My husband has let me in on a little covert operation he has been planning for his granddaughters, and it tickles me so much I’ve decided to blog about it. He’s been scheming this thing in his head for months. The first thing he did to get the ball rolling was hunt for an appropriate treasure box, which he found at Hobby Lobby, except that it needed a sturdier bottom. It didn’t take much to just attach a piece of wood. He then began filling it with treasures: handfuls of pennies that he spray-painted gold and silver, and a few other miscellaneous discarded junk jewelry pieces that once belonged to his mother – probably things she found at garage sales and never did anything with.
And then this is where I became involved in the delicious conspiracy. He wanted some help coming up with some sort of little story, not a treasure map, but a story that would pique their little interests and ignite some spontaneous junior sleuthing. He thought it would be neat if the story was written on parchment paper and then rolled up and tucked in a bottle with a cork in the top. He planned to place this bottle in a sort of inconspicuous place somewhere along the path by the river where the girls could stumble upon it while outside adventuring with their grandpa.
Now mind you, grandpa has already been out and surveyed where he plans to bury this treasure, and deposit the bottle with the message inside, and he’s also done a fair amount of trail grooming through the tundra of bamboo we have growing along the banks of our river. In fact, as he took me on a tour, he pointed out the clever touches he’s added — like putting googlie eyes on some random stalks of the bamboo, so he can say to the girls, “Do you get the feeling you’re being watched?” And then wait for them to get it! Ha! Ha!
It was this curious little detail that sparked my imagination for a story. I sat down with my trused computer and after a few minutes, this was what I came up with:
THE TRAP HAS BEEN SET!!!!!!!
We are both so excited about this and hoping we can pull it off. Our imaginations are spilling over with delirious day-dreams of how the girls will react. Will they truly believe they’ve found an old old letter in a bottle, and that it leads them to a real buried treasure? I think both our hearts might just burst with excitement. But we’ve got to play it cool. We’ve got to both stay in character, as if nothing whatsoever is up. In fact, I’m just going to stay indoors the day they come over (if I can possibly contain myself) and let grandpa do all the clever charades. I’ll just try to act surprised when they come screaming into the house with stuff in their hands, and talking so fast I can’t even understand them. Hee hee!!!! And we’ll sit down on the floor and I’ll let them tell me all about the letter they found and I’ll let them read it to me, and I’ll let them explain how they looked for the treasure box and where they ended up finding it, and we’ll sort through all the stuff in their box, and I’ll take a group selfie with my cell phone and probably post it on Facebook (and here later, of course), and it will all be grand! Just grand!!!!! (I hope!)
“Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” Psalm 127:3
“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty warrior; so are the children of one’s youth. Happy are the [GRANDPARENTS] whose quiver is full!” Psalm 127:4-5
UPDATE: The plan turned out better than we could have ever anticipated. The girls were delirious with excitement. Oh the sweet faith of a little child to so easily believe … almost makes a person ashamed to exploit it. But how fun to see them with so much enchanted enthusiasm, and to listen to the little wheels turning in their minds trying to solve a puzzle, trying to uncover a mystery, embarking on an epic adventure, and to hear them share their little theories with each other for where to look and why. It was as delightful an experience as any storybook or children’s film that’s ever captured your imagination. Sooooo much fun!!!!!
This is one in a series of posts on the ancient altars in the Bible. Check back often for new entries in this thread and catch up with the links on the right side of this page under Recent Posts…
Abraham’s 2nd Altar to God
“And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”Genesis 12:8
Bethel and Ai are not far from Shechem (pronounced Sheck-um) or modern day Nablus, West Bank – just maybe 18 miles south, as a crow flies on the now famously named Road of the Patriarchs. Jerusalem is another 12 miles south on that same modern dayHighway 60 road that stretches from Beersheba in the south to Nazareth in the north. This is the main south-north route in Israel (thru the West Bank) that runs from Judea to Galilee.
The Bible tells us Abraham built his 2nd altar on a mountain top (establishing a pattern), south of Shechem, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. I went to Google Maps and counted about 18 miles south on Hwy 60 (which now skirts around Nablus) and ended up at a spot with Al-Bireh on the west side of the road and Dayr-Dibwan on the east.
Then, remembering Joshua conquered Ai coming from Jericho, and that his route probably became an east-west crossroad to the Road of the Patriarchs, I put another finger at the intersection of that crossroads. Finally, I measured about 12 miles down to Jerusalem and all the measurements seemed to work out, so I am confident we have a fairly good general idea of where Abraham pitched his tent and built his 2nd altar.
It wasn’t long after Abraham settled between Bethel and Ai that there was a famine. It caused him to pull up his tent stakes and move further south towards Hebron. Eventually he found himself in Egypt.
In Egypt Abraham became nervous for his safety for the first time in this whole passionate adventure. It’s easy for us, not having walked a single mile in Abe’s nomadic sandals, to maybe sort of condemn him for fibbing to Pharaoh about his wife. In fact she WAS technically his sister, as well as his wife, so it was only a half-truth, or half lie, whichever way you choose to look at it. But since his life was spared, I have a hard time judging him as totally out of line.
Especially since I’ve had plenty of my own knot headed, numb skulled, lame brained experiences, which would require me to take the plank out of my own eye in order to see clearly the speck in old Abraham’s. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times in my young adult life when my adventurous spirit ditched me in some pretty precarious predicaments. Just merrily strolling along the road of life and wham-o, suddenly there I’d be “naked and afraid” in a situation I sure didn’t see coming, and trusting in some little white lie to get me out of it, hoping to keep most of my tail feathers attached. What’s the old saying, “More brains than good sense?” Jiminy Crickets!
