Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Holy Ground

At the end of every church service that we perform we have what’s called an Altar Call. This is where the altars are opened to give people an opportunity to approach the altar and meet with God. Sometimes people have the impression that the altar call is only for those who have decided to open their lives to the call of God: Those who have a desire to receive Jesus or as we Christians say, “get saved.” To a certain extent, that’s true, it is for them. It is provided for them to have the opportunity to repent of their sin and make a public declaration of their intent to serve Christ.

But even more than that the altar call is for those who want to meet with God: Those who want to enter into the place where God is and do real business with Him. This is the time of the service where you are able to do that.

The altar is what New Testament churches have rather than a “Holy of Holies.” We don’t have to stand behind a veil of separation. Thanks to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, we can enter directly into the presence of God, and that takes place at the altar.

The altar can become a reference point for us. We can go to the altar and say this is the point that I cut off the self-destructive behavior. This is the moment where I allow God to move in my life.

I can remember the exact moment I gave my life to Jesus Christ; February 29, 1992. I remember the sermon that pastor preached; it was on commitment. I remember the brother who came and prayed with me, in fact, he’s a close friend to this day. If you walked into the Door Christian fellowship in Colton California, I can show you the exact place where I knelt down and prayed. It’s a reference point in my life. God began to change me at that time and at that place.

But I have never stopped going to the altar. I need to continue to meet with Him there. I need to continue to open myself to repentance. Because we are never completely free of temptation and sin, while we remain on earth. Salvation is a process that isn’t completed until we enter into eternity in the presence of Jesus. The altar is the place where the work can be done: The place where God can deal with us about certain aspects of our lives, our hearts and our personalities.

Have you realized that all of us get convicted? That’s good; I hope I never get to the point where I can’t hear from God about the things that are wrong in my life. We should never come to a place where we can sit comfortably in church. Where we can no longer be convicted: Where we feel like our sin is gone, because it isn’t that we have stopped sinning, we have just stopped giving the Holy Spirit permission to deal with us about it. If we refuse to allow Him to expose us, and convict us then there can be no change and we go on as before.

We should all desire to meet with God, personally. We should all want to step into the presence of God and let Him work out the sin and the parts of us of which we’re ashamed. We need to step onto Holy Ground.

Exodus 3:1-6 (NKJV)
3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." 6 Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

The Altar

The altar is defined as a place of sacrifice. The Hebrew word for altar is misbeach (mis bay akh) which comes from the root word Disbeach (dis bay akh) which means to slaughter an animal. So the word altar is defined as a place o slaughter or a sacrifice an animal. We don’t sacrifice animals any more but the New Testament altar is a place where we take our lives and sacrifice them to Jesus Christ: Where we come to grips with the sin that is there and begin to lay down those things; stepping away from them…even the ones we like. .It is a place where we can meet with God and a place where He will meet with His people. It’s Holy Ground.

In the Old Testament they built altars to honor God, or to mark some place where God moved powerfully in their lives: Some point where God changed them or delivered them.

Exodus 17:13-16 (NKJV)
17:13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." 15 And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; 16 for he said, "Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

As Israel crossed the land of the Amalekites, they followed behind them and jumped them from the rear. They were attempting to destroy Israel and God spoke to Moses and told him to stand and fight. Moses sent Joshua to fight the battle. Then Moses stood on a hill with the rod of God in his hand. When his hands were raised the battle went to Israel, but when his hands dropped the battle went to Amalek. So they sat him on a hill and propped up his hands and God gave them a great victory over Amalek. This was something that God did. So Moses built an altar to honor God for this deliverance from their enemies. That altar was a reference point for the Israelites.

It should be the same in our lives. The altar should be a reference point for us, because it is the place where God picked us up and delivered us from the attack of Satan on our lives. He picked us up from the mess we had made in our lives and set us down changed and delivered.

We need the altar as a reference point in our lives, because we face the Amalekites in our lives the same way. The Amalekites represent the worldly influences that we all face in life. The influences that try to take us out of the will of God, little by little; subtly and quietly trying to draw us away a little at a time. That was the strategy of Amalek, to pick them off one at a time, little by little.

That is also the strategy of the enemy we face. Do you realize people don’t backslide all of a sudden, all at once? They are influenced away from the things of God a little at a time. Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “That’s it, I’ve served God long enough. Now, I’m going out to live like a wild Banshee.” It rarely happens that way; it happens a little piece at a time. We quit attending church, we quit praying, we stop guarding our hearts and eventually we are away from God and deep in sin.

