By Elizabeth Prata
Introduction & Background to this series here
Challies: Five verses on adoption
Answers In Genesis: Adopted into God’s Family
Thirty days of exalting Jesus though selected verses with pictures representing the prophecy, life, death, resurrection, and Second Coming of our Savior.
Day 1: The Virgin Shall Conceive
Ligonier: A Shoot from Jesse’s Stump: Devotional
By Elizabeth Prata
As for these days of toil and hardness, “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10.) Clarke’s Commentary on this verse from old King Solomon states, “The former days were better than these? – This is a common saying; and it is as foolish as it is common. There is no weight nor truth in it; but men use it to excuse their crimes, and the folly of their conduct. “In former times, say they, men might be more religious, use more self-denial, be more exemplary.” This is all false. In former days men were wicked as they are now, and religion was unfashionable: God also is the same now as he was then; as just, as merciful, as ready to help.” Continue reading “Encouragement for you today”
By Elizabeth Prata
I found this online. It’s a list that is sourced. Recently I’ve been a bit downcast by the in-fighting on social media. I guess after 24 years online going from BBS forums to CompuServe to commenting online newspapers to Disqus to blogs to Facebook to Twitter … I’m finally social media world-weary with the lack of grace and patience. Let’s love each other.
1. …Be at peace with each other. (Mark 9:50)
2. …Wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)
3. …Love one another… (John 13:34a)
4. …Love one another… (John 13:34b)
5. …Love one another… (John 13:35)
6. …Love one another… (John 15:12)
7. …Love one another (John 15:17)
8. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love… (Romans 12:10)
9. …Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
10. Live in harmony with one another… (Romans 12:16)
11. …Love one another… (Romans 13:8)
12. …Stop passing judgment on one another. (Romans 14:13)
13. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you… (Romans 15:7)
14. …Instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)
15. Greet one another with a holy kiss… (Romans 16:16)
16. …When you come together to eat, wait for each other. (I Cor. 11:33)
17. …Have equal concern for each other. (I Corinthians 12:25)
18. …Greet one another with a holy kiss. (I Corinthians 16:20)
19. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (II Corinthians 13:12)
20. …Serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
21. If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.
22. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26)
23. Carry each other’s burdens… (Galatians 6:2)
24. …Be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
25. Be kind and compassionate to one another… (Ephesians 4:32)
26. …Forgiving each other… (Ephesians 4:32)
27. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Ephesians 5:19)
28. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
29. …In humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
30. Do not lie to each other… (Colossians 3:9)
31. Bear with each other… (Colossians 3:13)
32. …Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. (Colossians 3:13)
33. Teach…[one another] (Colossians 3:16)
34. …Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
35. …Make your love increase and overflow for each other. (I Thessalonians 3:12)
36. …Love each other. (I Thessalonians 4:9)
37. …Encourage each other…(I Thessalonians 4:18)
38. …Encourage each other… I Thessalonians 5:11)
39. …Build each other up… (I Thessalonians 5:11)
40. Encourage one another daily… Hebrews 3:13)
41. …Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
42. …Encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25)
43. …Do not slander one another. (James 4:11)
44. Don’t grumble against each other… (James 5:9)
45. Confess your sins to each other… (James 5:16)
46. …Pray for each other. (James 5:16)
47. …Love one another deeply, from the heart. (I Peter 3:8)
48. …Live in harmony with one another… (I Peter 3:8)
49. …Love each other deeply… (I Peter 4:8)
50. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (I Peter 4:9)
51. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others… (I Peter 4:10)
52. …Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…(I Peter 5:5)
53. Greet one another with a kiss of love. (I Peter 5:14)
54. …Love one another. (I John 3:11)
55. …Love one another. (I John 3:23)
56. …Love one another. (I John 4:7)
57. …Love one another. (I John 4:11)
58. …Love one another. (I John 4:12)
59. …Love one another. (II John 5)
*From Carl F. George, Prepare Your Church for the Future (Tarrytown: Revell, 1991), 129-131.
By Elizabeth Prata
With all this darkness in the world and around us, where is the light? In Jesus! He is ALWAYS there, present and a very real help to us! His burden is easy and His yoke is light. But we must stay close to Him, and not drift away.
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)
How do we not drift? Chris Rosebrough answered this way:
Are you struggling to figure out if those whispers that your pastor has told you to listen for are really God’s voice or a case of gastrointestinal hallucinations caused by a bad batch of pepperoni pizza?
