Ezekiel 14:3 (ESV)
3 “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?
Jeremiah 2:11–13 (ESV)
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Ezra 3:11–13 (ESV)
11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
In the Old Testament, altars were central; they "memorialized theophany," or helped people encounter the divine, and were places where people offered sacrifices as atonement for sin. Now, we are no longer in a system where we have to offer sacrifices to enter into God's presence. Jesus was and is our sacrifice, once and for all. We can freely enter into communion with God. But this doesn't mean altars aren't important anymore. Altars are in our lives, but they've become altars of prayer, praise, and encounter. God wants to meet us at the altar of our heart and create it into a holy place.
Our heart is the center of our being. All of our deepest problems start in the heart, which can be wicked, divided, hardened, and unbelieving without Jesus. We also contend with an array of modern-day altars that include power, money, ambition, beauty, love, and approval. God doesn't condemn our urge for worship, but he calls us to seek things from himself and not from idols. When we come to God with repentance, we receive a new and whole heart. This is the call of our lives: to make our hearts an altar for God.
God’s fire only falls on sacrifice.An empty altar receives no fire!
You might want to ask each other some of the following questions:
- Where have you seen God at work in your life in the past week/month?
- How did you experience God’s presence through your rhythms?
- How have you been shaped by the rhythms?
- What differences did the rhythms make to those around you?
- What is the Spirit stirring and wanting to grow in you in this season?
- What unhealthy rhythms or habits have you adopted and what practices will help you refocus on Jesus?
- What is one thing you like about the Rhythm of Altars and why?
- What has been an obstacle to Altars in your life?
- How can Altars help each in becoming a loving family?
- What is one thing you learned about Altars this week? After Altars to the rhythm podcast, what was new to you or what changed your view?
- How do you think practicing Altars will help you follow Jesus?
- What is a small way this week you can incorporate this rhythm in your life?
- Are there Altars that you can revisit and ask God to move you once again ?
- What way can the group help you practice this rhythm?