Posted in theology

Hardwired for God

By Elizabeth Prata

Before my salvation as I was growing up and studying cultures and then traveling a lot, I mused that it sure was weird that every culture on earth that is and ever was had a spiritual side where the people worshiped something greater than themselves. And I wondered why so many cultures have a flood story and a creation story.

I love the verses in the Bible that show Jesus with the children. Matthew 18:1-6 is an example. So is Matthew 19:13-15. He said that the kingdom is made of such as these.

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Posted in theology

Head knowledge that stays in the head is no good to anyone

By Elizabeth Prata

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR FROM YOU WILL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”

(Matthew 2:1-6).

Setting: Jerusalem

Characters: The Magi from the east, Herod, and the Scribes & Priests

Event: Finding the Christ Child

The Magi were likely some Alchemists/Astrologers/Science men etc. MacArthur describes them this way –

Because of their combined knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, history, and the occult, their religious and political influence continued to grow until they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the Medo-Persian and subsequently the Babylonian empire. … We learn from the book of Daniel that the magi were among the highest-ranking officials in Babylon. Because the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-which none of the other court seers was able to do-Daniel was appointed as “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48). (Source).

The Wise Men were monotheistic, that is, they believed there was only one God. Because of the influence of Daniel in those long ago centuries, knowledge about Yahweh still existed in their canon. We know Daniel was a sincere and learned worshiper of Yahweh, so it is likely he taught the wise men of Babylon all about our God.

I know that the Wise Men didn’t arrive at the stable when Jesus was a baby. But, that’s the set.

That knowledge was retained, and it came down to the moment when the Wise Men of Jesus’ day saw the star.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2).

That is all we know about the Magi, but even with this scant information, we know that they knew there would be born a King of the Jews. Their journey from the east, (likely Babylon) was a journey of about 800-900 miles. They traveled by caravan. Having armed guards to protect them as was the custom of the day is probable, since they were carrying expensive items, especially the gold.

They made that difficult and dangerous months-long journey. The Magi had incomplete knowledge of the King of the Jews, Daniel was long gone 700 years before, and any remaining Hebrews in Babylon likely had probably long since apostatized.

What would spur influential Nobles like the Magi to seek out the Christ child with such single-minded purpose? We don’t know but we can surmise that their knowledge was incomplete. They were not known as strong worshipers of Yahweh but custom says they were Zoroastrians.

More astonishingly, not only did the Magi make the effort to journey to Jerusalem, (a HUGE undertaking), not only did they diligently seek the Child, and then trek to Bethlehem, they fell down and worshiped Him! They did not come to simply gather intel, they did not come simply to offer gifts. They weren’t rubberneckers or looky-loos. They came to WORSHIP HIM.

Let us contrast the diligence and humility of the Magi, pagans from a far-off land, to the Priests & Scribes, priests to the very Jews of whom Jesus had come to be king.

Imagine the scene. A caravan of Nobles along with their animals, tents, and guards, a HUGE retinue, arrives in Jerusalem. It would be akin to the Presidential Motorcade, with the cadre of motorcycles at the front, police cars with sirens, several black SUVs, and all the trailing cars. It’s a hubbub.

The Magi started asking around where is the King of the Jews, and finally got to Herod. Herod was troubled. I would be too if such a large company arrived at my door. But Herod, the Scribes, and Priests evidence no amazement. Worse, when they were asked where is the Christ child to be born, the Priests and Scribes answered immediately. The knew the scripture from Micah 5, and said ‘Bethlehem’. /Yawn/

It is not recorded that the Scribes and Priests said ‘we shall look into this as well.’ They did not ask why the Magi had arrived. Crickets. These Jerusalem men had full knowledge, revelation given to them by Yahweh Himself in the Old Testament. They spend their days studying, talking, interpreting. But when the moment came, in the form of a noticeable retinue of seekers from the east asking for the Messiah, they didn’t even walk the 5 miles to Bethlehem to check it out!

We think of others in the Bible who had incomplete knowledge, but still expended a great deal of effort to find God. The Ethiopian Eunuch, traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship God. He was in charge of all the treasure of Queen Candace, but was humble enough to admit admitted his incomplete knowledge. He was willing to be taught.

Queen of Sheba of 1 Kings 10:1. Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon in relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with riddles. 2 So she came to Jerusalem with a very large entourage, with camels carrying balsam oil and a very large quantity of gold and precious stones.

