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 encouragement, peace

Jesus left us with the gift of Peace

By Elizabeth Prata

God is love. God is Justice. God is holiness. God is unwavering. God is mercy. Think of the quality of Jesus as being peace, and offering peace as He left us in person.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Not man-made peace which doesn’t last. That kind of peace is fleeting, as when someone offers you a raise, or pays your debt, or after a refreshing nap, or when a project is completed or a meal is good. That kind of peace is surface, shallow peace.

That kind of peace can be disrupted by mundane and ridiculous things. A car horn, a baby’s cry, a shove in line, traffic, a missed deadline. Peace that is man-made can also be taken away by man.

The peace that Jesus gives us is a permanent peace. It drenches every molecule of us with its truth and comfort. As Charles Spurgeon wrote in his sermon on the John 14:27 verse, titled, Spiritual Peace,

The donation, the blessed legacy which our Lord has here left, is his peace.”… There is a peace of God which reigns in our hearts through Jesus Christ, by which we are bound in closest ties of unity and concord to every other child of God whom we may meet with in our pilgrimage here below.”

Our peace then, is God’s own child, and God-like is its character. His Spirit is its sire, and it is like its Father. It is “my peace,” saith Christ! not man’s peace; but the unruffled, calm, the profound peace of the Eternal Son of God. Oh, if we had but this one thing within our bosoms, this divine peace, a Christian were a glorious thing indeed; and even now kings and mighty men of this world are as nothing when once compared with the Christian; for he wears a jewel in his bosom which all the world could not buy, a jewel fashioned from old eternity and ordained by sovereign grace to be the high boon, the right royal inheritance of the chosen sons of God.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Kay Cude Poetry: The Light of Our Salvation

Artist’s statement:

For me, the lone tree speaks of God’s wonderful handiwork, not only representing His gift of nature, but brings to mind that His redeemed are not alone, but safely tucked within His Might eternally. And as the brilliance of the sun pierces boldly through the dark-ending of the storm, one thought leads me to another — remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then speaks to His beloved redeemed: the “things” of this world are now more clearly seen through the light of His Salvation! We must daily pause to remember…

REMEMBRANCE
Posted in encouragement, mighty waters, prophecy, the end time

The voice of mighty rushing waters

By Elizabeth Prata

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:2)

His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:15)

And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. (Revelation 14:2)

When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. (Ezekiel 1:24)

EPrata photo

When you’re canoeing or kayaking on a silent river, the only sounds you can hear are birds, whisper of wind in the trees, and the drip of water rolling off the paddle as it comes out of the water.

The sound of rapids can be heard a distance off. The tumult of rushing water is distinctive and signals a major change in the status of the river. Once calm and nearly still, the closer you approach to the rapidly rushing water, the louder it is, and the faster it goes. When you’re right on top of the rapids, that’s all you can hear. One must shout to be heard.

When the prophets were given a glimpse of the throne room and heard the sound like of “many waters”, I don’t pretend to understand what that means or how it sounded in real life to their ears. It’s hard to describe something so supernaturally incomprehensible as the voice of God translated to mere human words. One can only imagine what the sound of His voice is like at full, glorified throttle.

I do know two things though. The sound of Niagara Falls is about 95 decibels, roughly equal to a rock concert. That’s loud.

Second, the voice of Jesus when He returns is a voice that will drown out all other voices. The Mighty Rushing Waters will drown out all voices that deny Him. The Many Waters will drown out all voices that blaspheme Him. The roar of the Rushing Waters will drown out all voices that proclaim a different god.

Albert Bierstad (1830–1902) oil painting, Niagara Falls

In Revelation 6:15-17 it says

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

On His Day, when He speaks with a voice like Many Waters, who can hear another voice? NO ONE. The voice of Jesus in power and strength will be the first, the last, and the only voice of holiness and glory, proclaiming His father the Almighty God! All those that dwell on the earth, the great and the small, the mighty and the lowly, will hear His voice, and who can hear another?

Each day that passes is a day we are in that kayak paddling downstream to the rapids, or on that boat Maid of the Mist approaching Niagara, getting closer to the day when the mighty rushing voice of God will be heard throughout the land. And what a day that will be.

