Posted in providence, sovereignty

Acknowledging God’s providence yields gratitude

By Elizabeth Prata

One of the ways God intervenes in the world is providence. The quote below is from a sermon titled “Secrets of Contentment“.

“There are two ways God can act in the world: by miracle and by providence. A miracle has no natural explanation. In the flow of normal life, God suddenly stems the tide and injects a miracle. Then He sets the flow back in motion, just like parting the Red Sea until His people could walk across and closing it up again. Do you think it would be easier to do that—to say, “Hold it, I want to do this miracle” and do it—or to say, “Let’s see, I’ve got 50 billion circumstances to orchestrate to accomplish this one thing”? The latter is providence. Think, for example, of how God providentially ordered the lives of Joseph, Ruth, and Esther. Today He does the same for us.”

I find it incredibly restful to dwell in the knowledge of His sovereignty and His providence. It doesn’t mean I kick back and drift like a twig down a river, doing nothing. I still pray, study, and diligently perform all the things the Bible says we are to do. But I know that He is directing my steps. His providential care of me is in the best hands. What a great and glorious God we serve who providentially orders all events simultaneously to come together at every given moment to ensure His works come to pass!! How can I NOT worship a God who, from the moment He breathed life into Adam, has superintended every event at every moment to accomplish His divine will?

More importantly in terms of our worship, no one is self-sufficient, and everyone is answerable to God. Nebuchadnezzar praised God, saying,

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth;” (Daniel 4:35)

The sermon I linked to above concludes,

Contentment comes from learning that God is sovereign not only by supernatural intervention, but also by natural orchestration. And what an incredible orchestra it is! Appreciate the complexity of what God is doing every moment just to keep us alive. When we look at things from that perspective, we see what folly it is to think we can control our lives. When we give up that vain pursuit, we give up a major source of anxiety.

That God is ordering our steps, and doing so for all 8 billion people on earth, and every creature, and every storm, and every tide, and every cloud, and heaven’s hosts, and so on, should yield a gratitude that we can know this magnificent and powerful God. In your gratitude and prayers and praise, consider the providence of God. He preserves His own, down to the minutest detail.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

I think if we were allowed to see God’s providence in real form and in real time, how He connects everything to be consistent with His will and His glory, it might look like this photo by Steve Irvine for NatGeo, called Moth Trails at Night


Puritan Thomas Manton wrote of providences as one portion of our heritage. Here again we shout in gratitude-

“It is a full heritage, and nothing can be added to the completeness of our portion; for in the promises here is God, heaven, earth, providences, ordinances, all made ours, and all inward comforts and graces they are a part of our portion; and what can a soul desire more? Here is God made over to us; the great blessing of the covenant is, I am thy God. Other men say (and they will think it a great matter when they can say), This kingdom is mine, this lordship is mine, this house, these fields are mine; but a believer can say, this God, this Christ, this Holy Spirit is mine.”

God is great.

Posted in providence, theology

The Lord Knew

By Elizabeth Prata

When I was in my pre-teens, a book called Jonathan Livingston Seagull by philosopher-author Richard Bach was huge. It was his first, and it was a major seller. (1970). Everyone was carrying that paperback around. I don’t recommend the book, it’s all about higher planes, self-actualization, and man’s efforts at self-perfection in order to live a happy life. Now you know why it was such a major seller! lol.

Bach followed up with The Bridge Across Forever. I was older then, in my early 20s, and I read it avidly. The entire book was Bach’s ruminations of finding his soulmate. Now this was getting interesting! My husband at the time had just left for another woman. I was heartbroken.  I was unsaved then. I very much wanted to be in love and be married. I, too, wondered how to find my soulmate. Where was he? How, in this huge, big, crazy world was I going to find him? I was just one measly person. How does this all work? Continue reading “The Lord Knew”

Posted in providence, theology

Many mercies go unnoticed in the course of providence

By Elizabeth Prata

This video has been going around for a while. I might have even commented on it before.

Bear sneaks up on oblivious elderly couple, 55 seconds

Before I was saved, I used to wonder about providence a lot. I didn’t know that was what it was called at the time, though. I just used to wonder about near misses- the kind I knew about and the kind I didn’t. Continue reading “Many mercies go unnoticed in the course of providence”

Posted in God, Michelle Lesley, providence, sovereign

Freedom from Sin, 10 Things about Southern Baptists, Heart problems, But God…

It is said that a flippant young man remarked to a preacher in mocking fashion, “You say that unsaved people carry a great weight of sin. Frankly, I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? Ten pounds? Fifty pounds? Eighty pounds? A hundred pounds?”

The preacher thought for a moment, then replied, “If you laid a four hundred pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?”

