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Chapter One

Padded Pews and Empty Altars

Taken from "Fire upon the Altar"

by Gene Easley

Affluence. What a sought after and dreamed about blessing, longed for by the human heart! Yet what a deadly curse it can become! Amos spoke about the affluent lifestyle in Amos 6:4-6. Beds of ivory. The best food available. First class entertainment. It was all luxury, comfort and indulgence.

But Amos prophesied of soon-coming judgment. There was something about this lifestyle that was offensive to God. What was it? Did He dislike the fact that people had achieved such financial success? Is it that God doesn't want His people to have money? No, that isn't it at all. Rather it is because the Laodicean spirit so easily takes over where a plush atmosphere exists. It is easy to lose the pilgrim spirit in the midst of wealth and comfort. We no longer feel that we are just passing through. We have come to settle down.

Money came easy. Luxury was common. Entertainment flowed abundantly. But there was something missing in Israel. There was a noticeable silence around the altars of intercessory prayer. We have our beautiful churches; we worship in plush atmospheres. But we have no trouble leaving God's house having made no visit to the place of prayer.

Amos said that they were "not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." Nothing troubled them. There was no concern for the distressed and needy among them. Neither was there a burden concerning their own spiritual leanness. Their tables were full, but their altars were empty.

Where are we today? We are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing. Who needs to pray when you have everything that money can buy? We are blinded by the "plush" life. Our riches are bringing temptations that are drowning us in perdition.

Where are yesterday's altars of prayer? Where are the saints that love to linger in His presence? The weeping, the crying, the interceding for lost souls? The church needs to wake up!

Sodom and Gomorrah became like home to Lot and his family. Lot looked at the well-watered plains of Jordan and cried out for the "plush" life. He then looked at Sodom and its wealth. Once more his longings were for the good life. Abraham stayed behind. His portion did not appear as glamorous. But God appeared unto him. There Abraham built an altar unto God. Lot chose the padded way; Abraham, the altars of God.

Better is it to have a church where the altar is honored and used and where fervent prayers are a consistent practice, than to worship in the most lavish cathedrals that our riches can produce but where no cries are going up to God!

Did Sodom have padded pews and empty altars? All the evidence says yes. They lavished themselves in their plentifulness. Their working hours grew short while their playing hours became long. They became idle. Having no desire to serve God, the only thing left was to look for something more thrilling and exciting to do. This desire for a new thrill led Sodom to the depths of sin and perversion and, ultimately, brought about total destruction as God's judgment was poured out.

Ezekiel said that the people of Sodom did not "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49). Their attitude was, "Who cares about anyone else? It's all for me." Thus, no one was praying in Sodom. They saw no need for it. They were getting what they wanted, and who cares about the rest? There was no desire or time for prayer. No time for God!

Intercessory prayer is foolish to those who live for self gratification. There is nothing to draw them to the altar of prayer to weep before God when they have no burden for the lost or even for their own spiritual needs.

The carnally minded person thinks that the more things he can get, the happier he will be. It is not so. It is self denial not self gratification that brings true joy. Those who deny themselves and take up their crosses daily and follow Christ are the ones who have found life.

We adorn our sanctuaries with the very best, which in itself is not sin. But God would have them adorned with tears for the lost. That is what is beautiful to God. We make them houses of comfort. But God would like to discomfort us with burdens for the perishing.

There is a spiritual blindness that prosperity can bring. Let us emphasize that this is not an effort to glorify poverty. Poverty has brought and is bringing unimaginable misery to this world. Thank God that He does prosper His people. It isn't a matter of poverty versus prosperity or which of the two is better. