Altar Envy

by Terri Gillespie

When you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it from cut stone, for if you use a tool on it, you will have profaned it. Exodus 20:25 TLV

The familiar funky cloud of envy settled on me, despite my pasted-on smile and enthusiastic congratulations. That old adage to “fake it until you make it” was not working. Once again, I was left behind while others moved forward in success and triumph and breakthroughs.

What if I followed their passions? What if I adapted my “stones”—my gifts—to be more like those I admired? Trim my “stones” to replicate their altars. Perhaps then God would see and bless my offerings as He had theirs.

The children of Israel had escaped the bondage of slavery after 400 years. Those who were grateful wanted to find ways to show that gratitude to their Redeemer. While Moses, Aaron, and the tribe of Levi were managing the building of the Tabernacle and all its implements of sacrifice and worship (Exodus 25ff), the people could build their own altars for their offerings.

In the verse before, God tells His people that He is content with an earthen altar:

You are to make an altar of earth for Me, and there you will sacrifice your burnt offerings, your fellowship offerings—your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you. Exodus 20:24 TLV

The children of Israel did not have to make a fancy altar to show their gratitude and be right with God, but if they wanted to, then just find some rocks—of which there were plenty in the Sinai—and assemble the altar.

Guess what? That meant Shlomo’s altar would look different than Uri’s or Judah’s—each altar would be unique.

Our “altars”—the place we give our offerings to the Lord, will all be distinctively different from others. Whatever our gifts, they are individually formed by God—which means our offerings will be distinctly different from others.

What are our offerings? For writers it can be the devotionals we post on social media, or novels and books helping others live faithfully, or letters to the editor. For artists it can be paintings, drawings, handcrafts, or sculptures. For lyricists and musicians, songs that edify and worship and praise our God. The offerings of teachers, parents, grandparents . . . You get the idea.

Our pasts, our challenges, our testimonies are part of the composite of each and every stone. Therefore, our gifts will always be different than those of someone else. That’s the beauty of how God sees us and how we fit into the Greater Altar as one Body.

It was only within the last few years that I realized the “stones” God provided for my altar were the stones He wanted me to use. He oversees my gifts and watches for my offerings in love.

The altar will look however it is going to look, based on the stones He provides for us. We are not to try to make it look “nicer” or more like another’s altar. That corrupts our offerings. Whatever He has provided for us, He wants us to use those stones to give our offerings to Him.

Not sure what your stones are? Know that you—your earthly being—is a good enough altar for our Heavenly Father. He loves the sweet surrender of our hearts as the greatest offering—our worship, praise, and gratitude.

Eventually, you will notice the stones. Gather them and build the altar that is exclusively yours. Then, give the Lord your offerings. Everyone’s altar is beautiful.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. 

Join the conversation: What does your altar look like?

God Records His Name

by Brenda L. Yoder

“….In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.” Exodus 20:24 (KJV)

I opened the inside of the hymnal and saw her name. It was written in the cursive handwriting I’d known to love. The simple, clean lines which spelled Lois Yoder made me feel she was somehow with me, though my mentor and mother-in-law had passed away several years ago.

This hymnal was important to her. She recorded her name on it.

I felt the same feelings when I read Exodus 20:24, “in all the places where I record my name I will come to thee, and I will bless thee.” In a flash, I pictured Jesus’ name written on people’s hearts. I thought of Cindy, who’s in an abusive marriage, and who knows God’s name is recorded on her heart. It gives her strength when others misjudge her for terminating her marriage.

I thought of the orphaned children my daughter works with who don’t know to whom they belong. She crouches down, looks them in the eyes, and tells them Jesus loves them. She calls them by name, letting them know they are also seen, known, and loved by those who minister to them.

I thought of my children who have chosen Christ as their Savior. His name is recorded on their hearts, and it’s that promise I take in prayer as I pray for their protection. How many times I have interceded for them, declaring in the heavenly realm that my children belong to Christ and the enemy has no authority over them.

This verse is a visual promise of God’s imprint and engagement in our lives. When we accept Jesus’ death as payment for our sins and gift of eternal life, His name is written on our hearts, sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Not only does He record His name on us, marking us as His own, but He comes to us and will bless us.

Just like the hymnal with my mother-in-law’s name recorded on it, God records His name on our lives. This is our mark of protection again the enemy. God commanded the Israelites to mark their doorposts with the blood of a flawless lamb that would save them from death. So is Christ’s blood the mark that saves us from death and destruction. Our lives are then sealed by the Holy Spirit.

How precious of God to tell us His Name is scripted on our lives. His Name seals us. It says we are His. Let that be a comfort when you feel lost, abandoned, or forgotten.

Prayer: Dear God, show me where you have recorded Your name, where you have come to me, and where you have blessed me. Thank you for this promise of hope, security, and protection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Brenda YoderAbout the author: Brenda L. Yoder’s newest book, Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind releases in 2018. She’s been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Washington Post, and has a mental health column in her local paper. Her first book, Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All released in 2015. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, is found at brendayoder.com  where she authentically writes about faith, life, and family beyond the storybook image. Brenda speaks on a variety of mental health topics. She is a certified trainer by the Faith Trust Institute and an advocate for intentional parenting, children, and healthy relationships. You can connect with Brenda on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Brenda’s book, Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Where in your life has God recorded His name?