Christianity is Not in Decline. Ever.

The tomb is empty. Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

Too often I start reading something thinking it will be encouraging, but find it filled with phrases like “post-Christian world,” or “Christianity’s decline.”  I just read that apparently, I’m “living in the ruins of Christendom.”  However, because Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” our faith and hope are not based on any ruin or decline we see in the communities and world around us.  Other things may end up in ruins or in decline, but Christianity does not.  It was not in decline on Good Friday and it is not in decline now.

In a recent post about the massive expansion of Christianity under Communist China, I wrote: “As Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 – ‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’  This rock is the gospel of the kingdom of God, and not even a brutal regime like that of Chairman Mao could prevail against it.”

The best of the kingdom of God is always in the future, never in the past, which brings me to the Rewind Wednesday part of today’s post, from last November:

“Today, many will hear the good news of the kingdom of Jesus, and some may hear and be saved!  Also today, none will be snatched out of His hand! (John 10:28)

True progress will be made today and every day.”

An Ebenezer in the Sky

Photo by Stainless Images on Unsplash

Ebenezer the squirrel, the blog’s mascot, represents memorials of God’s intervention in the world and in our lives.  The times when He changes the course of events, and when the narrative is changed by the words “but God.”  In the ESV Bible, this phrase appears 43 times, including:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” – Genesis 8:1

The phrase first was used in Genesis 3:3, when Eve says to the serpent, “but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  As we know, Adam and Eve fell to temptation, eating the fruit and therefore providing us a warning that we should live by God’s words, not just quote them.

However, the second time we see “but God” it is a reminder that God intervenes to save sinners.  Sin started with one rejection of God’s word, but by Noah’s time, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.[1]  God had Noah built an ark for his family to escape the coming flood of judgement, and the last verse before Genesis 8:1 says, “the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.[2]  Even for Noah and his family, the ones God chose to save, 5 months alone in an ark may not have felt like salvation.  “But God…made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Today, if salvation seems far away, if the flood around us feels like it’s not going away, even if it’s been months since we’ve had a “good day”, God gave us an Ebenezer especially for this occasion: the rainbow.  Genesis 9:14-16 says:

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

When you see a rainbow, in the sky or anywhere, remember it as a sign of God’s love for His people, for sinners who rejected Him, but who He chose to save anyway.  He will deliver all of God’s children from the flood because His covenant is everlasting.

Also, keep an eye out for Ebenezer (still the blog’s mascot) as an ongoing series here, covering the 43 direct “but God” references, but also others.


[1] Genesis 6:11-12
[2] Genesis 7:24

Will Green Be Greener in Paradise?

Psalm 98:7 declares: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!” In Romans 8:19 Paul adds that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Pastor James Montgomery Boice connects these ideas and says, “The world will one day be renewed.”  Nature already shows God’s glory, but it also, like mankind, is not yet as it shall be.  Boice adds: “I think of the way C.S. Lewis developed this idea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the first section of that book, when Narnia was under the power of the wicked Witch of the North, the land was in a state of perpetual winter. Spring never came. But when Aslan rose from the dead, the ice began to melt, flowers bloomed, and the trees turned green.”[1] Creation shares the hope of mankind – regeneration in a future paradise at the coming of its Lord!

Even now, we get an occasional glimpse of nature that’s somehow better than what we’re used to, and perhaps it is a glimpse of the paradise beyond the renewal of all things.  We were recently in Wales, on Mount Snowdon and a nearby trail in Llanberis, and below are some pictures from that day.  Some of these show the many brilliant shades of green, which seemed more glorious than the greens near our home in the U.S. We don’t often see rocks interact with the greenery like this here.

So, will paradise be even greener than this?  Will it seem like a perpetual winter has finally lifted?  I’m eagerly waiting to find out someday. In the meantime, enjoy these:


[1] From “April 19.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).

