Posted in theology

Do you have any Grey Poupon? A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

I was watching the “Best Commercials Ever” show the other day. Such memories. I had forgotten all about the two guys in separate limos, one asked the other through rolled down window, “Do you have any Grey Poupon?” It reminded me of the time…

Our sailboat at anchor

…My former husband and I were live-aboard boaters, cruising the US coast and Bahamas. We were anchored in Inner Baltimore Harbor on a hot, hot Memorial Day morning. Baltimore is a nice little harbor but nearly 300 years of active marine use, combined with oozy, light Chesapeake mud, made for a very tenuous holding ground. We’d spent hours sweating and setting the anchor just right amid the growing number of boats also trying to find a spot to anchor. There was no breeze and the no-see-ums were eating us up. Safety, first, though. We finally got situated the way we wanted, appropriately distant from other boats and holding solidly. We went ashore to explore, walking around and heading for the city. I looked back one last time before the harbor disappeared from our view. “Who’s that on our boat!?”

A drunk houseboat driver had run over our anchor line and his prop was now snarled. He’d dislodged the anchor and now our two boats were drifting in tangled tandem. He had boarded our boat to try and untangle. It took us many hours to get things right, which included negotiating with an angry drunk, walking a long way to the boat store in 100 degree heat to buy another anchor line, and going through the re-anchoring process all over again, made harder since the harbor was more crowded now.

The harbor was afloat with many vessels, yachts, large and small power boats, jetskis, and those double seater paddle boats you can rent. It was festive, but busy. Finally we settled down with an ice tea under the sunshade. We breathed out and looked at each other, ready to declare this the most difficult and annoying anchorage ever. Then, THUNK. Jangled by our hard day, we scrambled to the bow where the noise came from. Looking over the railing we saw a rental paddleboat with two teenage boys who’d paddled UP our anchor line and were now half in and half out of the water, hanging on our just reset line. Innocently, they looked up at us and we looked back down at them. For a moment there was complete silence and held breaths. They broke the silence first, laughing, “Do you have any Grey Poupon?”

My husband didn’t think that was funny. But I did. (The Poupon question is a throwback to 1980s commercials for the French mustard).

I was cleaning up and organizing my computer files and found that story I’d written. That incident occurred before I was saved. But it got me thinking about the sin in others’ lives. We often speak of our own sin, and that is right and proper. But sometimes when we are walking well, secured, and dwelling in placid waters for a season, someone else’s sin disrupts us. We get entangled in their issue. We can drift.

Maybe (sadly) your spouse cheated. Maybe someone at work embezzled and you were accused for a time. Maybe a drunk driver smashed your car. Someone else sinned and you, though not innocent of all sin, for that moment, were living holy and walking right.

The impacts of someone else’s sin can entangle us, and can drag us into dangerous waters. We might become angry, resentful, bitter, jealous. We might begin to sin in other ways, justifying it because the origin of the negative circumstances was caused by someone else.

We live in a sinful world. Other peoples’ sin is going to impact us. I was proud of the way my husband handled it. (He wasn’t saved either). He didn’t get angry at the man, but persistently and doggedly stayed in communication until the drunk man’s wrong was made right. It did ruin our weekend though, caused us distress, and interrupted our safety for a time. And that was just a minor mishap. Never mind if the other person’s sin destroys a relationship, ends a life, or causes you to doubt God in anger.

How we handle negative impacts of other peoples’ sin is an indicator of the strength of our own walk. Have we absorbed enough scripture so that it will steady us when a life-comet hurtles into our own placid waters to interrupt the equanimity? Do we have a good prayer life so our first thought it so take it to Jesus and not take it out on the other person?

Do you have any Grey Poupon?

