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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One Step Forward

We’ve all heard that old statement…

steps-in-the-country“Two Steps Forward, One Step Backwards.” Or, if you want to think about Vladimir Lenin, the communist from the 19th and 20th century, who wrote a pamphlet titled, “One Step Forward, Two Step Backwards.”

Either way, it’s the concept of the arduous actions of trying to get ahead, while slipping behind. Either by one step, or two. It seems like it’s difficult to get ahead, and when progress is experienced, the next step would slip us back closer to where we came from.

At personal levels we often feel the pain of the slippery slope, the loss of forward momentum, the weight of our friends, family, career, country, politics and global needs tied like inestimable weights that we find it impossible to make forward motion.

We take ownership of the global weights and oft times it seems like our knuckles drag the ground and we find it impossible to salvage the skin hitting against the stones.

The weight of the world rests on our psyche so much we feel depression and oppression like never before. Depression comes from within, oppression from without. It’s almost like there is no escape…

This afternoon, for a brief moment, I felt the need to run away from it all. To the wilderness. Away from the crowds, no responsibilities, build a log cabin and enjoy rustic living. You will never know what triggered this, but I will tell you this is how many people feel way too often. Throw in the towel. Quit. Flee Babylon. Grab what is precious and necessary and just simply go…

Then there is something that happens to me, and for me. It comes out of that which I’ve buried and hid in my heart and mind, and suddenly the steps are manageable. The writer of Hebrews paints this kind of picture.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

Witness. They surround us. They show us how to live through the valleys and keep the race ever before us, knowing the finish line is soon to arrive!

I think of the witness of my parents, my pastors, my grandmother, and even my siblings. There are good friends and people close to me, and I even experienced hanging around them today.

So… As you slip backwards, dig in with your strength, pick up the pace, turn your eyes forward, grab for the stanchions that line your path. It’s not just you that needs to pick up your feet and set them down forward, you need to reach over to that fellow traveler and help them along.

We are not in this alone!

 

Numbered Steps

I keep seeing these lists floating around

Stairs…and they are all numbered, and in some
semblance of order or priority they tell me things I’m supposed to do in order to ________________ (you fill in the blank, as long as it’s something good you want to do…).

Some are really good lists, others meaningless to my situation, but they all get my attention…

…And, this got me to thinking.

What’s On My List Today?

Fred Meyer, a Northwest favored market, uses this as their tag line… Only they say, “What’s On Your List Today? You’ll Find It at Fred Meyer.”

True… I follow “To Do” lists regularly – adding, removing, accomplishing – all normal “To Do” lists tasks. In fact, this is one of my major tasks in the morning – review my list, add things to it, remove others, mark the accomplishments, prioritize, etc.

I am easily perturbed when someone can just rattle their daily to do list without looking at a piece of paper and then tell you where they can fit you in, or when a task will be completed… Show-off!

Without order and structure my life would be a mess of contradicting tasks and poor follow through on many fronts. There are areas in my life that are a mess… and contradicting… and requires better control and follow through – but that’s a different story (don’t look in my closet)….

Without order… There must be a starting point. We begin our months with 1-January of 12 months, Week 1 of 52,  00:01 starts a new day, 1 starts a new birthday although we count from 0 after 9 months of gestation. Even the Bible talks about starting points!

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. (Exodus 12:1-2 KJV)

This helps me to think about my routine and it’s order this morning. I’ve been writing about this the whole month of October…. There are some changes I need to make.

  • Changes to make at church, home, education, calling, career, retirement, etc.
  • Changes to make in my mobility and diet.
  • Changes to make in some personal habits and projects.

How do you make lists to accomplish all these tasks if you do not have an overarching principle in living and doing? Categories each have their own list… But there is much conflict between each category and the tasks required – they overlap, butt heads, contradict each other, and … well, I hope you get the picture.

So. Perhaps. This could be the kind of thing you and I need to think about. Long range plans. Not short term fixes. It’s like the stairs in my house. I never intend on just walking up halfway. No, my intent is to travel the length of them. Knowing that I’m ascending (or descending) helps me know what the ending (landing) will be like.

What if I could organize my world with a focus of what’s at the end?

