Posted in theology

The Lord’s tenderness

By Elizabeth Prata

I was reading Genesis 16 & 21, Hagar. I love the Hagar scenes. I admit that the Woman at the well and the Hagar scenes are dear to me and I love those passages. I am amazed with how wonderful the Savior is.

Two of my favorite scenes in the Bible are the Woman at the Well, and Hagar in the Wilderness. In the former, the Lord ministered to a marginalized woman whose sins had given her an illustrious reputation which preceded her wherever she went.

Hagar was Abraham’s slave and her sin was forced upon her: Sarah (Sarai) concocted a plan to hurry-up God’s plan to get the promised child. She convinced Abram to use Hagar as the maternal vessel. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah’s jealousy grew, and Sarah death harshly with Hagar.

But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:6-8).

The Angel of the LORD is interpreted to be Jesus, pre-incarnate. He told Hagar to go back and to submit, and she did. Genesis 16 has the full account.

The child born to Abraham and Hagar was Ishmael, but as Ishmael grew, Sarah became jealous again. Dissension came up between the two women. Sarah expelled Hagar from the community and with her child, Hagar fled to the desert.

The wilderness is a harsh place and when the water in her pouch ran out, Hagar knew that death would soon come. She placed the boy down near bushes and went to die herself a little ways off, not bearing to see the death of her child.

Again The LORD came to Hagar, this time by voice, and comforted her.

Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:16-19)

Hagar and Ismael’ by Jean-Charles Cazin. 1841-1901, work painted before 1880. Musée d’Orsay artwork ID: 69708. Source Wikimedia Commons

Can you imagine? Being a slave? The owner taking you sexually? The wife mistreating you? Preparing to die in the desert? Worst, preparing to watch your son die in the desert? And you thought you had a bad day!

Both times Hagar was in the wilderness, God immediately heard the plea of her heart and the piteous lonely cries from her mouth. He asked her a similar question as He had asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, Genesis 16:8). Both times Jesus was dispatched to provide life to her, with water. Jesus is the Living Water. He gives life and He sustains life.

Our God is mighty. He is sovereign. He has His plan, which none can thwart. Yet He is tender, and caring, and gentle with His people. I hope the beauty of the painting and the even greater beauty of the Word comforts you today. Cast all your cares upon Jesus, who is the Living Water.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)

Posted in theology

Sunday Martyr Moments: A series

By Elizabeth Prata

Though I write every day on the blog, on Sundays over the years I’ve rested and did not write much. I’ve also presented content that is more aligned with a day of rest and reflection on Christ and His word. I’ve posted Kay Cude’s poetry. I’m currently doing a series on God’s Attributes. In the past I posted excerpts from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Sundays are a good time to think about those who preceded us in death for the cause of Christ.

Here are a few links to some of those essays

Sunday Martyr Moment: Sanctus, Blandina, and Ponticus

Sunday Martyr Moment: Justin Martyr, Felicitatis, others

Sunday Martyr moment: Germanicus and Polycarp

Sunday Martyr Moment: John Huss, “The goose is cooked”

Sunday Martyr Moment: Apostle John

Sunday Martyr Moment: James, Timon, Parmenas, Philip

There are other entries in the Sunday Martyr Moment in the series. Just search using the title I just named and search bar above at the right. After you read enough of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, your heart clenches and you gain perspectives about Christ’s power in dire circumstances to give courage, about the dedication of those who died, and of man’s inhumanity to man. I pray-

Lord, we know that the unregenerate heart and unsanctified mind can devise horror after horror. The Holocaust showed us the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and the future Tribulation will exceed even those horrors. It’s unimaginable what the Christians who preceded us went through, but thank You for your grace and comfort to them while they were under trial. I know that many hearts were converted upon seeing their courage, which was the strength of the Holy Spirit in them. As this time at the end of the Age of Grace draws to a close, I pray You deliver the same strength and courage to today’s martyrs. So that once more, many hearts are converted as they see dark evil of hate and torture against Your light of holy eternity in pure hearts proclaiming Your name even as they die under the sword.

Posted in theology

Donkey milk? Yes, donkey milk.

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

There are a lot of animals, plants, and activities in the Bible that I have little knowledge about. It was fun learning the process for creating purple dye from murex shells. Or the process of plucking reeds growing along the Nile to make into linen garments. And what was it about the sweet onions that the Wandering Hebrews complained that they missed them so much? I wrote about that one some years ago.

I’ve been thinking about donkeys. Ever since I read in Charles Swindoll’s book on Job in the Bible that a delicacy of the day was donkey milk. Wait, wut? And that was ALL he said about it! I’m intrigued, Mr. Swindoll, intrigued.

The other day I saw a meme on Twitter, of a hypothetical conversation between God and an Angel. God remarks on the slew of people these days drinking almond milk. The angel says the people are getting milk from almonds now. God says I sent them like 8 animals to get milk from! The angel replies, “They don’t like that milk”.

