Don’t Ignore Ebenezer Today

Reminders of God’s word can guide our daily lives, but only if we follow those reminders.  A while ago, I introduced the blog’s mascot, “Ebenezer, the ‘But God…’ Squirrel.”  Ebenezer is a reminder that however difficult or frustrating our situation, if we actively and intentionally inject God into the situation, He can and will show us the best way forward.  However, what if we try to say “But God” but take the wrong path anyway?  If we do, we are not alone.

Ebenezer, trying to get your attention.

A search of the exact words “but God” in the ESV Bible gives 43 results, and the first one is found in Genesis 3:3, which says “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.’”  This verse occurs when the serpent in the garden questions God’s word that Adam and Eve were limited by God in what they should and shouldn’t do.  Eve, the speaker in the quote above, responds rightly that God had been specific about what not to do.  As most of my readers will know, even though Eve knew God’s word, the serpent was able to convince her to ignore it.

As they say in the financial industry, “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” but I will guarantee anyway that today and every day every one of us face temptation to do something God wants to protect us from.  I also am confident of the words “but God…” that “If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely,” as I quoted earlier from James Montgomery Boice.  But we must live by them to be transformed by God, not just quote them.

Today, pray that we all would be distracted by God’s word as easily as we as sometimes distracted by a passing squirrel when we are tempted to ignore His voice in our souls.  And if God delivers you from temptation today, make a note, a perpetual “stone of help” that God’s word is good!


Keep an eye out for Ebenezer as an ongoing series here, covering the 43 direct “but God” references, but also others.

Broken, But Not Beyond Repair

Actual disaster footage. Viewer discretion advised.

A doctor friend of mine said there’s an inside joke that “if you put two bones alone in a room together, they’ll find each other.”  I heard this after breaking my left collarbone in the summer of 2011.  Even when I was young, I wasn’t a great athlete, but I did always hustle.  So after a decade of not doing much athletically, I joined my work softball league and thought at least I would try hard and have fun.  But when I hit a weak ground ball to the shortstop and decided to “hustle,” disaster saw its opportunity.  The fields we played on were poorly maintained, with holes where the hitters stand.  Instead of doing the smart thing and stopping after I tripped in this hole, I tried to keep running (because hustle!) and soon ended up falling hard on my shoulder with a loud snapping sound.  The picture above is my actual X-ray from that night.

This isn’t a great memory, but it’s also a reminder of the miracle of healing. I had the option of surgery or just letting it grow back together, and I chose letting it heal.  However, it didn’t “just” get fixed. It was by design and no accident.

My collarbone was broken clean through, with the two sides of the bone not even touching any more.  I could feel them moving around independently.  When I think about the millions of “decisions” the cells in these bones, interacting with the tissue around them, had to make to do something they’ve never done before, I have to be convinced something beyond my own anatomy and genetic history was at work.  An impersonal evolution may have never seen these bones break in just this way before, so how did the bones know what to do?  I certainly wasn’t aware of telling these bones what to do.  They didn’t “just” fix themselves.

I can only credit the creative power of my Maker, along with David, who wrote:
For you formed my inward parts;
            you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
            my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
            intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
            the days that were formed for me,
            when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13-14

Everyday Miracles
Miracles happen every single day in every human body, yet we often miss them or refuse to call them miracles.  Maybe we do that because calling them miracles would mean we have to give credit to the power behind the miracle, and we’d rather not.  Ever since Adam and Eve looked at God’s good creation and decided they’d rather make their own decisions, mankind has persisted in acting like bones that would rather grow apart than follow their Creator’s design.  As a result, the world is broken into billions of personalities that don’t know how to connect, that don’t know how to knit agape love into the trillions of decisions they make, and interactions they have, each day. 

We all have a choice in every moment: do we “just” do whatever we think is best and expect the right outcome to “just” happen, or do we look at nature and think that maybe the Person who knows how to make bones fix themselves knows how to guide our lives to the best outcome.

Our heavenly Father wants to knit us together once again, in a world that isn’t broken and where we aren’t broken.  None of us are beyond repair, and our Maker will restore us if we let Him.  Every human being in history has been bad at love, except One, and He is calling to every one of us to trust Him.  “Just Do It” is not a good motto.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
            but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
            not one of them is broken.” – Psalm 34:19-20

The King of Glory Shall Come In

Tradition suggests that Psalm 24 was used at the start of temple services in ancient Jerusalem, possibly commemorating the Ark of the Covenant moving from Obed-edom’s house to Jerusalem, an event recorded in 2 Samuel 6:10-12:

So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.  And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.  And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing.

