Posted in theology

I was asked about Harry Potter books, but I think Disney is worse

By Elizabeth Prata

A reader asked about the Harry Potter books, and if I’d do a critique. I have only read two of books in that series, so I can’t do a deep critique, but I can offer a few thoughts.

With having read just two Harry Potter books, so I don’t have a lot to go on. I haven’t read the Narnia series either, and those books contain witchcraft and other magical elements, too. And JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, which I have read all of, many times, also contains the same.

Christians go bananas over Narnia (I never saw the draw, myself) but also go to the extreme negative over Harry Potter. All three authors claimed to be Christian and all 3 books have overt Christian symbolism and references and allusions.

The occult is a dangerous element to play with, in movies or books or TikToks or anywhere. It represents satan trying to get into the minds of the unwary, to pollute it. It is good to be careful. In Harry Potter the magic does seem to be devoid of a moral compass, while for example in Tolkien’s books the difference between good and evil was stark. Gandalf the Wizard refused to use the ring for ‘good’ because he knew he should not even touch the ring and taught Frodo why, because its inherent evil will gradually overtake a person who wears it.

I think we can be overly-sensitive on the other side. LOTS and LOTS of books and movies contain the exact same elements of occult as Harry Potter but people don’t bat an eye. How about Disney’s 1937 movie Snow White? There’s a witch, there’s casting spells, Magic Mirror, evil, etc. Aladdin? Magic carpet, genie, spells, etc. The Marvel Universe? Loki and Thor are based on false gods of Norse Mythology.

What one parent deems unsuitable, another many deem perfectly fine. Some parents decide not to allow their kids to read the Potter books while other parents do. It is in Christian liberty that one parent decides on thing while another parent decides another. And we’re not privy to ALL their decisions and why, so if they allow their kids to read Harry Potter, or see Snow White, or watch Thor, we might not have the full picture of the internal family discussions that went on, or the devotionals that happen and discussions around it. Parents’ knowledge of their child’s maturity level plays a big role, too. Part of Christian liberty is restraining the impulse to judge another family for their decisions, especially if they differ from ours.

The Bible shows in Revelation that spells, sorceries, false signs and wonders existed and even exist today, since 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Matthew 24:24, Revelation 13:13, and other verses state the fact that ‘witchcraft’ AKA false signs and wonders do happen. I think it’s important to let Christian kids and youths know this, and teach them to be discerning about the holy vs unholy activity. Unholy, demonic activity exists in real life, and in my opinion we don’t need to seek it out in our entertainment. We don’t need to delve into occult, but the Bible is replete with the fact that magicians can and do perform (Moses’ opposition in front of Pharaoh, the sorcerers could match Moses staff for staff, for a while). Watching a movie or reading a book that happen to contain such elements can be instructive and used as a caution.

On the other hand, reactions can be too UNDERstated, as in the newest addition to Disney’s stable of films aimed at kids, Cruella. From what I’ve read, the movie is dark, dark all the way through, and it is sympathetic toward its central evil character, who chose to be evil with no repercussions throughout the film. It even softens evil itself. This is a trend begun openly with the film Maleficent.

Disney is sly in introducing ungodliness and even humanistic worldviews in its movies. The corporation’s slyness makes it hard to pick out exactly what’s wrong and why kids should not watch, as opposed to Harry Potter type material where one can point to “witchcraft” and say ‘NO!” Disney is the bigger danger, IMO. For example, have you noticed that most Disney animated movies lack a mother? Cumulatively, a child on a steady diet of Disney movies will subtly absorb that fact. The insidiousness is what is dangerous. I’d rather have a Harry Potter or a Thor movie to point to the obvious.

"The heroes and heroines of most Disney movies come from unstable family backgrounds; most are either orphaned or have no mothers. Few, if any, have only single-parent mothers. In other instances, mothers are presented as "bad surrogates" eventually "punished for their misdeeds." There is much debate about the reasoning behind this phenomenon." (Source).

I think Disney’s insidious softening toward evil, the lack of mothers, and the “follow your heart” mantra in almost all their movies is cumulatively worse than an overt display of spells or magic. Kids understand magic is fairy tale, but won’t realize Disney’s subsurface agenda and will acceptingly absorb it.

As with anything involving discernment and especially with children, I believe it’s up to the individual or parent in Christian liberty to watch or read according to the level of maturity the person or child has, and to guard and converse copiously with kids as to the meaning and intent of the movie’s moral compass then to compare to the Bible. For some, Harry Potter is a no go, for others, it’s perfectly fine while anything by Madeleine L’Engle is not!

Last, I personally believe that opposition when it’s this pitched has more than opposition behind it. It’s a fad. Harry Potter was spoken against by the head of the ministry Focus on the Family, and that fanned the flames and embedded against the minds of many people, who unreasoningly oppose Potter without explicitly knowing why. That opposition has hardened into the general Christian consciousness like cement.

I see the same thing happening with The Chosen TV series. Opposition is pitched and almost manic, but after I watched season 1, I found only a very few things of concern and far more to applaud, yet any opposition against the awful and heretical Roma Downey “Bible” tv series of ten years ago from these same people was minimal or silent! It was even taught in churches! Gah!

The conclusion is, sisters, go with your own discernment and your husband’s, not the general population’s, some of whom may be individually discerning but also many of whom just jump on a bandwagon unreasoningly.

Decide for yourself what is best for yourself and family based on thoughtful and prayerful Bible beliefs where the Bible is clear and common sense where it is not.


Posted in theology

I will not drown in shallow water

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata. Big Bend, TX. Rio Grande

In 2002-2005 I went through a severe trial. It was in the middle of that time that I became saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, who extended His hand and lifted me from my sins and the muck I had lived in, thinking it was a palace. No, His hand grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and shook the mud off and He gave me His righteousness. As I grew in Christ, I was humbled, no, awed, but the fact that He absorbed the Father’s wrath for these very sins I’d been living in for 42 years.

Salvation came in the middle of the trial, so I had opportunity to view it from two vantage points. One was when looking back, from own worldly perspective having tried to overcome the pit in my own strength. The other was His heavenly perspective, HIS strength given to me to overcome those trials. After the cross punctuated my life and split my history, the trial was still hard but I had another viewpoint to deal with it: HOPE.

Beforehand, my mental/internal picture was of me in a deep pit. I was a struggling worm, trying vainly to climb out. Afterward, I saw myself climbing the steep, muddy bank of a shallow but raging brook, slipping and sliding, clawing and hanging on, but making upward progress.

After salvation, the embankment was still steep, and the mud was still very real, but my steps became surer. Like the hinds’ feet,

The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like deer’s feet, And has me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:19).

As McLaren’s Expositions says of Habakkuk’s hinds’ feet,

"Plod, plod, plod, in a heavy-footed, spiritless grind, like that with which the ploughman toils down the sticky furrows of a field, with a pound of clay at each heel; or like that with which a man goes wearied home from his work at night. The monotony of trivial, constantly recurring doings, the fluctuations in the thermometer of our own spirits; the stiff bits of road that we have all to encounter sooner or later; and as days go on, our diminishing buoyancy of nature, and the love of walking a little slower than we used to do; we all know these things, and our gait is affected by them. But then my text brings a bright assurance, that swift and easy and springing as the course of a stag on a free hill-side may be the gait with which we run the race set before us."

People have verses, quotes, and hymns or praise songs that they often turn to in times of need, in order to grab hold of something outside themselves to help them persevere. For me during that awful time, it was a song by Randy Travis,

Shallow Water, Randy Travis

I will not drown in shallow water.
Not with your love within my reach.
I did not come this far to falter.
And will not rest until I’m free. 

Through Your love my eyes are open
Through Your love I’ll learn to see
And in Your name my bread is broken
By Your grace I’ll rest in peace

I had reached the breaking of day within the long dark night of the soul. The Light is beaming, the Lighthouse awaits. No, I will not drown in the mud and muck, what I learned was actually sin. I will not drown in raging waters of turbulence and strife. The water was shallow all along! I can climb the embankment because HE sets my feet on a sure path. I can persevere, now that I’m acting in His strength, not my own, which had only brought me lower, if I’m honest. I’m NOT a struggling, buried, insignificant worm dwelling in mud that blinds, I am a daughter of Christ, loved, and washed by His blood. I won’t faint. I will live!

I heard that song again recently after some years of it having sunk below the piles of newer songs. It all came tumbling back to my memory, as these things often do when they’re triggered by a smell…a sound…a song.

Shallow Water was published in 2000 as part of an album called Inspirational Journey. The album peaked in 2001, but the individual songs kept on, and were popular during the time I was undergoing the trial.

Friends, the water is shallow. The lions are chained.

“Now before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off the Porter’s lodge, and looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them; for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the Porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt, as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, Is thy strength so small? Mark 4:40. Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.” John Bunyan Pilgrim’s Progress

Stay on the path and He shall make your feet sure, like hinds’ feet climbing to high places. O, what a day when we mount up on eagles wings!

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, KJV)

No, I will not faint. The Lord is with me. Nor shall I drown in shallow water.

What are your go-to verses or songs or hymns from which you receive solace?

Posted in theology

Mail Call: What do you think of the TV series The Chosen?

By Elizabeth Prata

I was asked in real life my views on the television series The Chosen, and now an online reader asks. Here is my reply.

The Chosen. End of season 1. The Messiah and disciples walk away from the well, after meeting the woman.

Personally, I have seen all of season 1. I adore The Chosen! Here are reasons why I like it, some cautions, and the 2nd Commandment issue.

The production itself is very close to depicting the real culture of Jesus’ day. The production values are terrific, the series is lush to look at. I’m so happy to have a Christian production that is not embarrassing in its acting, scenery, costumes, or settings! From what I understand, a lot of research and thought went into it.

Where it depicts biblical events, it again for a lot of the screen time, is very close or exactly biblical. They use verses and phrases from the Bible quite often. I have not seen them depict any of the disciples in any way that is contrary to the way they are presented in the Bible (except they made Matthew be on the autism spectrum…why? I dunno). Simon/Peter is impetuous. Andrew is measured. And so on.

Where the Bible doesn’t speak, the narrative is plausible. For example, Nicodemus is portrayed in almost all of season 1. He is shown as compassionate, knowledgeable, but not proud. He is shown to be seeking and open to the miracles of the man he comes to know as Jesus. He is questioning what he knows and doesn’t know. This is plausible because he is seen in John 3 as seeking…he actually was seeking, and it is plausible that he was seeking and questioning before that one night he came to see Jesus.

What I liked about Nicodemus is the show writers vividly depict the tremendous pressure from students and colleagues for Nicodemus to overlook the likelihood of Jesus being the Messiah, the difficulty in shaking off his entire lifestyle and standing in the community for the unknown in following Jesus, and the pleas of his wife to dismiss what he is increasingly coming to believe, so that they can keep their ‘position’. These are all plausible.

No, all this is not in the Bible explicitly but it is generally, and it’s likely it went down that way, given what we do know about Annas and Caiphas and the scribes etc.. Yes, it’s true in one scene that as Nicodemus realized who Jesus was and kneeled before Him, Jesus said ‘You don’t have to do that.’ Jesus accepted worship, He didn’t reject it. That part of the scene was error. What I did like was that Nicodemus took Jesus’ hand, and kissed it, and replied with Psalm 2:2, Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, which was right. I liked that it indicated one place for sure the other Pharisees should have known who Jesus was, or at least should not have ignored scripture in the Old Testament indicating it.

Another character, Mary who was delivered from 7 demons…I loved how they showed her physical and spiritual agony, and the effect of her possession had on the people in her community. It was starkly shown the effect such possession had on the people that loved her as they tried to help her or at least stay out of her way when the demons made her have a fit. The reality of life being demon possessed is startling and different from when you just read it.

It’s emotional. I cry every episode. It’s one thing to read in the Bible about these events, it’s another to see “Jesus” announce to the woman at the well that “I am He”. It’s emotional to see Jesus in Cana standing over the vat of water about to turn it into wine, and realize in his bowed head that he knows this is the beginning of his public ministry, and thus the beginning of the end. This is something that had not occurred to me, but was brought to life by being able to see it depicted. The Chosen doesn’t detract from the Bible nor in my opinion competes with it, but allows us a different accessibility that’s not usually present when reading or hearing, other ways we normally engage with the word of God every day.

So, it’s fairly accurate biblically, as much as a man-made production can be, well-written and produced, and emotional. The latter two are not reasons alone to enjoy something as important as a Bible story, but I have not found anything huge in doctrine to turn me off, knowing and understanding that this is a man-made production interpreting the life of Jesus from the Bible, not a reproduction of the Biblical texts. The emotionality and good production make for pleasant viewing, while I still have my discernment hat on.

Even The Jesus Film, which was solely words from the Bible, nothing filled in, only the Bible as a script, had its detractors due to the 2nd Commandment issue, poor production values, and overall directorial lifelessness. Some people are not happy no matter what the writers do with Biblical material. Ask a KJV-Onlyist.

Concerns:

Mary who was delivered from 7 demons is increasingly shown throughout season 1 in the inner circle. She travels with the men and is shown being very active as almost one of twelve. In fact, she is depicted as initiating the entry of the paralytic through the crowds and up onto the roof. She didn’t. This is not accurate and is an unnecessary change. I hope that the writers don’t bow to pressure to have a woman in a man’s place as this series continues. I’ve only watched season 1. But I do not like Mary’s involvement, which IS a departure from the texts. It’s one thing that may make me abandon the series.

‘Jesus’ talking with the Woman at the Well. This scene/event concludes season 1. Jesus had openly announced Himself as Messiah, saying to her ‘I am He’, (John 4:26).

A few times, a very few, Jesus says things that are not realistic. Simon-Peter is shown to be impulsive, as he actually was, and Jesus and Peter’s wife have a conversation, that “You saw something in Peter before anyone. So did I. That’s what links us.” That is nonsense and something Jesus would never say.

Some critics dislike that Jesus is shown joking or laughing. I have no quarrel with Jesus joking or laughing. He was “fully man”. He was shown in the Bible to be tired, frustrated, hungry, sorrowful … if He is fully man, is it not reasonable to expect he felt the entire gamut of emotions as a man? This would include joy, laughter, happiness. God rejoices in heaven. (Zephaniah 3:17). I have no quarrel with a show depicting Jesus as laughing. He was a man of sorrows, but he was also made like his brothers in ‘every way’ (Hebrews 2:17).

