Posted in theology

The alabaster vial full of courage

By Elizabeth Prata

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to eat with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and began kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner!” (Luke 7:36-39).

In this scene we observe a few things as it gets going. First, the Pharisee had no personal interest in Jesus. None of them did (except perhaps Nicodemus). They thought him a blasphemer. No Pharisee would invite a blasphemer to his home unless he wanted to trap him and try and gain evidence to convict him. We can see this exhibited in the Pharisees’ behavior later as Jesus remarked that he had not given Jesus even the most basic courtesy as host, Jesus’ feet weren’t washed, he was not greeted with the customary kiss, nor was Jesus’ head anointed. The Pharisee had not extended minimally polite host duties toward Jesus.

Secondly, in the culture of that time, it was common for Pharisees and other town dignitaries to invite notable people to their home for a meal. They would usually leave the doors open so that interested bystanders could listen to the conversation, too. Since this is a Pharisee’s home and we know they like the chief seats and places of honor, and to be seen and revered (Matthew 23:6-7), this host Pharisee certainly would have left the doors and windows open to be seen and heard as he no doubt thought he would defeat Jesus in conversation and come out on top.

Continue reading “The alabaster vial full of courage”
Posted in theology

Demas and Judas and Simon Magus looked like the real thing

By Elizabeth Prata

There are believers who are false. That is, they are not saved. There are two classes of these non-believer believers: those who know they’re not saved but have come in to secretly spy out the church doings in order to purposely corrupt the true believers (Galatians 2:4). And there are non-believing believers who don’t know they’re not saved. They think they are, but they’re not. They will be surprised on judgment day. (Matthew 7:21).

Continue reading “Demas and Judas and Simon Magus looked like the real thing”
Posted in theology

‘Is it I, Lord?”

By Elizabeth Prata

Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve. And as they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” Being deeply grieved, they began saying to Him, each one: “Surely it is not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)

New International Version: They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

New Living Translation: Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?

English Standard Version: And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”

The “Is it I, Lord” over and over from each of the disciples is poignant. They were sorrowful to think that the Lord of all, the man they had left their lives for, submitted to, followed, and acknowledged as Supreme, was going to be betrayed by one of their own! Who could DO such a thing?

Even more poignant though is their wonderment as who it might be. They knew enough to know that their hearts were deceitful, and that they indeed had a potential for such a dastardly trick. They wondered if it was themselves.

Here is the point: The disciples believed Jesus before they would believe themselves. They trusted Jesus’s words more than their own hearts.

This is as it should be.

Matthew Henry said:

They were apt to suspect themselves; Lord, is it I? Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves, Lord, is it I? Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy, especially in trying times. We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable that our Lord Jesus, just before he instituted the Lord’s supper, put his disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine and judge ourselves... 
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1754). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Today we have incessant Disney movies where the hero or more usually the heroine, succeeds because she “followed her heart” or she “listened to her own truth” or she “became true to who she is.”

The heart is what makes us, us. It’s deceitfully wicked, says Jeremiah 17:9. The heart, or the inner person, contaminates our entire life and our character and from it springs all manner of unrighteous deeds and thoughts constantly (Genesis 6:5). Hence the heart must be changed, or regenerated, and man himself cannot do that. Following one’s heart or listening to one’s own heart only leads one in a circle, ever downward. The disciples were aware enough to know not to look inward and settle the matter with their own conscience, saying to one’s self- ‘Of course it cannot be I.’ Indeed, just a few hours later, Peter denied Jesus.

We must trust the word of God more than our own thoughts, motivations, ideas. Even with the Spirit in us, our inner man still lurks. We must slay him, appealing to the Spirit for help in that. They asked “Is it I, Lord?” but the answer of course is, ‘It could be any one of you. But it is in fact Judas.’

We need to stay in the word so that He will transform our mind (heart/conscience/inner man) to one of likeness to Jesus. And who wouldn’t want to be more like the most perfect, compassionate, righteous, loving, just person in the universe?

If you ask yourself “Is it I, Lord?” you know the answer would be yes without Him, and even with Him, it could be, for we are able to do just about any unrighteous deed. His deed, to hang on the cross as payment for our sins, absorbing all God’s wrath for them, dying, and rising again, makes it possible for us to say ‘It could be I, but not today, Lord. Not today, by grace of the Spirit’. James Smith said in his essay on Grace Gems:

Brethren, we need the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of grace–to make us gracious and graceful Christians. Without the Spirit of grace . . .
  we cannot live up to our profession;
  we cannot copy the example of our beloved Master;
  we cannot keep His commandments;
  we cannot love one another as He has loved us;
  we cannot sympathize with lost sinners as we should;
  we cannot keep God’s glory in view in all that we do;
  we cannot walk in high and holy fellowship with God;
  we cannot meet death with peace and joy!

