Posted in bible, God, prayer

Peter’s impetuousness

By Elizabeth Prata

Picture Peter and friends on the boat, in the middle of Lake Galilee.

Suddenly one of the men in the boat looked out and said, “Someone is walking on the water!” Sure enough, with robes flowing in the wind, here comes Jesus walking across the whitecaps.

Peter cried out, “Is that You, Lord?”
The Lord answered, “It is I”
Peter said, “Can I come?”

Continue reading “Peter’s impetuousness”
Posted in prayer, theology

Pray without ceasing

By Elizabeth Prata

I used to edit a newspaper. I reported all the news in the paper, too, lol. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. It was a local community weekly, so I was constantly on the road, driving around the community in my rounds as a roving reporter. As I went along, I liked to read signs and bulletin boards. I wrote this editorial just prior to my gracious salvation. As the Lord was drawing me toward Him, I was thinking about prayer and what it meant. Continue reading “Pray without ceasing”

Posted in prayer, theology

Will you or I be found dead in our prayer closet?

By Elizabeth Prata

I enjoyed listening to GraceLife Pulpit’s Q&A with Phil Johnson and Mike Riccardi. They fielded a question about what they are reading now, and what they’d recommend. They got onto the topic of prayer. Pastor Johnson said he was busy editing a book on prayer by John MacArthur, which is different in format and gist than his several other previous books on prayer. Johnson also noted that of all Christian topics, sermons or talks on prayer usually yield the biggest conviction rate, lol. I know I could do a lot better at prayer. Would we all be found dead in our prayer closet, as Puritan Thomas Watson was. Watson wrote, Continue reading “Will you or I be found dead in our prayer closet?”

Posted in prayer, theology

Do you have prayer ADHD?

By Elizabeth Prata

I saw a meme on Facebook that made me laugh. I can’t find it again, but it went something like, ‘I have prayer ADHD, I start, drift into thinking other things, then come back saying ‘Where was I, Lord?’

I think we have all had the same experience. Our fleshly minds want to think of anything except compass point north, Jesus Christ. It zones out on us, drifts off, creates a grocery list, listens to the birds outside, or the traffic, anything but laser focus on the throne of grace.

Why is it so hard? Praying is an act of war, spiritual war. We are opposed at every turn by the evil one and his minions, and when we clasp our hands together, we are effectively sounding a trumpet to those demons that we are entering another battle with them.

In his book The Hidden Life of Prayer by David MacIntyre, we read that,

The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness.

Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer.

If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day. Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into “dry” and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer.

Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage. “And what I say unto you,” said the Lord to His disciples, “I say unto all, Watch!”

How do you pray? I used to kneel but my knees and back can’t take that any more. So now I sit in my chair and pray aloud. Praying out loud helps me focus and not drift off. However there is no one particularly commanded position for praying. I don’t imagine Paul had too many options for prayer positions when he was chained up in jail.

Hannah famously prayed a whisper prayer in the temple. The priest watching her thought she was drunk. But no, she was just agonizing in spirit and pressing that agony upward to the LORD. (1 Samuel 1:9-17).

Jonah prayed to the LORD in the belly of the great fish, he also cried out (Jonah 2:2). I think his cries were probably pretty loud, too!

David no doubt prayed silently but no doubt he prayed aloud too. David had an active prayer life with the LORD. His prayers were appeals, praises, repentance, appreciation for provision, imprecations…his type of prayers are a good model for us, because he conversed with the Savior through prayer as if the LORD was standing right beside David. In effect Jesus was, and David knew that.

No matter how you pray, the point is, pray. It’s a mechanism that is commanded, after all, but it is also a grace that we have been given as a gift. Practice focusing on what you are saying to the Lord and not drifting off, because He is standing right there with you (and me) after all.

In the end, when Hannah finished pouring out her prayer to the LORD, “her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Samuel 1:18). What a blessing to be able to commune with Jesus.