As for the one line that everyone is hollering about, when ‘Jesus’ was joking about Andrew’s inability to dance, the disciples jokingly appealed to Jesus to help him, and Jesus said, ‘There are some things even I cannot do’. It was a joke. Nothing in the remaining context of the entire bulk of all the episodes suggests anything less than Jesus is fully Man-God deity. And remember, Jesus also said He didn’t know the day nor hour of the Second Coming, (Matthew 24:36), and that ‘He GREW in wisdom and stature’.

I am aware of the issues with Dallas Jenkins’ ‘spiritual advisers’- Mormons and Catholics. It says a lot about his discernment to have them on board, or maybe it was a pragmatic or financial decision. I don’t see people decrying Billy Graham who also had Catholics and Jewish rabbis at his Crusades as counselors. Hmmm, crickets on that one! Jenkins’ associations are something to be aware of, putting that nugget in the discernment bucket. I don’t know how much his advisers influenced him but I have not seen anything tremendously disturbing yet. But as with ANY material that isn’t the actual Bible, be discerning and watch and compare.

As far as the critics’ charges that this movie is dangerous in that it causes people to reignite love for scripture or return to church etc, perhaps supplanting actual word of God or using the movie as a substitute, well, devices are used all the time to draw people. VBS, Trunk or Treat, Youth Night pizza parties, Christmas Chorales, movie clips, popular songs, Revival week… churches use various methods all the time to punctuate worship or to draw the drifting. Not all of these methods are good and some are too pragmatic, but just add The Chosen to the pile of ways Christians use material to get the Good News out there. We understand we aren’t to directly worship the Jesus in the movie. We know we aren’t supposed to swap the written word of God for a cinematic experience.

Second Commandment

Yes an actor depicts Jesus but no, I don’t think anyone will bow down to him or worship him. For some, it sears their conscience to view someone portraying Jesus and that is OK, I would not want someone to violate their conscience. For me, it is not an issue. I would not want someone to make me feel seared for having watched a depiction of Jesus. Is it unwise to listen to an audio recording of the Gospel of John, for a human to audibly speak the words that Jesus spoke and us to listen to it? To listen to a voice actor like Max McLean to read Jesus’ words aloud in a podcast devotional? We all have differing levels of quarrel with how far depictions of Jesus go.

Conclusion

I think people and especially parents just need to weigh if they want to watch a show that plausibly fills in gaps where the Bible is silent, and whether they or their kids will absorb it as truth. That could be a danger.

Fads. A lot of times reviews go in fads because people pile on. The outrage against Harry Potter was started by Focus on the Family and since James Dobson had a lot of influence it went far. People piled on, going ‘yeah! yeah, Harry Potter bad!’ without thinking it thru for themselves. Eventually such negativity settles into the culture like cement and it’s hard to shake it. I think the same thing is happening with The Chosen. It is one of the best depictions of Jesus I’ve seen, the material is pretty biblical, there are some quibbles and a few off things as there usually are! but nothing that would warrant people saying ‘it’s heresy!’ like I’ve seen.

Indeed, this is one of the more biblically faithful series I’ve seen, and yet the awful series “The Bible” by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett was actually taught in churches! I’ve heard nothing but crickets from people about that, nor about Noah with Russell Crowe, Exodus: God and Kings by Ridley Scott, and series like The Bible and AD: The Bible Continues etc. They say ‘Ack, it’s just movie/TV! Get over it!” Why the outrage against The Chosen? I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s warranted.

Michelle Lesley has a good review of season 1 that is balanced, (her mini-review of part of season 2 is here) one of the few balanced reviews I’ve seen. Todd Friel of Wretched also reviews it.

I put on my discernment hat and go from there. It’s up to any individual person to determine at what point their conscience would be bothered by what they are viewing. Niggles turn into issues that turn into problems that turn into heresy, and at some point discernment tips over from caution to ‘no-go.’ For most of the movies and television shows about biblical material, I tune out early due to a mounting pile of issues with doctrine. In one or two cases I quit because the production was so poor. With The Chosen, I’m still hanging in and I look forward to season 2, hoping I don’t have to abandon it. As with any material based on the word of God, be discerning and realize in grace and patience and love that for each person their tipping point will vary and some will bail earlier than others.

As with any biblical production, use discernment, pay attention to your conscience, and watch out for the kids if you have any that plan to watch, carefully explaining what is interpretive filler and which part is biblical. But parents should do that anyway!

Enjoy The Chosen for what it is and go on with your summer.

Posted in theology

Will a piece of Scotch tape stop an avalanche?

By Elizabeth Prata

Now on the next day, that is, the day which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63and they said, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I am rising.’ 64Therefore, give orders for the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66And they went and made the tomb secure with the guard, sealing the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66).

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and THE Teacher of Israel. He came to Jesus saying “WE know you are from God…” (John 3:2). They knew. They also remembered Jesus had said He would rise on the third day. The disciples had apparently forgotten, but the priests and Pharisees and scribes didn’t. They were worried that the disciples would come and steal the body and try to claim He had risen. So they went to Pilate. They reminded Pilate that the disciples may steal the body. This was likely a strategic mention, not just to prevent any claims of having risen, but tomb robbing was a terrible problem in the Roman Empire. Severe penalties existed for grave robbing. Mentioning the likelihood of the body being stolen would have startled Pilate and/or the Romans into action.

Placing a stone against the tomb’s opening was a usual practice. Lazarus’ tomb had a stone against it. (John 11:38-39). The seal on the stone was probably what they used commonly in those days- a wax seal impressed with a signet and some cords pressed into the wax and then stretched across to an opposite lump of wax.

The seal was not intended to prevent moving the stone away, the guards were there for that, and the stone itself. The seal was only to indicate that if the seal was broken it would be a sign someone had messed with the grave.

Poole's Commentary says, "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Vain men! as if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead, could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, that he may set his King upon his holy hill of Zion." Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, p. 143). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

The Pharisees had set up triple barriers but in the end all they did was prove that Jesus had resurrected! They knew that Jesus was from God, did they really think a paltry rope seal would stop the avalanche of God’s power in raising His Son from the dead?

They had seen or heard of the moment in Nazareth where Jesus stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah as depicted in Luke 4:16-19,

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And then Jesus announced that the prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing. Who else but someone from God, or the Messiah Himself, could open the eyes of the blind? No other blind person had ever been made to see in all of Israel’s history, before this. They knew. Romans 1:18 reminds us that the unsaved suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They were very busy suppressing the truth of who Jesus was, and scurried around putting Scotch tape over a boulder’s crack.

Nothing can stop the power of God. Nothing. He created the worlds with a word, and the stars also. He made man from dust. He sustains it all by His power. He resurrects the dead, and he regenerates sinful hearts. His power cannot be stopped with a stone or a guard or a wax seal. Poole is right- o vain men!

I like to ponder the love of God and His invitation to come to Him who is gentle and lowly. I also like to ponder His power and might!

