We are on our summer schedule, gathering for worship on Sundays at 10:00am.

For His Name’s Sake

daily reading plan

June 4, 2020 by Steven Lulich

He leads me in paths of righteousness

For his name’s sake

Psalm 23:3

Psalm 23 is perhaps the best-known and best-loved of all the Psalms. Any why not?  It is a tremendous comfort to know that God is my Shepherd – He leads me beside still waters, He makes me lie down in green pastures (what a lovely, picturesque perspective!), He restores my soul, He prepares a table for me and anoints my head with oil. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”  It all sounds so wonderfully peaceful, doesn’t it?

The Pledge of Allegiance

daily reading plan

May 29, 2020 by Steven Lulich

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips!
Psalm 141:3

As someone whose day job revolves around the world of speech and language, I am automatically drawn to passages that refer to the mouth, the lips, the tongue, the voice.  My first inclination is to interpret Psalm 141:3 as a plea for protection against uttering hurtful, foolish, or wicked words. Indeed, this would be a worthy petition! But closer examination of the context suggests that this passage is not referring to what comes out of my mouth; rather, it is referring to what goes into my mouth.

I Will Not Rest Until I Find a Place for the Lord

daily reading plan

May 28, 2020 by Steven Lulich

I will not enter my house or get into my bed,
I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.
Psalm 132:3-5

I have a friend who grew up in a powerful Muslim family in the Middle East and came to Christ in college.  We lived just a few doors apart in our small residence hall, and I had a front-row seat for all of the events that led to her conversion, as well as the dramatic aftermath. I don’t recall how it was that she first came to be such good friends with so many Christians – maybe it was just because she was very outgoing, and, frankly, was friends with everyone.  In any event, there came a time when she suddenly needed to come to terms with the competing claims of Islam and Christianity.  It was a very intense time for her, and for those of us who formed her closest circle of friends.  She started asking a lot of questions, reading the Bible, comparing it with the Koran, asking more questions.  She had grabbed hold of something (she didn’t know what) and wasn’t about to let go until she had put the matter to rest.

In this way, my friend was like King David, who, according to the Psalmist, “swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Ps. 132:2-5).  In its immediate context, David was speaking of the temple, which he wanted to build for God in Jerusalem.  But God “does not live in temples made by man” (Acts 17:24); rather, “If anyone loves me [Jesus], he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).  At its root, David’s vow is about giving place to Jesus Christ within our hearts.

I will not rest until…  My friend didn’t realize at the time that the end of this sentence for her would be until I find a place for the Lord.  She couldn’t know the outcome ahead of time, she only knew the feeling of urgency, and the need to resolve her inner conflict.  And so she kept at it, just as David vowed to do.  Ironically, God told David “It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in” (1 Chr. 17:4).  In fact, God told David that “the Lord will build you a house” – a complete inversion!

As a matter of fact, it was not simply my friend who had grabbed hold of something (she knew not what), but it was God Himself who had taken hold of her (compare Paul’s comments in Philippians 3:8-12, especially v. 12).  We, her close Christian friends, saw where her seeking was leading, and we hoped and prayed.  My friend’s experience was like the Psalmist’s (with minor edits): “Behold, we heard of [Jesus Christ] in [our homeland], we found [Him] in the fields of [college]. Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!” (Ps. 132:6-7).  Our experience as her friends was similar: “Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.  Let [our friend] be clothed with righteousness, and let [us] shout for joy!” (Ps. 132:8-9).  We were not disappointed, and this friend has been a beloved sister in Christ for 20 years now!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar state of urgency?  Maybe that was the day when you yourself came to Christ.  Or maybe you decided you were too busy to deal with it at that time.  Let that time be now!  Or, perhaps you are the friend of someone who is experiencing this urgency.  Enter into that urgency with them!  Whether for yourself or for your friend, vow with David, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” And remember this hope:  “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

The House of the Lord

daily reading plan

May 27, 2020 by Tim O’Connor

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'” (Psa 122:1)

Do you yearn to re-join your brothers and sisters in communal worship of our Lord? The writer of Psalm 122 did, and he rejoiced when the opportunity came. For the people of Israel, worship had a physical focal point, the temple in Jerusalem. It was where its several “tribes go up…to praise the name of the LORD.” But that was a temporary symbol of the fullness to come. Jesus told the woman at the well of the fast-approaching hour “when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21). As Hebrews 12:22-24 later explained, Christians everywhere “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” There is no longer a physical focal point or even geographical boundary to the proper worship of God. God’s people cover much of the planet, and it is not possible for us to physically join together even in one very large city!