This was the second attempt to move the ark, the first attempt having ended in disaster, in 1 Samuel 6:6-8:

And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.  And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day.”

God gave detailed instructions for moving the ark in the book of Numbers 4:9-20.  It was supposed to be carried on the shoulders of Levites descended from Kohath.  Instead, they moved the ark as the Philistines did (1 Sam 6).  The judgment of Uzzah reminded Israel that God is not to be taken lightly or for granted.

Today’s post is a flashback to the 1989 song by Christian rock band Petra, “The King of Glory Shall Come In,” which is based on Psalm 24.  When Psalm 24:3, referenced in the song’s verse, says “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?”  David, the author, is asking who is worthy to be in God’s presence.  However, the chorus of the song is my favorite part.  Some believe verses 7 to 10 of Psalm 24 were a call-and-response between the priests and the people, who cried out for God to be among them.  Knowing they are unworthy; they still need and desire His presence among them.  The song imagines what that call-and-response might have been like, but in 80’s praise-rock style!

Call for the King of Glory to come into you today!  By the sacrifice of Jesus you can “stand in his holy place” with “clean hands and a pure heart.”

For just the lyrics, go here, but for the audio of the full song, click below:

Finding Port for the Good Ship Ambivalent

From yesterday’s post, you’ll know I am reading King’s X: The Oral History, a book chronicling the history of the rock band King’s X, by Greg Prato.  Yesterday, I dove into one of their more bizarre and unknown songs, but today is about the band’s biggest hit.  “It’s Love” got to “#6 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts and #1 on the FM Radio Airplay charts. It was our highest-ranking single, ever,”[1] according to Ty Tabor, the band’s guitarist and sometimes lead singer, who wrote the song.

I knew both Christianity and King’s X by reputation before becoming a true fan of either, but both were growing at the same time in me during college.  Having heard of King’s X but never actually heard their music, I once saw one of their CDs in a friend’s dorm room.  My friend said it was his roommate’s but that he wasn’t much of a fan.  Before leaving I picked up the CD and looked at it.  The album, called “Faith, Hope, Love” had a cool cover, and included the song “It’s Love.”

Album cover of “Faith Hope Love” by King’s X

Later, the memory of that album cover made the triad of faith, hope, and love jump out at me whenever I saw it in the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 13:13, which says: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  This triad is all over the place and there are many verses explaining the relationships between them.  Seeing these references also made me come back to the band and give them a listen. The rest, as they say, is history.

Before getting into “It’s Love”, you can find the lyrics here, or listen to the song here.  I promise it’s an easier one to listen to than “Six Broken Soldiers” and also that this post will be shorter than yesterdays.

Overall, the message is fairly simple: Ty says he doesn’t know everything, but the thing he wants to share from his experience is that love is the most important thing in life.  Love both keeps the world from falling apart (“holding back the weather”), but also eventually love is what requires a loving God to bring about a plan to fix what’s wrong with the world (“the same will let it go”).

But there’s one line in the song I didn’t really get until reading about it recently: “There’s a ship on the ocean, and I can’t decide if I like it.”

There Ty is, enjoying good company, the beach, and the ocean, but he wasn’t sure about the ship on the ocean.  There’s an ambivalence about the ship, and a suggestion that maybe it’s an exception to the overall message of “love,” but I couldn’t figure out more than that.  I wasn’t alone in not getting it.

In the book, Ty says his brother didn’t understand the line, so he explained: “my point was, man’s progress is wonderful and everything, but when the ship turns over and poisons all the fish, that’s not so wonderful. So, it was me contemplating all that we do and all that I’m happy with about it, but how much destruction it causes. It’s yet again one of those socially conscious songs. I just had to say it.”[2]  It was almost that Ty was struggling with whether love applied when someone does something that “poisons all the fish.”  In tricky, real-life situations, does love still rule?  Ty doesn’t seem sure.

Contemplating What is Crooked
Yesterday I quoted Romans about Paul’s inner conflict, but later in the same chapter, Paul wrote: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7:21). This idea that even our best efforts at goodness in this world are tainted is not a new one.  Solomon referred to something similar twice in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, in 1:15 – “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”  And also in 7:13 – “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?