Posted in theology

My son/daughter’s friend came out as gay…how do I help my kid not become desensitized?

by Elizabeth Prata

Kids in high school and especially college co-eds are having a hard time withstanding the tsunami of cultural change with regard to the issues of gender dysphoria, homosexuality, trans-issues, and gender roles. I can’t imagine the deep level of concern that parents of kids these days deal with.

The mama bear wants to protect and guard the kids…the Christian woman in us wants to honor Jesus, and the flesh in us is probably scared to death… The special worry is that kids will become desensitized to these particular sins, because they are being promoted and tolerated so heavily. The Christian life, particularly for parents these days, seems to be one of continual worry and vigilance.

It’s always about sin “out there” – until it rears its head and comes close! What to do when your child’s friend comes out as gay…when a trans person becomes the roommate, when the dorm’s bathroom is unisex, issue isn’t just ‘out there’ any more but touches you or your child’s intimate life? I’m reminded of Jude,

17But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

How not to become desensitized to these sins? It would seem to me that when youths are involved via friendship with a person involved in homosexuality (in any form) we look to the end of the verse, ‘having mercy on him with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.’ Jamieson Fausset commentary says of that part of the verse,

"those who are objects of compassion, whom accordingly you should compassionate (and help if occasion should offer), but at the same time not let pity degenerate into connivance at their error. Your compassion is to be accompanied "with fear" of being at all defiled by them."

Do not let pity degenerate into complicity or acceptance at their error… It’s right to have a concern that youths will become desensitized to sin. They are young enough to have been born post-sexual revolution, where the notion of gay marriage, drag queens, tranvestism and other sexual dysfunctions are common. It always happens, the more a person is around any sin the more their conscience is hardened and it starts to seem normal. That is definitely a legitimate concern.

I often refer to the Jude verse about snatching some from the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh, but I’m equally often at a loss as to HOW to do this.

I offer several resources along this vein, which I felt gave advice by example on how to deal with these troubling issues of the day sexual dysphoria, transvestism, homosexuality, transsexuals, etc.

First, I remember Todd Friel of Wretched some years ago making a video contrasting two different reactions to a boy who came out as gay to his dad. One was an actual letter from a Dad responding to his son’s coming out, and the other was from counselor David Murray who was saddened over the Dad’s letter, which had become public. Murray wrote a hypothetical reply as he pondered the actual Dad’s reply, which was harsh. Friel updated the video to include a back and forth email exchange from Emeal Zwayne (“EZ”) who is President of Ray Comfort’s Living Waters ministry, which I loved.

The Zwayne exchange shows HOW to have compassion on a person who is gay and who is combative about it at first, and how EZ extended love- with boundaries and humility- that helped to reach the poor soul.

The next part of Friel’s video goes through the two dads scenario, again I feel it’s instructive by example both in what not to do and what to do, about how to set limits with love, as Jude says, having compassion without being polluted even by the garment. Maybe parents can have explicit talks revolving around these issues, i.e. how to have compassion and be a godly influence without desensitizing toward sin after viewing the limits set in compassion as we hear in Murray’s hypothetical letter.

I also think it helps, as Friel alluded to at the end, that homosexuals know they are in the wrong, Romans 1:18 says they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I think, keep reminding your kids of that internally and personally but without sermonizing all the time…  (as the combative gay person said in his message to EZ, “I don’t need a sermon…”). Love, earnest listening without openly accepting, and not being a hypocrite ourselves goes a long way to strike a chord with someone who is actively suppressing the truth. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for their exhaustion in suppressing it to collapse as truth explodes into their conscience and bursts out.

I encourage you to watch the video below and see if it suits what you may be dealing with. Cached video below. I don’t know what happened to the actual video on Wretched.org in the two days since I’d seen it and when I went to link it now, it has disappeared from Wretched’s site. Here is the cached version. I hope it keeps working, because it’s a good video. Friel begins the meat of it at 1:04 and ends at 22:48.

Jesus Had Compassion on Sinners. Do We?

Here are the segment breaks and topics:

Segment 1 (0:00) – Are we like Jesus, seeing the lost, the homosexual, the fornicator, and the porn addict with compassion?  Todd introduces a clip from Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne’s message “EZ Conversation with a Homosexual Man.”  E.Z. shares his compassionate response to a homosexual critical of E.Z.’s preaching.

Segment 2 (10:00) – The conclusion of E.Z.’s message calling for compassion.  Todd introduces clips from a message he shared at Answers in Genesis titled “Letter from Dad,” which contrasts two responses from father’s to their sons who have come out as homosexual.

Segment 3 (17:58) – Todd’s message continues with a compelling question: “Do we respond as conservatives or Christians?”  Todd reads Jerry Bridges’ “Sins We Tend to Overlook,” and closes with a call to engage the lost with compassion.

Next resource: Our Church has Thursday night ‘Table Talks’. Elders present scriptures and issues and we compare to the Bible. The first two weeks was looking at Critical Race Theory and comparing to what the Bible says. The next two weeks was LGBTQ+ issues, sexual issues, gender, and the like. This past week’s video was so good, so illuminating, and so sensitively presented, I link it below. Three of the four elders teach youths in High School or Middle School, and one of them was a college/youth pastor before starting at our church. A great many college kids and young adults represent our church demographic. These men are highly tuned in to the issues of homosexuality and the problem it has become for many of our youths today. The video is an hour. One of our elders speaks rather rapidly, but you can always play with the settings on the video to slow it down. 😉

Link here


Lastly, I offer this sermon from John MacArthur. God’s View of Homosexuality, part 1. MacArthur says of why single out homosexuality as a particular spotlight when there are so many sins God hates-

"I suppose there should be some justification for isolating a sin like this and preaching on it when there are so many sins which are equally heinous to God.  The answer to those who might wonder why we would isolate this one should be apparent, but just in case it isn’t, this sin has taken on unique properties in our culture.  It has been declassified as a sin and turned into a sort of civil rights group.  It is at this particular point a political issue and not a moral one, an issue of freedom and not a moral one or a spiritual one."

America is about to become or already is a post-Christian nation. Even the thin veneer of morality that shallow Christianity had covered our nation with is melting away faster than ice cubes on a July sidewalk. Sins of all types are being normalized, homosexuality among them. Stay in the word of God, pray ceaselessly, and look up for the return of Jesus. After all, today we are one day closer than we’ve ever been before!

Jesus saves, He forgives all sin- there IS life post-gay…post trans…post any sin. Grace abounds.

Posted in theology

What a horror the cross was to the Romans

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

In 70 BC, Publius Gavius spoke out against a corrupt Roman governor in charge of Sicily, named Verres. Verres then arrested Gavius in trumped up charges of espionage. He put Gavius in chains without a trial. Law and Order was very important to the Romans. They constantly referred to all other tribes as “barbarians”. They believed themselves to the best of the best, civilized and civilizing the entire world. Their view of the law and the refining influence of scrupulously adhering to it was one of the reasons for their cultural pride.

The Romans’ distaste for crucifixion is extreme.

The invented it, but even mentioning this type of execution was seen as rude, especially if the company was mixed. Cicero said that crucifixion was, “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”. He exhorted that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” (Cicero, Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16).

