Posted in theology

Living the Ecclesiastes life

By Elizabeth Prata

ecclesiastes

By the 1990’s I wasn’t tempted by the American Dream anymore. My 90s decade, one in which I was thirty to forty years old were a reaction to the 1980s and 70s and 60s. See, I grew up being taught the American Dream, American exceptionalism, and nationalism. That I could attain anything I wanted, it was there for the taking because we lived in the best country and we were the best people. Continue reading “Living the Ecclesiastes life”

Posted in encouragement, theology

It’s hard work to rest

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s hard work to rest part 2 here

Yesterday I wrote on my various social media platforms,

The Savior who conquered the grave can handle your budget. The God who sustains the universe every moment by a single word can help your anxiety. Focus on how powerful and perfect Jesus is, not how minuscule your budget is or how empty the streets are. Lift your eyes to see a heavenly scene of Jesus interceding for us, providing for us, rejoicing over us with singing, preparing a place for us. The future is bright.

And a little while later I wrote, Continue reading “It’s hard work to rest”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Can We really Do All Things Through Christ?

By Elizabeth Prata*

What Christian isn’t familiar with one of the New Testament’s most famous comfort verses?

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

It is good to be reminded that it’s His strength and not our strength which propels us along in sanctification. It is good to be reminded that He is our all, and that all is possible.

However too many people misunderstand and misuse the verse. It does not mean I can attain whatever desire I have through Jesus. And it doesn’t mean Jesus plops all things or all strength down into us fully formed and ripe for use.

Let’s back up a little and take a look at what came before that verse. There is more to it than what many Christians of today take the verse to mean.

Paul said several times that he learned contentment. Learned it. He had to work at contentment, and learn the skill of practicing contentment over his long road of personal tribulation.

The two verses which precede the all things of verse 13 are:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” [emphasis mine].

What Paul was learning is the power of Christ as the daily means of sanctification as he strove to holiness, and ultimately, contentment in all circumstances.

Paul had to consciously strive toward contentment through constant practice of cultivating it through reliance on God’s provision and promise. And he is not talking of self-sufficiency here, but of a diminishment of worldly desires as he strove to do all things God would have Him do in the name of Jesus.

Paul had many trials and difficulties. Paul isn’t saying that Jesus plopped down a supernatural contentment to his heart as he took a deep breath and relied on Him to do all things through Him. Not at all. As a matter of fact, Paul admits to dissatisfaction covetousness brings, in Romans 7:8. Through all his varied circumstances, Paul is saying, he had the opportunity to practice being content in the circumstances he found himself in, because those circumstances are divorced from earthly measures of contentment and joy. He had to learn it. This indicates an active participation on the part of the Christian.

Whenever Paul was low or high, had plenty or hunger, abundance or need, didn’t matter, because Christ was strengthening him in love, growth, joy and the other treasures we hold dear. If we divorce our joy or contentment from worldly things, what remains is Christ! Through Christ, all things are possible! Paul learned that. It took him a while and he had to work at it. But what glory for the Savior when we learn it.

So be careful what you are really saying when you say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Are you working at learning how to do all things, apart from our flesh and distinct from the baggage of worldly wants? No matter your circumstances?

Phil Johnson preached on it recently, and this little note is a summary of what I took away from his sermon. I found his sermon exposition to be tremendously enlightening and inspiring. For a full explanation of what that verse means, I encourage you to take a listen and /or look at the transcript.

How to Find Contentment in a World of Discontent

Pastor Johnson ends his sermon this way:

“By the way, verse 13 contrasts wonderfully with Jesus’ statement in John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” But “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” If the boundaries for “all things” that you seek to accomplish are set by the express commands of God and the righteous example of Christ, then there truly is no limit to what you can do through His power. That is the secret to true contentment. It’s not really a complex mystery. But the reason it is so difficult to learn is that it entails the mortification of our worldly lusts, our carnal ambitions, our selfish pride, and our ungodly attitudes.

