Posted in theology

The Carpenter

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of reading old books. I’d found out about a 1900s missionary William Borden, and in a biography Borden mentioned attending a sermon by Campbell Morgan. Curious about Morgan and the sermon that impacted this burgeoning missionary, I followed up. What I found was wonderful. I wrote about the evangelist Campbell Morgan yesterday, but today I’d like to share with you about the sermon he preached, one of hundreds I’m looking forward to learning about.

I think we’re all curious about Jesus in his “hidden years at Nazareth” as Morgan called them. We see much about the baby when he was born, and then when he was about two years old when the Magi worshiped him in the house. We see nothing else of Jesus until he was twelve and at the temple questioning the priests and listening to them. That was the incident when the caravan left Jerusalem to return to Nazareth but Jesus wasn’t among them. Joseph and Mary had to return and look for the boy. Then…nothing until he stepped foot in the Jordan at John the Baptist’s baptism of Him.

What was Jesus like in the in-between? In his sermon, Morgan said there were two verses from which we could glean much. The Hidden Years at Nazareth is based on his sermons from Mark 1:11 and 6:3, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, and “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” we learn of man’s view and God’s view. Morgan said that the 18 years between Jesus entering manhood and seen questioning the elders at the temple, and his step into public ministry at the baptism are the hidden years, but that we have much to learn from the silence and the one or two Bible verses about it.

We think of the triumph of the cross but that would not have been a triumph if Jesus had sinned along the way. With Easter just passed we rightly focused on the cross, but we often gloss over the import of the part where we say “He lived a sinless life.”

Morgan wrote: “Let us, then, try and see Him in those eighteen hidden years. The two verses that I have read are the only two that give us any definite or detailed account of what Jesus was doing from the time He was twelve until He was about thirty. Take the two statements and fix them on your minds for a moment: “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  “Is not this the carpenter?”  These two passages supply the story of the eighteen years. Jesus was a carpenter pleasing God.” end Morgan quote.

Jesus was baptized, overcame the temptation in the wilderness, then returned and ascended the teaching seat in the synagogue and read from Isaiah. The men assembled in that solemn Sabbath day said, “Is this not the carpenter?”

As Jesus stood between the dividing line of his hidden life and his public ministry, God spoke from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Was God’s pleasure in Jesus on the cross? It was yet to be. Was it of his temptation in the wilderness? That was still to happen. Morgan makes the case that what God was pleased with was Jesus’ daily life in common work- as a carpenter.

Campbell Morgan again: “For the greater part, then, of the life of Jesus, He worked with His own hands for His own living. That brings the Son of God, in living, pulsating life, close to every man who works. The man Jesus rose at daybreak, and, picking up His tools, made yokes and tables in order that He might have something to eat, and that, not for a brief period, but for eighteen years. He was an apprentice boy, a young man improving His craft, a master in His little shop with the shavings round Him and the tools about Him.”

Picture this scene in Nazareth 2000 years ago. Note that the men in the synagogue said is this not THE carpenter? It was not likely that a small town such as Nazareth would have had more than one carpenter. Jesus was THE single carpenter, toiling in this manual labor daily.

“Sometimes we have overshadowed the carpenter’s shop with Calvary’s cross. We have no right to do it. We have come to forget the fidelity of the Son of God in the little details of life as we have gazed upon His magnificent triumphs in the places of passion and conflict.” ~Campbell Morgan

It means that for all those 18 years between 12 and 30, Jesus never once did “shoddy work.” It was always his best work for the customer. He never once became impatient with a customer. He never cut a corner. He was never late with an order.

Morgan said in addition to His common work, Jesus was perfect in his relations with his community. “In the second place, the divine approval meant that the influence of the life had been pure and bright and good. You all know the effect of influence. What sort of influence has He exerted? Pure and strong! But he would have lived a bright, strong, glad life before Him, for no life ever touched the life of the Son of God but was the brighter and purer and stronger for the contact; and so, when the years of the carpenter’s shop are over, God sets His seal of approval upon them, first, because the work has been well done; and secondly, because the influence of the life has been true and right and noble.”

It was Jesus’s delight to do the will of His Father, and for those 18 years the will of God was for Jesus to labor in obscurity in the carpenter’s shop…to live a perfect life, and to produce good goods, be pure in heart, and honorable to all. Why? Why not incarnate and go right to the cross? No! It was the daily accumulation of the steps toward that pinnacle that Jesus must tread. He had his foot on the neck of every sin, every day, as he toiled.

Morgan: “Let me put it superlatively, and say, Calvary’s cross would have been nothing but the tragic ending of a mistaken life, it had not been for the carpenter’s shop! In that carpenter’s shop He fought my battles. My hardest fight is never fought when there is a crowd to applaud or oppose, but when I am alone. There was necessity for it, and because of Nazareth’s shop there came Gethsemane’s garden and Calvary’s cross, and so, abiding in the will of God, by victory upon victory, He won His final triumph, and so opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The carpenter’s shop made Calvary not a battle-field merely, but a day of triumph that lit heaven and earth with hope.”

Let us not dare to think our work in the common hours is meaningless. Our tentmaking jobs, the jobs in which God is pleased to serve us as His will, are the steps t the place of triumph. Stay at home mothers, for you, as well, the daily grind of overcoming temptation to impatience, to sloth, to shoddy work, are the jewels in the crown that Jesus shares with you.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). Does this verse now have more meaning as we picture Jesus in his carpenter shop, toiling daily for years upon years, living the grind of life, step by step climbing over the temptations as he exudes purity and honor among all who see Him? It pleased God to station us as cleaners, plumbers, manufacturers, stay at home mothers, God having served up to us a daily toil in obscurity where we meet life with honor and purity and overcoming temptations. Let us be walking daily toward our reward in heaven, living the common life in our toil, toward the Carpenter who will receive us with the words that show He, also, is pleased with us.

Further Reading

Christian Tentmaking

Campbell Morgan’s Hidden Life at Nazareth, a .pdf

Posted in theology

Here’s why we should read old books

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m reading a biography of the short missionary life of William Borden, turn of the last century. It’s called Borden of Yale ’09 by Mrs. Howard Taylor. It’s considered to be a good bio of the young millionaire who gave it all up to be a missionary, but tragically died before he reached his intended field. It’s a good book that paints a sweet picture of a godly man raised in a godly family. As a boy, Borden attended Moody Church in Chicago and sat under the preaching of RA Torrey. At home, he was under the influence of his mother, who had a vibrant prayer life. He went to the academy at The Hill in PA and then to Yale for college, hence the title of the biography. Borden had an incredible missionary influence at his own sphere in college while he was training to be a missionary.

When he was a teenager at The Hill academy, Borden heard a sermon by G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd Jones’ mentor. I was intrigued by Borden’s short summary of the sermon, as recorded in his letter home to his mother. I had never heard of Campbell Morgan.

G. Campbell Morgan

G. Campbell Morgan, 1863-1945 –

"A contemporary of Rodney "Gipsy" Smith, Morgan preached his first sermon at age 13. He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, pausing for 14 years to teach at Biola in Los Angeles, and returning to the Chapel from 1933 to 1943 when he handed over the pastorate to the renowned Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after having shared it with him and mentored him for some years previous". (Source Wikipedia).

In 1910 Morgan contributed an essay entitled The Purposes of the Incarnation to the first volume of The Fundamentals, 90 essays which are widely considered to be the foundation of the modern Fundamentalist movement. (source StudyLight)

Morgan is considered an excellent expositor, some calling him the prince of biblical expositors. His 10-volume “Analyzed Bible” is considered culturally important and a wonderful addition to the body of commentaries. Most of Morgan’s sermons, booklets, and books can be found online and are accessible for free. One place is the Internet Archive. Did you know that the Internet Archive not only caches web pages, but stores books in an open library, available to read online for free? (Also audio, TV programs, and movies). Here is the Open Library at the Internet Archive for Campbell Morgan (including The Analyzed Bible).

