Posted in theology

Piety for piety’s sake, and not ‘unto the LORD’

By Elizabeth Prata

We all do things for show, hoping someone will see and notice us doing it. It’s the pride in us that wants to be seen and applauded. But Jesus said when giving or praying or fasting, and by extension any service unto the Lord, render it privately. Don’t let your left hand know what your right is doing.

The Pharisees either hadn’t gotten the message or ignored it, because they were prime example #1 of what not to do when giving service to the Lord. The poor, pitiful tax collector knew, he was a sinful individual and he humbled himself before the Lord in prayer.

Continue reading “Piety for piety’s sake, and not ‘unto the LORD’”
Posted in theology

I was without excuse

By Elizabeth Prata

I was looking through an old travel journal I’d kept on my first big trip. I was a senior in high school, and the class was taking a trip to London. My parents gave me the trip as a graduation present.

I’d never flown before at the time (except a small Cessna a few feet off the ground in Provinceown) so the thought of flying through the night, at such a high altitude, over the ocean, I was very excited.

My travel journal captured my excitement: “Just completed takeoff. It was the most fantastic experience I ever had in my whole life! At first we were going slow and then fast and the next thing we knew we were over the lights of Boston. They were beautiful, like spider webs in the morning. In the next second we were over Provincetown and the next second I saw Nantucket.”

At that point we were at an altitude of 22,000 feet, the captain informed us, and our top altitude would be 33,000 feet. My next entry was a few hours later, when the sun began to peek over the horizon. We were flying east, so we were meeting the sun as we traveled over Nova Scotia, Canada, then the Atlantic, then Ireland.

“Beautiful. I’m watching one side of the world wake up while the other side is still sleeping. It’s all pink and blue, and the clouds are like cotton. The stewardess asked us to close our window shades, I’m not. I’m not going to miss this for all the gold on earth. This is God’s handiwork. I’m not turning down an offering from God.”

I remember the giddy feeling of having left earth and flying through realms I’d never been. Unhitched from the world, able to see above the clouds and into the heavens from a new perspective was startling to me and made a big impression. I’d written:

“I’ve decided that this is heaven. When I die I want to spend eternity here. Nothing but God could have made this. This is another world. The sun just came over the horizon. It’s too beautiful to describe.”

I’ve always loved geography, maps, locations, and boundaries like the sand-sea boundary, the 45th parallel, the equator. Edges of things. Being above the clouds and seeing in one glance the earth below and space above; the dark vs. light areas of the earth, and the stars above while the world wakes as not only fascinating to me but moving.

I know when the astronauts went into space they were moved also. I think we can’t help but be moved. The scripture says

The heavens tell of the glory of God; And their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2).

How can we look at the magnificence of the skies, moon, stars, and sun progressing across the skies in such an orderly march, each in its sparkling place, note the sunrise and sunset. I see that at age 17, even though having lived with a rabidly atheist father and a constantly seeking but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth mother, I could and did see God in the skies, as it poured forth speech. It’s obvious.

Poor me.

I was a perfect example of Romans 1:19-20,

that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Acknowledging God as creator actually put me in a worse position “when I die”. I wasn’t going to heaven if it happened. I’d be going to hell. It isn’t enough to see God’s handiwork, acknowledge it as His, and go on my way, deciding to enter heaven after I die. Why?

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, (Romans 1:21a).

It is not enough to say “God made this” yet go on my way as before. The knowledge of God as august, majestic, powerful creator should move us to look at ourselves in comparison and say, “God have mercy on me, a sinner” like the tax collector did, and was justified. I was moved that there was a God, it’s obvious enough that He made the world as Romans 1:20 states (‘He has made it plain to them’), but I did not know THE God. His handiwork did not stir in me a self-awareness of my puniness and filthiness next to His holiness. His handiwork is supposed to do that for the Gentiles, as the Law was supposed to for the Jews. (Romans 2-3).

The Law was supposed to demonstrate to the Jew that he could not attain moral perfection. His inner man would prevent it, being totally corrupt. Therefore, we are both under condemnation, both Jew and Gentile, for “all have sinned”. Only God is perfectly moral, just, and holy.

I hung there, in that precarious position of acknowledging God as Creator, but foolish enough to ignore Jesus as Savior. I thought I had made a wise and philosophically advanced decision, and God should applaud me for it. Not consciously, but unconsciously. I was the person that the verse in Romans 1:21b-22 speaks of,

they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.