Are you tired of going through the whole rigamarole of filtering those voices in your head through a six point ‘discernment grid’ to try to ascertain if that’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you or proof that you need to make an appointment with a shrink?
Have you read and reread Blackaby and still haven’t got the foggiest notion as to how to tell where God is working in the world so that you can join Him?
If you’ve answered yes to one or all of these questions then I’ve got great news for you! I have discovered a simple and sure fire way for you to hear God’s voice. The best part is that its 100% guaranteed and totally Biblical.
Here it is.
1. Acquire a Bible. If you do not have a Bible then you can read it for free on the internet at BibleGateway.org. I recommend the English Standard Version for both readability and translational accuracy.
2. Open the Bible.
3. Begin reading it. Read it with your mind engaged. Pay close attention to grammar and context. Take notes. Set a goal to read 3 to 10 chapters per day.
That’s it. If you do those three things then you will be hearing God’s voice every single time that you open the Bible. No guess work, no need for six point ‘discernment filters’ and no nagging uncertainty about whether your hearing God’s voice or something else.
How can I be so sure and certain that this works?
I’m glad you asked. One day, while I was reading my Bible I read 2 Timothy 3:16–17. Here’s what it says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Let’s break this down.
1. This passage says ALL scripture is God breathed. That means that God, The Holy-Spirit, personally inspired every one of the Biblical authors. In other words, you can know with certainty that every word of scripture contains God’s thoughts and when you’re reading the Bible you’re hearing God’s voice.
2. This passage says that the man of God would be COMPLETE through the reading, learning, knowing and applying of scripture. Notice that this verse doesn’t say that the man of God would be incomplete through his reading of scripture and that he’d need to augment the scriptures through whispers, subjective feelings, internal voices, direct revelation, dreams or visions. No!
It literally says that the man of God would be COMPLETE. The Greek word that is used here is ἄρτιος and it means “complete and/or fully qualified”. There is nothing else needed for the man of God. The scriptures are totally sufficient.
3. If point two wasn’t clear enough, 2 Timothy 3:17 drives the point home by stating that through the written word of God the man of God is equipped for EVERY good work.
There are no good works that God would have you do that would require you to rely on anything other than His word to make you complete and fully equipped for the task. The Bible is sufficient to make you complete and fully equipped for every good work. You don’t need whispers.You don’t need dreams. You don’t need visions. You don’t need trances. You don’t need a glory cloud. You don’t need to figure out how to ‘experience God’. You don’t need contemplative mysticism. All you need is the written word of God. The Bible is sufficient to make you complete and fully equipped for every good work and because every word of scripture is God breathed, you can know with confidence that you’re hearing the voice of God.You may be asking yourself if it could truly be that simple.Yes, it really is that simple!”
It is not only simple, it is necessary. Because the stronger we are, the more we can help those who speak of suicide, the more we can be a help to those who are stumbling, the brighter we can be to those who have no hope, or who just need encouragement. Jesus is THE HOPE.
The ladies of our church are working through a Bible Reading Plan called #KeepTheFeast. You read a few chapters from the Old Testament and a few from the New Testament each day. It’s demanding but worth it. What could be better than feasting on the bread of life? Plus, I need it. I am a terrible sinner, prone to wander.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)
The Holy Spirit is clear in His inspiration, so the Bible is not rocket science. We don’t need to hear Him on a prayer rug while magically reciting the Prayer of Jabez. We don’t need to empty our minds so we can listen to whispers. Whispers can lead to desperation and drifting away! We don’t need those things because, you know what? Once we are in Jesus, inside the Lighthouse, The Spirit illuminates the lighthouse and shows us the way with His light!
By Elizabeth Prata
When the Lord comes into your life and you are born again, you change from the old creature to a new creation. This change is evident and observable among those who know you. It’s also noticed by you, yourself.
See the change in the disciples from before the Holy Spirit’s coming, to afterward. Before, they didn’t pray that we readers could see. They had to be taught by John the Baptist, and they asked Jesus to teach them also. (Luke 11:1). Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with Him in the garden of Gethsemane, but they fell asleep. (Matthew 26:40-41)
Barnes’ Notes observes:
As he was praying – Luke has taken notice of our Saviour’s praying often. Thus, at his baptism Luke 3:21; in the wilderness Luke 5:16; before the appointment of the apostles, he continued all night in prayer Luke 6:12; he was alone praying Luke 9:18; his transfiguration also took place when he went up to pray Luke 9:28-29.