Posted in bible, encouragement, sailing

Our Captain of the Mighty Seas

By Elizabeth Prata

O Lord of the oceans,
My little bark sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbor with flying pennants,
Hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.

Excerpt from ‘Voyage‘, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Edited by Arthur Bennett


I simply love the Valley of Vision Puritan devotionals. They are so Jesus-centered. It’s refreshing to read and ponder written prayers devoid of anything from today’s toxic effects of me-centered, prosperity, self-esteem nonsense.

Our sailboat. EPrata photo

I lived aboard a small yacht for two years, and through that experience I have a deep appreciation for the biblical allusions related to anything nautical. The Lighthouse, the stormy seas, the waves, reefs, and lee-side are all familiar to me and I can deeply identify with them. I suppose it is the same with the believing farmers and fishermen regarding the agricultural or fishing metaphors. Not that one needs to have had a certain life experience before understanding, but the life experience Jesus causes us to have does deepen some aspects of the Word and we gravitate to them on a different level. It’s like when a person becomes a parent for the first time, they understand the biblical verses related to parenting on a different level then they did before.

Though our boat is at anchor in this photo, we spent many a day where the sea looked as calm and as flat as it is in the picture as we tried capturing wisps of wind flowing here and there and inching along over tiny waves.

The sailor is ever restless. We want to go and we thus pray for wind. The wind comes but it’s not enough, or it’s too much. When the boat finally settles on a loping rhythm up and down the waves, the sailor wishes he was in port. Of course the moment one is in port, one wishes for the freedom of the sea. And so it goes.

The frustration of no wind can’t be overstated. The luffing sails, slack and listless seem almost an affront. One cannot manufacture wind. One cannot control the wind. One only waits, hopes, prays, and looks. The sailor learns patience. The sailor learns to relinquish control.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

The opposite is a problem, too. Too much wind can damage the boat, set the sailor off his course, or even swamp him and all will be lost at sea. The storms can be terrifying.

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. (Jonah 1:4-5a)

Luke wrote of the travails Paul endured when he put on a ship that set forth too late in the year. In their part of the world, winter was a time when many storms brewed up and winds became contrary in a moment.

The Storm at Sea:
Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. (Acts 27:13-15).

And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. (Acts 27:4).

Sailors know the prevailing wind‘s direction given the time of year. Prevailing winds are winds that blow predominantly from a single general direction over a particular point on the Earth’s surface. They try to use islands as their shelter, making it a lee. This means if the prevailing wind comes from the east toward the west, if you sail or anchor on the west side, the island has blocked the wind and you will have more peaceful waters upon which to sail or sleep. Like this:

source

As the poet stated in Valley of Vision, “Bring me to harbor with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.” That is always the sailor’s main objective- get to harbor. Sailors are not made to voyage permanently, or Christians are not made to pilgrimage permanently. We are all voyaging toward one and only one harbor, the feet of the risen Jesus in the safety of His harbor, the Kingdom of God.

Until then we have a great and powerful Captain, our Rock to shelter and protect us from the storms and winds that try to blow us off course or drown us. Our Lord is our ever-present and mightily capable Captain of safety. Thus, thanks to Jesus Christ, it is well with our sail soul.

Posted in apollos, church, encouragement

Apollos: a man mighty in the scriptures but humble enough to be taught

By Elizabeth Prata

We don’t often read those two words in one sentence, “mighty” and “humble,” let alone see those qualities in the same man.

There are so many names in the Old and New Testament. We read of Adam, Noah, Joshua, David, Mary, Joseph, Paul, Peter. And the rarely-mentioned names like Jason, Philemon, Jairus, Cornelius… The great scope and sweep of biblical history from Genesis to Revelation is a tremendous river of events and real people rolling on and under the Providential care of the Holy God we serve. These real people are ones we will have fellowship with forever. They aren’t characters, and they are not long-gone. They are alive! They’re in heaven eagerly awaiting their resurrection body, awaiting the arrival of the rest of their brethren, and worshiping Jesus right now like we will do when we get over yonder.