The young man was quick to say, “Of course not; it’s dead” Driving home his point the preacher said, “The person who doesn’t know Christ is equally dead. And though the load is great, he feels none of it”

The Christian, unlike the average non-Christian, is not indifferent to the weight of sin. He is actually hypersensitive to it. Having come to Jesus Christ, his senses are awakened to the reality of sin. His sensitivity to sin intensifies as he matures spiritually. Such sensitivity prompted a saint as great as Chrysostom, the fourth century church father, to say he feared nothing but sin (Second Homily on Eutropius).

More at link

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

Yes, there is a lot of ignorance about Southern Baptists out there among those who aren’t part of our denomination. However, there’s also a lot of ignorance inside the SBC about what’s really going on in our denomination, our doctrine, practices, leadership, and so on. These are ten SBC realities I wish the average Southern Baptist church member were more aware of.

The Lord is stunningly graceful. Read this from Sunny Shell and see if you don’t weep.

My Flesh and My Heart May Fail, But God…

This past Friday, my Cardiac Electrophysiologist confirmed that I have an uncommon heart arrhythmia called sick sinus syndrome (SSS). What this means is that my heart can no longer keep a steady rhythm because it’s “sick”.

But God… such powerful words. We read in Ephesians 2:4

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

Here is a devotional from Our Daily Bread on “But God…”

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8 

Howard Sugden, my pastor when I was in college, preached many memorable sermons. After all these years, the one titled “But God . . .” still makes me stop whenever I come to those words in the Bible. Here are a few examples of verses that encourage me with the reminder of God’s righteous intervention in human affairs: 

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to . . . save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20). 

“Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave . . . . But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Ps. 49:14-15). 

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26). 

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8). 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). 

Whenever you feel discouraged, look up some “but God” verses and be reassured of God’s involvement in the lives of those who love Him. 

Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be that You’re involved
With such a one as me? —Sper 

God’s involvement in our lives should reassure us of His love.

Posted in challies, encouragement, flavel, providence

The Wonder of God’s Providential care

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.
And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here”
Revelation 4:1

Pastor, author and blogger Tim Challies leads an informal book group at his site. He reads a chapter a week of a classic book of the faith and invites anyone to do the same along with him. Once per week he posts his thoughts and invites others to do the same in the comment section. The series is called “Reading Classics Together.” This time it was John Flavel’s book “The Mysteries of Providence”.

They concluded the excellent post-script piece at the end of Flavel’s “theologically dense” tome.  It is theologically dense. While the online informal ‘book club’ has concluded the book, I am still in chapter 3. But I am sticking with it because one of my favorite doctrines is the doctrine of Providence, how God ordains and orders all things in the universe and for each person on earth to accomplish His divine plan and purpose.

Apparently at the end of his wonderful treatment of the doctrine of God’s providence, Flavel wrote three simple rules for keeping a spiritual journal. Challies himself said he is a committed blogger but a sporadic journaler, but that these pieces of advice were enormously helpful. Flavel’s advice for keeping a journal was not to write a copious or emotional tell-all, but a streamlined journal for keeping in memory God’s answer to prayer and His grace in Providential care.

Challies wrote of Flavel’s exhortation,

First, understand that your memory is far too slippery to entrust with all of the amazing providences you have encountered in your life. It is true that we do not easily forget the things that greatly affect us, but still, new impressions have a way of overwriting existing ones. One wise man has said, “My memory never failed me because I never trusted it.” Writing down our important memories secures against forgetting them and has the added benefit of making them useful to others. Why would you carry all of this treasure to heaven with you? By writing down your memories you can leave them as a legacy to those who follow you. The loss of your money, your property, and your possessions counts for nothing next to losing the record of God’s faithfulness to you.

I am an incessant writer. Before the internet was invented I kept lists, notes, wrote stories, academic papers, was a journalist, and a pen pal. I even got a calendar each year with big enough squares to write down a sentence or two of what I did that day. I was always writing something. But I never kept a journal.

I don’t like journals, myself. I am a chronicler of external events, not an introspective explorer of personal emotions. But whenever I traveled I did keep a travel journal. In thinking of Flavel’s advice for spiritual journaling, I also was struck by advice #2,

Second, do not simply record these treasures in a book, but also ensure that you refer to them often. When you experience wants or needs or difficulties, or when temptations assault you, turn to the written record of God’s past graces. When when are in any kind of distress it will do your soul good to see how God has faithfully delivered you from similar situations in the past.

I still had all my travel journals. I remember a lot but not everything, as Flavel opined. What had I written those years ago? Curious, I dug out my first travel journal from 1978. I was part of a High School senior class group traveling to London. Living in Rhode Island, we took a bus to Boston- Logan Airport and departed for Europe from there.

I do clearly remember many of the events of my life. I even remember my ebullient joy at this first plane ride. It was exhilarating to be lifted off the ground and also wondrous to see the small specks below that are people on earth living their lives. But I had forgotten this all-important detail:

Plane, 10:55 pm. Just completed takeoff. It was the most fantastic experience I ever had in my whole life. At first the plane went slow, then we saw the runway and we started to go fast, and the next thing I knew was the lights of Boston. They were beautiful. Like spider webs in the morning. The next second we were over Provincetown, and the next second I saw Nantucket.