I had no idea of this 20th century expositor, and one who was friend to Charles Spurgeon and mentor to Martyn Lloyd Jones. This week I’ll be writing about the sermon that so impacted young William Borden, which can be found in Campbell Morgan’s booklet “The Hidden Years at Nazareth”. I had discovered Borden a few months ago by reading another ‘old book’ which led me to Borden of Yale ’09, and now mention of G. Campbell Morgan led me to that great expositor, is another reason to hold onto these saints’ books from the past. They are written about for our edification and instruction, and for an encouragement of learning about past deeds for Christ.

Read old books. They have a lot to tell us.

Posted in theology

Negotiating with God

By Elizabeth Prata

In the early 2000’s, Priceline, the discount travel outfit, produced a series of ads starring William Shatner as “The Priceline Negotiator.” You’d see him negotiating for lower prices on hotels, air flights, and so on. They were funny ads. C’mon, you’re hearing the jingle in your head right now, aren’t you 😉

I’ve never been good at negotiating. I’ve always been intimidated by it. Even where it was expected, like in places abroad where I’ve traveled, I didn’t bargain and I just always paid the price set.

I think most of us are familiar with the verse from James 2:19 that says, You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

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Posted in theology

I died … to the law

By Elizabeth Prata

Such is the confidence we have toward God through Christ. Not that we are adequate in ourselves so as to consider anything as having come from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

In this 2 Corinthians verse, Paul is explaining that following the ‘letter’ of the law is a shallow, external conformity to the commands of the Law and not an internal faith and belief. Think: Pharisees. The Pharisees were rebuked for swallowing a camel but straining out a gnat. It means they were hyper-vigilant over little things (going after a gnat), but ignored the big need- forgiveness from sin. They tithed cumin but their sacrifices to God were empty. They observed rites and ceremonies to the letter but missed the spiritual significance of its intent- to demonstrate their need for a Savior.

They adhered to the letter of the Law but entirely missed its intent: which was to make a person recognize his sinfulness and total inability to reach the Law’s required perfection. Anyone who relied on the Law for salvation would die (i.e the Law/letter kills). Paul admitted his own inability to reach perfection after salvation, seeing in hindsight that his adherence to the Law was only shallow works that meant nothing to God, it was all rubbish.

Paul explains further in Galatians. He is re-teaching the Galatians that justification is by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law of Moses. Legalistic Jews had insisted that Christians must keep the Mosaic Law and their stance had confused the Galatians. Galatians 2:19 says –

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live for God.

Barnes’ Notes says of that verse’s meaning:

that by contemplating the true character of the Law of Moses itself; by considering its nature and design; by understanding the extent of its requisitions, he had become dead to it; that is, he had laid aside all expectations of being justified by it.”

Or, if you’re Italian like me, “the Law is dead to me!” It’s all of grace!

Knowles in The Bible Guide says,

The key question is this: did they receive the Holy Spirit by following the law or by receiving the gospel? And if keeping the law can achieve salvation, why did Jesus go to the cross? The answer is, of course, that they have come to spiritual life only through the death of Jesus and faith in the gospel.

I’m reminded of the Dagon incident of 1 Samuel 5. Dagon was a false deity in the form of a half-man, half-fish. He was supposedly the father of Baal. The Philistines were feeling joyful because they had captured the Ark of the Covenant and put it in their temple next to Dagon. When they got up the next morning, the Dagon statue was on its face. They set it right. The next morning, the Dagon statue’s trunk was in its place, but the head and hands had been cut off and were on the threshold. Gulp! They were so spooked, “This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.” (1 Samuel 5:5). Whether a false god is a fish or any other image, it is empty. Clinging to the Law as a work for salvation is just as empty as the mere block of wood that Dagon was.

People have been trying since Cain to approach God in the way they want to, not in the way He demands. The Gentiles think they will be heard for their many words repeated in prayers. The modern version of this is Contemplative prayer, or for Catholics, penance (repeating the same prayer a certain number of times, or doing a work, or making an offering). The Judaizers thought that works like circumcision were the pathway to God. The modern version of this is Oprah’s good works and generosity religion being one pathway to God – among many. (Oprah’s words- “There are many paths to what you call God. Her path might be something else, and when she gets there she might call it the Light, but her loving and her kindness and her generosity, if it brings her to the same place it brings you, it doesn’t matter whether she calls it God or not.”) Mystics think that pursuing wisdom and higher knowledge will get them to God, as satan said to Eve in the Garden, ‘you will be wise’.

