Friday, November 24, 2017

The Idlers at the Gate


‎This celebrated sixty-ninth psalm has been called the missionary’s psalm. It speaks of the miseries of one far from home and kindred, of one who proclaims God to those who will not heed. The unbelievers, in their rage and scorn, heap injury upon the preacher, afflict him both in body and in mind. "Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me."

‎Then follows the picture of this good man mocked by the idlers who even to-day, as in the psalmist’s time, gather about the gate of every Eastern city, to chat with those who pass, and comment upon them. The ridicule of these falls heavily upon the psalmist; he cries out, "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none."

Source: The Bible and its Story, Volume 6: Poetry–Prophets, Psalms to Isaiah

The Bible and Its Story is a massive collection of images which illuminate the story of Scripture. The images are taken from modern paintings, illustrations, and other renderings of the ancient text. Together, The Bible and its Story serves as a pictorial narrative of the entire story of the Bible—from beginning to end. It compiles the best of modern artwork to bring the Bible vividly to life.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

I wish you all a blessed day with friends and/or family. For those who can't be with friends or family, if you're working as a first responder such as nurse, doctor, law enforcement, and the like, or serving in the Armed Forces, thank you!

Grace to you all.



Free vintage postcard courtesy of thegraphicsfairy.com

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lot received so much mercy

Picture by Violet Nesdoly, patterned after
“Escape for thy life” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
The story of Lot is an interesting one. Abraham's nephew, we're familiar with Lot's origins from Genesis 11:27,

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot.

When Haran died, Terah took in Lot and raised him. Later when Abram heard God and prepared to leave his home in obedience, Lot went with his uncle Abram. (Genesis 12:4).

Much later as their joined herds grew so large that the pastures would not feed them all, Lot chose the plain toward Sodom and Abram let Lot have that choice and Abram went the other way. The two separated. It wasn't long after that Lot was living IN Sodom and had become one of its elders sitting at the gate. You know all this. Lot received mercy through all these choices and his downward spiral.

Now, when the outcry against Sodom had grown terrible, God sent Jesus and two angels to destroy Sodom and the other 4 cities of the plain (Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and tiny Zoar). Abram pleaded to save Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people that may live in it. Unfortunately, the city was so wicked, ten righteous could not be found, and its destruction was scheduled. The Lord again offered mercy to Lot and here are the examples.

He sent the two angels into the city to warn Lot, his wife, and any family members. We see again that Lot's character isn't the best. Lot knew the angels were from God and he understood that judgment was coming. He even had seen the angels perform a miracle by striking all the men of the lustful mob blind. Even at the very last moments of Sodom's life as a city, Lot was still making incredibly bad choices.

Pleading with the mob, he offers them his virginal daughters to rape instead. That was a craven and unconscionable thing for a father to do.

Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof. (Genesis 19:8).

Then when Lot attempted to warn his sons-in-law, Lot's witness was so poor that they thought he was joking. Lot was not spiritual convincing in the least.

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. (Genesis 18:14).

Even then, Lot lingered. We all know that Mrs Lot turned her head and looked back, violating the angels' command, but Lot lingered in Sodom too!

But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16).

Even through all this, the Lord is still offering Lot mercy. But when the angels told Lot to run and go fast away from Sodom to the hills, he whined and complained that he couldn't! He asked instead to be allowed to run to Zoar.

I'd like to think that if two of God's holy angels arrived and told me to leave because the place where I lived was about to be destroyed, I'd listen. Moreover, I'd like to think that I wouldn't disobey, and would not be bold enough to negotiate the terms! But Lot did.

Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved. (Genesis 19:20).

And finally, even though the angels told Lot that they would not overthrow the little town Lot spoke of, Lot was still afraid!

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. (Genesis 19:30).

In 2 Peter 2:7 Lot is called righteous. Three times.

Take comfort from Lot's string of decisions. I am sure that I have made such poor decisions in my Christian life, one after another. I surely would have deserved death. But the Lord strove with Lot and allowed the angels to grant him favor after favor. The Lord loves whom He loves and He has mercy upon whom He has mercy.

Do you know why Lot was called righteous by Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit not just once but three times in the verses from 2 Peter?

"because he was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men, for by what he saw and heard that righteous man while living among them felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds."

Lot hated sin.

That's it. The Lord has mercy on fathers who fail their daughters, on morally weak men, on stumblers and whiners and bumblers. Like I am, and you are. When we hate sin, our own and others', we are on the right side of God - for He is holy.

Take comfort in Lot's example. Hate sin, love God, and trust that He has mercy for those who strive to holiness and fight against sin.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Prata Potpourri: Women's discipleship, Librarians on horseback, reviving prayer time, more

A selection of links I've come across that you might find edifying, interesting, or amusing!

