Something Missing

It came to me on Saturday while Prepping for Sunday…

There was something missing in the church!

We’ve grown accustomed to the way modern churches look – an auditorium, often similar to what we had in school days – a stage, a front gathering area, seats for people to enjoy, dimmed lights for the cameras, and a comfort zone to allow you to enjoy the 1 hour and 20 minute service…

When we compare the modern conveniences to the old time churches, and to the gathering places of thousands of years ago, we immediately feel the differences. Perhaps each generations requirements were met by each generations accommodations and there is nothing wrong with that missing element.

But when you stretch through the generations, the older folks know the differences.

I remember Israel and all the temples and churches found where many were devoid of anything relating to creature comfort. Lot’s of stones and bricks. Hard floors and seats. No technology, but great acoustics where sound travels easily from front to back.

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I remember hardback pews with no cushion of any kind. Some kind of tile floor with a carpet runner through the middle walkway, and surrounding the gathering area in the front. Lot’s of wood furniture combinations – you know, dark, or light as birch.

But the one thing I realize we miss as an article of “furniture” is our modern church is an altar. A place of personal sacrifice. A place where you bring what you must offer, and a place to lay it down and never pick it up again. Many churches will simply use the steps to the platform as their altar, and that is probably good enough, but my studies show how sacred the altar was that no “tool of iron” should be used in making it (Deuteronomy 27:5, Joshua 8:31), and it was holy and whatever touched it should be holy (Exodus 29:37).

Immediately following the Flood, we find Noah building the first ever mentioned altar, and God was pleased.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. (Genesis 8:20-21 NKJV)

This was not the last altar, nor was he the last person to ever build something for sacrificing.

Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, among many others mentioned. Some of the altars were given names to associate the blessing connected to the sacrifice. Here are a few:

  • El Bethel – Genesis 37:5
  • Jehovah-Jireh – Genesis 22:14
  • Jehovah-Nissi – Exodus 17:15

Altars were not just for sacrifice, but also as a witness for present and future generations and should be used for peace offerings. (Joshua 22:26-27) Some were made from stones (Deuteronomy 27:5, Joshua 8:31, 1 Kings 18:32, Isaiah 27:9), earth (Exodus 20:24), wood (Genesis 22:9, Exodus 27:1, Ezekiel 41:22). Throughout Israel archaeologist find remnants of altars everywhere…

It was a common thing to do.

After a good meeting and prayer time on Saturday, God gave me a “word” for Sunday. I prepared a message to fit the “word.” Early Sunday morning I made a trip to the hardware store, for less than $20, I bought a 10 foot, 2×10 framing timber, and 4 cinder blocks that are often used to build a foundation or wall for a roof.

While ending my message, 3 men of excellent character went to my truck and brought in the building material and in a matter of minutes they had constructed a makeshift altar in the gathering area at the front of the church. I anointed it with olive oil and opened the doors to prayer, and sacrifice….

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It reminded me of church experiences of my youth. The music may take us toward God, the word reach for God, but it’s that separate moment of sacrifice at an altar that I commit to God.

In fact, afterwards, several commented about their thoughts, as recent as that morning, as to why we had no altar in the church! Great minds!

Here’s a thought for you today. You may not be much of a praying person, but it seems most religions understand the concept of a place of sacrifice. I’ve taken and taught about world religions through the decades, and it is almost a given that a sacred place, or piece of furniture, is a place for individual and collective sacrifices. A place of prayer and dedication. A place to consecrate yourself or something to God.

Some would say the last altar experience for the Christian is Christ on the Cross, and we no longer need an altar today. But Jesus did say:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

What is your altar experience like?

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