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  • Chris Scott

Building an altar - pt 1



Pt 1 Rough diamonds are precious to God also

Posted by Chris Scott (Senior Leader Bridge Church)


My wife Usha and I are now just a year or two from being married 40 years, but I remember back to a conversation we had on our 25th Wedding Anniversary, when we went to Hatton Gardens, the jewellery centre of London, to look for an eternity ring. It was a special trip down memory lane for us even then, because that is where we bought her original engagement ring back in 1983!


Stopping at one particular shop window however, I glanced in at the ring on centre display, and muttered something along the lines of ‘How much?......... £56,000 for a diamond ring…that’s ridiculous!!” I glanced at Usha, “it’s just a useless piece of rock” I added. She looked back at me and muttered something which I chose to interpret as agreement, although I am not sure it was! We smiled and moved on to the next jewellers hoping to find something with a lot less zeros in it!

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Although we did not find the right ring that day, it was an interesting and enjoyable day during which we became ‘mini’ experts on diamonds, and learned why some diamonds are more expensive than others. It’s not always about the size of the rock!! The cut, the clarity, the carat weight, the colour are all factors in determining the value of the gem.


I got to thinking about how we value people. Often, we look at the shiniest, most glittering, polished and largest ‘stones’ and think they are more valuable to God, and the most important in the church. This is simply not true! Intrinsic value is not a product of function or appearance. What I mean by this is that God does not value us because of how we look or what we can do, but he values us for who we are, and he is eager to include us all in his great plan! In fact, our value is not derived from within ourselves at all, but from how God, the one who designed and created us, sees us. This is great news, because means that even when we have a low opinion of ourselves, we can be sure our life is always precious to God.


In Joshua chapter 8:30-32, just after the successful second campaign at Ai, Joshua builds an altar to the Lord. God has precise instructions for the altar “make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools”


I love the idea that God insisted on the use of the uncut, raw stones and wanted them built into the altar. The stones were not to be dressed or decorated in any way. This was not an altar for show, but an altar that represented a testimony. The altar represented God’s grace shown to a nation whose sin had caused a devastating defeat against weak opposition. This altar celebrated Gods power to forgive, and then to deliver Ai into their hands. Here's the truth, God was not concerned with the look of the altar, but the life on it!


Here's the truth, God was not concerned with the look of the altar, but the life on it!

The church is our altar to God, and I am passionate about the fact that God wants to include and use every stone; the coarse, uncut rocks as well as the dressed and polished. Every one of us who have a testimony of Gods grace and forgiveness has a valuable place in this altar. In church we have too often swallowed the lie that you have to be all cleaned up and well presented before God a can use you. Well, a quick look down the personality profile of the disciples that Jesus chose would soon dispel that notion.


God is using the uncut, unpolished, unfinished rough diamonds to build his church. It’s not all about the ones that are best looking, the ones that are most eloquent, most tuneful, most confident, or most talented. God sees a purpose and function in every life and includes them in the altar….that includes you!! I don’t know what the altar looked like when Joshua had finished, maybe it was non-uniform with irregular shapes and a bit out of line, maybe there were a few sharp edges too, but it was exactly how God wanted it to be!! Joshua took what seemed to everyone else like worthless rubble, and built an altar that honoured and blessed God. This should be a key objective of the Bridge Church….to demonstrate the value and worth of everyone in Christ!


Joshua took what seemed to everyone else like worthless rubble, and built an altar that honoured and blessed God

Peter tells us we are “living stones that are rising up to become a great temple” (1 Pet 2:5). The key to this is the word “living”. God is looking for living vibrant stones that he can build an amazing “spiritual house “with. Are you alive in God? Do you have a living testimony? If you do, then take your place in the altar.


I think perhaps another reason God required these uncut stones to be included was to ensure the focus remained on God and not on the structure. An altar of decorated, dressed stones may become so impressive in itself that the people would start to appreciate the design rather than the divine! Idols were very prevalent in those days, and it would not be too big a leap to assume that many people would have been so impressed with the stonework and workmanship that they would soon forget the real reason it was built and be more interested in the appearance. Just like the millions who visit our cathedrals today. They “wow” and “wonder” at the beautiful architecture, the huge domed ceilings and majestic carvings, rather than seeing it for what it should be an altar of living stones, a God fuelled community of vibrant Spirit filled Christians….a place of life!


This so easily creeps into our Christianity today, with people gathering around charismatic ‘celebrity type’ personalities. I know of some people who go around different churches because there is a “big name” preacher there or a popular worship leader! God is not impressed with how big a crown someone can pull in, how many albums a person has sold, or how many followers they have on social media. Remember the purpose of the altar is not to show off the stones that shine in it but to celebrate the testimony that it represents, and that involves us all.


Remember the purpose of the altar is not to show off the stones that shine in it but to celebrate the testimony that it represents, and that involves us all.

Of course, there are specially gifted people in the church and God has raised many of them up to fulfil high profile functions. I am totally comfortable with that, and I believe we should recognise, celebrate and honour these servants highly…..but we must never forget that they are just stones in the altar, and it’s the same altar that we are part of too. Remember always that whilst I our stone may be less developed, less glamorous, and less shiny than some others, we are equally important to God just as we are!!


So be encouraged today, you are part of Gods blueprint for the church. There is a pen stroke or two on his masterpiece that represent your part in his glorious plans for the world. There is a place in the Bridge Church “altar” that only you can fit. Don’t get sucked into fame game. Don’t believe the press you read that God is only interested in the ‘shiny’ people. No matter how you feel about yourself at the moment, to him you are always a “crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord” Is 62:4.


You may see yourself only as a rough diamond, or worse still as a piece of rubble, but properly set into the altar you are worth far more than a million glittering diamond rings even if they do cost £56,000 each!!!


Be blessed


Chris


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