Posted in encouragement, theology

Enriched beyond measure

By Elizabeth Prata

It rained yesterday. In other news, the cardinals that used to hang round in my yard, are back. About 8 years ago a tenant on the property had an aggressive yard cat, a hunter. Of course I didn’t mind that he cleared the yard of the mice. But then he apparently killed a bright red male cardinal, as I horrifyingly saw when leaving for work the next morning. He was under the feeder, so I surmised that he had been grazing on fallen seeds and was caught unawares. Continue reading “Enriched beyond measure”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Light and Life

By Elizabeth Prata

During this Pandemic time, I’ve had opportunity to go through and look at and scan some of my old 35mm photos. I went to Italy a few times in the ’90s. I’d always heard that the light in the region of Italy called Tuscany was unique. My grandmother was from Lucca. Tuscany is deemed by Italians to be the “best” region. One reason is that it’s considered the cradle of Italy, since the Etrucscan Civilization was founded there in 900 BC.

Another reason is its light. It’s diffuse, soft, ethereal. It is as if the entire region has an Instagram filter over it. I can’t describe it, but if anyone looks up ‘Tuscany’ and ‘light’ there will be a lot of articles about it.

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Somewhere in Tuscany

When I went to Italy myself, I saw what the fuss was. It heightened my own sense of appreciation for the different qualities of light. The light trying to shine through fog in Maine, the diffuse, gentle light in Italy, the light here in my yard in the morning as it shines through all the leaves, separating it into beams, light at the beach as the sun goes down, the high bright clear light of noon.

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The gray light of sunlit fog

What will the light of heaven be like? Revelation 21 has so much to tell us about what is coming, like this –

“The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.”

Can you imagine the sparkle? Imagine Jesus’ glory light shining everywhere, undiminished, unhidden, unshielded. Bright and sparkling off the jewels he has built the city of. And Isaiah 60:19-

“The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”

In the New Jerusalem God continuously gives us light, spiritual as well as natural. What a refreshing time that will be. The yoke we feel is so heavy now will be gone. The weight of sin we strive against will be absent. Disappeared will be the heaviness of darkness of our world and that weighty stain on our souls.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Where is light is life, and where is Light is LIFE!

Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: The Coming Persecution

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 2020. 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 slows 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 encouragement, theology

Encouragement, listen!

By Elizabeth Prata

Sisters, you have the keys to the kingdom in your heart, the deposit of the Holy Spirit which guarantees entrance into that great city: the New Jerusalem and the city of God. He will sustain you with strength, grace, and perseverance until the war is over. Our war against sin, our plodding journey toward that golden shore, will be achieved in His strength. He has you in His hand, He will not let you go.

Whatever you are dealing with, and I know it’s a lot these days, Jesus is overseeing every minute, every minutiae, even the hairs on your head, the days of your life, the clothes on your back.

I know circumstances can be overwhelming, but if you’re drowning, do you look to the waves crashing over you? Or do you look to the sky to see if the helicopter is coming? Look up to Jesus, the Savior of our souls, the preserver of our lives. When you look do you also look forward? To what’s coming for us? Read, read what He has revealed to us-

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.d Its length and width and height are equal. 17He also measured its wall, 144 cubitse by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

(Revelation 21:10-27)

Gentle pure glory light forever, no sin forever, perfect worship of the Lamb forever, we will speak with Jesus and the saints, loving and praising, forever. Think on it! What peace! What glory! What rest! What relief! This present trouble will fade into a far distant memory, if we remember at all.

Christ is yours forevermore. Life abundant is yours. Life eternal in glory is yours.

We might be weak, but never crushed. Bent but never broken. (Isaiah 42:3)

Praise His name and pray for thanks, whatever the circumstance, because all of the above is already yours!

glory

Posted in books, theology

Sale! Sale! Sale! All things Puritan

By Elizabeth Prata

Here are a couple of sales to alert you to right now. They are too good to pass up.

I love the Puritans. I grew up in Rhode Island, founded by exiled Puritan Roger Williams, and Anne Hutchinson, exiled Puritan woman who founded Portsmouth RI (next to Newport). Our 4th grade field trip was to Plymouth to visit the replica Mayflower, the ship that transported the Puritans to New England in 1620. Some of my friends lived in homes built in the 1600s. Others attended Harvard, founded by Puritans. You couldn’t get away from the Puritan shadow of these mysterious and incredible people (to me, growing up). I have long been interested in them!

Only God knew that He would save me from His wrath and bring me into the faith of these selfsame Puritans, and how great is the grace that He gives me to learn about them with Christ’s mind. And, someday to be with them in glory.

Here are some good, solid resources for you if you’re interested in learning about these particular forefathers and mothers.

The American Puritans, by Perry Miller (Editor). Published in 1956, this book was the standard until interest very recently revived and modern books and anthologies have been published looking at the Puritans again, at long last! (see below). Yet still recommended, it stands the test of time.

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett. One way to get to know the Puritans is to read their collected prayers and devotions, giving insight into their love and fervor for the Lord. They way they thought about Christ, their Christian Life, and others is amazing to read.

The Puritan Paperbacks Series at Banner of Truth includes some of the most classic Puritan works published by the Banner of Truth. These books are selections of larger works from the Puritans, published in small paperbacks to make them more accessible and affordable. Notable titles include The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Other notable Puritan writers in this series include Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Watson, John Flavel, Richard Baxter, and John Bunyan, et al.

The Pocket Puritan Series is a collection of short, accessible writings from the Puritan, again offered by Banner of Truth. Small enough to fit in your pocket, these books cover topics ranging from sin, to heaven, to growing one’s love for Christ. These are great works of ‘spiritual theology,’ and can go with you as you travel. Some notable titles include a collection of Prayers on the Psalms and selections of the writings of John Flavel, titled None but Jesus.

The Pilgrim’s Progress (Penguin Classics), John Bunyan, Roger Pooley edition. In continuous print since first published in 1678, it is considered a masterpiece of the English Puritan tradition. After The Bible, Valley of Vision and The Pilgrim’s Progress are two most loved books by Christians and are definitely the top two Christian books in the English Language.

Sale! Sale! Sale!

If you were excited about the documentary Puritan, but sad at the price (I totally understand) then this is the sale for you! The deluxe edition of Puritan: All of Life to the Glory of God, is half off at Ligonier today (I don’t know for how long, it’s part of the Friday Sale).

This feature-length documentary (6 DVDs) and hours of accompanying teaching sessions feature several of our Teaching Fellows and other gifted scholars and leaders. The Deluxe Edition includes a special, decorative, exclusive hardback book by Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. Michael Reeves and the Workbook. The DVDs, Book, and Workbook are offered for $75. That’s less than $10 per item in the bundle.

The Puritan Combo: Puritan Theology and Meet The Puritans is on sale at Reformation Heritage Books! These two hardcovers are bundled to include A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, a systematic theology by Dr. Joel Beeke a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; and Meet the Puritans, a collection of mini-biographies and book reviews that also includes helps on which reprinted editions are best. The two together are on sale where you save $58. You can also buy either of them separately on sale too. I bought Meet the Puritans.

The American Puritans by Nate Pickowicz is a new book out by this Gilmanton NH pastor and writer of Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation, Reviving New England: The Key to Revitalizing Post-Christian America, John Cotton: Patriarch of New England

(The American Puritans Book 1) and others, recently published The American Puritans with Dustin Benge. This book tells the story of the first hundred years of Reformed Protestantism in New England through the lives of nine key figures: William Bradford, John Winthrop, John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Anne Bradstreet, John Eliot, Samuel Willard, and Cotton Mather. It is on sale at Reformation Heritage Books.

The super saving sales are at Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale, Reformation Heritage Books. You can also find these items at Banner of Truth Books, and of course Amazon. Enjoy!

 

Posted in theology

If Tuscany is THIS beautiful, then…

By Elizabeth Prata

…Just think, the New Earth (Revelation 21:1) will be so much MORE beautiful than this-

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San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy. Photo from unsplash by Giuseppe Mondi

Peace in the valley! Remember, any person can be with Jesus in the gorgeous New Earth. He wishes for all to join Him there. (1 Timothy 2:4). All one must do is repent and believe- “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Posted in theology

Discernment sources, including a webinar scheduled for Thursday, May 14

By Elizabeth Prata

Discernment is so important. The original New Testament Bible authors wrote about its importance and urged its honing, in every NT book except Philemon. The Old Testament dealt with the failure to listen to Prophets and the Wisdom literature is rife with warnings about being wise regarding God’s word and ways.

Yet it seems that Christians are falling for any old doctrine, teacher, or faddish movement these days. The failure in discernment is a failure in biblical literacy. And Christians who are weak in biblical literacy ire targets for satan’s wiles, schemes, and traps. The result is that one loses their effectiveness for Christ and worse, are drawn away into myths and then, sin. Continue reading “Discernment sources, including a webinar scheduled for Thursday, May 14”

Posted in encouragement, theology

How is doing good to widows and orphans a pure & undefiled religion?

By Elizabeth Prata

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Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

How does pure and undefiled religion have anything to do with widows and orphans?

This is the section in Chapter 1 where James is explaining being a doer of the word and not just a hearer. The Bible urges us to always be doing good. In Bible times, widows and orphans were often destitute and without any sort of societal safety net, help, or support. In many cases today, it is the same. Widows and orphans need help. Continue reading “How is doing good to widows and orphans a pure & undefiled religion?”

Posted in potpourri, theology

Prata Potpourri: How to spot a conspiracy, top ten preaching pastors today, good cheap eats, Dr. Lori, more

By Elizabeth Prata

blog flowers
I absolutely love fresh cut flowers. I think they are so pretty. But they fade quickly, so usually I admire them in the grocery store aisle and leave them where they are. At Kroger they have a marked down section for cut flowers that are a bit wilted. Once in a while I see a bouquet in the sale aisle that aren’t TOO far gone and I buy a bunch, like I did last Wednesday.

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. (James 1:11a) Continue reading “Prata Potpourri: How to spot a conspiracy, top ten preaching pastors today, good cheap eats, Dr. Lori, more”

Posted in mothers, theology

Motherhood

By Elizabeth Prata

When we think of mothers in the Bible, no doubt Jesus’ mother Mary comes to mind. Rachel and Rebekah, matriarchs of the tribes. Eve, who lost her son Abel. Sarah, who waited so long after the promise of a son.

Does Hannah come to mind?

Hannah, who yearned for a child so much.

Hannah, who was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. Continue reading “Motherhood”