Posted in theology

Do not grow weary in the doing good

By Elizabeth Prata

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

These days are getting more and more evil. A Christian in an area like ours, the Southern United states, is so far spared the persecution many are experiencing abroad, praise the Lord. However, attitudes toward Christians from secular people are shifting rapidly even here in the so-called ‘Bible belt.’ Though we are only just beginning to be persecuted from the outside, many local churches have been dying from the inside.

Weary traveler by eharsee. reuse allowed

Just as Britain is grappling with the reality that they are a post-Christian nation, a clear look at the US will show that we are too.

Apostasy is rising, which means that people who have called themselves Christians are behaving less and less like our Master and more and more like the world.

Paul warned Timothy to:

understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

“Having the appearance of godliness”…Christians who look like they are Christians aren’t really, but will at some point be found to never have known the Lord. (Matthew 7:21-23). This is one of the saddest verses in the entire Bible, to me.


Because it is getting toward the end of the end of the age (we have been in the end of the age since Jesus ascended (1 John 2:18), there are a good many people who succumb to tickled ears, heaping up teachers for themselves, and won’t endure sound doctrine.

People still refuse to accept such and such is a false teacher, or that a particular doctrine is aberrant, or an activity founded on a scripture is actually a twisted use of that scripture, or that Jesus is no longer delivering extrabiblical revelation to them personally,…. Discernment is seen as something unnecessary to a vibrant Christian life. So many people display an attitude of “let’s just agree Jesus is the only thing we need to agree on and leave the rest to God”. But that’s not all there is, and still the gift of discernment isn’t adhered to much.

Back to the Galatians verse, Charles Spurgeon said in his exhortation about not being weary in the doing good-

"It is true, my Brothers and Sisters, that you are not to save yourselves by doing good. Your motive is not selfish, but because you are saved already, you desire to manifest the power of gratitude and to prove to all the world that those who receive a free salvation are the very men who most cheerfully labor to please God and to bring glory to His name. O you who are debtors to infinite mercy, “Be not weary in doing good.” …

Now, secondly, it appears from the text that in your service YOU WILL MEET WITH EVILS common to Christian workers of all descriptions. You will especially be liable to weariness and faintness. Take the first word as it stands in our version—you will be tempted to grow weary. …

Do you not think that, at times, our getting lax in Christian work arises from our being very low in Grace? As a rule, you cannot get out of a man that which is not in him. You cannot go forth, yourself, to your class and do your work vigorously if you have lost inward vigor. You cannot minister before the Lord with the unction of the Holy One if that unction is not upon you. If you are not living near to God and in the power of God, then the power of God will not go forth through you to the children in y our care! Therefore I think we should judge, when we become discontented and down-hearted, that we are out of sorts spiritually. Let us say to ourselves, “Come, my Soul! What ails you? This faint heart is a sign that you are out of health. Go to the Great Physician and obtain from Him a tonic which shall brace you! Come, play the man! Have none of these whims! Away with your idleness! The reaping time will come, therefore thrust in the plow.”

"Sometimes, too—I am ashamed to mention it—I have heard of teachers becoming weary from lack of being appreciated. Their work has not been sufficiently noticed by the pastor and praised by the superintendent. Sufficient notice has not been taken of them and their class by their fellow teachers. I will not say much about this cause of faintness because it is so small an affair that it is quite below a Christian. Appreciation! Do we expect it in this world? The Jewish nation despised and rejected their King and even if we were as holy as the Lord Jesus we might still fail to be rightly judged and properly esteemed. What does it matter? If God accepts us, we need not be dismayed though all should pass us by.

Spurgeon always has a good word. In addition, the Good Book says -

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:14-15).

Spurgeon again,

"If there are a hundred reasons for giving up your work of faith, there are 50,000 for going on with it! Though there are many arguments for fainting, there are far more arguments for persevering. Though we might be weary and do sometimes feel so, let us wait upon the Lord and renew our strength and we shall mount up with wings as eagles, forget our weariness and be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!"

Posted in theology

Patronesses Phoebe and Susanna: Two named women in the Bible

By Elizabeth Prata

Susanna and Phoebe are both mentioned as women who believed in Jesus and supported his ministry. In Romans 16:2 Phoebe is named as a benefactor, and Susanna was giving out of her means. (Luke 8:2).

A woman is depicted at prayer in an early Christian mosaic seen in the Vatican’s Pio Cristiano Museum. (Wikimedia Commons/Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)

Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a benefactor of many, and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2).

And it happened that soon afterward He was going around from one city and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s manager, and Susanna, and many others who were ministering to them from their possessions. (Luke 8:1-3)

Some women actually did have a job in Bible times. Lydia was a Seller of Purple- it seems she had her own business. Whether she was a widow or born into it is unknown, but she was successful enough to host Paul and his entourage in her home. (Acts 16:14, Acts 16:40) Rachel was named as a shepherdess. (Genesis 29:9). Priscilla with her husband is listed as a tentmaker. (Acts 16:2-3) Shiprah and Puah were Hebrew midwives. (Exodus 1:15). Sherah was a builder. (1 Chronicles 7:24). Professional mourners was a job that women had, too. (Jeremiah 9:17).