What Paul and Solomon are getting at is that there are things in this world, including us, that will remain crooked and unfixed until God’s plan is completed in eternity.  The Bible tells us that all of creation is cursed by God because of our sin.  Some things are wrong because God has made them so.  Until a person establishes this in their own heart and mind, they will chase the wind of worldly utopia until they become hopelessly ambivalent, or continue on, highly motivated but frustrated and angry.  The phrase “under the sun” comes up 28 times in the book of Ecclesiastes (by my quick count) and refers generally to the actions of mankind done without consideration of God’s wisdom or eternal consequences.  Everything done “under the sun” is lacking, and none of it can provide the satisfaction and meaning true wisdom can deliver.

It’s Still Love
Since “under the sun”, even good things come with a cost, what do we do?  We can’t be ambivalent to those costs to the point of not caring, but we also can’t be so committed to removing these costs that our efforts become another cost.  The world is broken, but also people are broken, and how we treat them matters.

Despite any ambivalence about the ship on the ocean, it’s still “love that holds it all together.”  Therefore, the priority is always to focus on obedience and thankfulness to God, who tells us to love, not on utopian alternatives to God that tell us something is more important than loving every one of our fellow humans.  The proverbial ship on the ocean and its problems are seen by God and are part of His plan.  He cares about our conflicts and paradoxes, but still tells us to have faith, hope, and love.

However, rejection of love means prioritizing our own, temporary, interests and decide who we should love and who we should hate based on that.  One side will defend the necessity of the ship – and more ships – at all costs, because it’s good for the economy.  They can make money and enjoy what little time on earth they have.  The other side will condemn those who poison the fish, or might possibly poison fish in the future, because this earth is all they have, and they want to protect it.  “Under the sun” there is no nuance or ambivalence about the ship, but our opinion of the ship determines everything, including whether we can enjoy the beach and the ocean that we do have.

The answer lies not in some abstract move to the center politically, but in knowing that there is more than what exists “under the sun.”  Regardless of the conflicts inherent in living with broken people in a broken world, faith in God to save us, hope in His provision of a perfect future, and the priority of love for God and others, is always the right answer.  We can be a little ambivalent about the ship on the ocean, but we should have no ambivalence about love, nor about its partners, faith and hope.  We should pursue them with everything God has gifted us with and give Him the glory.  We can’t fix all the world’s problems, but we can show the world the character of its Creator and show it the way to a better world.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  Always.


[1] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 105.
[2] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 95.

Do You Have a Caged-Up Gorilla in Your Trunk?

I’ve been a fan of the rock band King’s X for many years and am currently reading King’s X: The Oral History, a book by Greg Prato that chronicles the history of the band entirely through quotes from the band, those who have worked with the band, music journalists, and other musicians.  They have a musical style all their own, combining heavy rock influences with complicated arrangements and Beatle-esque vocal harmonies.  Some even credit them with inventing the “grunge” genre, not just by often tuning their instruments to a lower, heavier tone, but also through their gritty lyrics as a contrast to the “hair metal” that dominated rock in the early and mid 1980s.  On top of the musical style, I also liked that in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a lot of Christian themes in their lyrics but written around the reality of their struggles with their faith and with aspects of Christian culture and the music industry.  Unfortunately, these struggles continue for them, and only one of the three members seems to still be a Christian.

One of the reasons I bought the book was that it promised to cover “every song” in their catalog, and since some of their lyrics are enigmatic, I wanted more of the story.  The rest of this post is about one of those songs, how the book (understandably) didn’t explain it, and what I was able to get from it anyway.

When I unwrapped the book, the first thing I did was to find the hoped-for explanation of the lyrics for “Six Broken Soldiers.”  Written by the band’s drummer, Jerry Gaskill, it’s a different style than other songs and the lyrics seem intriguingly random.  Flipping through pages, I quickly found Jerry’s only comment on the song:

“It’s always hard for me to talk about lyrics, because I don’t like to say exactly what I’m thinking, because then that takes away from anything that you may get from it. When I write, I put everything I feel and think into each line, so it comes off very ambiguous sometimes, and even unintelligible sometimes. But I have specific things I’m thinking when I wrote that. Basically, it’s just me talking about me.”[1]

Jerry Gaskill

Bummer.  Although I was hoping for more specifics, I definitely understand an artist’s desire to let the audience interpret the work in their own way.  So, if “it’s just me talking about me,” what do I see knowing that, and re-reading the lyrics?  Below I’ll go into some of the lines and my take-aways, but it might be handy to have the lyrics, which you can find here, or if you want to hear the song, click here.  There are parts of it I don’t get, and will skip in my comments, but which meant something to the author and that might mean something to you.

