Posted in theology

Will a piece of Scotch tape stop an avalanche?

By Elizabeth Prata

Now on the next day, that is, the day which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63and they said, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I am rising.’ 64Therefore, give orders for the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66And they went and made the tomb secure with the guard, sealing the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66).

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and THE Teacher of Israel. He came to Jesus saying “WE know you are from God…” (John 3:2). They knew. They also remembered Jesus had said He would rise on the third day. The disciples had apparently forgotten, but the priests and Pharisees and scribes didn’t. They were worried that the disciples would come and steal the body and try to claim He had risen. So they went to Pilate. They reminded Pilate that the disciples may steal the body. This was likely a strategic mention, not just to prevent any claims of having risen, but tomb robbing was a terrible problem in the Roman Empire. Severe penalties existed for grave robbing. Mentioning the likelihood of the body being stolen would have startled Pilate and/or the Romans into action.

Placing a stone against the tomb’s opening was a usual practice. Lazarus’ tomb had a stone against it. (John 11:38-39). The seal on the stone was probably what they used commonly in those days- a wax seal impressed with a signet and some cords pressed into the wax and then stretched across to an opposite lump of wax.

The seal was not intended to prevent moving the stone away, the guards were there for that, and the stone itself. The seal was only to indicate that if the seal was broken it would be a sign someone had messed with the grave.

Poole's Commentary says, "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Vain men! as if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead, could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, that he may set his King upon his holy hill of Zion." Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, p. 143). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

The Pharisees had set up triple barriers but in the end all they did was prove that Jesus had resurrected! They knew that Jesus was from God, did they really think a paltry rope seal would stop the avalanche of God’s power in raising His Son from the dead?

They had seen or heard of the moment in Nazareth where Jesus stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah as depicted in Luke 4:16-19,

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And then Jesus announced that the prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing. Who else but someone from God, or the Messiah Himself, could open the eyes of the blind? No other blind person had ever been made to see in all of Israel’s history, before this. They knew. Romans 1:18 reminds us that the unsaved suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They were very busy suppressing the truth of who Jesus was, and scurried around putting Scotch tape over a boulder’s crack.

Nothing can stop the power of God. Nothing. He created the worlds with a word, and the stars also. He made man from dust. He sustains it all by His power. He resurrects the dead, and he regenerates sinful hearts. His power cannot be stopped with a stone or a guard or a wax seal. Poole is right- o vain men!

I like to ponder the love of God and His invitation to come to Him who is gentle and lowly. I also like to ponder His power and might!

Posted in theology

God’s power

By Elizabeth Prata

When we think of the incommunicable attributes of God, his power often comes to my mind first. He upholds the entire universe by His will…He made the universe with His word! My 2nd graders were discussing who was the smartest, after a boy confidently proclaimed he was the smartest one in the room. A tiny girl from the back of the line piped up, “God is the smartest. He can make people!” Out of the mouth of babes, she nailed it.

Earthquakes fascinate me. I’ve only been in one, a tiny one here in Georgia. The ground seems to be solid, yet earthquakes can turn it to liquid in a moment. The earth shakes and rolls and buildings totter like a hut. That is scary to me. I hope I’m never in a big earthquake.

Greece/Turkey experienced a large quake last week, a 7.0. IRIS, or Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, comprises virtually all US universities with research programs in seismology. Their visual data gif for that earthquake‘s waves are amazing and sort of hypnotic to watch:

“Watch the waves from the M7.0 earthquake near Turkey roll across seismic stations in Europe. This animation, called a Ground Motion Visualization (GMV), shows the motion of the ground as detected on seismometers across Europe – each dot is a seismic station and when the ground moves up it turns red and when it moves down it turns blue.”

The visualization struck me, how such a large portion of the earth was impacted by the 7.0 quake. Seen from an ‘above’ perspective, the power of God to hold the earth in His hands and shake it like a toddler shakes a toy just struck me all over again how powerful He is.

I think it’s important to keep His power in mind. We’re flooded with teachings about His love, His kindness, His humility, His condescension to stoop down and reach out to save us sinners, that sometimes we could tend to diminish His august majesty and forget His total and absolute power.