I’ve often mused on the strangeness of getting milk from almonds. It makes a funny imaginative picture in my mind, milking an almond. Of course I know that’s not how they get almond milk, it’s a totally different process, but it still gives me a chuckle.

Donkey milk. What’s up with that? First I looked up donkeys. Donkeys are mentioned in Old Testament 133 times.

Genesis (20)
Exodus (12)
Numbers (16)
Deuteronomy (6)
Joshua (4)
Judges (12)
1 Samuel (16)
2 Samuel (4)
1 Kings (7)
2 Kings (5)
1 Chronicles (3)
2 Chronicles (1)
Ezra (1)
Nehemiah (2)
Job (8)
Psalm (1)
Proverbs (1)
Isaiah (6)
Jeremiah (3)
Ezekiel (1)
Daniel (1)
Hosea (1)
Zechariah (2)

And in the New Testament 7 times.
Matthew (3)
Luke (1)
John (2)
2 Peter (1)

In Genesis 32:15 female donkeys (called a jenny/jennies) are mentioned. When Jacob was preparing to reunite with Esau, unsure of the reception he’d receive, he collected his best milk animals to give his brother, in case Esau was still intent on killing Jacob.

Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. (Genesis 32:13-15).

Donkeys are first mentioned in Genesis 12:16. It was when Abram met Pharaoh and Pharaoh liked the look of Sarai and took her, believing as per Abram that she was Abram’s sister, not his wife. Pharaoh gave Abram some gifts in exchange for Sarai, including male donkeys and female donkeys.

Wild donkeys are good hunters, aggressive if challenged, defend themselves with hard kicks, and are perfectly suited to the desert. They can go without water for days, and have acute vision, hearing, and smell.

Further, wild donkeys have been found to be great well diggers in the desert! (wild horses too). NatGeo writes,

As described in a paper published April 29 in the journal Science, the animals use their hooves to dig more than six feet deep to reach groundwater for themselves, in turn creating oases that serve as a boon to wildlife.

It makes sense, then, that donkeys were domesticated. By 4000 BC the tribes living in what we now call Saudi Arabia had them in flocks. They were used on farms and in caravans as beasts of burden. The cave paintings in Egypt’s Beni Hasan, estimated to have been drawn at about 1890 BC, depict one such caravan.

What are the animals the Bible people actually got milk from?

1 Samuel 6:10 – cow. Goat (Proverbs 27:27). Camel (Genesis 32:15). Sheep (Isaiah 7:21-22 . And…donkey. Donkey milk was the BEST milk.

A female donkey is a jenny. She produces 1 liter per day of delicious milk. Why was donkey milk such a delicacy? First of all, donkey milk most closely resembles human breast milk. This is highly convenient for nursing.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, In the last few decades, there has been a renewed interest in donkeys by the scientific community involved in the recovery of biodiversity, in the rescue of some donkey breeds that have become almost extinct, and in the rediscovery of donkey milk. In addition, due to the increase in food allergies, attention has been focused on the need for a “natural” milk with a good taste, which could be used in some childhood illnesses such as allergy to cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). Donkey milk is very similar to human milk, especially in terms of its protein profile and lactose content.

It’s not only nutritious and delicious, but it’s medicinal too. USDA says,

The high content of lysozyme in this milk favors selective action against pathogenic microorganisms. In addition, the mineral content (such as calcium) and liposoluble vitamins make it an excellent nutraceutical product.” A neutraceutical product is a pharmaceutical alternative which claims physiological benefits. A drug substitute.

Donkey with pack saddle unchanged from Incan times, Papallacta, Ecuador. EPrata photo

There is a project going on now in Tuscany Italy to create a supply chain of donkey milk. The early results of that project were reported:

Donkey milk was characterised by high lactose content, low caseins, low fat, higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids compared to ruminant milks. Unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids in particular have become known for their beneficial health effect, which is favourable for human diet. These characteristics make it suitable for infants and children affected by food intolerance/allergies to bovine milk proteins and multiple food allergies as well as for adults with dyslipidemias. It is also recommended to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The ancients knew it was medicinal. The National Library of Medicine reports, “Hippocrates (460–370 BC.), the father of medicine, was the first to describe the medicinal virtues of donkey milk. He prescribed donkey milk for numerous ailments, such as liver problems, edemas, nosebleeds, poisonings, infectious diseases, the healing of sores, and fevers.

Further, we read that In Roman times, donkey milk was used as a universal remedy: Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), in his encyclopedic work Naturalis Historia, has widely described its health benefits. In particular, Pliny writes about 54 medicinal uses of donkey milk, ranging from its use as an anti-venom or as a relief for external irritations (itching) to the use of it in a pomade (ointment) for the eyes. He states that donkey milk is the most effective as a medicine, followed by cow’s milk, and then goat’s milk. (Source).