She spoke with Solomon for a long time and was amazed. She concluded, “Blessed are your men, and blessed are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to put you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loves Israel forever, He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:8-9).

Queen of Sheba was careful to question Solomon in relation to the name of the Lord, and also attributed Solomon’s success to God.

No wonder Jesus pronounced woes upon the Scribes and Priests! They had the most knowledge yet were the most apathetic.

Just because a person has head knowledge does not mean much. The rough fishermen whom Jesus called to be His disciples did not have as much knowledge as the Priests & Scribes. Yet they followed Him when called. Mary, though a young girl, was submissive, obedient, and humble. She knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior.

The difference is acting on the knowledge you DO have. Mary said yes. The Ethiopian Eunuch said please teach me. Sheba traveled to find out more. The Magi sought the Child so they could worship Him. Put your head knowledge into action in service to the Lord. Don’t rest in your head like the Scribes & Priests. Their apathy soon turned to hostility. There are only two responses to Christ: worship or rejection. Whatever knowledge you have, whether a seasoned theologian or a new convert-act on it. Act: pray, seek, question, learn, and above all, involve the heart: worship.

Posted in theology

Acceptable worship pleasing to the Lord

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter Sunday. People of all stripes drove to their local church, enjoyed an Easter, and afterward people ate together in a Sunday Supper. I say people of all stripes, because it’s one day of two that unsaved family members can sometimes be pressed to join saved family members in the service. Also, Christians-in-name only attend, those would be the people who go to church twice a year, Christmas and Easter. Some people call them Chreasters, a word combining Christmas and Easter.

True Christians see the Resurrection Sunday service as a high point of the year. And why not? It’s the high point of our faith. It’s the high point of history. It’s the high point of eternity. I pray that the joy we felt in the service will be present in our hearts every day, all year. Remember the cross. Remember the resurrection. Remember the ascension. Remember He is coming again.

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Posted in heaven, theology

What a day that will be!

By Elizabeth Prata

I hope you think of heaven every day. I hope you think of our home, the country where we are destined to go. I hope you rejoice in the fact that it exists. I hope you are thrilled with the fact that we will be joining the Savior in heaven someday. I hope you think on the fact that His work on the cross made this possible.

He lived as a human (though still God) … endured a lifetime of mundanity and obscurity (even though He is glorious King of All) … received mocking, insults, beatings, humiliation, and death on a cross (even though He received only praise and honor in heaven)… He did all that to be obedient to His Father, and to redeem a people.

We know all this. (I hope).

I do think about heaven a lot. What it will be like to be there. To be in a place of purity and glory. To praise Jesus.

Jesus expects certain kind of worship. He does not accept any type of worship we throw at Him. He has His commandments, which describe a high standard of having no idols, having no other gods before Him, and not taking His name in vain. He has His Old Testament, in which His standards are scrupulously outlined. (No strange fire, Leviticus 10:1-2, Numbers 26:61). He has His New Testament in which we are given precepts for worship and service (No lying, as Ananias and Sapphira discovered, etc). And so on. Jesus does not receive any old worship.

I often think of when I’m in heaven, praising him from pure lips. (Zephaniah 3:9). I contemplate the praise and song I will be delighted to offer Him. I picture the global Bride before His throne, singing and exclaiming to the King.

Then of late, my mental gaze shifts from seeing me in the global body, to picturing Jesus, receiving praise from His Bride. He will accept the song and worship and acclamations that He is due. He will accept praise and honor and glory and it will not be filtered through the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). The worship Jesus receives on the Day we are brought home will not be rejected as having impure motivations (Proverbs 16:2, Jeremiah 17:9, Hebrews 4:12).

The praise and honor we give Jesus in heaven will be pure and holy and accepted as His due. I cannot wait to see that moment. Picture the global Bride, installed in heaven’s New Jerusalem, where there is no sun to compete with the Light that is the Son. Picture the songs and praises flowing from the rejoicing (and relieved) humanity He redeemed. Picture that glorious throne, upon which sits the King at the right hand of the Father, the train of His robe filling the temple. (I know I’m mixing metaphors and timing of the heavenly temple and the eternal state). Picture the light around His face, hair white as snowy wool, smiling as He surveys His bride, who is singing to Him.

