that donkey milk has great food properties, super medicinal qualities, and, now we turn to cosmetics. Ancient documents record that Cleopatra, Nero’s wife Poppea, Emperor Claudius’ wife Messalina, and Paolina Bonaparte (Napolean’s sister) used to bathe in donkey milk or otherwise use it to keep their skin looking supple and unblemished. Masks of donkey-milk soaked bread slices would be placed over the face. It helped eliminate wrinkles, it was said by Pliny the Elder. Riddle: If a jenny yields a liter a day, how many jennies does it take to fill a bathtub every day? Upwards of 700.

We note that Job initially had 500 female donkeys (Job 1:3). By the end, the LORD had doubled them and Job finished with a thousand female donkeys (Job 42:12). Maybe Mrs. Job liked to bathe in donkey milk or put donkey milk-soaked bread slices on her face, lol.

In any case, donkeys are a valuable animal. They served our Bible forbears well and they serve us well today. Donkey milk. It does a body good. (For those of an age, this was a long-lasting milk tagline to a series of commercials in the 1980s. It must’ve been effective. I still remember it 40 years later!)

Screen shot from 1980s ad campaign for milk with my added word: donkey!

I’d like to finish with a praise to the Lord. He created every star, planet, land mass, plant, bird, creeping thing, and every animal in just 6 days. As I wrote last week about the wondrous properties for humans in barnacles and horseshoe crabs, the lowly donkey also has some properties which are terrific benefit to humans.

The Lord gave us the common grace of the world. He gave us a charge to work the garden and subdue it. Though the cursed ground now temporarily makes that difficult, He still is an amazing Sovereign who gave us wonderful plants and animals to help us complete that charge. God is great.