Introduction

In this series, we will be discussing 3 characters that Jesus had told us to follow their example.

In Part 1 we covered The good Samaritan and Mary
In Part 2 we covered 2 of the 3 things that Abraham did.

Abraham circumcised himself and he left his kindred and home. These are all difficult instructions from God and he obey. In Part 3 let us look at the 3rd thing that he did.

Pt 3: Abraham Built Altar Wherever He Goes

Abraham built altars to worship God wherever he went. The time of the patriarchs preceded the Mosaic Law.  In those days, there are 2 significance behind the offering of Sacrifice. One significance is to thank God, while the other is to seek help and forgiveness from God.

Abraham led a life of building altars. No matter where he goes, he will first build an altar to worship God.  This is something modern day Christians ought to learn. Wherever we go, we must learn to build an altar to worship God. 

Today there is no longer a need to build a physical altar to offer sacrifices to God. But yet the spirit of worshipping God, coming before God for help and forgiveness remains. Abraham must have built a lot of altars in his life.

But the book of Genesis recorded 5 of the altars that was built. These 5 altars contains significance and life lessons for Christians to learn. Let us look at these altars and what they signify.

Pt 3.1: The First Altar at Shechem

“Abram passed through the land to 
  the place of Shechem, as far as the
  terebinth tree of Moreh. And the
  Canaanites were then in the land.
  Then the Lord appeared to Abram
  and said, “To your descendants I
  will give this land.” And there he
  built an altar to the Lord, who had
  appeared to him.” – Moses (Gen 12:6-7)

The first altar built by Abraham when he arrived at Shechem. This altar is a testimony of the genuine faith of Abraham. Shechem is the first city when you enter the land of Canaan.

Canaan is a foreign place full of strangers.  Sometimes it makes one feel lonely and helpless. Even though Abraham had wealth and servants, but he is without a friend or a relative nearby. He had departed from Haran, leaving the familiar place for a place that is completely foreign.

In my life, I encountered this feeling twice. The first time was when I moved from Singapore to Brunei and now I moved from Brunei to Vietnam. Only those who had migrated for study and work can understand the feeling fully.

But yet in the midst of these God appeared to Abraham, it is a significant event to Abraham. It provided him immediate comfort. God is assuring that he is not alone. God’s appearance to him is a sign that he abides with Abraham Even though now there are no one he could rely on, but God is his reliance.

God drew near to him and assure him saying “I am with you”. Abraham must have felt thankful to God from the bottom of his heart. Even though he is in a foreign land and dwelling among strangers. The God whom he believed in abides with him.  That is why he built an altar to worship and thank him.

When Abraham worship God, he knows he is not talking to thin air. He knew that God abides with him and he is worshipping him directly. Abraham  may not hear God talking to him on a daily basis, but through his faith he can see the abidance of GOd with him.

Can We Feel The Presence of God?

Our faith needs to be as genuine as Abraham. Are we able to fee the presence of God on a daily basis? Do we only feel his presence only when we encounter a vision or when we hear God speak ?

The fact is that we do not see miracles and vision at every prayer. Does that affect the genuineness of our faith? When we sing hymn and pray, do we know who we are talking to? Can we feel God standing right before us as we pray? Do we believe that he is there?

Today many Christians feel that their worship is like talking to thin air. When we sing hymns, our mouths may be moving but our mind is afar off. We are suppose to be singing to God. It is a important and sacred work.

If we truly believe that God is listening, we would not mind if others find our singing horrendous. We may not be musically talents, we may go off key at times, but God will always be listening and he will not despise our offering of praises. But God will listern and see if we are truly praising him. He will be disappointed if he find us praising without sincerity and heart.

The same concept applies to our prayer. When we begin our prayers, we will be serious at the very first minute of our prayer. But what happens in the next minute? Have our minds wandered off?

We often say that God is far from us, we said that our prayers are routine and it feel as if we are talking to thin air. That is because our worship is no longer a true worship

Understanding True Worship

True worship only happens when you choose to kneel before God. For we are not to bow to to anyone but only to God. We need to remind ourselves that we are kneeling and bowing down before God. Even though we cannot see God with our eyes but we can see him in faith. This faith is not one based on imagination. It is based on the words of Jesus.