When from our lips and hearts, we offer all honor to Jesus, and He accepts it, because He deserves it. Finally, finally He is given what He expects and is worthy of.

What a day that will be.

the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.
(Revelation 4:10-11).

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9).

set your mind on heaven verse

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Joy in Lord’s Day worship

Valley of Vision: Lord’s Day Evening

MOST HOLY GOD,
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise
will never cease,
that adoration will continue for ever,
that no flesh will grow weary,
no congregations disperse,
no affections flag,
no thoughts wander,
no will droop,
but all will be adoring love.

 

We have our worship together today, and as the Lord’s Day hours progress and come to their end this evening, I pray I will reflect on the joy to come of eternal worship among the assembly, in heaven, forever.

window 3 spurgeon quote

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Worshiping the Creator of creation

I like natural history. It’s God’s creation. I like thinking about how He has created everything from nothing with just a word. I see the intricacy of His creatures and flora and fauna and I’m just amazed. But reading natural history books is a two-edged sword. Most are written from a secular point of view, and at some point the pricks of the constant lies within such books grate, and I abandon the endeavor.

Only to try again later, lol.

I wrote recently about the Victorian craze for seaweed collecting. This was a craze in which mostly women who were constrained by cultural pressure not to collect the more seductive looking plants participated. It was based on an original article at Atlas Obscura, which is a secular magazine. My article was to look at the issue through a biblical lens.

One of the natural history books mentioned in the Atlas Obscura article was a seaweed journal by Margaret Gatty. AO wrote of her,

One of the best known and most dedicated of these so-called seaweeders was Margaret Gatty, a children’s book author who took up the hobby while convalescing in Hastings, on Britain’s southeast coast, in 1848. Gatty’s crowning work of algology, British Sea-Weeds, is an exhaustive compilation of local seaweeds, fully described and illustrated in 86 colored plates.

These are selected plates of her seaweed drawings,

Selected plates from Margaret Gatty’s “British Sea-Weeds.” BIODIVERSITY HERITAGE LIBRARY/PUBLIC DOMAIN

I love those colored plates from natural history books from the 1800s. I own two rare books,

A popular history of the mollusca : comprising a familiar account of their classification, instincts and habits and of the growth and distinguishing characters of their shells, by Mary Roberts, 1851; and

Popular British conchology. A familiar history of the molluscs inhabiting the British Isles, By George Brettingham Sowerby, 1854.

I love the hand colored plates of the plants or animals they carefully drew. I also have several books by Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (secular guy, sigh). There’s French poet-philosopher Paul Valery in his engaging meditation on the aesthetics of the seashell, as Amazon describes his work. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s musings on shells in her famous Gift from the Sea. And so many other books. I guess now that I’m thinking of listing them, my library contains quite a few natural history books. Rachel Carson, Farley Mowat, John Hay, Abbot & Dance…

In this article I enjoyed from the New York Times Review of Books, I learned from this article “What the Trees Say,

In 1664 John Evelyn, diarist, country gentleman, and commissioner at the court of Charles II, produced his monumental book on trees: Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees. It was a seventeenth-century best seller. Evelyn was a true son of the Renaissance. His book is learned and witty and practical and passionate all by turns. No later book on trees has ever had such an impact on the British public.

I love trees. Maybe I’ll get that book. Hmmm. Maybe you’ll get those books.

As much as I love reading about the creation from scientists of various kinds, there’s nothing like reading the Bible, God’s actual account of His world. As poetic as Lindbergh was, as witty as John Evelyn was, as precise as Sowerby or Roberts was, the thrill of reading about the creation from God Himself never fails to thrill me. As familiar as these verses are, they still ignite a reverent awe at His power:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7And God madeb the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:1-8)

Nature displays God’s glory. The best place to read about that is His word, what He, Himself, has declared.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. (Psalm 96:11-12)

We are glad because as Job 12:10 says,

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Is there any better place to be, if you’re saved? In His hand? Is there any worse place to be, if you’re not saved?

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

Read of His creation. The essays, poems, philosophies of the secular writers and scientists is fine, also good are Natural History books on the Bible such as The Scripture Alphabet of Animals by Mrs. Harriet N. Cook, 1842; The Plants of the Bible by John Hutton Balfour, 1885. But the originator of it all is the one to be worshiped and the best place to do that is read of Him in His word.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)