Satan is the originator of all the paths to God that aren’t Jesus, and he recycles them over and over. Why? Because they are successful on the unwary. There are two religions. Jesus as the way to God, and all the others which are satan’s. In those ways, satan has twisted even the New Testament’s Gospel into a killing letter. Matthew Henry said:

But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power. (2 Timothy 3:5).

Faith is through grace alone. Beware of twisting even the good and great Gospel into mere rites and ceremonies and form letters. The power of the Spirit quickens us, enlivens us, gives power and might to live according to all that is holy and right. “Such is the confidence we have toward God through Christ.

Letter of the Law
Posted in theology

Open Hearts in a Closed World conference: “Reverence in Radical Times”

By Elizabeth Prata

I posted this last week and I’m going to re-post frequently until the date. It’s a worthwhile conference. There is no registration and it is totally free.

This summer there is a free, online-only conference that I encourage you to ‘attend’. It will be live but also recorded so if you miss it you can see it later on American Gospel TV, again for free. The line-up of women speaking is solid, the topic is relevant, and the material will be edifying. The founder of this conference, now in its second year, is Brooke Bartz. In just a year, the conference has gained the backing of Media Gratiae, The Master’s Seminary, and American Gospel TV, which will broadcast it! For the second year, CityAlight will perform the music!

Brooke Bartz is the founder of the “Open Hearts in a Closed World” online Women’s conference, bringing together biblically based solid women teachers to encourage and exhort women to live Christ honoring lives from the scripture.

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Posted in theology

Edmonton officials surround GraceLife Church with fencing as they continue their persecution

By Elizabeth Prata

photo ErinCoates80

The battle is ongoing with the Edmonton, Alberta Canadian officials against Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. You might remember he was released from jail without the condition of having to recant on his stance that he will continue to preach inside his church without numerical restrictions on who may or may not attend. Albertan officials had jailed him in violation of their COVID-19 health regulations. The battle is not over apparently. Today James’ wife Erin reports that officials (not clear who It’s RCMP the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) have fenced in the church by erecting a double line of chain link to prevent entry to the building. The work was begun suddenly in early morning and without notice allegedly, to anyone from the church.

Canadian folks on Twitter are asking if there was a judicial order allowing this raid, or some other legal warrant for officials to take action preventing access to privately owned property. Others reminded their audience about the Provincial charter allowing freedom of religion and other constitutional guarantees in their country.

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Posted in theology

Living the Beatitude Life

By Elizabeth Prata

The road to sanctification may be long, it may curve, it may be hilly, we may not be able to see ahead, but it brings us to righteousness.
EPrata photo

I am reading through my Bible Reading plan and yesterday I got to Matthew 5-6-7, the Beatitudes and Similitudes. All I can say is “wow”.

If I was a false Christian or an undiscerning newbie, I would definitely like to hear from Jesus directly, assuring me that I am progressing on my walk. Who wouldn’t want a personal “Walk to Emmaus” like those two had after the crucifixion? (Luke 24:13-27). But I am not a newbie and the Spirit by His grace delivers discernment. So, I have not heard lately from Jesus and I have no direct assurance that I’m progressing.

Except! Do you know how we can detect progress in sanctification? (which everyone should be concerned about, it’s a prevalent theme – 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Corinthians 11:28, Hebrews 2:1, Lamentations 3:40). By our response to the Scriptures.

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Posted in theology

What if the Lord said, “Go and serve in the least populated place”?

By Elizabeth Prata

What if you were going to plant a church or start a ministry or were called to go somewhere, but it was the LEAST populated place in the entire area? Like, the people who lived there are widely dispersed and the whole place thin with people? Would you go? Would you trust that this was a call from God? Or would your trust in Him be tested?

I was reading Matthew 3 yesterday and the chapter opens like this:

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mathew 3:1).