And Susanna and Phoebe were Patronesses. This was an actual title and job in the Bible times. In Rome especially, patrons & patronesses, and their clients, lived by a codified set of rules for their engagement. It was a system that was part of the social order. It was always the upper class person giving largesse to the lower, in the form of money, food, or legal help. The client had certain obligations as well to his patron. The client was expected to show deference to his patron, especially by calling upon him each morning (salutatio) and by aiding him in his private and public life. If one or the other ended up in court, neither could give evidence against the other, just as husbands and wives today can’t be compelled to testify against each other.

Patronage was a relationship distinct from other relationships.

In Israel, the rules in the patron/client relationship were not as well-known, but patrons and patronesses existed. In Christianity, those who gave out of their means were under a different set of standards, which is to say, a relationship based on grace and the ultimate benefactor being God.

For example, Bible verses tell us we are commanded this or that about money, i.e. to give sacrificially, to help the brethren where needed, to love one another, not to show partiality, etc. But it’s interesting to note that benefactors existed in that era and Phoebe and Susanna were given special mention. Phoebe had gained special respect from Paul and given a sensitive charge- bring the letter. In this case it was Romans 16.

“Phoebe was entrusted by Paul with a key letter on which the next phase of his ministry depended. The phrasing of Romans 16:1–3 makes it clear she fulfilled the usual role of letter carrier.” Source

In those days, there was a postal route but no postal carrier. If you wanted to send a letter you had to have someone to deliver it for you. Paul regularly sent his co-workers for this very reason.

By sea the trip was about 700 miles and could take 5-10 days in good weather. With a combination sea/land route following the Adriatic Sea, the distance was about 800 miles. There were paved roads and travelers often rode donkeys and stayed in inns along the way. This route took considerably more time–3 to 4 weeks–but in the winter months it was the only open route for travelers.

Phoebe was also most likely responsible for paying her travel expenses, including sea passage for her and any travel companions, food and wine for her journey, etc. Importantly, Phoebe needed to physically protect Paul’s letter. Source

In the case of Romans 16, Phoebe traveled almost 800 miles if she went by the direct route shown on this modern day map. Entrusted, as a woman, to travel to Rome with scripture, fragile papyrus, all that way is certainly an indicator of Paul’s esteem and trust of this woman. Perhaps he had met her when he was with Prisca and Aquila setting out for Syria and stopping in Phoebe’s home base in Cenchreae to have his hair cut for the vow. Cenchreae is a coastal town about five miles from the city of Corinth.

It would be important to say the word he used for helper with reference to Phoebe in Acts 16:2, is prostatis. It can mean a person in a position of leadership, whether as a president, chief, or presiding officer. It can also refer more broadly to a guardian or a helper, often meaning someone who takes the lead in ensuring someone else’s protection and provision via their own means, usually, wealth. It’s not likely Paul meant the former in reference to Phoebe, since women were not leaders in that sense. We know he meant helper, and he likely used the word in its definition of patron, though translators are unsure.

“She [Phoebe] had taken it on herself to ensure the practical well-being of many through hospitality and financial assistance, which indicates she probably possessed significant wealth. Perhaps she was the host of a house church. Cenchreae was the location of a busy seaport, affording many opportunities to offer financial assistance and hospitality.” Source The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.

Can you imagine the uncertainty the first century disciples lived under? Guilds, which were unions on steroids, would block out Christians because of their negative impact on idol making (Acts 19:24-27), not having a place to live, being persecuted, chased, beaten up. Not knowing where the next meal would come from sometimes. But they could count on Phoebe. They knew they had support there. No wonder Paul said ‘succorer’ in reference to Phoebe.

We know less than less about Susanna, because only a very few words surround her name in the Bible. But we can glean.

First, we know that Jesus had healed her, so she was probably grateful.

Susanna doesn’t even have her own GotQuestions entry but is mentioned with Joanna:

Joanna was one of several women in the Bible healed of “evil spirits and diseases” by Jesus Christ (Luke 8:2). After being healed, Joanna accompanied Jesus and the twelve disciples on their travels from town to town and helped support the Lord’s ministry. As the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod Antipas’ household estate, Joanna was a woman of means and influence. Along with Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and others, Joanna helped provide food and supplies for the missionary troupe from her own wealth (Luke 8:1–3).

Susanna was able to travel with Jesus and his other followers and provide him/them with a level of financial support. She was presumably single, seemingly not needing permission from a man (husband, father, brother, uncle, owner, etc.) to give out of her means, and indicating she had her own means. If she was married, her husband would be extremely tolerant of her being away and turning into an itinerant pilgrim, or perhaps he had divorced her when she converted. We simply do not know.

Both Phoebe and Susanna traveled. Phoebe to bring the letter 800 miles to Rome and Susanna to follow Jesus. This was highly unusual in that day. It indicates the two women were likely unmarried since they were apart from their own home for such long periods. Yet they had means enough to support a large and growing ministry.

