“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.
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
Depression is an unpleasant condition at best. At worst it’s debilitating. And yet it’s basically a lie. In part, of course, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, but no drugs can cure it unless somehow its victim can look past the lie to find the truth.
Like all lies of the devil, it works by blinding people to their true situation. Anyone who hasn’t bought into depression’s lie has bought into something else. Although David might be the last biblical character we’d think of as someone suffering from depression, Psalm 13 clearly illustrates both the problem and the solution.
… Read the rest
I raise my eyes to the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1-2 (HCSB)
“I can see the mountains very dimly!”
This picture was also taken from eastern Colorado, but we traveled for hours from Bennett before the mountains looked this close.
My little brother’s excitement woke the whole family after what had been a very difficult night. It became the turning point of our trip to California.
My father had accepted a visiting professorship at the University of California and decided to buy a trailer.… Read the rest
In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?
Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)
A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest
The Bible frequently speaks of people walking before God, walking after God, walking with God, walking in his ways, walking contrary to his ways, etc. Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand” (NASB). No one likes to think about falling, but there it is the same place we find that God establishes our steps and delights in us.
… Read the rest
When you get home from church, what do you think of God? During the week, do you think of God for a morning quiet time and then hardly at all for the rest of the day? Or, admit it to yourself, do you remember God at all between Sunday mornings?
How easy it is to go to church, participate in Sunday morning activities, and have the experience wear off before we get back home. Back to the ordinary. Back to the messages of the world around us.
The television ads all try to make us focus attention on all the things we don’t have and make us discontent until we get them.… Read the rest
Christ the Redeemer
Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”
- Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
- These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
- These features justify the expense of the software.
All of these sentences imply two questions, really.
Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… Read the rest
Joshua and the Israelite People / Karolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV
Moses was dead. Joshua was scared. How do I know that? Because the Book of Joshua begins with God giving him a pep talk. Three times during that pep talk, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. When he got up from there and went out among the people, they told him to be strong and courageous.
So, was it wrong for Joshua to be scared? No.… Read the rest
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” — Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)
Isn’t it amazing how the whole meaning of a sentence can change when you shift your main attention from one word to another? Most of the time, preachers and writers seem to emphasize “content” and discuss the meaning an importance of contentment. Once, when I was in a particularly foul mood, I came across this verse and got hung up on “state.” I actually said aloud, “Paul, you were never in Iowa,” closed my Bible, and stormed off to enjoy my pity party.… Read the rest
The New Testament uses the phrase “in Christ” or something similar more than a hundred times. It refers to Christ being in the believer less often, but those references are very important, especially during Advent as we look forward to the birth of Christ. In Colossians 1:27, Paul summarized his message as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And how does Christ get in us? The same way he got in Mary: it takes a miracle. If every day by that miracle someone accepts Christ, then the birth of Christ happens every day.
The day began for a young girl in Bethlehem the same way any other day of her life began, but at some point her life took a dramatic turn.… Read the rest