Friday, May 22, 2009

Pastor's Perspective - Altar-ed Minds

Do you have an altar-ed mind?

Recently I have taken a beautiful leisurely excursion down the winding river that is the unforgettable book of Genesis. The leisurely part has been my slow and intentional desire to enjoy the text like a great linen napkin meal – one appreciated bite at a time, complimented and seasoned with enjoyable dialogue. In other words, I’m thoroughly enjoying and appreciating being in the moment, and the rich privilege of having the book’s sovereign Underwriter explaining it to me.

Admittedly, as any reader of the Bible’s first book would agree, although Genesis can be read slowly, it’s hardly a tube-friendly slow-moving river. From creation to the curse to the covenant, it’s a true white knuckle ride – honest and un-sanitized for our jaw-dropping pleasure, as God establishes a people – His people.

Of particular interest to me has been the topic of altars, and the motivation behind building them. As you know, an altar was a platform or elevated place in which a sacrifice was offered to God. The first documented one was built by Noah after the Flood. The next several ones were built by the great patriarch Abraham, after he either heard God’s clear direction for his life, or, in celebratory response to a promise the Lord faithfully kept. Later his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob would build altars for similar reasons. Later by God’s divine direction to Moses, altars would become a permanent fixture within the tabernacle and the temples. As a necessary instrument of the Old Testament sacrificial system, altars would serve as amazingly insightful foreshadowing of the One who would ultimately be the accepted propitiation for the sinful mutiny of mankind – Jesus the Christ.

As mentioned, in Genesis specifically, these physical altars served in beautiful ways. First and foremost, they were expressions of worship and sincere gratitude to the Lord for His loving kindness. But secondly, they were reminders for His people. How brilliant and how elementary! His covenant people deliberately surrounded themselves with memorials – object lessons to share with generations to follow.

As Americans, and more specifically, as American Christians, we do at best a minimal job in this area. The ancient Jews were masterful! We could and should learn from them in this area. Not only did they erect physical reminders of divine touch-points, they celebrated everything, and loved doing it. They knew something we oftentimes forget, that doing life God’s way is highly pleasurable and party-worthy. From annual festivals to benchmark celebrations of maturity within each family, people were reminded and affirmed in beautiful, meaningful and life-guiding ways.

So, I’m challenging you to identify in your life altar places and altar people. In other words, where were you when you heard the message of God’s amazing grace? That’s an altar place! Who lovingly led you to Jesus? That’s an altar person! Friends, I believe that like ancient altars, stopping and remembering these places, encounters, moments and people will fuel the fire of your worship and consume you even more as a living sacrifice. Reminder: We’re not worshiping places or people! God has spoken very clearly on the topic of idolatry. Instead, we’re stopping, remembering, and identifying the fingerprints of God.

I’ll go first. My first altar place was Weeki Wachee Christian Camp (FL), where I gave my heart to Christ in 1977 at the age of 14. Another altar place was Michelle’s and my first house together as newlyweds in Tampa where I know the Lord called me into full-time ministry one day in spring 1994. I view First Christian Church (Suisun) as my most recent altar place; a place God divinely brought me and my family, three thousand miles from family and familiar. Altar people include former ministers and mentors, dearly loyal family and friends, and my wonderful wife .

Do you have an altar-ed mind?

I challenge you to get one!

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