“Our first act in prayer ought to be the yielding of our souls to the power of the blood of Christ”. ~The Hidden Life of Prayer, by David MacIntyre.

rejoice in hope prayer

Further Reading

Praying the Bible, by Don Whitney

Posted in prayer, theology

What are some good books on prayer?

I am always thrilled when one of the ladies asks me a question, either a theological question, one on Christian life, or a book recommendation. It means she is thinking, seeking God’s glory, and striving on her walk. With so much negtivity around, it’s great to be reminded, that nothing and no one will overthrow Jesus’s church. It is thriving, growing, and will endure till the last day. There are still many Christians on earth who care about the way God wants to receive worship and prayer and who care about their Christian walk. What a blessing the brethren are.


A reader recently asked me for recommendations on books about prayer. My first thought immediately went to the Valley of Vision. Valley of Vision! It’s a book OF prayers by Puritans. But reading it will teach you to pray. It is THE most convicting, moving, and stirring book one could hope to read! (after the Bible). These Puritans’ prayers are deep and God centered. I’d say it’s #3 of best loved books in the English language, with the Bible first and Pilgrim’s Progress next. If you have those three books on your shelf, the seeds of theological solidity have been planted, with more books to sprout as you go.

Also, I recommended “The Power Of Prayer In A Believer’s Life“, by C.H. Spurgeon, a collection of sermons. Charles Spurgeon preached numerous times on prayer.

Considered by his peers then and now as “The Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon built London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle into the world’s largest independent congregation during the nineteenth century. While many factors have been highlighted that help explain the effectiveness of Spurgeon’s preaching, the foremost secret that empowered Charles Spurgeon was his devotion to prayer.

Or this one on Amazon is a good one.

7 classics on PRAYER: Here is the blurb:

This fantastic compilation brings you 7 Christian classics on PRAYER. Ever struggled with how to pray, what to pray for, or just needed encouragement to keep praying? These powerful writings will stir your heart and strengthen your faith, helping you grow in communion with God.

 How To Pray – by R. A. Torrey [12 chapters]
• With Christ in the School of Prayer – by Andrew Murray [32 chapters]
• Prevailing Prayer – by D. L. Moody [11 chapters]
• How I Know God Answers Prayer – by Rosalind Goforth [10 chapters]
• Answers to Prayer – from George Muller’s Narratives [6 chapters]
• Power Through Prayer – by E. M. Bounds [20 chapters]
• A Short and Easy Method of Prayer – by Madame Jeanne Guyon [24 chapters]


Jeanne Guyon was a Catholic Mystic, so that section of the book appears to be the only dud chapter.

I am extremely hesitant to recommend something newer. Of late many people have been writing about prayer, but the authors are outight heretics or in some cases blossoming heretics. Or they quote Catholics or mystics in the book. Others twist the discipline of prayer into a prosperity or self-help notion. If you know of a recent and solid book on prayer, please do share. When I recommend, I think it’s better to stick with the more solid older books on this subject. See what a search for ‘Christian books on prayer’ yields:


One can always go to the store and look for something there, or the same at Banner of Truth books is pretty trustowrthy, this is their page on the subject of prayer

Thanks for the question, keep them coming!

Posted in encouragement, God, praise, prayer

Join your voice to the mighty song

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:8-11)

From my Devotional this morning:

“As you pray this passage, consider that you are joining your voice to the voices of the mighty heavenly beings. You are taking up the words to the songs of heaven. Bless God in union with these spiritual powers.”

Did you ever stop to consider that when you pray in worship to God you are joining your voice to a mighty, heavenly throng in heaven? Jesus said He would not leave us alone, and He sent the Comforter who is the Holy Spirit. When you pray, you are not alone, either, but part of a chorus of beings and peoples who are doing the same, blessing God for Himself and Who He is.

Whether on earth or in heaven, praise to the Lord God Almighty is constant. Join your voice today to the song of praise for our Blessed Savior.

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

The RIGHT kind of Heaven Tourism

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 wold 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 in their 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 pray, prayer, reverence

Jesus’ prayer was heard because of His reverence: How is your prayer life?