I also am a little (alot) ashamed to admit it, but in my young born-again life I was often fearful to be forthcoming about my new relationship with Jesus. I feared my friends would poke fun at me, disown me, or make me the target of their evil inclinations. Part of me wanted to avoid confrontation and rejection, even though I wanted nothing at all to do with any of those lifestyles ever again. I simply wasn’t confident in who I was yet!
Have YOU ever found yourself lacking in good sense?
There are two factions constantly at war within us…the spirit man and the flesh man. Perhaps you’ve seen them depicted in cartoons as an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other?
1Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Ecclesiastes3:21 Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?
Ecclesiastes12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
2Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
1Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The great apostle Paul spoke of this inner wrestling. In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul said:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But…
“There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:14, 15, 17-24;8:1-2
If the great Paul struggled with it, I guess then no sin has overcome us except that which is common to man. Our pastor has been preaching (coaching actually) on how to walk in the spirit instead of the flesh – to hear the voice of God and to have the LIFE of God in us so we’ll know the will of God for every move we make in life. He freely admits that he is a work in progress himself, and if he is, and Paul was, we all certainly are as well. I am for sure.
Take heed that this is the place to start our journey:
Ask Jesus, truly and sincerely, to come into our hearts and be the Lord (not a good luck charm) of our life. Repent (be sorry) for our sins, confess them, and be done with them. Accept His giftof the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and once we have received the Holy Spirit, don’t quench Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19) when He brings conviction to our hearts!!!! This is that work in progress, where we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) – in a nutshell that means that God may lead us to do daunting things, but don’t be stiffnecked. TRUST & OBEY Him, because He is refining us and purifying us! It is the only way we will ever be able to tune our receiver into the channel where God’s voice is being broadcast.
The Word of God is Jesus (John 1:1,14) — when God spoke, Jesus was released to do the creating, the forming, and the transforming (Revelation 1:16; 19:15; Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:3). Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Jesus ascended to heaven so the Holy Spirit could descend into our hearts. The Holy Spirit wields the Word (Jesus, and the scriptures). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Bible, and He brings to our remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10). The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).
“The word of God (the Bible) is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, it pierces deep, even to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.
The word of God is the only way to have victory in the war between our flesh man and our spirit man:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
What are the weapons of warfare?
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”Ephesians 6:10-18
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 5.26-27.
“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You!” Psalm 119:11
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm119:105
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 31:21
When our spirit wars with our flesh Proverbs, chapter 3 is a good place to get some wisdom:
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct thy paths.
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.
Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.
When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.
For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.
For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.
The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.
Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.
The Bible says we overcome our torturous fears by faith in God and love of others:
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.
If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”1 John4:17-5:5
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” 1 Peter 3:15
“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” Matthew 10:19-20.
Stephen’s testimony is also inspiring…please read it in Acts 6:8-7:60
Is there something that has you trembling in your boots today? Have you felt the Holy Spirit’s convictions and yet quenched His Spirit and now are ridden with guilt over it, as I have been?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” 1 John 3:19-21
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts 3:19
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1Corinthians 3:16
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Son and Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for Their ministry in my life. Help me to have ears to hear and to know Your voice, and eyes to see and believe, and a will to do Your will. Help me to have the life of God in me every day. Strengthen me in my inner being and give me that perfect love that casts out fear. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Do you have a testimony of a time when God delivered you out of your fears? Of a time, perhaps, when God showed you what perfect love was, or how mighty His weapons of spiritual warfare were when you used them to dig yourself out from a prison of bondage or fear that you were in? Let your story be remembered in our generations and passed down to our children’s children that they may know the God who speaks to and gives courage to His people. If you feel led, please share your story in the comments section below as a word altar to God. You never know who will be touched or encouraged by your experience with God.
PROJECT(making it real):
Make little Jewish Mezuzahs out of small, waterproof, canisters, or purchase them at a Christian bookstore. Hide-a-key containers work well. The bottom can be fastened with screws or poster mounts to the door frame, and the lid part can be painted and decorated with the following designs, and then slid back onto the base part. We can fasten these little homemade Mezuzahs onto the door frames of our houses, and then fill them with handwritten scriptures, such as promises of God about His protection on our dwelling from enemies, or protection from plagues, or evil coming near us. Perhaps we would like to fill the Mezuzahs with blessings from the scriptures, or prayers.
And while we are at it, purchase a small bottle of holy oil and anoint the door frames of our dwelling, going into each and every room and praying prayers over the people and contents, that the Lord would sweep clean of all ungodliness and put in order our house and make it a peaceful dwelling place, filled with love, God’s grace, and the Holy Spirit.
This is one in a series of posts on the ancient altars in the Bible. Check back often for new entries in this thread. Please join me on this exciting tour of the altars of the Patriarchs, and please leave your testimonies in the comments to encourage others who may pass by here! Bless you!
Abraham’s First Altar to God
“The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7
Abraham’s home was in Ur of the Chaldeans (Persia, the cradle of creation). Abraham’s story follows after the building of the great tower of Babel in Shinar, which may have been in the land of Ur where the ziggurat of Ur remains. These ziggurats were huge brick-and-mortar man-made mountains built so man could make a name for himself! Ur later became known as Babylonia (Babel+onia), and is Babylonia to this day.
Nimrod is responsible for the pompous, brick-and-mortar structure we know as the tower of Babel. It is where God confused the language of all people and scattered them all over the face of the whole earth, to make it harder for them to get into trouble.