Further Resources

A trusted long time reader of my blog had it pop up hours after reading your essay, providential! Here is a short short from Pastor Adrian Rogers of the Ministry Love Worth Finding:

Sin Never Hurts Just One Person 

Posted in poem, Uncategorized

The Lamb, Slain and Alive

poem finala

By Elizabeth Prata

The Lamb, slain and alive

By Elizabeth Prata

My Living Hope
My precious Savior
Resplendent in glory
He came down

Unclean! Unclean!
All we are unclean
The Holy and perfect One
He came down

He dwelled among us
He lived sinlessly
He ministered constantly
He came down

My sin, my sin so great
So dark, so depraved
The Fountain of truth to wash me
He came down

He obeyed the call of the cross
Taking God’s wrath
He died in pain and alone
They took Him down

In the tomb He lay
Wrapped and bloody
But on the third day
He conquered death and rose up!

Jesus stayed and taught
He loved and comforted
Yet 40 days transpired
He went up!

His return to glory a triumph
The Lamb who was slain is alive
His return to heaven so joyous
Father and Son and Spirit united

He is not here. He is risen!

Posted in theology

His names and titles

By William S. Plumer, from “The Rock of Our Salvation” 1867. Found at Grace Gems.

Jesus Christ is a wonderful, a glorious person. His names and titles are as important as they are significant. Every one of them is as ointment poured forth. His people sit under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to their taste. To them He is altogether lovely.

He is their Advocate, the angel of the covenant, the author and finisher of faith. He is as the apple-tree among the trees of the forest; the alpha and the omega.

He is their the Beloved, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, the bread of life, the righteous Branch, the bridegroom, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person. He is a bundle of myrrh.

To His saints He is and is owned to be Creator, captain, counselor, covenant, cornerstone, a covert from the tempest, and the chief among ten thousand.

He is to them as the Dew, the door into the fold, a days-man, a day-star, a deliverer, a diadem, and the desire of all nations, ranks, and generations of pious men.

In their eyes He is the Elect, Emmanuel, the everlasting Father and eternal life.

He is a Fountain of living waters to thirsty souls, of joy to troubled souls, of life to dying souls. He is the foundation on which His people of all ages safely build their hopes of heaven. He is the father of eternity, the fir-tree under whose shadow the saints rejoice, the first and the last, the first fruits of the greatest harvest ever gathered, the first-born among many brethren and the first-begotten from the dead.

To His chosen He is as the most fine Gold, a guide, a governor, a glorious Lord, God, the true God, God over all blessed for ever.

He is the Head of the church, the health, the hope, the husband, the heritage, the habitation of His people. He is the horn of their salvation.

He rides upon the heavens by His name JAH. He is the Jehovah, the inheritance, Judge and King of His saints. He is their Light, their life, their Lord, their leader, their lawgiver, their atoning lamb, the lily of the valley, the lion of the tribe of Judah.

He is the Man Christ Jesus, the master, the mediator, the messenger of the covenant, the minister of the true sanctuary. He is the mighty God of Isaiah, the Michael of Daniel, the Melchisedek of David and of Paul, the bright and morning star of John, and the Messiah of all the prophets.

He is the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He is at once the root and the offspring of David.

He is the Peace, the prince, the priest, the prophet, the potentate, the purifier, the propitiation for our sins, the physician of souls, the plant of renown, the power of God unto salvation, the Passover of all saints. He is a polished shaft in the quiver of God.

He is the Rock, the refuge, the ruler, the ransom, the refiner, the Redeemer, the righteousness and the resurrection of all who walk in white. He is the rose of Sharon.

He is the Seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David, the stem of Jesse, the Son of God, the son of man, the shield, the strength, the surety, the Shiloh, the sacrifice, the sanctuary, the salvation, the sanctification, and the sun of righteousness to all believers.

He is the Truth, the treasure, the teacher, the temple, the tree of life, the great testator of His church.

He is the Way, the well of salvation, the Word of God, the wisdom of God, the faithful witness. He is THE WONDERFUL.

His person is one; His natures are two. He is both human and divine, finite and infinite, created and uncreated. He was before Abraham, though not born for ages after that patriarch slept with His fathers. He was dead, and behold He is alive for evermore!

On earth He had no where to lay His head; yet He disposes of all diadems. By Him kings rule and princes decree justice. He has the arm of a God, and the heart of a brother. To Him all tongues shall confess and all knees bow; yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. None loves like Him, none pities like Him, none saves like Him!