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)

It’s a powerful verse. In reading it this time, I became captivated with the word “because.” Several Commenters explain the verse (but none fully exploring the because, I was sad to notice)-

Pulpit Commentary

Christ is in them regarded, not as executing his priestly office, but as being prepared and consecrated for it. For, although for himself Christ needed no atonement, yet the “prayers and supplications” were offered in his own behalf, being due to his own entire participation in the conditions of humanity; the whole “agony and bloody sweat” were part of his own preparation and consecration for executing the office of a High Priest for others, and, like the Aaronic priest’s offering for himself, they were the sign and evidence of his being one.

Barnes Notes

Such was his piety that the prayer was “heard,” though it was not literally answered. A prayer may be “heard” and yet not literally answered; it may be acceptable to God, though it may not consist with his arrangements to bestow the very blessing that is sought.

Matthew Henry Complete Commentary

He was heard in that he feared. He had an awful sense of the wrath of God, of the weight of sin. His human nature was ready to sink under the heavy load, and would have sunk, had he been quite forsaken in point of help and comfort from God but he was heard in this, he was supported under the agonies of death.

The Prosperity, Word/Faith, ‘Declare It and It’s Yours’ crowd should heed Hebrews 5:7. Jesus was heard BECAUSE of His reverence. There is a cause here. We do well to pay attention to the ‘little words’. I then think of the opposite: is a person not heard because of their irreverence? Is there a time or occasion that God does not listen to prayer? Yes, there are times God will not listen to or will even refuse to answer prayer. Just because a person ‘speaks it’ does not mean it will come to pass or even that God will listen.

So what are the times God will not listen? In general, God will not heed the prayers of an unbeliever. Here’s more from Grace To You-

Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?

God is sovereign and can choose to answer any prayer He sees fit. But Scripture clearly indicates that God does not listen to or answer every prayer. In fact, Scripture gives at least fifteen reasons for unanswered prayer. God does not answer the prayer of those:

1) Who have personal and selfish motives.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:3).

2) Who regard iniquity in their hearts.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).

3) Who remain in sin.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him (John 9:31).

4) Who offer unworthy service to God.

“You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.

5) Who forsake God.

Thus says the Lord to this people: “Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, And punish their sins.” Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence (Jeremiah 14:10-12).

6) Who reject God’s call.

Because I [Wisdom] have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke…. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me (Proverbs 1:24-25, 28).

7) Who will not heed God’s law.

One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination (Proverbs 28:9). “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,” says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 7:11-13).

8) Who turn a deaf ear to the cry of the poor.

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, Will also cry himself and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13).

9) Who are violent.

When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15; see also 59:2-3).

10) Who worship idols.

Therefore thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they offer incense, but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble.” (Jeremiah 11:11-14; see also Ezekiel 8:15-18).

11) Who have no faith.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7).

12) Who are living in hypocrisy.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).

13) Who are proud of heart.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

14) Who are self-righteous.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:11-14).

15) Who mistreat God’s people.

You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them (Psalm 18:40-41). You who hate good and love evil; Who strip the skin from My people, And the flesh from their bones; Who also eat the flesh of My people, Flay their skin from them, Break their bones, And chop them in pieces, Like meat for the pot, Like flesh in the cauldron. Then they will cry to the Lord, But He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, Because they have been evil in their deeds (Micah 3:2-4).

Graphics Fairy

Does God hear the prayers of believers? Yes…but He has conditions for answering them. He is still a Father and we don’t always pray along the lines of what is best for us. He is not bound to answer just because we speak it. We must pray according to His will.

First, we must pray and not doubt. (James 1:6).

James 4:3 was mentioned above, it goes for believers too: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”.


Pray for the things for which the Bible commands prayer. We are told to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44); for God to send missionaries (Luke 10:2); that we do not enter temptation (Matthew 26:41); for ministers of the Word (Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1); for government authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-3); for relief from affliction (James 5:13); and for the healing of fellow believers (James 5:16). Where God commands prayer, we can pray with confidence that we are praying according to His will.