Teach us to pray – Probably they had been struck with the excellency and fervor of his prayers, and, recollecting that “John” had taught his disciples to pray, they asked him also to teach “them.”
Afterward, they never stopped praying!
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14).
Before the Holy Spirit’s coming, the disciples were selfishly proud, as all of us are. You remember that Jesus chided the Pharisees for always wanting the honor seats at the feasts and the best seats in the synagogues? The disciples were like that, too! (Matthew 23:6). In fact, worse, because they wanted the best seat of ALL!
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37).
And again, at the Last Supper, they argued among themselves, selfishly in pride:
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. (Luke 22:24).
Afterward, Peter wrote an emotional tribute to humility, something he himself had learned. Treat others as higher than yourselves, lovingly, not as a bully-leader seeking best seats and honor, but as a servant in humble entreaties, by example even through sufferings, he wrote:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Before salvation, Paul was at the top of his career, a Pharisee of Pharisees, from the best tribe, faultless, and doing the best work: killing Christians as a favor to God. (Philippians 3:4-6). Afterward, Paul was totally humble, as we read in Jerry Bridges’ article from Ligonier:
Paul’s humility is most clearly seen in his own self-appraisal. Writing to the Corinthians in AD 55, he calls himself “the least of the apostles unworthy to be called an apostle because [he] persecuted the church of God (1 Cor. 15:9). To the Ephesians about five years later, he refers to himself as the very least of all the saints (Eph. 3:8). Near the end of his life, he considers himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). That is quite a progression in his self-awareness, from a proud, self-righteous Pharisee to the foremost of sinners. Only a person of genuine humility would describe himself in such terms.
The dramatic change in us from one kind of creature to another should be stark. Think of the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly. A caterpillar’s DNA changes as the old creature literally melts away inside the chrysalis and he emerges totally different in every respect.
We are the same. The God of the universe in the person of the Holy Spirit can’t dwell IN us and there be no change. No matter how fast or slow (and wouldn’t it be nice that it was as fast as 2 weeks like the butterfly), we transform into His likeness by His power and our striving walk.
How have you changed over time since before your regeneration to now?
By Elizabeth Prata
“…Yet”. At my school we have a saying. If a child says “I’m not strong enough to cross the monkey bars,” we say “…yet.” If a student says “I can’t do subtraction with regrouping!” we respond, “…yet.” When a kid says “I’m no good at art!” we reply, “…yet.”
The yet is to give them hope for the future, that what seems impossible now will become possible tomorrow. It’s to give them tacit permission to allow themselves to grow and learn and wait. Space to add knowledge and have it confirmed in practice, that what they find a non-reality now will become a reality in the future.
I was thinking about these things when I read of Sarai’s comment to Abram in Genesis 16:2
And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
And as Adam listened to the voice of Eve… and not the voice of the LORD, Abram and Sarai sinned.
Sarai should have said, ‘Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children, yet. But I can’t wait until our promised child arrives!’ But no. She did not wait for the yet.
How many times had the LORD promised Abram offspring? In Genesis 12, Genesis 13, repeatedly in all of Genesis 15 in an amazing covenant ceremony. But by the beginning of Genesis 16, Sarai had apparently given up and decided that the LORD had “prevented” her from having children. See her subtle blame-shift there?
Not good. The Lord’s word is true.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. (Psalm 33:4).
Wait for the ‘yet’. If you’re going through a trial and you’re sure you can’t stand it another moment, wait for the yet. If you’re having financial hardship, wait for the yet. If you’re enduring a terrible medical diagnosis, wait for the yet. If you are frustrated with where the word has gone out from your lips and not come back full, wait for the yet (it will not come back void).
True, some of these issues and hardships and trials will be resolved on the other side of the veil and not on earth, but that is still a yet. You’re not healed, yet. You’re not strong enough, yet. You’re not effective enough, yet. You’re not able enough, yet. You don’t have children, yet.
It will happen. The Lord promised life abundant and everlasting.
By Elizabeth Prata
Nothing seems more homey than coming into the house and smelling the good smells coming from the kitchen. It’s a warm and comfy feeling to see mom in the kitchen cooking dinner. You feel secure, happy, and at peace. All is right with the world.