Sicily is that large island just off the ‘toe’ of the Italian peninsula. The strait of Messina separates the island from the mainland. It looks like the toe of Italy’s boot is kicking Messina, Sicily. The city is only 1.9 miles from the mainland at the narrowest part of the strait.

Verres decided to flog Gavius for his indiscretion of calling out the corruption in Verres’ governorship. Gavius was shocked, and insisted on his rights as a Roman Citizen. Romans did not put each other in chains. Nevertheless, Verres kept the chains on Gavius and continued with the flogging, and in public no less. Not one word was heard from Gavius except at each lash of the whip, he said “I am a Roman Citizen!”

Gavius’ continued cry for proper justice so incensed Verres that after the flogging, he decided to crucify Gavius.

Insert collective gasp here.

Further, Verres was so angry that he not only erected a cross on the Island for the very first time, but deliberately placed it high on the hill overlooking the Italian mainland so that Italy could look upon its disgraced son Gavius and Gavius could only mourn the closeness of his beloved homeland as citizen as he writhed in agony and expired.

Google map

Cicero was incensed. Cicero at the time was stationed on Sicily as a quaestor, a sort of manager/auditor/administrator for a designated region. Cicero had not attained his fame yet as orator, but sought this low-level administrative elected position as an entry level to politics, as most aspiring politically oriented Romans did. His populace loved him and Cicero did an excellent job.

After Gavius’ death, a collective of people on Sicily asked Cicero to represent them in a kind of civil tort claim against Verres. They’d had enough of Verres’ corruption as a mini-tyrant on the island. I say ‘island’ because geographically it was, but Sicily was the breadbasket of Rome and had power and pull that most islands didn’t. Cicero’s series of orations during the trial of Verres was collected and is now known as “Against Verres”. These orations were the major milestones launching Cicero into history as noted orator and eventually Statesman extraordinaire.

Cicero so hated crucifixion as a disgusting activity against Roman citizens (it was a method of execution reserved for slaves and basest criminals) he said the crime was not just against Gavius but a blot against all Romans. He expounded:

“Here was reared that cross, to which he attached a Roman citizen, in the presence of numerous spectators, which he would not have dared to put up any where, except in the city of those who were the accomplices of his thefts and crimes.”

“O judges, that cross, for the first time since the foundation of Messina, was erected in that place. A spot commanding a view of Italy was picked out by that man, for the express purpose that the wretched man who was dying in agony and torture might see that the rights of liberty and of slavery were only separated by a very narrow strait, and that Italy might behold her son murdered by the most miserable and most painful punishment appropriate to slaves alone.”

I cannot state enough how much of a horror the cross was to all civilized people. Cicero said,

“To put a Roman citizen in chains is a wrong. To flog him is a crime. To execute him is almost parricide. And what shall I call crucifixion? So guilty an action cannot by any possibility be adequately expressed by any name bad enough for it.”

The cross, which was apparently still standing, should be thrown into the deep ocean, Cicero said. The spot where the cross was should be purified! The cross was an emblem of agony, conflict not of peace, and a disgusting sight to all who pass!

“With what insolence have you conducted yourselves in the eyes of the Roman people? Have you not yet removed that cross, nor committed it to the deep, which stood at your city harbour, stained with the blood of a Roman citizen? Have you not purified the spot before you entered Rome, and this seat of judgment? A monument of the cruelty of Verres is erected in a territory at peace, and in alliance with the republic is your city fixed upon as the place, where those who cross from Italy should meet the crucifix of a Roman, before he sees a friend of the republic?”

How dare he? How dare Verres conduct himself in such a manner?! Setting aside the rights of a Roman citizen in fact infringes on the rights of ALL Romans, if Verres’ act not be corrected, no Roman’s rights shall stand securely! They were ALL at risk! Cicero said-

“It was not Gavius, not one obscure man, whom you nailed upon that cross of agony : it was the universal principle that Romans are free men.—Nay, do but mark the villain’s shamelessness! And you point out that cross to the people of Regium, whose citizen rights you envy them, and to the Roman citizens that live among you, bidding them think less proudly of themselves and less disdainfully of you : for behold, Roman citizenship has not saved its possessor from such a penalty as this.”

Cicero, Palazzo di Giustizia. Creative Commons, free to use

Here Cicero wails against the vaunted laws of Rome having been abrogated in Verres’ pursuit of vengeance against a fellow Roman. Having done this heinous thing, Cicero says, crucifixion should be reserved for Verres himself, so heinous was his act. THAT’S how horrible the cross was-

“And since those whom I am in fact addressing are senators of Rome, main pillars of our laws and our law-courts and our civic rights, I may rest assured that Verres will be pronounced the one Roman citizen for whom that cross would be a fitting punishment, and no others deserving, even in the smallest degree, of being treated thus.”

Cicero said that the anger of the populace for Verres having committed this disgusting act, Cicero chose not to press this point in his first oration during the trial, so tumultuous were the flames of the people against Verres. Cicero explained,

“O the sweet name of liberty! O the admirable privileges of our citizenship! O Porcian law! O Sempronian laws! O power of the tribunes, bitterly regretted by, and at last restored to the Roman people! Have all our rights fallen so far, that in a province of the Roman people,—in a town of our confederate allies,—a Roman citizen should be bound in the forum, and beaten with rods by a man who only had the fasces and the axes through the kindness of the Roman people? What shall I say? When fire, and red-hot plates and other instruments of torture were employed? It the bitter entreaties and the miserable cries of that man had no power to restrain you, were you not moved even by the weeping and loud groans of the Roman citizens who were present at that time? Did you dare to drag any one to the cross who said that he was a Roman citizen? I was unwilling, O judges, to press this point so strongly at the former pleading; I was unwilling to do so. For you saw how the feelings of the multitude were excited against him with indignation, and hatred, and fear of their common danger. I, at that time, fixed a limit to my oration, and checked the eagerness of Caius Numitorius a Roman knight, a man of the highest character, one of my witnesses. And I rejoiced that Glabrio had acted (and he had acted most wisely) as he did in dismissing that witness immediately, in the middle of the discussion. In fact he was afraid that the Roman people might seem to have inflicted that punishment on Verres by tumultuary violence, which he was anxious he should only suffer according to the laws and by your judicial sentence.”

“~The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, literally translated by C. D. Yonge. London. George Bell & Sons. 1903.

I hope that these snippets of Cicero’s famous first oration supplied you with some background to both the importance of citizenship in the Roman Empire, and the disgust sensible people felt about the cross used as a barbaric method of execution for its citizens. As mentioned, it was all right to execute criminals and slaves using the cross, but even then, such things were not discussed in polite company.

The Latin phrase cīvis rōmānus sum (“I am (a) Roman citizen”) is a phrase used in Cicero’s In Verrem as a plea for the legal rights of a Roman citizen. When travelling across the Roman Empire, safety was said to be guaranteed to anyone who declared, “civis romanus sum”.

Paul capitalized on this as mentioned twice in scripture. (Acts 16:37-38Acts 22:25-28). Paul said further that he didn’t buy his citizenship nor was it conferred to him, but he was born a Roman citizen. When “The officers reported these words to the chief magistrates. And they became fearful when they heard that they were Romans,” verse 28. They had reason to be fearful. Citizenship was a highly protected right. Severe penalties ensued against those infringed upon those rights.