When w e pray and contend we will have victory, but when we don’t, then we start to lose the battle with sin. Moses lifting his hands symbolized prayer, and Israel led in the battle, but dropping his hands symbolized the absence of prayer and Amalek prevailed. The battle was won on the top of the hill as Moses lifted his hands.

Those of us who struggle with temptation and sin, we need to be willing to come to the altar and contend for victory. We need to come to the altar and fight Amalek. The altar is a place where you can meet with God: Where you can contend for victory. Your contending, your struggle with sin honors Him and the struggle that was played out on the cross by his Son. Jesus died so we can have victory over sin and struggle to die to self pays honor to His sacrifice. He didn’t die in vain.

We are Able to Step into the Presence of God

It wasn’t always like that, you know. In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle and gave instructions for a place where He would meet with His people.

Exodus 26:33-34 (NKJV)
26:33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.

This is description of the Holy of Holies. The mercy seat is the place where God is. This is the place where God said He would meet with His people. But the veil was designed to keep us from entering into the place where God was. Once a year, the High priest only could enter into the Holy of Holies, but he had to prepare himself first. He couldn’t just walk in there.

Leviticus 16:11-13 (NKJV)
16:11 "And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. 12 Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. 13 And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.

Notice what the last part of that scripture said, “And he shall not die.” In other words if he hadn’t atoned for his sins: If his heart wasn’t right with God: If there was some sin in there…God would have killed him.

Can you imagine what it would be like if God immolated us instantly every time we approached the altar with some impurity in or lives? Every church in the world would have a pile of smoking cinders to clean up every Sunday. The Holy of Holies was the place where God was, and because of that it was Holy ground. The altar in your church is the place where God is. It’s Holy ground for the same reason the burning bush was Holy Ground.

The altar is also Holy Ground because it was bought at a price. A price was paid; our sin was atoned because Jesus Christ shed his blood on Calvary’s cross once and for all.

Mark 15:37-38 (NKJV)
15:37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. 38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

His death paid the price that gave us access to God. His death opened up the altar so we could meet with God. We have access through His Son. We are justified by Jesus’ death. That word justified means to be made innocent. We are made innocent through Jesus’ suffering and death. His death made us innocent of our sin.

The Altar is Covered in Blood

2 Samuel 23:13-17 (NKJV)
23:13 Then three of the thirty chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam. And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 And David said with longing, "Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" 16 So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. 17 And he said, "Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?" Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men.

Where did this come from? What does this have to do with the altar call and Holy Ground?

Picture how this exchange went. They’re in this cave, it’s hot and dusty. This is taking place after Saul had chased and tried to kill him. It is after Absalom had tried to usurp the kingdom. He’s at war with the Philistines and he’s looking back and reminiscing about simpler times. David grew up in Bethlehem. After he fought Goliath, the Bible says Saul didn’t let him go back to his family. He fought Goliath when he was about seventeen. So he’s thinking back to his childhood. He’s thinking back to happier times. He’s probably just reminiscing, “Oh, how great it was to drink the water by gate in Bethlehem.”

These men, desiring to please their king; not because they were ordered; not out of obligation but because they loved him, fought their way through the army of the Philistines to get a cup of that water for him. Imagine what they went through! They fought their way to the well. No doubt they continued fighting at the well. Then they had to fight their way back through the line. They were probably injured. They had probably spilled some blood.

They give the water to David and David immediately understands what it took to get that water. He sees what these men were willing to sacrifice for that water. He sees the price that they paid to bring it to him and he can’t see it any longer as just water. What he sees is the blood of the men who risked it all to bring it to him. Because of the sacrifice they were willing to make. Because of the price they were willing to pay he knew that to just drink it would profane the honor they had paid him. He looked at it with reverence and he poured it out as an offering to God.

Think about the altar. Think about the sacrifice that was made to give us this place of access to God. The place where we can meet with Him, where we can answer the His call on our lives. Jesus’ blood was poured out to tear down the veil of separation and gives this meeting place to contend for victory. The altar is as holy a place as the place where David poured out that water.

The altar is the place where people can be delivered from sin. It’s the place where we can begin to turn the tide on the destruction of our lives; on our self-loathing. It’s the place where we can contend for victory in the battles we face in life. It’s the place that he paid for when he died to give us access to God through him. It’s covered with Blood. It’s sacred. It’s Holy ground.

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