Rachelle Cox at Each Passing Phase wrote about Getting Real About Women's Discipleship.
In his book Discipling, author Mark Dever offers a to-the-point definition of discipleship as "helping others follow Jesus". This doesn't seem to be the definition many women are applying in their personal lives. If Instagram is any clue, most Christian women think discipleship is limited to hosting thoughtfully curated Bible studies in tasteful homes where shrieking children and dirty dishes don’t exist. This glossy ideal sits like a yoke on many women's shoulders rather than spurring them onward in Christ’s Great Commission.
From The Master's Seminary we read How to Revive a Lifeless Prayer Time
I want to share with you ten practical ideas to stimulate our times in prayer. If we are honest, most admit that a consistent life of prayer can be a struggle to sustain. But it need not be that way since prayer is truly a vital aspect of our walk of faith.
From Christian Book Shop Talk On the Smell of Books, and Bookstores
If you've been in this business for awhile, you know there's nothing like walking into a bookstore or book warehouse and breathing in the smell of books. Perhaps you're one of the people who cracks open a recent arrival to the middle page and inhales deeply.
Founder's Ministries writes about Fear and the Christian
Fear is a natural emotion common to all human beings, and it is neither inherently sinful or godly. Our fears are often connected to the things we love the most. We may fear losing something or someone we love. Or we might fear that we will fail to obtain something we desire. We may fear offending one we love. Or perhaps we feel a reverential fear of something or someone we admire. The cause of our fears is often the love or admiration of some created thing or of God Himself.
Christa Threlfall at Brown Sugar Toast writes about Sacrificing Holiness for Authenticity
It was Saturday morning. Driving home from an early morning run, I stopped by a yard sale and snagged the classic game of Battleship for the low, low price of $1. I had fond memories of playing this game in elementary school and looked forward to wowing my family with my incredible skills. Only that’s not quite what happened.
Nicholas T. Batzing at Feeding on Christ reminds us that when speaking of Jesus' Church we speak of His Bride in this piece, When speaking about Jesus' Bride
The visible church–in whatever shapes or forms it may take–is the bride of Christ. We must resist the urge to speak critically of her without giving her the requisite love and care that Jesus wants us to give those for whom he has shed his precious blood.
GotQuestions isn't a static repository of articles. The authors there constantly publish new ones. Here's a new article, answering the question, What does it mean that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)?
What does it mean that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)? How can I come to the point that I consider dying to be gain?
History:

Female Librarians on Horseback Delivering Books, ca. 1930s
In the 1930s, many people living in isolated communities had very little access to jobs, let alone a good education for their children. In Kentucky, they had isolated mountain communities which could only get their books and reading material from one source… librarians on horseback.

Photography:

Photos taken by helicopter reveal stunning symmetry of airports




Monday, November 20, 2017

Real life Christian confession, Bible reading, study, and stuff

Real Christianity Confession Time:

I had a terrible week last week. I encountered some adverse conditions and I became petulant, grumpy, irritable, and self-pitying. I forewent Bible reading, rationalizing that I was too upset and couldn't think just now. Of course, in adverse conditions, Bible reading is the first place one should go, not the last. But there you have it.

By the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit I recovered my equilibrium. I attended to some things I'd neglected the last week all day on Saturday, and on Sunday I devoted myself to church service, prayer, and small group fellowship. I'd promised the Lord that on Monday (today) I'd get back to it with a vengeance, since I was home from work on Thanksgiving break and had all the time in the world.

So by 11:00 this morning, I'd done-

10 chapters of Bible reading,
1 chapter read in Hidden Life of Prayer,
1 chapter read in Gerstner's Theology in Dialogue,
1 chapter lesson completed in Jess Pickowicz's Biblical Doctrine study,
Lecture 1 of Hebrews by Dr Abner Chou listened to, plus NT overview
4 pages of notes on legal pad

I am a Theology BEAST. Sadly, by a few days from now I know that I'll be a theology wimp. I tend to slide. I start out good but slacken, then speed up and then slow down. Goodness, I totally understand Paul when he said

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. (Romans 7:15).

O Lord, have mercy on this weak woman, and help me stay consistent in Bible reading and study!!

Here are some thoughts and insights gained by the Spirit during today's studying bonanza.

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EPrata photo
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18He said to him, "Which ones?" (Matthew 19:16-18a).

This made me laugh out loud. Which ones? Like we can pick and choose? Whether as Gill's Expositions says, the Rich Young Ruler
Whether those commandments of a moral, or of a ceremonial kind; whether the commands of the written, or of the oral law; of God, or of the elders, or both; or whether he did not mean some new commandments of his own, which he delivered as a teacher sent from God:
or whether the Rich Young Ruler had the original ten laws in mind, asking "which ones" just shows how blind he was. No one can keep any of the laws perfectly their whole life. But the man confidently replied to Jesus' answer as to which laws that "all these I have kept". Some believe that the Rich Young Ruler was indeed Saul of Tarsus. If he was, then the Lord's mercy is great. If he wasn't, I pray that mercy came to that young ruler sometime before his death, when eternity becomes fixed.

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I do my daily Bible reading in the NKJV. The verse at Psalm 18:4 says,

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

Me too, David, me too.

