Thursday, March 22, 2018

Imagine the dawn chorus in heaven

This article was first published on The End Time in September 2012.

I love the pre-dawn. It is quiet and cool and dark but the light is coming, and already is.

I live in an area which is fairly rural, and there is not much traffic. Though I live on a major artery in the county, there isn't enough traffic even during the day to really bother me. However, in the pre-dawn, there is none at all. I can hear from afar off the dogs bark, cows moo, occasional owl screech, an early rooster...

At about 6 am there is always one bird. From out of the darkness, suddenly, there will be a happy series of chirps. He is loud, and the sound is joyous to me. Not to anthropomorphize too much, but the bird really does sound happy. The piercing, lengthy call sounds like he is waking up his brethren. Perhaps it is an ovenbird.

After the first bird goes first, then in a few moments the dawn chorus begins. The dawn chorus is a worldwide event. At Cornell, they wrote, "The dawn chorus is one of the most conspicuous vocal behaviors of birds, and one of the least understood. Near sunrise, birds often sing more loudly and vigorously than they do at other times of the day."

I like to think they are thanking their Creator. He knows them, and I like to think they know their Creator back. God says, "I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine." (Psalms 50:11). We know that all creation groaneth in travail until now, (Romans 8:22). They they sing in joy as well?

Birds suffer for man's sin, (Genesis 6:7; Jeremiah 12:4; Ezekiel 38:20;Hosea 4:3). The bible says they flee away when calamity comes as well. (Jeremiah 4:25; Jeremiah 9:10)

Yet they sing:

10You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (Psalm 104:10-13)

Imagine the 'dawn chorus' in heaven! Birds will sing all the time because there is no dusk and no dawn, only day! (1 John 1:5, Revelation 21:25).

I believe that in heaven when He brings His bride to her place and presents our dwelling place to us, our rooms will not have screens on the windows. Because why would they? No biting insects or animals will creep in and harass us. All creation will be reconciled to its Creator and there will be no reason to have bars or screens to keep things out, or in. Maybe a bird will swoop in to my room and sing in joy at the perfection of the Creator and gladness to be part of it, and I will join. Together we are all groaning now, but the Day will come when we will all sing in joyous praise to the One who made us. Birds too.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the first bird each morning, knowing that before the day's groaning begins, there is joy in creation among the created.

EPrata photos

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why every woman should be a theologian: The Master's University Table Talk

EPrata collage
The advent of the internet has afforded Christian men and women opportunity to learn from many credible teachers and pastors, and to access a variety of different theological resources.

For example, all of Charles Spurgeon's sermons and writings are online. John Owen is online. Pilgrim's Progress is online. John MacArthur's sermons, over 3000 of them, are online. Martyn Lloyd Jones, S. Lewis Johnson, BB Warfield sermons and materials, online, Valley of Vision, online. Blogs, podcasts, courses both free and paid (i.e Mt Zion Chapel Library, free; Ligonier, affordable paid), books, pamphlets, art work, lexicons, concordances, and more are available tot he  believer as resources.


In some ways, this period of time has given people, women in particular, opportunity to become deeply involved with the Word, especially if (other than her pastor) she has no males in her life, such as a Godly husband or brothers, father, etc. It is a rich time.

Alternately, the potential for deception among women has never been greater, either. Women are especially vulnerable to false teaching (2 Timothy 3:6, 1 Peter 3:7) and we must guard ourselves by all the means available to us. While many online ministries are solid, many other ministries online promote false teaching. Even church sermons posted on the internet can contain false teaching, as well as the false doctrine perpetuated by ministries that exist online only. So much falsity.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared... (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4).

While it is true that the Bible prohibits women from operating in some roles (teaching men, pastoring), the Bible encourages all believers, women included, to be theologians. Being a theologian simply means you study God in His revealed self, via the Bible.

To that end, this Table Talk discussion from The Master's University was helpful. The topic was Why Every Woman Should be A Theologian. Professor Abner Chou facilitated, and several other professors answered questions as the discussion went on.