I wonder if donkey milk was prescribed for Paul’s problem with his eyes…

So far we learn that donkey milk has great food properties, super medicinal qualities, and, now we turn to cosmetics. Ancient documents record that Cleopatra, Nero’s wife Poppea, Emperor Claudius’ wife Messalina, and Paolina Bonaparte (Napolean’s sister) used to bathe in donkey milk or otherwise use it to keep their skin looking supple and unblemished. Masks of donkey-milk soaked bread slices would be placed over the face. It helped eliminate wrinkles, it was said by Pliny the Elder. Riddle: If a jenny yields a liter a day, how many jennies does it take to fill a bathtub every day? Upwards of 700.

We note that Job initially had 500 female donkeys (Job 1:3). By the end, the LORD had doubled them and Job finished with a thousand female donkeys (Job 42:12). Maybe Mrs. Job liked to bathe in donkey milk or put donkey milk-soaked bread slices on her face, lol.

In any case, donkeys are a valuable animal. They served our Bible forbears well and they serve us well today. Donkey milk. It does a body good. (For those of an age, this was a long-lasting milk tagline to a series of commercials in the 1980s. It must’ve been effective. I still remember it 40 years later!)

Screen shot from 1980s ad campaign for milk with my added word: donkey!

I’d like to finish with a praise to the Lord. He created every star, planet, land mass, plant, bird, creeping thing, and every animal in just 6 days. As I wrote last week about the wondrous properties for humans in barnacles and horseshoe crabs, the lowly donkey also has some properties which are terrific benefit to humans.

The Lord gave us the common grace of the world. He gave us a charge to work the garden and subdue it. Though the cursed ground now temporarily makes that difficult, He still is an amazing Sovereign who gave us wonderful plants and animals to help us complete that charge. God is great.

Posted in theology

Attributes of God: Mercy, Omnipotence, Omnipresence

By Elizabeth Prata

Sundays are a good time to ponder who God is. He is worthy of service and worship. We have been taking a look at God’s attributes each Sunday. Links to previous weeks are below. Most definitions are taken from Tim Challies’ visual theology chart of the attributes of God.

Remember, God’s attributes are not parts that make up a whole. Everything good that there is, is 100% contained in God. He is 100% beauty, 100% aseity, 100% omniscient, etc. He is complete in Himself.


Moral attribute: God is good to those in misery and distress and he is good to those who deserve punishment.


Attribute of purpose: God is able to do all his holy will. (This is also known as God’s sovereignty).


God has no size or shape and is present in all places with his entire being.

Previous weeks:

1. Attributes of God: Aseity, Beauty, Blessedness
2. Eternity, Freedom, Glory
3. Goodness, Holiness, Immutability
4. Invisibility, Jealousy, Knowledge
5. Love

Posted in theology

Prata Potpourri: Artificial Intelligence in the church, weekend sports, Obadiah, Tracking down a poet, more

By Elizabeth Prata

Here are a few links for you that I pray you find interesting and edifying. May the Lord shine upon you this week in ways that display His glory, love, and power.

EPrata photo

Darryl Dash has some sobering words on the potential creep of artificial intelligence into church

Tee Ball, as drawn by a kindergartener

Sam Chan asks Why Do We Make Our Kids Do Weekend Sports? In the South, sports can be an idol, or it can be a character building enterprise, or both. Tune in to see this author’s opinion.

Neil Shenvi Maps Evangelical Twitter (again)

Behold the Bridegroom Cometh: Tracking Down a Poet by Andrew Myers at Log College Press. He had me at William Plumer…

It’s not only back to school for elementary and high school kids, but college students too. It’s scary to send them off. Cara Ray at Pursuing Otium Sanctum has some thoughts on Now What? How Parents Can Pray for Their College-Aged Kids

University of Maine, Fall 1978

Susan Lafferty has a short devotional on Obadiah. I love Obadiah. It’s an overlooked and little remarked-upon book. If you’ve been afraid to delve into this dense but short prophetic Old Testament book, now’s your chance.

From The Contenders, Why Should Pastors Avoid Online Quarrels?

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

With that previous link in mind, here is David Knight at Exposit the Word interviewing Dustin Benge on Dustin’s approach to Twitter, Christian Friendships, Hills to die on & Much more.

I couldn’t leave without a reference to my namesake, A Royal Remembered: Queen Elizabeth II Promoted to Glory by Ruth Clemence.

Posted in theology

Need training in discernment? Here’s a bundle!

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Finally the long, hot Georgia summer is letting go and we are experiencing cool mornings and bearable afternoons. Fall in Georgia really is glorious. It lasts a while, which is one of the many reasons I enjoy it. The Fall season in Maine is about 2 weeks long, I’m not joking. In Georgia it’s about 8 weeks and the slow slide into ‘winter’ is beautiful with clear skies, low humidity, and turning leaves. I put winter in quotes because even after 16 winters in Georgia the fact that winter temps rarely even get below freezing overnight, and usually remain in the 40s and 50s during the days, is not winter to me but a Maine Spring, lol. On to today’s news-

On this blog I generally do 4 kinds of essays. Encouragement (like my sailing stories), theology (like the recent providence, cessation, attributes of God, and fearing God essays), creation essays (like the one about horseshoe crabs and barnacles) and discernment.