Like Nimrod, I struggle between two hard places myself, a dusty pit of timidity and a man-made tower of swelling pride. It seems that every time I am coaxed from my lowly place by compliments, then there I go scaling that sky scraper, trying to make a name for myself, and all puffed up with pride. Praise God, it’s never too long before I lose my footing and slip, and life humbles me all the way back down to timidity. God scatters me and commands the pride in me to “get out!”
And to Abraham God spoke saying, “Get out of your country, from your family, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 12:1-3.
Abraham obeyed and did exactly what God told him to do. He went to the land of Canaan (the Canaanites were btw the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah who saw his father’s nakedness), and Abraham (a decendant of Noah’s son Shem – 1 Chronicles 1) set up his first camp in Shechem (pronounced Sheck-um), where there was a terebinth tree at Moreh, and there the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” That’s where Abraham built his first altar to God (Genesis 12:7).
Shechem was in the hill country of Israel, almost half way between the northernmost part of the country and the southernmost part. It is a fascinating place, as we will discover over the course of this study. Not only is this where God appeared to Abraham, but it is the place of the first altar to God built in the Promised Land. It was here that Jacob had some amazing experiences with God and also built an altar to God (Gen. 33:20). Joseph’s bones are buried here (Joshua 24:32, John 4:5, Acts 7:16) in the place that Jacob purchased. And after 40 years of wandering in the desert, Joshua set up an altar to God (Joshua 24:26) as instructed by Moses to do, here in this wonderful, fascinating place.
Shechem is also the place where Jesus met the woman at the well – at Jacob’s well in fact, and He stayed for two days to preach to the Samaritans (John 4:1-43). And, Jesus healed ten lepers near there (Luke 17:11-19), only one of which came back to thank Him.
One of the most interesting things about Shechem however is that there are two mountains overlooking the town, Mount Gerizim on the southside and Mount Ebal on the northside. Mount Gerizim is the holiest place on the planet to the Samritans, as holy a place to them as Mount Zion is to the Galileans and Judeans (Jews). The Samaritans observe the Passover on Mount Gerizim to this day! It is the mountain where they believe Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him. Literally sooooooo much incredible history lives in this amazing place, and I can hardly wait for you to see!!!
Soooo, Abraham, put down roots in the Promised Land, but by the end of the first book of the Bible we will see the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living in Egypt as slaves. We’ll see in Exodus God renewing His covenant with Moses. And just a little later in the scriptures, in Deuteronomy 27, we will see that Joshua will be the instrument God uses to make that re-entry back into the land God promised, and he will make an altar in the very place where Abraham first built one – Shechem.
I don’t want to spoil all the fun, but I can’t help myself to take just a little sneak peek ahead. It is this beautiful place where Joshua will set up large stones and whitewash them, and clearly write on them all the words of the law. The stones will be uncut, purely natural shaped. Moses will instruct Joshua to use twelve stones, representing each of the sons of Jacob (the tribes of Israel). Six of them will be used to make an altar on Mount Ebal, and six of them will be used to make an altar on Mount Gerizim. At the altar on Mount Ebal the people will be asked to offer peace offerings, and to eat together before the Lord, and rejoice before the Lord their God.
The altar on Mount Gerizim is to stand as a blessing to the people, and the altar on Mount Ebal is to stand as a curse (see also Deuteronomy 30). Remember what the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3? “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”
The two mountains kind of remind me of the two trees in the garden – one represented life and blessing, and the other represented death and curses. It almost seems like a second chance, doesn’t it? Certainly a recurring theme in God’s great plan.
In Joshua, chapter four, we will learn that Joshua indeed obeyed Moses and took TWELVE stones from the Jordan River, from the exact place where the priests stood on dry ground as the Israelites entered the Promised Land. (I wonder if this is maybe the place where Jesus was baptized by John-the-Baptist?) Joshua staged the stones, the LARGE stones, in a camp for a little while, and then in Joshua 8:30-35 he did exactly as he was asked and sat up the whitewashed stones for the altar of cursing on Mount Ebal, and the altar of blessing on Mount Gerizim.
Now let’s fast forward a few thousand MORE years to the early ministry of Jesus. Scholars have decided that Jesus likely preached His famous Sermon on the Mount probably near Capernaum, based mostly on Jesus’ activity around the Sea of Galilee in the book of Matthew. But, in reality “the mountain” where Jesus preached His great sermon isn’t named in either Matthew or in Luke, so no one really knows for sure what mountain it was.
As I was studying about Shechem, a thought dropped in my spirit and my heart immediately began to swell within me, the way it does when the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
I’m no Bible scholar and thereby preface what I am about to say by encouraging you to study your Bible for yourself; to pray, and to come to your own conclusions, and to consider what I’m about to present to you simply as a possibility. The Jesus I have come to know in the last 30 years of our relationship has certainly shown Himself to be as a person that would do this. Shechem is such a special place and Jesus was always so deliberate about the things that He did. Knowing that He came to FULFILL the law and the prophets (a line from His great sermon), I just can’t help but bear witness down in my soul that He preached that sermon, not from a mountain in Galilee, but from Mount Gerizim, beside those six white-washed stones, overlooking Shechem, and here are some of my reasonings…
Jesus was from Nazareth, the northern end of the “Road of the Patriarchs,” which runs south from Nazareth, through Shechem (30 miles away), and continues to Jerusalem and Beersheba. Sychar or Neapolis was the name of Shechem under the Herods.
Jesus had been back and forth between Nazareth and the Jordan River (baptized), the wilderness (temptation), and Galilee (choosing disciples). Samaria, and Shechem specifically, is right smack dab on the beaten path between Galilee and Judea. The road in fact is one of the oldest roads in the Holy Land, and known today as Highway 60. We know Jesus passed by Samaria a few times, as He healed 10 lepers in Samaria (Luke 17:11-19), and met the woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar (Shechem) Samaria (John4:1-43).
