Posted in theology

How can it be?

By Elizabeth Prata

As time in your walk with Jesus goes on, after months and years and perhaps decades, don’t let the wonder diminish. The awe-inspiring, breathtaking generosity of a God who hates sin but redeems sinners. Don’t let yourself forget the depravity in which you lived, before salvation. The horror of sin and its ruin on earth. The abhorrence of it to God. The wages of it- death.

But God. But God loves His people and chose to save some. He not only justifies. He not only sanctifies. He not only adopts. He not only feels compassion for us while we were yet sinners. He brings us to His HOME to live in, cleaned, loved, fed, and made righteous. He opens His door to us without hesitation, without reservation, if we repent and fall on His Son Jesus.

Continue reading “How can it be?”
Posted in theology

Living a life of death

By Elizabeth Prata


“Behold, all is vanity.”—Ecclesiastes 1:14.

Charles Spurgeon wrote in his Evening Devotional for this date, “NOTHING can satisfy the entire man but the Lord’s love and the Lord’s own self. Saints have tried to anchor in other roadsteads, but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges. Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all, and to do for us what we must not dare to do for ourselves.”

Spurgeon continues -“What! the whole of it vanity? O favoured monarch, is there nothing in all thy wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in Palmyra’s glorious palaces? Nothing in the house of the forest of Lebanon? In all thy music and dancing, and wine and luxury, is there nothing? “Nothing,” he says, “but weariness of spirit.”

The Book of Ecclesiastes speaks to me. I sometimes mourn the lost decades of my life before salvation, still knowing

Continue reading “Living a life of death”
Posted in theology

How high or low you are doesn’t matter to Jesus

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday I wrote about a named woman of the Bible called Joanna. Her life story, gleaned from what little we know of Luke’s two verses, seems interesting. I’m intrigued by these glimpses of the different people the Bible shows us.

Always remember these people are real people. They aren’t characters in a book, though they are in a book, THE Book. They really lived in a real culture and had feelings and families and tears and joys.

In my essay, I delved into Joanna’s life, and afterward I wondered for a good while what her life must have been like. I thought of her contrasted with Potiphar’s wife. Joanna was wife of Chuza, Tetrarch of Galilee. A Tetrarch was a Roman governor of a province or country. It’s a pretty high up position, and the Tetrarch’s steward would hold a high position of authority and status.

Continue reading “How high or low you are doesn’t matter to Jesus”
Posted in theology

Pursuing wind

By Elizabeth Prata

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun, and have found them all to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

How pointless it is to pursue the wind. But that is what the unsaved do. It is what I did for 40 years, and it was vain. I heard Billy Joel’s song Movin’ Out this morning and I remember when I first heard it. The song is basically about the meaninglessness of life. The main character in the song decided that everything was meaningless, pursuing life to get a big house in the suburbs, saving up for that special car, working all the time, paying overtime taxes to Uncle Sam…the guy asked, what was it all for? He was moving out. To where and to do what, is not stated. But the same meaninglessness will pursue him there too. Continue reading “Pursuing wind”

Posted in theology

Which doctrines are necessary to be a Christian?

By Elizabeth Prata

Does the Bible speak to which doctrines are necessary for belief and faith in Christ? Yes. iIn it we find what one must believe or be condemned, and it states what not to believe.

The primary essential doctrines of the faith one must stick to, According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (scriptures supporting them are here) are–

1. Jesus is God in flesh, and Jesus is the proper object of faith. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:

–The Trinity
–There is only one God in all existence
–That Jesus is both God and man.

2. Salvation is by Grace alone
3. The resurrected Christ
4. The Gospel

They are called the primary essentials because the Bible declares them to be essential to the faith. Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial — yet they are still essential to the Christian faith. Those include:

–Jesus is the only way to heaven
–Mary’s virgin birth

An apostate very slowly starts to doubt the above. He or she begins to read and absorb other things that are contrary to those doctrines. Paul called false teachings gangrene because they slowly pollute the body and mind. (2 Timothy 2:17).

The Bible says that at the time of the end there will be a great falling away from the truth. Look to 2 Thessalonians for the prediction regarding the “falling away.” 2 Thess. 2:3-7 says,

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

The lawlessness is sinfulness and the fact that Paul says it is already at work means that there have been apostates throughout the Church Age, even in Paul’s day. Demas fell away and went back to the world. (2 Timothy 4:10). The verse in 2 Timothy 2:17 speaks of Hymenaeus and Philetus who spread false teachings, two men who “wandered away from the truth” and became “more and more ungodly”. (2 Tim 2:16; 18).