Christ has dispersed us, in order that we might “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). But he does not send us out alone, as solitary witnesses. We are called to live together in small ecclesia, small-scale replica of the dispersed body of Christ, and our life together still is anchored (though not exhausted!) by our communal worship. And so the pandemic has been a confusing disruption of – in some ways an exile from – our communal Christian form of life. Hopefully, we will learn lessons from it, but we dare not get used to it (Heb 10:25). Like the psalmist, we should rejoice at the prospect of re-united worship. But what does our life together require now?

The psalmist exclaims, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!…For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say ‘Peace be within you!'” Sadly, the nation of Israel failed at this, leading Jesus to weep over the city, and did not know “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42). Over two millennia, the body of Christ as a whole or in its local ecclesia have often fallen into division. The present pandemic has not been equally endured, and so has the potential to divide us at ECC. Physical suffering has been mostly experienced by the elderly or infirm; psychological suffering by the extroverted and those who live alone; economic suffering by those whose jobs can’t be performed remotely, and who generally have less income and savings than those who can continue to work. We also differ, it turns out, quite a bit in our attitudes toward risk and physical safety, and this threatens to divide us over the very act of publicly worshipping together. Let us heed the psalmist’s call to pray for peace among us.

The psalm ends with “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.” The writer of Hebrews, having explained that worshippers everywhere are mystically united in a heavenly Jerusalem, goes on in Ch.13 to explain some of what seeking one another’s good (what he terms ‘brotherly love’) involves: practicing hospitality to strangers and remembering those of the faithful who are in prison or mistreated, “since you also are in the body.” And finally, to remember our leaders by imitating their faith and obeying and submitting to them. Let’s especially remember this last admonition. We are not a mere collection of individuals. We’re a body. Bodies are not shapeless blobs; they have ordered structure. Our pastors and elders have been keenly considering the needs of those entrusted to their care in a time of real challenge, knowing that they will have to give an account. (Heb 13:17). As they reflect and pray together and then make difficult decisions about the best path forward for us, given all the particulars of our situation, let our response be to pray for them in turn and to offer words of kindness and encouragement. As a descendant of Irish and Bohemian firebrands, that little word ‘obey’ does not easily pass my lips. God loves me, but He is not impressed. He calls me (and you) to humbly honor the role He has appointed ECC’s leaders to, despite his not having promised to give them infallible insight. If we do so out of reverence for Jesus, the great shepherd of us all, we may be confident that “the God of peace…will equip [us] with everything good that [we] may do his will” (13:20-21).

Divine Light

daily reading plan

May 26, 2020 by Bob Whitaker

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  I will never forget the first time I experienced complete darkness.  As young boy my family took us to Mammoth Cave National Park.  We were guided through the cave by a seasoned ranger who at a particular spot announced to the group that the lights in the cave would be turned off.  He said to us, “”You may not have experienced darkness quite like this before.  When the lights go off, place your hand right up to your nose and try to see it.  Don’t worry we will turn the lights back on shortly but in the meantime do not move for any reason because you might stumble without the light.”  I don’t remember my age but I do remember my amazement.  Even in the middle of the night in my bedroom there was still a glow that allowed me to see things.  Yet the darkness deep inside Mammoth Cave created fear in my young heart – without light inside the cave we were all paralyzed.  Only a fool would have ignored the ranger’s advice and confidently walked ahead.

I suppose the ancients were more aware of deep darkness than we are today.  Bright street lamps, headlights and powerful flashlights were not part of their world.  Yet even in our experience we know the uncertainty of darkness without the light.  It would be silly and dangerous for any of us to make a trip without headlights.  Few of us would refuse a light to shine on our pathway at night.  The reason we appreciate the light is because we have understanding of the darkness.  We know the importance of light because we realize the danger of darkness.  We ask for a light because we recognize our inability to see clearly, and in this analogy we discover the spiritual truth of the Psalm.

It is only a person who realizes he is walking in darkness who asks for a light, and sometimes our enlightenment leads us to believe that we are not walking in darkness.  We feel no need for the light when seeing clearly, nor can we see clearly unless we have light.  The one who is convinced of his or her own wisdom is not likely to acknowledge a need for divine light.  Our human capacity to see and understand so much has fooled us into believing that we can see clearly without the aid of divine light.  The visible is compelling, the invisible is questionable.  The physical is obvious, the spiritual is mysterious.  Science seems infallible but spirituality is dubious. The only way to experience the light of divine wisdom is to admit that human wisdom is insufficient.  If we’re ever able to trust God it is only because we have realized that we can’t trust ourselves.  The pathway to divine wisdom passes through the cave of human darkness.  Lord, help us to acknowledge the limits of our human understanding, the darkness of our own sin so that we may experience the light of God.