“Again I say to you that if two of
  you agree on earth concerning
   anything that they ask, it will
  be done for them by My Father in
  heaven.  For where two or three are
  gathered together in My name,
  I am there in the midst of them.”-Jesus (Matt 18:19-20)

If we truly believe in the words of Jesus, than our worship will become real. Today in church we often say “in the name of Jesus”. This is not a magic phrase, we who said it are holding on to the promise of Jesus , for Jesus had said those words where we read them.

That is why as long as we gather in his name to pray, Jesus will be in our midst. If we believe in the words of Jesus. He will be there with us. We need to readjust our thinking and we need to change our attitude when it comes to service. By doing so, our prayers and worship will not become a routine nor will we feel that God is not in our midst.

Learning From King David

King David once said

“I have set the Lord always before me;
  Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
  My flesh also will rest in hope.” – David (Ps 16:8-9)

Why is David glad and what did he rejoice in? He told us that his flesh is rest in hope. David was a man who faced many troubles.  But whenever he worship and pray, his heart is glad, for he know that the Lord is with him.

This is not just a theory, and a belief, for he had set the Lord before him. He set the Lord before him with his heart. That is not an easy work. For our hearts tend to wander away easily. There are many things that can distract our heart when worshipping God.

Today all it takes is a vibration from our smart phone to distract us. many things can take our attention way from God. We need to grab our heart back for the Lord is before us. Today when we sit in the church hall, our hearts may not be there in the hall. Even though the speaker may not know, but God knows. He know those who gathered in his name but had their hearts outside the church hall. That is why Jesus remind us to worship in Spirit and in Truth

We need to make it a point to set the Lord before us. We need to turn our hearts back at him. Only then can our faith be true. Only then can our worship and prayer be with effect. For Jesus is the true God and his words are true. Our worship of God must be true.

Pt 2: 2nd Altar At Bethel

“And he moved from there to the
  mountain east of Bethel, and he
   pitched his tent with Bethel on
  the west and Ai on the east;
  there he built an altar to the Lord
  and called on the name of the Lord.” – Moses (Gen 12: 8)

Abraham moved to Bethel from Shechem and he built an altar and called on the name of God. The altar is between Bethel and Ai. These are contrasting names.  Bethel means the house of God while Ai means rubble.

If we are Abraham where will we move towards? We will choose to be in the house of God, for we do not want to dwell among ruins. Even if Ai is a beautiful city, but its name already suggested that it is a pile of ruins.  Perhaps Bethel may not be as beautiful as Ai, but it is the house of God.  It is established forever.

The altar at Bethel is a declaration of faith. Abraham is saying “I want to draw near to God”. For the house of God will be his house. He is only a sojourner and a stranger. This world will one day become a ruin, the world will be destroyed.

Christians must remind themselves that one day all on earth will be destroyed. we need to know that Christ will come again some day. AT that time there will only be 2 choices to go. One is to head toward heaven while the other is to head towards hell.

Where we will go depend on our choices, depends on who we choose to draw near to. If you build your altar at Bethel. You will have a portion in the house of God. But if you choose not to declare your faith, if you choose to love the world, and draw towards Ai.

Then your faith will only bring you close to the world and not God. One may have faith in God but if he refuse to make changes to his life, then his faith is without works. For he refuse to be on the side of Bethel and he refuses to keep the command of God.  That faith cannot save you, for James tell us that the devils believe in God. They understood that the world will be destroyed. But that faith did not save them, for they will never repent and turn back to God.

Choosing The Side Of God

True faith is a faith that is back with actions. One with true faith will choose to remain in the house of God. A man with true faith will automatically draw near to God for their faith is genuine.

If A Christian believe in God and choose to be in the world. If they choose not to draw near to God. Then their faith is a mere lip service. It is not genuine faith. 

For Paul told the church in Ephesus

“For through Him we both have access
  by one Spirit to the Father.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers 
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the 
saints and members of the household of God, 
having been built on the foundation of the 
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself
  being the chief cornerstone,”- Paul (Eph 2:18-19)

The important work of the Holy Spirit is to give us access to God. The foundation of the Church must be built on both the Apostles and the prophets. All of which must be built upon the teaching of Jesus, which is the chief cornerstone.