My mom was famous for her mashed potatoes. She was among the early ones in our neighborhood to experiment along with Julia Child. Her Pork Loin was noted. My siblings loved her hamburgers and meat loaf. There were a host of other kitchen goodies we ate at home that our mother cooked for us from scratch.
I bet you stopped right now and thought of your mom’s special dish that you loved so much!
I laughed when Michelle Lesley tweeted that her kids asked for chili for supper…only thing is…it was barely out of August….they live in Louisiana … and it was over 100 degrees outside. She tweeted later, “I love my kids, so I made the chili anyway.”
Do you remember asking begging mom for her ____ fill in the blank there. Mom’s homemade cooking is just home.
It is therefore a sadness to me when I see celebrity Christian mothers who neglect their children for the sake of their chosen competing ministry. Moms who don’t have to work outside the home, or are working outside the home even more than career single secular moms in order to build their ministry brand, or to go on a book tour, or to take a social justice trip, and leave their kids behind is just too regrettable.
Jennifer Foster, wife of Pastor Jeremy Foster, co-pastors of America’s fastest-growing church, Hope City Church in Houston. She and her husband Jeremy have 5 children. She said the following in a written interview:
Interview Question: With a large (and growing) family, how do you personally make sure that you’re not taking on too much?
Jennifer: Practical stuff like date nights are crucial. Our family comes together around the dinner table every day (even if it’s take out, which it usually is). 😊 The last thing I’ll say on this is that I believe we have our priorities right. It’s Jesus at the center and then we build out from there, our marriage, our kids and then our church.
Jesus is not at the center when a wife believes she is a pastor, and when her ministerial duties take her away from the home to the extent that she says that hers does, and when time with the children has to be scheduled around a bucket of takeout. A mom’s ministry IS the children.
Yet sadly, this model of a family lifestyle of Christian moms is continually presented as normal no thanks to secular AND Christian media sources. Their subtle feminist message is, celebrity minister moms working outside the home is OK, as long as you claim to love Jesus and call it ministry.
Beth Moore of Living Proof Ministries, interviewed by The Atlantic Magazine noted the same:
Privately, however, Moore has never cared much for the delicate norms of Christian femininity. Her days are tightly scheduled and obsessively focused on writing. She spends hours alone in an office decorated with a Bible verse written in a swirling font (“I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven,” Luke 7:47). Though she often performs domestic femininity for her audience, in her own life she has balanced motherhood with demanding professional ambitions. She traveled every other weekend while her two daughters were growing up—they told me they ate a lot of takeout.
‘Mom is gone on another book tour, how about some KFC, kids?’ Does that sound as homey to a five-year-old as it could be? Being present with and for the children and husband should be the mom’s ‘obsession,’ or at least, acceptance of a gift and a role given by God as best for the family.
Raechael Myers, founder of the IF: Gathering gushed in an Instagram post (in 2014),
My husband just texted me this photo of the kids watching our @shereadstruth interview at the @ifgathering. Seeing my baby girl perched on the table watching her mommy talk about her Jesus- so blessed!!!! #SheReadsTruth #ifgathering
Yes, because that’s how to minister to your children, leaving your husband at home to do the mommying, and texting about your kids watching mom through a screen.
Many of these celebrity ministering moms, and there do seem to be many of them, if criticized, refer to Proverbs 31 as their basis for doing what they do.
Proverbs 31 is by King Lemuel, from an oracle his mother taught him. This part of the proverb extols the virtues of an excellent wife and mother, as the husband’s confidence in her increases (Proverbs 31:11). She works very hard and carefully provides for her household and those within it.
But rather than interpreting the salient portion of the Proverb as understanding the value and godliness of a wife and mother who devotes herself in a large sphere to her ministry-home and hearth, they take it to mean that a wife can and should be entrepreneurial outside the home, even if her merchandising competes with it.
–She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:16)
–She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. (Proverbs 31:24)
While dad is the leader in the house, mother sets the tone. The hours her children spend in her presence will have a lasting influence on their lives. They will become largely what she makes them. She faces the noble challenge of molding their young lives for eternity. Motherhood is one of life’s highest honors, and one of its heaviest responsibilities. The Majesty of Motherhood
God gives the woman a husband and opens her womb to bear children. When He chooses to bless the wife with progeny, it changes the dynamic and the lifestyle of the woman. The mother alters her orientation now toward the home, almost exclusively.