The opening question was asked:
In light of complementarianism, we often emphasize things in light of what women cannot do; she cannot teach (men) she cannot preach or be a pastor. But let's turn this around and ask what does the Bible encourage women to do? How can women can be active participants in the church?
One of the Professors answered (I'm sorry, his introduction was not contained in the tape):
Every believer is a theologian. Theology is simply asking and answering, 'Who is God?' Every time we ask 'Who is Jesus' we are engaging in theology. Believers should be about understanding who God is and how He has revealed Himself. Pursuing who He is is a key aspect that should fill the lives of every believer.
The talk went on from there. Betty Price, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies; Women's Ministries, noted :
For too many years women's Bible studies have been too light and fluffy, and not have been a serious study. It's really hard to find something that gives much depth at all. They're always quick little surface study guides that have a Bible clip and a few fill-in-the-blank questions in a workbook. Perhaps women have not been encouraged enough. ... [Women's studies] are geared around fellowship and social times, probably more than being a theologian. That's not all bad, many of the women are stay-at-home moms and need the social times to come together with other adults. But I'd like to see deeper studies.

Here is the link. The talk is about an hour:

Mentioned in the Talk:

Book- To Preach or Not To Preach? By Professor William Varner
A study of the religious role of women in the Old Testament through the New Testament periods. Emphasis is placed on both the privilege and the limitations of women's ministry in the early church.

Other resources:

Todd Friel's Drive By series. He titled the series Drive By, and deliberately made the lectures short because the Internet was that student-theologians like you and me could listen to them in the car, even if the commute was short. However, these are also  perfect for the stay-at-home mom who doesn't often have a long, lingering hour to delve into a Bible study, but can find 8-15 minutes to listen to a lecture (and follow up in the word later).

I've listened to the lectures in all three of these, they're good. There are also other Drive By series, such as Drive By Biblical Counseling, etc.

Drive By Theology
35 Systematic Theology Lessons- Join Todd Friel and Dr. Steve Lawson (Dr. Metaphor) as they take you through 35 short lectures on every theology from bibliology to soteriology and every other "-ology" and you will see that the Bible is exactly what it says it is, "profitable for all of life and godliness." $24.99

Drive By Pneumatology (Study of the Holy Spirit)
Drive By Pneumatology will provide a thorough, thoughtful and Biblical presentation on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. $19.99

Drive By Discernment
Wolves are leaping over the fence. The sheep seem to be oblivious to their wiles. Drive By Discernment is designed to sharpen your skill to help you separate the true from the almost true. $19.99 – $24.99

Ladies, every woman should be a theologian. Priscilla was. Anna was. Mary was. The Bereans were. We can be too. Being a theologian simply means looking into His word to discover more each day who God is.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Prata Potpourri: Contending, Cougars, Spurgeon, Movie about a Song, more

What's been goin' on in Christian spheres lately? Let's take a peek. Here are some links for your interest and edification-

A lot of people are talking about this movie. Is the positive talk warranted? It seems that it is.
The Story of a Song: Movie Review by The World
Anyone who’s been to church in the last decade probably knows or has sung it, but in a culture where un-Biblical heaven tourism books and movies abound, the song’s simple, sound reminder that no eye has seen what God has prepared for those who love Him is especially welcome.
Please remember our persecuted brethren.

Hindu-on-Christian Persecution
India: the 11th worst place on earth for Christians.
During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.

Judge Not? A good, scriptural look by Bob Utley at the famous verses thrown at our faces when confronting sin or false teachers.
Answer this question – 'Who removes the speck from his brother’s eye in verse 7'?

Jen Oshman has a bit about Sisters helping sisters: The Power of Sisterhood: Women Spurring Women to Do Hard and Good Things
I am convinced the best way women can serve one another—and even the entire world—is to meet together and to encourage one another to love and good works.

Rebecca Stark with some good thoughts about contending. Would you stand idly by and watch your young son get mauled by a cougar?