It is not surprising that such a person lives and reigns in the hearts of His people. No marvel that the virgins love Him, and the saints praise Him, and the martyrs die for Him, and the confessors are not ashamed of Him, and the sorrowing sigh for Him, and the penitent lie at His cross and pour out their tears before Him, and the humble trust in Him, and the believing lay fast hold of Him and will not let Him go. His frown shakes the frame of universal nature, His smile gives life, His presence converts dungeons into palaces, His blood cleanses from all sin, His righteousness is the white robe of the redeemed.

If men would be safe, or wise, or holy, or happy, or useful, or strong, or victorious–let them look to JESUS! Let them look to none else, let them walk in Him, abide in Him, glory in Him, and count as loss all things besides. You may look at the law until the spirit of bondage overwhelms you with terrors and torments. You may go about to establish your own righteousness until you can boast, and sin, and perish like a Pharisee. You may weep until the fountain of your tears has gone dry, you may have all gifts, understand all mysteries, bestow all your goods to feed the poor, and yield your body to be burned; but all these things will not atone for sin, will do nothing toward regaining the lost favor of God, will not make you fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.

“None but Christ! None but Christ! None but Christ!” has been the cry of the faithful witnesses of all ages when truth has triumphed, when sinners were converted, when saints shouted for joy, when the word of God mightily grew and prevailed.

Posted in theology

Why are things so CONFUSED?!

By Elizabeth Prata

We are living in tremendous times. They are tremendous first of all because every day we live we get one day closer to the return of Jesus. They are also tremendous days because even though the days are evil, we can see the Lord’s work in them, both with salvations and with its evilness.

I want to look at the world’s growing evil for a minute, and encourage us as to its biblicalness (if that’s a word).

Many people these days claim to be confused as to whether they are a boy or a girl. They are confused as to whether they should have sex with a man or a woman. They are confused as whether having intimate relations with children is acceptable or not. They’re confused as to what a peaceful protest is and what is an actual riot. They’re confused as to what the words misogyny, reparations, debate, offense, and feelings mean. Confusion reigns, let’s just say that.

This confusion is not random. I go to two places in the Bible that speak to this issue of confusion.

1. The first is Romans 1. This chapter describes a process that God ordains when a person or a society rejects God. In verse 1:21 we read,

For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Then in verse 1:28 we read And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to an unfit mind

What does it mean to have futile thoughts and an unfit mind?

Futile means to make vain, foolish. Usage: I become vain or foolish, am perverted.

According to Strong’s Greek words mind means: mind, understanding, reason. Usage: the mind, the reason, the reasoning faculty, intellect.

Don’t we see that wholesale today? Great swathes of people, neighborhoods, cities, and even the majority of the U.S., can be said to have futile thoughts in an unfit mind. But believers have the mind of Christ.

We see that, don’t we? People CANNOT reason. Even when you present them with facts and proofs, they reject them. They aren’t logical, thoughts are jumbled, and debates or even simple conversations immediately descend into chaos laced anger with an end result of futility. And I’m not even talking solely about secular people but people who profess Christ also.

What we are seeing in the United States seems to be in fact, a living out of the verses in Romans 1, where God gives over many people to their unfit minds.

The second set of verses I’d like to point out is the use of the word ‘confusion’. This scenario is seen mainly in the Old Testament and the word confusion, or threw into confusion, mainly is used against armies.

Then at the morning watch, Yahweh looked down on the camp of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. (Exodus 14:24)

I will send My terror ahead of you and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. (Exodus 23:27)

And Yahweh threw them into confusion before Israel, and He struck them with a great slaughter at Gibeon and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. (Joshua 10:10)

In this verse, the Philistine army was so confused, they could not distinguish friend from enemy, and they were killing each other!

Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. (1 Samuel 14:20).

Now I know the Bible says God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Barnes’ Notes explains,

His religion cannot tend to produce disorder. He is the God of peace; and his religion will tend to promote order. It is calm, peaceful, thoughtful. It is not boisterous and disorderly.

