Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Altar...

     The altar is my favorite place in the church building. It's one of the places that I feel God's presence and love for His people most profoundly. It's a place of surrender. The altar holds the sweetness of hearts laid bare before the Lord. Those who kneel there will not return to their seats the same. Being in the presence of God changes us from the inside out and there is nothing sweeter than kneeling before Him in His sanctuary.

     God uses the time spent at the altars of our lives to transform us.  Whether or not we are physically kneeling at an altar or we are simply kneeling at the altar of our hearts, it's a place of transformation. The nature of the altar requires us to come humbly in recognition that we need God.

     The way we come..humbly is only the beginning. We have to come honestly if we are to be transformed. To come honestly requires us to speak the truth in our hearts as well as to God. There's no need to keep our thoughts, feelings, emotions, expectations, and view points to ourselves. It may be tempting...especially when we are fairly certain that they are not right in God's eyes. Regardless  of this it's best to talk them through with Him honestly. When we speak the truth in our heart this way, spend time in God's presence, and then leave the altar...we are certain to find that we are not the same. Something will have shifted. Those thoughts, feelings, expectations, and viewpoints that were not right in God's eyes will have changed. After spending that time with Him, we will come to see things the way He does.

     Psalm seventy three illustrates this beautifully. The Psalmist writes about how he came close to stumbling because he was envious of the wicked. He was envious of their prosperity. In verses 12 - 14 he writes, " Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning."   He's frustrated because it doesn't seem fair that the wicked are doing so well and have it so easy, when he is trying to do what's right and is experiencing trials. He's actually starting to believe the lie that there is no point in him keeping his heart pure. As we read further we will find that eventually his thinking about the wicked changes. Verses 16-17 explain how, "When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end."  His thoughts didn't change until he came into the sanctuary...until he had spent time with God at the altar.

   I don't know about you, but I am ever in need of transformation. I need daily time at the altar...heart laid bare, kneeling in His presence.  Without this time at the altar I will be like the Psalmist was...falling prey to inaccurate view points of the world around him, susceptible to believing a lie. You see, whether we're physically kneeling at the altar or spending time with God at the altar of our hearts, it's the exchange there that transforms us. If we're honest at the altar, we'll exchange our burdens, our thoughts, our hurts, our hang ups, and our frustrations for God's healing, God's thoughts, and God's ways. When we allow God to make this exchange with us we leave transformed. We leave lighter for having been in His presence and lifted by His love.

     The altar is one of the places that I feel God's love for His people most profoundly. It's because of His great love for us that He even bothers to transform us. The question is, do we love Him enough to kneel at the altar and let Him work?

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