Patronage in Christian life of course is vastly different from patronage in Rome. It involves often a one-way generosity without expecting something in return, a sacrificial generosity, a denial of self, and a love of others. It is based on grace and a love for the Savior, not a codified set of socio-economic rules. Both Phoebe and Susanna were ‘patrons’ in the sense of living a grace-filled, loving life in service to their Lord and His Apostle, whom they were blessed to help in person.

I am eager to meet these women. I’m amazed at how the Lord collects the people he wants, fashions them into people in various socio-economic stations of life (think of the leper asking for healing or the blind man since birth, yet also wealthy Joseph of Arimathea and the women mentioned today) to do their part in His plan of this long road to the culmination of history.


Susannah was the name of Charles Spurgeon’s wife.

The name Phoebe means “pure”, “radiant”, or “bright”

Posted in theology

The Fickle Finger of Fate

By Elizabeth Prata

I was listening to Dr. RC Sproul explain the Doctrine of Concurrence in a 2004 sermon. He opened with an explanation of it, and after a short while of preaching, mentioned “The Fickle Finger of Fate”. The audience, ones of a certain age, lol, laughed.

I think he was referencing a famous skit during a 1960s variety comedy show called “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”. The whole title of the skit was the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate.

That dubious honor—which became a weekly staple of the series—was awarded to public figures, corporations, and government agencies, for their many questionable achievements” said one website. Laugh-In was a sort of a cross between Saturday Night Live and Monty Python, and was very popular for its time.

Of course, the fickle finger of fate phrase preceded that television show. People who don’t believe in God refer to seemingly random happenings as fate or chance.

There is no chance.

Literally, there is no such thing as chance, or fate, or randomness, in the events happening on earth. God is in control of ALL of it, down to the very last dust mote. As Sproul has famously said, “There is not one maverick molecule in the universe.”

John Murray has said,

1: There is a Providence
“Providence is an old fashioned word and has a strange ring to modern ears. Yet when we break it down into its parts the meaning becomes clear. It comes from the Latin video ‘to see’ and pro ‘before’, meaning ‘to see beforehand’. In our lives we plan beforehand but we do not see what is going to happen. God has planned everything for His creation and because He is the sovereign God everything will come to pass as He purposed. Providence is that marvelous working of God by which all the events and happenings in His universe accomplish the purpose He has in mind.” ~Source: Behind a Frowning Providence

Surely, rolling the dice or casting lots is chance…right?


Proverbs 16:33 says The lot is cast into the lap, But its every judgment is from Yahweh.

The casting of the lot is an extraordinary or unusual request made to God that He would reveal His will in an important controversy which cannot be resolved by either wisdom, skill, or strength. It pertains to an issue that must be resolved, as there would otherwise be danger or great disadvantage to the country, church, or individual. By Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service

Before I was saved I spent a lot of mental time pondering why things are the way they are…why things happen…the nature of ‘chance’. Far from being totally clueless about these concepts, non-believers do think of them. They know there is a God but they suppress that truth in unrighteousness, and continue on their way thinking it is all chance or fate.

We have will and moral agency. We decide to do things, either aligned with God’s holy standards, or not. Witness Joseph’s brothers, who hated Joseph and put him in a pit, plotted to murder him, and then sold him to the slave traders.

Yet Joseph said at the end of those long decades, they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. God meant it to happen. How do those two things work together to accomplish God’s plan? And what of tornadoes and hurricanes, i.e. ‘natural’ disasters?

Sproul explained that the doctrine of Concurrence (or confluence) can be seen in an analogy of the Three Rivers merging together in Pittsburgh.

The Monongahela River and the Allegheny River flow along in their individual riverbanks for hundreds of miles then merge to form the Ohio River.

The Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) join to form the Ohio here.
The West End Bridge crosses the Ohio in the foreground. Source

Though each river does its own thing according to its own nature, they eventually and inexorably flow into the mighty Ohio. What man does, man does, but unknowingly he is being directed, even by use of his own nature, to the flow God wants to direct it. Man’s actions and God’s will create a confluence that is part of God’s perfect plan. This same thing happens with ‘natural disasters’ such as floods, hurricanes, lightning and so on. God is in control of it all.

Even the adversities and disasters come upon a person’s life.

When adversity comes into our lives we tend to react in one of two ways. We may say that it is from a source other than God and He has no power to stop it; or we may say it is an evidence of God’s anger against us. Either way we are guilty of casting aspersions on the character of our Father and consequently of perverting our attitude to Him. John Murray

There is no such thing as a problem-free Christianity. God ordains all that will occur, including all that will occur to me, before I was even born. Before the first person – Adam – was even created.

Sadly such teaching seems far removed from the outlook that prevails in large parts of the Church today. The impression is given that the purpose of the Christian life is enjoyment. Everything that stands in the way of that is to be eliminated. People are looking for a problem-free Christianity. Murray.

We can’t say “God did good to me” or “God did evil to me”. All that God does is good. All that God does is perfect. All that God does is to the good of those who love Him, even and especially, the ‘dark providences’. There is no fickle finger of fate. There is only the steady and assured hand of God, doing all that He sees fit.