But of those without the Lord of peace in their heart…they will lack clarity of mind, and they will not know peace but only disorder and confusion. Sometimes God enhances the natural confusion of mind in the pagans by throwing more confusion at them, indicating He is Lord of all hearts and minds. Think of the verse in Romans 1, “God gave them over”. When He releases His restraining hand on a sinner, they rush pell-mell into more disorder and confusion than they would be if He had continued restraining them.

I saw riots and thievery and mobs during and after the Covid time, and still see it now 3 years later. When God gives a person or a society over, confusion will reign.

When a situation resolves in a favorable-to-us way, how often we say “Praise the Lord!” But when a situation occurs where we are in the middle of a negative or confusing condition, do we say “Praise the Lord”? Job did. We should too.

It is hard to live in a place where things don’t make sense. Where we see clearly the facts and the truth, because we HAVE the truth, but others vehemently disagree. Some professing believers even depart from us, friends or family. It hurts. But keep looking to the One who makes sense, and He always will. Keep reading His word.

In my opinion, this societal confusion seems to be one way God is sifting true believers from sham believers. Many who profess Christ aren’t true believers. They never truly repented. True believers are never confused. Let this time be one where, rather than bemoan the times, you solidify your beliefs and become stronger. As you become stronger, you will have more grace and patience for those who don’t.

The Lord will come. He will. And it will be over forever.

For our momentary, light affliction is working out for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:17

Posted in theology

“Preach the Bible not Doctrine”; “Bible, not Commentaries”

by Elizabeth Prata

OT Commentaries

If you’re on social media for any length of time, and you post anything mentioning doctrine, or speak of doctrine itself, invariably someone will make the comment that I put in the title “Preach the Bible not doctrine” (which is an actual quote from someone, though not aimed at me). Or they may say if you mention a commentary, “All you need is Jesus, not doctrine,” or “Read just the Bible, not theology.” “I prefer teachings of God to teachings of man”. That last one irks me in its self-righteous piety.

These are not right responses.

The Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16 makes the claim of itself, All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,

The word in Greek used there for ‘teaching’ IS doctrine. Strong’s explains,

1319 didaskalía (a feminine noun derived from 1321 /didáskō, “teach”) – properly applied-teaching; Christian doctrine (teaching) as it especially extends to its necessary lifestyle (applications).

We grow in the faith through teaching and learning. What we teach and learn IS doctrine, which is simply a teaching then applied to life.

If you explain who Jesus is, you’ve just explained the doctrine of Christology. If you say you’re a sinner, you just mentioned the doctrine of Hamartiology. If you say ‘I can’t wait for Jesus to return’, you’ve just delved into the doctrine of Eschatology.

From whence do you obtain this knowledge of Christ, sin, or His return? The Bible, through doctrine. AKA teaching.

I’ve often struggled with formulating a pithy response to someone who says to avoid doctrine or commentaries. I follow a man named Mckinley Caughman on social media. He often is engaged in apologetics regarding Calvinism. The other day he showed a photo of his hand holding a book on Calvinism and stated he was reading it on his break. The very first reply to his post was the quote in the title. In all-caps no less (which is the equivalent of shouting):


Mckinley Caughman replied to that in a way that I think speaks well to the issue. Here is his response:

“Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message. The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [and] . . . he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the unambiguous good news, and it is “of first importance.” Change that message, and the basis of faith shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

How do you know what the message IS unless you learn it or been taught it? And there you’ve gone and done it, dabbled in doctrine.

The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” And it’s ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18–20).

John MacArthur, “Doctrine is Practical”

I hope that clarifies some things for you. The same goes for commentaries. Some say that “Commentaries are not Scripture, Scripture is Scripture.” Yes, read the Bible, first and foremost. But Jesus didn’t raise up pastors, teachers, and theologians who produced great works only to have them sink into obscurity right away. No, they are there for the edification of the saints. We benefit from their knowledge. Plus, their works provide a chain of history extending back to the beginning, which is also worthwhile.

Don’t you ever use reference materials in any of your other studies? Look at a published academic paper when you were in college? use an encyclopedia or Google to look up something? Use a dictionary or thesaurus? These are reference materials. So are commentaries.

