Tag Archive | [By Elizabeth Prata]

17 minutes of continual sin

We need a savior. We are evil, evil continually rising from a corrupted heart. Our human nature is depraved, polluted, and thoroughly iniquitous. Don’t believe me? Think that Genesis 6:5 is only historical? You imagine I’m being unnecessarily pessimistic? “I haven’t murdered anyone,” you protest. “I’m not, like, a Nazi war criminal,” your mind challenges. Hrm. Read on.

This piece is pretty well-known. It has been floating around the internet ever since it was published in World Magazine in 2005. Our pastor read it to us on a recent Sunday and then it became known to me. Boy, did it ever. I urge you to read it. Better still, read it out loud. Best of all, read it aloud to your spouse or friend, together, with someone. The relentlessness of it picks up steam, and the commensurate heart conviction rate increases also. Or it should. The article deftly illustrates why “good” folks “like us” need a savior. We. Need. A. Savior.

Postscript at the end.

Seventeen minutes
It’s the thoughts-ordinary, daily thoughts-that count
By Andree Seu Peterson

These are the thoughts of a woman driving home from the Stop ‘N Shop on an ordinary day.

She conjures three comebacks she could’ve hurled at Ellen if she had not been caught off guard.

She spots the baby shower invitation on the dashboard and schemes a way to be out of town that weekend-then thinks better of it because she has a favor to ask the sender at a later date.

She sizes up a woman standing at the bus stop-and judges her.

She stews over a comment her brother made behind her back, and crafts a letter telling him off-and sounding righteous in the process.

She reviews the morning’s argument with her husband, and plans the evening installment.

She imagines how life would have been if she had married X (a well-worn furrow, this).

She magnanimously lets a car merge into traffic, and then is ticked off when she doesn’t get her wave.

She resolves to eat less chocolate starting today-well, tomorrow.

She replays memory tapes going back to the ’60s, trying to change the endings.

Somebody rides up the road shoulder and budges to the head of a traffic jam, and she hates the driver with a perfect hatred.

She passes the house of the contractor who defrauded her and fantasizes blowing it to smithereens.

She passes Audrey working in her garden and waves-but thinks, “If Audrey has chronic fatigue syndrome, I’m a flying Wallenda.”

She glares at a driver who runs a red light in front of her, forgetting that she did the same about a mile ago.

She checks her slightly crooked nose compulsively in the rearview mirror, and reassures herself it isn’t too bad.

An inner voice tells her to turn off the radio and pray, but she decides that’s the voice of legalism.

She brainstorms talking points for her upcoming woman’s Bible study lecture on “Ephesians” and considers how she can improve it-and make it better than Alice’s talk of last week.

She is angry at God because here she is a Christian and broke, while her good-for-nothing heathen of a brother is rolling in dough.

She thinks how much better her life would be if she were beautiful, and fantasizes all the bungee-jumping, maggot pizza-eating “fear factor” stunts she’d be willing to subject herself to to look like Gwyneth Paltrow.

She wonders how her parents will divvy up the inheritance-and how long she has to wait.

She rehearses two good reasons why her sister and not she should take care of the folks when they’re too old. She thinks about her childhood and counts the ways her parents have screwed up her life.

The Johnsons drive by, and she recalls all the meals she made for them 10 years ago when Lydia had toxemia during pregnancy, and bets they don’t even remember. Hmm, did they even send a thank-you card?

The word treachery flashes through her mind (Mr. Beaver’s succinct epithet for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) but leaves no footprints.

An SUV cuts her off, and she decides to punish it by tailgating.

Her heart smites her for this. So she determines to try harder to live righteously from now on. Who knows, God may reward her in some amazing way: Her husband may give her grounds for divorce, and God will lead her to the arms of Mr. Right.

She tries to pray but doesn’t get past “Our Father.”

There are lots of other people that the woman does not think of while driving home with groceries, people who are not important to her social status, or just not interesting.

She doesn’t think about AIDS-ravaged Africa, she doesn’t think about the death sentence dangling over millions in Sudan, she doesn’t think about missionaries, she doesn’t think about martyrs in Kim Jong-il’s prisons, she doesn’t think about ways she could encourage her children.

