Friday, August 30, 2013

A Stone of Help

On my former boss’s bookshelf sat a piece of metal cut from a doorframe.  Along one of its edges it had a circular depression as if something small and round had tried to punch its way through.

That piece of deformed metal on his bookshelf was a reminder of God's help.

You see, several months earlier, he had been going about his business one Wednesday evening when he heard several loud bangs coming from the foyer of the church.  He knew that there was a teen rally going on in the sanctuary, but peeked out of the office to see what was up.

He saw a stranger wearing a black shirt and dark jeans down the hallway with a gun in his hand.  The stranger pointed the gun at him, and pulled the trigger.

All he saw was the muzzle-flash.  The bullet that was meant for him hit the doorframe instead.  He ducked back inside the office and called 911.

The gunman committed suicide, but not until after killing seven people and wounding seven more.

That twisted piece of metal was a reminder to my boss that God wasn't done with him yet.

It was an Ebenezer.


My small hands firmly grasped the steel pipe that jutted several feet in the air.  I believe I was still in elementary school at the time. 

A while earlier (days, weeks, or months), a huge crane had been in our backyard and had slowly been driving sections of steel pipe into the ground beside our house. 

It was to be our well, but they never hit water.

My father was using an electric saws-all to cut the top off of the steel pipe.  Now a saws-all puts out a tremendous amount of cutting force which leads to major vibration as well as heat.  My job was to keep the steel pipe steady as he cut.

I remember I was looking down and hoping that the steel pipe would not fall off and hit me.  Something inside urged me to turn my head.

I moved my head just as it broke free.

Sizzling past my ear, it plummeted down and smacked the earth with a dull thud.

That memory is an Ebenezer to me.

1 Samuel 7:7-13
“When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. "Don't stop pleading with the LORD our God to save us from the Philistines!" they begged Samuel. So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the LORD as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the LORD to help Israel, and the LORD answered him.

Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the LORD spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

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!"

So the Philistines were subdued and didn't invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel's lifetime, the LORD's powerful hand was raised against the Philistines.”


We ALL have Ebenezer’s in our lives.  Times that we KNOW God has helped us out of major harm or distress.  An Ebenezer is defined as a “Stone of Help.”  A marker that we can look back on and remember exactly when and where the Lord’s Hand was with us.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July of 2011.  I have a picture of the MRI that shows the large dark mass.  Thanks to the prayers of many people as well as the skill of the neurosurgeons, I was completely healed.

That picture is another Ebenezer to me. 

One of many.

Now there may be some people who don’t believe as we do.  They might believe that their specific belief system is right and everyone else is wrong. 

Some people don’t believe anything that they cannot see or touch. 

Others think that religion is only a crutch for the weak. 

What about them?  Does God bless them too?

Acts 14:8-18
“While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, "Stand up!" And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, "These men are gods in human form!" They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, "Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings–just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts." But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.”


May God bless you with an Ebenezer, a reminder of His Power, Mercy and Grace to keep your faith strong in Him all your days.


Friday, August 2, 2013

What's in a Name?

The world media has waited for the royal birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s baby even before she was pregnant. That vigil ended on July 22, 2013 when His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge met the world. He sits third in succession to the throne of England and stands to inherit not just the English Crown, but an estimated 1 Billion Pounds.

Let’s just say my job title is not that upscale.

I have worked for the Town of Culpeper as a full-time Housekeeper since November of 2012. This is the position that I interviewed for the day before Kathy gave birth to Isabella. It’s full-time with benefits, and God has surrounded me with great people. The hours are flexible which made it possible for me to stay at home during the day with Isabella during the first few months of her life.

“Housekeeping!” I’d say loudly as I knocked and entered female restrooms over the course of my work week. But as of July 1, 2013 my job title changed from “Housekeeper” to “Building & Grounds Maintenance Technician.” So whenever I knock now, I say “Maintenance!”

Scrubbing toilets for a living isn’t fun, but it’s an honest job that keeps a roof over our heads and food on the table. Many people in this economy have not been as blessed as I have. Some people feel sorry for me. Others can’t understand how I can stay so cheerful as I go about my rounds. A few weeks ago, as I was cleaning up the Police Station, a fellow Town employee looked at me with disbelief and stated, “You must really love your job.”

“It’s people that I love,” I replied with a smile. “Your attitude determines your happiness.”

You see, I don’t see myself as a custodian; it’s just what I do to earn a living for my family. I feel sorry for people who allow their job title to determine their identity. Yes, I am the Cleaning Guy. My other names include Joe, Joseph, Dada, Pastor, Joey, Uncle Joe, and Dan Marino (my buddy from the gym who happens to be a Buffalo Bills fan calls me this). These are all different names in differing contexts of relationships, but my most important title is Child of God.

Now I didn’t earn this name, it just came into clear focus one day along my spiritual journey when I realized that Jesus died for my sins. That His Blood cleansed my stained conscience. I not only had a fresh start then, but I wake up each day to a new beginning. I walk with my head held up high. Not because what I have done, but because what He has done for me.

My sojourn upon this world may never be as glamorous as a British Royal, but I have been adopted by the King of Kings and I stand to share in His Inheritance now walking with Him, as well as throughout eternity.


John 1:10-12
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

Colossians 1:19-22
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

Hebrews 10:19-25
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.