So, as I noted in my last post, Elevation's 5th birthday was last week. To celebrate they made a documentary about the history of the church. When I heard about the documentary I thought it was SUPER cool, but to be honest I didn't quite know why that was the chosen method to celebrate. Well, in true Elevation style, there was an awesome story behind it. Pastor Steven called the documentary "This is How We Change The World" our ebenezer for the first five years.
I LOVE this concept. It really is (and has been for a while) one of my favorite concepts in the old testament. I first heard it in good old number 400 of the Baptist Hymnal "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing..." (The lyrics are SO lovely that I included them all. The part thats pertinent to my post tonight is verse 2.)
1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.
2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
So, what's an ebenezer anyway? Obviously, being that its a biblical concept, scripture is the first place to look for that answer.
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites." - 1 Samuel 7:12-14
After a long period of problem and discord (a consequence of Israel's disobedience) the Israelites repented under the leadership of Samuel. God restored their security and the people committed their hearts and minds to their Lord again.
Samuel put a large stone at the place where this restoration began. He publicly dedicated it as a monument to God's help, God's faithfulness, God's eternal covenant. As the people got on with their lives, the stone stood there, visible to all who passed that way, a reminder that God judged them. A reminder that God loved them. A reminder that God forgave them. A reminder that God restored them. The Ebenezer stone represented a fresh beginning, a reversal of course for God's people. It also said something important about God: his mercies are everlasting; his covenant is forever.
This concept is SO beautiful to me. I can't express it enough. We even preach this idea to the children I counsel at work. To know where you're going, its SO important to know where you've been. One good example of that idea:
Members of AA can tell you how long they have been sober. They keep alive the memory of the last drink they took, and with each new day they move farther down the road of sobriety. AA is on to something important. Do they ask their members to count the number of years spent in drunken waste? No. They count the days spent walking in a new direction.
I to beat myself up about mistakes I made way back. I don't forgive myself, even though I accept the fact of God's forgiveness. Perhaps you can identify with me. But that's not what God wants from me... or from you.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13-14
This is a lot of the reason why I've come to enjoy keeping this blog. This is also a lot of the reason that my blog has moved from just writing about life to chronicling my walk with Christ and the things I learn about faith. On a day that I'm feeling down or lost or just not good enough, I can look back at my ebenezer and see that I serve a wonderfully faithful blog. This is the same idea Elevation employed with the documentary, and if you ask me its a GREAT one.
Some of the things that God has blessed me with lately follow. I know that at some point I'll be down again, and I want to remember how faithful he is.
- I have a grad school interview in a few days! I am beyond excited at the opportunity to get into a Master's program and ultimately be one step close to being a licensed counselor.
- I got cards in the mail today from my baby sister and from my niece and nephew. I really have the most wonderful family in the entire world.
- This weekend I have a dinner date with three friends from my early days at North Greenville. I am already so excited about spending time with these girls. God has continued to provide me with some of the best friends I could ask for. I can't wait to catch up and fellowship with them.
- Several people I love (most notably, my mom!) have birthdays this week. I'm so thankful that all these wonderful people were able to see another year, and that I'm able to enjoy them in my life.
- I always thought that Elevation was the best church in the world (and it is) but joining an E Group has provided a whole new world of blessings in recent weeks. The women in my group are caring, Godly women who never fail to challenge and encourage me. I LOVE being a part of their group.
- Love Week 2011 is coming up at Elevation. I'm going to get to serve like CRAZY, love on all kinds of people and spend time with my E Group girls... it doesn't get much better than that!!
- Yesterday was Valentine's day. I spent the evening with the most caring, selfless guy I know. He spent the entire day at the hospital encouraging his sick Grandpa (who could use your prayers, if you don't mind), and then spent his evening doting on me and making sure that I felt special on Valentine's day. I went through SO much pain and heartache in past relationships, and all that is making me even more aware that God has REALLY blessed me with Harrison.
I will stop for now, but truly I could keep going and going... God really is faithful. He loves us.
We should all set up an ebenezer, if you ask me, to serve as a continual reminder that we are forgiven, that we have chosen a new life, that God has made a permanent covenant with all who put their faith in him.
Samuel was a smart guy and he had a good idea. He, and Pastor Steven (and the documentary makers) for that matter are in touch with one of the short comings of human nature --- we're forgetful. At Ebenezer, Israel could stand next to that big old rock and remind themselves, "Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting." When I get down, I can read back over this and say MY GOD IS SO FAITHFUL!
Get some stones! Build your ebenezer.