…but the fire which is on the altar must be kept burning on it. It must not be extinguished. So the priest must kindle wood on it morning by morning, and he must arrange the burnt offering on it and offer the fat of the peace offering up in smoke on it. A continual fire must be kept burning on the altar. It must not be extinguished.
Leviticus 6:12-13 NET
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice– alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 NET
Living sacrifices are made to burn; they are made to feel pain.
As the burnt offering in Leviticus was meant to burn with intense heat; fresh fat dripping down to stoke the flames of the altar…so must the “wood” on the altar of my devotion consistently be receiving the drippings of self-sufficiency and self-absorption from my life.
But it burns…oh how it burns.
A week ago, the community ministry organization that I had served with for two years and some change asked me to leave. I did nothing wrong; they did nothing wrong…it was just a definitive and sad ending to a rather stable, and at times happy chapter in my life.
I wish I could say I responded well; I did not.
In rage, there really is no other word for it, I went after the former idols and coping mechanisms of my life. For a full two days I pursued anything other than what was provided for me in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Reminding me, that once again, recovery is a life-long commitment. While days are good, I am starting to resist those ole hurts, habits, and hangups; I would even say when there are minor disappointments I have learned to hold on.
But this was a huge fallout; a massive vortex that sought suck up my soul.
And I did not do well. Suddenly, the altar flared to life as more of my pride, idolatry, and identity swelled the fires.
drip, drip, splash!, ROAR!, drip. drip…
When you operate in the area of your gifting, talent, and calling it is called your “sweet-spot”, well I have a so-called “bitter-spot,” a weakness that flares up when there is even the resemblance of betrayal. And while they likely did not intend to hit that spot, the enemy and destroyer, he was able to guide their words and actions…plunging the knife in, letting out the juices of loneliness, acceptance, and belonging…causing the flames to roar higher.
rush!, splash!, ROAR!, splash!, ROAR!, drip, drip…
After some moments of anger, hurt, and disobedience, I finally looked to scripture. Where I landed was the passage in Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21, where David was lamenting his own betrayal at the hands of a familiar counselor and friend:
Indeed, it is not an enemy who insults me,
or else I could bear it;
it is not one who hates me who arrogantly taunts me,
or else I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man like me,
my close friend in whom I confided.
We would share personal thoughts with each other;
in God’s temple we would walk together among the crowd.
vv. 12-14 NET
He attacks his friends;
he breaks his solemn promises to them.
21 His words are as smooth as butter,
but he harbors animosity in his heart.
His words seem softer than oil,
but they are really like sharp swords.
vv. 20-21 NET
David felt the painful dripping as well; betrayal stokes the fires of entitlement and pride, like few others do. But it is verse 22 that provides the correct response.
Throw your burden upon the Lord,
and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the godly to be upended.
I am not sure still who was “in the right” or if I qualify as the “godly” in this verse, but I do know that casting myself once again on the altar, through the roar and hissing of the flames is the right decision. If I am going to be like Jesus, to be his disciple, and to lead others to be his disciples…I have to keep the altar of my life burning.
That was episode one of a two part series.
The next comes from my own alienation, differences, and yes prejudices with the society around me, and with people who are not like me, or further…people who are not like me that I do not tend to like.
We all have prejudices and biases:
Some are racist.
Some are classist.
Some are culturalist.
Some are nationalist.
Me? I am an elitist.
What do I mean by the term “elitist”? For me an elitist is someone who is well-educated and/or well-informed; someone who believes that society should be controlled and governed by the educated (or informed) and the virtuous. I have a hard time with ignorance, especially as relates to the conservative mindset often found in rural America and the recent election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. I also have a problem with an Evangelical culture (of which I am a part) willfully or even reluctantly turning a blind eye to troubles of others, and the damage being done to people’s lives in exchange for more power on the Supreme Court. I have struggled greatly with this and has until recently caused me to not throw myself back on the altar.
But the pressure is getting intense; I am a missionary and ambassador of the kingdom of God, and I have a job to do.
drip, drip, splash!, ROAR!, drip, drip
There are people in my life right now that I love, and even like most of the time…but I distance myself from them because of the things that sometimes come out of their mouth. I do not try to understand, patiently challenge, or even simply tolerate them; my reaction is to run the other direction…and man is that so, not like Jesus.
drip, drip, drip…
My neighborhood and community is full of people not like me; people who need Jesus far more than they need my political/societal/educational opinions! If I cannot humble myself so that God can use me to communicate to them, how can I be faithful in my current context? I may wish for all of the world that Conway was more like New Orleans or Nashville…but it isn’t. Offering myself is throwing myself on the altar and letting those juices of pride, prejudice, and false superiority out so that the flames climb higher…burning more of me up.
RUSH!, ROAR!, splash!, ROAR. drip, drip…
So my challenge to myself, as much as it is my challenge to you, is if you are a follower of Jesus to continue to throw yourself on the altar; let the fat drippings of your self-idolatry stoke the the inferno…for it will not only burn us up, but bring purity to our souls so that we can see Jesus reflected back.
And don’t let the fire ever burn out.
Grace and Peace.