Cats in the Garden

Disclaimer #1 – I love all God’s creatures. Disclaimer #2 – my being a dog person does not mean I don’t like cats. But before either being a dog or cat person, I am a gardener. I have roses, wildflowers, honeysuckle, geraniums (BIG ones), succulents (we do live in Tucson), and so much more. Every year my children tell me I have no more room for plants, and every year I find, or make, room for more. While all my plants are special and each has a story, my vegetable garden gets by far the most attention.

Every year in the winter I’m turning my compost bin into the garden to prepare the soil. I spend time getting the soil, space, and fencing repaired, updated, and ready. I fertilize depending on what I intend to plant and then I’m off to the races. However, each spring I have the same problem, neighborhood cats finding a way into my garden bed. It’s like they know just when to come to the yard and dig up all my hard work. I put up nets and confidently plant, only to come out the next day and see my hard work completely torn up. Holes dug, seeds displaced, new plants strewn aside, and little brown presents left in the wake of the chaos. So, I begin again, putting up more netting, filling each hole, and replanting, only to have it happen all over again. This year I GAVE UP! The cats won, I had no more ingenious ideas or energy to start over. I stood in front of my newly destroyed vegetation, shook my head and walked away. There would be no vegetable garden this year.

Instead, I focused on the rest of my yard, the other raised beds, flowers, herbs, and trees. I no longer looked, I no longer fertilized, I did not weed, or water. The garden lay a destroyed empty plot of dirt… or so I thought.

This week when I went out to enjoy my morning coffee and turn on the sprinklers, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Green shoots coming up out of the disheveled and displaced soil. Plants mixed up and misplaced were beginning to sprout and grow in my well cared for and fertilized soil. Gone were the neat rows and straight lines, but the beginnings of the harvest were evident.

My garden reminded me of the parable Jesus told of the Sower and the soils in Luke 8:4-15. The Sower is God, the seed is His word. Both, I was reminded recently, are perfect. The soil is us. The state of our hearts is represented by the different soils, the last being fertile and ready to receive the seed. Funny, it never said the soil is perfect, only that it was good. Good soil is all that is needed for the Holy Spirit to grow in you.

As a gardener I know that the better I can condition the garden space and keep it secure from animals, insects, too much sun, too much/little water, the better my harvest. What I sometimes forget is that I may be the one planting the seeds but its God who ultimately helps them grow. Good seed (God’s Word) can grow in imperfect situations if the soil is ready (good).

All too often I’m afraid we make excuses, we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy enough, we’re still broken, we’re not smart enough, successful enough, we have too much baggage, or we’re just not ready. We think that because we don’t have a perfectly secure garden with straight rows and strong fences that nothing will grow. We’re focusing on the wrong thing! All we really need is an open and willing heart, messy as the garden may be, the soil is still good.

Paul tells us if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved, Romans 10:9. Paul didn’t say we have to be perfect to be accepted, Jesus actually said He came to save the sick, “I came not to call the righteous but the sinner to repentance.” Matthew 9:13. Jesus died for us while we were still broken sinners, piles of unfertilized dirt. The Holy Spirit creates the conditions for the seeds to grow, we need to have faith and know that what God plants in us will bloom when we allow Him to work in our messy imperfect lives.

The cats came and dug up my garden, but the seeds were still there, the soil was messy but good. With water and sunshine, it will yield a crop a hundred-fold. Just like the work Jesus is doing in our lives if we let Him have His way. The seeds will germinate and grow, the seeds are His perfect will and words they cannot fail their purpose, if we are willing.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Apostles Eternity War

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“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.

He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.

It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.

The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?

In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?

God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.