No, lol, I didn’t worship snakes and crawling things but I did worship myself, my goals, my intellect, my wisdom, my pride. I worshiped idols as the verse says.

It was another 25 years before my incessant questions as a pagan would be resolved. If God made the world, then all the cultures who ever worshiped a god must be right that there is an afterlife. Since it’s obvious there’s an afterlife, hell must be real too. What makes heaven so great? What is the standard by which a person goes there? Because if everyone goes there, what makes it heaven? Everyone here is awful. (I acknowledged others’ sin, our depraved nature being obvious, except for meee, of course…)

God graciously gave me Jesus, and upon His moment of time pre-planned before the foundation of the world, I finally recognized my sin thanks to His grace and opening my eyes through the gift of faith. I repented of sin and fell upon Jesus’ feet. I understood the cross.

All those years I’d asked those questions, but whenever my mind tread closer to the cross, Jesus, and my own sin, my mind skittered away and I said, ‘No not that. It can’t be THAT.’ I don’t think many Christians understand the torment of the conscience, and the weariness to the soul of trying to find the answer but that our sin-darkened minds refuse to allow the holy light of the answer to burst through. It takes God passing HIs hand over us to do that, the external understanding of our need for Him, seen because of Him, by Him, through Him. I never would have gotten there on my own never. I know that.

Therefore we should be weak-need because of His grace. Grace through faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Posted in theology

My son/daughter’s friend came out as gay…how do I help my kid not become desensitized?

by Elizabeth Prata

Kids in high school and especially college co-eds are having a hard time withstanding the tsunami of cultural change with regard to the issues of gender dysphoria, homosexuality, trans-issues, and gender roles. I can’t imagine the deep level of concern that parents of kids these days deal with.

The mama bear wants to protect and guard the kids…the Christian woman in us wants to honor Jesus, and the flesh in us is probably scared to death… The special worry is that kids will become desensitized to these particular sins, because they are being promoted and tolerated so heavily. The Christian life, particularly for parents these days, seems to be one of continual worry and vigilance.

It’s always about sin “out there” – until it rears its head and comes close! What to do when your child’s friend comes out as gay…when a trans person becomes the roommate, when the dorm’s bathroom is unisex, issue isn’t just ‘out there’ any more but touches you or your child’s intimate life? I’m reminded of Jude,

17But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

How not to become desensitized to these sins? It would seem to me that when youths are involved via friendship with a person involved in homosexuality (in any form) we look to the end of the verse, ‘having mercy on him with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.’ Jamieson Fausset commentary says of that part of the verse,

"those who are objects of compassion, whom accordingly you should compassionate (and help if occasion should offer), but at the same time not let pity degenerate into connivance at their error. Your compassion is to be accompanied "with fear" of being at all defiled by them."

Do not let pity degenerate into complicity or acceptance at their error… It’s right to have a concern that youths will become desensitized to sin. They are young enough to have been born post-sexual revolution, where the notion of gay marriage, drag queens, tranvestism and other sexual dysfunctions are common. It always happens, the more a person is around any sin the more their conscience is hardened and it starts to seem normal. That is definitely a legitimate concern.

I often refer to the Jude verse about snatching some from the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh, but I’m equally often at a loss as to HOW to do this.

I offer several resources along this vein, which I felt gave advice by example on how to deal with these troubling issues of the day sexual dysphoria, transvestism, homosexuality, transsexuals, etc.

First, I remember Todd Friel of Wretched some years ago making a video contrasting two different reactions to a boy who came out as gay to his dad. One was an actual letter from a Dad responding to his son’s coming out, and the other was from counselor David Murray who was saddened over the Dad’s letter, which had become public. Murray wrote a hypothetical reply as he pondered the actual Dad’s reply, which was harsh. Friel updated the video to include a back and forth email exchange from Emeal Zwayne (“EZ”) who is President of Ray Comfort’s Living Waters ministry, which I loved.

The Zwayne exchange shows HOW to have compassion on a person who is gay and who is combative about it at first, and how EZ extended love- with boundaries and humility- that helped to reach the poor soul.

The next part of Friel’s video goes through the two dads scenario, again I feel it’s instructive by example both in what not to do and what to do, about how to set limits with love, as Jude says, having compassion without being polluted even by the garment. Maybe parents can have explicit talks revolving around these issues, i.e. how to have compassion and be a godly influence without desensitizing toward sin after viewing the limits set in compassion as we hear in Murray’s hypothetical letter.