And now perhaps we can understand the horror the disciples felt when they heard the verdict “crucify Him!” And the disgust mingled with fear they’d felt. Peter certainly suffered, denying Christ three times. We can see why so many of them abandoned the place of execution and hid, except for the women.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8).

Our savior died an ignominious death, naked and bleeding, scoffed at and mocked, beaten and spat upon, the worst death devised in all of the civilized world. For us. For you. For me.

Posted in theology

Beth Moore’s Living Proof Ministry is in the red

By Elizabeth Prata

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is occurring in a few days (June 15-16). Messengers from member churches from all over the United States have poured in to Nashville in order to attend. Normally the meeting attracts a good number of members interested in the convention’s direction, but this year there are more messengers than ever. Two overflow rooms have been set up due to high registration attendance.

Why so many? To “Take the Ship!,” the mantra and the attitude of these many extra messengers, who have arrived because they are concerned with the direction the convention of churches is heading. Women pastors are being ordained, despite the office being biblically denied to women. Women are more often regularly preaching the Sunday message, again, something the Bible forbids. Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality are infiltrating the churches due to an unfortunate passing of Resolution #9 two years ago. A general liberal drift has been observed. Many of the messengers arriving in Nashville want to stop all this, and will advocate for a return to biblical principles, especially those outlined in the Convention’s own Baptist Faith & Message, many precepts of which are regularly denied, members say.

I have regularly warned against Beth Moore’s negative influence in the Convention since 2011. Her example, her lifestyle, her doctrine, and her teachings – whether live, on DVD, or in her books and curricula – are to be avoided. Beth Moore is a false teacher.

Moore has been active in the SBC since the mid 1978, only departing the Southern Baptist Convention in a loud announcement just 12 weeks ago. What has her legacy been over these past four decades? How is her ministry faring? Is she still reaching the heights of popularity (and influence) she did in her heyday, or is her heyday still ongoing?

Churches and religious organizations are among the charitable organizations that qualify for exemption from paying income taxes. These tax-exempt charitable organizations are listed in the IRS as 501(c)(3) organizations. Beth Moore’s corporation titled Living Proof Ministries has been tax-exempt since its founding 1995. What this means is, in return for being exempt from paying taxes for the public good, the IRS requires exempt organizations to disclose IRS filings to the general public. Any non-profit organization’s tax filings can be viewed. I use ProPublica to view LPM’s filings.

The most recent filing is for the tax year 2019, filed in 2020. For the last three years, Living Proof Ministries has been operating at a loss. Tax Year (TY) 2016 was the last year, according to the filings, that LPM made money, and only $133,439 at that. TY 2017 showed a net income loss of -$540,356. TY 2018 showed a net income loss of -$722,828. This was the first year also that the Ministry’s functional income fell below 2 million dollars.

Beth Moore’s compensation is listed on the IRS return as $222,651 for a 50/hour week. The Ministry also employs her daughter Melissa, whose salary is listed as $114,241 for a 40/hour week. The Ministry reported “Savings and Temporary Cash investments” at just over $4.3million. The IRS defines this category as-

“The combined total of amounts held in interest-bearing checking and savings accounts, deposits in transit, temporary cash investments (such as money market funds, commercial paper, and certificates of deposit), and U.S. Treasury bills or other governmental obligations that mature in less than a year.”

From 2001-2016, Living Proof Ministries built its assets from $1 million to $15 million. (Source)

Beth Moore’s Salary:
Fiscal Year ending 2019: $222,651
Fiscal year ending 2018: $231,205.
Fiscal year ending 2017: $229,862
Fiscal Year ending 2016: $229,862

Moore’s salary is set by a process for determining compensation that includes a review and approval by independent persons, comparability data, and substantiation for the decision should the IRS require details. Whether the independent committee chose to cut Moore’s salary or she volunteered to cut it is unknown, but her salary did decrease a bit this year over last.

The section called Gifts and Grants to the Ministry shows a decline over time as well. The height of giving to LPM seems to have been 2014,

I have noticed that Living Proof’s charitable giving to other organizations and churches has gone down too. The Ministry used to be much more generous. Giving shown on the earliest online return was $225,607 and the ministry’s income at that time was 1.7 million. This past year, LPM donated only $39,000, despite a healthy savings of $4.3 million and net assets of $13,472,277. Same-amount donations of $6,500 were given to just 6 organizations last year, as opposed to generous giving to over 20 places in the earliest IRS Return posted online.

The type of organizations Moore’s Ministry donates to has drifted from churches and religious entities as it was in the earlier years, to social justice and social reform causes in these latter years. LPM’s giving in the early years included donations to various churches (including Joel Osteen’s Lakewood), missions, the International Mission Board, Bible donations, and scholarships & tuition to religious education organizations, etc.

Star of Hope Mission was on LPM’s donation list this year, an organization that cares for Houston’s homeless.

Also on the donations list from Living Proof Ministry this past year was Hines Ugandan Ministries– Its ‘About Us’ says: “Hines Ugandan Ministries strives to meet the spiritual, educational and physical needs of the children and families in Kamonkoli Village through our sponsorship program, orphanage, medical clinic, AWANA program, and primary school.”

But in a marked shift in type of LPM partnerships in giving, for example, Living Proof this past year donated to Millennium Relief & Development, a community service organization. Their website lists projects such as “Aquaponics & sustainable agriculture in Egypt & the Maldives”, “Job training for human trafficking survivors in India”, and a “Women’s Center in Iraq”.

Living Proof also donated to an organization called Polished Women, defined as “A network that gathers working women to navigate the workplace and explore faith together in authentic community.”

Build a Better Us, whose stated mission is “To assist individuals & families through coaching and health services in order to build better communities.” Its founder Bradley J. Thompson, or “BJ,” lists himself as a life coach specializing in “Personal development – Relational development – Spiritual formation – Diversity maturity.”

Finally, the last organization on the Living Proof donation list of 6 organizations was Be the Bridge, a “racial reconciliation ministry”. There are serious concerns with the infiltration of Critical Race Theory into SBC churches, and the divisions such philosophies spark. Jesse Johnson reviewed Be the Bridge here at The Cripplegate, saying, “Be the Bridge buys into the evolutionary lie that race defines our existence.” Living Proof Ministry has been donating to Be the Bridge for several years.

As a former investigative journalist, adhering to the adage “follow the money” yields quantifiable data, often irrefutable. Observing income, money exchanges between parties, and the data begins to tell a story. I’ll leave to you to weave that story, I just present the facts.

I hope that Beth Moore repents someday, and I do hope that her influence wanes. I hope that her ministry folds and her books go out of print. This isn’t because I dislike Beth Moore. No. She seems like a nice person to her daughters and grandchildren, and she needs salvation like any other (probably) non-saved person. I hope for those things because I mourn the women negatively affected by Moore’s false teaching and because of her unbiblical lifestyle that many women are now following. LPM states they have reached 3.9m households. Her LPM online ministry outreach reaches people on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LPM’s app and her Living Proof Blog. These social media platforms combined reached a total of 2 million people. Her daily radio broadcast reaches 531k people weekly on 397 radio outlets. LPM’s online store disseminates (false) religious teachings through audio, video and written material to the tune of 15k units shipped and 2k downloads. Onsite ministry supported 700 walk-ins.