It Will Be Epic

daily reading plan

May 21, 2020 by Steven Lulich

Save us, O Lord our God!
Psalm 106:47

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It’s huge, it’s vibrant and colorful, it boasts an enormous cast, and it depicts one of the most foundational events God ever enacted: the exodus. God has brought His people out of Egypt with a mighty outstretched arm, and has brought them to His holy mountain, Sinai, where He delivered to them the Law, and instructed them to build the Ark of the Covenant. Depending on how one reckons the timeline presented in the book of Judges, some 200-400 years later King David brings the Ark of the Covenant to God’s holy city, Jerusalem. This marks the culmination of the Ark’s long and tumultuous journey. As the footstool of God, the Ark’s arrival in Jerusalem symbolizes the arrival of God Himself.  The excitement was through the roof!  There were sacrifices, there was dancing, there was singing and shouting, there were trumpets and other musical instruments, and there were blessings on the people (2 Sam. 6, 1 Chr. 15-16).  I think DeMille would have loved portraying this scene in film.

A Natural Occurrence, or a God Thing?

daily reading plan

May 20, 2020 by Tim O’Connor

“The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” (Psa 104:21)

Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to God for the power and providential care He displays throughout creation. Its opening words are the basis of a contemporary worship song often sung at ECC, and its closing words are the basis for a song popular in my college days. It loosely parallels the days of creation in Genesis 1.

The poetic form of the Psalms often repeats the same idea in slightly altered words, as we see in Psalm 103:

Worshipping a Holy God

daily reading plan

May 19, 2020 by Bob Whitaker

Psalm 93-100 is a cluster of praise songs to God, Psalms that call the community together in worship.  The English roots for our word worship come from two words.  The first is weorth which means worthiness or honor.  The second is scipe which means to create.  Putting together those two words we might say that worship means to create honor or worthiness.

It is Good to Give Thanks: Reflection on Psalm 92:1

daily reading plan

May 18, 2020 by Dan Waugh

“Be good!” That’s probably the most common thing I yell at my kids as they’re running out the door to go hang with friends, go to baseball practice, ride their bike through the neighborhood, or anything else they may be up to. It’s more reflex than anything. But what do I mean when I say “be good”?

More importantly, what does the psalmist mean when he writes, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD”? Three ways it is good immediately come to mind.

First, it is good in that it is morally praiseworthy. In this, it is the opposite of evil. It is evil not to be grateful. One of God’s chief complaints against infant Israel was that they grumbled and complained against him instead of being thankful. Gratitude, on the other hand, is a command of God and is morally praiseworthy. It is good in this sense.

Second, it is good in that it’s fitting with our end, our telos. I have a hammer that I got from my dad (I think I may have ‘borrowed’ it decades ago and never returned it). It’s a good hammer – heavy, sturdy. It does what a hammer is designed to do, and it does it well. Saying it is good for us to give thanks means, in part, that it’s part of what we’re designed to do. We were created for God’s glory, and giving thanks brings God glory. 

Third, it is good for you; in other words, it’s healthy. When I see my kids eating cookies for breakfast, I might say “eat something good” (or I might join them). Similarly, being grateful and expressing gratitude is good for us – it enlivens, brightens, and restores. Like eating Ding Dongs for breakfast, Snickers for lunch and Pop-Tarts for dinner would leave you feeling pretty miserable (ask me, I know) and deprive you of crucial nutrients, so grumbling and complaining and focusing on the negative leaves us feeling miserable. This isn’t just theology or intuition; research is showing the positive health benefits that are physical, mental, and relational (see research by ECC/IU’s Joel Wong in this article, and this short, encouraging video).

Let me suggest a couple of things we can put into practice today. First, be vigilant in your prayers to include thanksgiving. Do it every time. Express your gratitude for the good things in your life you enjoy, and the hope and consolation we have in the next life because of the gift of Christ. Second, trace every good thing back to its source. Enjoy a pleasant walk? Don’t just say, “that was good.” Trace it back to its source, which is God. Enjoy a cup of coffee? Don’t just say, “good cup of joe.” Trace it back to its source and say, “thank you, God. Thank you for the simple pleasures. Thank you for sending rain on the farms that grow the beans. Thank you…” Tell someone else what you are thankful for, and ask them what they are grateful for. Let the gratitude snowball. We know complaints and negative talk can snowball into gripe sessions. Turn the tables and be grateful in communion with others. 

Remembering God’s Help in the Past Brings Comfort

daily reading plan

May 15, 2020 by Jennie Hession

I have always been a person who looks to the future. I’m always looking forward. And often find myself making plans for the next big adventure or project that I want to take on. In the past several years, I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts, learning about how we all have different orientations to time that affect how we perceive life and act in the world. To my surprise (just kidding), not everyone is future focused. Others are more focused on the past or the present.