Where does the prosperity gospel fall into this continuum? One comment I often receive when writing a discernment article about a prosperity preacher, or any other false teacher, is that they can’t really be falling/fallen away from the truth, “because they declare Jesus as Lord” or some other affirmation of one of the primary essentials of the faith.

Of course they affirm Christ. If they didn’t, they would be immediately identifiable as false. Yet, in discernment, A teacher’s doctrine and life must match up. What they teach in one place must be the same as they teach in another.

For example, 1 Corinthians 16:22 makes our love for Christ a fundamental issue: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.” A false teacher may say they love Jesus, but their life betrays the truth. If they twist scripture consistently and grossly, if they sin unrepentantly, if they continually violate standards for behavior listed elsewhere in the Bible, they do not live Christ. They might have been reproached several times by an elder of colleague, and rejected that rebuke. Any or all of these show that the person does not love Christ.

Anyway, be sure of what you believe and why. Examine yourself to be sure you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Drifting away is easy to do. (Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1)

Further resources

What are the Essentials of the Christian Faith?

9Marks of a Prosperity Gospel Church

by faith you have been saved verse

Posted in theology

Our Days are Numbered

By Elizabeth Prata

*I heard an Adrian Rogers sermon several years ago that stayed with me. He talked about how people delay their decision for or against Jesus, thinking they have lots of time to go into that. Rogers shared several deaths that were unexpected, sudden, and odd that shows we don’t have the time we think we do. One was when a man was lawnmowing and ran over a nail, which the mower threw up and it went into his heart. The other was a woman walking by a building at the same time a person sitting on the edge of the sill nudged a plant pot and it fell out the window onto her head. His point was, decide now, today, what you will believe.

There have beem some equally odd deaths I’ve read about that brought his sermon to mind again. Isolated, freak accidents, they are called. But the person involved in them winds up just as dead as if the death was expected.

Grief spreads far and wide for hunting guide killed in accident near Faribault
On Sunday southwest of Faribault, a motorist who lives nearby agreed to be Pineur’s good Samaritan and attached a strap to the two vehicles intending to pull the pickup from the ditch. However, the hitch broke on Tyler Nusbaum’s vehicle and part of it went hurtling toward Pineur’s pickup. The piece went through the windows of the camper top and the back of the pickup, and it hit Pineur in the back of the head, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Rock Thrown From Mower Kills Passing Woman
“A freak highway accident left one woman dead and the Georgia Department of Transportation trying to answer questions. A Georgia DOT crew was mowing the grass on the side of a sparsely-traveled rural highway. At the exact same time, a car with five passengers passed by.” (The mower) ran over a rock. The rock was a pretty good-sized rock. But it was launched from the side of the bush hog,” said Sgt. Chad Mann, of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office. Annie Lee, 58, was sitting in the back seat with her family when the volleyball-sized rock smashed through the windshield, grazed the driver and killed her instantly. Police said it was a shocking incident, but not one that could have easily been prevented or one that would happen again.”This was an isolated freak incident,” said Mann.”

The woman was sitting in the back. The rock went through the windshield, missing the driver and the passenger, and hurtled toward Ms Lee, and she was killed.

Just like that. Tragic.

Think about it, one moment you are sitting on your truck and the next second you are in hell. Or heaven. One moment you are laughing with your family in the back seat of the car and the next second you are in heaven. Or hell. It happens that fast. Paul didn’t leave any time for there to be limbo, or to hang around and wait for the Ghost Whisperer to show up. He said if you are absent from the body you are with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) The rapture takes place in the blink of an eye, where your bodies are transformed from flesh to eternal in 1/150th of a second. The same happens with many people in the way they die. It happens instantly, just like it did for the two unfortunates in the news articles above.

The Bible says our days are numbered.

Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5).

David cried out, Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Psalm 39:4).

As Matthew Henry explains,

He prays to God to make him sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of life and the near approach of death (v. 4): Lord, make me to know my end and the measure of my days. He does not mean, “Lord, let me know how long I shall live and when I shall die.” We could not, in faith, pray such a prayer; for God has nowhere promised to let us know, but has, in wisdom, locked up that knowledge among the secret things which belong not to us, nor would it be good for us to know it. But, Lord, make me to know my end, means, “Lord, give me wisdom and grace to consider it (Deu. 32:29) and to improve what I know concerning it.”

Do you have the wisdom and grace to consider your end, and the courage to improve what you know concerning it? It could happen any time. Repenting after death is too late. Now is the acceptable time. Now.

begg.jpg

*This essay first appeared on The End Time in June 2011. I updated one of the news articles

Posted in encouragement, theology

Give God gratitude for salvation

By Elizabeth Prata

When I was growing up our family belonged to a country club. It had nice grounds, ice cream and Popsicles in the clubhouse, yum, and two huge pools. One was a kiddie splash pool. The other was an olympic sized pool with a shallow end, a deep end, and a jut-out where there were two diving boards. One was short and the other seemed as high as a skyscraper.

Of course when you’re a kid, your parents put you in the kiddie pool first.

popsicle gal pool
Then when you grow a bit and become a more confident swimmer, you can go in the big pool. You splash around and play and have fun in the shallow end. After a while when you’re ready, you venture into the deeper water.

The biggest goal is to pluck up the courage to climb all those steps on the high diving board and jump off.

Our growth in sanctification is like that. At first we’re on milk, not meat, though meat is the goal. As time passes in our studies, we begin to understand the plain meanings of short verses, then grow in understanding and have insight into the deeper meanings. We learn nuances of words, historical contexts, the culture of the time, and theological constructs. Soon we feel confident enough to debate and get involved in hair-splitting controversies, defending and exhorting the faith.

It’s good to get back into the kiddie pool for a while. It’s wise to remember the plain things. Exult in the commonplace verses. You never, ever ‘grow out of’ those, you know. It’s good to just get back to the beginning and bask in that initial feeling of joy you had when you were first saved.

Contemplate your salvation.

Our church had its annual retreat this weekend. about 70 of us from all ages piled into a mountain resort for three sessions of learning “Ordinary Faithfulness.” In between sessions we either spent time in solitary study and contemplation in the different corners of the property, or fellowshipping together in a hike along the waterfall, or visiting the nearby town.

The lessons we were taught during the retreat were fantastic, and I enjoyed them. They were edifying. As I spent time in solitary thought back at the retreat center in between sessions, my mind and heart locked on to the ‘basic’ truth.

I would not be here if not for Jesus. None of us would be at this mountain today if not for Jesus. I owe SO MUCH to His decision (not mine) to yank me out of sin and into His throne room. I owe Him all for giving me the spirit of Repentance, and lifting the scales that had been firmly glued to my eyes for 4 decades. The thrill of salvation itself and all its mystery, wonder, and glory never fades.

Do you savor your salvation? Actively thank Jesus for it? Remember the ‘simple things.’ Salvation is grace itself.

There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. ~Jonathan Edwards

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The wind blows where it will

I was years and years upon the brink of hell—I mean in my own feeling. I was unhappy, I was desponding, I was despairing. I dreamed of hell. My life was full of sorrow and wretchedness, believing that I was lost. ~ Charles Spurgeon as a teenager

wind

Charles Spurgeon’s torments in wanting to be saved are well-known. Spurgeon knew he needed salvation because of his sins, but also knew he couldn’t decide to save himself. He needed the external specific call.

He didn’t just sit around and wait though. He read his Bible, he prayed, and he sought- resolving to visit every church in his district one at a time, repeatedly.

John Bunyan’s experience was similar. In his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he was tormented by his sin and knew he needed Jesus. He read his Bible, tried various things, until he realized conversion is all of God, election. He wrote,

With this scripture I could not tell what to do: for I evidently saw, unless that the great God, of His infinite grace and bounty, had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long, and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore this would stick with me, How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you should not? How then?

O Lord, thought I, what if I should not indeed? It may be you are not, said the Tempter; it may be so indeed, thought I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther; for if indeed, you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no talk of your being saved; For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that showeth mercy.

By these things I was driven to my wits’ end,

But Bunyan didn’t leave off, and didn’t sit and wait for grace to drop into his lap as Spurgeon didn’t wait around for grace to fall into his lap. Though conversion is only from Jesus, the sinner can prepare, inquire, be active. Bunyan kept reading the scriptures, pleading, and praying.

