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  • Writer's pictureJill Jarrell Newsome

Altar or Alter

One of the speakers at our revival shared a story that I could relate to. Like she, I took an early morning spin class in a dark room. It is an intense hour workout on stationary bikes. The instructor tells you when to change gears to a harder pace. I doubt she and I are the only ones who have done this - don't really change the gears - it is already hard. I'm sweating already. It's dark and no one will know. Apparently she got caught and the instructor said something like, "I would not get up that early and come all the way here to take a class and then not give it my all. And then the words, "BUT, it's your ride." She shared this before the Healing service.

Disclaimer! These are my feelings of how God has worked in my life. In no way am I saying this is the only way. You just have to declare with your mouth. Romans 10: 9-11, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Many years ago and still today, Altars serve the purpose of being a place where people bring sacrifice and offerings. Altars are not as common as they once were. Some churches do not have space. Others do not have time due to multiple services. Some design their sanctuaries to have fewer religious symbols to put the unchurched at ease.

I have had different thoughts on Altar calls. I remember growing up visiting a church that would scare me because they always said if we got in a wreck on the way home and did not come up front we would go to hell.. Mom finally told me I could not spend the night with that friend on Saturday nights because I was so scared. As adults, Mike and I would visit a family member's church out of town that would not let us quit singing the last hymn until everyone had come forward. I remember thinking not everyone has had an "experience" today. Aren't we supposed to want to come forward? I think one minister decided the success of his message by the Altar call. And he is the one who would not let us leave til everyone went forward. Yes, I went forward when I visited because I did not want to be the only one left!

There was a time I noticed that there were people who go to the Altar every week. There were others who never went. First problem here is that I should have been thinking about Jill going to the Altar instead of taking Altar attendance! For years my church did not have Altar calls. I now attend a church where the Altar is open every Sunday and as I grow in my faith my thoughts have changed about going to the Altar.

There was also a time in my life when my fear of being in front of people was enough for me not to go to the Altar. That is so sad but that is honest. I am in a small group and we have discussed about going to the Altar. Some go all the time. Some have never been. Me? I go when I feel led but I think I should go all the time because I always have something to lay down and always have something to thank God for! I always have something that needs healing whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Because this is MY ride I have been thinking about going to the Altar and what it means for me. I feel going to the Altar is like going to meet Jesus. I am getting up and moving towards Him - to meet Him! I am going to Him knowing I NEED Him! Some people do not want to go because they are afraid they will cry. I cry every time I am at the Altar. It has nothing to do with happy or sad tears. It has everything to do with being overcome with the presence of Jesus.

The definition of alter is change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way. Altar is defined as an elevated place or structure, as a mound or platform, at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc. I define "Altar" as the biggest change. My bigger changes come when I go to the Altar! For me, the Altar is a place for sacrifices that I have to make in order to follow God. And that is where the biggest changes in my character take place! The act of going to the Altar makes the action more real for me. I am making a public declaration - a commitment to God. Maybe it is that I kneel at the Altar. Getting in prayer posture (kneeling) always starts the tears and I think that is because I feel I am bowing at the feet of Jesus. It puts things in perspective for me. I am a humbled servant bowing before the King of Kings.

Growing up around an Altar I understood that approaching the Altar after a service represented a transparent, authentic, genuine response to God as a public declaration and I feel that has come true for me. As I have grown in my faith I see approaching the Altar is where I can draw closer to God in a posture of prayer. (This is also true at home.) For me, the Altar is a place of personal encounter. That is what I found every nightlast week at revival ... personal encounters with Jesus.

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