Food for Thought
One of my favorite old hymns is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It has gone through many iterations since it was written in 1757 but is still sung in churches all around the world today. Despite the different musical and lyrical changes over the years, one particular line in the hymn has largely remained unchanged.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come…”
But what is an Ebenezer? As a kid the only Ebenezer I knew of was Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. I was pretty certain that wasn’t what Come Thou Fount was referencing but as with a lot of songs that are sung in church, I didn’t know the context or in this case the meaning of the word Ebenezer.
So what is an Ebenezer and what’s the significance in raising it?
The word Ebenezer is actually found in 1 Samuel 7:12 and is translated from the Hebrew אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר (eben hāʻēzer) which means “stone of help”. The Israelites had already been defeated by the Philistines and 1 Samuel 7 records how they were about to attack the Israelites again. Samuel’s response was to cry out and offer a sacrifice to God and this time the Lord intervenes and the Philistines are defeated. Samuel then took a stone and set it up and called it’s name Ebenezer, again meaning ‘stone of help’.
So, the next time you sing about ‘raising an Ebenezer’ be reminded that the One you are worshiping is where you find hope and he is faithful now just as he was then!
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your worship leader or Pastor about the meaning and context of the songs you sing in worship.
Are there any other songs that you’ve sung in worship that you’ve always wondered about the meaning or context of? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
The well-known Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance lists all the significant words in the Bible and references each word to the original Hebrew and Greek languages. The concordance was first published in 1890 by Dr. James Strong, whose life’s work was to provide students of the Bible with an accurate and functional tool to understand the Bible’s original languages. He and others worked on the list for 35 years!
Dr. Strong’s work is still universally recognized as one of the essential aids for studying the Bible and thanks to The Bible Study App it’s easier than ever to access for deeper study of the Bible. Here’s a brief demonstration of how it works. All screenshots are from The Bible Study App on an Android tablet.
In the above screen shot I’ve tapped the word ‘nations’ found in Matthew 28:18 and I see that the Greek word is ‘ethnos’. I can then look up that Greek word in my other library resources like a concordance or dictionary by tapping the Lookup button in the popup window.
With a concordance I can see all of the different place that word is listed and how it is translated. In this case ‘ethnos’ is often translated as Gentiles in other places in Matthew.
Lastly, if you would like to see or hide the actual Strong’s numbers associated with the words, you can turn this feature on or off by tapping Settings>Advanced Settings> Other Settings (Text Layout/Display for iOS)>Strong’s Numbers.
This is how the text would look with Strong’s numbers viewable compared with the first image in this post which hides the numbers.
You can see how powerful and easy it is to use a Strong’s tagged Bible for The Bible Study App. Try it yourself by downloading a free demo HERE or see what translations are available with Strong’s in the list below.
Here are the current Bible translations available with Strong’s tagging:
Relationships don’t exist without communication. You don’t become friends with someone without some sort of exchange of information with that person that indicated your personality, preferences, hobbies, etc. My wife and I didn’t start our relationship with each other simply because we were physically attracted to each other. Our relationship started when we began to unpack our stories, share things we found funny, foods we liked, and what our hopes and dreams for the future were.
Communication, in all its forms, is what initiates real relationship and it’s also what maintains it. When friends lose contact (stop communicating) the friendship may still exist in principle but it’s no longer active. When marriages are on the brink of divorce it’s almost always the result of a communication issue. Our relationship with God is no different.
There was a revelation (communication) to you about who God is and what he has done for you in the person of Jesus. This is what began your relationship with him and this is what will continue to grow it. So, why do so many of us struggle with the motivation to read the Bible? If reading God’s word feels like a duty, homework, or a necessary act to be a good Christian then it’s time to change our approach.
Read for relationship!
The whole Bible, written over a span of 1500 years by forty different authors, tells of our great God who desires relationship with us. It’s one of his greatest and most important communication methods to us and it’s the foundation of our relationship with him. When you read the Bible you get learn about his character, his attributes, and his purposes. The feelings of duty or obligation quickly fade when the Bible is read to deepen relationship with God and know him more. Not only does our reading allow us to know God more and deepen our relationship with him but our identity is also changed, because knowing who he is affects who we are.
So, if you struggle with your Bible reading remember that the Bible is God’s essential communication, given to us for a relationship that is living, growing, and life changing.
Do you remember 5 months ago? It was the beginning of the year and whether you came up with resolutions for 2013 or not there was probably at still a feeling of newness as you looked forward to the year ahead.
And now the year is nearly half over! How did that happen?
Those resolutions may be long gone, or at least hanging by a thread, but the good news is today is a new day! Check out this great verse that has always helped realign my perspective.
Summer is my favorite season. I get to be outside more, take some trips with my family, and in general life just takes on a different rhythm. I’ve also found that because my routine changes, sometimes my spiritual disciplines change, and not always for the better.
So, as we head into the Summer season here are three ways that can help keep your faith from becoming stagnant in the weeks ahead and keep the Lord as your portion.
Worship On The Go
Worship is more than just singing songs it’s living life in a way that brings glory to God and honors him. Maybe you’ll be missing some Sunday Church gatherings this Summer while you’re on vacation but that doesn’t mean your worship has to stop. If you’re out in nature take a moment to pause and reflect on God’s creation and just give him thanks (worship). If your family is on vacation take intentional time to thank God for his blessings and even have a family devotion time (worship) as part of your vacation time. Even a moment spent in worship can be powerful food for your soul.
