Posted in encouragement, theology

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

By Elizabeth Prata

In Psalm 51, David famously wrote-

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
(Psalm 51:10-13)

His is a magnificent statement of repentance. No wonder God called David a man after His own heart. (Acts 13:22).

You notice that David ‘s contrition and petition for restoration didn’t include restoring a kingdom to him, or his fortress or his armor or his lands. He did not ask for material things. He wanted the ‘joy of God’s salvation’ – spiritual things. David wanted the spiritual joy of a right relationship with His God.

I often ponder the joy of my salvation. I don’t want to lose that wonder and awe of the miracle of a purified mind and a clean heart. Maybe it’s because I came to the Lord in my 40s, and I remember so well the feeling of moral confusion, impurity, and guilt. One thing I enjoy about salvation is the release of my mind from having to work so hard to justify my sin. Or the efforts of my heart to hide it. Or the difficulty in having my conscience making valiant efforts to tamp down the morally questionable things I said and did.

A willing spirit that finds joy in knowing and obeying our Savior is a release that can only come from Jesus. It’s a gift to us, borne on His blood and His cross. In gratitude, David said he would teach others the ways of God so that sinners would be converted. He is passing along the gift he himself thirsts for and treasures.

by faith you have been saved verse

Posted in theology

Observable Character: David

By Elizabeth Prata

And Saul commanded his servants, “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him to me.” One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” (1 Samuel 16:17-18).

harp

King Saul is distressed. He gets these spells of despondency and near madness due to an evil spirit plaguing him. Music quells these incidences, and in v. 16, Saul is calling for help. Saul’s servant replies that ‘he has seen’ a young man of good character. We’ll come back to ‘he has seen.’

You notice that the servant didn’t just leave it at ‘plays well’. Anyone can hire a good musician. But when you’re feeling down, who do you want nearby to comfort you, even if it is through music with potentially not much personal interaction? You want a good man. So the servant also included David’s character qualities in this verbal resume. He said that it is seen that David is known to be valorous, strong (man of war), and discerning. That’s the Hebrew word for ‘prudent in speech’. What is meant here is “intelligent, discreet, discerning, have understanding”. When you’re King and enter into a spell of weakness, you don’t want a blabbermouth  running your private business all over town and you want someone compassionate.

Finally, the servant ends with a kicker: the Lord is with David.

In the New Testament times one would likely say “He is in the Lord”, or “The Spirit is in him.”

The saints of God are recognized by their fruit. One example is Samuel, “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.” (1 Sam 2:26; cf Luke 2:40).

Luke 6:44 reminds us that a good tree will bear good fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that the fruit is:

“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Matthew 5:14 says we are to be light in the world. Light is not hidden but bright and high so all can see. We believers are to have evidence in our lives that we are one of the Lord’s. That evidence needs to be seen in our words and deeds. (James 2:14). We need to have observable evidence because sanctification means we are daily being conformed to the image of Christ. We must reflect His character in more observable ways as we grow though our life.

I am not talking about personal reputation. I am not speaking of a motivation where we cultivate the approval of man. I am not speaking of that at all.

As James M. Hamilton explained in his book Work and Our Labor for the Lord,

We live obediently and humbly “as a good testimony for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:14; 6:1; Titus 2:5,9). At many points in his letters Paul instructs Christians to live in a way that reflects concern for how non-Christians perceive Christianity and its adherents. That is to say, Christians are to work in ways that commend the faith to outsiders. Believers are to be winsome and attractive, not repulsive and obnoxious. This concern for how unbelievers perceive the faith is inextricably connected to a desire for others to know, enjoy, and glorify God in Christ. This aspect of doing good work links up with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Christians contribute to the task of making disciples of all nations by doing good work that gives the faith a good reputation.”

It’s the reputation of Christ that is at play here, not ours. If we are observably joyful, kind, faithful, self-controlled, good, patient, peaceful, loving, full of light, it will be obvious that it is Christ’s character in us, by the Spirit.