So don’t be afraid to read a commentary or be put off by people who make you think that ‘doctrine’ is somehow a nasty word. Here are a few quotes,

Because of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture, the central message of the Bible can indeed be understood through simply reading the text, with no outside helps. But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from assistance. In fact, instead of preventing beneficial study, good commentaries can protect us from heretical interpretations, correct our personal biases, and help us come to the conclusions God intended when he wrote his Word.

Yes, Bring Commentaries to Bible Study Christine Gordon

Because of these barriers that can confuse the text for us, we need the help of people who have spent years studying the historical and literary contexts to help us. A good commentary or study Bible comes alongside us to help us unravel these mysteries so we can better understand and apply God’s Word.

Should I Use a Commentary for Bible Study? By Lara d’Entremont

1. Connect with God. This, of course, is our ultimate goal. God has chosen to communicate to us through his Word. Commentaries are singularly focused on understanding God’s Word and are written by men and women who have dedicated their lives to it. This is not just about mastering information, it is about letting God’s message penetrate our hearts and minds so we become more like him.

by Kevin R. O’Brien, Study Bible and Reference Brand Manager at Tyndale 
Posted in encouragement, holy, Lamb

Be ye reconciled to God

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:7-8)

The Sacrifice of Isaac is a familiar chapter to most Christians. We study it in Sunday School, it’s taught in VBS, we read it familiarly as mature Christians, our eyes having passed over the verses many times.

But sometimes the gravity of the moment just grabs you and won’t let go. The Father DID provide the Lamb for the sacrifice. The grandest, most beautiful, most terrible moment in all of history or ever shall be, was the death of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Ambassadors have all the authority of the sending nation behind them. As Christ’s ambassadors, we have all the authority of heaven behind us!

Sometimes just thinking about how Jesus died for us and absorbed the wrath that was rightfully due me, is overwhelming. Sometimes thinking of how despite my craven sinful nature, God cleaned me and forgave me. Sometimes thinking of the fact that God uses me, a poor clay vessel, for His glory, is just too immense for my mind to absorb.

The Christian journey is sometimes not easy, and it is always demanding, but it is also the most joyous and entrancing life a person could ever imagine. If you have not turned to Jesus for forgiveness of your sins, sins that incur the wrath of a Holy God against you every minute of every day, please do it. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth split history. The event divided the world into two paths. One is narrow and leads to everlasting life. The other path is broad and many find it, and will descend to hell for everlasting wrath.

The Father did provide the Lamb. And He is exalted.

The Lamb Exalted
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:11-13)

Posted in discernment, paths, satan

The old paths

By Elizabeth Prata

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)


Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. (Proverbs 4:26)

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. (Job 23:11)

All our righteous walking with Jesus is not without intervention by angels, strength of the Holy Spirit, and the will of God, because satan the adversary always tries to hinder us. He attempts to knock us off the path. He works to misdirect us.

because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

Gill’s Exposition says of the Thessalonians verse,

Satan does all he can to hinder the preaching of the Gospel, the hearing of the word, the profession of religion, and the saints coming together, and having spiritual conversation with each other; being, as his name “Satan” signifies, an enemy to Christ and his interest, and to the souls of men: indeed he can do nothing but by divine permission, nor can he hinder the will of God, and the execution of that, though he often hinders the will of man, or man from doing his will; he hindered the apostle from doing what he willed and purposed, but he did not hinder the will of God, which was that Paul should be employed in other work elsewhere. 

Stay true to the Lord and His ways. Stay in the Word, and stay praying. God promised to those who walk in His paths that they will find rest for their souls. Though as we see in the Jeremiah verse, some refused to walk in His ways.

The old way isn’t the popular way! It is being abandoned daily by people who have decided that new is better. They are leaving the Bible, the old songs of the faith, old fashioned worship, praising the Lord, and preaching. Seeker services are replacing old time worship of the Lord. Yet, God has not changed, Heb. 13:8. I can find no room to change myself. I think I’ll ask for the old paths and walk in them. How about you? The enemies are changing the signs, but the Lord will knows the way. Let’s ask Him and He will lead! (source)


If satan changed the signs on your path, would you still know which way to go?

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.