While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Day 3 Valentines Week – Brotherly Love

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

As I thought about what I wanted to write today, I wanted to find the best way to express this love that we have towards on another. Specifically the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ but also for our family and friends. This kind of love which in Greek is Phileo or Philadelphia what we think of as fraternal affection. It is a love, a familial bond between brothers and sisters in Christ, who might not otherwise share an affection. More simply it is the love we share as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Tonight as I was leading our youth, I sat there speaking with them about James chapter 3 and how our words, and actions, stem from the condition of our hearts. While I was speaking I felt an affection for each of these young people, some of whom I’ve known for most of their lives. They are like family to me. I know their parents, I’ve walked with them through tragedy, joy, rights of passage and seen them grow into the young Christians they are. Several of them are my children’s best friends, they are as welcome in my home as they are in my heart. While they are not my children, biologically speaking, I feel a great sense of pride in their accomplishments, I hurt when they hurt, I smile when they smile, I exalt in their success and try to uplift when they are downtrodden. It truly does take a village (or the Body) to raise children, and I am humbled and privileged to be part of that village.

God calls us to love one another with brotherly affection and this is what He is speaking of. Jesus tells his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 How we love each other will be our witness to the world that we belong to Christ. The world is watching to see how we treat one another, do we really walk what we talk? Or do we treat our family in Christ the same as everyone else? Do they see us standing up for one another when one of us is being targeted? Do they see us defending our brother or sister when their integrity is being questioned? Do they see us seeking and speaking only loving word about those with whom we walk this road every day?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:12-17

We are not Christ’s servants but his friends and He has called us to love as He did. He laid down His life for us. He commands us to love each other, let brotherly love continue (Hebrews 13:1), love one another deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22), and to add to faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love (2 Peter 1:7)

In some translations the words agape and philia are used interchangeably. Agape being God’s love for us and philia being our love for one another in the body. Just as above Jesus command to us is to love one another as He loved us. While we are incapable on our own to love as He loved, He does give us the criteria He’s looking for, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Yesterday, I wrote about the love parents have for their children and how we would gladly give our lives for theirs. Jesus takes this one step farther, that we would lay down our lives for any of our brothers and sisters.

When Jesus describes His love or the Fathers love, the term Agape is used. It is His  unconditional love that flows from His very nature, perfect and complete. The nearest we can express back to Him is what is described here, a preferential love that acknowledges the best in others regardless of their flaws, is not dependent upon that affection being returned, and wells up in us, by its God given nature, the ability to give selflessly of ourselves even unto death.

As broken vessels we are incapable of exemplifying God’s perfect love perfectly. Perhaps, this is as close as we can get, this side of heaven? The love we feel for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be the nearest thing we can express to God’s love for us. Relentless, unyielding, always seeking to see the best in others, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The love that is described above is not a suggestion  for us to try and follow. It is the very definition of who God calls us to be, especially to those with whom we share our faith. Love is a choice, it is a feeling, it is a matter of will, it flows from a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This week when you look at the faces of those in your life, either via zoom, video chat, or where possible in person, chose to love them as Christ loved you.

 

Jesus knows your heart

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” John 2:23-25

Throughout the Gospels those who both followed and opposed Jesus would clamor for a sign. They wanted proof that He was who He said He was. They wanted Jesus to prove His lineage, authority, divinity, and sovereignty.  They wanted Jesus to somehow demonstrate His fullness to them in a way that would remove all doubt from their minds that He was the Son of God, that He was (is) God.

It makes me wonder, what exactly did they want Him to do? What kind of miracle would enough for them to believe? Is there really anything that He could have done that would have convinced them?

He turned water to wine, made the lame walk, the blind see, loosed tongues, bound demons, healed the sick, and raised the dead. In His final miracle He, Jesus Himself, was raised by the Father. In a world bound by doubt was there actually anything that He could have done that would convince them?

In Matthew 16 the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, “He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.” Matt 16:2-4

I don’t know what exactly the Pharisees and Sadducees were hoping Jesus would do. I’m sure they hoped to trap Him in some way or to disprove before the masses who He said He is. Perhaps in their hearts they hoped He would or could do something, anything, to convince them. At the end of the day, they didn’t really want it to be true, they wanted Him not to be the Messiah because that would ultimately mean they were on the wrong side of God. If Jesus had proved to them who He said He was, they would have to give up their power, authority, influence and wealth. They would be forced to accept that they had put the law before love and had failed miserably.