Plane, 2:00AM (U.S). Sunrise, beautiful I’m watching one side of the world wake up, while the other side is still sleeping. It is all pink and blue, and the clouds are like cotton. The stewardess just asked us to lower our shades because the sun will be up soon and some people would like to sleep.

No way! I’m not going to miss this for all the gold on earth. This is God’s handiwork. I’m not turning down an offering from God. I’ve decided that this is heaven. When I die I want to spend eternity here. Nothing but God could have made this. This is another world.

There are magnificent layers of God’s Providence here. I was 17 years old at that time, but not saved. Romans 1 tells us we all know that God created the world but we suppress this truth in unrighteousness and worship the creation instead. God in His grace did not let me suppress this. Instead, when He showed Himself to me at 37,000 feet, I celebrated Him. This is because God made it plain. (Romans 1:18-20). Since then He has worked throughout my life, providentially.

How providential that I’d been reading a book about Providence and Challies’ comment about journaling. What prompted me to go get my travel journal out of its tucked-away, dusty bin? It is a book I haven’t looked at in nearly 40 years. His Spirit. Providentially, I had recorded my first inklings and stirrings of God’s witness of Himself to my heart through His creation. Providentially a book on Providence spurred me to re-think recording His graces, and unbeknownst to me, I had already started, 37 years ago.

For a further 26 years from that moment on the plane I wandered the earth as a sinful and evil person, living a life at enmity with God. Yet in His appointed time, He caused me to pass through His gates with thanksgiving. Ten more years have passed since that day of justification. Now more than ever, I can say with conviction and certainty that I will spend eternity up there, with God. His merciful gift of salvation is worth more than all the gold on earth, because at the center of it is Jesus.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19)

Posted in prophecy, providence, rapture, sovereignty

In the fulness of time…

One of my favorite attributes of God is His sovereignty. One of my favorite doctrines is the Doctrine of Providence. And one of my favorite themes which neatly expresses them is the phrase, “In the fullness of time…” Here are just a few New Testament examples showing God in charge of all things, including events He wants to occur at a certain time.

Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,”

Mark 1:15, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!

Romans 5:6, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

1 Timothy 2:6, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

Let’s go back to Galatians 4:4, the fulness of time. In the John MacArthur Commentary on Galatians, we read,

The fulness of time refers to the period of preparation in God’s sovereign timetable of redemption. When the Law had fully accomplished its purpose of showing man his utter sinfulness and inability to live up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, God ushered in a new era of redemption. When He sent forth His son, He provided the righteousness for man that man could not provide for himself.

On a spiritual level, we can intuitively understand this is what is meant by the fulness of time, even if our lesser scholarly minds don’t articulate it as well as Dr MacArthur. But in Providential terms, widening our look at the sweep and scope of all redemptive history, the phrase “the fulness of time” takes on even greater and deeper significant implications regarding the sovereignty of God and His divine Providential outworking of all things to His glory. MacArthur again,

When Jesus was born, everything was right for the coming of the Messiah. First of all, the time was right religiously. During the Babylonian captivity, Israel once and for all forsook the idolatry into which she had often fallen. Despite their many other sins and failures, including national rejection of their own Messiah, no significant number of Jews has ever again turned to idolatry.

Also during the Exile, Jews developed synagogues, which they used as places of worship, as schools, and as courts. In addition to that, they at last had the completed Old Testament, assembled by Ezra and others after the return from Babylon. Those features facilitated the proclaiming of the Messiah’s gospel among the people of Israel.

Second, the time was right culturally. Christians who propagated the gospel during the first several centuries had a common language with those to whom they witnessed and with whom they worshiped. Alexander the Great had thoroughly established Greek culture and language throughout the known world, and these continued their dominating influence long after Rome succeeded Greece as world ruler.

Third, the time was right politically. Rome had instituted the pax Romana (Roman peace), which provided economic and political stability. The apostles and other early preachers and teachers cold travel freely and safely throughout the empire and do so on the magnificent system of roads built by the Romans.

Each of those factors was in some unique way a key to the spread of the gospel. God’s timing was perfect.

It is such a comfort to understand everything is in God’s hands.

I have traveled extensively in Italy, including Rome. I’ve rented a car and over several visits, I’ve driven all up and down the peninsula, from Milan and Lake Como to Rome to the Adriatic to France. North, south, north, east, and west. You’ve heard the adage, “All roads lead to Rome”? They really do.