I always had focused on the ‘repent’ part because I love that anytime I read it. But this time I focused on the ‘wilderness’ part. I started asking questions.

When you read your Bible, do you ask questions? I find that’s the best way for me to dig in. I also like to put in place in my mind the locations and distances. Maybe that’s because I love maps. Anyway, I asked myself, ‘Wut? Wait, where IS this wilderness? What does it look like? How far is it from Jerusalem? What is its history?’ Like that.

The wilderness referred to here is John The Baptist’s father’s birthplace. It is where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived and where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth when Mary was found with child. (Luke 1:39). It was remote and thinly populated – but not totally devoid of people.

Barnes’ Notes says of the ‘Wilderness’:

     "In the wilderness of Judea - This country was situated along the Jordan and the Dead Sea, to the east of Jerusalem. The word translated "wilderness"...was a mountainous, rough, and thinly settled country, covered to some considerable extent with forests and rocks, and better suited for pasture than for tilling. There were inhabitants in those places, and even villages, but they were the comparatively unsettled portions of the country, 1 Samuel 25:1-2. In the time of Joshua there were six cities in what was then called a wilderness, Joshua 15:61-62."

The wilderness was the where David fled to take refuge from Saul; we just read in Matthew 3 that John the Baptist prepared for his mission here; and it was here that Jesus suffered His temptation. The area was west of the Dead Sea extending all the way up to just east of Jerusalem. There was little pasture. Much of it was desert and rocky. It was said that to travel there one must travel at least through 3 to 5 hours with no hope of water. Where John the Baptist preached was about a day’s journey from Jerusalem. The place where the Bible records the Baptism of Jesus was where the Jordan River empties into the northern tip of the Dead Sea, likely about five miles north of the Dead Sea and a little more than six miles southeast of the city of Jericho.

Map from Bible History, free use. Location is D13 on map.

And yet…many flocked to hear this preacher…this prophet. God had not sent a prophet for 400 years, not since Malachi. The people were intrigued and hopeful. Baptisms were increasing. (Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. Matthew 3:5-6). The Pharisees and Sadducees must have been curious as to this new ‘thing’ happening. Who was John the Baptist? Why was he in the wilderness and not properly in Jerusalem? They went to check him out. They got an earful!

John the Baptist called them a brood of vipers and reminded them of the wrath to come. This must have surprised the religious leaders, because they believed that simply having been born into the genealogy of Abraham kept them from any judgment. But, it was not so. They must have thought, ‘I traveled all the way to the wilderness and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and yelled at’.

When you read the Bible, it helps to picture what is happening. These events are real and actually took place with real people in real time. Make a movie in your head. Feel the searing Palestinian sun, the rocky terrain crunching under your sandaled feet, hot thirst in your throat, weary from a day of walking, then seeing this strange, wild man wearing camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, preaching in total Holy Spirit power. Remember, John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit since birth (Luke 1:15). Quite a scene

It was a strange place for God to choose to open His mouth after 400 years. But as Matthew Henry said of this verse,

No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. ~Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Matthew 3:1

The Lord plants where He will plant. Desert wilderness? No problem. Corinth, the most immoral city in Asia? Not an issue. Remote jungle of Ecuador? He’s got this. He will plant the seed of the Gospel in hearts of stone, and He makes them grow and thrive into sanctified flesh set apart for His glory. We serve a great and amazing God.

Posted in theology

Acceptable worship pleasing to the Lord

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter Sunday. People of all stripes drove to their local church, enjoyed an Easter, and afterward people ate together in a Sunday Supper. I say people of all stripes, because it’s one day of two that unsaved family members can sometimes be pressed to join saved family members in the service. Also, Christians-in-name only attend, those would be the people who go to church twice a year, Christmas and Easter. Some people call them Chreasters, a word combining Christmas and Easter.

True Christians see the Resurrection Sunday service as a high point of the year. And why not? It’s the high point of our faith. It’s the high point of history. It’s the high point of eternity. I pray that the joy we felt in the service will be present in our hearts every day, all year. Remember the cross. Remember the resurrection. Remember the ascension. Remember He is coming again.

Continue reading “Acceptable worship pleasing to the Lord”