Us Talking About Us
In general, I think the song describes the complexity of human personality, not just Jerry’s, but everyone’s, and how little we understand it.  First, the title of the song says a lot.  Brokenness is right there, but also “six” says we are broken in many ways.  We can all identify with having problems, and more than one of them.  With “soldiers” I think of our struggle against our problems, and that even the “soldiers” we have to fight them with have their own problems.  Our brokenness affects our ability to combat it and there’s no easy fix.

The opening verse suggests that our surrounding culture and heritage are not enough to solve these problems, and often don’t even care about them.  Is all we have an “American library” to deal with our sickness?  How often do you hear something on the news, or something a politician promises, and think – that’s exactly the answer to my specific situation?  Probably rarely, and even rarer if you consider whether they can actually do it, and on time for it to help you.  A lot of what is available to us is too vague and too ineffective to be what we really need.

The next part is series of seemingly random short phrases that are metaphorically part of our personality.  For me the lyrics include these parts:

  • Among the “Six broken soldiers in the trunk of my car”, there are parts of us we share with others (“Two of them speak”) and parts we’d rather not (“four go to bars”).  If this is what it means, then it also implies the parts we hide are much larger than the parts we let others know about.  All of it is baggage we carry with us everywhere we go, as in the trunk of our car.
  • “A caged up gorilla” – There are parts of us we don’t like, that might be harmful, and that we can barely control.
  • “three local bands” – There are parts of us that are experiences that led to where we are now, for good or ill.  King’s X had multiple, earlier versions before the current one, and so do we all.

Lastly, Jerry mentions an internal parrot that speaks multiple languages, all of them unintelligible, while “the audience he scans.”  Parrots repeat what they hear without understanding it so this line could mean there’s a lot that goes on inside ourselves that we don’t understand.  This echoes Paul’s frustration with himself in Romans 7:15 where he says: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Our internal thoughts and motivations aren’t always reliable, and we don’t always know where they come from.

The parrot scanning the audience means he is looking for confirmation from outside that he is doing the right thing.  The irony is that when we don’t understand ourselves, why would we expect others to consistently understand us better and be able to guide us?  Do other people’s internal parrots speak more intelligibly than ours?  If they don’t, is popularity or majority rule a good guide for our decisions?  He has “sixpence and a quarter,” but doesn’t know what to do with it.

Not a very hopeful song, so what to take away from it?

First, that there is far, far more diversity inside of any one individual for even that individual to understand.  How can any society, armed with only an “American library,” hope to truly deal with people as actual individuals?  We can claim to respect the individual and stand for diversity and inclusion, but are such things even possible without vastly oversimplifying the situation?

Second, that there is far, far more brokenness in each individual for anyone other than God to fully diagnose and treat.  From what vantage point can we actually see the truth we each need, know the answers to our problems, and effectively apply them?

Before moving to the last section, I must clarify that I’m not saying human efforts at solving our problems are totally wrong and useless.  Many people manage their problems well enough alone and others manage with a lot of help from different sources.  Good friends, family, and in some cases therapy and medication, are very helpful.  We know a lot more about human psychology and other related topics than we used to.  The “American library” is not a static thing, but grows and changes over time, sometimes improving and becoming more effective, but not always.  Sometimes “progress” creates more, newer, problems before the old ones are solved.   Therefore, when honestly looking at the human condition with eyes wide open, we seem doomed to always fall short of a full solution with the resources we have.  What we have is not sufficient, but we have hope.

Where Does Hope Come From?
While our Six Broken Soldiers seem hopeless, there is an answer from outside our inner confusion and from beyond our material existence.  Members of King’s X are (or were) fans of C.S. Lewis[2], who wrote this description of mankind from Aslan, the fictional kingly lion who represents Jesus, in Prince Caspian, part of the Chronicles of Narnia series:

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.  Be content.”[3]

Against our problems, we have far, far more dignity and nobility and talent than could possibly come by some cosmic accident.  We are each individual creatures of a loving God, and we have far more than an “American library” at our disposal.  We have Someone who knows us fully as the complex people we are, who loves us completely, and who was broken so that we might be delivered from our brokenness.

Therefore, come to Jesus, bring your Six Broken Soldiers, and ask Him to heal all of them.  He is an infinite resource.  There’s nothing about you He doesn’t already know and understand, and nothing He does not have a solution for.


If you don’t know how to do that or what that means, read this earlier post about what it means to have a loving, personal relationship with our Maker and Lord Jesus, who guides and empowers us to love as He does.


[1] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 97.
[2] Their first album was titled “Out of the Silent Planet,” and they later released a song referencing a chapter in “That Hideous Strength,” two books written by Lewis.
[3] Lewis, C.S.  Prince Caspian (1951).