The hurricane, the car crash, the Down’s syndrome, the ‘untimely’ death of a young one, a miscarriage, are all part of God’s plan. Also part of His plan is our prospering, our sanctification, the joys of a newborn, the uniting of two into one through marriage, His assurance of salvation and eternity with Him, and all the other blessings He gives.

Our sins and evil doings both pre-and-post salvation are also absorbed into His plan and used for the good of those who love Him. As an Allegheny River flowing along, we don’t know there is an Ohio River ahead into which we eventually flow, banked by His rod and staff, nurtured and cleansed, until we reach the purest fountain of all: Jesus in His heaven.

Posted in theology

The dramatic cleansing of the leper

By Elizabeth Prata

I wrote this a couple of years ago, but our elder preached on this Sunday so I unearthed my essay to re-read it and mull over what he said. I hope you enjoy it too.

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4).

Notice that in the Bible it’s almost always (with two exceptions) a cleansing of a leper, not a healing of a leper. This essay examines why that distinction exists, and looks at the life of a person in New Testament times who has the disease of leprosy.

Continue reading “The dramatic cleansing of the leper”
Posted in theology

Don’t shy away from the prophetic books

By Elizabeth Prata

Prophecy gives us urgency. It reveals God’s plan and offers us the wonder of seeing it fulfilled to the jot and tittle, from the past by reading the Bible, and the future as we await His return. Prophecy shows us His holy anger, of which we must fear. We gain comfort and hope- think of Simeon and Anna in the temple, eagerly awaiting the Consolation of Israel, their hope and comfort fulfilled before their eyes as Mary and Joseph came to present the babe. (Luke 2).

I like being heavenly minded. I think of seeing the face of Jesus, singing to Him with all the redeemed. I think of the street of gold, the saints of the past I’ll get to know, and so much more. Being heavenly minded also means seeing the justice of God as He renders it in the final judgments. Judgment, wrath, and hell. There but for the grace of God go I… He took my ragged and pitifully polluted life and turned it into something glorious for the Father. He put in me a new heart and my soul daily being cleansed of sin.

In all the ways above and many more, prophecy demonstrates His glory.

I encourage you all to read and study the Book of Revelation. It is not difficult, and the Spirit will make it clear. You know, it is written in that book that we receive a blessing if we read the Book of Revelation. Zechariah has as much prophecy in it related to the final days on earth as Revelation does, if not more. I enjoyed Steve Hadley’s verse-by-verse sermons from Zechariah. There is so much prophecy in the Old Testament. I guess I should just say that the entire Bible is wonderful. Some say that a quarter of the whole Bible is prophetic. There is history, Law, narrative, poetry, wisdom, and prophecy. Something for everyone! So get to it today, don’t shy away from prophecy, especially Revelation.

Prophecy puts me in my place. I am a crumb, saved by grace, and at His perfect appointed time, placed within the Age of Grace to do His will, and perhaps gloriously see His return while I’m alive. What a privilege. Share Jesus with another, His prophetic timetable is moving quickly toward the climactic moments on earth.

Posted in theology

Singleness & Marriage, Celibacy & Sex

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Sensitive subject, right? Not just the sex topic, but marriage too. In the 14 years I’ve kept this blog and 6000 or so essays, I have not talked about marriage or sex.

Firstly as a woman with no children, I don’t have anything to say to moms except what the Bible says. I cannot share any experience nor give advice on that topic because I lack practical experience. I share what the Bible says, verses, but not able to commune via experience.

As for the topic of the marital bed, it’s a legitimate topic and so is celibacy, but I am careful about what I discuss online.

But it’s mother’s day coming up, and it’s wedding season, so I thought that I might be share some (hopefully) wisdom on those 2 topics. And resources. My aim is always to consult the Bible first, and then to point to solidly credible resources for women to peruse.

My parents’ marriage was not a good one. My father is passed away now but my mother is coming up on 86 years old. Let’s just say that I was perpetually scared and never felt secure. Love was in short supply. Divorce happened when I was 14.

I grew up in a time of the 1960s and 1970s when things were turning upside down. The sexual revolution was rampant and open marriage was the thing and feminism took hold. I cannot relate to you the extreme turbulence of that time. In the end, I rejected it all, and I decided I wanted to be married and have a traditional life with a man, a college degree, have a house, career, security and love. Who doesn’t want that? Love.

So when I went to college, I fell for the first guy that came along. Fathers, that is what happens when you are unavailable to them in their formative years. A warning. We moved in together when I was a sophomore, and married after we graduated. Sadly, we weren’t really suited to one another, but I wanted to give it a go. He didn’t. Four years after we married, he found another woman, had an affair, and left me pretty quickly. By quickly, I mean there was no long-drawn-out petering away with tears and fights and ‘trying’ . He was there one day. The next he was gone.

Divorce is a violent act. It is two made into one flesh, being ripped apart. People speak of the horror of abortion, tearing the baby limb from limb. Divorce is similar. A violent ripping away of flesh you had cleaved to. Make no mistake.