It’s important to remember that. When we read the Bible and see that Cornelius was commanded to go to Joppa and speak with Simon the Tanner, those are real people, alive today in heaven. Do you ever wonder more about these men and women, the oft-mentioned like Paul and the little-mentioned, like Simon the Tanner? How their lives were, how they died, what their conversion story is?

Continue reading “Apollos: a man mighty in the scriptures but humble enough to be taught”
Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Kay Cude: The Light of Our Salvation

Artist’s statement:

For me, the lone tree speaks of God’s wonderful handiwork, not only representing His gift of nature, but brings to mind that His redeemed are not alone, but safely tucked within His Might eternally. And as the brilliance of the sun pierces boldly through the dark-ending of the storm, one thought leads me to another — remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then speaks to His beloved redeemed: the “things” of this world are now more clearly seen through the light of His Salvation! We must daily pause to remember…

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

East is from the west: cardinal directions in the Bible

By Elizabeth Prata

People don’t refer to cardinal directions of north, south, east, west very much any more. If someone asks for directions and you tell them to go north three blocks, they look at you like you just lapsed into Hindi.

In the days before we were too reliant on GPS, people traveled by using the sun, moon, and stars. They spoke of cardinal directions.

In the Bible there is a lot of talk about the east and the west. (Of course, north and south is also spoken of but I’m concentrating on east-west today).

East is a major direction in the Bible and not just for the directions, but for the symbolism.  Let’s look at a few examples.

The Garden of Eden was planted toward the east. (Genesis 2:8).

The scriptures specify the LORD placed cherubim  at the eastern entrance of the Garden, to protect it and the tree of life.

After God drove out the man, He placed a cherubim with flaming sword to protect this eastern entrance. (Genesis 3:24).

The tabernacle faced east. (Numbers 3:38).

When God’s glory comes/came to the Temple, it comes/came from the east:

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:1-2).

The wise men followed the star which had risen in the east.

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:2 KJV)

The Lord will return from the east. (Matthew 24:27):
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

The sun rises in the east and its rays shine from that direction. John 1:5 says God is Light, in Him there is no darkness at all. The west is where the sun sets, bringing darkness. The east is where the Light is.

When the sun rises, the light comes from the east. When the Son returns, His Light comes from the east.

There is much more that can be studied on even so mundane a topic as cardinal directions. The wonder of the Bible is that you can take practically any topic, any word, and explore. And do you know what you will come up with?

Jesus.

That’s why the Bible is so great. All scripture points to Jesus.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39 KJV)

Graphics Fairy
Posted in curse, encouragement, Garden, garden of eden, gethsemane

Two Gardens: Eden and Gethsemane

By Elizabeth Prata

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:8-9).

“The Garden of Eden” Jan the Elder Brueghel (1568-1625)

It’s July. It’s garden season. Everyone in this rural county in North Georgia has a garden, it seems. The tomatoes and yellow squash are coming in gangbusters. People around here are self-sufficient. They know how to fish for lunch, shoot dinner, maintain a garden, skin a deer, and BBQ a hog. They keep their tractors running and their farms afloat.

It’s pretty here, too. As a result from working the land, people cherish their land. They are good caretakers.

Continue reading “Two Gardens: Eden and Gethsemane”
Posted in baptism, encouragement, holy spirit

An encouraging day in Christ!

What a wonderful wonderful day. We are so blessed as Christians, BLESSED!

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)

EPrata photo

I sing praises to the Savior who hears prayer. I thank the Holy Spirit for moving in the two people at our campground ministry to be baptized in the river today. There is nothing greater than a regenerated heart, saved by grace.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

EPrata photo

I praise and thank the Savior for drawing many to Him, some of whom are emerging from besetting sins to once again live a holy life in these last days.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I praise Him for raising up good pastors who preach the word from the Living Water and edify their sheep.

EPrata photo

What a refreshing, encouraging day. The Holy Spirit is moving in the world, maybe not widely, but deeply, soul by soul.

He is as ever, open for business.

EPrata photo

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)