At one point in his faith journey, Bunyan had been wracked with torment, and he laid down to rest and nap. He had a dream that he was trying to get thru a wall to go from the cold side of a great mountain into the sun on the other side. Eventually he found a passageway but it was exceedingly narrow. He got his head in, barely, and wriggled his body sideways, very narrow and could hardly get thru. He realized he had dreamed of the narrow gate. He wrote,

that none could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unless also they left that wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.

But what now? Bunyan asked. What if one is not elected? And if one was elected, how would one know that salvation had come? Bunyan again-

Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ; but instead of having satisfaction here, I began to find my soul to be assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness, especially with such as these: Whether I was elected. But how if the day of grace should be past and gone? By these two temptations I was very much afflicted and disquieted, sometimes by one and sometimes by the other of them.

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

We don’t know who will be saved or when. We can’t control the wind.

We can see its effects, though. Here is my favorite Paul Washer story. It’s 3 minutes and I think it will bless you. It seems to me to be a good example of the Wind moving in a soul. When one isn’t saved one can read the Bible and read it and read it, but it will not make sense because one cannot discern spiritual things, as the verse says-

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).

But when the wind moves in a man’s soul, it moves so we can see the effect! Suddenly the scales fall and the Bible’s verses have extreme meaning!

The wind blows where it will…but keep praying for salvation for your dear lost ones, and keep looking for fruit in those who say they have felt the Spirit move in them. Tomorrow, more on fruit.

 

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

How are men born again? What about the Father drawing us?

Salvation is not of our will, nor our decision, nor our works. It is through the word of God, which is incorruptible, and the work of the Spirit, Who is incorruptible.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. (1 Peter 1:23)

If salvation was our decision, can corrupt become incorrupt? Can we who are thoroughly corrupt then incorrupt ourselves? Never!

Can other corrupt men declare us incorrupt? Can those who are perishable declare us imperishable?

What a ghastly thought.

The Word of God will never fade away. (Matthew 24:35). It is imperishable, incorruptible, because its Author is. Salvation is by grace from above, from the incorrupt One.

Because salvation comes by the incorruptible Word of God as 1st Peter states, it must come from God Himself, not of man, works, or decisions.

Of the process of salvation, The scripture says, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them (John 6:44a).

The initial work of God is to draw men toward Him. The actual moment of salvation (“Justification”) occurs in but a moment, just as long as it takes God to declare the person justified in His sight. But the process of drawing, is something a reader emailed me about.

A reader emailed with the following question. I’m so pleased to receive good questions like this, and more pleased she sought biblical support in her quest to answer it. I admit I was stumped for a while too. I raised the question at our Bible Discussion Group, researched the Word, listened to good sermons. Her question is below and my response follows.

Q. Does God draw people to Himself (effectually call) over a duration of time (even years) or instantly? Or both?
Some people at the Bible study I attend will say things like, “Oh yes, well that was the Holy Spirit working on his heart.” Yet, the person they refer to wasn’t actually saved until years later, accordingly. I am having a hard time finding biblical support for this. So, I was just wondering if you could help shed some light on this for me. I greatly value any wisdom you can shine my way.

God’s regeneration happens in but a moment, as fast as when an earthy judge bangs the gavel and the verdict is rendered. That’s called justification and it happens quickly. (Romans 3:28, 5:1). From what I understand, if I’m understanding correctly, the question is, what happens before the actual moment of justification AKA salvation? Can there be a lengthier time of drawing as the verse in John 6:44 says of drawing men?

This brings us to the parable of the soils. Jesus outlined 4 kinds of soils; thorny, hard, rocky, and good. The soil is the heart. (Matthew 13:19). If we read the first three soils are hard and will not allow a Gospel seed to be planted, and the fourth is the soil that reaps a saved soul, then that soil is soft. The question remains, is it always soft? Does it get softer as the time for hearing the Gospel approaches? Does the Lord close the ears and eyes to the things of Jesus until the time for salvation draws near? How close to the time of salvation does God prepare the heart for the Gospel seed?

Though the following doctrine is hard for people to accept sometimes, whosoever will be saved is already set in God’s economy. Before the foundation of the world He wrote down the names of the people He will save. (Ephesians 1:4).

From my study of the Parable of the Soils, it seems that whatever soil you are is what soil you remain. If you’re hard soil, you always will be and are not destined for salvation. If you’re good soil, you’re good and will be saved at some point. However, since we know all people are thoroughly depraved, being a good soil does not mean one is a good person. We are still sinners. It simply means God has plowed the ground to prepare for the Gospel seed.