Faced with a dangerous attack on a beloved child, would any mother simply stand and watch? No, a mother's love for her child compels her to protect and defend—and fight to the death if necessary.

The lead article on a credible blog is about eschatology? I'm so there!
4 Reasons to Anticipate the Return of Jesus
As we go about daily routines, too often our lives become routine. It seems as if there is a missing purpose at times to simple conversations in the community and other less-than-glorious responsibilities like changing diapers or mopping the kitchen floor. Are you anxiously anticipating the return of King Jesus or do you find yourself reading your Bible and doing life disconnected from the precious promise that Jesus will return?

Are parables just simplistic stories teaching a moral lesson? No. For the Church has more. By the way, John MacArthur's book Parables is fantastic.
The parables Jesus tells in the four Gospels are peculiar kinds of stories that too many readers read very wrongly. It's important, then, to clear up some common misconceptions about these important stories. I want to share with you what the parables are, but first, it is helpful to establish what they are not.

Spurgeon read The Pilgrim’s Progress at age 6 and went on to read it over 100 times.


The collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry fill 63 volumes? Phil Johnson curates The Spurgeon Archives. Most of Spurgeon's sermons are there, along with Morning & Evening, Sword & Trowel, and other material. The Spurgeon Center also has much material.

I have been enjoying Derek Thomas' daily 22 minute videos at going through John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Wonderful!

Thomas' lectures on The Pilgrim's Progress here (so far). The series began on March 13, 2018

The City of Destruction
The Wicket Gate
The Interpreter's House
The Cross & the Sepulcher
The Hill Difficulty
The Palace Beautiful
The Valley of Humiliation

This photo, just because I like it. Have a good day!

EPrata photo

Monday, March 19, 2018

It is true that the Prodigal Son only needed a sandwich and a bed?

Phil Johnson posted a quote by Vince Havner the other day. Here it is:
"If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich and he never would have gone home."
That resonated with me because I'd just an hour before finished listening to Tom Pennington's sermon at Shepherds' Conference 2018 about the Mission of the Church. He opened his sermon with refuting the social gospel AKA social justice, and went on to convincingly and convictingly exhort to his listeners about our true mission. Matthew 28's passage known as The Great Commission is our true and only mission.

Tom Pennington during his sermon, asking about the Social gospel AKA Social justice AKA Missional:
Instead of social gospel the new label became social justice. Its rebranding of liberal theology remains. The priority of social justice has become extremely popular even among those under that broad term evangelicalism
The question is this, is this redefinition of mission a biblical redefinition? Or, is social justice either the church's primary mission, or part of the church's primary mission? What does the scripture say?
Pennington went on to read the following passage, stating that nowhere in scripture is our primary mission clearer.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Here is GotQuestions with a definition of The Social Gospel:
The phrase "social gospel" is usually used to describe a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those who adhered to a social gospel sought to apply Christian ethics to social problems such as poverty, slums, poor nutrition and education, alcoholism, crime, and war. These things were emphasized while the doctrines of sin, salvation, heaven and hell, and the future kingdom of God were downplayed. Theologically, the social gospel leaders were overwhelmingly postmillennialist, asserting that Christ’s Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort.
Another explanation I liked as to what the Social Gospel is comes from a secular Australian website I'm unfamiliar with, called The Conversation:
The social gospel's origins are often traced to the rise of late 19th-century urban industrialization, immediately following the Civil War. Largely, but not exclusively, rooted in Protestant churches, the social gospel emphasized how Jesus' ethical teachings could remedy the problems caused by "Gilded Age" capitalism. 
Movement leaders took Jesus' message "love thy neighbor" into pulpits, published books and lectured across the country. Other leaders, mostly women, ran settlement houses designed to alleviate the sufferings of immigrants living in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago. Their mission was to draw attention to the problems of poverty and inequality – especially in America’s growing cities. 
Charles Sheldon, a minister in the city of Topeka, Kansas, explained the idea behind the social gospel in his 1897 novel "In His Steps." To be a Christian, he argued, one needed to walk in Jesus’s footsteps. 
The book's slogan, "What would Jesus do?" became a central theme of the social gospel movement which also became tied to a belief in what Ohio minister Washington Gladden called "social salvation." This concept emphasized that religion's fundamental purpose was to create systemic changes in American political structures.
So that is the social gospel. I don't know who said it first, but the phrase goes something like this: "If you have to put any adjective in front of 'gospel' it ceases to the the Gospel." The phrase refers to newly coined movements like 'prosperity gospel', 'social gospel,' 'health-wealth gospel" and the like.

