Home Altar: Week of August 22, 2021

by Dane Anderson

August 22
PSALM 84 

Homecoming


I cannot count how many times I have returned from a trip and uttered the words, “I am so thankful to be home.” Home means I know how the coffee pot works. Home means sleeping in my own bed. Home means familiar surroundings. Thankfully, home is a refuge where I am known and loved. 

Psalm 84 was written from the perspective of someone who felt far from home. The psalmist longs to once again commune with God and to be a part of the familiar, life-giving rituals of temple worship. This longing is so deep that they envy the sparrows who get to make their home in the rafters of the temple. Through the longings of the psalmist, we are reminded that the only true refuge that can be trusted in this life is the refuge and security we find in our relationship with God.

God, help me to find my refuge in you this week. Thank you that I am known and loved by you. AMEN. 

August 23
1 Kings 8:22-30, 40-43  

Home Is Where the Heart Is 


When I was growing up, my mom had a cheesy picture on the wall in our house that read “Home is where the heart is.” As kids we would always groan when she quoted those words. Nevertheless, there was, and is, a deep truth in that statement. For me growing up, home was a place of presence. Home was a place of being known and loved. 

Israel’s heart was attached to the temple, much as my heart will always be attached to my childhood home. It was there that Israel was known by God, learned to know God, and learned what it meant to abide in God’s presence. Solomon invites Israel to let their experience of God’s presence in the temple continue to guide them when they cannot physically be there to worship. Solomon’s encouragement to pray toward the temple was not a magic formula for conjuring up God’s presence, but a physical action that would help the people recall that God was with them no matter where they were.

Gracious God, help us to abide in your presence wherever life may lead. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. AMEN. 

August 24
PSALM 15 

Learning to Move as One 


David asks a provocative question at the start of today’s psalm: “Who may dwell in your sacred tent?” (v. 1, NIV). In other words, “Who may abide in God’s presence?” It is easy to view verses 2-5 as a spiritual to-do list; however, that is not David’s purpose. Instead, he reminds us that to abide in God’s presence is to let God’s character become our character. Think of it this way, if every member of a basketball team played only with their own abilities in mind, the team will never find the cohesion needed to win games. Conversely, if the team takes the time to integrate the abilities of each player, they will move together as one unit and face each game with a united sense of who they are. 

When we take the time to make God’s desires our desires, abiding in God’s presence is so much easier. To abide in God’s presence is to integrate the ways of God into our lives until we move together as one.

Heavenly Father, help me to integrate your character into my life more each day so we can move together as one. AMEN.

August 25
JOSHUA 24:1-3A, 14-18

Decisions, Decisions

Standing in front of the long row of refrigerators at your local home improvement store, deciding which one to buy, is a daunting task. You know it is a decision that you will have to live with for years to come. You draw on past brand experience and the research you’ve done but, ultimately you have to choose. 

Joshua challenges the Israelites to make a decision that will forever affect their future. Will you continue to abide in God’s presence and serve him, or will you choose to dwell in another god’s tent? He admonishes them to remember all that God has done for them in the past and say in essence, “The evidence is clear. For me and my family, we choose to abide in God’s presence as we step into whatever the future holds.” To abide in God’s presence is to see our past experiences of God as a treasure trove of research to help us make future life decisions.

Lord, help me to see my past experiences of you as guideposts to navigate the decisions in the future. AMEN. 

August 26
John 6:51-58

New Habits


In life we all pick up habits—some are life-giving and some are not. Engaging in the habit of regular exercise will allow us to participate more fully in the events of each day, whereas binge-watching Netflix will probably detract from meaningfully participating in the events of the day. For better or worse, the habits we embrace will eventually cease to be something we are learning to do and will become a part of who we are. 

Part of choosing to abide in God’s presence is taking seriously the habit of participating in the eucharist. For those who seek to follow Jesus, the regular habit of participating in communion is a means by which the life of Christ mysteriously takes root in us. “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I remain in them,” Jesus says (v. 56). Receiving the eucharist is choosing to allow God’s presence to deeply abide in us.

Heavenly Father, grant me the courage to embrace spiritual habits that are life-giving and help me to better experience your presence in my life each and every day. AMEN. 

August 27
John 6:59-69 

Time to Decide  


Our family has moved across the country several times. Each move was a decision to leave the security of life as we knew it. The decision to move has never been easy, but God has faithfully walked with us each time. In today’s passage Jesus asks the crowd who has been following him to make a decision about who he is and whether or not they will continue to follow him. For some of them, deciding to follow Jesus was too much and they walked away. For the 12 who remained, they entered into the reality that abiding in God’s presence was now all about living in relationship with Jesus. God had put on human flesh and took up residence with us. 

Friends, Jesus is still asking you and me the same question he asked his disciples that day: “Are you going to follow me?” Abiding in God’s presence sometimes means deciding to let go of what is comfortable and embracing the unknown reality of where God is leading. 

Lord, give me the strength to trust and abide in your presence wherever you lead me. Even if it means letting go of security of life as I know it. AMEN. 

August 28
Psalm 34:15-22 

He Knows My Voice 


As a father of four boys, I hear the unique nuances of their voices deep within me. When they call out my name, I intuitively know who it is who needs my attention. If I detect pain or distress in their voice, my heart flips in my chest and I go running to find them. When they struggle my first instinct is to reach out to pull them close and make sure they know I am there. My boys are a part of me, and I am a part of them. It is the same for our relationship with God. Choosing to spend our days abiding in God’s presence does not mean we will not encounter seasons of struggle or situations that cause great pain. What it does mean is that when we struggle, we can rest assured that God knows the voices of his children. When God senses the distress in our voice, he is quick to come close and enfold us in the refuge that is his presence.

Lord, thank you that you know my voice and that I can rest assured that you faithfully walk with me all the days of my life. AMEN. 

About the Author: Dane Anderson

I currently serve as the worship pastor at Bethany Covenant Church in Bedford, New Hampshire. My wife, Julia, and I have been married for 20 years and together we have four boys ranging in age from age two to 16. When I am not at church or busy with the boys, you will most likely find me out running, teaching guitar lessons, or on a coffee date with my wife—and yes, picking up coffee at Starbucks and drinking it on the long drive to Costco is quality time together! 

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