David’s character was observable and noted. Remember, whether you realize it or not, even if you work from home or work in a cubicle, people are watching you (us). They note your (our) character. The more we walk with Christ, the more our character will be His character.

What are people observing about you? Is Christ in you and evident? When someone wants to choose a person for a project or a team or a club, would they say you (me) are brave, prudent, skillful, with good presence, and the Lord with us? Like David? I hope and pray that people see the Lord in me, and not me in me, or at least less and less of me. Christ’s character is beautiful.

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Observable Character: Ruth

Observable Character: Dorcas

Ligonier Teaching Series: The Life of David (free)

Posted in theology

We as moms are birthing and raising kingdom adults

By Elizabeth Prata

Ladies from our church are attending the weekly webinars with Rachel Jankovic called “Motherhood: A Call To Arms”. It’s a weekly webinar series, 4 consecutive weeks, where Jankovic discusses motherhood, motherhood issues, and biblical perspectives about raising children.

I do not have children and I won’t be having them (I’m 58 and single) but I am enjoying the series because I get to be with the younger ladies, learn what they learn, and encourage them in it. (Titus 2:3-5).

One aspect of Jankovic’s points was interesting to me. Jankovic said we see our babies, our tots, our little kids and that’s all well and good but we are actually birthing kingdom people.

“God giving us children is not for an Instagram moment. He is giving us children for kingdom work.”

There are many scriptures that discuss or announce babies, but these two scriptures also apply to motherhood:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:1)

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said:
“Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ (Job 3:1-3).

When I visited Italy, we toured the Carrara marble quarry where Michelangelo’s marble had been quarried from. We went on to Florence where Michelangelo’s tremendous marble statue of the David stands at the Accademia Gallery. The particular piece of marble had been difficult to work with for other sculptors. The Encyclopedia Britanica explained that Antonio Rossellino, the initial sculptor, cited the poor quality of the marble and rejected it, walking away from the project 1n 1464. Modern scientific analyses of the marble have confirmed that it is indeed of mediocre quality.

The marble block had proven so difficult to work with, that the huge piece lay abandoned in the courtyard for 37 years. Yet Michelangelo took on the project and seemed to carve the David with ease. Asked about it, he said,

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

Isn’t that a great way to view children? Every squalling baby is really an adult. We chip away at the ‘extra’ until the fully grown person is revealed.

We are raising Kingdom people.

david

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Our tender God?

Our Bible Reading Plan today brings us to Psalm 3-5. I was struck by this scene-

O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
(Psalm 3:1-4)

David is running from Absalom, his son, who wanted to kill David. How heartbreaking when your own child seeks to murder you! Absalom had undermined David and sought to usurp David from the throne and take it over. At a tipping point, David feared for his life and fled Jerusalem. He composed this Psalm.

David was dejected and depressed. He was surrounded by enemies which were Absalom’s allies. David couldn’t trust anyone. But David had God. David notes that he has God’s protection as a shield, His glory, and His tenderness.

God’s tenderness?

David has enough of a relationship with Jehovah that David could express it in terms this intimate- God cares for each of His people so much that He veritably lifts our head. He lifts us out of our despondency. God- the lifter of my head.

the one who lifts up my head: A lifted head signaled confidence and pride (27:6), while a lowered head signaled defeat and disgrace (Judg 8:28). Barry, J. D.,  Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 3:3).

When we’re despondent and depressed, our head is down. Our shoulders slump. Our countenance is low. In Genesis 4:5b when God rejected Cain’s offering, it says,

So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast
down

What the verse made me think of is when a toddler is upset and crying and sad. You go to them and you wrap them in your arms, and you want to talk to them, but they’re looking down or away. You take your hand and cup their chin and you raise their face to yours. We are a lifter of heads to our children, and so, God is lifter of heads to His children- us.