Of course, discernment essays are the ones that people view the most. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I think it is good. People need discernment. John MacArthur has regularly said over the years that lack of discernment (which is caused by biblical illiteracy) is the biggest threat to the church.

I recently mentioned that I’ve enjoyed Todd Friel’s Wretched series called “Drive By______”. Drive By Marriage, Drive By Biblical Counseling, Drive By Theology, Drive By Discernment, etc. These are short, systematic lessons in audio, focusing on the topic, that anyone can listen to as they drive to work. (Or listen to anywhere). Audio lessons range anywhere from 10 minutes to 15 or so. They are short.

I’ve listened to several of these series and I especially enjoyed the series on discernment. Discernment as a biblical skill and applied to practical life is rarely explicitly taught. But Hebrews 5:14 says,

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (ESV).

So we CAN practice discernment and train up in the skill, even if we are not blessed specifically with the gift of discernment as some possess. Bottom line, discernment is for everybody.

I saw that the Drive By Discernment bundle at Wretched is on sale. The team has put together a bundle of excellent resources with the Drive By Discernment audio lessons, which includes some great stuff. Normally this bundle would sell for $96.00. The bundle is now for sale for not much more than the lone Drive By lectures would be, $39.00. Their blurb says,

This bundle is the perfect arsenal to help you defend the truth and refute false teaching. Each resource has been carefully selected and is guaranteed to strengthen your discernment. The bundle includes the following:

All that for $39.00. Read the reviews!


Joel Osteen
“This bundle is giving me my worst life now.”

Benny Hinn
“This bundle makes me so mad I want to whack someone with my coat.”

Kenneth Copeland
“I found the one thing scarier than my soulless stare, this bundle.”

Creflo Dollar
“Don’t spend your money on this bundle. Give it to me instead. My jet needs new gold platted seatbelt buckles.”

Steven Furtick

LOL, to be clear, if you are not familiar with Todd Friel’s jocularity, those reviews are Wretched-type witticisms of course, not real reviews. But they are pretty funny. The lectures are not given by Friel, there are a variety of noted speakers who give each lesson, many of which are from the Psalm 119 Conferences. Lecturers like Justin Peters, Phil Johnson, James White, Tim Challies (who wrote a book on discernment, see below) and others. In the Drive By Discernment series of lectures alone, there are 63 lectures. In the Drive By False Teaching series included in the bundle, there are 79 lessons. (Remember, each one is short enough to listen to on a short commute, like 15 minutes).

But I am serious when I say it would be worth it to look into either this bundle, or at least one or more of the items in it separately. If you are serious about training up in discernment and you regularly already read your Bible, this is a good deal. And for the record I am not a Wretched employee nor do I receive compensation for this. I am simply always on the lookout for credible and edifying resources, and discernment resources are scarce. When they come to my attention, I like to pass them on to you, my sisters. 🙂

Other Resources in discernment

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Challies said: “Written for the general reader and in a way that is suitable for a wide audience, the book teaches people to think biblically so they might act biblically. It appeals for discernment, teaching the importance of this discipline in guarding the good news God has entrusted to us.

John MacArthur, article: Defining Discernment. Article begins,

“In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.”

Ligonier Article by Dustin Benge: How to Develop Your Discernment. Article begins,

Over the past several months, we’ve seen how quickly news and social media can elicit fear, provoke anger, and fuel movements. This information overload is sometimes more than we can bear and has sent believers and unbelievers alike spiraling into despair and hopelessness as we’re simply trying to discern what to believe.

Podcast by Alistair Begg: Who is Wise? part 1 of 2. Description-

What’s the proof of wisdom? Is it found in the diplomas you have, the books you’ve read, the knowledge you’ve gleaned? Well, on Truth For Life, Alistair Begg demonstrates the biblical measure of wisdom and discernment.

Part 2 of Who is Wise, here. Description-

“Education can provide important facts, but it can’t offer us wisdom. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg says it’s not intelligence, but faith, that makes a person wise. Hear how to employ wise discernment by trusting in God’s Word.

Posted in theology

Providence vs. Miracles

By Elizabeth Prata

Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

I’ve mentioned Providence to readers before and how I love that doctrine. I’m absolutely fascinated with and delight in His providence. Phil Johnson said in the Wretched series, Drive By Pneumatology, ‘that seeking after miracles or the miracle gifts is demonstrating weak faith, because of Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”’

We hear so often today, “Expect a miracle!” Why? Why expect a miracle? Does my faith need one, like an exclamation mark of the daily enactment of my faith? Am I putting God to the test by expecting Him to perform for me? Is my faith by sight or by faith, anyway?