Reading Job 38-42 will bring these things to mind again. The longest discourse in the Bible spoken by God himself, we see His power and wisdom as He reminds Job of it via His creation work. It all begins with Genesis 1:1, said to be the most important words in the entire Bible, “In the beginning, God…” He created all that there is by the power of His mighty word, and everything subsequent all stems from that fact.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross”. (Colossians 1:15-20).

Praise this thrice-holy, powerful God, praise His holy name!

Posted in theology

God’s power in nature

By Elizabeth Prata

The North Carolina earthquake a few days ago and the Midwest’s derecho last night brings to mind again the power of nature. We are usually amazed to see “aftermath” photos. I saw a picture where a 2X4 had been driven through the wall of a home and halfway into their living room. Another in Chicago where the derecho blew a roof off a building and scattered it all over the highway. Continue reading “God’s power in nature”

Posted in discernment, theology

On empowerment

By Elizabeth Prata

We hear so much these days about women being empowered. Needing empowerment. Wanting power. We hear from the feminists that women in today’s church have been oppressed, marginalized, and discriminated against because they do not have the same ‘opportunities’ that men do. Meaning, the feminists are saying women have been denied the equal opportunity to teach men, preach or pastor a church.

This is bunk, of course.

If we go all the way back to Genesis 1:28, we see that God made us male and female. After making humans in 2 genders, God gave both humans a job:

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God said to THEM. Is there any additional power women need than with men as partner to jointly care for all of the creation? And to do so within clearly defined boundaries, which is a gift, not a restriction?

Along the way, as the Old Testament and New Testament progressed, we see women with amazing abilities being used by God, as well as men. Esther, the Queen who saved her people. Mary, the humble servant given opportunity to first share the Good News of the resurrection. Lydia, Asia’s first convert and host of one of the earliest home churches. The Samaritan Woman, who was discipled one-on-one by Jesus, then she shared news that helped convert a whole village.

Challies says in his book review of John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women, that the author writes about-

-the high position given to women within Scripture. Women are never relegated to a secondary status and, unlike so many other religions, are never degraded and considered less important than men. From the beginning of the New Testament era to the close of the canon of Scripture we see God granting extraordinary privilege to women. There are countless women in the Bible who stand as examples of faithfulness, integrity, hospitality and every other admirable virtue.

What more do you want, women who demand empowering?

We see the eternal discontent of feminists as a reflection of what happened in the original Garden. God gave Adam and Eve everything, absolutely everything, except for one thing. It was that one thing satan enticed Eve to want.

So it doesn’t matter if the feminists push their way into the pulpit. Their discontent never stops, because there is always that one thing they will want. The Bible says they cannot preach? They want to. Can’t teach men? They want to. Can’t lead men in spiritual authority? They want to. Can’t be master in the home? They want to. We could capitulate and give it all to them and they’ll still want more. That is because sin is a bottomless pit.

Their discontent stems not only from wanting what is forbidden, but from a failure to be grateful for all the opportunities we women DO have. Want to teach other women? We can. Want to raise children? We can. Want to teach children? We can. Want to be hospitable and open your home to others in His name? We can. Want to minister to the brethren? We can. Want to disciple younger ladies? We can. Want to share the Good News of the Gospel? We must.

And so much more.

We have power, power that God gave us. It’s when women step outside the boundaries of that power that our lives go awry. We ladies should be content with the magnificent privileges God has given us. We should be joyful at the stately way Jesus treated women in His day. We should be busy doing ministry in His name within the bounds of the myriad opportunities He did give us.

As for empowerment itself? What IS power?

Jesus has all power. He gives it as He wills. (Luke 9:1).
The angels have power (2 Peter 2:11).
Jesus gave His two witnesses power. (Revelation 11:6).

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, (Revelation 19:1).
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3).
An entire level of angels is called powers. (Colossians 1:16).

When you hear women saying they want to be empowered, they are not pushing for power from the men who lead churches or denominations. They are making demands of God. How do I know this? John 19:11a

Jesus answered, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.