Graphics Fairy

Pray privately (for the most part). Of course I’m not saying don’t pray in church, or not to give thanks at a public meal, or not to pray at a public revival, or at an event such as National Day of prayer, but for the most part, God commands us to pray in our prayer closet. When we are at our most reverential, private, transparent, and quiet, we are praying by ourselves to God, before God, and through Jesus with no distractions.

Jesus was heard because of his reverence, AKA His fear. He wasn’t afraid per se, but feared God because He knew who God is. I would dare to say that when one prays and does not doubt, that person’s prayer is a mixture of confidence and reverence. If one does not doubt, one knows who God is, and what He is able to do; and if you know who God is, you’re reverent toward Him.

The verse doesn’t say “He was heard,” but it says “He was heard because of His reverence.” I like to pay attention to the ‘little words’ and I think on those a great deal.

I would consider it a gift from God for my prayers to be heard because of my reverence. Like the father exclaiming in Mark 9:24, “I believe, help my unbelief!”, I say, ‘I pray, but help my ridiculous prayer life!’

Dearest Holy Spirit, ignite my heart with a Godly fear, instill in me a reverence, a confidence, and an awareness of my sins, so that I might abide in Him. (John 15:7). Pray ceaselessly.

Posted in american humanist association, atheists, discernment, encouragement, monument, pesecution, prayer, red raiders

The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone

I had planned to write today about the wonder of butterflies. The local news has prompted me to pray, research, and write in another direction.

You undoubtedly have heard of the various anti-religion groups who make charges of infringement whenever a Christian scripture verse or Christian icon appears on or near a public building.  At graduations, we read about ceremonies that are challenged when the valedictorian or adult official led a prayer or used scripture in their speech. Prayer before, during, or after high school football games, as well as banners with scripture emblazoned on them, have been subject to challenges that make the news. Scriptures on government buildings such as courthouses are not immune from challenge either. At Christmas time we usually read in the news about Nativity scenes displayed on public property being challenged by such groups. We read about Christmas songs on the school musical program being quashed. And so on.

Local Nativity Scene. EPrata photo

There are several groups at the forefront of these kinds of confrontations. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association are two. The American Civil Liberties Union is also behind many of the challenges of public display of religion. It is usually just the Christian religion that seems to raise their ire, it should be noted.

We in Georgia are considered the Bible Belt, but the world hates the bible because it is the Word of God. The world hates Jesus, who IS the Word. So the challenges have increased here in our state lately. We’re not immune.

Last August,

A Georgia high school football program may have God on its side, but not the Constitution, according to critics who say prayer and proselytization have no place in the playbook. Football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville are accused of quoting scripture on team documents and pre-game banners and regularly leading the War Eagles in prayer in a religious blitz the American Humanist Association (AHA) declares unconstitutional. “There’s really no defense for doing this,” AHA attorney Monica Miller told “It’s not even solely student prayer — it’s teachers and coaches praying with students. And we have reason to believe it’s not an isolated event.”

Well, the football team is an extra-curricular activity occurring after school hours and participated in by club volunteers who choose to be there. But I digress.

In a release by  the American Humanist Association, we read,

“When a teacher or coach leads or participates in prayer with students, the prayers become sponsored by the school,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a news release. “The cases make clear that public schools must not even give the appearance of taking a position on religious belief, yet in this program we see ongoing biblical verses and references to religion. This evidences a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of all students.”

That Monica Miller sure is busy. Well, our little county, a sweet place nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, has had a challenge exactly like the one in Chestatee High School in Gainesville, an hour away. It is from the same people, the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the leader of the challenge is the same woman as mentioned in many of these challenges the AHA have lodged across the country, Monica Miller. Here is the short article from our local newspaper.

Groups aim to have Red Raider monument removed over Christian references

Two groups are seeking to have a Red Raider football monument with Christian references removed from the Madison County High School campus.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have written the Madison County School District protesting the approximate two-ton monument that was placed on the MCHS campus between the new field house and the football field in August. The monument quotes Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The base of the structure is also inscribed with Philippians 4:13. Madison County football players have started a new tradition this year of touching the privately donated monument as they take the field on Friday nights.