The Bible doesn’t give any detail at all about the geography of the mountain, but it says in Luke 6:17 that people came to hear Jesus preach from all Judea as far south as Jerusalem and from as far north as Tyre and Sidon, then Syria. Shechem, as well as Capernaum, is middle ground between those two places.
Although Jesus wasn’t fettered by such things (His purpose was to unify and draw all men – Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles unto Himself), Samaritans were loathed by Judean Jews, and His disciples sure seemed sensitive to it when they saw Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan as a rebuke to the Judean Pharisees, and to anyone else who felt superior to others. Samaritans regarded Mount Gerizim with great reverence, equal to the Judean Jews regard for Mount Zion, therefore the mountain, with so much history, could have certainly been a hot button issue, and why Matthew and Luke chose to leave it unnamed. After all, it was the sermon, and not the mountain, that was important.
But what goes the longest way in convincing me is the subject matter of the sermon. Remember what the altar on Mount Gerizim represented? That’s right, BLESSING! How perfectly fitting then that Jesus would begin His Sermon on the Mount with…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(See Matthew 5-7 for the whole sermon)
In Luke’s version of the sermon (6:12) Jesus went up on an unnamed mountain to pray all night. In the morning he called His disciples to himself and from them He chose TWELVE (just like Joshua chose TWELVE stones from the Jordan River), and Jesus named them apostles (just like Jacob’s sons were called the tribes of Israel). A copy and shadow of each other. Luke 6:17 says Jesus came down from the mountain to a level place. Shechem would have been a level place between the mountain of blessing and the mountain of cursing — and in verses 20-26 of Luke 6 Jesus began his Sermon with 4 blessings and 4 woes.
The whitewashed stones of the altar on Mount Gerizim had the Commandments of God clearly written on them. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 (Genesis 12:3)
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He Himself is Blessing and Cursing.
Later in the Lord’s great sermon, possibly standing beside the whitewashed stones with the law clearly written on them, Jesus pronounced:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets? I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19
In this sermon Jesus taught us how to pray to the Father, something the Samaritans did on this mountain, and He talked about not judging others — knowing a lot of judgment went both ways between Jews and Samaritans. Later on Jesus talked about the narrow way and the broad way. Shechem was the sheltered and narrow way between the two mountains, but it was also a city of refuge, and the roads to such cities were made wide and smooth, so that murderers would not dash their foot upon a stone as they ran to seek safety there.
Samaritans celebrate the Passover on Mount Gerizim every year, sacrificing their lambs, perhaps in the very spot where Jesus our Passover Lamb possibly preached His biggest sermon.
Doesn’t it kind of give you chill bumps to ponder all of this? It does me. Could Mount Gerizim and Shechem have been any more perfect a place for Jesus to preach BLESSINGS (and woes) to the people?
I wonder, where Abraham’s Altar finds you today…. on a spiritual mountaintop? In a spiritual valley? Heavy laden with sins and running to find sanctuary? Has God moved you out of your comfort zone, or moved you away from your home, like Abraham, and from all that is familiar? Has He asked you to take a job, or go to school in a new city, state, or country you’ve never been to before?
Build an altar to God on top of your mountain. Offer the Lord a sacrifice of praise in the midst of your troubles. Let your praises be soothing to Him, because they come from your heart. Choose to be a blessing in the midst of your circumstances! Do not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. If we puff ourselves up, this world has a way of bringing us low, but if we will stay humble, trust God, obey Him, the LORD Himself will make our names great! I believe that if we will honor God, He will honor us and prosper us in the eyes of the people around us, so that we may be a blessing to them.
Will you join me in leaving a spiritual legacy for God in every place where the sole of our feet treads, so that when we disappear from this earth our works will follow us, and God’s testimony will live on through our works? That is the desire of my heart and the wind beneath my wings for sharing these altars of remembrance with you.
I don’t believe God wants us to keep a record of the things we do for others, but I do think we can share of times when God blessed us for being a blessing to others. As we do good to those around us, God puts people in our path to do good for us, maybe when we least expect it. Perhaps someone picked up the tab for us at a restaurant? Perhaps a total stranger tucked money into our purse when we weren’t looking? Perhaps someone stopped to help us change a flat tire? Perhaps someone saw us walking and stopped to give us a ride? Perhaps someone left groceries on our doorstep, or brought dinner to our family when we were sick? Perhaps someone is praying for us and we don’t even know it. If we sow love and blessings, I believe they will come back to us. “Cast your bread upon the waters…”
One of my favorite quotes is:
“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” Etienne De Grellet (Quaker Missionary)
Let’s not forget what the Lord has done for us. Won’t you join me in counting our many blessings, naming them one by one? Let us build word altars to Him as a testimony to others whose faith might be weak at the moment. Has God blessed us… when we were poor in spirit…when we mourned…when we were hungry…when we showed mercy to someone…when we chose to be pure of heart…when we chose to be meek…when we chose to be peacemakers…when we were persecuted for Christ’s sake? Let those blessings be remembered in our generations and passed down to our children’s children that they may know the God who appears to, and blesses His people.
“I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.”