Let us look up, therefore, to our heavenly Father, let us plead his precious promises, let us go in the name of the Lord Jesus, and let us entreat him to give us more of “the Spirit of grace.”

Grace Gems, excerpt “The Spirit of Grace” James Smith, 1864.

The Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci has depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Apostles when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Wikipedia

Posted in theology

Do we understand how MUCH of an offense the cross was?

By Elizabeth Prata

But as for me, brothers and sisters, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been eliminated. (Galatians 5:11)

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Some translations of the Galatians 5 verse say the cross is an ‘offense’.

We understand that point, that the cross is an offense. Likely because we have heard sermons (especially on Easter) that the cross was a horrible offense, it was disgraceful, punitive in the extreme, etc. Most likely we’d have heard sermons or read essays about how the flesh of Jesus was tortured, scourged, and how He bled.

But I don’t think we realize HOW MUCH of an offense the cross was to first century Romans, Jews, and others.

Continue reading “Do we understand how MUCH of an offense the cross was?”
Posted in grace, jesus, mercy, watchman

Pray for mercy for each other

By Elizabeth Prata

Mercy. A beautiful quality of God. Here is CARM.org’s definition of mercy and how it differs from grace:

Mercy
Mercy is the act of not administering justice when that justice is punitive. Because of our sinfulness we deserve death and eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but God provided an atonement for sin and through it shows us mercy. That is, He does not deliver to the Christian the natural consequence of his sin which is damnation. That is why Jesus became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21) and bore the punishment due to us (Isaiah 53:4-5). It was to deliver us from damnation. (Compare with justice and grace.)”

“God saved us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5) and we can practice mercy as a gift (Rom. 12:8). “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Mercy is not grace.

Grace
Biblically, grace is unmerited favor. It is God’s free action for the benefit of his people. It is different than justice and mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. But because of God’s love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.”

Sometimes we think to ask for mercy from God. The tax collector was commended for his humble appeal for mercy to Holy God. 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13)

Here is something to think of even further. There are many people who say they are watchmen. As a matter of fact, we are all called to “watch.” In Mark 13 between verses 33 and 37 Jesus said to “watch” four times! He said to watch for His coming, and to pray. Watch for the householder. Stay awake and watch. And He finished by saying “what I say unto you I say unto all.” So we all are supposed to be watchmen.

So we watch.

But there is more to do than simply watch. What else are Christian watchmen supposed to do? Well, pray, as stated above.

We also share the good news of salvation.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they seethe return of the Lord to Zion.(Isaiah 52:7-8).

But there is something else we can do besides watch, pray, warn, and share the Good News. It’s mercy. The prophets of old often warns, often shared the good news, but one of their jobs was to plea for mercy before God on behalf of the people.Do we pray to God for mercy for our people?

The tax collector was praised for acknowledging his own hopeless state, and pled for mercy to God who dispenses mercy.

After we remove the log from our eye and repent of our daily sins, (so we are not prayerful hypocrites) when we pray, plea for mercy for your church family too. We should pray and plead for mercy for our brethren.

Paul asked the Lord to grant mercy on the house of Onesiphorus–

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,” (2 Timothy 1:16)

In his salutation,Paul often wrote that he asked the Lord to show mercy to his loved ones as in this example:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:2)

I believe that when we pray for mercy for others by name or in groups, it is harder for us to be critical of them, and it makes it possible to love them even more. Because, He loves us and showed mercy…not dispensing our earned justice of His wrath but instead He mercifully reconciled us to Him through Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10b)

Pray for mercy for the people you love.

Posted in theology

Fried worms and floods

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s summer. You go out for a walk. You look down at the sidewalk and see a little dried up string of a worm. I know you’ve see those. The worm tried to make it across the expanse, and got too hot and fried before he made it to the other side.

If a worm had a brain maybe he was thinking “Ahhh this grass feels so good. Oh no, what’s this? Concrete. I’ve been warned about how dangerous concrete is. Hmmm, it looks dry and hot, but it doesn’t look too wide, I think I can make it!” and he launches across wiggling his way over the fiery hot ground. But with every wiggle he loses strength. It’s taking longer than he thought, he’s lost his energy. He slows down. He takes a rest, just for a minute. Panting. The burning hot cement overtakes him and he dries up in a final gasp.

A few days later it rained. The worm’s brother wiggles in the dirt underground and emerges on the surface of the grass. It’s cool and refreshing. There are floods of puddles everywhere. The worm makes his way across the lawn and comes to the concrete. He thinks, “Hmm, I’ve been warned about this. But look, there’s an inch of water across the whole thing. I can stay hydrated and I can make it!” And he launches across and skims along on the water and makes it to the other side.

Be the second worm.

I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).

When we try to do hard things, (or anything) in our own strength, we will dry up. The Holy Spirit gives us strength, keeps us refreshed. It’s the Holy Spirit who keeps us hydrated, so to speak. He provides the living water upon which we go about and do the things we need to do in Christ.