Where do I want to be in 1, 5, 10, 30 years of work, finances, family, health, education, etc.? It’s too late to reach back into time and re-start your life with a better focus. You simply have to see where you are at today, and make some positive movements on those stairs and get your life in order.

What are your Goals?

  • Goals will point the way of where you are headed – traveling with the end in sight is very important.
  • Evaluate your Goals – ensure they are achievable, and that you think it worthy of your effort?
  • Some Goals will need to change as time progresses, especially when you consider how the world is always changing – housing, economics, career, etc.

What are my milestones so I can measure my status at each major step?

  • Milestones are simply markers I put into place to see if I am in line with my Goals.
  • Milestones are things that I can Measure – If I have an investment goal of a certain amount and all things I know about investments state I must be at certain levels along my pathway, have I achieved them at that particular time.

Determine the costs.

  • Some things you want will cost you – money, time and effort. Be prepared to weigh the cost against the rewards.
  • You must determine the costs, at all cost…

Make room for major adjustments to your Goals and Milestones.

  • Nothing stays the same. Life changes all the time. Can you be flexible in the changes these adjustments will make to your life?

Celebrate achievements.

  • I dislike planning parties, or big celebrations. Maybe you do too…Maybe it’s something you can delegate (and probably should)…
  • Celebrations can be a simple reward of a particular thing or trip that you want – just factor it’s cost to you and be sure it fits in.

Have an accountability partner that you will answer to in each of the Milestones or Direction.

  • If you are traveling with a spouse, then that person needs to be your “FIRST” go-to person. They should not be kept in the dark – they are your partner!
  • As a team, you need to find someone to help you check your successes and failures along your path. It may be simply a close friend or family member, or it may be someone you have engaged to help you along the way – investment coach, etc.

Regardless… And this is the bottom line of it all….

If you have no plan, then you have already arrived at your destination – you just do not realize it yet…

Keep Your Eyes on the Future

But do not ignore the next step – the missed step can be a doozy!

Monument Valley 001Day 13 of 31 steps on a 31 day journey…

I was born on the 13th and am not afraid of this number!

Where are we going? How do we get there? What’s the best way to get there? Roadblocks? Re-directs?

My son introduced me to this game called “Monument Valley” and I’ve played it tirelessly on my iPad. (My granddaughter is a wiz at this and she’s not even 4!) The character has many pathways and levels to go through, sometimes taking control of the situation and twisting the world around so the next step can work, and other times simply waiting until proper moment to continue on.

Sometimes you get stuck, sometimes you go the wrong way. 

Sometimes the next move makes sense. Sometimes it makes absolutely no sense! Too many times you backtrack and try it again….

“For we all stumble in many things….” (James 3:2 NKJV)

There’s probably not a single person I know that has not missed a step in life. Maybe a few more than one. It’s all about what we do when we fall down… Even when we know we are reaching the end of our time, it’s within my frame to accept that I may stumble, but I always want to get up and keep going the right direction.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” ~Steve Jobs

That last step, to some, will be a welcome respite to the race of life. Not me. I want to keep getting back up and keep on going!

 

 

 

Re-Evaluate Yourself

With each new step on this 31 day journey…

Staircase - Stairway to the Sky - CanadaYou have a fresh opportunity to evaluate yourself. Who am I? Where am I going? Best, or right, direction? Anything left undone that needs to be addressed? What’s missing in my toolbox that needs to be added? Removed? Has my destination changed? Are there any conditions that need to be re-mediated before continuing on?

If, with every step I have firm answers to these questions, then this is nothing but a momentary pause on the journey. I like what Dave Ramsey said about today, Monday.

Monday is your clean slate. If there is something in your life that you dont like, CHANGE IT! Begin taking steps today!” ~@DaveRamsey

Change may be lengthy, and it may pause your journey. But if you have no destination in mind that is firmly ensconced in your psyche, then take the moment and begin the change! I’ve written many times that it is not about the destination, rather, it’s all about the journey.

The one good thing about having these questions is that they provide a valuable set of boundaries, a framework that keeps you surrounded by your choices. They keep you corralled. Focused. They help you analyze new circumstances.

Change, or barriers that appear, require some effort to adjust to new conditions. Whether micro-adjustments or large jumps required, boundaries show you the way!

