Friday, March 3, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: How to remember special moments with God

Revisiting Your Altars
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

"The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and 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." –Genesis 12:7-8 (NIV)

Of all the people who lived during his era, Abram was selected by God to be the ancestor through whom the Messiah would come. Abram was on a mission to complete a family migration from the area near Iran to the area that now encompasses Israel and Palestine. While on the journey Abram experienced an epiphany. He literally conversed with God.

When the conversation ended, Abram built an altar, a place of worship, a spiritual landmark. As he safely journeyed further, he built altars and worshipped God at the places where he lodged. Travelers behind Abram would know by these altars that special moments had occurred in these places.

Abram’s spiritual journey is mapped by his altars. The milestone events in his life were memorialized by the altars that he built. Among his progeny, this ritual persisted. Centuries later when the descendants of Abram crossed the Jordan River, emancipated from centuries of slavery, they collected stones and they also built an altar (Joshua 4:6-7).

What are the spiritual markers in your life that remind you of interventions and epiphanies in your past? Each one can stand alone as a devotional exercise. They can create a praise perspective and usher you into a hope-filled and optimistic attitude for your current challenges. Each altar says that God was with you. His presence in your past can assure you of His care for you now.

If you have never marked the milestones of your spiritual journey, perhaps it is a good idea for you now. The altars in Abram’s era were often simply, stacked stones. Contemporary altars can be tangible, spatial, art, or prose. Begin by making a timeline of your life.

Mark the moments of the big or meaningful moments. Riding your bike successfully. Skating confidently. First crush on someone special. Baptism? Driving. Graduation. As you review your milestones, do you remember interacting with God or feeling some kind of transcendence?

When my grandson first rode his bicycle without training wheels, he had a spiritual moment. He stopped his bike and asked me what I heard as he rode. I said, “I don’t hear anything.” He said, “I do. Because I don’t hear the training wheels, I hear the birds singing and the cars going by on the other street, and I hear myself singing.”

Then he rode off singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

It was a surreal and spiritual moment for me too. At the most ecstatic moment of his young life, he spontaneously sang to praises God. He and I fondly remember that day. He has had other milestone moments and marks them similarly. I do also. What about you?

I encourage you to spend some time thinking on the latest spiritual moment in your life and build an altar. Not an idol, but an altar. Don’t worship the altar, worship the God who created and facilitated your special moment.

As we approach the season of reflection upon the resurrection, Easter, focusing on how the real and living Savior (Jesus Christ) is present in our lives is a good idea and exercise.

Let’s Pray:

Dear God, thank You for today and the ability to remember and reflect upon how You have guided us in the past. May we find strength and confidence to live this day with courage and boldness because we are assured that as You have been with us in the past, You will guide us safely through today and tomorrow. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Goodness of God” by CeCe Winans. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Paul Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

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