It diminishes the magisterial sovereignty of God to water down the true miracle by saying, “I have had a knot in this shoelace for two weeks, and I finally got it untied. It’s a miracle!” No it’s not.

Many people have had this happen- including me- I receive a check in the mail from an unknown or unexpected source that is the exact amount I’d needed in order to prevent a dire thing from coming to pass. People say, ‘It was a miracle!’ No, it wasn’t – it was the Providential working of God in our lives of the faithful for the good of those who love Him.

Providence is when God works through normal, ordinary means, orchestrating events by His providence in order to answer my prayer. Normal ordinary means, a real, live check, via the normal mail.

Miracles are supernatural events that suspend or set aside the natural laws. A handful of flour that is refilled in a bowl every night and makes 1500 loaves. The sea parting and drying up. Rods that become snakes or blossom and bear fruit overnight. Coming back alive from the dead after 4 days and decomposition had set in.

I believe Providence is the greater miracle, or at least catalyzes my wonder to an incredible degree. My sovereign God whose intellect is so high my brain hurts just to think of it (He named each of the trillions of stars!!!) this God orchestrates events among 8 billion people so that the exact thing will happen at the exact moment it needs to. And then He does it the next minute, and the next minute, and the next minute, and it is perfect every time.

Take for example something that happened years ago. I was recently moved here and didn’t have a job. I was living on the money that I got from selling my newspaper, but it wasn’t going to last forever. I needed $1,000 dollars. One day, I went to the PO and got an envelope out of the box and it has Maine State Teachers Association on it. I retired from teaching in 1990. I had cleaned out and closed my retirement account at that time. It was now 2007. I hadn’t taught for 17 years and I hadn’t even been living in Maine for more than a year, how did they find me in GA??

I opened it and there was $1,200. They said that the Maine Legislature had changed a Teacher Retirement fund rule and that it turned out they owed me more money. After 17 years and a distance of 1500 miles, a relationship I’d severed long ago, cleaned out and closed my account, and yet the Lord prompted a Legislature, an Administrator, a bank, and an entire mail system to trace me to GA, to arrive in my 5 inch PO box on the day I needed it. That is Providence. And He does this kind of thing every day and in the entire world minute by minute.

Regeneration is a true miracle. Making alive a spiritually dead soul into a live, worshipful soul is a miracle! Only God can do that. My salvation was a wonder and truly from God, and I appreciated it so much. But the minute by minute Providential weaving of His thoughts and His work into my life, every day of my life awakens in me a gratitude and a wonder that I don’t believe miracles really do in the same way.

Providence is an activity of God to know omnisciently what each and every believer on earth needs, and grants it to them at the very moment they need it. And it doesn’t have to be a ‘good thing’. If someone needs a car crash in God’s economy, they will receive that. If someone needs a heart attack for the good of that person in the long run, he will receive it. And God anticipated and orchestrates all the events minute by minute leading up to the moment the person needs the thing.

Miracles scare me. Providence humbles me. Just thinking that He is thinking of me and orchestrated all that to get a check to me, slays me and melts my heart me and makes me cry even to think of it.

Praise the providential working of God in your life, don’t go seeking after miracles. Opening your eyes to your salvation & sanctification. The providential work of God in your life is the TRUE Miracle.


Providence is remarkable, sermon by Phil Johnson

What is Providence? Ligonier essay

Posted in theology

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

By Elizabeth Prata

I had listened to Phil Johnson lecture in the Wretched series Drive By Pneumatology. ‘Drive By’ means short lessons of 7-11 minutes that you can listen to on your driving commute. (Or anywhere else). Johnson defined cessationism and continuationism. Here is Phil’s definition- I transcribed it, that’s why it is in quotes-

Link below to the Drive By Pneumatology series for sale at Wretched Store

“The Holy Spirit is at work in us in the ordinary things of life. A lot of people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is only working if He is doing miraculous or phenomenal things. If it’s not something that takes your breath away, or amazes you, that if He is not doing things like that, that He is not at work at all. But I believe that scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all the ordinary aspects of life. He orders every minute detail of our lives. It is He who actually gives us life. That’s what it says in Romans 8- He gives life to our mortal bodies… . Most of what He does seems ordinary but it is really extraordinary because He is the Holy Spirit.”

Phil Johnson went on to explain the difference between revelatory gifts and ministry related gifts. Revelatory ones (the Charismata) are utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians). This is compared to the gifts in Romans 12: preaching, service, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, and teaching. These gifts are ministry related, neither supernatural in character nor revelatory. Revelatory means giving new revelation, or new information, outside of and apart from what is revealed in the Bible.

Phil again: “The distinctive claim of the Charismatic movement is that these revelatory gifts of healing, miracles, tongues knowledge/wisdom and prophecy are continuing today just as they were in Apostolic times. The Charismatic person says they continued since then and never ceased. That these gifts are available and operational just as they were since Pentecost. This is the continuationist view.