All power comes from God. So before you might be tempted to listen to women who go around clamoring for empowerment, stop and think of what they are really demanding and who they are demanding it from.

If we are content, we will be doing what Paul advised in 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-11,

But we urge you, brothers, to excel more and more 11and to aspire to live quietly, to attend to your own matters, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.

If we work hard, attend to our own business, and live quietly, we will be doing much better than the loud women who roar for empowerment and make evil claims against a holy God. After all, we have a co-charge to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. That’s power enough, don’t you think?

power of god verse

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Preaching in Jesus’ name

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand” (Jeremiah 11:21).

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40).

The name of Jesus Christ is extremely powerful. I’m not talking that it’s powerful like a magic charm, or a mantra, or a mystical incantation. His name is powerful because Jesus is the most powerful person in the Universe, because He sustains the world with His will, because He became the unique, one and only sacrifice for sin, died, and rose again defeating death.  He is the I AM. He is the Authority. It’s that simple.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

You can preach in any other name and the heart of the listener might or might not be emotionally or mentally affected. He might become emotional at a good speech delivery. She might feel temporarily joyful or sad but that burns off because an emotional reaction it doesn’t reach the soul. Only the word of God can affect the soul, and the only name in which we preach the true word is Jesus.

When the words affect the soul, the reaction has staying power, whether it’s to cause the person to retreat further into sin, or to convert under grace.

In the New Testament we know that the party opposing Jesus (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) hated the name of Jesus. They hated His teachings, His disciples, His power, His authority, His resurrection. They thought they had authority, but they did not.

Pilate thought he had power and authority. He did not know that his authority was not his own, but was from above.

So Pilate said to Him, “Do You refuse to speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11)

Jesus’ name has power. Not because it’s a magic mantra. But because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. He is the ultimate authority over men. And men’s souls sense this. We rebel against authority. We fight authority but authority always wins, sang John Cougar Mellencamp in his “The Authority Song”. We been doin’ it since we were young mean and we come out grinnin’.

We think it’s funny to rebel against parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. But who we’re really rebelling against is God and God alone. He is the authority and He gives His authority to parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. However, He retains sole claim to all authority and dispenses it to whom He desires. That is why when we rebel it is against Him and Him alone. (Psalm 51:4).

The authority of the name of Jesus calls for men’s submission to that name, but in our sinful state we protect our rebellion instead of submit to authority. We are rebels, sinning at every turn and hating those who tell us to stop.

Fortunately, Jesus’ name does have power. Without His power, we would never be saved. Jesus lived a perfect and holy life under the Law. He fulfilled every bit of it, and was crucified unjustly. He took on all man’s sins and endured God’s wrath for that sin. He died and was buried.

Three days later He rose again victorious over death!

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Vainly attempting to grasp our rebellion against authority, or foolishly trying to keep whatever scraps of authority we think we have, will always end in one moment, one act: bowing before Jesus and confessing Him as Lord. It’s better to submit to His authority now and be adopted as son and friend, than to have confess to Him as a rebel.

With apologies to artist Mihály Munkácsy, “Christ before Pilate, 1881

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The truth about grace

Grace is a concept. But it’s not just a concept. Grace is a gift, but it’s not just a gift. Grace is a force. Think about how powerful grace is. Think about its power as it exists in Jesus, as it is delivered to the saints, its common state as it covers the world, and its special state as it enlivens the saints to do our work.

Here is an excerpt about grace from a sermon from John MacArthur called, Strength Perfected in Weakness, looking at this verse: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In speaking of the linchpin part of the passage, ‘my grace is sufficient for you’, MacArthur said,

But grace is not just an inert sort of concept; it is a force, it is a power. It is a power that transforms us. It is a power that awakens us from sleep. It is a power that gives us life in the midst of death. It is a power that is dynamic enough to transform us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. It is the power that saves us. It is the power that keeps us, the power that enables us, the power that sanctifies us, and the power that one day will glorify us. You have to look at grace as a force, a divine force that God pours out into the lives of His people at all points to grant them all that they need to be all that He desires.

Grace is a gift.
Grace is a state.
Grace is a POWER.