Raising Ebenezer

Ebenezer“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has been a favorite American hymn for about 200 years. The second verse notoriously starts, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” I say notoriously, because it has been generations since large numbers of church goers have understood the meaning of “Ebenezer.” It’s a stone of remembrance, set up by the judge and prophet Samuel on an occasion well worth remembering.

Humiliating loss

When Samuel was a child, two worthless priests under judgment from God decided to take the ark of the covenant into battle with the Philistines. Since they had no relationship with God and no regard for him, they must have regarded the ark as some kind of magic box that would turn the tide of battle.… Read the rest

Wickedness: our questions and God’s answers

Today, fanatical Muslims blow themselves up in crowded market places in the name of their god. They didn’t invent terrorism and are not alone in dishonoring their own religion by their actions.  Christians, too, have been guilty. What else can serial murders of abortionists be called?

Many historians describe the tactics of radical abolitionist John Brown an injection of terrorism into American politics, and he though he was acting for God. The religious policies of Spanish King Philip II and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II amount to state-sponsored terrorism in the name of God.

Not all wickedness is violent. Those who devise Internet scams, those who choose profits over human lives in board rooms, and any others who steal at long distance do not sin violently.… Read the rest

Tough people in tough times: Paul’s thoughts in prison


Have you ever heard the slogan, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do”? There’s a lot of truth in that. Unfortunately, if tough times last more than a day or two, it begins to feel like they’ll last forever.

Tough times can mean all kinds of things. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a relationship gone sour, and other bad events can trigger them. So can more ordinary stresses like loneliness or trouble paying bills, or being unable to make the kinds of changes in our lives we want to make. Eventually, all of us will go through a variety of different bad times.… Read the rest

Strange instruction from Scripture: Praise God in suffering


Light after darkness

What does the Bible say to do when something wonderful happens? Praise God. That’s obvious enough. What does the Bible say to do when something awful happens? When life is so awful that we wonder if God cares at all? Praise God. Now that’s just not fair!

But it works. When we’re suffering and feel like God doesn’t care, that’s all it is: just a feeling. In reality, he does care, but not necessarily the way we’d find most comfortable. We want to get out of our troubles as quickly as possible. He wants to give us long-term joy and conform us to the image of Christ.… Read the rest