I had an idol of marriage but no clue about marriage. I was not saved, which made it worse. The fools who think they have wisdom… Ladies, advice: Marriage is HARD. It’s two sinners coming together and mutually submitting. Our flesh does not want to do that, so it’s a battle. Genesis 3’s curse on men and women in marriage makes it even harder. Men will want to dominate their dominating wives. That, or become passive like Adam. Stick to the Bible’s guidelines for marriage, it is the only way to succeed in the longest-term, most pointed sanctification project on earth.

Having been saved now, I understand why the Bible’s many warnings and commands about adultery. Violating the marital bed is one of the worst things any human can do to another. It’s terrible. Porn is a violation of it. Lusting after another is a violation of it. And of course, adultery is a violation of it.

Many churches idolize marriage to the point of insinuation that there is something wrong with a woman who isn’t married. And childless? Oh my, a grieving topic for those who want but can’t.

Marriage is a norm for most of Christ’s people. He did give the command to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28). But marriage is not given to all people. (1 Corinthians 7:7–9). And after all, we are single for major portions of our lives. Being single is not a punishment, even if it a lifetime arrangement.

Elisabeth Elliot married Jim at age 27, which was late for a woman in 1953. She was married only 3 years then Jim was martyred in Ecuador. She remained single for ten years. Then married again. Her 2nd husband died and she was single again for some years before marrying a 3rd time.

God sometimes reserves singles for a particular purpose (John the Baptist, Jeremiah, the 144,000 virgins of the Tribulation…) And in our times He might reserve singleness as a gift, protecting them from something of which they do not know. Or so they can focus totally on a task He has in mind. Whether married or single, we serve the Lord. That is the chief end of man, to glorify the Lord (in obedient service) and enjoy Him forever.

I had made an idol of marriage but deep down I knew, just knew, it was wrong man, wrong time, just wrong. But I wasn’t saved and I wanted what I wanted. Rebels gonna rebel. I wanted a man, marriage, and the marital bed inside a marriage. (I didn’t think it seemly to have promiscuous sex all over the place, that seemed wrong, just one husband, thank you).

But if they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:9).

I was saved a couple of decades later and then I knew God’s will for my life. I understood things. I am to remain single. I sort of knew that all along. Finally I was content with that, though. I am not really suited for long-term relationships. I have a hard time in relationships anyway. But I did ask the Lord to remove the burning, and He did. I am celibate, single, content. If He wants you to be, He makes it OK in your heart.

Theologian John Stott remained single and celibate his entire life. He said,

The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those he calls.

As for marrieds, and the marital bed, I found a wonderful resource from Aileen Challies, Tim Challies’ wife. It is called “False Messages: A Guide for the Godly Bride”. It’s a 21-page booklet online and it’s FREE.

Aileen Challies writes about “Sex”, “Desire”, “Unequal Desire,” “The Heart of Rejection”, and more. She writes graciously, biblically, and plainly.

For example:

The purpose of sex, then, is to provide a unique means through which a husband and wife can know one another, serve one another, express vulnerability before one another, give and receive. No other area in marriage offers so much to gain and so much to lose. No other area in marriage so closely grafts the couple together.

I agree. It’s true. And it’s one reason why adultery (and lusting for others and porn etc) are so devastating. Sex is remarkably powerful. It is incredibly intimate. It is why God gave us strict instructions and boundaries about it. Sex is good between a married man and woman, but also good are God’s instructions and limits about it.

As the husband leads, the wife is called by God to submit to her husband’s leadership even in the marriage bed. As in other areas of life, she is called to defy leadership only if her husband demands of her something that would violate her conscience or God’s law. We can see this as a responsibility of the wife but we must also see it as a particular responsibility of the husband. He is to lead in such a way that his wife will have no reason to refuse him. ~Aileen Challies

This is something that newly married couple must find their own way on, mutually. Communication is key. You might be shy at first talking about these things, whether the activity is satisfying to you or if it isn’t. It’s easier sometimes to avoid discussion. But communication in marriage is important and so, it is important on this subject too. Not everything will be perfect right at first, but that is the fun of coalescing as you forge a unified pairing as husband and wife.

He must seek to be sensitive to her needs, to her desires. He must acknowledge the times where, for one reason or another, she might find it exceedingly difficult to give herself to him and must keep from cajoling her into acts that would make her uncomfortable or leave her feeling violated. He needs to exemplify leadership as a servant even here in the bedroom. His first thoughts must be for her. ~Aileen Challies.

Yes, she speaks of the ideal. I pray it is that way for you whether it happens early in your marriage or later.

Marriage, conjugal activity, and singleness and celibacy are sensitive subjects, very sensitive. In my opinion, there is nothing more sacred than the marital bed. But sadly, there is a lot of bad advice out there. Because sex is so powerful, bad advice in this particular area of Christian life can have more harm, much more harm, than one might think. Be careful who you turn to for advice and which resources you absorb.

Please email or message me if you have further questions. I’d be glad to try and help or find a good resource for your question. Meanwhile here are some GOOD resources:

Booklet, Aileen Challies, “False Messages: A Guide for the Godly Bride”.

Ligonier: The Puritan’s View of Sex in Marriage

Got Questions essay: What does it mean that it is better to marry than to burn in 1 Corinthians 7:9?