He is tender. Matthew Henry explains how God lifts our head:

Joy and deliverance: “Thou art the lifter up of my head; thou wilt lift up my head out of my troubles, and restore me to my dignity again, in due time; or, at least, thou wilt lift up my head under my troubles, so that I shall not droop nor be discouraged, nor shall my spirits fail.”

If, in the worst of times, God’s people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for good to them, they will own it is God that is the lifter up of their head, that gives them both cause to rejoice and hearts to rejoice.  ~Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume.

up

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How to interpret circumstances, lessons from Jonah and David

“It was a God-thing!” “The sign couldn’t have been more clear!” “It surely wasn’t a coincidence, it must have been from God!”

Have you ever heard anyone say any of these things? Or said them yourself?

Even after salvation we are sinful creatures. It would be so much easier to interpret circumstances rather than interpret the Word. We see what is happening in our lives and immediately interpret that these circumstances are in fact signs from God, omens, and ‘Godly coincidences’ that are directly and presently speaking to us. We go ahead and make decisions based on them.

But should we? Let’s look at two examples of interpreting circumstances, from the Word of God. Thanks goes to my wonderful and brilliant pastor for preaching this yesterday. Here, I summarize part:

We all know the story of Jonah. He was a Prophet of God, who prophesied to Israel. (2 Kings 14:21-25). He prophesied good things to Israel. It was during the reign of Jeroboam II King of Israel, when God was bestowing unmerited grace upon the people even though the King did evil in God’s eyes. The nation’s boundaries were being set and prosperity was growing. Therefore, likely Jonah was popular as a Prophet.

Then one day the word of the LORD came to Jonah. Jonah was told to travel to the city of Nineveh in order to prophesy to them. Nineveh was evil, they were an enemy, and Jonah was aghast. He refused. Effectively resigning his mantle, Jonah ran to Joppa instead, a seaside city where Jonah intended to grab a ship to Tarshish. This was the opposite direction of where God had told Jonah to go.

Source

When Jonah got to Joppa (now Jaffa), he saw that there was a ship at harbor. Jonah paid the fare and flung himself into the bowels of the vessel, tired beyond bearing, and went to sleep. Though this next scene is a little beyond the time frame of my focus today, I can’t resist the glorious language from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick:

All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship’s water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel’s wards.

Did Jonah feel vindicated when he saw a ship at sail, ready to voyage with the next tide? Did Jonah say, “See? It is providential! This must be what God wanted, since a ship appears before me at the ready!”

Interpreting circumstances is a dangerous thing.

Let’s look at David. He was fleeing from King Saul, who was seeking David’s life. David and his men huddled in a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, hiding from the fire-breathing king. Saul suddenly appeared in that exact cave. There are hundreds of caves at Engedi. Hundreds. Yet Saul entered the exact cave in which David hid.

Pixabay, free to use. Hundreds of caves dot the En-gedi desert.

David’s men interpreted circumstances, saying, ‘Look, here is the king! It must be the hand of God delivering the king to your sword!’

After stealthily snipping a bit of Saul’s robe David felt convicted. He said to his men,

Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’S anointed.’” (1 Samuel 24:10-11).

The word of the LORD had not come to David. David knew that the LORD’s anointed were protected by God, raised up by Him to perform His will and plan. David knew that the LORD Himself had placed Saul into kingship and it was the LORD’s business to remove Him if He so wanted. It was not up to David. (1 Samuel 26:10)

If we detach ourselves from the Word, we will never interpret circumstances correctly.” ~Mark McAndrew, Jonah 1:1-3, June 4, 2017

What Pastor Mark meant here is not that we interpret signs and omens, but that when things happen and we want to know what to do or how to think about it, we refer back to the Word. David knew God’s word and David knew His character. David acted according to this knowledge, not according to subjective impressions of the circumstances.

Romans 8:14 says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” So we know that the Spirit leads because He promised to lead us. But the Spirit doesn’t speak to us except through His word. And when you start thinking that God is giving you special revelation outside of His word, you have diminished the singular authority of scripture.