I also think it helps, as Friel alluded to at the end, that homosexuals know they are in the wrong, Romans 1:18 says they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I think, keep reminding your kids of that internally and personally but without sermonizing all the time…  (as the combative gay person said in his message to EZ, “I don’t need a sermon…”). Love, earnest listening without openly accepting, and not being a hypocrite ourselves goes a long way to strike a chord with someone who is actively suppressing the truth. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for their exhaustion in suppressing it to collapse as truth explodes into their conscience and bursts out.

I encourage you to watch the video below and see if it suits what you may be dealing with. Cached video below. I don’t know what happened to the actual video on Wretched.org in the two days since I’d seen it and when I went to link it now, it has disappeared from Wretched’s site. Here is the cached version. I hope it keeps working, because it’s a good video. Friel begins the meat of it at 1:04 and ends at 22:48.

Jesus Had Compassion on Sinners. Do We?

Here are the segment breaks and topics:

Segment 1 (0:00) – Are we like Jesus, seeing the lost, the homosexual, the fornicator, and the porn addict with compassion?  Todd introduces a clip from Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne’s message “EZ Conversation with a Homosexual Man.”  E.Z. shares his compassionate response to a homosexual critical of E.Z.’s preaching.

Segment 2 (10:00) – The conclusion of E.Z.’s message calling for compassion.  Todd introduces clips from a message he shared at Answers in Genesis titled “Letter from Dad,” which contrasts two responses from father’s to their sons who have come out as homosexual.

Segment 3 (17:58) – Todd’s message continues with a compelling question: “Do we respond as conservatives or Christians?”  Todd reads Jerry Bridges’ “Sins We Tend to Overlook,” and closes with a call to engage the lost with compassion.

Next resource: Our Church has Thursday night ‘Table Talks’. Elders present scriptures and issues and we compare to the Bible. The first two weeks was looking at Critical Race Theory and comparing to what the Bible says. The next two weeks was LGBTQ+ issues, sexual issues, gender, and the like. This past week’s video was so good, so illuminating, and so sensitively presented, I link it below. Three of the four elders teach youths in High School or Middle School, and one of them was a college/youth pastor before starting at our church. A great many college kids and young adults represent our church demographic. These men are highly tuned in to the issues of homosexuality and the problem it has become for many of our youths today. The video is an hour. One of our elders speaks rather rapidly, but you can always play with the settings on the video to slow it down. 😉

Link here


Lastly, I offer this sermon from John MacArthur. God’s View of Homosexuality, part 1. MacArthur says of why single out homosexuality as a particular spotlight when there are so many sins God hates-

"I suppose there should be some justification for isolating a sin like this and preaching on it when there are so many sins which are equally heinous to God.  The answer to those who might wonder why we would isolate this one should be apparent, but just in case it isn’t, this sin has taken on unique properties in our culture.  It has been declassified as a sin and turned into a sort of civil rights group.  It is at this particular point a political issue and not a moral one, an issue of freedom and not a moral one or a spiritual one."

America is about to become or already is a post-Christian nation. Even the thin veneer of morality that shallow Christianity had covered our nation with is melting away faster than ice cubes on a July sidewalk. Sins of all types are being normalized, homosexuality among them. Stay in the word of God, pray ceaselessly, and look up for the return of Jesus. After all, today we are one day closer than we’ve ever been before!

Jesus saves, He forgives all sin- there IS life post-gay…post trans…post any sin. Grace abounds.

Posted in theology

Our greatest need

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s troubling times. Our nation just went through a national convulsion from the pandemic, presidential election, and post-election transfer of power. We’ve been experiencing a year-long string of natural disasters, riots, and unexpected tragedies. It’s been tough.

Even the strongest Christian is wobbling from being buffeted back and forth. Pagans are in terror most of the time, whether they will admit it or not.

During troubling times, our natural instinct is to extend sympathy. To put a hand on a shoulder, to cry with those who are crying. We speak a soft word, we exude mercy and grace to those who are suffering, afraid, or scared. We tend toward the “kindness” qualities in our relationships. As we should.

During troubling times it’s also a natural inclination to swing the pendulum too far to the other side. We tend to exclude speaking of our greatest need. We feel it’s ‘not the right time’ to bring up what all humans need, especially to the unsaved.

Continue reading “Our greatest need”
Posted in encouragement, theology

So now, I’m boasting

We finally went back to work on Monday! Yay! I work in a public elementary school, so that means I’m looking forward to seeing the kids. They will be arriving in a few days.