“The opposing view is cessationism. This is the belief that these revelatory gifts, these sign gifts, have ceased. That they pertained uniquely to the Apostolic age and that those gifts ceased sometime at the end of the first century upon the death of the last apostle”. (Phil is a cessationist).”

“So the question is, is the Holy Spirit doing everything exactly as He was doing as He did in the book of Acts? Has that stopped, or has that continued? And is there a proof text that shows it has stopped?”

“The miraculous gifts of the apostolic era had a specific and clearly defined purpose. I contend that it is also clear in scripture that they did diminish in frequency and importance and in fact, faded from use after the era in the Book of Acts ended.”

“However, cessationism is today a minority opinion. It was practically standard evangelical theology for many centuries until about 60-75 years ago. Prior to the 20th century, it would have been hard at any time to find any Protestant who believed that the charismata, the miraculous gifts, continued uninterrupted from the time of the apostles thru all of church history. It is a fact that the most orthodox church theologians all believed the miracle gifts ceased.”

“The reason they say this today, that the charismatic gifts continue, is that they cannot find a proof text or a verse that would support the view that the spiritual gifts of this nature have ceased. Specifically there is no verse in scripture that says the miracle gifts have stopped at a particular date or time. Bottom line there is no proof text that states that the miracle gifts would end at the conclusion of the Apostolic era. I grant you that.”

“There is no proof text to show the Jehovah’s Witness to show their flawed view of the Trinity, either. You compare scripture with scripture to show the Trinity. I would say the same method applies to cessationism.”

“Those of us who are cessationists base our conviction not on a single proof text but is a theological conclusion that is drawn from a number of biblical, historical, and doctrinal arguments.”

“Scripture does teach that the charismata had a specific, foundational and temporary purpose. They are part of a hierarchy of supernatural signs and wonders that were associated with the founding of the church. That hierarchy is listed in 1 Corinthians 12. It specifically states not all the miracle gifts were given to all in the church. (Phil goes on to explains some verses here). Scripture does not have a specific proof text that shows the Apostolic age ended, that there are no more apostles. There is no specific proof text that the canon of scripture is closed. Those arguments are the same exegetical arguments used to also say that the miraculous gifts ended too.

——————end Phil Johnson——————–

So in effect,

–tongues were for a sign to the unbeliever, fulfilling prophecy that judgment has come,
–they, as all miracle gifts, were for a sign to confirm the message and the messenger,
–we no longer need such signs because we have the Bible to compare a message and can confirm the messenger if he brings a message consistent with it,
–they were real languages,
–they were not the highest gift,
–they were to be interpreted or people were to be silent,
–they were dying out as the Apostolic Age came to an end,
–they obviously ceased for 1900 years,
–they were not the gibberish we see today.

So that is the continuationist vs. the Cessationist view. Continuationists believe the sign gifts (or the miracle gifts) continued unabated from the NT era. Cessationists believe they ceased at the end of the NT era when the last verse was written and the canon of God’s word closed.

I am a cessationist. I believe scripture shows that the sign gifts ceased. A common charge by continuationists is that they say cessationists claim that our position means the ‘Holy Spirit isn’t operating anymore’. Of course He is. He regenerates hearts every day. He draws men to the Lord every day. He brings scripture to mind every day. He does a ton. He just doesn’t dispense the sign gifts anymore because we have the sign in writing: the New Testament, which is completely profitable for all training, education, reproof.

List of the Holy Spirit’s ministries and activities, from John MacArthur Daily Bible

So that is a quick lesson on the distinctions between the two positions on the sign or miracle gifts. Here are further resources:


Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?

What is continuationism?

It is finished

How would you persuade someone that the sign gifts have ceased?

Wretched Store: Drive By Pneumatology

Posted in theology

Of horseshoe crabs and barnacles

By Elizabeth Prata

I love looking at God’s creation and praising Him for it. Job 38-42 has an extended treatment on creation spoken of by God Himself.

When I was a pagan, I saw His creation and I wondered about it. I wondered how it got here, why it was so orderly, and who made it. It was obvious earth was made. So…who?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20).

Giant barnacles on a giant sea scallop shell I collected in Labrador, Canada. EPrata photo

During the time I was living on my sailboat and cruising up and down the eastern seaboard and across to the Bahamas, I decided to make a scientific study of mollusks, all the shells and animals that lived in them, since we spent so much time beachcombing.

I challenged myself to look at the form of the shell and see what function it may have served- like angel wings are tall and skinny with a delicate shell so you know they aren’t going to be tossed around in the surf. In fact they drill down in soft sand and the sand protects the shell from breakage. A moon snail is round and thick so it can take being tossed in the surf.