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The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— (Psalm 18:46).

A GREAT verse!

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Job 18: man, this is rough, very rough, It's not only rough because Bildad is heaping scorn on Job, and telling him to snap out of it, but Bildad is excruciating in his detailed list of what and how the wicked endure the coming punishment. Read Job 18 if you begin to lose your compassion for the lost.

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For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (Matthew 19:12)

Yes.

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Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

God is generous. We may only understand Him through His word, and we can only understand the word via His Spirit, but He has given to us His Spirit. Freely.

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"You don't want to just know the word of God. You want to know the God of the word." Dr Abner Chou, The Master's Seminary, Hebrews lecture #1.

Read the word to gain an understanding of who Jesus is, to commune with Him, to understand His revealed attributes, commands, precepts, and plans. Every time I let Bible reading go and then return to it, I am refreshed and wonder why I let it go in the first place. I am a silly person, stumbling and bumbling along. No doubt I'll mourn my wastrel ways when I get to heaven and see the glories Jesus has set before us. All I can do now is try again. And again...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

They were Talking with Jesus

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3).

The Transfiguration

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31).

The disciples were heavy with sleep and initially did not notice the change in Jesus' appearance. He was with them though, praying, and then, as He changed, talking with two men. The men were Moses and Elijah. The Bible identifies them for us.

Moss and Elijah had departed the earth centuries before. Moses had died (Deuteronomy 34:4) but his body was never found. Satan and Michael had been disputing over it so God just took the body and put it somewhere. Elijah the Prophet had personally been taken by God, bodily to heaven. (2 Kings 2:11). So these two men had been in heaven for many centuries, and Jesus was talking with them. Yet Jesus was bodily here on earth, too, and shortly before this had been talking with the three Disciples. When they awoke, Peter talked with all three of them- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Then God broke into the conversation! What an amazing scene.

This is an example of the attribute of Jesus we call omnipresence.

Omni means all. Think of omniscient or omnivirous. And presence means presence. Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20b that he would always be with all His people.

"behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

"For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus was talking with two men who were in heaven, and He was also with the sleeping and soon-to-wake disciples on earth - at the same time.

No matter how alone you feel, or what you are going through, He IS with you and will be forever. It is an insanely difficult concept to grasp, that He is eternally in body form ascended in heaven, but He is also with each and every saint who is in His fold, even if they're here on earth. We can trust His promise though. He is with you. We serve a great and loving God.

Linked below are a few resources for you on the Omnipresence of Jesus

What does it mean that God is omnipresent?

How is Jesus omnipresent?

The Omnipresent Son of God

God: What is He Like? (exploring His attribute of omnipresence)

"'Do not I fill heaven and earth,’ saith the Lord?" (Jeremiah 23:24).


Saturday, November 18, 2017

"What does this verse mean to you?" Not manifold meanings, but one

"What does this verse mean to you?" is a phrase oft-heard at Bible Study groups and the like. It suggests that Bible verses and passages can be interpreted variably, or that there can be multiple meanings to one text.

This is not so. The question should be "What does this verse mean?" Period.

The Author intended one meaning to any verse, any passage, and to all of scripture. There might be many applications the Spirit puts in our mind as He illuminates it, but there is one meaning and one meaning only.

As RC Sproul says in his course Knowing God, a 12-part lecture series on interpreting the Bible:
There is only one correct meaning of any biblical text.
The Westminster Confession states,
IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
The implications of this understanding about how to interpret the Bible are as follows:

Some say there is a rapture. Some say there is no rapture. Only one interpretation is right. It's not both. It can't be.

Some say the rapture will happen prior to the Tribulation. Some say it will happen afterward. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that the Church is the new Israel. Others say that the Church and Israel's destinies are separate and distinct. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that any person can, on their own initiative, ignite an internal faith in Jesus and be saved. Others say that faith is ignited by the Sovereign alone, and it only comes upon those whom He has chosen since before the foundation of the world. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that there will be a 1000-year Kingdom on earth after the Tribulation. Others say there will not be any such literal Kingdom. Only one interpretation is right.

Some hold to believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and state that only those who make a credible profession of faith ought to be baptized. Others hold to infant baptism (paedobaptism) and believe that the children of believers ought to be baptized. (Challies). Only one interpretation is right.

The doctrines noted above from eschatology or covenant theology or ecclesiology are diametrically opposed. One cannot believe both at the same time. It is unwise to believe the Bible projects both as true. Therefore, if a person believes one interpretation is true, by necessity, one must reject the other as false.

To help get you started on interpreting the Bible correctly, here is a booklet you can order if you never contacted Grace To You before, or purchase for $1.50, or just read for free online,

How to Study Your Bible
Learn specifically how to read, interpret, meditate on, and teach the Bible in this life-changing study!



The Idlers at the Gate

‎This celebrated sixty-ninth psalm has been called the missionary’s psalm. It speaks of the miseries of one far from home and kindred, of o...