She pulls into her driveway. Total driving time: 17 minutes.

And if you were to ask the lady, as she rustles parcels from the car, what she has been thinking about on the drive from town, she would say, “Oh, nothing in particular.” And she would not be lying.

Imagine believing that we don’t need a Savior.

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black

Jesus brought light and cleansing to our blackened hearts.

Hurricane Irma was approaching Georgia on that Sunday. It was due to hit on Monday. Our church service runs from 3:00-4:30. After church, I stopped at the nearby grocery store to pick up a few last minute items. It was packed. Jammed. And a sheen of tension overlay the store. People were in more of a hurry than usual, pumped up from the weather forecasters’ predictions of downed trees, lost power, and other dire unknown things that were sure to happen. I got into the self-checkout line, which was not any shorter but I was hoping that I might gain a slight time advantage.

I didn’t, and I waited in line without moving, for a long while. As I stood and waited, and my stress levels increased, so did my thoughts. I began having a stream of consciousness, nothing-in-particular thoughts about everyone else in line. I judged their clothes. I judged their slowness of movement. I even judged their purchases. Shocked, I realized that I was the same as the woman in the article, thinking evil thoughts continually. Here, ten minutes after the service ended, still in my church clothes.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Thank you Jesus that You covered us with your blood, cleansed from our sin in Your eyes. Our sin has been erased from our record to be thrown into the vast outer places, as far as the east is from the west. Seeing a sin record before me, I stagger under the weight of carrying it, never mind a lifetime. I would have justly been penalized for it, had you not submitted to the Father’s plan of the cross.

You bore the weight of eternity’s sin of all the people You have chosen since before the foundation of the world, and their/my punishment. Thank You.

The Isthmus of Life

This essay was first published on The End Time on March 9, 2013. I’d like to add to my essay, that you see how narrow an isthmus is. That is life. It is but a breath, a narrow strip whereupon we dwell for only a short time. Then the eternal boundless ocean of either wrath or glory will wash over us and we will be forever it its depths, either in torment or in peace.

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“I desire to have both heaven and hell ever in my eye, while I stand on this isthmus of this life, between two boundless oceans.” ~John Wesley, 1747

An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas, usually with water on either side. A tombolo is an isthmus where the strip of land consists of a spit or bar.

The sandy isthmus or tombolo connecting
North and South Bruny Island in Tasmania, Australia

One of my favorite spots on earth is at Lubec Maine, and this shot is of the East Quoddy Lighthouse at Campobello Island, New Brunswick Canada. It is across from Lubec. The famous tides in this area rush in and rise to heights of thirty feet or more. This narrow spit of sand submerges in furious fashion when the tide comes in and covers it up.

If you are standing on the sand when the tide comes in you will find that the current stirs up the sand and pebbles and what you thought was solid to stand on becomes completely unstable. The forces of the water sweep you off your feet and carry you away. Your strength will not able to overcome the strength of the water. Its chilling effect weakens you and hypothermia sets in rapidly. The webpage for the lighthouse warns–

“If you become stranded on the islands by the tide, wait for rescue. Even former keepers of this lighthouse have lost their lives by misjudging the strong, frigid, fast-rising tidal currents, and tide-pressurized unstable pebble ocean floor, while attempting to make this crossing. During a summer in the 1990s, two visitors attempted to swim across this passage. One made it across, but the other was swept away by the current. After a rescue by boat, both had been stricken with hypothermia, were rushed to the hospital — and luckily, survived.”

The page ends with this warning:

DANGER!–TAKE NO RISKS & DO NOT LINGER!

We think of Wesley’s notion of life as an isthmus. It is narrow and temporary. The boundless oceans of heaven and hell are on either side, pressing in. Eventually the land gives way and we are carried away by one, or the other.

Which direction you go depends on your attitude toward Jesus. At the moment of your death, the difference in direction will all come down to one point, one only. Jesus. He will lift you from the hopeless, chilling waters of your looming eternity in hell and bring you to the warm bosom of Himself in glorious heaven. The difference in which boundless ocean you will spend your eternity is repentance. Repent and be saved!

What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation?

