This morning we're going to be praying with our pastors who have gone to Mt. Hermon in Israel to lift us up to God as they stand at the peak of the same mountain where Jesus was transfigured thousands of years ago. Mountains were holy places, God-made altars where men came before Him to cry out, to give thanks and to hear what He had to tell them. The Mount of Olives, Mt. Carmel, Mt. Moriah, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Calvary. They were a symbol of us reaching up to God, and Him reaching down to us.
I never really thought in terms of altars and holy places as I grew up. Altars to me were just tables to hold decorative church-y things in my mind. Big bibles on a stand, the offering plates, candlesticks, and once a month, the communion cups and bread. But that was because I didn't understand the beauty of altars. I didn't know that they were the place where man connected with God. The place of sacrifice and giving was also the same place of receiving much more beyond what we could give. It was an exciting place, a place of power and contact with the supernatural.
This hit home for me in Africa when my husband and I were traveling all over the continent practically every week. I had a one year old, and an 11 year old who both needed a lot of my care and attention. Our home was like a guest house for traveling pastors from around Africa who came through Johannesburg for supplies and to attend pastors' meetings. We had little privacy, and little time to ourselves, and the boys, though they loved getting to know other people, really needed the stability of a calm and peaceful home. As much as I loved the opportunity to travel and see other countries, I hated knowing that my children were being left in the care of others. The other women who helped me were a wonderful God-send, but they were not my children's mom - I was, and I kept leaving them, feeling guilty as I went to do the work of God by my husband's side.
There were times I asked him to let me stay home and for him to go alone, and he was always understanding, but there were many times that I knew it was important for me to be with him in his travels. Sometimes it would be for a day, three days, a week or more. And each time I'd leave with those sad faces of my children in my mind, and my heart would ache. I'd pray and pray for God to take care of them, but sometimes I'd come home to find out that homework wasn't done right because I wasn't there, and he'd get into trouble in school. or the baby had fallen and hurt himself or would have a fever because he caught a cold... there was always something to make me feel so guilty that I had abandoned my children when they needed me.
I couldn't figure out why God wasn't answering my prayers to take care of them while I was away. I was doing it for His sake, caring for His people who were suffering in other countries, why didn't He protect my children from harm?
There was a time in church when we were hearing a lot about Abraham and his sacrifice of Isaac. God revealed to me that I had to learn to sacrifice my children. I already was, physically speaking, but spiritually and emotionally I was still holding on to them. I'd leave, and then worry and fear for them, and fill my mind with negative thoughts. I wasn't surrendering them to God, even though I thought I was.
I began to think of what Abraham had done. The moment he had relinquished his son to the will of God, to be willing to take his beloved child's life with his own hands, a spiritual power came upon them both. At the moment that this child was placed on the altar, that act made young Isaac holy. He was shining in the spiritual world, and Abraham was too. They were covered in God's protection because they had both become holy. No evil can touch a sacrifice when it is given with a heart of trust, and no evil can touch the giver of that sacrifice. It's like God's spiritual force-field surrounds them both. Since God didn't want evil for Abraham or for Isaac, He didn't allow Abraham to go through with the killing, and told him to take his son back, unharmed. That was a huge turning point for Abraham, and why God calls us to look to him as the Father of Faith.
So I reasoned that it was time for me to relinquish my children to God, to place them on the altar like Isaac, every time I had to leave them. I had to believe that God's power was covering them, because this was not my choice, but the life that God had called me to at that time. I was obeying, so God would have to reach down to make my sacrifice holy, untouchable to the devil. Just giving them up and feeling pain wasn't a sacrifice - it was the trust that this "altar" in my heart where I placed them both, would be a holy place that God would honor.
The day I began to truly sacrifice my children to God, was when all the sadness and turmoil stopped. They were fine, they were blessed and happy, and they were not traumatized by the experiences as my fears and convinced me they would. My faith obligated God to protect them from physical and emotional harm, and that's just what He did. Eventually those trips slowed down, and when we moved back to the States, i was able to stay with them 24/7, which I loved! But ever since then, I have offered them to God and I see them on that altar, surrendered to Him. They are not mine, but His, and because of that they are safer than anywhere else in the world.
Now I don't see altars as just decorations in the church. They may be a simple table or a little platform where the pastor preaches, but when he stands there and humbly offers himself to God to deliver God's message to His people, the power of God comes upon both the giver, and the recipients of that message. And when we go to that altar to lay down our offerings and sacrifices, or when we come forward to offer God our lives, those offerings represent our choice to honor Him above all else. We are covered in His light, and we are able to connect with Him because we are giving - heart, soul, mind and strength. It's a wonderful thing to know you have become untouchable to the devil because the light that shines in you is unbearable for the devil to approach. No wonder the devil hates the idea of sacrifice!