The Miliarium Aureum (golden milestone) was a monument, probably of gilded bronze, erected by the Emperor Caesar Augustus near the temple of Saturn in the central Forum of Ancient Rome. All roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point. On it were perhaps listed all the major cities in the empire and distances to them. According to Schaaf, the phrase “all roads lead to Rome” is a reference to the Milliarium Aureum, as the specific point to which all roads were said to lead. Today, the base of the milestone might still exist in the Roman Forum. (Wikipedia)

The Umbilicus Urbis Romae —”Navel of the City of Rome”—was the symbolic centre of the city from which, and to which, all distances in Ancient Rome were measured. It was situated in the Roman Forum where its remnants can still be seen. (Wikipedia)

I’ve been to the Forum and seen the marble mile markers, strolled on the Via Appia, seen the hardiness of the roads, the ancient cobblestones still there, still level, still providing passage for all manner of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. I’ve driven down the smallest of roads on the tallest of Apennines and come to a crossroad and there will be a sign. Rome, that way.

All roads lead to Rome. EPrata photo

I can just imagine what a delight it was for Christians moving between cities and between regions to walk or ride a horse or donkey bearing the Good News from town to town. It is a delight today, back then it was a marvel. Yet those Roman roads under the Roman peace allowed for a fast dispersal of the Good News, the tidings of a Risen Christ and salvation for sinners.

And the note about Alexander the Great, and his empire and the Greek language? We do not for a moment believe that was an accident, do we? We know for a fact that the Greek empire was foretold 600 years before Christ came, as we read in Daniel 2 about King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue of succeeding empires. The Greek kingdom was foretold as the second after the King’s own empire of Babylonians and after the empire of Medes and Persians. The Roster of empires goes: Babylonian, Media-Persia, Greek, Roman, Revived Roman, or Antichrist’s Empire.

Do we believe that God looked down and said, “Oh good, Alexander is instituting Greek everywhere, that will be sooo helpful when my servants spread the Good News.” Of course not! God is in control of history, because He writes it. He determines the times, and He providentially organizes when the time is right and full for the next part of His plan to come to fruition.

Understanding God’s sovereignty, His Divine Providence, and His timing encourages us. Because, the world today could otherwise be very unsettling and to unbiblical eyes, even look chaotic.

Young boy lured to gay lifestyle

A major advertisement, where Lesbians enjoy Chobani yogurt after perverted sex

Dangerous killers on the loose could “literally be anywhere”, elude capture

Police Officer (representing civil authority) shot dead
in clearly marked patrol car (New Orleans)

400 year dormancy of Sinabung Volcano ends with a bang

Escapes zoo animals on the loose; tiger kills 1, injures 1

It looks like the world is coming upside down, with civil authority under attack, perversity is the norm, zoo animals hunt humans, and unexpected or scientifically abnormal natural disasters.

Yet God, in the fulness of time, causes or allows each of these things to happen and in the background unknown to us, each event furthers His glory and ushers the moment when we will hear the joyous words,


Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

God’s timing is always perfect.

In His timing, we will fly! EPrata photo

Posted in charles spurgeon, encouragement, phil johnson, providence, sermons

Preaching Divine Providence: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

In 1857, Charles Haddon Spurgeon ascended the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, and delivered a wonderful sermon called God’s Providence.

Charles Spurgeon was an absolutely amazing pastor. His very life defines both submission, and workhorse. Of Spurgeon, Justin Taylor sums up Spurgeon’s prodigious output,

He often worked 18 hours a day. His collected sermons fill 63 volumes (the largest set by a single author in church history). He read six books a week and could recall their contents. He read through The Pilgrim’s Progress more than 100 times. 14,460 people were added to his church’s membership, and he did most of the membership interviews himself. He trained 900 men to the pastorate. He founded an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, and is said to have received 500 letters a week to respond to. More than 25,000 copies of his sermons were printed each week. He often preached 10 times a week in various churches. He did all this while suffering from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease—living only to the age of 57. And I think his wife was sick most of that time.

One of Spurgeon’s early sermons was called “God’s Providence.” Spurgeon set his reasoning forth at the beginning of his text.

I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God’s great wonder-working processes which we call Providence.

I love God’s providence because I love God’s sovereignty. The doctrine of Providence is a favorite doctrine of mine, as regular readers know. Providence of God is defined

The providence of God may be defined as His guardianship and care for His creatures and creation. Also, any manifestation of such care may be described as providence. “There is probably no point at which the Christian doctrine of God comes more into conflict with contemporary worldviews than in the matter of God’s providence. Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the “immutable counsel of His own will” (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, i).

It’s a comfort to ponder how involved God is in the affairs of men, His care of the saved, and His working all things together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).

In Spurgeon’s exposition of a passage from Ezekiel, he used the biblical remarkable imagery of the wheels within wheels and the cherubim who are unique and distinct from all other creatures to illustrate Providence.

The sermon was delivered in 1857 but published October 15th, 1908. Spurgeon opened with comforting words:

WHILE READING THE SCRIPTURES, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to “take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself.” Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked.

He is a good God. Spurgeon’s sermons are a blessing and this one in particular is a favorite of mine. I hope you like it too.