So this is the message: DANGER!–TAKE NO RISKS & DO NOT LINGER! Every day one lives on earth without knowing Jesus is a danger. You are taking risks with your eternity. Do not linger in repenting and placing your faith in Jesus.

In My Seat: a 9/11 Pilot’s Story and the Providence of God

God is in sovereign control of every single thing on this earth, in heaven, and throughout the universe. He is at work providentially, invisibly. We would never have known this story until the video was made and the man told of this event. Yet known or unknown, this story of providence is repeated millions of times per day, every day, over and over, by Jesus, so that His plan will come to fruition at any given moment and at every moment.

Do not fear. This same Jesus has your life in His hand. He is orchestrating all things for your good and His glory. Whether His plan had been to put you in that seat, or to take you out of that seat, on any given day, His ministrations and ordination of events will come to pass. He is God, and there is no other.

This 15-minute video is WELL worth your time.

Synopsis:

September 10, 2001, First Officer Steve Scheibner packed his suitcase and waited for the phone call finalizing his assignment to fly American Airlines Flight 11, from Boston to Los Angeles. The call never came. In My Seat recounts the events leading up to Flight 11 and the subsequent death of Tom McGuinness in the seat that should have been filled by Steve Scheibner.

Who was Asaph?

We read the Psalms and think of David. Slayer of giants, musician, singer, King, David was a man after God’s own heart. He was multi-talented and wrote many of the Psalms, which are songs. But did you know that David wrote only half of the Psalms? Solomon, David’s son and successor wrote 2 of them. Moses is assigned authorship of Psalm 90, a prayer. The sons of Korah wrote 11 psalms while Psalm 88’s authorship is attributed to Heman, and one is assigned to Ethan the Ezrahite.

Another group of 21 psalms is ascribed to the Asaph and his descendants. Asaph is assigned authorship of Psalms 50 and 73-83. So, who was Asaph?

Asaph was a Levite music leader, leading the Tabernacle choir. (1 Chronicles 6:33, 39). His name means “to gather together” which is a great name for a congregational music leader. He is mentioned along with David as skilled in music, and of course not only did he write songs and play instruments but he was also a skilled singer. Interestingly, Asaph is also a seer, (2 Chronicles 29:30) which is a prophet who sees visions.

SEER (chozeh). Generally synonymous with the role of the prophet (e.g., 2 Sam 24:11; 1 Chr 21:9; Amos 7:12). However, at times, it is used as a distinct term from that of prophet (2 Kgs 17:13). Seer, by connotation of the Hebrew word affiliated with it being connected to the idea of receiving a vision (חֹזֶה, chozeh), may be more connected to the idea of visions than the prophetic word, although this is not necessarily the case in all usages. Barry, J. D. (2016). Seer. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

In Psalm 73, of Asaph, we read that the author was angry and discontent with the sleekness and seeming prosperity of the wicked. He mourned their health and prosperity, and wondered if his own efforts at a narrow walk and holiness were in vain. Then comes the turning point of the Psalm at verse 16-17-

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end
. (Psalm 73:16-17).

It is this way with us. Until you enter the prayer closet, or the sanctuary, and inquire of God, you will be disgruntled. Communing with God in prayer or song relieves the stormy heart and soothes the troubled mind.

We’re grateful that the Spirit inspired the Psalms and included them in the Bible for us to be refreshed by. We see that the human condition of faltering, wondering, coveting the wicked’s prosperous way are not new. We see also that our faithful God is always there, and can and does comfort us. As Asaph ended his Psalm,

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works
.

Let us tell of Jesus’ works today.

old harp singing
EPrata photo

Dancing at the Pour-off

Camping is fun … as long as I don’t have to sleep on the ground, lol. In the mid 1990s my husband and I bought a WV Westphalia pop-up Camper van and we traveled across the USA at the southern tier. We fell in love with Texas, and especially Big Bend National Park.

Here we are in the Chisos campground. Yes, we brought our cat. Hiking and exploring was part of the allure, and in examining the trail brochures, one day we decided one day to hike the Window trail.