Project (making it real):
Plant two trees in our front yard — one to the left of our front door and the other to the right. (I planted tall skinny Tuscan Junipers. I wanted them to be trees that were well adapted to the climate here and hearty so they would live a long time). Name one tree Blessing, and the other one Cursing. Write the names on stones and lay the stones at the base of each tree. Let them serve as reminders to us every time we come and go from our home that we have a choice to make, either to be a blessing or a curse to the families around us (neighbors), to our family, our coworkers, our friends, and strangers. May those trees remind us to pray in the Spirit every day that God would give us wisdom, grace, humility, courage, compassion, mercy, and love for every person we meet. May God help us to be a blessing in this world, and to share our testimonies of what He has done in our lives. Please, won’t you share your testimony here?
This is one in a series of articles, to follow. Please join me on this exciting tour of the altars of the Patriarchs…
NOAH’s Altar to God
“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.’”
Noah lived in a time of great evil. The Bible says that the people of that generation were filled with violence. We know a little something about that in our day and age. In just the last 20 years we’ve seen the World Trade Center in New York City destroyed by religious terrorists. Thousands lost their lives horribly violently. We’ve experienced mass shootings at churches and synagogues, night clubs and schools. Crime on our southern border has included beheadings, assault, kidnapping for ransom, and a flood of illegal immigration, etc. Politics brings out very violent tendencies in some people. Crime on our city streets includes rape, murder, gang violence, fighting, destruction of property, looting, hate crimes, suicide, robbery, domestic abuse, drug trafficking, bullying, sexual assault, porn, sex trafficking, child abuse, etc. Mothers are sacrificing their own babies to the pagan god of abortion.
In our world there are wars and rumors of wars, and our brave young soldiers are dispatched to fight in all of them. And if all of this wasn’t violent enough, much like in the times of the Roman Coliseum, our society has an insatiable lust for more, entertaining ourselves with graphic depictions on the TVs in our homes and on the Big Screen. Twenty-first century earth is filled to the brim and running over with brutality, aggression, bloodshed, sadism, fighting, and savagery. Our world is filled with some very bad dudes with some very cold hearts!
If spilled blood cries out to the Creator from the earth, as we are told in Genesis 4:10 and 9:5 that it does, the noise in God’s ears must be deafening.
Noah was the only man of his generation on earth who had a soft heart for God, who heard God’s voice and trusted and obeyed Him.
When he finished building the ark exactly as God had instructed, God shut him and his family in and saved them from the flood that would wash away the sins of the earth.
The first thing Noah did when the ark landed was build an altar to God on the high, dry mountain of Ararat in eastern Turkey. It was the first altar ever built to God that we know of. I wonder where he got the idea…if there were altars built by men before him? We know that God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins after they sinned, which would have involved the slaughter of an animal. We also know that Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to God – Cain brought an offering of fruit, and Abel an offering of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat (fat makes me think there was a slaughter involved) and God respected Abel’s offering.
The English word altar in our Bible is translated from the Hebrew word Mizbeach (4196) which is a masculine noun that means “altar.” It is derived from the Hebrew verb Zavach (2076), which means kill, sacrifice, slaughter. Interesting to note that it is never used of priests slaying animals, but of private individuals who bring sacrifices at their own expense.
The word offered is Alah (5927) and means to ascend, mount up, go up, rise, be lifted up, exalted. The word offering is Olah (5930) which is a feminine active participle which has its source in alah and means a burnt offering (which goes up in smoke), a sacrifice which is entirely burned.
As the smoke billowed from Noah’s sacrifice and swirled upwards from that ancient BBQ pit, up up into the air, up into God’s flaring nostrils, the Lord smelled the wonderful aroma and it was soothing to Him.
Jesus is the fulfillment of this salvation story. Jesus is our ark, our safe place, and our refuge. His blood, like the flood watersof Genesis, washes away our sins (1 Peter 3:18-22). Jesus came from heaven to earth to make the sacrifice that would soothe God’s heart forever, and then left His Holy Spirit behind to live in our hearts and give us the power to live holy and blameless lives, and to know and be able to do God’s will.
As in the days of Noah, so shall it be…
When we look around and see that the thoughts and inclinations of men’s hearts are only evil continually, do we recognize what causes this sickness and hardness of heart? A Godless society is a heartless society.
Jesus is the ark that God gave to save us from the flood of wickedness. The flood itself is a type of Baptism – we are plunged into death in Baptism and raised to new life. Col. 2:12; 1 Pet, 3:18-21
The mass evil in the world may flood over us, but it shall not overcome us IF we will let the Lord shut us up into His safe place of refuge — His Son!!!!!
If you’ve had an experience with Jesus, PLEASE share your story. There is a world out there that needs to hear our stories — a world filled with despair, rage, violence, and emptiness that will be lost forever if we don’t show them this Savior we know who is alive and active in the hearts and lives of people today. Let us get in the habit of watching for God-moments. Let our ears not grow dull of hearing, or our eyes grow dim of seeing, or our hearts grow hard and calloused. Let us REMEMBER the things the Lord has done for us. Let us build word altars to Him to encourage passersby, and strengthen each other’s faith!
O Lord, help us to humbly trust and obey You and build spiritual altars to You every time we experience an aspect of Your character and Your saving grace, that we might be encouraged in our spirits and shine a light in this dark world.
Elohe Yeshua – God of my Salvation
Psalm 18:46“The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.”
Psalm 24:3-5“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
Psalm 25:5“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”
Psalm 27:9“Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.”
Psalm 51:14“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.”
Psalm 65:5“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas.”
Psalm 68:19, 20“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation? Selah. Our God is the God of salvation: and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.”
Psalm 79:9“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for You name’s sake!”
Psalm 85:4“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease.”
Psalm 88:1-2“O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before you.”
1 Chronicles 16:35“Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.”
Isaiah 17:10“Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.”
Micah 7:7“Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.”