Meet Ebenezer, the Blog’s New Mascot

Every blog needs a mascot, right?  Well, maybe not every blog, but this morning I decided this one does.  Before I introduce him, a little backstory on where he came from.

Boston is one of my favorite places to visit, and when I was there last October, we got this great picture of a squirrel in Boston Common.  The squirrels there ignore people most of the time, instead of running away like squirrels usually do.  But this one was not afraid of us at all; he walked right up and stared us down.  He stayed like this long enough for us to take a picture and was still around after we walked away.  For squirrels, fear of humans is a learned behavior and, in some environments, they just go about their business, unconcerned.

Ebenezer, at home in Boston Common

He was a great contrast to the “squirrel moments”[1] dogs (and people) have when they are “distracted by random nothingness.”  The Facebook page where I share this blog is called “A place to inject hopeful reminders of eternity into the distraction that is Facebook.”  I’ve used this squirrel as my social media picture before to joke that it was the best way to draw attention, and if people are easily distracted by squirrels, why not use one to distract people toward the blog?

So, this squirrel is now the mascot for Driving Toward Morning!  But he needs a name.  What to call him?

Meet Ebenezer
Many people know the name Ebenezer from Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, but in the Bible an Ebenezer is a stone monument constructed as a tangible and visible reminder of God’s past help for His people.  Ebenezer means “stone of help,” and such monuments were built in Genesis 28:18, 35:14, Joshua 4:9, 1 Samuel 7:12 and elsewhere.  Only this morning did I make the connection that when I write, I’m often trying to create a type of written Ebenezer.

For example, inspired by a devotional about Ephesians 2:4, I wrote a post about the power of the words “but God.”  In it, James Montgomery Boice says: “The words ‘but God’ show what God has done. If you understand those two words – ‘but God’ – they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.”[2]

So, I’ve decided to name him “Ebenezer, the ‘But God…’ Squirrel,” but you can just call him Ebenezer.  Whenever I see Ebenezer, I hope to be pulled back into awareness of God’s help when I am distracted or frustrated.  I hope to be reminded to store up treasure in heaven as squirrels store food for the winter.  I hope to fear God and not man.  I hope to be encouraged to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), as every squirrel I see reminds me that interrupting the seeming chaos of the world with “but God” can change everything.

Next time, and every time, you see a squirrel, I hope you are reminded of the same.  The world is not random, and God is relevant to your situation, whatever it is.

If you’re ever in Boston and see Ebenezer, say hello to him for me.


[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=SQUIRREL%21%21
[2] From “November 7.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).

The Cross of Christ is History

Christians rightly focus on the historical fact of the life, death, and resurrection as the foundation of their faith.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14 – “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”  For Christianity to matter, these things must have actually happened.  Therefore, a lot has been written providing evidence that these events happened, and that Christian faith is not based on speculation, but on solid history.

Today I’m going to take a different angle on the significance of the “historical” part of “historical fact.”  This post is about the more straight-forward meaning that these events happened in the past.

Why This Matters
Because Christ lived in the past, the life of righteousness He lived for us, and that we inherit through faith, is unchangeable.  There is no other life that could be lived, or will be lived, that could be better or achieve more than what God intended it to achieve.  Perfection is assured because it already happened.  He has not fallen short.

Because Christ died on the cross in the past, He did it in consideration of every past, present, and future sin of His people.  Nothing you, or I, or any of His people have done, are doing now, or will do in the future, can undo the cross, because it has already happened.  He will not change His mind, and He will stand by those who have faith in Him.

Because Christ was resurrected in the past, He has proven that death cannot hold Him and that He will raise His people to new life as well.  He is alive now, and aware of everything happening not only in the global 24/7 news cycle, but also in the hearts and minds of every man.  The same power that raised Him works in His people, telling them through His Spirit that there is no better plan than the cross to create a world where man perfectly loves God and loves his fellow man.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 6:5-11

In a world full of pain and despair, “Preach the gospel at all times. And if necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi