Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Building Your Altar

I’m not sure why these thoughts have percolated down into my heart, but here they are. Maybe they’re just for me, or maybe someone out there has been trying to make your altar look more presentable than your life circumstances actually are?

On Building Your Altar before God, this is what I heard in my soul. “Don’t take too much time or planning or sculpting of some altar before God; for that gives rise to human reason and pretense. No, just reach out and grab the closest most natural thing at hand and present your offering to God.”

Okay, I knew about the passage in Exodus 20:25; “If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use.” (NLT) But, I was not even thinking about this verse when the Lord impressed upon my heart, the importance of impromptu altar. That’s right, impromptu versus altars of reason and pretense.

Let me explain. I believe one reason God’s people were not to fashion the stones used in earthen altars was, not only that they might distract from the glory of God in that moment, but also the time and thought and reason and pretense put into their man-made efforts of aggrandizing before God.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we need to offer our very best to God in worship and obedience, but sometimes the best altars are the immediate and impromptu ones that arise out of our desperation and gratitude in a moment of need or thanksgiving. For therein arises the beauty and power of a true sacrifice unto God.

It’s not in our ability to posture and sculpt something that we think looks awesome and offer it to God, but it’s in our willingness to offer in the moment, with what is at hand, a place where we burn it all before God, so as to recapture that peace and fellowship that only He can provide. For sometimes we can find ourselves reasoning and developing what we believe is good, better or even best, to offer to God, and He’s simply asking us to respond in deep earnest and honest commitment without our ideas of what He might be looking for mixed in the structure.

Far too often we put a tool to our circumstances; we re-shape the resources at hand so as to impress. We put our reasoning and pretense into the place where we are to meet with God and the actual offering or sacrifice is obscured by our efforts to impress. Whereas, God is simply looking for a people who will in the moment of deepest need, throw together an altar where GRACE is what they depend upon, and not their abilities to dress up the moment so as to make themselves look better or less in need, before God or man. Do you get that?

Granted, there were later times where altars were made to look beautiful and impressive, but don’t miss the original pattern; stones not hewn, resources not tooled or reshaped, but simply put together so as to not overshadow the sacrifice or offering being given to the Lord; so as to exalt the Lord of the circumstance versus the circumstance lording over us.

I know this may be a leap for many of you, but in any given moment, where God is or has caused His Name to be remembered; we are to build an altar where everything is given over to him and were peace and fellowship can be restored, and we simply don’t have time to plan, or tool, or shape, or impress, we simply offer it all in that very moment with what is at hand.

Maybe I’m off base in my interpretation of the passage at hand, but I know for me, in the times when I’ve tried to impress God and others with my fancy altar moments, I’ve experiences far less of His presences than when I’ve thrown together rough and natural circumstances to build my altar of appeal and reconciliation to Him. Those tend to be the BEST ALTARS of all. Those tend to be the ones most precious to the Father.

On Building Your Altar… just build it. Don’t think or plan or even attempt to reshape the circumstances, just offer it as is; and let God be glorified. Remember, your best efforts to sterilize or retool something so that you will impress God or others, will simply pollute and defile the moment. Let’s not make that a pattern for our worship and relationship with Him.

On Building Your Altar… you’d better not lay a tool to it or you WILL make it unholy. Give it some thought and ask yourself what your altars look like. Are they fancy and all dressed up or are they rugged and desperately thrown together out of your life circumstances so as to be honest and forthright with God; so as to manifest the Glory of God and not the glory of man?


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