Habakkuk 3:18“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
“And behold there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your Salvation which you have prepared before the face of all people. A Light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel.’” Luke 2:25-32
Have you experienced God’s Salvation (ELOHE YESHUA)? Do you have a testimony for how and when you came to know Jesus personally and invited Him to live in your heart? What’s your story of when and how the Holy Spirit came to live in you? Won’t you please share your stories here in the COMMENTS and let them be remembered in our generations and passed down to our children’s children that they may know the God of our Salvation! By this we know!
“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your woundrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness.” Psalm 145:4-7
PROJECT (making it real):
Plant a grapevine, as Noah did, in a spot in our yard. Later we might be able to build a pergola for the grapevines to grow up and over, that would lend shade in the summer.
Make a little stone altar of glued together rocks commemorating our salvation. Use white rocks or whitewash them with spray paint or lime to represent the clean new heart God has given us.
Get a small waterproof time-capsule type container. Write our testimony of salvation on a pretty sheet of stationery and tuck it into the container, along with a copy of this story of Noah’s altar, to explain why we’ve made this “Altar of Remembrance.” Maybe we could also add a few little trinkets representing some of the things that God has delivered us from since we asked Him into our heart, such as a cigarette, a small empty booze bottle (alcoholism), a syringe (drugs), some coins (greed), an empty food wrapper (gluttony), a sticky note with the words: cussing, lying, cheating, porn, etc. written on, then wadded up into a tiny ball. As time goes by we can add more things to our time capsule representing things God has delivered us from. Also place a small New Testament inside, with special passages marked which have meant the most to us in our spiritual walk with Jesus.
Then bury the container beside the base of our grapevine (or other tree, as you wish) and place the small whitewashed stone altar on top of it. Someday someone may find that altar, and dig up that time capsule and find a real treasure!!!!! Amen
The first mention of an altar in the Bible comes when Noah disembarked the ark. There is no mention of any altars being built by Adam and Eve, nonetheless since God clothed them with animal skins we know, at the very least, that an animal was sacrificed for their sins.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Hebrews 9:22
Whether Adam, or his son Seth, continued in the faith, or made altars of sacrifice to God for their sins is by-and-large unknown to us, but it appears everyone forgot about God. The Bible tells us that men only began calling on the name of the Lord again when Seth’s son Enosh was born, 230 years after the creation. Perhaps a root of bitterness had sprung up in Adam and Eve’s heart for being ousted from the garden? Or perhaps they were just too busy with farming, by the sweat of their brow, and having and raising babies, to spend much time cultivating a relationship with God? It’s very easy to do.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much else about Enosh, like whether he prayed or made altars to God, but someone passed down the history of creation, and the idea of making altars came from somewhere, and since Enosh was still alive when Noah was born, I suspect Noah learned a lot from him.
By the time of Enosh’s death (2800 BC), not only had the
lineage of Cain fallen completely away from the faith, but even Seth’s
descendants were backslidden. They had all
forgotten the mighty acts of God.
What’s more, or maybe as a consequence, the whole world had
become filled with violence. The Bible
says Noah was the only righteous person living, and that’s really remarkable, considering
scholars believe the flood happened about 1600 years after creation when humans
lived to be 900 years old. That would be
like us forgetting what Columbus did, or who the pilgrims were, or the words of
the Constitution, or what the Civil war was fought over. It even appears as if Noah’s father, and
grandfather, died in the flood. How sad!
So Noah threw God a good ol’ country style BBQ after his maritime adventures and invited Him for supper high upon that high Mount of Ararat where his life-saving ark landed. Mmmmm, and the aroma was soothing to God!!!!! (I mean, who doesn’t love the smell of BBQ?)
The next altars to appear in scripture were by Abraham and
Jacob. These two mighty men of God had profound
experiences and memorialized them in stone so they would never be
forgotten. Each altar served as a
testimony, not only to the inhabitants of the land, who didn’t know God, but
also as a written record for future generations of Hebrews who would see those
altars and ask,“What in God’s name
happened here? What is this heap of rocks all about?”
And then there was Moses. Moses was raised in an Egyptian home. He is the first Hebrew who would have learned about writing and scrolls, because they originated with the Egyptians. Many scholars believe it was probably Moses who wrote the first five books of the Bible, but being raised Egyptian, Moses would not have known the stories of the creation, fall, and flood, or Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He could have maybe learned them from his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, as they wandered in the Wilderness. I’m sure the stories were passed down from generation to generation, from Joseph’s family to Aaron’s and Miriam’s. Moses might have also learned them from the priest of Midian – his father-in-law, and also from his Midianite wife. But most likely God told Moses the history of creation when he went up on the mountain of Horeb, or Sinai, to worship. It’s evident that it was God’s will for the stories and history of His creation and His people to never be forgotten.
Parchment scrolls weren’t the end of altars, but it was the beginning of a whole new way of sharing the testimonies of God’s mighty acts. Thanks for pen and paper God’s story was made portable, and thanks to Moses people could worship God in a portable tabernacle more readily than on a distant and remote mountain, as Moses had, or some little man-made pile of rocks altar on a mountain far away somewhere.
In Moses’ final act before he died, he instructed Joshua to
build altars as memorials, as holy sites, in the very first place where Jehovah
God had revealed Himself to Abraham – at Shechem (pronounced Sheck-um), a very special place of
promise & covenant. These altars were
to be like the altars of old, deliberately placed so that people would see them
and ask, “What is this pile of rocks all
about?” And when it was asked, the
elders could then tell them – These are the stones Moses commanded Joshua to
whitewash, and to write the laws on, and to place on the mountains where God first
made a covenant with Abraham. The elders could tell them – They are the stones
that were taken from the place in the Jordan where the priests stood on dry
ground, and where the Lord first appeared to our father Abraham and promised
his descendants this land, and where we were given a new beginning and a choice,
of blessing or cursing.