What more could Jesus have done? There is nothing He could have done, because at the end of the day we each have to believe. We have to trust that what we saw, felt, heard, experienced was from God. We can explain away, make excuses, and divert responsibility until we are blue in the face. In the end we have to make the choice to believe, not just in the miracle, but in the power of the one who performed it, Jesus.

In the opening scripture it reads that, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” Jesus was not going to reveal Himself fully to those who chose not to believe. What would be the point? How can someone begin to understand all thing things Jesus was trying to teach them if they did not believe in the person of the one teaching it? In other words how would they take Jesus at His word, if they did not believe that He is who He claimed? Would you listen and follow the teachings of a plumber who was telling you how to be a surgeon?

Jesus did not entrust Himself to those who were awed by His works but not by His person.

Faith is a choice. If Jesus appeared before you in person, would you recognize Him? If he stood there performing miracles would you believe that He was who He said, or would you continue down the path of the scientific method trying to disprove all that He does and says until no other explanation could be found and still claim the impossibility of it all?

Is there any miracle Jesus could perform in your life that would lead you to believe that He is all the things the Bible states, and will fulfill all the promises that God  has made to His people?

We live in a world of doubt, a world held captive by fear and uncertainty. We don’t know who to listen to and believe. We don’t know if what we see and hear is true or false. We are pulled by voices and images coming from every direction. Jesus tells us, At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:10-14

Jesus still performs miracles and signs today. The Holy Spirit is active in our world. Will our hearts recognize them for who they are and what they are doing, or will we continue to explain it all away as coincidence or our own doing? Will we chose to believe in the person of Jesus and receive all that He intends, or wonder at His miraculous works and never know the person.

The scripture above states, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” The reverse is equally true, to those who believe in Jesus, He will entrust Himself to them, for He knows in their hearts they believe.

Test Jesus, put your faith in Him, give Him the opportunity to show you His love for you through His promises, provision, faithfulness, and love. He will never let you down, He will never leave or forsake you. Decide today to give into the knocking you hear on your heart and let Him in.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Matthew 8:31-40

Let God surprise and bless you in this new year!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

T-Minus 3 Days till 2021 – Lord give me a new heart.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, never really have been. Oh, don’t get me wrong I’ve made a few now and again, usually something trite or superficial having to do with the way I look or how I want others to see me. This year however, is different. I think we can all agree that 2020 has been like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we’re all hoping, never to see again.

2020 has brought changes in all of us that require a second look, a moment to ponder our lives, our experiences, and ultimately our future. So, over the next few days, leading up to the close of 2020 and the hopeful ringing in of 2021, I want to share with you my resolutions. Well, they are actually more prayers for intervention into my life. I am expectant for what God is going to do in my life and the lives of my family and my church in the days and months ahead. I am expectant because I believe that these are what God has placed in my heart, and how he wants me to move forward into 2021. I know that when we accept Jesus, it is the ultimate new beginning, as is each day we get up and reconfirm that decision. I also know there are times in our lives that God moves in our hearts to reflect on those decisions and how they are (or are not) being played out in our day-to-day lives. New Year’s seems an almost natural time for us to pray about those area’s that the Holy Spirit has either convinced or convicted and ask God to help us make a fresh start.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

Just as God promised his people that he would give them a new heart and a new spirit, and that he would move them to follow his degrees and keep his laws. I am praying the same for myself and my family.