The Window Trail is a 5.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Terlinguo, Texas that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The Window Trail begins near the Chisos Basin lodge, descending 800 feet over about two miles through rolling hills and vertical rock walls to a narrow pouroff, which overlooks the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. The trail is usually dry, but the pouroff area is very dangerous during flash-floods. Source

We were strongly warned, very strongly, not to step too close to The Window, which is an opening in the mountains to a view over the desert. Very high up. The continual water at what’s called The ‘pour-off’ had smoothed the rocks at the pour-off and it was slippierer than it looked, even in dry conditions. The drop is thousands of feet.

Not my photo.”The Window is a slit in Chisos Mountain Ranges where one could
glimpse the Chihauhuan Desert plain below. ” Source

I am a bit hesitant of heights and a scaredy cat in general, so I heeded the warnings and stayed back. My husband thought it was funny to go closer and do a dance. Ha. Ha.We were warned how fast the fall could happen, even if you’re wearing appropriate footwear. The rocks are smooth as glass, they provided no traction and no grip. It was pure luck he didn’t fall.

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When you’re saved, your eyes are opened and you realize there is no such thing as luck. The LORD has numbered the days of each person on earth. We are immortal until that day arrives. However, the walk is still slippery. Any Christian could fall at any time, me included. And unlike in other life experiences where the longer you go the easier it gets due to your accumulated experience, in Christian life, the longer you go the harder it gets.

This is because we increasingly mourn over our and others’ sin. Or we get casual and then comes Jesus’ chastisement in order to grow us. Or we love people more and become sensitive to their burdens. There are lots of reasons why life with Jesus grows sweeter, but harder.

The Bible warns of the way of the slip. He who thinks that apart from Jesus he has sure footing is likely due for a slip. These verses make it clear that our ultimate security in Christ is permanent, but our walk is fraught with temptations and dangers. Take care not to temporarily slip.

They will lift you up in their hands, so you will not slip and fall on a stone. (Psalm 91:12)

My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped. (Psalm 17:5)

He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:3).

For all that, Paul warns the Christian,

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I think of the dance at the edge of The Window where the pour-off was so slippery. Do we treat sin that way? Dance up to the edge of it, abusing God’s grace and tempting the devil?

We have to do our part. Resist sin, follow His commands. A true Christian can never irrevocably fall from grace, but we can slip and fall into sin. Over-confidence can be an enemy.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:13-15).

I was listening to Martyn Lloyd Jones yesterday. He was talking about the simplicity of the Gospel and clarity of the Gospel life. Sometimes we over-complicate things, making them out to be more opaque than they are. Life in Christ is simple, very simple. Resist sin, do not tempt it, and heed the Bible’s commands.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:7).

The House on the Rock

The Ocean State is aptly named Growing up in Rhode Island in the 1960s was a fun experience. The nation’s smallest state is beautiful and the ocean and bay is never far from anyone who lives there. We happened to live just a few miles from the ocean and most Sundays we took a drive south to Saunderstown, crossed the Jamestown bridge, and then took the ferry to Newport. Dad would drive us around the island on Ocean Drive past all the mansions, and then we’d have a picnic by the sea at the Park.

There was no Newport Bridge at that time. On the bridge and the ferry, we passed boats, the islands with lighthouses, and other sights. One sight always captured my attention.

Clingstone.

Clingstone

Source. CC BY-SA 4.0

Clingstone is a house built in 1905, perched atop a small, rocky island in an island group called “The Dumplings” in Narragansett Bay, near Jamestown, Rhode Island. It withstood the devastating 1938 Hurricane, (though was damaged) faced other hurricanes, storms, decay, renovation, and more. The house is known by locals as “The House on a Rock”.

Even to my young eyes the house looked strong. I mean, it’s built on a rock! I often wondered what it was like to live there.

I don’t have to wonder any more what it is like to build my house on the rock. In His grace, He saved me and taught me to cling to the rock. I have my own Clingstone now. Isn’t it funny how life goes. Jesus, who was so far from my mind for over 40 years, is my All in All now. The little girl with big eyes looking at the House on a Rock, has one of her own now.

The verses below are familiar but please slow yourself and read them carefully. Then really think about it for a minute, before you go on to other things. The verses are soul-soothing. Be encouraged.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25).

