January 11, 2013

What Is Your One Word For 2013? Ebenezer

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1 Samuel 7:12 NLT
Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!”

My word for 2013 is “Ebenezer.” My pastor started a new series of messages last week called, “Raising Ebenezers” and that inspired me to spend more time on that passage of Scripture and adopt my word for this year. Thank You, Lord, for putting that message on his heart, and thank you, Pastor Alex, for sharing your heart with us.

It was at a Starbucks somewhere, some years ago, where I was first introduced to the word “barista.” I think Starbucks also introduced me to the word “vente”! I do love a good latte and I that may have been the hook that first attracted me to Bonnie Gray’s “Faith Barista.” As I read her first blog post, I was immediately attracted to the sincerity and genuineness of living life that she could put down on paper. Bonnie has a Faith Barista Jam (think “jam session” of musicians) on Thursday’s where she invites others to blog or comment about a particular subject. And annually, there’s a particular Thursday where the topic is “pick your word for this year.” Yesterday was that Thursday! I’m a day late, but joining in the jam session anyway.

In looking at the Scripture from 1 Samuel, we see that the Israelites were going up against a vastly superior Philistine army and they had no chance. Or so it seemed. Samuel encouraged them to repent of their sins, tear down their altars to false gods, and turn to the true God. They did. And the rest, as they say, is history … God prevailed that day, as He always does, and the Philistine army was destroyed. As our verse says, Samuel then set up a large stone as a reminder of this event.

Our Bible tells us of other times that stones were used as reminders of God’s might acts. Noah built an altar on Mt. Ararat upon leaving the ark. Abraham’s altar on Mt. Moriah. Jacob used his stone pillow as a reminder of his dream of hearing the Lord tell him of his destiny. Moses made a stone altar of sorts at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Joshua stacked up 12 stones after the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land after another miracle of God. There was plenty of precedent for Samuel.

But why do this? Why use rock? Why name it? Simply because we forget. Regardless of how many times we read and rejoice at the stories of God’s work, we forget. Times are difficult, there’s no way out, we’re doomed, and we look to God for help. He shows up with a mighty act, saves us, and as we return to prosperity our pride takes over, we think we can do it alone, and we forget what God has done for us. How many times this pattern is repeated in the Bible? And before I get too critical of the Israelites of old, I best take stock of how many times that pattern is repeated in my own life. How about you?

And as you re-read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, see again that God knows we are prone to forget:

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Have you taken stock of the Ebenezers in your life? What are those major events where God stepped in; those seemingly once-in-a-lifetime kind of life-changers where you know in your heart, “Only God.” And have you done something to memorialize that event so that you and everyone else around you would know of God’s faithfulness? So that you would be encouraged when you next need it (and yes, you will need that encouragement at some point in the future) and so that others would be encouraged. Or maybe you don’t feel like you have any Ebenezer moments? If so, a place to start would be to do just as the Israelites did upon Samuel’s instruction – repent, destroy other gods, and turn to the true God.

Pastor Alex challenged us to identify and write down our Ebenezers. What are mine? What are those major life-changing events where you know God was at work. Where somewhere in the experience you knew, “Only God”:
  1. Dealing with my grandfather’s death.
  2. Accepting Jesus as my Savior.
  3. Getting married.
  4. Becoming a father.
  5. Getting divorced.
  6. Finding my soul-mate and marrying her 32 years ago and becoming the father of three.
  7. Living through my Dad’s recovery from falling off a roof.
  8. Living through my Dad’s cancer, my Mom’s cancer, then my Dad’s returning cancer.
  9. Joining Journey Church.
  10. Rededicating my life to Jesus and being baptized again.
  11. Living through my Dad’s death.
  12. Committing to start every day with Jesus beginning February 4, 2010.
  13. Learning of today’s persecution of Christians around the world.
  14. Visiting persecuted believers in Iraq.
  15. Accepting the call to be a pastor and being ordained.
  16. … what will be next?
I can’t help but look at such a list and know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that what the Bible says is true. I have first-hand experience. It is my own faith. It is not what others believe, not what I think I should believe, not what I was taught to believe, IT IS WHAT I BELIEVE.
I can’t help but look at such a list and BE ENCOURAGED. There is no doubt that God is with me and that He is for me. The dozens of incidents surrounding each of those Ebenezers leaves no doubt. Write down your Ebenezers and keep that list handy for when you need encouragement. And if you can’t make a list, follow Samuel’s instructions.
     Loving the Journey,
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