I’m back home in the land of my birth for a few days. I’ve not lived around Youngstown, Ohio (Mineral Ridge, Niles, Champion) since 1997. I’ve been in the military since 1998, and have lived all over the world. I’m home in the United States for business and pleasure from Germany for a few days, now sitting at a Panera as I write this. I’ve missed Panera. Mostly Chick-Fil-A, but Panera too. I’m not here with my family, I’m alone this week, and head back to Germany in a few days. I’ve taken some time on this trip to reminisce about the past. I’ve gone by the home I was raised in, where I went to school, where I failed to do things I know I shouldn’t have, and the places where I experienced the things that make me me…for better or for worse. Yesterday, I attended a service at the only church that had any positive influence on me in my life before I was saved. It was a very different place than it was 30 years ago! A parking attendant asked me if it was my first time there? I had to chuckle. I’m on a literal field of dreams this week flooded with memories of people, places and things. I’m hurrying to finish my postings here today to head out and continue the tour before I have dinner with a brother of mine that I’ve not seen in many years.

Today, while seated on a somewhat cool September day in Packard Park in Warren, OH, where I was nearly murdered some 20 years ago, I lifted my hands in song to God for salvation. I’m a Reformed Baptist so I did it in my car very covertly, but I did it. On the very stone steps where even as a fallen heathen God long ago intervened to save my life I broke into tears 1) in appreciation for the Gospel that I now love, and 2) for the fact that God would be pleased to have used me since for his great glory. A deliberately played song from Christ Tomlin helped. I sang along in my rental car in that place in expressive thanks for salvation. Simple, childlike thanks for the fact that if God had not intervened I’d have simply been another statistic. Today I’m a Christian, a minister of the Gospel, and I have a darling wife of thirteen years with four wonderful kids all under eleven years old. I have so very much to sing to God in thanks about!

Here’s a short reflection for you in this after I just posted the 123rd installment of my tour through the LBCF 1689 confession. God had a special relationship with the descendants of Abraham. In 1 Samuel 7, God had brought revival to Israel again under the judgment of Samuel. Samuel called the people to obedience by departing, again, from their evil ways. God then miraculously delivered the Israelites again from the hands of the Philistines (vs. 10) in their repentance, and in Samuel’s sacrificial intercession. Afterward, “Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (vs. 12). The stone was raised as a memorial to God’s help. This was not the only time this happened in Israel’s unique history.

Where do you go to thank God for his deliverance in your life? I hope you can go somewhere and do so. If you can’t may where you are as you read this become the first. Give him thanks. Take the time in silent reflection and in song as possible to remember all that God has done for you. Raise up your “ebenezers” when you can. Scripture is full of God’s commands to remember what he did for Israel. We too do so as commanded each time we take the Lord’s Supper to remember what he’s done until he comes again, Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. We too as Christians are to remember what he’s done for us (even perhaps sometimes as a people) and to give him thanks. In our lives it’s good to honor him for his help. It may not always be in tears, but tears are not the point. Tears aren’t the point; faithful praise is. It’s not about the emotions that sometimes accompany us; it’s about the truth of it all that will never leave us. It is good in every way you can remember it to thank God for his mercies in your life. For his good and holy wrath against your sin. For his threatenings of a just hell that sobered you. For his tender mercies that brought you to life despite your resistance. For his Cross. Perhaps he took you out from drugs, from sexual immorality, from violence, from pride. Thank him. There are places we can thank him for total deliverance from Egypt-like bondage, and places where perhaps he just helped us win a small skirmish in the war. In every place, may we be a thankful and praising people to the God of our salvation eager to see others delivered as well.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.” Psalm 121.

Israel had their stones of praise and remembrance. I stand on them as a Gentile today as I read of them. I thank my God that he again delivered my spiritual ancestors from the Philistines on that day in 1 Samuel 7. I share in that Ebenezer stone now by faith in Jesus. I too now in Christ, as a child of Abraham, have my “stones” I raise as well. I just visited a major one here in Ohio just today. I have other major ones in Phoenix, AZ and, mostly, in Tampa, FL as well. I remember them today in Jesus, as Israel in their ways long before me, because the great stone once atop Jesus’ tomb was rolled aside. Hallelujah!

4 responses to “Ebenezers”

  1. Linda says:

    Love you son! Your Dad and I prayed for you continually. He answered our prayers for you and you have succeeded our hopes for you and yours. Continue your works as God directs you.

  2. Joseph Pittano says:

    Thank you! Love you too…

  3. Matthew Mager says:

    Your gonna have to look me up the next time you are back in the Youngstown/Warren area.

  4. Joseph Pittano says:

    Matt, I’d really enjoy that. It was a tight timeline when I was back. God bless you in your work. I look forward to meeting you someday…

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