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” ~David Lloyd George

What do you want your life to look like? I want my daily walk to be pleasing and a pleasure. For me, my family, my God and my life. I want the ending of life to be a view of satisfaction about the difference I have made in another persons life.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24 ESV)

I want my steps to delight the Lord, while at the same time I know that God allows me to thread life with steps that are unique to my frame.

“He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.” (Psalms 103:14 MSG)

This does not mean I leave His framework, rather I work within his law and his pleasure. Just as I work within the boundaries of my job, construct of the law, or live within the parameters of my marriage, I must also live in the frame of God’s rule.

Where are your steps leading you today?

 

Next Step

Before You Go…

Scotland Steps
One of a thousand steps in Scotland

Before you can talk about your next step, should you not know where you are at? After all, this dictates what your next step will be like.

Before you can talk about your next step, should you not know where you came from? Not knowing your beginning you may simply end up back at the place you started.

Before you can take that next step, should you not know what your final destination will be? Before you can simply take off and go, you really need to comprehend your destination.

That next step needs to be planned!

Over the past few years we have enjoyed a number of personal trips that keep us on the move, going from one place to another, seeing this place and that.

Much of my focus on the global front puts me into the place of wanting to learn how the “locals” live. I do not want to hit the “tourist” spots and think I’ve explored. I want to branch out and learn.

The UK was an enjoyable experience. There is so much history there that applies to my home country. Connecting with some roots this way gave me deeper understanding of my personal roots. You do not experience history without taking some steps.

When I traveled to Israel and Jordan, there was much that applied to my spiritual history, and there were thousands and thousands of steps in order to experience and grasp the depth of God’s love and direction.

I love this quote about taking the steps in life that we often take.

“Three simple rules in life: If you do not go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.”  ― Anonymous

Almost sounds like Jesus talking, right?

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  (Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV)

Life is full of a million steps, maybe more. A simple misstep can easily be corrected when caught early, but that same step can lead you astray. Far from where you are destined to go. It’s like that big cargo ship on the ocean – no quick turn makes for quick results. It’s a lifetime of making the right steps, in the right direction, to get to the right destination!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.  (Psalms 37:23-25 NKJV)

There is always a chance for a righteous person to re-position their place in life with a few re-directed steps. There is always a chance for a person who has gone far afield to come back to home base and start all over.

Really? Here’s a story you probably know.

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ‘ “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.  (Luke 15:11-24 NKJV)

It is too easy to go off “half-cocked” – one dictionary tells me that this means going somewhere “only partly ready; poorly prepared…”. That first step, or re-step, needs to be planned and you need to be prepared. Think about the steps you need to take in life. Are you ready for the next phase of life? Are things in order for you to move the right direction? Do you have all of your “I’s” dotted and your “T’s” crossed?

Thinking about next steps today…

10 Questions to Answer After Every Event

The day and event is over!

After The EventAs you look back over every moment, have you ever asked: “What could I have done better?”

Some think of only the cleanup and putting away of the stuff, while others ask themselves this question in light of the next event.

After every church service, or family gathering, I try to reflect backwards in order to better prepare forward.

Take a moment to reflect on your last big event. Or small one. It matters little. The same principles work for both. In my mind I consider better steps leading to the next event, and even jot down notes to ease the memory and planning process.

In one arena of technology where our projects were huge and expensive and affected many employees, customers and profits, we called this the “After Action Report”. It was an organized form that we answered the questions that applied, filed it away in a planning folder, and then referenced it when the next big project came along.

Call it what you want, but you really should consider these questions afterwards so that the next event is better organized the next time.

  1. What was good about the event? What could have been better?
  2. What worked? What didn’t?
  3. What was successfully accomplished, and what was left out?
  4. Who attended? Who didn’t? Why? Was anyone left out? Why?
  5. Was the food adequate? What could have been better handled or presented?
  6. Was the facility adequate? What could have been better?
  7. Was everyone prepared?
  8. Did it start on time? Why, or why not?
  9. Did everyone feel included and a part? If not, why?
  10. Were contingency plans in place and did you have to use them? (On the Y2K we asked what would we do if so and so were hit by a Mack Truck?)

What other questions do you ask? I am sure this is not a complete list and maybe you would like to share. Please. Feel free to do so!