Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Build an Altar

I’ve been struggling with discouragement recently.So this past Wednesday, after another long and restless night in bed, I got up about 4:30 and started flipping through my Bible.  I was kinda hoping that something would just sorta leap off the page, lift my spirits, and put wings on my otherwise frustrated and weary heart.  And you know what…? 

Something did.  Here’s what’s amazing:  I’ve taught those verses at least a dozen times— but I’d never seen what I saw this time.  So I wanna show you what I believe God showed me. 

And I wanna do that for two reasons:  First, cuz it was a powerful and defining moment for me…and I figure if it helped me it might help you, too.  But also because what I found paints a powerful backdrop for what today’s text Colossians is also gonna teach us. 

I wanna show you two verses from the life of King Saul that illustrate two defining moments in his life. The first is I Samuel 14:35:  “Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.”[1]

So far, so good.  Israel’s new king, thankfully, is leaning on the Lord.  And yet, fast-forward one lousy chapter— a mere 29 verses in fact, and check out what Saul’s building now! 

“Saul has gone to Carmel…he’s set up a monument in his own honor.”[2]

Wow.  Somewhere in between those two verses, Saul stopped building altars to God and started building monuments to himself.  At some point, in that brief span, Saul’s motives were no longer “Thy Kingdom Come,” but “MY kingdom come.”  And his leadership over Israel was no longer a God-thing.  It was all about and only about and always about…Saul. 

Evidently, there’s a lot that happened during this time that we don’t know.  But here’s what we DO know:

Spiritually, Saul had become disenchanted with God.  His prayers weren’t answered as quickly as he had wanted them to be answered.[3]  So he starts acting out.  And that’s when God became disenchanted with Saul, and said:  “I regret that I made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”[4]

Something else had also happened:  Personally, Saul experienced a family crisis, involving his beloved son, Jonathan.[5]

And professionally?  From the moment he became king, Saul’s reign was just one battle after another in what the Bible calls a “bitter war”[6] against the Philistines.  Evidently, the conflicts and skirmishes never did let up. 

How does Saul respond?  He stops building altars to God and starts building monuments to himself.  And once Saul jumped those rails…?  His life started REALLY spinning outta control. 

To the point he became even more impatient with God.  So he panicked by making his own sacrifice instead of waiting for God’s prophet. 

That’s what insecure people do.  They get nervous.  And then they give up…way too quickly.  They don’t understand that it’s in a dark season of chaos and insecurity and fear that God often does His most amazing work.  WHY?  Cuz when there’s no way out but to trust God, then only God’s gonna get all the credit when something truly amazing happens. 

Saul also got reckless.  God had told him to attack, then completely destroy the Amalekites AND burn everything they owned.  Well Saul attacked, but then rifled through their goodies and took the best stuff [plus their King] back to his palace instead.

But even worse, Saul got paranoid.  Samuel had told him that God was taking the kingdom from him and had given it to one “better than”[7] him.

All because— Saul had stopped building altars to God— and started building monuments to himself instead.


So…I’ve been through some stuff, too— a lot like Saul’s stuff. 

Spiritually, I’ve had some dark moments.  Prayers for healing that went unanswered…or at least not the way I wanted them answered.  And prayers for a permanent home for our church—nothing lavish, just four walls and roof— a prayer I thought should’ve been answered a long time ago.

Personally, I’ve had a family crisis, too.  I lost my love and our church lost one of our most gifted leaders. 

Professionally, I feel like I’ve been doing daily battle as well.  After all:  Anthem, as one of our men said recently, is “THE vanguard of the economic meltdown and housing debacle.”  I mean, we’re the poster child of everything that’s wrong about our economy. 

And fighting against that reality?  It’s hard.  But that’s not even the hardest part of the war we wage.  People, we’re in a spiritual battle, too.  We’re trying to reach a resistant culture with the message of hope in Christ— and doing that is desperately difficult.  And there are times when I feel like I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked… yet, I’m caused less damage to the Enemy than I’ve ever caused. 

But here’s the difference between me and Saul.  I’m NOT gonna get impatient.  I will NOT panic.  I’m NOT gonna get reckless or paranoid or defensive.  In fact, I am as convinced as ever that God intends to do something amazing through this church.  And if we allow Him to put us in a place where there’s no one we can turn to but Him…?  Then?  When that amazing thing does happen?  The only explanation will be that God did it! 

So I built an altar to the Lord Wednesday morning. 

And today, I’d like to build another one.


[1] I Samuel 14:35

[2] I Samuel 15:12

[3] See I Samuel 14:37

[4] I Samuel 15:11a

[5] I Samuel 14:43-44

[6] I Samuel 14:52

[7] See I Samuel 15:28

This is an exerpt from SAVED: From Sin and into Mission, for more, log on to thecrossroadsaz.com.

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