The Altar of Our Hearts

In Judges 6 Gideon receives a visitor when he was threshing wheat in a winepress. They shared a lengthy conversation about Gideon delivering Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. When the conversation was over, Gideon asked the visitor to wait while he prepared a customary offering. Then something miraculous happened. 

Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God ! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The- Lord – Is -Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 6:21-24 NKJV)

Gideon knew the visitor was greater than himself but he didn’t know he was an angel. He didn’t realize the visitor was an angel until after he made fire rise from a rock and had disappeared out of his sight. Gideon became frightened because he had seen an angel face to face. The angel perceived Gideon’s fear, spoke words of peace, and assured Gideon he wouldn’t die from the encounter. 

So what does Gideon do once he realizes he has been in the presence of the Angel The Lord? He builds an altar. 

Here are some things to consider:

1. We can’t truly praise and worship God if we can’t recognize him. God blesses us continually but if we don’t recognize him as the source of our blessings we will fail to thank and praise him. 

2. We must create a place to worship. Gideon’s altar became a permanent place to worship God in every season of life. We too must worship in every season of life by erecting an altar in our hearts. 

If the Angel of The Lord appeared before you today, how would you respond?

What’s Your Price?

Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” (Judges 16:4, 5 NKJV)

Samson loved Delilah. We don’t know her actual feelings for him but they did have a relationship. Somewhere along the way, Delilah was willing to sacrifice the relationship for a price.

Video of Samson from the Bible Series

If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us have a price. There are circumstances and benefits that hold such high value in our minds we are willing to sacrifice our relationships to receive them. Our price says a lot about what we think is most important and the arrangement of our priority lists.

Here are a few examples:

Maybe our relationships aren’t as fun as they use to be because real life struggles and responsibilities are bearing down on us. If the right person or opportunity comes along we may be tempted to break up for the sake of a good time.

Perhaps you’re in a relationship where money is tight and you can’t afford the finer material things in life. You may find yourself selling out love for luxury.

Some of us are easily swayed by physical intimacy. As soon as another man or woman shows us the affection we’re not getting at home, we enter into an affair. The list goes on and on.

Here are my thoughts. Delilah was in a relationship but when she was tempted, she gave up the love of the world’s strongest man for money. The only way to avoid making the same tragic mistake is to identify your price, compare it to God’s standard for marriage, and make the choice to conform to his standard. When we do this, we may find that the things we think are so important are low on the priority list for healthy, lasting relationships. We may find our pet issues or secret desires are vain in comparison to God’s greater plan.

What’s your price?

God’s Purpose in Marriage

Later this month Melissa and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. We’ve spent almost half our lives together! We’ve shared so many memories, experiences, amd inside jokes I can’t imagine life without her. I’m thankful God put us together. I wouldn’t trade the benefits of emotional, physical, and intellectual intimacy we share for anything in the world. Yet with all these blessings I think there is still more God has in store for our marriage.

Then his father and mother said to him, “ Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.” But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord —that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. (Judges 14:3, 4 NKJV)

Most often when we hear about Samson we think about the relationship he had with Delilah. But here in his first relationship the bible says Samson’s relationships with Philistine women were purposed by God who was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. In the case of Delilah, the Philistines used her to get to Samson but in reality God was using Delilah to get Samson to the Philistines.

Why is this important? I’m glad you asked. Just as God had a greater purpose for Samson’s relationships, I believe he has a greater purpose for ours as well. One of the things that continues to drive Melissa and I is the belief that our marriage is both a private and public ministry. It’s private because we have responsibilities to minister to each other’s needs. It’s public because God has ordained marriage to symbolize the relationship of Christ to the church.

God may not use our marriage to destroy the Philistine army but he may use us to show others that healthy relationships are possible. I’m sure that somewhere out there God has another couple made up of “only children, from single parent homes” like us who need to hear our story. The testimonies of how we endured our struggles may give other couples hope.

I pray that I’m showing young men how to be husbands and that Melissa is displaying the characteristics of a virtuous wife. Maybe the example of our longevity will help another couple avoid divorce. Maybe, just maybe, God will bless our marriage to be so attractive that others will look at our relationship and say “I want a marriage like that.”

What is God’s greater purpose for your relationship?

Suffering and Encouragement

In the last post, “How Much Can You Take?”, we examined Acts 9:15-16.

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NKJV)

The Lord said some good things about Saul (chosen vessel, bearer of his name before kings and the nation), but he also said “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Let me be clear here. He said “suffer for My name’s sake.” There is a distinct difference in suffering due to our own devices (or the result of random, natural life circumstances) and suffering because you carry the name of Jesus.

When we suffer for the name of Jesus it means we are being persecuted for being Christians. It means we are being degraded, ridiculed, mocked, mistreated, discriminated against, beaten, abandoned, imprisoned, ostracized, fired, singled out, and devalued. Okay, that’s a bit much but you get the idea.

Generally speaking we may suffer through emotional and social losses like when friends, neighbors, and co-workers change their attitudes toward us because of our faith. Those losses may be painful in their own way. But Saul, who is later called Paul, gives us encouragement in his second letter to the church at Corinth.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (II Corinthians 4:17, 18 NKJV)

Paul was imprisoned, shipwrecked, scorged, stoned in one town and left for dead, and was ultimately beheaded by the Roman government. He says the afflictions he and the Corinthian believers faced were light compared to the eternal weight of glory. The eternal reward of a faith filled life are simply greater than any persecution we will ever face.

How can Paul’s attitude toward his sufferings encourage us today?

How much can you take?

Saul was enemy number one for the early church. He consented to the death of Stephen, had Christians dragged from their homes and imprisoned, and asked the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to give him warrants to arrest believers in Damascus. 

Along the road to Damascus, Saul had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. After his encounter he was left blind and given instructions to wait for a man named Ananias to restore his sight and reveal the Lord’s will for his life. Ananias was hesitant about going to meet the enemy of the church but The Lord commanded him to go. 

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NKJV)

The Lord said some good things about Saul (chosen vessel, bearer of his name before kings and the nation). But the last statement is interesting: “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

If The Lord showed you what you must suffer for his name’s sake, would you still follow him and how much could you take?