What Does Prayer Do?

Sometimes we pray and we feel energized and sense that the presence of the Lord is close by. Other times, we feel dry and cracked, parched. We feel that the Lord is distant.

He is always near, of course. (Psalm 145:168). How we feel about it or what we sense doesn’t matter much and doesn’t alter the fact that He is always near. (Psalm 34:18, Matthew 28:20).

However sometimes these feelings do tend to color and tinge our communion with Him. We’re human. That means we’re sinful and we have an inclination to follow our deceitful heart with its emotions, rather than in trust and knowledge of the faith in God and His promises.

rejoice in hope prayer

What does prayer do, actually? Whether we feel Him near or whether we don’t, prayer is prayer and it avails much when uttered from a righteous man. (James 5:16).

1. Prayer combats discouragement.

The conclusion is clear: therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. A mutual concern for one another is the way to combat discouragement and downfall. The cure is in personal confession and prayerful concern. Source: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures

2. Prayer gives strength both spiritual and sometimes physical.

In times of affliction Christians are to pray to God for help and strength. In times of blessing believers are to praise God instead of congratulating themselves (5:13b). In instances of critical sickness the sick person was to summon the leaders of the church for prayer. Prayer for the sick could result in either physical healing or spiritual blessing. In times of sin and struggle mutual intercession could promote spiritual victory. Elijah prayed with such force that God withheld rain from the earth for three and a half years and gave it again at his request. Source: Holman concise Bible commentary

3. Prayer gives us good gifts.

Don’t shrink from this. We are told we have a Father who gives good gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11). If we do not have good gifts it is because we do not ask. (James 4:2b).
Spurgeon spoke eloquently of Achsah, daughter of Caleb, who asked.

She was newly-married and she had an estate to go with her to her husband. She naturally wished that her husband should find in that estate all that was convenient and all that might be profitable. And looking it all over, she saw what was needed. Before you pray, know what you are needing. That man, who blunders down on his knees, with nothing in his mind, will blunder up, again, and get nothing for his pains. When this young woman goes to her father to ask for something, she knows what she is going to ask. She will not open her mouth till first her heart has been filled with knowledge as to what she requires.

4. Prayer is part of the process the Spirit uses to transform our minds. (Romans 12:2). People can externally exhibit morality as if they’d put it on as a garment, without having their minds transformed as the mind of Christ. The new creation is not just a new soul, but a new mind so that we can think in righteousness and in truth. Prayer helps this transformation along.

What then do we do in obedience to Romans 12:2, “Be transformed in the renewal of your mind”? We join the Holy Spirit in his precious and all-important work. We pursue Christ-exalting truth and we pray for truth-embracing humility. … And form the habit of meditating on the perfections of Christ. And in it all pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit will renew your mind, Piper, The Renewed Mind

5. Prayer nourishes us.

Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. Oswald Chambers, The Purpose of Prayer

6. Prayer is a love offering to Christ.

“But” someone says, “I don’t feel that I have any special things to pray about.” Ah! My dear friend, I don’t know who you are, or where you live, to not have any thing to pray about, for I find that every day brings either a need or trouble, and that I have every day something to ask of my God. But if we still insist that have no troubles, that we have attained to such a level of grace that we have nothing to ask for, then I ask, do we love Christ so much that we have no need to pray that we may love him more? Spurgeon, True Prayer-True Power

Of course there are many, many more ways that prayer works in us, in our lives, and as a method of communion with God. What are some ways you can think of?

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Further resources:

The Hidden Life of Prayer, free online book by David MacIntyre (1859-1938)

The Hidden Life of Prayer PLUS study guide and 8-week free course

4-part Sermon series, John MacArthur, Elements of True Prayer

Valley of Vision, excerpt from

The Prayer of Love
Grant me more and more
to prize the privilege of prayer,
to come to thee as a sin-soiled sinner,
to find pardon in thee,
to converse with thee;
to know thee in prayer as
the path in which my feet tread,
the latch upon the door of my lips,
the light that shines through my eyes,
the music of my ears,
the marrow of my understanding,
the strength of my will,
the power of my affection,
the sweetness of my memory.