Altars of Remembrance…
At various times in the Old Testament, God’s people set up a simple altar of remembrance at a place where God did an especially powerful miracle, at a place where God dramatically rescued His people, at a place where God taught them an important lesson. These altars of remembrance–constructed of simple, local stones–would serve to remind future generations of God’s past faithfulness in order to give them strength to continue trusting the LORD in their present trials.
Biblical Altars of Remembrance
When God promised that He would always be with Jacob: Genesis 28:10-19
When God rescued Jacob from Esau: Genesis 33:20
Again to remember when God rescued Jacob from Esau: Genesis 35:1-3
When God defeated the Amalekites: Exodus 17:8-16
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses: Exodus 24:4
When God dried up the Jordan river so His people could safely cross: Joshua 4:1-9
So Why Should WE Build Altars of Remembrance?
A. Because the present can be foggy. Hindsight is often 20/20, and when we can’t see/feel God in our present circumstances it is a HUGE boost to our faith to be able to see Him in our past circumstances.
B. Because the present can be confusing. Satan tricked Eve (and Adam!) by asking a leading question in Genesis 3:1: “Did God REALLY say…?” Even answered the serpent with an incorrect memory/understanding of what God really did tell her–Eve said that God said not even to TOUCH the tree (Genesis 3:3). God never said THAT! He only said not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (though let the record show that God did allow Adam & Eve to eat from ANY OTHER TREE in the vast Garden of Eden). Adam & Eve didn’t remember what God said to them, didn’t remember what God did for them in warning them about the one tree and in generously providing for them with the other trees! What devastating consequences their lack of remembrance has had on all humans and creatures ever since. Building altars of remembrance for what God has done for us and taught us in the past will help us in our present to make wise choices.
C. Because it’s a GREAT way to tell others about Jesus. Some people don’t CARE what the Bible says about a topic or an issue or don’t care about what God did in the Bible, but some of those same people DO CARE about what you have experienced, about what God has done in your specific and unique life. While some won’t listen if we ask them, “May I tell you what the Bible says about suffering?”, it often disarms people when we ask them, “May I share with you what God has been teaching me lately as I have suffered? May I share with you a time in my life when God carried me through a terrible storm?” In some ways, it’s easy to argue with the Bible but it isn’t so easy to argue with/refute another person’s experience. They might not believe the food exists, but many are interested in hearing how God tastes to us. (Now I am NOT saying that our experiences are more important than the Bible–NOT AT ALL! It’s just that some people don’t want to hear about the Bible but they are often willing to hear about us. And God can use our experiences to teach them truth that IS in the Bible, which can help them down the road consider picking up a Bible and learning directly from it).
-imagine humbly sharing this with others over coffee
-imagine sharing this with others in your annual Christmas/New Year’s letter
-imagine putting a list of these togethers as a booklet and giving it as a gift to your child when they turn 18/get married/graduate college as a way to pass on a legacy of faith in Jesus
-imagine putting a list of these together as booklet and giving it as a gift to your future spouse on your wedding day as a list of what God will do in your lives together or to your spouse on your anniversary as a legacy of all that God has already done
-imagine having an “altars of remembrance” list for people at your funeral someday, a living testimony to God’s faithfulness in your life
Below are some individual stones–memories of great battles that God has won in my earthly life–that when put together become a memorial of God’s faithfulness, love, power, and trustworthiness in my life. Some of the stones below commemorate something God did in a MOMENT of my life; most of the stones, however, tell the story of what God did over years, a little bit at a time. Both are great miracles! As I look back on all that God has done in my past, it helps me to trust God in my present. I pray it has the same effect on you in your life as well…
-When God protected me from MANY foolish and reckless decisions during my teenage years before I even believed in Him!
-When God revived my sick and comatose relationship with my Mom, transforming it over the years to become a vibrant and healthy friendship!;
-When God strengthened me to never give up on my seminary degree which took 7.5 years to complete and which I pursued while having a full time job and raising five children with my wife;
-When God resurrected my family’s relationship with my wife’s parents after 12 years of no contact (in early January of 2014 they invited all of us to stay with them for SIX days of hanging out, talking, laughing, cooking, eating, and playing);
-When God enabled my wife and I to pay off both of our cars, her undergraduate student loans, and our credit card as well!;
-When God allowed me to begin pastoring a youth ministry of 300+ people in 2005 when I had almost ZERO seminary training, ZERO experience leading a ministry, and ZERO involvement in a youth ministry when I was a child;
-When God blessed me to be born to a 62 year old man, widowed after 30+ years of marriage, and his 27 year old wife;
-When God privileged me to have my Dad live to be 94 years old–even though he smoked cigarettes for 60+ years!–so that I could enjoy him and learn from him for over 32 years (when I was born many were concerned that my Dad would pass on when I was a young boy);
-When God honored me to have my Dad not only attend my wedding but to know all FIVE of my children (when I was 13 years old I asked God to please let my Dad live to attend my wedding and see the birth of his first grandson–God answered that prayer and THEN SOME!);
-When God carried me and my wife through the difficult early months after one of our daughter’s diagnosis of epilepsy. Through the diagnosis, the LORD helped us to obey Him in the midst of our questions/fears, to worship Him in the midst of emotional pain, and to trust Him to bring good out of our trials.
What are some of the altars of remembrance of God’s faithfulness in your life?
Will you take time to write down today the ways that God feels close to prepare for a time in the future when God feels far?
Will you take time to write down today the ways that God has carried you in the past (or is carrying you NOW!) to encourage yourself and others in the future if it ever feels like God has abandoned you?
Will you humbly and gently share these altars of remembrance with others as a testimony (eyewitness description) of what God has done in your life?