These numbers add up to a hefty influence. In other activities, Moore is teaching at Wheaton College this July through Christine Caine’s Propel Women Cohort. And, of course, though Moore’s formal relationship with LifeWay ended, “LifeWay will continue to carry Moore’s books and study resources and she is listed as a speaker for “A Cruise with Lifeway” in October.” (Source). Though Living Proof’s net income is in the red, I don’t think her Ministry empire is in danger of immediate collapse, sad to say.

Beth Moore’s departure from the SBC, strategically announced just prior to the SBC annual meeting, in fact gives her more flexibility and latitude than ever. Sadly, her forty-year unbiblical influence leaves SBC messengers to clean up her mess in attempts to retake the ship and steer it from shoal infested rocky waters to deeper, calmer seas. I’m praying for our dear SBC messengers and that the outcome of this meeting will be unity and a return to more biblical standards, especially where it relates to women’s roles, something of which I have great concern.

Propagation of false teaching is like gangrene, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:17, spreading quickly and in the end, is deadly to those who unwarily absorb it. I hope as Beth Moore departs the Southern Baptist Convention and looks to the next phases of her aging life and ministry, that she retires to her 45-acre, 2 million dollar estate in Tomball, and begins to live a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11), becomes sensible, pure, and a worker at home (Titus 2:5), and most of all, that she repents. (Mark 1:15).

Posted in theology

Shedding tears over beauty

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m a fan of The Great Pottery Throwdown. It’s a reality competition show in Britain, featuring contestants who make various ceramics out of various types of clay, and then are judged on the results according to various criteria. They are successively eliminated until one is left standing as the winning Potter.

EPrata photo

Keith Brymer Jones is a Master Potter, and has been judge on the show since its debut in 2015. Jones is fantastically talented designer and potter, and has an entire line of ceramics and homeware. His knowledge comes across on the show either when he demonstrates a technique to the contestants, or when he judges their items.

Jones is a huge hulk of a man. He looks to be well over 6 feet, and has a huge chest and long arms. Either he was born that way or his decades of hunching over a potter’s wheel and lugging tons of clay has made him so. One would expect so large of a man to be a “strong silent type” where “still waters run deep” or at least more reserved and manly, as all the stereotypes go. But no. Keith Brymer Jones is well known for easily and often shedding tears on the show.

He cries at the beauty of the pieces. He cries at the failure of the pieces. He cries at the dedication and perseverance of the contestants. He cries and cries!

The odd juxtaposition of such a large man so easily crying in public, who sobs over sensitive things such as beauty, has been well noted online,

This dungaree-wearing gentle giant is reduced to blubbing several times an episode, and tears fall down his cheeks simply in the name of beautiful ceramics. (source)

But Keith has been the star of the show since series one, sobbing away, reminding us all that sometimes your emotions overtake you just because you have such a strong appreciation of fine craft. (source)

After some brief initial teasing about it, Jones decided to embrace his tears, saying to the UK Guardian, “I get emotional,” says the master potter, “because it’s a craft I love. It is my life. When I see a potter communicating their creativity via something they’ve made, I can’t help but cry. You’re watching imagination come to life. It’s so special.

I appreciate fine craft, too. I had teared up at viewing an artistic masterpiece. I did when I saw Michaelangelo’s David, and Botticelli’s Primavera, before I was saved. I also appreciate the skill and hard work involved in producing such beauty. RC Sproul used to teach and preach about beauty quite often. Sproul said,

It is interesting to me that people of all ages and from all civilizations and cultures are fascinated with jewels and precious metals for no reason other than their beauty. These things are precious to us not because we can eat them or use them as tools, but because they serve as adornments. By their inherent beauty, they enhance human beauty and the work of man’s hands. (Sproul, source)

I know another man, this one personally, not a TV man. He is a good man. He loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and teaches about him as well as preaches often. He is a student of the word. Mainly, he is a child of God, and intensely sensitive to the fact that we humans are depraved wretches and graciously saved from God’s wrath by grace. The life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ stirs Him. He teaches of the Good News of the Gospel and can hardly do so when mentioning these things without crying.

He loves the Lord so much and His Good News so awes him, that he tears up at the mere thought of how He saved wretches like us.

I got to thinking about the contrast between these two men. I have no issue about men shedding tears, no, that’s not it. The contrast is in their perspective. It’s in the object that moves them to tears. One man cries upon seeing the clay. The other cries upon seeing the Potter.

Jeremiah 18:1-6a,

The Potter and the Clay

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Am I not able, house of Israel, to deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord.

May I never lose my awe and gratitude upon seeing the Potter, who makes us His clay pots. Some are for common use and some are for honorable use. (Romans 9:21). He does as he wills with His clay. God Himself appreciates beauty.

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:2)

His beauty is beauty from which ALL other beauty stems. There is nothing beautiful that doesn’t come from the beauty that is God and His Son Jesus Christ and His Spirit who remakes the dishonorable clay into beautiful vessels for His use and for His glory.

As we read and study the Scriptures, we have to come to the conclusion that there is an ultimate source of beauty — the character of God. Just as the normative standard for goodness and truth is God, so the ultimate standard of beauty is God, and He is very interested in beauty in His creation. (Sproul, source).

I can admire a man who appreciates beauty and is even moved to tears because of it. But I admire a man even more who appreciates the source of all beauty, the very beautiful Jesus Christ and His Good News of the Gospel.

Posted in theology

It’s Pride Month: Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That?

By Elizabeth Prata

Gay Pride Month was first declared in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. Three presidents of the United States have officially declared a pride month. As mentioned, Clinton was first, who declared it June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in 1999 and 2000. Then from 2009 to 2016, each year he was in office, Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. Joe Biden declared June LGBTQ+ Pride Month in 2021.

A lot has happened with the homosexual agenda since 1993. Twenty-eight years ago, (1993) in an episode of the comedy sitcom “Seinfeld” called “The Outing,” Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, lifelong buddies, are mistaken for a homosexual couple, and “strenuously deny that they are gay, conditioning their denials with ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that.’ The line would soon afterward become a catchphrase. Jason Alexander maintains that it is the most popular to originate from the series. (source).

But the camel’s nose was under the tent. It was the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (DADT). In the same year as Seinfeld’s episode of “The Outing”, President Bill Clinton announced new policy regarding homosexuals in the military. Until then, openly homosexual men and women were barred from service in the United States Military. Under Clinton’s policy, DADT meant that homosexual men and women could serve if they weren’t flagrant. No military official could directly ask them about their sexual orientation in recruitment or otherwise, either.

This new policy ushered in a sensitivity about asking or discussing one’s sexual orientation in the general culture, as seen in the hugely impactful Seinfeld episode. I can’t state more strongly what a cultural phenomenon that Seinfeld was. In the episode, each time when homosexuality was mentioned and the catchphrase “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” was uttered, the person would shrug, throw up their hands in a mock submission and shake their head. Here is a 16 second compilation from that episode-

Twenty-eight years later, even mentioning homosexuality in less than glowing terms raises immediate ire. If a person does not give hearty approval to homosexuality, (Romans 1:32), one is immediately scourged. The scourging is fast, immediate, and vicious. I’ve been a recipient of it myself, merely for inquiring of a third party regarding two ladies, “Are they together?”