In October 2013, Pastor Phil Johnson delivered a sermon as part of the Strange Fire conference at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. It is called Providence IS Remarkable. The Conference was a direct rebuttal to the Charismatic movement, which is polluting the minds and hearts of Christians and false Christians all over the world. In this sermon, Johnson relates the true reasons for the miracles of times past and points to the miracle of today, God’s providence. In his sermon, Johnson explained:

Verse 29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground, apart from your Father.” That doesn’t merely mean that God watches and observes that. It means without His expressed decree and permission, even a sparrow doesn’t die. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. “Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. Really He gives them miraculous power and He tells them, “I’m sending you out in the midst of wolves, you’re going to be attacked,” and instead of saying use that power to silence your opposition, He says, “Just bear in mind God’s there and He’s involved with you.”

I cannot stress this enough. When the Lord wants to reassure the Apostles that Almighty God is directly and personally and lovingly involved in their experience, and not only in their triumphs and successes, but also in their trials and sufferings. Jesus doesn’t point them to the miracles. He doesn’t talk about dreams and visions, or other mystical phenomena. He doesn’t tell them to listen for a still small voice inside their own heads, and He certainly doesn’t tell them that their words have creative power, so, you know, when you encounter opposition, just go ahead and make a positive confession.

Instead, Jesus teaches them a truth we know as the doctrine of providence. He stresses the fact that God is intimately involved in all the details of our lives, even when we can’t consciously sense His presence, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it.

Thinking about providence from heaven is remarkable in that it reduces us to a puddle of love in knowing our Great God is intimately involved with His people. No remote, uncaring, or unaware sovereign is He, but a Shepherd actively caring for the most lowly of His lambs. It’s uplifting to ponder these things. (Philippians 4:8).

Here is the Grace To You video with transcript

Here is the stand-alone sermon on Youtube:

Whether old or new, there are sermons out there, and books, and essays, from men the Lord has raised up in truth to convict us, edify us, and comfort us. God’s word is uniquely worth pondering. He has left no generation alone and has always used His people as vessels for this work. And He always will, until the Day He calls us home and we are with Him personally!

Posted in comfort, encouragement, god's word, holy spirit, providence, providential care

Jesus’ amazing provision part 1 & 2

Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen

This is a story of how Jesus and God and the Spirit worked in my life this week. I attend a Wednesday night prayer meeting/bible study. We read through a book of the bible a verse at a time. There is no curriculum except for the bible. We have a good teacher. Our teacher allows discussion and comment after he introduces us to the verses and explains.

Last week we looked at Romans 12:9-

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good

This week we looked at Romans 12:14-

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

I find both of those verses very difficult to adhere to the way I should.

About three years ago I started praying for the Spirit to ramp up my sanctification and for Him to grow me in spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23), especially love. I had no clue how hard it would be. This is because of my own flesh.

My prayer was more like,

“I think I got this, but just in case I don’t, and I’m only hedging my bets here because really, I’m OK, would you just drip a little note in my heart to help me inch along? Thanks so much.”

And if I was an Old Testament prophet and could hear God reply, it would be like this:

“I will do what you ask. You are not OK. As a matter of fact, you’re a lot worse than you think. Come, I’ll show you. Repeatedly. For three years. You’re welcome.”

And so every morning I’d pray to the Holy Spirit to give me strength to love the way the verse says we should love our enemies. And every day I’d fail. Some days I’d compound my sinful failure with grumbling and hatred in my heart.

And every day I’d come home in tears and sit at my table and repent.

Rinse. Repeat. I felt like my own nation of Israel with all the rebellion, repentance disobedience, and repentance cycles. I learned a lot though.

The bad:

–I really AM worse than I think. Depravity goes so deep I can’t see the bottom of it,
–I disobey God all the time.

The good:

–Every time I repented sincerely, and I did, I felt terrible over my sin, He forgave 70 X 70 times,
–He grew me in all the ways I needed it,
–His grace is one of the most magnificent gifts humankind ever received, therefore my gratitude grew.

So now I have a new opportunity to learn to love the way the bible says to love our enemies. With this new opportunity, maybe I’m a little wiser this time than the last time. Maybe I can love more genuinely and better than I loved before. Since sanctification is ever in-process and won’t be complete until I die, there’s no coasting. This new opportunity began one month after the other situation resolved itself. And so it goes.

Yes I’m a lot worse than I think. But now I know God is a lot better than I think, too.


I wrote the above to my teacher after the class. I usually keep thinking about what was taught all night and all the next day and all week. I do try to take the lessons to heart and to participate with the Spirit in sanctification, meditating on His word as Psalm 1:2 says to do. Sometimes I share these follow-up thoughts with my teacher so he can guide me.

As I went on from composing and sending it, I got a bit despondent over my failures. It’s heartbreaking to sin and I abhor it and earnestly strive to please my Savior. Sighing and flipping to the next open tab on my browser, I saw this on Twitter.


A Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceedingly great imperfections, and yet be a holy life.” ~Jonathan Edwards

“Hey!” I thought, “that is a exactly what I’ve been worrying about! Let me follow up on that to find what book or sermon it’s taken from.”

The things tweeted online and attributed to a particular person are often wrongly attributed. Validation is the first order. Context is the second.

I found that it was indeed a quote from Edwards and it was taken from a series of 16 sermons preached to his Northhampton congregation titled “Christian Love, As Manifested in the Heart and Life

Wow. Very applicable to our discussion in bible study night and my continuing thoughts today. I downloaded the book. LOL his 16 sermons wound up being 505 pages.

The larger context surrounding the tweeted quote is this from Edwards’ sermon:


Christian, the meaning is not, that the life is a perfect and sinless life. On the contrary, a Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceeding great imperfections, and yet be a holy life, or a truly Christian life. It may be such a life as to clearly, and even necessarily show, that the grace which the individual has, is of the kind which has a tendency to holy practice. His fruits may be such as to be good evidence of the good nature of the tree, and his works such as to show his faith.

And if you ask for still further light, then I would say, whatever your imperfections and failings may be, examine yourself whether you find the following evidences of your grace being of that kind which tends to holy practice.

First: Has your supposed grace such influence, as to render those things in which you have failed of holy practice loathsome grievous and humbling to you? Has it such influence in your mind as to render your past sinful practices hateful in your eyes, and has it led you to mourn before God for them? And does it render those things in your conduct that since your supposed conversion have been contrary to Christian practice, odious in your eyes? And is it the great burden of your life, that your practice is no better? Is it really grievous to you, that you have fallen, or do fall into sin; and are you ready, after the example of holy Job, to abhor yourself for it, and repent in dust and ashes, and like Paul to lament your wretchedness, and pray to be delivered from sin, as you would from a body of death?

Second: Do you carry about with you habitually a dread of sin? Do you not only mourn, and humble yourself for sins that are past, but have you a dread of sin for the future? And do you dread it because in itself it is evil, and so hurtful to your own soul, and offensive to God? Do you dread it as a terrible enemy that you have often suffered by, and feel that it has been a grievous thing to you heretofore? And do you dread it as something that has hurt, and wounded, and stung you, so that you would see it no more? Do you stand on your watch against it, as a man would keep watch against something that he dreads, with such a dread as led Joseph to cry “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis xxxix. 9.

Third: Are you sensible of the beauty and pleasantness of the ways of holy practice? Do you see the beauty of holiness, and the loveliness of the ways of God and Christ?

Genesis 3:15

His comfort and His manifold grace is beyond what words can express. I will never be sinless in practice. Yet by His grace I will have a tendency toward higher holy living, and will have an ever growing hatred of sin. What just happened this morning was a moment of real comfort- a manifestation of this verse

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Is there any doubt Jesus is an ever-present friend in our lives? That the Spirit is daily growing us and comforting us because He knows us better than we do ourselves? And that the Word is living and active?

Why do people seek superficial miracles when the miracle of how VERY PRESENT He is in our lives is so lastingly precious? How can I not love this Jesus with all my strength and soul and mind, and not seek to follow His ways?

Brother or sister, take comfort in knowing beyond knowing that Jesus is with you every step of the way. His grace IS sufficient.

Above: Depiction of the Holy Spirit dove (ceiling fresco in St. Charles’s Church, Vienna, 1700’s). Public Domain
Posted in encouragement, jesus, providence

I found an old note with life goals on it. Have they come true?

Wikimedia Commons

I don’t write about much that is personal. I feel that people ought to know Jesus, not me. But sometimes a personal post is warranted. I think this one is.

I came to the Lord in January 2004.

At the end of 2004 I sat down to write my goals for the upcoming year. I write a lot but I’ve never been big on journals. Introspection is not my suit and so journaling is wasted on me. Even re-reading my marine navigation logs and my travel journals, they are filled with data and facts, not what I thought or felt at the time.

So the other month I was cleaning out and re-organizing my bookshelves. I found some old papers. You don’t throw out old papers without going through them, there could be something irreplaceable in there.

Imagine my surprise when I saw an index card with a list of annual goals on it. I don’t think I’d ever written down goals, I usually just remember them.

When we pray to Jesus we ask for things. “Give us this day our daily bread…” “Forgive us our sins”,

Crosses in Gipuzkoa, Hernio, Basque autonomous region. CC

“Lead us not into temptation…” We know He is listening. We know He will fulfill them as long as they are consistent with His will. “Thy will be done.” We also know that He answers our prayers in ways we can never have imagined at the time, but in looking back we see that He did it perfectly for who we are or what the situation needed.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

The most obvious example of what I’m trying to say is that we pray for healing for a loved one, and then they die. Jesus has healed them- just not in the way we expected.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)

So in that December I knew that the upcoming year was going to be a big year. I knew huge changes in my life were afoot. I could feel it.