I learned along the way that barnacles have a super cement that man can’t figure out how to reproduce, but that hasn’t stopped the Navy from trying. They have been trying for a long time to figure out what’s IN that glue to make barnacles soooo adhesive to hulls of ships! They are still trying.

You see, barnacle cement is interesting because it cures underwater, without the need for air drying, and is able to bind to materials with a wide range of textures. It is composed mostly of proteins (70%) and extrudes it from underneath its base plate to the surface below, (think, squeezing grout from between your teeth) and cures within a matter of hours. Once attached it is nearly impossible to get it off. The Navy really, really wants to know how a barnacle does that.

Its cement is among the most powerful natural glues known — with a tensile strength of 5,000 lbs per square inch and an adhesive strength that has been measured at 22 – 60 lbs per square inch. And that’s just barnacles. Blue mussels know how to make 21 different kinds of adhesives. That’s a quote from the Office of the Naval Research, btw. They are really interested both in getting rid of barnacles from their ships and learning how to make the cement for themselves.

Barnacles drag the boat, slowing it down. Often during our sailing journey we had to swim and dive around our boat with a chisel and chip those critters off the hull. Any time we docked for more than a few days the hull would have barnacles on them when we left.

Also, speaking of a wonderful created order, when we visited Woods Hole Oceanographic Lab we learned that horseshoe crabs have a kind of blood that clots instantly when encountering toxins or bacteria. See, in the 1960’s, “Dr. Frederik Bang, a Johns Hopkins researcher working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, found that when common marine bacteria were injected into the bloodstream of the North American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, massive clotting occurred.” (Source) What? We humans need that!

Woods Hole Lab reported, “seawater is a virtual “bacterial soup”. Near-shore areas where the horseshoe crab lives can easily contain over one billion bacteria per milliliter of seawater. That’s a lot. So the horseshoe crab is constantly threatened with infection. Such bacteria do not affect us humans because we have an immune system. The horseshoe crab doesn’t. It doesn’t spontaneously develop antibodies to fight infection like humans can. But the horseshoe crab does have a number of compounds that will bind to and inactivate bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Cool, so though horseshoe crabs have no immune system they can combat bacteria! How is horseshoe blood used today you might ask? So glad you asked! “The horseshoe crab plays a vital, if little-known, role in the life of anyone who has received an injectable medication. An extract of the horseshoe crab’s blood is used by the pharmaceutical and medical device industries to ensure that their products, e.g., intravenous drugs, vaccines, and medical devices, are free of bacterial contamination. No other test works as easily or reliably for this purpose.” (Source: Audubon). No other man-made test works like the natural horseshoe crab blood!

God is great! And He made a crab that is not going to win any beauty contests but has within its blood hidden gems!

Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) in Sussex County, Delaware USA. Creative Commons/Public domain. Photographer, Kaldari

I am in awe at God’s creation and how perfectly he created every living thing.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their lights. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He puts the depths in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood firm. (Psalm 33:6-9)

Posted in theology

Attributes of God: LOVE

By Elizabeth Prata

Sundays are a good time to ponder who God is. He is worthy of service and worship. We have been taking a look at God’s attributes each Sunday.

Remember, God’s attributes are not parts that make up a whole. Everything good that there is, is 100% contained in God. He is 100% beauty, 100% aseity, 100% omniscient, etc. He is complete in Himself.


I usually publish three short definitions of God’s attributes. But the love of God is an important one to ponder all by itself. We must understand the attribute of Love of God, because it has become misunderstood and abused in these past decades. As RC Sproul said,

Regrettably for us today, however, I don’t think there’s any word in the English language that’s been more stripped of the depth of its meaning than the word love. Due to the shallow romanticism of secular culture, we tend to view the love of God in the same way popular music, art, and literature view love. Yet the Bible says God’s love is far different—and greater.”

Whatever else God’s love is, it is holy. His love is therefore characterized by the qualities that define holiness—transcendence and purity.” RC Sproul.

With that in mind, let us take a close look at the love of God from a piece published by Don Fortner I found at GraceGems. There is a lot to say about the attribute of God’s love, so please bear with me as this is a longer podcast, since I will read Pastor Fortner’s piece on God’s love.

Don Fortner (1950-2020) pastored and faithfully declared the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ at Grace Baptist Church of Danville Kentucky for over thirty years and was a widely published author, and conference speaker.

THE LOVE OF GOD, By Don Fortner

God’s redeeming love is Particular and Distinguishing. Those who declare that God loves all people alike, the saved as well as the damned, greatly tarnish the love of God, reducing it to a fickle, helpless, frustrated passion. But that cannot be. The love of God is like himself, from everlasting to everlasting, immutable and sure.

“Nothing is more absurd than to imagine that anyone beloved of God can eternally perish (A. W. Pink).

God’s love is Effectual and Saving. When Paul says, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” the word “us” refers to God’s elect, those sinners who are actually saved by his grace. There are some people in this world whom God does not love. The Scriptures state that fact in clear and unmistakable terms (Ps. 5:5; 11:5-7; Jn. 3:36; Ro. 9:13).