It is a given that we understand there are many sins. Lists and lists of them are given in the Bible. (Romans 1:29-31, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Jude 1:16). Committing even one of them disqualifies a person from heaven. Jesus is great enough to forgive them, no matter how many you committed. If a person is talking about the greatness of Jesus in His ability and desire to forgive any and all sins, then by all means, list the bunch of them to illustrate the breadth of His mercy and grace! But homosexuality is one of those sins for which people who practice it will endure hellfire forever.

While the discussion of homosexuality as a sin may legitimately call for an expanded list of sins, it is not necessary to hide homosexuality within a larger list of sins just to make it palatable to the LGBT lobby. If the discussion is about the sin of gossip, then the discussion will be about gossip. No one will suggest including adultery in the talk because it is in some way perversely fair to all the other sins to mention them too.

There is no pride in sin. If so, then an adulterer would proudly march up and down the streets showing off his mistress. Thieves would march in parades holding their ill-gotten goods. There is no pride in any sin. We are called to repentance for gossip, fornication, idolatry, greed…all of it!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

No one who is unrighteous will inherit heaven. I’m not a better class of sinner than a gay person because I sin differently, no! All unrighteous will be disqualified from heaven. Likewise, the homosexual is not a better class of sinner than me, either. There is no pride in sin. None. All sin is cosmic treason and will evoke anger from a Holy God. He punishes sin in wrath.

The Good News is that repentance from sin will evoke forgiveness and compassion from a loving God. He forgives sin, all sin, as we see in the verse above. “…And such were some of you…” WERE some of you. They WERE greedy, drunkards, swindlers, homosexual. Past. They turned from their sin and appealed in penitence to God for forgiveness.

God forgives because Jesus took God’s punishment for sin on the cross. He became sin, He sacrificed Himself on behalf of us pigs wallowing in our filthy pens. The parable of the Prodigal Son reflects the goodness of the Father and his eagerness to forgive sin and welcome His sons into His house!

I will set out and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired laborers.”’ So he set out and came to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, slaughter it, and let’s eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:18-24).

If one wants to feel pride, be proud of a Holy God who forgives. Boast in Him! (2 Corinthians 10:17). We feel pride in Jesus who did such a monumental work, who came to seek and save the lost, of whom homosexuals are grouped. There is no pride in sin, but there is pride in a sinless Savior. I pray that anyone lost in their sin and feeling deep shame, despair, hopelessness, realizes that no one is too far gone to be able to appeal to Jesus in repentance. He forgives all sin, and no sinner coming to Him will be turned away. And there’s nothing wrong with that, and everything RIGHT and GOOD.

Posted in theology

Was Jesus’ death on the cross “cosmic child abuse”?

By Elizabeth Prata

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Detractors of Christianity will say anything to cast aspersions onto the beauty, glory, and mystery of the atonement. One of the more popular riffs I’ve heard lately is that Father God putting Jesus the Son on the cross and killing him was “cosmic child abuse”.

It wasn’t.

Now that the flat denial and total rebuttal of that notion is out of the way, let’s take a look at why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary and good.

The mystery of the atonement and all its attendant doctrines is something that has been written about for centuries and by better theologians than myself! I will not be adding anything new. However, my church’s Sunday School lesson taught through the scriptures related to the justification of saints through the atonement, and my brain is afire with thoughts.

As a side note, one way I can affirm the Spirit is alive in me, is His work in my mind when I study or I’m being taught by my pastor-teachers. The scriptures do say He transforms the mind. (Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12:2). My brain fairly sizzles with thoughts, connections, remnants of previous lessons unearthed from my memory to see the light of day and attach to the new information. I’ve got arrows, lines, writing sideways, lol. My brain comes alive when I sit under good teaching. Here is an example of my notes->

I’ll start where my teachers started: Romans 3:21-26,

Justification by Faith: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [underline mine]

God is just. He performs perfect justice. Being just is one of His attributes. He cannot be anything else but perfect in all ways, including being just. He dispenses His justice as the Just One.

He is also the justifier. No human can forgive unto justification of another human’s sin, (Mark 2:7). We are on equal par, having equal authority. Someone higher than ourselves needs to administer justice. Can I send so-and-so to jail for a five year term for his crime? No, I have no authority. A duly sworn Judge can, though. With the crime of sin, God as the higher up and person distinct from ourselves is the Judge. Secondly, all humans sin, so we need someone outside of humanity to forgive, otherwise it’s just the blind leading the blind. Because God is perfect and holy, He can forgive. Therefore, He is also the Justifer.

Why does there have to be blood, a cross? Because simply to pass His hand over sins and forgive would compromise His holy character and make it seem that the sinful dishonoring of Him trillions of times would not be that big of a deal, said my teacher. As RC Sproul said, sin is “cosmic treason”. For a holy God to overlook treason by His enemies would make God a patsy, not an authoritative King over all!

Another reason the Son’s death on the cross was not ‘cosmic child abuse’ was that Jesus willingly submitted to the Father’s plan. John 10:18 says,

No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back. This commandment I received from My Father.

Jesus was not a victim. Claiming that He was a victim of abuse would introduce a split between the will and desires and plan among the Persons of the trinity. It is just not so. Jesus is the perfect image of the Father, of the same essence. (Colossians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 4:4). He came to do the will of the Father, (John 6:38) not be a hapless victim of a plan gone wrong.

Continuing with reasons Jesus was not a victim of cosmic child abuse, we have to know that God did not have to save anyone. The amazing part of grace is not that He saved some, but that He saved any. He extended His hand and plucked some from the fires of His wrath and He chose to do so with this plan of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son. This is a Plan the Son agreed to.

The fact that when the angels sinned God chose not to save them (2 Peter 2:4) shows His great mercy and grace upon His elect humans. “This magnifies God’s grace powerfully” said my teacher.

Finally, I ask detractors to think of the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked the Father to let this cup [of wrath] pass from Him, if there be another way, yet, His will be done. (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Jesus told his companions, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38). He shared with them that He was grieved! Afflicted to the point of death! He sweat great drops of blood! Yet no one stayed awake with Him. He was alone. he pleaded to the Father in honesty but also in submission to the end of the great plan. Jesus asked the Father THREE TIMES.

If the Father had thought of another way, but did not use it, THAT would be child abuse. If the Father had held a different plan in reserve in His mind, and ignored the pitiful pleas from the Man of Sorrows in the Garden, how abusive that would be! If there had been a different way but God killed Jesus anyway, that would be abuse. But no, there was not another way.

Jesus must live the perfect life pleasing to God. This Lamb must be sacrificed in blood, because in the blood there is the life. (Leviticus 17:11). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) He must die, and be buried. He rose again, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. The Trinity is united in their desire to administer both justice and grace upon those whom they will administer justice and grace.

Remember, the shocking thing is not that God doesn’t save all. It is that He saves any.