To give a little context, I’d started a weekly newspaper in town in 2001. There was only one paper there at the time and I felt that a more balanced view should be given to the people. Let’s just say that their multi-decade monopoly had warped their view and it was seriously detrimental to the townspeople. I’m very committed to Constitutional ideals, good government, and the citizen’s democratic responsibility as free individuals enjoying liberty in the greatest nation on earth. I thought my newspaper could exhort, educate, encourage, and inform in the face of these ideals and goals. Apathy is anathema to Democracy.

Here were my goals:

1. Serve the greater good
2. Other newspaper go out of business
3. Sell my newspaper to a good company
4. Place in FL/Lubec
5. Earn $ from creative endeavor
6. Relationship

Looking back, Jesus answered each one.

But none in the way I expected.

The ones He fulfilled most literally were #2 and #3. Indeed the other newspaper went out of business. A larger newspaper absorbed it, “coincidentally” the same week I sold mine. When the job is done, it’s done. So #2 and #3 were checked off.

Lubec ME, taken from New Brunswick Canada. EPrata photo

As for #4, finding a home in a more conducive town with the proceeds from selling my business, I’d
intended to move to a more forgiving climate (FL) and/or a place that was God-made for artists, (Lubec ME). I had vacationed in Florida numerous times since I was 18 years old when my father had bought a condo in Palm Beach. As an adult I’d visited Disney World, rented houses in Naples, stayed in hostels, camped, gone on an archaeological expedition to central FL, sailed in it, from it, and around it, motorboated up it; in other words, spent time in Florida in every county and in every vehicle possible.

There was one thing I’d overlooked. I had done all those during the winter months. I’d never been in Florida between April and November. Living that far south would have been a killer for me who hates the heat and humidity. Just when you think you have it all figured out, God knows best (and shows you your flaws in your thinking, too).

Bundled up in blankets in Lubec watching the 4th of July parade!

The same goes for Lubec. I’d spent less time there, discovering the little town at the end of the world (at the tip of a peninsula looking at Canada) late in life. I’d vacationed there in July about 6 or 7 times and driven up for day trips a few more times. The natural beauty is astounding, and the remoteness and sparse population seemed perfect for a hermit like me. But the key word is “July”. Once I drove up in October for a weekend with a friend. That’s it. The average high temp in Lubec in July is 74 degrees. You can imagine what the rest of the year is like, me who hates the cold AND the dark.

Yes, I have a narrow tolerable range for light and temp. My husband and I made a global search and discovered Quito Ecuador. The weather page for Ecuador’s capital says “Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 48°F to 69°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 72°F.” The bonus is that there are few flying insects over 5000 feet and Quito is nearly 10,000. So Quito fit my “livable” range for light and temp but there’s no air that high. You can’t have everything.

God in His wisdom led me to north Georgia. He knew what I needed and this bucolic haven of red dirt roads and a church on every corner was exactly what I needed. I did not need the bustle of Florida, nor the heat. I’d wilt. I did not need the dark of remote Lubec, which is extremely economically depressed. I needed sheep and goats and horses and cows and chickens and pastures and green. I needed a place where the manners were high and the values were in large part aligned with God’s. My general theme of #4 was getting at moving to a nicer place, the specifics notwithstanding. God perfectly fulfilled #4, in His timing and in His way.

Quito Ecuador. EPrata photo

As for #5, earning money from a creative endeavor, He fulfilled that too, but in His typical manner, a bit different than I’d imagined. In Georgia, right away in God’s grace I found a job working for a daily newspaper writing features and taking photos. I did it for about a year and I discovered that making money from a creative endeavor does two things: increases stress because it’s freelance and the $$ are not steady. And second, it takes the fun out of the creative endeavor. God perfectly fulfilled my desire, and in so doing showed me that it wasn’t such a great desire anyway. I’d desired the desire, not the reality of it.

What He knew is #5 encapsulated the gist of what I wanted: time to be creative. A life structured in such a way so as to not be exhausted from work and have the time and energy to write, photograph, and craft. What I really needed was a regular schedule, fulfilling work that sustained me self-sufficiently, time off to be creative, and to be with children again. I’d formerly been a classroom teacher and unbeknownst to me, I missed kids in my life. A lot. God knew.

He installed me in the local public school system as a substitute and then shortly after I got a job as a para-professional, AKA teacher’s aide. He made it so that I get to work with kids, (fulfilled) have a regular routine, (safety net for an Aspergers), summers off to be creative (life of the mind), with a paycheck that comes year round, (self-sufficient). God is perfect in the way He knows His children and gives them what HE knows they want and need. Check off #5.

Ministering to Prisoners by Michael Sweerts, c. 1649

As far as #1 and #6, serving the greater good and a relationship…as a baby Christian, I had a vague notion of “service”. As I looked to the coming year I wanted to activate that, accelerate it, immerse in it. The “greater good” I’d yearned for prior to salvation was crystallized in sanctified service to Jesus in a way that exalts Him and witnesses to fellow man. When I moved to Georgia I joined a church and began ministering through the gifts the Holy Spirit had delivered to me. My work in the school system also serves the greater good, in my opinion, by supporting children educationally and emotionally. Children are near and dear to Jesus.