In a Sept. 25 letter to the school district, the American Humanist Association states that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause “commands a separation of church and state” and the group writes that the government cannot “advance, promote, affiliate with, or favor any particular religion,” or “favor religious belief over disbelief.” “This letter serves as an official notice of the unconstitutional activity and demands that the school district remove the monument immediately or at a minimum, remove the religious references from the monument,” wrote Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. “In the meantime, we ask that you cover up the monument until such removal takes place. We kindly ask that you notify us in writing within two weeks of receipt of this letter setting forth the steps you will take to rectify this constitutional infringement. Thank you for turning your attention to this important matter.”

Madison County School Superintendent Allen McCannon said officials are speaking with their attorneys on the matter. “We have discussed the situation with our attorneys and are in the process of responding to the entities and forming a plan to deal with the situation,” said McCannon Thursday.

Monica Miller again. I have to give her credit for pursuing what she believes is the right approach to good living. According to their website, the organization exists to “strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life. She certainly is vigorous in that regard.

I wish a lot of Christians were as single-minded and as diligent pursuing good as Ms Miller is in her pursuit of evil.

Because, rebellion against God is always evil. It is sin. This isn’t said to be mean or hateful, it is a simple fact that God is God- He deserves glory and worship because He is holy.

As for the AHA and their pursuit of ‘good without ‘a god’,” Christians know there is no good without God. Isaiah 64:6a says,

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The people behind the FFRA and the AHA will find ultimately that their lives had been pointless and their pursuit will be fruitless. It will never go anywhere except toward sadness, grief, and then hell. For any monument taken down, any prayer silenced, any Christian activity quelled, the pagans may celebrate victory but it is a temporary victory, very temporary. Jesus has already won, and He will call those who reject Him to account. We can and should have a great deal of compassion for these people, and show them love in the face of their hate of Jesus.

For local people who are up in arms about this issue I have a few thoughts to share. Some of these thoughts will not be popular.

Facebook Red Raider Photo page

The monument has a sword embedded in the top. This is a reference to (unwitting or not) to the pagan myth of the King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, the sword being Excalibur. Wikipedia says,

In Arthurian romance, … Arthur obtained the throne by pulling a sword from a stone. In this account, the act could not be performed except by “the true king,” meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon.

Christian scripture and pagan myths do not mix.

Second, the scriptures chosen for display on the monument are a tragedy in themselves. There are two,

–Romans 8:31,“If God be with us, who can be against us?”
–Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which had been shortened on the monument to read “I can do all things”, and, “strengthen me”

I am not impugning the motivations of the anonymous person who created this fine gift to our county. I like that he or she thought of gifting us with a strong monument with the holy scriptures on it. Any time the bible verses get into the public sphere it is usually a good thing. However, the choice of scriptures, in the context of placement on the field, seems to indicate that God is with us … in the football game. But the verse is actually talking about His sovereign election and predestination of His elect! A weighty matter that should not be trivialized in the context of a game field and leisure-sports entertainment.

The doing all things through Him who strengthens us verse is about the fact that because believers are in Christ He infuses them with His strength to sustain them until they receive some provision. In the context, Paul is talking about having nothing to eat or plenty to eat and knowing how to be content in all situations in which he finds himself. However, these verses are used frequently in stadiums and on sports monuments. Ben Irwin wrote earlier this year about the Philippians verse in the context of football. In his essay, Five Bible Verses you need to Stop Misusing, he said

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New Revised Standard Version) What happens when we treat the Bible as a random collection of freestanding verses? Well, for one thing, as Tyndale House Publishers editor Keith Williams told Christianity Today, “Philippians 4:13 is going to refer to an athletic performance rather than perseverance through need.” For some, “I can do all things” means scoring touchdowns and clearing the bases. But that’s not exactly what Paul had in mind. Paul was sharing that he’d learned to be content no matter what his circumstances – rich or poor, hungry or well fed, in prison or out. What Paul was saying is not so much “I can achieve anything,” but “I can endure anything” – which, in his case, included prison.