Source Special Revelation and the Work of the Holy Spirit, 1-min video

We don’t know whether our interpretation of the circumstance is “a heavy conscience, a strong personal desire, or emotion-driven enthusiasm” as Jeremiah Johnson wrote at the link above. If David had decided to kill King Saul because Saul had showed up in the cave at that moment and had slain Saul, it would have been grievous sin for David. If Jonah had deduced that because the ship was ready to sail in the direction he wanted to go, it must be providential, it would have been a sin for Jonah. There are always ships ready to sail to Tarshish! Jonah would be simply rationalizing his own personal desire and back-hoeing the Spirit into his sin, which is blasphemy. Johnson wrote,

We ought to look for the Holy Spirit’s leadership, but we must be cautious about assigning to Him responsibility for our words and actions. Our feelings are not necessarily a trustworthy source of information, nor are they an accurate indication that God has a special message to deliver to us or through us.

God’s people need to be circumspect when it comes to His leadership, particularly through subjective impressions and inclinations. Moreover, we need to be wary of those who hijack the prophetic seat and presume to speak for God. Source

Some throw out a fleece for guidance, some look for open doors or windows. Satan can create circumstances too. Remember Job. Satan brought about the many different circumstances that plagued Job. Stay away from interpreting signs and circumstances and just interpret life through God’s word.

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Further Reading

Let Us Reason: What does ‘touch not my anointed really mean?

Book Review: Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby : 9Marks
[Remember, Blackaby was the one who ‘legitimized’ interpreting God’s will through circumstances, introducing the concept to conservative evangelicals]

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

David’s brave prayer

In Matthew 16:24-26 we read,

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We know that passage means we turn our back on the kingdom of darkness and everything it represents, including self-aggrandizement, self-absorption, selfishness, anything self, &etc. We know we are supposed to die to self. We know we are supposed to hold others in higher regard than ourselves. We know it is written that we should be willing to lay down our life for our friends.

It’s hard.

Very hard.

Oh, does the flesh rebel against this.

We read in Psalm 7:3-5, the following prayer by David.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.

In that section of the Psalm, David is saying that if he has violated his Godly principles and done evil to a friend, may the Lord crush him. He is saying that if he has done evil to an enemy without cause, may him be trampled to the ground without honor.

Barnes Notes explains,

repaid friend with evil – The meaning here is simply that if he were a guilty man, in the manner charged on him, he would be willing to be treated accordingly. He did not wish to screen himself from any just treatment; and if he had been guilty he would not complain even if he were cut off from the land of the living.

plundered enemy without cause – The allusion here is to the manner in which the vanquished were often treated in battle, when they were rode over by horses, or trampled by men into the dust. The idea of David is, that if he was guilty he would be willing that his enemy should triumph over him, should subdue him, should treat him with the utmost indignity and scorn.

No wonder David was a man after God’s own heart. It is a hard thing to pray. Because, God will do it.

Sometimes I try to pray this kind of prayer. The words stick in my throat. Or, as the words come out, I soften them. I am a weakling when it comes to the battle between myself and others. ‘Lay my glory in the dust’? I am far from mastering that.

Praise God for the Psalms. They are comforting yes, but they are convicting too. Lord, help me by giving me the strength to more deeply obey Your principles. As I take up my cross today and go down the dusty road, give me the strength to truly care for others beyond myself, in spite of myself, denying myself.

EPrata photo
Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Sexual sin: it wants you

Sexual sin is a biggie crouching at the door, waiting to capture you. Do you believe you’re immune to it? Do you believe it won’t happen to you? Do you think it’s not possible because you’re so strong, or so wise, or so Godly?

Samson was the strongest man in the Bible, and he fell to sexual sin.

David was the Godliest man in the Bible, and he fell to sexual sin.

Solomon was the wisest man in the Bible, and he fell to sexual sin.

The Bible’s warnings about sexual sin are clear. What are the protections we should take?

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24).

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (Luke 9:23-24).

It’s very clear. Sexual sin wants you. You don’t want it.