The whitewashed stone altars on top of the mountains by Shechem sort of remind me of the trees that God put in the garden, one for life and blessing, and the other for knowledge and cursing. Was God giving His people a second chance in a new land flowing with milk and honey – a new paradise?
I would love to travel to the Holy Land and to Shechem to see if the altars of blessing and cursing still exist. I don’t know if any of the ancient altars of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon, Manoah, Samuel, etc., still remain, but I do know that the BIBLE remains for all these many centuries. We take it for granted without realizing how easily perishable it is – mere paper. In fact, it is a miracle that it has survived all this time! When God’s people have been persecuted and martyred, the BIBLE has survived — because God is not willing that one jot or tittle pass away until it is all fulfilled. Our Bible is the enduring altar of God! In it we find blessing, cursing, covenant, life, new life, history, prophesy, and all the atributes of our Creator.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
Mankind’s final second chance would actually come through the person of Jesus Christ. His was the sacrifice that took away the sins of the world. His sacrifice is the way to God’s everlasting paradise, God’s eternal Promised Land!!!! He is the offering and sacrifice to God that is a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:2).
The New Testament is HIS STORY! Like the Old Testament, the New is a
collection of the stories of the eye witnesses and of the mighty works of Jesus. It is a collection of all the letters written
by Jesus’ apostles, all of whom knew Jesus personally and experienced the
indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the
collection of interviews conducted by Luke, the physician who felt compelled to
assemble an accurate history of Jesus and the early church for Theophilus. And it includes the letters of Paul, who
experienced the Holy Spirit of Jesus in mighty, mighty ways, and was led to spread
the gospel far and wide, to the ends of the earth.
The apostle John once remarked that if they were to record all the mighty works of Jesus, that even the whole world could not contain the books that would be written – John 21:25, but I believe it is the great commission for us to try – to share our stories far and wide, until we’ve taken the gospel, built our altars, and shared our testimonies in the four corners of the earth; until every man, woman, and child has heard of His mighty presence in our lives.
May the world know that He is alive and active in the universe and in the hearts and lives of man! I pray that we learn of and take up Noah’s, Abraham’s, Jacob’s, and Joshua’s altars and not forget the mighty things the Lord has done for us. May our kids, and our grandkids, our friends and our family know our stories, and be encouraged to make a record of their own. Not only do our stories boost each other’s faith, but I’m thinking that if we are busy sharing God’s love we won’t have time for violence. Amen?
“And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their redeemer.” Psalm 78:35
Our pastor has been preaching on the Holy Spirit living in us. Of course we all know that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us when we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives, but being deliberate every day to make that friendship with His Spirit, and not quench His leadings, is fundamental to our relationship. The pastor offered a simple prayer and promised that if we would sincerely pray it every day, we would see our lives changing within a week. Basically we ask the Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to the life of God in us, to be our friend, to show us the will of God moment by moment. Beyond that he has asked us to share testimonies at church on Sunday of God’s presence in our lives the previous week – to encourage us to be purposeful to watch and listen and be aware of Him living in us.
Well, suspecting that I could be called upon to share or be put on the spot, maybe, has really helped me to watch and write down when I experience God during the day/week. It is this practice which brought to mind the altars that the great men of God stacked-up in the Old Testament whenever they experienced God. Those men didn’t have pen and paper as we have today, so their testimonies were heaps of rocks, or mounds of dirt. Many times they attributed a special name to God for the mighty thing He had done in that place. Some altars served as platforms for burnt offerings while others were simply holy ground markers.
My fascination with the altars materialized as a theme for the November bulletin board at my granddaughters’ school, and…
…it also spurned a desire in me to make a place here where we could all write down our experiences with God. A place where we could come back on occasion and re-read our testimonies, and see what others have written, when we are going through harder times and could use some encouragement. Oh what faith builders those stories would be, and encouragement also, for anyone who passes by. And what a treasure for our loved ones to find someday!!!! To see the relationship we had with our Lord and perhaps want to have for themselves?
Curiously enough, as I was painting the stones at my kitchen table for the bulletin board project , TBN was playing on my TV and Joel Osteen happened to come on. His sermon was about remembering the great things God has done for us, the miracles we’ve experienced in our life (such as the time perhaps when He saved us from being hurt in a bad car accident, or the time He blessed us with something we wanted and needed but didn’t have the money to buy, or the time He helped us remember the answers to a test we were certain we were going to fail, or the time He answered our prayers for someone who was very sick, etc. etc. – PLEASE, I encourage you, go listen to it at joelosteen.com: message #777 By This We Know).
Sooooo, first my pastor and now Joel?
A few days later I received a package from my sister. She had sent me the study guide for Max Lucado’s sermon series, Awestruck, which she and I had been listening to together on Sunday mornings. As I opened the pages on the booklet I came to a PERSONAL page (p.12), where Max writes, “God wants to open our eyes and hearts to the miraculous ways he works all around us. And this is more than just the miracle of life or the miracle of a sunset. He desires much more. Pray to prepare your heart for what he wants to show you as you open your heart to the miraculous.” OMGoodness, my mind was blowing just a little bit!
It seemed that my mind had found something to be preoccupied with that was definitely God’s will, and I was stirred and very inspired to share it with a wider audience than just my grandchildren’s school. But at the same time humility slapped me in my wrinkled and terribly flawed face pretty hard. With all these GIANTS of the faith preaching the same message what in creation could little ol’ me possibly have to bring to the table? I stood before the Lord holding this treasure in my hands, staring down into the vast darkness of my waste basket, ready to drop it in, but I just couldn’t pry my fingers off something with such beauty that felt so ordained.