We are taking this time to learn new procedures and guidelines for keeping the kids and staff safe during this COVID epidemic. The guidelines are in alignment with CDC and are just tremendous for the best safety.

Many different people face different kinds of challenges amid this epidemic. Here’s mine. As Harvard Medical School explains, Continue reading “So now, I’m boasting”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Grace IS Amazing

By Elizabeth Prata

palm sunday

My favorite doctrines are Grace, followed by Providence.

Grace that is extended by our loving God is shocking and amazing and wonderful. I was saved later in life and I remember what it felt like to live a sinful life in rebellion against God. It was confusing and upsetting, most of the time.

I read a lot, and enjoyed historical books and the world’s myths. As I read books, all the world’s made-up gods were capricious or unloving or dismissive of humans. That seemed right to me. Even when I read of the Founding Fathers and learned about their deism, that god also seemed right to me. The deist god created everything – including humans – but then retreated from humankind’s affairs and let us wind down of our own accord.

Grace given by a loving God was foreign to me and unthinkable. Because that would mean He was involved with humans, lovingly. Weird.

But that and only that God is the one true God.

He came in the form of a baby who grew to be a man-God, teaching and loving and performing miracles. He died for our sins and absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf.

Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound
It was not a sweet sound to me then, but it is now.

That saved a wretch like me
I used to close my mouth if I happened to be at a Church service, like at Christmas, and this hymn came on. I wasn’t a wretch!, I’d utter. And close my mouth, refusing to say the lyrics.

I once was lost, but now am found
I didn’t know I was lost and I didn’t know I needed to be found.

Was blind but now I see
I didn’t know I was blind. Revelation 3:17 applies here:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

That the Lord of All would stoop to save a wretch like me, covered in mud and dwelling with the pigs, like the Prodigal, is amazing. That He would walk into Jerusalem, knowing the cries of Hosannah! would turn bloody and hateful a week later. That He went toward his kangaroo trials, his scourging, and his death, even death upon a cross, to save filthy sinners, is amazing. What grace!

Thank you Lord, for your grace!! How wonderful that even when we’ve been there 10,000 years, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun. An eternity praising You is not enough, but what grace that I am able to do so in the first place.

Was blind but now I see…

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Posted in G3, theology

Last impressions of G3: Conclusion

By Elizabeth Prata

Sitting here in the rainy dark, I have unpacked from my three days away at the 2020 G3 Conference in Atlanta. G3’s tagline is Gospel-Grace-Glory. It is a heavily Christian conference, focusing on preaching, doctrine, and more preaching. The theme this year was “Worship.”

I attended with two younger ladies from our church, and also attending from our church was our teaching pastor and his wife, and one of our teachers in the church. Also a friend who I haven’t seen in a long while who I used to go to church with but is now a pastor somewhere else. He brought his son to the conference on the last day. The young boy wore his best suit coat, held his Bible tightly, and asked “Can we meet John MacArthur?” Continue reading “Last impressions of G3: Conclusion”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Grace: What a Wonderful Gift

By Elizabeth Prata

I am fascinated by grace. I think as a Christian matures, we see our sin more and more for what it really is. The picture of the Prodigal Son wallowing in the pig pen eating scraps is a vivid, if not enough mental picture of us before salvation. Our sin sadly persists in us, though forgiven and overlaid with Christ’s righteousness. We still have to work at killing what is ‘crouching at the door’ waiting to have us.

The grace that lifted us from our pigsty and washed us is all the more precious as we see the depths from which we have come. Seeing the heights from which he stooped to save us and the grace that flew Him there on wings of love is a wondrous thing. I can’t stop thinking about it.

I read this short account of grace from the Lexham Survey of Theology trying in human words to explain the mystery and incredible gift of grace. I especially loved the last paragraph.

—————————

God’s grace is unmerited divine favor, a favor from which comes many gifts.

God’s grace flows out of his inter-Trinitarian, gift-giving life. Even in humanity’s fallen state, God freely grants to his creatures good things they do not deserve. The greatest of these goods is Jesus Christ.

The bold thread of grace in the Bible is a distinctive marker of Christianity, one that sets it apart from other religions. J. Gresham Machen noted, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” The works of God in creation as well as his covenants, his promises, his word, and his work of redemption all spring from his grace. All we have is due to grace, but, as Michael Horton says, grace itself is “not a third thing or substance,” for “in grace, God gives nothing less than Himself.”