Lord, give me a new heart. Give me a heart to love your people the way you do. Help me to love them where they are not where I might want them to be. Philippians 2:1-3

Lord teach me to forgive and give me a short memory. Help me to remember that the people of this world are not my enemy, Ephesians 6:12

Lord help me to be patient, kind, understanding, generous, and respectful to everyone I meet, regardless of their treatment of me. Romans 5:2-4

This year I have struggled with seeing people through God’s own heart. So much of my struggle and frustration has stemmed from me seeing those around me in an adversarial way. Those around me, although they may have different opinions, thoughts, feelings, habits, reactions, and perceptions than me, are not my enemy. They are God’s children, just as I am. We are all in the same boat and walking through the same world. My prayer for this next year is that God will give me a new heart and place a new spirit in me. I ask him to turn that heart of flesh toward him and toward those around me. Lord fill my heart with compassion and understanding and let my life reflect all that you have done for me.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Easy and hard, we have it backwards

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who was facing a dilemma. She knows the right decision to make, she knows the wrong decision to make. She knows the wrong decision is going to cause long term pain and suffering while providing immediate satisfaction. This is not an uncommon conversation, someone comes to you, wanting your support for a decision they know they shouldn’t make, but they give 101 reasons why it will make them happier…in the short term.

What struck me was the comment she made, it’s one we’ve all heard, and I’m sure agreed with, for the most part. She said, “Why is choosing the right path always so hard?” The right decision is always the hard decision, the decision that is going to require sacrifice or cause pain. The wrong decision is the easy decision, the one that brings the most immediate satisfaction.

As I thought about this on my way home after the conversation, I think we have this concept of right being hard and painful and wrong being easy and satisfactory, backwards. We believe that to do right we have to suffer and to do wrong we are indulging our fleshly passions. First when I state right and wrong, I’m talking about sin; specifically, when we are faced with choices to love God first, and then others as ourselves, or the choice to place our fleshly wants and needs above loving God first and others as ourselves. When you think about it, those are the only choices that really matter.

We have a mindset, and we share it with others, that to love God first and others as ourselves (that is a very important statement found in Matthew 22:36-40) means we must suffer, it will be a grueling decision that will cause short term pain and maybe long-term gain. I want you to listen to Jesus own words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus tells us that he is humble, we’ll find rest in him and that his burden is light. The reason that we struggle with the right decision (love God first and then others as ourselves) is that we are constantly battling with the world. We are constantly at war with what our sinful nature wants, not what the Holy Spirit in us wants. The battle is self-inflicted. When we chose God, when we chose love then as long as we stand with those choices and don’t stray from that path the choice to love is easy.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.  The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” Isaiah 26:6-8

When we follow the path that Jesus has laid out for us; Love God first and others as ourselves, our life, our choices will be dictated by love. The only pain or loss we’ll feel is that of the world, and the more we chose life over death the less we’ll feel that sting.

Doing what is right means we are giving up on the things of this world that lead us to death. Choosing right, then, should be the easy decision. Living for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will disappear, only leads to wanting more things of this world for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will fade away. This choice is a vicious cycle of insatiable want that will never end and leads to death. The pain in that cycle is eternal dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, and how to get more, because it will never be enough.

The simplest way I can state this; love is the easy decision. Loving God first and others as ourselves is the only thing that can satisfy our souls. Truly satisfy, as in we will not want anything else. The hard decision, the one that brings unending pain and suffering is the one that seems to bring immediate satisfaction, but it soon fades and leads to greater and greater need for more to fill the never-ending gaping hole in our lives.

The choice, then, is easy; eternal life by loving God first then others as ourselves. When we are truly satisfied by Christ and that abundant blessing is overflowing from us to others, even when the storms of live are brewing around us, and circumstances are trying to make us forget that we have everything, we can stand firm knowing that the storm will pass, and we will be with Christ victorious. Storms subside, always. Trials cease, always. Christ’s love, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, and grace are boundless, unceasing, and eternal.

The hard choice is the one we make that keeps us in bondage to the world of suffering, pain, loss, and confusion, that always leads to death. The easy choice is Christ, that always leads to life.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive more blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Altar of Thanksgiving

Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Throughout Old Testament Scripture we read that altars were created to commemorate some act that God performed on behalf of His people. Whether it was to mark the creation of a covenant, celebrate a victory, remember a promise, mourn a defeat, or forge a relationship, altars were created to memorialize what God had done for His people so they would not forget, so they would remember and have something to point to when sharing with their children and their children’s children.