With that foundation laid, the clarification I saw from Phil Johnson follows-
"I was surprised at the number of people who seemed confused by the Vance Havner quote. Here it is again, with an explanation. 

The social gospel is not Christian altruism. For a great sermon on The Prodigal Son and how caring for his immediate temporal needs would not have helped him, HB Charles explains well, here.

For a great sermon on the actual mission of the church, Tom Pennington convincingly brings it home powerfully at this year's Shepherds Conference as already mentioned, here.

As Mr Pennington said, a refutation of the social gospel/social justice/missional is not a call to ignore needs of the people around us. Christian charity meets people's needs. But as far as a heavy emphasis and/or a reorientation of our mission toward Christian acts of charity with intent to bring economic justice or material harmony to the world? No. Just no.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Even more than the watchmen of the night!

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:6)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist is comparing his wait for the LORD to a watchman in the night. The Psalmist is waiting on the light, or fruition, but his very soul waits. For what or for whom? The LORD Himself.

Being a watchman in the deep night is lonely. Time itself seems to drag.

I am witness to the darkness before the dawn myself. I lived on a sailboat with my husband for two years, making sea journeys overnight offshore through day and night and a day and a night. Standing watch through the night, being out in the weather, alone on the sea, makes one desperately appreciate the light. All you do is stand, and watch. You watch the dark, you look at the sky, which is also dark if it's covered in clouds. One is insignificant against the yawning, grasping dark surrounding you on all sides. You stand, and look, and wait.

The 3:00am watch is dark, cold, and seemingly endless. Time seems to expand into an eternity of nothingness and blackest of black coal. When one glimpses the first glimmer of a change from blackest coal sky to indigo then blue then the pink and golds of sunrise, the heart lifts and one feels that one has emerged from an endless tunnel in which one’s very soul had been swallowed.

This is the allusion the Psalmist is making here in the Psalm. He is watching and waiting for the sunrise of glory to come, eager for it, even more than those watchmen who wait in the night through the deepest dark!

We, sisters, should live in hope of His coming. The greatest burst of light at dawn dispelling the deep black of life here on hearth will not compare to His return in glory. Eager expectation should be our attitude. Our very soul to its depths should long for our Groom. Redemption is coming!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Living in interesting times

EPrata photo
Praise the Lord, we live in interesting times!*

There is a proverb/curse of alleged Chinese origin, "May you live in interesting times." The implication is that a life lived in interesting times is less desirable than one lived in peace and tranquility. To be sure, the danger and uncertainty and lack and want of these years are difficult to manage sometimes, but surely it is better to live in interesting times than uninteresting. Why? Jesus.

We could change that phrase to "May you live in prophetic times" and it would be better applicable for the believer. For those who are IN the Lord, believers in Jesus and saved by His grace, we know that though difficult, the times that are more "interesting" offer more growth in sanctification than times when everything is going along peacefully.

The tremendous opportunity we have to actually watch God at work in the world in such an interesting and visible way fuels my love for Him and my amazement at His sovereignty. Providentially, He sustains the world and universe in general. Providentially, He specifically ordains each and every breath, event, and movement for all His creatures, human and otherwise. How can we not be satisfied with that, when we know that whatever happens is for our good and His glory?

