Monday, January 5, 2015

The purpose of altars.


I am just going to be very honest here and confess, lately I feel a lot like my mind and my faith are under attack.  When I think about God and eternity, my mind is easily overwhelmed. It's almost as though I hear a little whisper behind me that says "It can't really be true."  Sometimes lately, "the Greatest Story ever told" feels just like that, a story.

Even as I am reading my bible, a place where I would hope strength for my faith would always be found, I find myself falling into a battle with doubt. "How can this be?" I think.  "That sounds so crazy," I mutter under my breath. And there is a catch in chest. I ask myself, "What if none of it is true?"

I don't think this is a strange experience for believers.  Though I think most of us won't talk about it, or admit it out loud, I imagine we all have these battles of the mind.  Because honestly, living forever sounds crazy, especially when I am tired.  I cannot begin to imagine going on and on in eternity when I'm tired.  Heaven is a concept I cannot full grasp.

It's kind of crazy for me because I am "a woman of the Word."  I love the scriptures, I have friends who refer to me as their source when they want to know what the Bible says about something or where it says it.  I love words in general, they have great value to me, but the Word of God, well, that's Jesus Himself, and I can't begin to express the "higher level" that takes the value of His Word to for me.

And despite that I find myself battling lately with the Word, and what I believe about it.  And yet, at the same time, strangely, I don't.

Even as I am working through my thoughts and struggles I think about what the Word says about the last days, and the "Great Apostasy" that will come - the days and times when MANY who know the Word, and are followers and faithful believers in Christ will fall away and stop believing.  I believe there is evidence of this happening all around us.  And so I am mindful of the possibility that my battles are exactly a part of that.

Or perhaps not, maybe it's just part of the process of "going deeper" with God.  A lot of folks don't like their authority or expertise being questioned.  You find that mindset among pastors, teachers, parents, bosses - our egos get in and if we are convinced of what we know, we are not ok with that "truth" (little t) being questioned.  But God has no ego, and I don't think He is at all intimidated by the questions, struggles and doubts of His own.  Maybe that's what "working out one's salvation" is all about.  Working through the questions with the Lord is a right response, even if you're struggling with doubts about Him.

One thing has kept me anchored through these recent battles.  It's the "altars" I've built in my life.  There are different stories in the Bible where God called people to build altars. He told Jacob to build an altar where he had battled with God, Noah built an altar after the flood, and the Israelites built an altar where they crossed the Jordan.  God commanded them to do this.

Why? I think because these "altars" represent more than head knowledge of faith - these altars are built as reminders of people's very personal interactions with God.  Noah had done the crazy and ridiculous at God's command, and as crazy as it sounds, after the waters subsided, I think Noah in is humanness was at risk of forgetting that what saved Him was the clear voice of the Lord that called him (Noah to radical obedience.)  In quieter days ahead as life had gone on, I think Noah was likely to forget Yahweh wasn't just God, He was Noah's God. You won't find piles of stones in my backyard or anything, but I have places that I have written down, spoken of, and I refer to, where I know God met me.

As I look at all the things that I read and learn and hear about God and from His Word, it is easy to have my mind overwhelmed.  But, BUT, I can look back on my life in places that God met me personally, and spoke to or directed me personally (yes, He does that) and whatever my head may argue, my heart cannot deny that God is not just God, but He is my God, and He loves me, has (and will again) ministered to me in a very real and personal way.  And He has called me to a very specific life that He has chosen for me, even when I cannot begin to fathom exactly what that is.

Altars are what we need to "build" in those places God has called us to step out in faith.  They need to be built in the places that God provided when no one else could.  They are the intimate moments of worship where His presence is felt, they are the touches from heaven, whether healing, help or hope that only God can provide.

Walking with Christ does not mean we will never question or doubt, but it should mean that more than head knowledge, there are altars placed where the personal knowledge of the God of the universe who loves us individually, intimately and personally can be looked upon to help us hang on as we work through the struggles.

If you are in that place where God is guiding and directing, where he has shown Himself faithful and provided, then build your altar there today. And if you are struggling, feeling lonely, lost or overwhelmed, look back, look carefully, find them, the undeniable Truth (big T) of your altars is there.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A small white rock sits in my kitchen windowsill, a tiny altar of sorts. A very dynamic preacher came to our church and handed out these rocks, telling us to make it our own personal Ebenezer, a memorial of the wonderful things God has done for us.

My husband thought it was okay, I guess, and his rock was never seen again, as far as I know, but I look at mine and I remember those great moments when God touched my life in an especially apparent way - the severe illness where He carried me, the answered prayers for my loved ones, the moments when he reminded me that he loves me even in my current messy state.

Everybody needs an Ebenezer.