Where the soil is prepared by God, the results are staggering. And while we’re talking about soil here, what does that refer to? Matthew 13:19 tells us that the soil is the heart in the parallel passage in Matthew, the soil is the heart. So the only way that there’s going to be good soil is that it’s divinely prepared by God, chosen, prepared, the Spirit of God has come and done conviction. The heart is made ready and there’s a response. A Diagnosis of the Soils, Part 1

Because the soil represents the heart, when we look at a person we do not know if the Gospel that we share with them will plant and germinate or be rejected immediately. We simply do not know the heart so we share the Gospel with all.

How long before the moment of justification the Lord draws a person, is a question I cannot answer. He could be working on a person by drawing them for a long time, or He could justify them all at once when they hear the Word. I suspect it differs from person to person and it all fits into His master plan, which is perfect. The amazing part is that He draws us at all. We are putrid, wretched, filthy, mucky people and He draws us to His perfect and pure bosom, cleans us, and makes us co-heirs. I’m grateful He drew me to Himself, however long it took. I know you are too!

thorns

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Further Reading

Martin Luther on Gods’ hardening and softening the heart

Got Questions on drawing people to salvation

 

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

A year end thank you for all that Grace To You has done for me

A letter I wrote to GTY regarding thanks for the radio ministry. The ministry means SO MUCH to me.

Dear Grace To You,

I want to take a moment to share how God used John’s radio broadcast in my spiritual life.

I was saved at age 44. Before salvation, I spent my life as all sinners do, for myself, rebelling against God. New England is a dark place, and an adult can go a lifetime and not run into anything Christian, or a Bible, or a preacher. I was ignorant of anything related to Jesus. I was certainly ignorant of my own sin, except for the conscience that pricked me.

me with abby one copy1
Camping in FL. 20 years ago, I didn’t know Jesus.

My husband and I liked to travel and we decided to take a long cross-country camping trip in our pop-up camper. We listened to the radio all along the way. We enjoyed talk radio and searched for programs that would help us pass the time as we drove. As we entered the southern part of the United States, we inevitably came across the radio dial of typical southern preachers with their funny accent and pulpit pounding exposition, yelling “JAY-sus! We’d laugh and tee hee about those silly Jesus people. And then we’d hurriedly change the dial.

Whenever we came across John’s Grace To You broadcast, and the introduction music soon became familiar as his program was on many stations, his voice was different. It was logical, soothing. The content of what he was saying intrigued me, as much as it repulsed me. My conscience was pricked even more. I always lingered a bit, listening. But then my husband would change the dial away from the “Jesus stuff” as we called it, I’d feel both relieved that the spiritual pressure was gone but curious for more, too. I didn’t understand this push-pull.

Five years later, the Lord saved me. The internet offered a wealth of sermons, devotionals, and biblical instruction. But which one to pick? Then one day I heard that music. “I know that music!” I said. I heard John’s voice. “I know that guy!” I said. And now that I was saved, the content of what John was saying made sense. More than that, the content of what he was saying inspired me, illuminated my mind, and soothed me. I quickly devoured sermon after sermon. Having no church baggage to unlearn, John’s sermons went straight into my soul. He taught the Doctrine of Justification, and moved to the Doctrine of Election.

Six years after that, I listened live as John finished preaching through the New Testament. It was a historic moment. Even more personally for me, it was a poignant moment. Before I was even saved, God had used John to spark my conscience as a sinner curiously repulsed by the ‘Jesus stuff’ he was preaching, through to salvation, to growth by the Spirit, to burgeoning maturity and becoming a Titus 3 church woman to the younger ladies. God used John through it all. He is still using John in my spiritual life as I read many of his books and still listen to the wonderful sermons.

chisos mountains
Camping in Texas. One day in the future, I’d hear the GTY music and my mind and soul would light up

God used John to preload me in readiness for the moment I would in His timing, come into the kingdom and begin learning the glories of God. John’s familiar voice, the familiar music, led me by His grace to this solid ministry upon which God laid the foundation of my growth.

Thank you John MacArthur and all of you at Grace To You. I praise God for the men He has raised up.

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But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)

God is always working in the lives of those who He will eventually call into His kingdom, and continues working in our lives after that, forever and ever.