As far as ‘relationship’ went, that is the item on my list He fulfilled most metaphorically- but He definitely fulfilled. It is not for me to marry again. I understand that now. (1 Corinthians 7:8). But instead, the relationship I’d wanted became one with Jesus, a relationship I’d never have dreamed would be so fulfilling and wonderful.

As far as making life goals goes, I think that is a good thing to do. I don’t believe in ‘let go and let God.’ That is passive. We are to be active in pursuing holiness and actively pursuing a deepening relationship with our Savior. I also believe it is wise to have life goals, for the near term and the far term. We enroll in higher education to attain a higher employment goal, we plan for retirement, we save money for a house. All those are goals. We have goals because we’re human and we need them.

However, if you make a list of goals, don’t allow the goal to become the object of your desire, rather, allow Jesus room to move in your goals and fulfill them in ways you’d have never dreamed of. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has known each of us who are saved since before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4). He formed us in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

Each of the goals I’d listed was attended to by Jesus, in marvelous and holy ways. Holy because HE instilled them in me, and in my clumsy way I’d written them down in crude generalities, but all the while, He was working in them to show me His providence and His Hand upon me. Jesus is always working (John 5:17).

The concept of Divine Providence is not explicitly stated but IS the theme of the Book of Esther. shows the providential care of one appointed to a life fulfilling in ways a person at the time would never have dreamed of Esther’s life goals as a young woman, if she had jotted them down on an index card, were in all likelihood to marry, to be near her uncle Mordecai, to do some good in her sphere, to remain faithful to Yahweh, and to grow in obedience and submission to her husband and her God.

A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament
in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.
Notice the wheel within a wheel, the machinery of heaven,
perhaps also known as, Divine Providence

God’s name is not mentioned in it, not once. Yet that book

And she did, just not in ways she ever would have thought at the outset.

As a Pharisee, did Saul want to study theology, write and speak great sermons, mentor the brightest minds of his generation, and serve God? He did. Just not in ways that the man who became Apostle Paul ever would have thought at the time.

The Providence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were working in my life since the day I was born, and before. It was working all the days of my life.It was the road my feet trod all the way to meeting the resurrected Savior of the Cross, and beyond. Providence is what it means when we recite this verse:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Matthew Henry on the verse:

That is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every providence tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, and fitting them for heaven. When the saints act out of character, corrections will be employed to bring them back again.

Pulpit Commentary on the verse:

A still further reason for endurance. Not only do these inspired groanings strengthen our hope of deliverance; nay, also we know (whether from God’s Word, or inspired conviction, or experience of their effects) that these very trials that seem to hinder us are so overruled as to further the consummation to them that love God.

My hope of deliverance is strengthened when I believe God’s word when it says Jesus is working in our life. When I have inspired conviction of the same. And this essay shows my experience with the effects. Our Jesus loves us so much.


Further reading:

What does the Bible say about setting goals?

Should a Christian set goals? 

Posted in glory, God, providence, tornado, tragedy, weather

It’s tornado weather

I’m working on another blog essay for tonight about not growing weary in the well-doing. But I wanted to pause and pray for a moment. There is a severe weather outbreak in the South and the Plains States of the US. Tornadoes, hail, lightning and severe winds and thunder are wreaking havoc at this hour, and have been since last night. Many people have died and much property is demolished. Lives are forever changed.

Our section of the South, Georgia, will start to get hit later tonight and tomorrow through Wednesday. It is by meteorological accounts, a very severe threat. Tupelo Mississippi just got hammered and there is a great amount of damage.

The Lord told us in His word that He holds us in His hand and the days of our lives are numbered. We never know if this moment will be our last breath or if we have another 20000 days to go. By this time tomorrow I could be dead, injured, or homeless. Or I could be the same- ensconced in my tiny apartment with three happy cats eating fruit and drinking tea. We just never know. However, what I appeal to the Lord for is my attitude. Here is my prayer:

“Lord, may You be glorified if You decide to blast my house in a tornado. May my attitude reflect submission to Your will, exhibit certainty that You are in control, and comfort in the knowledge that You have the bigger picture in mind- because all things work together for good for those who love you.

“If you decide to spare my house, then please may I reflect Your glory in gratitude that You have allowed me to continue unscathed, though, knowing that life’s trials are a sure thing and another one may be around the corner tomorrow. In all, Your will be done.”

“May You be glorified if some of those who have experienced tragedy through this weather come to salvation. Severe storms make a person think about life, family, and mortality. May they also think of You and Your Son,  and the afterlife you have prepared for those who love you. May your glory shine brightly in newly converted hearts, even amidst the debris.” Amen

Job Loses his Children and Property
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”…

 21He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” 

22Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
            (Job 1:18-19, 21-22)