Lord Jesus, please show me why you gave such a sweet thought to my heart, and what You want me to do with it!
I believe that perhaps my part is just to give us a public place high upon this mountain we call the Internet for to build Altars to God … To make our testimonies known far and wide! I am certain that after studying with me about the altars in scripture you will feel, as I do, that this teaching is holy ground. I believe you will be filled with an enormous affliction to leave altars behind for future generations – if not here on this blog, then in your own ways, in your own homes, in your own churches, and in your own communities.
I always thought it would be soooooo neat if our churches had walls where we could post our testimonies of the mighty (and the small) things the Lord has done for us. I love hearing other people’s stories. They stir me up with love and faith, and remind me of the things God has done for me that I had forgotten all about.
It’s sooooooo easy to forget what the Lord has done for us. Weeds (busy-ness) and thorns (worries) and thistles (struggles) in the waysides of life grow and choke our relationship with Jesus. We spend a few minutes a day in God’s word, if that, and a few hours on Sunday, if that, and all the rest of our week is wrapped up in the cares of the world. If we’re not careful, our eyes will grow dull of seeing God, and our ears will grow dull of hearing His still small voice. I feel Him calling me to remember and to build altars, and to leave a testimony behind that will encourage and bless others.
So…have you experienced God lately (or ever)? Please write it down!!! I hope by doing so we’ll all get in the habit of doing so, and sharing our testimonies with the people around us! I hope you’ll become so wrapped up in this project (like I have gotten) that you’ll run out of space to write!
We never know whose heart our stories will touch, or inspire, or encourage, including our own. God bless you! ❤ MrsH
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us; an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:2
This recipe was originally featured in a McDonell-Rickards 20th Family Reunion Cookbook. I received a copy of the cookbook from my mother-in-law. My father-in-law (whose mother was a McDonell/Rickards) was friends with one of John Wayne’s stunt doubles and I’m told that’s how we got the recipe. I think John Wayne must have given it out to a lot of folks, as I’ve seen it featured in several other cookbooks and recipe collections.
I’ve altered it slightly from the original recipe, and it is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. He requested it this year for his birthday and since it is fresh in my mind I decided it was a blog-worthy recipe to share with y’all. It is a little bit time consuming to make with fresh chilies, but they are a must if you want your casserole to pop with flavor! We like the spicy chilies the best!!!!!!!!
18-20 fresh Anaheim or Fresno (or New Mexico – Hatch) green chilies
1 stick of butter
1 very large white or yellow onion, chopped
3 8-oz packages of pepper-jack Cheese, shredded
10 large eggs
½ cup of flour (seasoned)
1 tsp salt (and ground black pepper to taste)
Fresh salsa (or warm Ranchero sauce)
Chopped green onion
I start by roasting my chilies with a propane flame torch in our fire pit. I lay all my chilies out on the rack and then light the gas torch and run it up and down each chili until the skins start popping and blistering and turn black all over. Then I use BBQ tongs to turn the chilies over and roast them on the other side. When I’m done I gather them up into a gallon size plastic bag and let them steam in my kitchen for about an hour.
Next, I melt a stick of butter in my frying pan and chop up a very large white or yellow onion. I turn the heat down to medium, add the onion, and let it sauté over medium (to low) heat until the onions are completely caramelized.
Meanwhile, while the onions are cooking I peel the green chilies at the sink. I pull off the stems, swipe out all the seeds, and stack the split and flattened chilies on a plate. This is the worst part of the prep. The chilies often cause choking – (If you are sensitive you could wear a mask). Be careful also that you wash your hands really well afterward and don’t touch your eye or something. The residue on your fingers can cause irritation.
When my onions are ready then I am ready to begin assembly. Preheat oven to 350*F.
Drizzle melted butter (from the onions) onto the bottom of an oblong glass casserole dish. Use approximately 6 chilies to cover the bottom of the dish from side to side and end to end. Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded cheese over the chilies, and then spoon about 1/3 of the caramelized onions around on the cheese. Repeat with a layer of about 6 chilies, another 1/3 of the cheese, and some more onions. Finish with a final layer of chilies, cheese, and the onions.
Break eggs into a large bowl. Add half-and-half, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and the seasoned flour (I like the Louisiana brand Fried Chicken Batter mix, but if you don’t have any just add a generous teaspoon of Cajun seasoning – like Slap Yo Mama). Whip with a whisk until fully combined, and then pour this mixture over the chilies in the casserole dish. Place spoonfuls of salsa here and there on the top of the casserole. Place in preheated oven and cover with a piece of aluminum foil that’s been wadded up and flattened back out again and then tented over the casserole dish. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and jostle dish a little bit to make sure the egg has set and is cooked in the middle. If unsure you can remove the casserole and insert a knife in the center pulling it apart slightly to see if it is set up or still runny. If still runny, let it bake another 10 minutes and check again.
Let rest a few moments before slicing. I like to serve it with some fresh salsa (or Ranchero) drizzled on top, and also a dollop of ®Daisy! Sliced green onions and some minced cilantro are also wonderful for garnishes.
TIP: When serving, be careful not to dump your son-in-law’s portion all over the front of him in a fit of clumsiness! Wow! Besides being burning hot like molten lava to his flesh, it makes a terrible, horrible mess, ruins his favorite golf shirt, and is impossible to get out of the cracks of the furniture. Hey, I’ve invented the shirt plate! OMG, yes, this happened!