God’s grace toward mankind arises from the fullness of his being. He is gracious. When God appeared to Moses he declared his name, Yahweh, the I AM, as the sum of his eternal being. This nature includes his graciousness: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. (Exod 34:6). J. I. Packer suggests that grace is simply God’s love demonstrated toward those who deserve the opposite. God’s grace is his gift-giving life, and the gift is himself.

The grace of Yahweh is not a reaction to our creaturely ways but the extension of God eternally giving himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus Christ brought to man the grace he was already as the eternal Son within the Trinity (“full of grace and truth,” John 1:14–18). Thus, in receiving “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” we participate in divine fullness of “the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13).

—————–
end Lexham Survey of Theology article

grace verse 2

Posted in encouragement, theology

Grace IS Amazing

By Elizabeth Prata

palm sunday

My favorite doctrines are Grace, followed by Providence.

Grace that is extended by our loving God is shocking and amazing and wonderful. I was saved later in life and I remember what it felt like to live a sinful life in rebellion against God. It was confusing and upsetting, most of the time.

I read a lot, and enjoyed historical books and the world’s myths. As I read books, all the world’s made-up gods were capricious or unloving or dismissive of humans. That seemed right to me. Even when I read of the Founding Fathers and learned about their deism, that god also seemed right to me. The deist god created everything – including humans – but then retreated from humankind’s affairs and let us wind down of our own accord.

Grace given by a loving God was foreign to me and unthinkable. Because that would mean He was involved with humans, lovingly. Weird.

But that and only that God is the one true God.

He came in the form of a baby who grew to be a man-God, teaching and loving and performing miracles. He died for our sins and absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf.

Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound
It was not a sweet sound to me then, but it is now.

That saved a wretch like me
I used to close my mouth if I happened to be at a Church service, like at Christmas, and this hymn came on. I wasn’t a wretch!, I’d utter. And close my mouth, refusing to say the lyrics.

I once was lost, but now am found
I didn’t know I was lost and I didn’t know I needed to be found.

 

Was blind but now I see
I didn’t know I was blind. Revelation 3:17 applies here:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

That the Lord of All would stoop to save a wretch like me, covered in mud and dwelling with the pigs, like the Prodigal, is amazing. That He would walk into Jerusalem, knowing the cries of Hosannah! would turn bloody and hateful a week later. That He went toward his kangaroo trials, his scourging, and his death, even death upon a cross, to save filthy sinners, is amazing. What grace!

Thank you Lord, for your grace!! How wonderful that even when we’ve been there 10,000 years, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun. An eternity praising You is not enough, but what grace that I am able to do so in the first place.

Was blind but now I see…

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Posted in hymns, theology

O How His Grace Amazes Me – The Hymn that Spawned a Book

By Elizabeth Prata

An interview from 2010 regarding Sinclair Ferguson’s inspiration for his then-new book By Grace Alone.

 

 

Pastor Conrad Mbewe wrote about the hymn and its author, pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana, an African Baptist pastor in Burundi. (1915-1975). Mbewe wrote-

I think that Oh, how the grace of God amazes me should rank among such hymns as Amazing grace by John Newton. To begin with, it is an experiential hymn. It speaks about our experience of the grace of God. Anyone who “has been there” will immediately identify with it. Something in your soul resonates with the lyrics as you sing the hymn. It is not the senseless excitement of those who are drunk with wine, but an informed warmth of heart because of a godly reflection on what God has done for you in Christ. And by the time you get to the last stanza, you really want the whole of creation to join you in singing your divine Saviour’s eternal praise.

Sinclair said that he had begun a project with the church organist to play through and intently listen to all the hymns in the hymn book at their church. They did this over successive nights. When they came to O How His Grace Amazes Me, Ferguson was struck by the power of the hymn and its progression into all the important doctrines, and unusually, on grace.

The hymn caused him to ponder these things for a good while, until finally breaking forth into the book he decided to write.

When Sinclair is asked if the world needed yet another book on grace, he said the world should be filled with books on grace. Amen! I love the doctrine of grace. I pray that the music at your services cause you to truly reflect on the great doctrines and the awesome attributes of God.

Here is Emmanuel Sibomana’s hymn O How His Grace Amazes Me:

Modern arrangement, 4-min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s963Kq4sbtk

Traditional arrangement with organ, 7-min- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAsCo_RsHJg