An altar was a sacred place; it was where we came to make offerings and to atone for our sins. It is where we laid down our burdens and our sins and came clean before God. The altar of God was a place without pretense or pride, we humbled ourselves before God and acknowledged our lack, our inability, our weakness, and utter brokenness.

In our churches today, altars are seen much the same. The altar is a place where we come forward seeking forgiveness, provision, strength, guidance, and interceding for those we love. In our churches the altar has become a place where we bear our deepest pain, struggles, desires, failures, and fatigues. It’s not to wonder that the altar has become known as the mourner’s bench or the sinner’s rail, a place one comes to when they’ve sinned or need help, but this is exactly what the altar is for! God wants for us to come to Him with our troubles, He want to be the balm that soothes our weary souls, He wants to offer forgiveness, and discernment, and direction. God wants us to come to His altar with all our troubles and to lay them down.

The altar is a place of release, a place where we can unburden our hearts to the one who already knows everything and loves us regardless. The one who died for us even while we were living in our sin and brokenness. It is no wonder that people are drawn to the altar when they don’t believe they have any place else to turn.

I love Christmas movies! I love the feelgood nature of the, and there seems to be an unlimited number of movies to make you shed tears of joy. I’ve noticed that when it comes to Christmas movies, most of them, at some point, find the protagonist at a church, at an altar, asking God for help, for guidance, for Him to intercede in a miraculous way. In some cases, it is just a plea for a sign to show God is there. The altar is so much more than a place or a thing. It is where we come to meet God. It is where some of us have made life altering decisions, experienced the Holy Spirit in a way that is inexpressible. It is a place where we not only come to meet God, but also a place where we can point to and say, “that spot right there is where I met Jesus for the first time.”

We have a lot of altar calls happening in churches right now. If your church is like my church, we are opening the altars every week as a place for people to come forward and meet God. Whatever the reason, they come with their heads in their hands, tears streaming down their face, knowing that awaiting them are the loving arms of the Father. Each week, people walk forward to seek forgiveness, ask for provision, seek wisdom and direction for challenges in their lives. The altar is part of our public worship and a sharing of our deepest hurts in a safe community that loves and supports us.

While thinking about this today, I began to wonder why our altars are a mourner’s bench and a sinner’s rail, and not a seat of worship and praise? Why do our altars see more tears of brokenness than tears of joy?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100

While this year has been incredibly hard for millions and millions of people. I have been trying to focus on all the ways that God has continued to bless me, my family, friends, and my church. Trying to see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. God is teaching me patience, grace, and more patience. During all the hardship, fear, anxiety, struggles, and feelings of absolute inadequacy in the face of so much, God has remained faithful. Each day I find something else to praise God for, some new way He has blessed me, or that I just hadn’t noticed before.

I want to go to the altar, not to ask or to receive but to give to God the only thing I have, my praise, my gratitude, my thanksgiving. What an amazing testimony it would be if just one Sunday, instead of opening the altar for people to bring their wants and needs, instead to bring their praise and worship. What a witness to have a church full of people fill the front of the room around the altar to just thank God for all He is doing in their lives, amid their troubles, in the midst of uncertainty, in the middle of the mess, we thank God for all He has done to bless our lives, to show us favor, to provide for our needs, and to never leave or forsake us.

A church full of people, on their knees at the altar of God just giving praise and thanksgiving?

The altar of God is always open, the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts so we don’t actually have to go to a place to ask for forgiveness, provision, peace and direction. We can do that from anywhere. On our knees at our bedside or an altar in the church. The important part is to go there. My challenge to each of us is to remember that along with our requests, along with our wants and needs, we should always remember to thank, in advance and with expectation the one to whom we owe all things.