Staying away from reading the Bible, failing to pray, isolating yourself from church life (Have you gone back to church AND fully immersed yourself in your fellow Christians’ lives?) will dry you up faster than a worm on the sidewalk on a July day. We are totally dependent on Jesus for all that we do. Barnes’ Notes says of John 15:5-

The expression "without me" denotes the same as separate from me. As the branches, if separated from the parent stock, could produce no fruit, but would immediately wither and die, so Christians, if separate from Christ, could do nothing. The expression is one, therefore, strongly implying dependence. The Son of God was the original source of life, John 1:4. He also, by his work as Mediator, gives life to the world John 6:33, and it is by the same grace and agency that it is continued in the Christian. We see hence:
1. that to him is due all the praise for all the good works the Christian performs. 2. that they will perform good works just in proportion as they feel their dependence on him and look to him. And, 3. that the reason why others fail of being holy is because they are unwilling to look to him, and seek grace and strength from him who alone is able to give it.

Whenever you’re walking around this summer and see an unfortunate little dehydrated worm, think of the word “dependence”. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, he said,

Note, It is the great concern of all Christ’s disciples constantly to keep up a dependence upon Christ and communion with him, habitually to adhere to him, and actually to derive supplies from him. Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2018).

We don’t like to be the second worm, dependent and helpless without Christ. We like to think we can do this or that in our own strength. And maybe we can fool ourselves for a while, doing small things and enjoying their success. So, emboldened, we sally forth to do more, INdependent of Jesus.

But eventually, we will dry up, and spectacularly so. We need Jesus for the giving of life and grace. It is He that gives holiness and fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit bestows support and strength.

When we’re halfway across the hard thing and we realize we are drying up and out of strength, we can always pray in repentance for our foolishness. He will flood us with His refreshing, living water again and again, sustaining us when we ask for this good gift from the Father. He will supply us with the means, strength, energy, and will to do all the things, even the hard things. Especially the hard things. We cannot do them apart from Him. Abide in Jesus.

EPrata photo
Posted in theology

“Why is this happening?”

By Elizabeth Prata

Charles Spurgeon was a great preacher. In his sermon What are the Clouds? He asks timeless questions. He asks the questions we ask today, when there are disasters, wars, tragedies. Why did my baby die? What did that war accomplish? Why was there a terrible hurricane?

Here Spurgeon speaks of mysterious Providence as he did so often. Providence is the outworking of the plan God has in His mind that He causes to happen and all things that He prevents from happening. It’s the working out of His will in the world. We might be but a microbe in the grand plan and cannot see all that He is doing nor know why. But we still ask, Why? Where is the good in this?

Continue reading ““Why is this happening?””
Posted in theology

The last words of a dying man

By Elizabeth Prata

If you collapsed and were unresponsive, but woke only long enough to get two words out of your mouth to your ambulance driver, what would they be?

In December 2019, Pastor Tom Ascol was ministering to his congregation when he suddenly collapsed. He lay unresponsive on the floor. Some people were crying, most were praying. One was singing.

EPrata photo
Continue reading “The last words of a dying man”
Posted in theology

Allen Parr of The Beat interviews Priscilla Shirer: a review

By Elizabeth Prata

I was asked for a review or a critique of a July 23, 2021 interview between Allen Parr of The Beat, and Priscilla Shirer, a well-known speaker and teacher and author on the Christian ministry circuit. This is that review. I listened to the first 30 minutes of the 58-minute interview.

Continue reading “Allen Parr of The Beat interviews Priscilla Shirer: a review”
Posted in theology

Praise

By Elizabeth Prata

Before I was saved, I went to Italy. One of those times I visited the Colosseum. I wrote about that visit here. For a short while immediately after I was saved, in reading the passages in Revelation and Peter and Isaiah where the earth will be completely deconstructed and remade, I was sad that all the pretty things would be swept away too. All the “great art”, all the “monuments” like the Colosseum or Pyramids. All the castles and mansions and bridges and things tourists go to see. Awww, I thought.

EPrata photo. Windsor Castle

But of course all those were made by sinful man’s hands and many of them, particularly in art, are odes to false gods. (Botticelli’s Primavera for example). As I matured I began to see man’s works for what they were, pretty, sure, awe-inspiring, yes, but ultimately symbols of debauchery against a holy God amid our history across human epochs. The Colosseum will fall. Now or later, it is guaranteed to be swept away in the calamity of judgment imminently bearing down on us. Let’s start seeing these cracked and tottering monuments of rebellion for what they are- and get used to thinking about the glories ahead made by Jesus’s hands. (John 14:3).

What Jesus has built for us is a body that shall never perish. A universal body of believers who eternally will worship Him in praise and sing, myself included. He has prepared a place for us to be with Him always. He will share with us a new heavens and a new earth whose riches and beauty stunned Isaiah into woeful silence.

Praise God for his coming promises to be fulfilled.