Got Questions: Does the Bible teach that there is a gift of celibacy?

Ligonier: Conjugal rights in Marriage

Martyn Lloyd Jones: True Love: A Sermon on True Love from Ephesians 5:25-33

Book: Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life by Barry Danylak

Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: The Coming Persecution

By Elizabeth Prata

Part of a continuing series I did 3 years ago. This was the concluding essay. It’s more applicable today than even then.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Last Sunday I’d ended the first phase of the Apostolic persecutions with the death of Apostle John. He was the last of the first generation martyrs. In Foxe’s Book it is described thus: “Chapter One: History of Christian Martyrs to the First General Persecutions Under Nero”.

In the course of that first wave, Paul and Peter were martyred. In summary, Foxe wrote,

 “To their names may be added, Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth; Aristarchus, the Macedonian, and Trophimus, an Ephesian, converted by St. Paul, and fellow-laborer with him, Joseph, commonly called Barsabas, and Ananias, bishop of Damascus; each of the Seventy.”

Under Nero’s persecution after the Great Fire at Rome of 67AD, the church at Rome was scattered, and this blew the seeds of the Gospel outward toward Asia. (1 Peter 1:1). The 7 Churches of Asia Minor were founded at that time. However, it wasn’t long before persecution followed the Christians at the cities far from Rome, and this is what Peter meant when he wrote, ‘you are being tested in various trials’ in 1 Peter 1:6.

This first wave of the persecution of the original generation continued under Domitian. Foxe’s summary again,

“Nicodemus, a benevolent Christian of some distinction, suffered at Rome during the rage of Domitian’s persecution. Protasius and Gervasius were martyred at Milan. Timothy was the celebrated disciple of Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.”

After Apostle John died in around 98AD, The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108, began.

“Pliny was a governor of a Roman province at the beginning of the Second Century.  He was monitoring those who identified themselves as Christians in order to make report to the Emperor Trajan.  He wrote to Trajan around 100 AD.” Foxe wrote of Pliny’s letter to Trajan,

“In the third persecution Pliny the Second, a man learned and famous, seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did any thing contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution. “The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this-viz. that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation-not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary-never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal.”


Hatred of Christians is coming to America. Persecution is coming. Christians have always suffered horribly in all the world throughout all ages. Christians in America have not. We are the cushiest, most comfortable generation, and as a result have grown casual to the Gospel and irreverent toward Christ. The charge of Jesus to the church at Laodicea could well be taken as a charge against us today:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17).

It is the church at Laodicea which Jesus asks to open the door and let Him in when He knocks. It is the church at Laodicea that has left Jesus off the list of ingredients when they play at church.

Of the true church, Dr. John MacArthur wrote this to his subscribers in 2013, “It’s no surprise that true Christians are feeling pressures we’ve never before experienced. Believers today face open hostility simply for what we believe.”

[Ed Note: Brings to mind Pliny’s perplexity of the hatred leveled against Christians who were simply praying, vowing to do good and having harmless meals together…]. Continuing MacArthur-

“Our gospel, our values, our priorities, our doctrine, what we love and what we hate what we live for and what we die for- our lives are more permanently and comprehensively at odds with the world. What’s more, the situation can and will still get worse. I’ve commented several times recently that I believe that hostility toward Christians in the West will eventually give way to full-blown persecution, just as it already has in other parts of the world.”

“As the pressure on Christianity has increased, it has been interesting to see so many supposed Christian institutions caving in and surrendering. We’re now finding out what people really believe and who is willing to stand for truth. Christian organizations are having to ask themselves, What are we going to say about immorality, premarital sex, drunkenness, and homosexuality? Sadly, many are waffling.”

Dr. MacArthur continued in his letter,

“Our view is that the more heated the battle becomes the clearer we need to become on our biblical convictions. The true church will always embrace persecution when it comes, rather than run from it. Suffering for Christ is a blessing from God with purifying effects for true believers. When suffering comes, the church actually thrives. Of course that doesn’t mean that facing hostility and persecution is easy, or that it doesn’t raise practical questions about the present and the future- no Christians cherish the thought of their children or grandchildren suffering…”

The call for today is to remember the martyrs even as hostility and persecution comes to us in the West. Align yourself with the stance that Dr MacArthur outlined:

“As other organizations seek to evolve with the times, insulate themselves from hostility, and accommodate the culture, our plan is to actively stake out the biblical positions everywhere we can. We are going to articulate biblical truth more clearly and assertively than ever. In fact, as the culture continues to degenerate and biblical standards are challenged, every new attempt to undermine Scripture is going to elicit from us a loving- but clear-confrontation.”

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)

One of the reason above that Foxe said he wrote his book of martyrs is to “Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith.” I plea for you to become solid in your stance and firm in your conviction to demonstrate that very grace. Get clear on your convictions and the biblical worldview we need to have. Stand on the rock.

When I originally started this series 7 years ago, I could see the need coming to re-connect with what real persecution is and to take inspiration from those who died for the faith without reneging on their convictions. It is doubtless coming to us in America.

