Monday, December 14, 2009

Ebenezer Stones

Windows rolled down, music blaring, cruising down the black pavement of a long stretch of road on my way to a rally to speak I notice a historical marker on the left side. Somewhat surprising, I actually had plenty time to get to the rally so I pulled over to observe the historical marker. The Historical marker read “The Rev. C. G. Stephens, founder of Red Gap Community (1 mil. W), joined the Rev. W. B. Cobb in 1878 to organize the Red Gap Baptist Church. Forerunner of the First Baptist Church of Cisco, The Red Gap Congregation had 13 charter members who met in a one-room log schoolhouse. This small membership organized seven churches into The Red Gap Baptist Association. The junction of the Texas & Pacific Railroad and the House & Texas Central Railroad established Cisco and began the demise of Red Gap. The congregation moved to Cisco in 1881 and built a church house at 10th and Avenue E. The next year they constructed a 36'x50' building at this site. A deadly tornado in 1893 totally destroyed the building. A new structure, completed the following year, burned in 1924. The collapse of an earlier oil boom, which had brought rapid growth to Cisco and the church, caused financial losses. The congregation met in Cisco City Hall and school houses until a new structure could be completed. This fellowship started a mission at Liberty Hill (4 mil. NW) and a Spanish language mission in northeast Cisco. Former pastors of this church have become presidents of Baptist colleges, missionaries, evangelists and special service ministers.” At that very place where I stood history became alive to me.
Since 1890 thousands of authors, craftsmen and laborers have helped plant over 50,000 histories into the American landscape. Historical markers serve to educate citizens and visitors alike about the people and events which have shaped our past and present. They offer an informative ride back in time to America’s past and have, ironically enough, become a part of that very history which they document.

Historical markers are no recent invention, in fact the first historical marker ever mentioned was found in 1 Samuel 7:2-12 which reads “ It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. Then Samuel said, "Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you." When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD." And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah. When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him. While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."

As Christians, we should find ourselves deeply challenged by Samuel’s actions. First Samuel recognizes it is only by God’s help that they were victorious, secondly, he give God the honor and praise by erecting an Ebenezer stone as a historical marker that conveys the message of when God mysteriously intervenes on behalf of the Israelites.

Ebenezer stones come in all shapes and sizes. They can be found as journals, pictures, videotapes, paintings and drawings, or any other physical demonstration of the Lord’s aid. Too often as Christians we fail to recall those times where we experienced mighty moves of God because we are so lost in the power of the present problem. The entire Bible could be classified as an amazing Ebenezer stone as one observes the beauty in the redemptive stories of people of the Bible.

One day while sitting in my office finishing up some paperwork my secretary buzzed me on my phone. She notified me that there was a mother that had shown up asking if she could visit with me. I remember walking around the corner and meeting a middle aged woman that looked like a very weary and run down lady. The mother went on to explain that her son had been recently arrested for possession of marijuana. As we continued in conversation she went on to ask me that day to go over to the house where her son was hanging out. Come to find out this was another typical day of work for me. Too often I end up in a foreign place asking God what in the world am I doing here? We showed up at the doorstep, knocked on the door several times and to no avail no one answered the door. We went on to pray over that house, and that day we asked God to convict the hearts of the teens that were staying there.
Six months later I found myself feeding the homeless on South 14th street in my city. Out of the corner of my eye I see three tough looking guys wearing their colors walking down the alley. I quickly walked in their direction, ultimately asking them if they wanted something to eat. Harsh words, abrupt laughter, and ridicule sent me on my way searching for others in need. Twenty minutes had elapsed, and once again I found myself crossing the path of these three gang members. Once again I got out of the van, but this time I took a different approach. I begin to share my testimony and how God had set me free from a dazed life of drugs and alcohol. One of the young man then said to me, “Chad, I have done way too much crime for Christ to love me.” After a great deal of time fading away, these three young men gave their life to the Lord in the middle of a convenient store parking lot. They went on to invite me to a local house that their gang hung out, which ultimately established an Ebenezer stone in my life. As I showed up at the house with my pastor at the time, I instantly had flash backs rush through my head. I had just arrived at the house I had prayed over 6 months prior with a worried mother. As the night progressed I had the beautiful opportunity to witness God save 12 gang members. The following night I had the privilege to watch them get baptized in horse troth in the front yard of their gang house. Weekly as I drive down South 14th street in my city, and pass Sycamore street right on the corner sets a huge Ebenezer stone for me. Although the young men that got saved at that particular house have grown up and went their separate ways, that house forevermore provides a reminding monument of a mighty move of God.

Have you ever paused and thought about some of your Ebenezer stones?

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