And again, because it bears repeating,

As Dr. Eric Bargerhuff writes in The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, “[Philippians 4:13 is] not really about who has the strength to play to the best of their abilities in a sporting contest…. This verse is about having strength to be content when we are facing those moments in life when physical resources are minimal.” – Source

Worse, when the football players rush out of the field house before a game, they touch the monument for good luck. This behavior is idolatrous. In Georgia, football is already an idol, and to include a scripture-laden monument on the field used as a near-altar of stone hewn by human hands where people touch it ‘for luck’ is idolatry. Pure and simple.

Compelling Truth explains idolatry,

What the Bible categorically condemns is the use of superstition to gain the favor of God or any deity to bring fortunate results. Religious rites to draw luck from a pagan god are useless, as pagan gods don’t exist and, therefore, can’t act on behalf of anyone. And God so hates being manipulated by worship practices that He’d rather we abandon those traditions He put into place and worship Him from the heart than obey Him for the sole purpose of gaining favor (Amos 5:21-24). 

Compelling Truth again, explaining superstition

A superstition is a belief that an action, object, or circumstance can affect a situation even if they are in no way related. The cause and effect have no natural link, but are believed to be connected through magic or chance.

11Alive News

The power is not in the hewn stone, but in the word of God carried by the Spirit! Remember the story of Dagon, god of the Philistines. When the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, they put it in their temple next to the fish-god Dagon. Overnight, God tipped Dagon over so that when the Philistine priests arrived the next morning they saw Dagon face down before the Ark of God.

They righted the Dagon statue and went on with their day. Overnight again, the LORD tipped Dagon over, this time severing his hands and head. Only the body remained. God is serious about idols!

A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8)

We know God is using this for the good of those who love Him. I don’t know of course, but maybe God is removing an idol, for our benefit and to His glory. Something to think about.

Next, this is a ‘soft’ persecution. We should not be surprised. The Bible Belt is not immune to any challenge or marginalization of our religion. In these late days of human history, it is to be expected.

Christians are persecuted every day by being killed, tortured, maimed, or jailed. That is hard persecution. In America we have – so far – escaped hard persecution for our religious beliefs. But soft persecution exists here. People have to close their business or be forced to do something that violates their Christian belief. They go bankrupt in legal defenses of their religion. They can’t get a job or are fired from their job for their Christian beliefs. They are socially marginalized or ostracized. Children are bullied. Christian Clubs or churches are booted from their rental properties.

These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

John MacArthur preached a great pair of sermons about the persecution in Acts, and how God used it for His glory. Especially when Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin men asked Peter questions, Peter gave them the Gospel! The men of the Sanhedrin never would have heard such an exposition of the scriptures otherwise, and God used Peter’s arrest for His glory! So all things work to the good and God is using this right now for His glory.

Well, as one of my pastors said today, perhaps this religious confrontation is to awake us, and energize us to speak His name in the public sphere. Or perhaps it is to apprise us that we in Georgia are not immune from challenge by the atheists who hate God.

Today in our county Jesus is all the talk. The local newspaper, which normally gets 3-10 comments on any given article, maybe 30 on a hot topic, so far has 140 comments on this article, and the number is climbing.

Whether it is removal of an idol, sparking us out of a sleepy Christianity, energizing us to prayer, or to cause a discussion, there are a myriad of ways God can and will use this for the good. We can’t even possibly think of them all!

In any case, the words on the monument are written on my heart. WE ARE THE MONUMENT! We, His children, are His witnesses and His ambassadors. They can take away that monument and it would not make a bit of difference in my Christian walk. I was a strong Christian before the monument went up and I am a strong Christian now and I will be a strong Christian if it is ever covered up or taken down. My faith does not rest in stone. I know His word and I know Jesus. I am supposed to be the living monument testifying of His grace and mercy because He is the Living God!