Yes, a life in a previous time might well have been more peaceful, but less astonishing. And the difficult times offer us the opportunity to grow in Jesus. He is the Potter. He sanctifies us and shapes us through trials and challenges. And my, what challenges these times offer. There is such violence in the world- hate, persecution against Christians and His church. Therefore the growth in Christlikeness would be even greater than when living in uninteresting times.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. (Psalm 75:1-3).

*Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking, coffins, & other thoughts

Noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was brilliant, no doubt about that. His nickname in school was "Einstein", and he lived up to name by contributing mightily to the areas of cosmology, particularly in Big Bang Theory and Black Holes.

He died of a rare form of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) in that it progressed very slowly. He was 76.

 Mr Hawking applied his mind in attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe, its forms and origins, functions and future. Though he made many discoveries, he never discovered the basic truth: God made it. In fact, the further Hawking went along, the more entrenched he became in denying the Designer and Sustainer of life. He made flatly rejecting statements about God and religion, such as these quoted in The UK Guardian in 2011-
The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time. 
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Source
'There is no heaven'. This is a true statement- for Mr Hawking- if indeed he maintained his rejection of God to the end.

'There is no afterlife'. This is an untrue statement for Mr Hawking. He is discovering now that he is indeed alive, and further, has been granted a fresh body, albeit one that will be withstanding the fires and punishments of hell for all eternity (if indeed he did not repent at an unknown time.)

Hawking was the smartest man, as smart as than Einstein...seeking the mysteries of the universe all the days of his life- it was only death that revealed those mysteries to him. Sadly, it is too late.

Hawking went the way of all flesh (with a nod to Samuel Butler). The way of all flesh is death, either to resurrected life in glory with Jesus, or to eternal death & punishment apart from Jesus. Answers In Genesis has a sensitive and thoughtful epitaph on Mr Hawking's life, here.

It's times like these, when a famous atheist dies, that one ponders hell all over again. Hell is a monstrous doctrine. Not monstrous as in evil, for God is holy and just and all those who are sent there deserve it. Even those who are forgiven, like me, deserve it. It's only the imputed righteousness of Jesus that diverts us from our fleshly final fiery resting place.

I mean monstrous as in the definition of "extremely and dauntingly large; as in, "the monstrous tidal wave swamped the surrounding countryside".

It's a huge thing to ponder hell, because it is for all eternity. Who can know?

In a similar vein, I saw this photo on Facebook this week.

Some people around here think it's funny, others amusing, others intrigued. I never knew how much the idol of college football was alive and active until I came to Georgia. The University of Georgia Bulldogs' arena is the Temple and the 'Dawgs' are worshiped by thousands of adoring fans.

I don't think it's amusing. I think it's blasphemous. Sure, people, bring your idol with you to eternity. What could go wrong?

When my husband and I were in Puyo, Ecuador, a town then on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest and very remote, we spent a week. There were few industries in this one-dirt-road town. It truly was a frontier town, with one main road, plank sidewalks, a lonely hotel, and a few stores. One industry was coffin making. The people in that part of the South American country loved their highly decorated coffins. They would be made of heavy wood, and at the corners, one or all four, there would be clear glass. Inside the headlight-like small alcove would be blinking lamps, candles, statues of Mary, jewelry, or just lights. Perhaps they thought the lights could aid Charon as he guided the casket across the river Styx to the abode of the dead.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that all coffins would have two pictures on them, one at either end. One, a picture of glory and the New Jerusalem. The other, a picture of the Lake of Fire. That would give funeral-goers something to contemplate. There is an afterlife, and all flesh is consigned to one of them.

The difference is your position on Jesus. If you believe He is your risen God, having trusted in Him as savior and repented of sins which He forgave, you go to heaven. If you have rejected Him and failed to repent of your sins, you go to the Lake of Fire to be punished for your sins. You have committed cosmic treason, which must be justly punished..

Hell is a big subject. So is heaven. We will all have an eternity to contemplate it. After death it is too late to change your location. Repent now, while it is still day

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31).

Imagine the dawn chorus in heaven

This article was first published on The End Time in September 2012. I love the pre-dawn. It is quiet and cool and dark but the light is co...