No, I’m not talking about fixing your WiFi, I’m talking about people. Between work, school, and other activities the opportunities to just hang out, eat food, and fellowship are often hard to come by. Think about the significant spiritual conversations you’ve had over the years. Many of them happened in a coffee shop, out on a walk, or late night in the living room of your house. Be intentional this Summer and create opportunities to have real conversations with people. Dig deep, listen, pray, and watch how God can use other people as a catalyst for your faith.
Let the natural change of pace that Summer brings disrupt your routines in a way that causes you to approach your faith from a new perspective. Reflect, read, and pray in different environments or in different ways. If you’re a list and routine type of person try something different. If you’re more spontaneous try adding just a bit of structure to your Summer schedule. You might be surprised at how a little tweak to how you normally do things can help you re-discover and breathe new life into your relationship with God.
What are some of the things you’ve tried that helped breathe new life into your Faith?
Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
By Olive Tree Employee: Emily Roth, Content Editor
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2).
The nature of my position at Olive Tree requires that I read the Bible throughout the day, whether to check a verse citation or to study an entire book. Due to a recent project, I managed for the first time to read straight from Genesis to Revelation. Each day on this project, no matter where I was in the Bible, something from God’s Word spoke to my heart, convicted my soul, or related to my struggles. My computer monitors store a collection of sticky notes for the verses I want to keep in mind.
It surprised me on a consistent basis the value of the simplest or most overlooked of verses. While I’ve long believed in the inspiration of the Bible in its entirety, I tended to judge certain books or passages as “most important” and then ignored the rest. What did I care about the Minor Prophets? They had to be called “minor” for a reason, right? But as I read, I realized that the Bible isn’t a bunch of stories about a bunch of people. It’s one continuous story about one God.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
Even Jesus affirms the absolute necessity of reading God’s word. He quotes from Deuteronomy, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). And the best part? Anyone who doubts the Bible’s benefits can test it for himself.
The Bible Study App now has several reading plans available for free download. Over time, this new feature will offer additional plans across all platforms. Find one that interests you by looking under “Reading Plans” in the “My Stuff” window. After beginning a plan, you can check off each reading as you go.
If you have never read the Bible as a whole, it may seem like a daunting challenge. The Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan provides guidance to study major themes and events throughout your preferred version of Scripture from June 1 to September 11. Compiled by the Olive Tree staff, this resource includes brief introductions of each book as well as the literary subgroups such as the History books of the Old Testament or the Pauline Epistles.
“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).
Until I read through the Bible all at once, I didn’t realize how much I had been missing. The Minor Prophets, for instance, display some of the most heartbreakingly expressive poetry that I’ve ever read. Read them for yourself if you don’t believe me. And while you’re at it, just finish the whole collection of books in the Bible if you never have before.
If the idea of daily reading intimidates you, simply commit to finding out what God wants to tell you today. Then do the same tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. It won’t take long to feel its effect. You will find a deeper appreciation of the Bible, God, and the story he has invited us into.
This week you can get the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan for FREE now through June 6th.
If you want to be an effective and influential leader, what should you do? Write a book? Start a church? Come up with a vision plan for [insert world-changing vision here]?
If you’re looking for influence and impact, don’t overlook the greatest leader who ever lived. He started a movement that has been growing ever since his birth and has now spread around the globe. Here are two statements that Jesus made that should be the foundation of our leadership and influence:
The greatest among you shall be your servant.
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
In both passages Jesus takes the human picture of leadership and turns it on its head. In Luke 22:27, Jesus makes the most important leadership statement the world has ever heard: “But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Are you in a position of leadership right now? Here are three ways you can be an influential leader who serves:
1. Learn to follow.
Being a leader is lonely because one of the definitions of leadership means you’re out in front, like a shepherd leading the way. But as followers of Jesus we’re not the chief shepherd. He is. Our ability to lead and influence is only as great as our dependence on Jesus. We never arrive in our process of becoming more like Him (in this life) and so we need to be expert followers to be good leaders. How does this affect our ability to serve those under our leadership? We need to be reminded that before God we are all sinners saved by grace and that our position before Him is the same. This type of leading says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
2. Value everyone
In today’s culture, your position, title, and influence can often give you permission to separate yourself from others. Why should the CEO of a large company care about the individual factory worker who can easily be replaced? The farther you’re separated from those you lead, the easier it is to see others as a commodity as opposed to a uniquely created individual. As a Christian leader, if the vision or goal of your leadership becomes more important than the people you serve (lead) then you have a value problem.
The servant leader places high value on people by:
- Seeing people as God sees them
- Putting people over programs
- Creating a culture of listening – not just directing
- Being willing to extend grace and teach others, instead of creating rules that eliminate those with perceived weaknesses
3. Serving means doing
Do you remember the time when you had to stack chairs, clean toilets, or some other activity that you’re glad you don’t have to do anymore? While it’s true that roles change, leaders have to guard against the mentality of “I don’t do that anymore”. As a leader, people are counting on you and you do have to prioritize where you invest your time and energy. In light of this, how can you balance the unique role that only you can fill while still being a servant leader?
Do what you say.
Don’t preach anything you aren’t preaching to yourself and don’t recruit for a vision that you aren’t fully behind. Church leaders rely heavily on volunteers but rarely volunteer time themselves. Yes, practice what you preach.
The power behind our faith and our leadership is action, and leaders who shepherd like Jesus aren’t afraid to get dirty, smell like sheep, and serve with all their heart.