We need to hold on to this foundation and not allow it to be changed. For the teaching of the apostles were the instruction of Jesus.  Today there are many who want to change the words of God.  They downplay the new testament, cast doubts on its authenticity. They downplay the importance of baptism, foot washing, and the need to pray for the Holy Spirit.  Instead of following the teaching of Jesus regarding Holy communion. They choose to claim that one need to follow the old feasts under the mosaic covenant. They tell us that as long as one had faith and love, all other things are not important. Some even went one step ahead to say that the teaching of the apostles are distorted rules of churchianity and had no bearings to salvation.

The Need To Defend Gods Truth 

Today when we are faced with such people, we need to choose what we believe and whether we should join them. We need to take a stand so that we can protect the faith of those around us.  Today we do what we do base on the instruction of Christ. These are commands that are meant to be followed and not questioned.

Today if we think that these doesn’t matter, then we are shutting salvation away from those who need them. There will come a time where we need to defend the true faith. If one were to distort the truth,then souls will be lost. We know that if the Lord loses a single sheep, he will seek it out himself.

We need to take the side of God and not the side of man. While others have the right to change their heart and not belief. There is no need for us to contend or fight with him. We can only choose  to preserve our own faith and leave them be. For they have chosen to reject the grace of God.

But if they want to lead others into disbelief, we cannot allow him to do so. We have to make our stand and defend the word of God with all our might. For he can choose whether to believe or not, but he had no right to affect others.

Let us learn to be like Abraham who built his altar in Bethel. For he knows he is a member of Gods house and he wanted to be on the side of God. Let our faith be one that is true and with declaration.

Pt 3.  3rd Altar At Bethel

“Then Abram went up from Egypt,
  he and his wife and all that he had,
  and Lot with him, to the South.
 
 Abram was very rich in livestock,
  in silver, and in gold. 
  And he went on his journey from the
  South as far as Bethel, to the place
  where his tent had been at the
  beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 
  to the place of the altar which he had
  made there at first. And there Abram
  called on the name of the Lord.”-Moses (Gen 13:1-4)

The 3rd Altar is at the same location as the second. This altar is constructed at the same time after he return from Egypt. God instructed him to return to Bethel, to the altar that he had build.

The significance of the 3rd altar is different. It is talking about a renewal of faith. Abraham used to be a strong and faithful believer of God. But when the famine started, his faith collapse. That is why he chose to enter Egypt. He did not enquire of God , he proceeded to Egypt on his own accord. His action was against the will of God, for God wanted him to remain in Canaan.

Abraham can choose to live in Canaan in areas where the famine is not severe. He should not have left of Egypt, but he went down to Egypt anyway. When he felt threatened in Egypt, he did not rely on God, he chose to tell lies. He told them that Sarah was his sister. The pharaoh wanted her as his wife.

There are times when we choose to lie to protect ourselves. Those lies may have brought us some benefits and convenience. Perhaps it may resolve the problem that lies before us, but every lie will be exposed one day. What are we to do when it happens?

The journey to Egypt was a result of the weakness of faith in Abraham. But God continue to stretch out his hands and deliver Abraham from the pharaoh. He manage to leave Egypt and return to Bethel safely.

Abraham was told to rebuild that altar and re-establish his faith.  It must have been a complicated feeling. On one hand he was full of regret, he thought that his faith was good and strong. But yet when trials come before him, he was unable to rely on God.

On the other hand he felt comforted. For God did not reject him despite the fact that he had went against God. God did not abandon him but still helped and resolved his problem. He must have seen the love of God as well as his mercy and forgiveness. This strengthened his resolve to seek and obey God. Even though he had failed, he knew he must rebuild his faith.

A Single Failure Is Not A Permanent Failure

The Altar at Bethel tells us about Abraham rebuilding his faith. It also remind us an important lesson. Our past success doesn’t guarantee success in the future. We saw how strong and powerful the faith of Abraham was and how he became weak.