The simmering hatred is more visible now in 2023. The COVID-19 virus and subsequent lockdown has taught us just how easy it is for Government leaders to shutter churches. The difficulty in opening churches back up as the COVID-19 virus slowed its progress through the population shows just how much of a target churches are of that hatred.

Let us continue in the faith, a long, unbroken line of glory from the first martyr to the last, praising Jesus under all circumstances. Let us gird our loins and stand firm on the Gospel, no matter what may or may not be coming to America in future days.

Ignatius was a beloved father in the faith in the time of Trajan’s persecution. He said, “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!”

He was eventually convicted and thrown to the lions. Ignatius “heard the lions roaring, saying: “I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”

May you be found to be pure bread, with no leaven, for the name of Jesus and His eternal glory.

Posted in theology

Contending for souls: The Wrath and a Confession

By Elizabeth Prata

I wrote a few days ago in my essay The Forgotten God: His Wrath, that preaching and teaching on God’s wrath is an essential part of the Gospel. Yet in our day there has been such a dampening of this important attribute of God that we have marginalized it in Gospel proclamations.

I’d said I love God’s wrath because it is one of His attributes and I love everything about God. It is also part of His justice and how He will right all the wrongs in the world. I do mourn those who live under God’s wrath (Romans 1:18) and those who have already passed and will eternally be enduring God’s wrath (John 3:36). But God IS angry with sin. He WILL punish sinners.

Then after I posted my The Forgotten God essay I came across this tweet thread by D. Michael Clary. It touched me greatly. His humility, clarity, and emphasis on the wrath prompted me to ask if I may repost his thread. He said yes.

Please take a quick read of his confession. Wherever and whenever I can promote the balanced Gospel, one that includes all the elements such as law, grace, justice, wrath etc, I will. What follows is from Mr. Clary.

Michael Clary Profile picture

Michael Clary @dmichaelclary

Tweet Thread

I learned an important ministry lesson years ago from an unbeliever I was trying to evangelize.

I was on staff with CRU & he was a brilliant & thoughtful student. Over the next few years, I shared the gospel with him many times, answering objections & using all the tools. 1/10 

To answer his more complicated moral, philosophical, and theological objections, I took him to meet one of my theology profs at SBTS. Despite all this, he could never commit to Christ. He was a classic “always learning but never arriving at the church” kind of guy. 2/10 

Eventually, I moved away to plant a church, and I continued to pray that someday he would come to faith.

Fast forward a few years, he calls me out of nowhere to tell me he’d become a Christian. I also spoke to his new wife, who was also a solid believer. 3/10 

Not only that, but he had begun taking seminary courses to explore church planting.

I was floored. What finally broke through? What book, apologist, or intellectual finally convinced him? So I asked him. 4/10 

Someone invited him to a church service and the preacher preached about hell and eternal judgment. It scared the crap out of him and he surrendered to Christ at that moment.

Like, he legit got saved. Radical, immediate conversion. 5/10 

Looking back, I’d spent the better part of four years appealing to his intellect, talking philosophy & theology. I wanted to prove to him how intellectually satisfying & philosophically robust Xnty is. All that is well & good, but I missed the one thing he needed most. 6/10 

He needed to know what many Christians want to avoid talking about with unbelievers. He needed what I was too afraid to mention bc I was embarrassed. He needed to know about judgment & hell, the unpleasant doctrines that demonstrate, by contrast, the beauty of the cross. 7/10 

God gave me a huge part to play in his conversion, for which I’m grateful, but the honor of seeing him cross the finish line went to another man who was faithful in an area where I’d failed. 8/10 

I’d spent years showing him a “respectable” Christianity, which kept him comfortable in his unbelief. In scripture, however, we learn that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co 1:18). 9/10 

One plain spoken sermon, that clearly laid out God’s wrath against sin and the grace of the cross, had more power than my years of trying to reach him by the human means of appealing to his intellect.

In other words, the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

–end D. Michael Clary’s words.

That was the content I come for! May God bless pastors such as Pastor Clary and all who unashamedly proclaim the balanced Gospel in love and truth.

Further Reading

Desiring Truth: Five Truths about the Wrath of God

God’s Wrath: Resources from Ligonier

The Wrath of God- sermon from John MacArthur

Posted in theology

Balance in our theology is important

By Elizabeth Prata

My blog is called The End Time not due to eschatology but because we’re IN the end time -the time between Jesus’ ascension and His return – and time is short. I exhort us all to walk worthy and be bold to proclaim the hope that is within us, because the Time is Near.

I love eschatology and I could write about it every day. In fact, when I started this blog, I did write about it most every day. But yes, I enjoy eschatology because His return is the next big event to happen!

Anyway, the Lord grew me from my earliest days of hyper-focus on last things, and I learned about other doctrines. I fell in love with the doctrine of Providence, and I enjoy biblical natural history (flora & fauna of the Bible, agricultural practices, and so on). I love discernment, since the Holy Spirit gave me that spiritual gift, and I like to exercise it, but not to the point that one of my biceps gets bigger than the other. I have to frequently scan my blogs to make sure I’m not narrowing in on one topic too often. This essay is a warning for myself as well.