 

quote content poor

*This first appeared on The End Time in January 2013.

Posted in Uncategorized

“We’re rich!” said the Laodiceans, only to discover…

The Laodiceans Had Material Wealth Only
Excerpt

They were urged to buy not ordinary gold, but refined gold, referring to that which would glorify God and make them truly rich. Through its banking industry the city had material wealth. But the church lacked spiritual richness. Though they had beautiful clothes, they were urged to wear white clothes (cf. v. 4), symbolic of righteousness which would cover their spiritual nakedness. As wool was a major product of the area, Laodicea was especially famous for a black garment made out of black wool. What they needed instead was pure white clothing

Then Christ exhorted them to put salve … on their eyes. A medical school was located in Laodicea at the temple of Asclepius, which offered a special salve to heal common eye troubles of the Middle East. What they needed was not this medicine but spiritual sight. The church at Laodicea is typical of a modern church quite unconscious of its spiritual needs and content with beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. This is a searching and penetrating message. To all such the exhortation is be earnest, and repent. Christ rebuked them because He loved them, which love would also bring chastisement on this church

Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 940). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

I like watching real estate shows on TV, especially British ones. I was watching a show the other day about a European couple with an adult daughter who wanted a specific view. They desired to hear and see the ocean off California, wanted long stretches of beach in their immediate proximity. They were moving to CA to indulge their daughter, who was attempting to become a Hollywood actress.

The host showed them a 4.5 million dollar home, which they took in stride, a 5.5 million dollar home, the cost of which they never batted an eye, and a 9.4 million dollar home, to which they mildly remarked, “That’s quite a price.”

They bought the 9.4M home.

I got to thinking about what it might be like to have that amount of money. To be able to indulge large desires and to have no worries about high prices.

I didn’t let my thinking go too far with that, lest it would raise covetousness or greed in me. I really am content with what I have, and the Lord provides for me very well. But still…

My mind turned to wondering if they were saved. I think about that a lot these days, and increasingly so. An American celebrity dies and I muse, ‘Well, they know the truth now…’ Alan Bean, Margot Kidder, Stephen Hawking… dead, dead, dead.

They had much, also. Fame, renown, professionalism in their craft, money. But what good did it do if they lost their souls? Sir Anthony Hopkins, the actor known for the movie Silence of the Lambs and many other productions, was interviewed by The Guardian this week. He spoke about his upcoming role of King Lear, and how it would be for him to play it now that he can see life spanning backwards from the vantage point of being 80 years old. He said,

You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous, and I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there’s nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive.

Easy for Hopkins to say, he got to the top of the tree. Someone on Twitter said, ‘It’s almost as if the Bible is true or something’ having noted that King Solomon said much the same in his book of Ecclesiastes. Would they be so equanimous if they knew the truth about their approaching death? That their life goes on, and unless they had been declared righteous by God having repented and come through the Door of Christ, they will be eternally gnashing their teeth in pain and torment, in hell?

As for money or riches or things (like houses) Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 speaks of the vanity of toil. The top of the tree is empty for Hopkins, and the house with a view will eventually UNsatisfy the European family, because the point of working for Jesus is eternal joy in pleasing the eternal savior, a legacy that extends to heaven, and expansion of the kingdom, and pure joy in serving for His sake. Everything else is striving after wind.

When life inevitably ends, all those who are outside of Jesus will find that a life philosophy of of toil…or riches…or fame… was wildly off the mark. Being in Jesus, I know where ‘the top’ of the tree is, and that makes all the difference.

The Laodiceans had everything, fame, wealth, trade, but Jesus called them poor, blind, and naked.

Prayer:
Lord, help me be satisfied and content with what You have given me, and help me deal well as a wise steward of it. Let me not be covetous nor discontent. You truly are a God Who Sees and a God Who Hears, you have given all the portions as you deem according to Your plan. Ultimately I have received the best portion, I have it all: YOU.

rich young ruler verse