Can anyone serve two masters? (Matthew 6:24). Are there two masters in the home? Two co-authorities? As in the worse case scenario of couples like the Fosters, co-pastors?
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not opposed to mothers who need to work outside the home, or where the husband-and-wife have made considered and biblical decisions for her to do so. Normally, a mother’s primary orientation however, is supposed to be toward the home. The Proverbs verses, especially the two I’d shared above, demonstrate a wife & mother’s thoughtful consideration of how to personally, emotionally, and financially invest in her family, not sacrifice her family for her own ministry or career.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not judging buying takeout. Who doesn’t like an occasional pizza on a Friday night? Who doesn’t like some takeout for the Big Game? Takeout is not bad in and of itself. Not at all.
I know that there are sincere and loving stay-at-home mothers relying on takeout simply because the children are over-scheduled and it’s easier to grab a burger at the drive-thru on the way to the game/practice/rehearsal/dance/piano/voice lessons…
But, when takeout as opposed to a nourishing homemade dinner cooked with love is the consistent default, then becomes a symbol of something wrong in the home.
Nevertheless, Proverbs 31 is a high model of a devoted wife and mother. Her job is not easy and it is often thankless, for a while. How wonderful it is when the mother cooks dinner and settles in to read to her kids and tuck them into bed at night, she sets the tone of security, love, and warmth that will last them a lifetime. When her children grow up she will have provided them a model of enduring ministry that will last them a lifetime, and then they will thank her by caring for their own children the same way. When she meets Christ, she will earn His accolade for a well done service of a good and faithful servant.
By Elizabeth Prata
I am fascinated by grace. I think as a Christian matures, we see our sin more and more for what it really is. The picture of the Prodigal Son wallowing in the pig pen eating scraps is a vivid, if not enough mental picture of us before salvation. Our sin sadly persists in us, though forgiven and overlaid with Christ’s righteousness. We still have to work at killing what is ‘crouching at the door’ waiting to have us.
The grace that lifted us from our pigsty and washed us is all the more precious as we see the depths from which we have come. Seeing the heights from which he stooped to save us and the grace that flew Him there on wings of love is a wondrous thing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
I read this short account of grace from the Lexham Survey of Theology trying in human words to explain the mystery and incredible gift of grace. I especially loved the last paragraph.
God’s grace is unmerited divine favor, a favor from which comes many gifts.
God’s grace flows out of his inter-Trinitarian, gift-giving life. Even in humanity’s fallen state, God freely grants to his creatures good things they do not deserve. The greatest of these goods is Jesus Christ.
The bold thread of grace in the Bible is a distinctive marker of Christianity, one that sets it apart from other religions. J. Gresham Machen noted, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” The works of God in creation as well as his covenants, his promises, his word, and his work of redemption all spring from his grace. All we have is due to grace, but, as Michael Horton says, grace itself is “not a third thing or substance,” for “in grace, God gives nothing less than Himself.”
God’s grace toward mankind arises from the fullness of his being. He is gracious. When God appeared to Moses he declared his name, Yahweh, the I AM, as the sum of his eternal being. This nature includes his graciousness: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. (Exod 34:6). J. I. Packer suggests that grace is simply God’s love demonstrated toward those who deserve the opposite. God’s grace is his gift-giving life, and the gift is himself.
The grace of Yahweh is not a reaction to our creaturely ways but the extension of God eternally giving himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus Christ brought to man the grace he was already as the eternal Son within the Trinity (“full of grace and truth,” John 1:14–18). Thus, in receiving “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” we participate in divine fullness of “the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13).
end Lexham Survey of Theology article
By Elizabeth Prata
We’re all going through something. We all have burdens, griefs, and issues to deal with. If not at this moment, we might be coming out of one or going into one. The Lord said that in this life we would have trouble. (Jon 16:33).
He cares for us and will be with us every step of the way. He said to cast our cares to Him.
Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)
Still not sure?
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Think of it this way. There are 8 billion people alive on earth today. Of those, how many Christians are there in the world at any given moment? Millions? Hundreds of millions? Since Jesus calls us to cast our cares upon Him, and there are hundreds of millions of Christians doing just that each day, it’s a gigantic pile of cares. He handles it. In the face of all that, he can handle your checkbook. Your mother’s cancer. Your daughter’s shoplifting. Your husband’s grumpiness. Your job search. He can handle it, and He does.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:5)