On earth, travel agencies will try to convince clients of a sweet deal, hidden gem or destination that will change your life. As spring approaches, television commercials will display eye popping images as states hope your summer plans include a family vacation to one their resorts. While memories can be forever etched into your mind, the thought of work quickly snaps individuals back to reality, ending any memorable getaway.
From a spiritual perspective, people may recall the place they got baptized, the church they were married in or a retreat center where they met God for the first time. Inside a sanctuary, family’s tend to gravitate toward their favorite pew, stare at magnificent stain glass windows or recall taking their first communion. According to Exodus 29:37, the altar made for the Tent of Meeting possessed supernatural powers, making those priests who touched it holy. While not the Tent of Meeting, the altar at a church in Friendship, Maryland changed my life forever.
During my senior year of college, I was asked to serve on a Lay Witness Mission team for a church seeking to revive its congregation. My role was to be a small group leader for the youth group and its college students, sharing how God had made a difference in my life. Usually, one of the leaders was asked to share part of their faith journey, a snapshot of their life. On Saturday night, our leader Ken told me that I would be speaking to the entire congregation Sunday morning. Caught off guard, my initial instinct was fear, pondering, “how can someone who stutters speak for 15 minutes?”
Subsequently, I was led to pray, asking the Holy Spirit and my roommate to clue me in on what God wanted me to say to several hundred strangers. Tossing and turning, I was reminded of a song that I brought, called The Altar. Studying the lyrics in my mind, a vision for my first sermon was conceived, drifting me off into a peaceful sleep. As I made my closing remarks, I gave an altar call, inviting anyone who was touched by the Holy Spirit to come to the altar while I played Ray Boltz’s song.
To my amazement, one college student literally ran to the altar as soon as the song began. Others quickly, followed, filling up the semi-circle shaped altar in front of the pulpit. When the music ended, people were standing in line, waiting to kneel at the altar. Elders and leaders of the church began to lay hands on those crying, quietly whispering words up to heaven on their behalf. As I joined the congregation following my message, the senior pastor shared a few words, summarizing these amazing events of this 3 day event, encouraging people to continue lay their burdens up to Jesus at the altar, Matthew 11:28. On earth, there are countless wonders of the world, but for me, I will never forget this day when lives were changed forever at the altar.
by Jay Mankus