I first read through all the Old Testament Prophets, then the OT histories and poetic books. I turned to the New Testament and of course, Revelation, an apocalyptic book. When that the first pass of reading the Bible initially was concluded, I now choose Bible reading plans that bounce daily between the OT and the NT.

Our preaching elders preach a book of the New Testament then a book of the old.

We should absorb the whole counsel of God. We should share the whole counsel of God.

In other words, as Christians, we seek balance in our learning. As with anything in life, we strive to be well-rounded.

That’s not to say that we don’t have favorite doctrines, or are well known for having a teaching niche. RC Sproul was known for holiness and philosophy. Phil Johnson is known for his expertise on the Psalms. Alistair Begg is known for being an expert on, well, The Beatles. You knew that was coming! lol.

I’ve noticed that some who have a social media presence and large followings who excessively focus on one doctrine above all others, who make their blog be about only that, or tweet about only that, or who speak about only that. These people tend to drift away from balance and become unbalanced.

Would you enjoy sitting under a preacher who only ever preaches on tithing and money? Or follow a person who only ever urged female submission? ‘Trump bad’ or ‘John MacArthur bad’ is a message from some who never seem to tire of harping on their pet one-and-only topic, but it sadly displays a narrowing of their theological arteries.

Omissions are just as imbalanced as hyper-focus. If your preacher never speaks of the wrath, or of sin, or of the Old Testament, that is not a well-rounded pastor. Of course, a person might know of these topics, but a failure to continue learning about them is part of the problem of drifting toward imbalance.

It’s not just the individual who falls into myopia. The pendulum swing in the global church results in imbalance too. It swings from one extreme to another. The Charismatic movement arose as a reaction against dead orthodoxy theology. The Sonship movement arose as a pushback against an impersonal theology.

Overemphasis in the reaction causes overshadowing of other teachings, to the point almost of neglect in seminaries or in lots of churches in one era.

Theologian Carl Trueman spoke of the importance of balance:

[T]he need for balance is absolutely crucial if the church is to witness God’s truth to the world, and a failure to speak the whole counsel of God is a critical weakness in our testimony as Christians.

He was talking about the need for an equal mental attention to systematic theology and biblical theology, but we take his point.

In the 1970-80s, eschatology was IN. A whole generation of people grew up with Left Behind, Hell Houses at Halloween, and even music on the topic (I Wish We’d All Been Ready).

By the 1990-2000s, eschatology was OUT. Seminaries didn’t focus on it too much, which resulted in a host of graduates for a generation with little attention paid to the subject. In the 2020’s eschatology is back, but not the dispensational flavor, but amillennial.

Theological myopia sets in. Neglect of the whole counsel of God stirs a narrowing of your worldview, which soon enough, views ONLY your pet doctrine or theory. Don’t let that happen to you.

How to stop hyper-focus from happening?


What can help us keep our theology balanced? Of course, the Bible, first and foremost. Read it widely. Read it frequently. The more grounded in the Word you are the more you will stand upon solid ground. If not, you’ll end up cherry picking verses out of context that you want to support your pet theory in conversation (or papers, or tweets). Choose a balanced Bible Reading Plan.


Apart from your own pastor each week, I’m sure you listen to sermons and podcasts online. Listen to a few different ones. I listen to both women and men, cultural issues oriented and theology oriented. I listen to a variety of preachers; some of them are from today and some are from long ago. I read books on different topics, not just the one or two topics I especially enjoy. I am sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit when I’m reading the Bible for new topics to follow up on. Lately I’ve followed up on a couple chapters in Romans (sin AKA Hamartiology) and the Blood of Christ. Absorb material from different eras. I enjoy current magazines but also pamphlets from the past, from the 1800s all the way down to Augustine.


In my discipling of younger women, I always tell them to seek the Holy Spirit in prayer. It’s a common refrain from me, but it’s a truism. His ministry is to point us to truth. He is the Illuminator. He convicts of sin. He keeps our heart aligned with God’s affections and our mind transforming every day. He is our greatest resource! Ask Him to keep you balanced. Ask Him to help you find appropriate middle ground.


If you engage on social media through blogs, tweets, Instagram, or other, look over what you have produced lately to see if you’re drifting into a narrowing. Scan backward and get an idea of the flavors of your output. There is a difference between following up on a topic deeply for a while, and succumbing to a rut where that is all you ever think about, pray about, write about. Social media is a conversation but it is also a chronicle. It can be your own keeper of your recent interests. Check it to see how you’re doing!

We can all pray for what martyr Jim Elliot sought:

Lord, give me firmness without hardness, steadfastness without dogmatism, and love without weakness.”

Jim Elliot, quoted in The Berean Call, Bend, Oregon, March 1997
Posted in sin, theology

The Last Day of an Unconverted Man

By Elizabeth Prata

He was comfortably retired. He was old. On a fine and bright winter’s day in Sunny Florida, an unconverted man left his fine and comfortable home, and drove toward town. Where he was going…only God knows. Perhaps to the store to pick up a newspaper or milk. Perhaps to the diner to commune with cronies. Perhaps just to take a nice drive along the shore and admire the day.

Continue reading “The Last Day of an Unconverted Man”