And there are some whom he does love. They are his elect, those who are chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and called to life and faith in him by the Holy Spirit. To tell sinners that God loves them regardless of their relationship to Christ is either to assure them that God will save them without Christ, or to imply that God is weak, mutable, helpless and frustrated. Surely, God will save those whom he loves if he is able to do so. And he is able to do so!

God’s love is more than a sympathetic passion. It is his determination to save. Because the love of God is in Christ, nothing can separate us from his love, for nothing can separate us from Christ! “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” — 1 John 4:9-10

The love of God has been, and forever is, manifested and revealed to sinners in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sinners’ Substitute. Here are three characteristics of God’s love, which set it apart from any other thing that is called “love”.

1. THE LOVE OF GOD IS FREE AND UNCONDITIONAL. God’s declaration concerning the manifestation of his love to his elect is this — “I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4). That simply means that God’s love toward us is an unconditional, unqualified, unmerited, and uncaused love. God does not love his elect because of anything amiable and attractive in us. He says, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated,” and that before either had done anything good or bad, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls” (Rom. 9:13, 11). Not even the death of Christ caused God to love us. Christ’s death as our sin-atoning Substitute is the result of God’s love for his people (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).

2. THE LOVE OF GOD IS ETERNAL. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Try to get hold of this. As God the Father loved his Son from eternity, so he loved his elect from eternity. And as the love of God is in Christ, God’s love for Christ and his love for us is the same! Only faith can grasp this blessed truth. It is higher than reason and emotion. God loves his elect in Christ. As he beholds his people in his dear Son, he loves us as he loves his Son, delights in us as he delights in his Son, and is pleased with us as he is pleased with his Son. This is exactly what our Savior declares in his great, high priestly prayer in John 17:23.

3. THE LOVE OF GOD IS IMMUTABLE, IRREVOCABLE, AND INDESTRUCTIBLE. God’s love is not like man’s love. God’s love does not change, ever, under any circumstances or conditions. Having loved us from eternity, he will never call back his love in time. There is nothing we can do to destroy, or even lessen, the love of God for us (John 13:1). We did nothing compel God to love us; and we can do nothing to repel God’s love. The love of God is not dependent upon, or regulated by our faithfulness to him (Mal. 3:6). The freeness, eternality and immutability of God’s love to us in Christ means that our everlasting salvation is a matter of absolute certainty.

Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” “Because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” – Deut. 7:8 Love is seen in its deeds. And we know the love of God by the gracious operations of his love which he has performed on our behalf. All the acts of God’s grace performed for his people in time are expressions of his love for us from everlasting.

THE VERY FIRST ACT OF GOD’S LOVE, AS IT IS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE, IS ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION (Eph. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13). No one believes in the love of God who does not believe in election. And no one can talk about the love of God in Bible terms who does not talk about predestination. Election and predestination are eternal acts of God’s amazing love toward hell deserving sinners such as we are.

Secondly, THE LOVE OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE REDEMPTION OF OUR SOULS BY THE DEATH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10; 3:16). We read the love of God clearly spelled out in the precious blood of Christ. The love of God is not fully revealed and made manifest in Christ’s incarnation, nor his example, nor his doctrine, nor his prayers, nor even his life of righteousness, but only in his blood. Had Christ done everything else and left this undone, had he not poured out his life’s blood unto death for the atonement of our sins and the redemption of our souls, we could never have known the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But because he died for us, his love is made manifest. “Amazing love! How can it be, That You my God should die for me!”

Thirdly, THE NEW BIRTH, BY WHICH WE HAVE BEEN BORN INTO THE FAMILY AND KINGDOM OF GOD, IS THE RESULT OF GOD’S LOVE TOWARD US FROM ETERNITY. Our regeneration came in “the time of love” (Ezek. 16:6-8). The effectual call, by which we were given faith, was the fruit of God’s love (Jer. 31:3). And our adoption into the family of God was the work of our heavenly Father’s eternal love (1 John 3:1).

Fourthly, OUR PRESERVATION IN GRACE IS THE WORK OF GOD’S LOVE (John 13:1; Isa. 43:1-4; Jer. 32:38-40). “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Sol. 8:7). God’s love toward his elect is invincible and unquenchable. There is no possibility that it will expire. The black waters of our sin cannot extinguish it. And the floods of our unbelief cannot drown it. With men, nothing is stronger than love. His love for us overcomes every obstacle that might stand in the way of our everlasting glory. Every sinner loved of God from eternity was redeemed by Christ at Calvary, shall be called by the Spirit in time, and shall be saved forever.

Previous weeks:

1. Attributes of God: Aseity, Beauty, Blessedness
2. Eternity, Freedom, Glory
3. Goodness, Holiness, Immutability
4. Invisibility, Jealousy, Knowledge