Let us be weary of our success, be it today or tomorrow. For if we are careless, our success will become failure tomorrow. Let us not indulge in the success of the past but be mindful of the future.

At the same time it remind us that failures in the past is not failure forever. Even though we have fallen, let us not dwell on our mistakes and continue in them. Let us admit our mistake and return to God.

Just like how Abraham rebound from his mistake and return to Bethel. He readjusted his direction in life and return to God.

Many a times Christians choose not to return because we are afraid of being mock and attacked by others. That is why we blame our failures on the lack of love from our fellow brethren. Perhaps it is true that your brethren have failed in their duties as fellow christens. But they are not expert, they love you and they spoke their minds for they did not want you to continue in your mistakes. They wanted you to repent and return, but they are unable to express it well enough. They hurt you so that you will admit your mistakes and to repent before God. Only by doing so can you experience the love and forgiveness of God.

Today we need to do the works of Abraham. Abraham is not the father of faith because he is infallible and without weakness. He is the father of faith for he is able to repent and return to God. He is willing to turn back and change himself to return to God. 

Pt 4: 4th Altar  At Hebron

“Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan,
  and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain
  and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.
  
But the men of Sodom were exceedingly
  wicked and sinful against the Lord.

  And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot
  had separated from him: “Lift your eyes
  now and look from the place where you are
  —northward, southward, eastward, and
  westward; for all the land which you see
   I give to you and your descendants forever.

  Then Abram moved his tent, and went and
  dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre,
  
which are in Hebron, and built an altar there
  to the Lord.” – Moses (Gen 13:12-15,18 )

This 4th altar is built after Lot departed from Abraham. At that time God appeared to Abraham. Why did Lot leave? Have he stop believing? Have they not come to the promise land together?

There is a change that occurs in Lot, he no longer wants the promise land anymore. He is not able to see the promises of God, but he saw only the beauty of Sodom. Gen 13:10 tells us that the land of Sodom is like the garden of the Lord. That was so before God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Eventually Lot pitch his tents closer and closer to Sodom. But Abraham remain unmoved, his faith towards God unshaken. Even though he faces difficulty in life, he insist on his faith and did not change.

Abraham can choose to enter Sodom and stop his life of wandering. He can choose not to stay in tents. While most of us think its fun to camp outdoors. But to stay in tent permanently is not something which we like.  Life in the city of Sodom is different from life in the wilderness.

Abraham choose to fear God, he look forward to the promises of God. He did not regret his decision nor did he change his faith. He chose not to move into the city of Sodom to stay.

Choosing To Walk In Gods Path

On the other hand you see Lot being unable to resist the temptation and he entered the city. Lot may have still believed in God, but he no longer walk in his way. He had chosen to walk the way of the world, he choose to live life within Sodom

Today there are many Christians who still believe in the Lord. But they have stop walking their life of faith.  But those who believe in God must choose to walk on his way and obey his truth.

Today in life we may encounter trials and tribulation, we will also see others changing their faith, choosing no longer to walk with God. These people may be our friends and even our relative. They can just be like Lot to Abraham.

Who will we choose to follow? Can we continue to stand firm in our faith or will we allow them to influence us? When Lot separated himself from Abraham, Abraham choose to let him go. Abraham will not follow him on the wrong path. It is not that he no longer love Lot, but it is just that their priorities and path are no longer the same.

Abraham survived that trial and stood firm in his faith. That is why when Lot left, God appeared to Abraham and declared his promise to him. Abraham is given the promise of God. That is when Abraham built an altar for God. This is the altar of victory in  his faith.

Today when the ones we love no longer walk the way of the Lord.We would be thrown into a struggle, we will need to decide for ourselves whether we should stay or follow? What will our choice be?

Jesus tell us to do the works of Abraham will we be able to remain faithful to the Lord in the mist of this?

Pt 5: 5th Altar At Mount Moriah

The 5th  altar is the Altar at Mount Moriah. I have described it in the post the Heroes of Faith (Part V) Abraham and Isaac. It is an Altar built by Abraham and his son Isaac. It is the altar that testify of the complete obedience and the complete faith of Abraham.

May we all reach this stage of faith and may we have complete faith in the words of God.

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