Our reaction to this issue is very important. We must submit to our leaders. We are blessed with godly leaders, and conscientious lawyers who are looking out for the greatest good and adherence to the law. Our Superintendent is a most Godly and kind, humble, professional and intelligent man. He is good. We have good people here. They will do the right thing. In addition we need to be gracious to each other in our discussions, be kind to those who persecute us (give them the other cheek!) and pray for our leaders, for the enemies of God, and for each other.

Finally, please think about this. Monica Miller is leading the charge with her association, the American Humanists. She is very young. She is in a great deal of spiritual pain, look what her bio says in part-

Monica is also an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project, working to obtain common law personhood rights for nonhuman animals.

Her mind is not right, OK? Isaiah 44:18 says this

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.

Romans 1:28-31 says it too

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Ms Miller is dedicating her life to rebellion against Jesus, and is in league with satan as his agent. The bible declares her foolish, ignorant, deluded, evil, a hater of God and is destined for eternal punishment.

Her world is very dark, very. Let’s be compassionate! She deserves it more than just about anyone I know! She is not the enemy. The Freedom From Religion Group is not the enemy. Satan is.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

The senior pastor of my church wrote,

Don’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus has already won. Pray about how we, as His followers, respond to those who oppose Him. It is God they are hostile toward and He forewarned us that this would happen. Matthew 5:16,44. What a great opportunity to show the world what Christianity is truly about! The love and grace of God.

John MacArthur preached about persecution, hard and soft recently. He said,

If you live a godly life in the world, you will be confronted, and you will likely be persecuted. Submit to that with a gracious attitude. Don’t retaliate. 

Know our leaders will handle this rightly, submit to the government and courts, have love and compassion for those who are challenging us, and trust the LORD to make it all work our for His glory and our good. Is your faith in a stone monument? Or is your faith in the Living God who sees all on the earth?


Further Reading

Large Crowd Attends Ceremony for Remade High School

From “The Friendly Atheist” At Patheos:
How Did This Christian Monument in Front of a Georgia High School Get There in the First Place?

Red Raider Monument Facebook page

When Jesus joins the huddle: Groups challenge mix of football and religion at Georgia high school

Posted in counterfeit christians, hosea, prayer, S. Lewis Johnson

An oddly wonderful prayer

When I read the bible, I read through a whole book. Not all at once, usually chapter by chapter. And sometimes if the chapter is long, or convicting, or complicated, only part of the chapter. Then I pray. Then I listen to an expositor. If I can’t find a good sermon I read a commentary on the passage. Then I read the passage again. Usually a phrase or a verse will leap out at me, and I’ll mull that, I’ll look at parallel verses, or the historical background, and pray. And pray some more. Then I go on with the next chapter. In this way the Spirit delivers understanding and sews the quilt of the bible together pieces by piece so that little by little I gain understanding.

Finding credible Old Testament expositors is difficult but we as a body of believers are blessed to have John MacArthur’s Isaiah sermons, Martyn Lloyd Jones, and S. Lewis Johnson to name a few. I’m reading Hosea right now and Pastor Lewis has a sermon series on the entire book.

I appreciate the care and accuracy he applies to his preaching. But also I’ve come to appreciate his prayers. He prays after reading the text and he prays at the end. His prayers are moving. They are just as wonderful as the text he is preaching on. He prays with sensitivity, within biblical standards, concerns from the heart…and this. I thought this was an odd and wonderful prayer. Odd because no one prays this any more.

We pray for the whole church, for all of those who name in sincerity the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we pray, O God, that those who counterfeit Christianity may experience failure. We know that Thou hast said, the church will be founded upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the true church, and we pray O God for all of the manifestations of the truth. We pray for the other churches where the gospel is proclaimed, and today Lord may they be fruitful in their ministry.” ~S Lewis Johnson

Praying for the failure of the counterfeits, while at the same time praying for all manifestations of the truth. How wonderful.

Hosea 7, “The Blessedness of Grey Hair”
Sermon audio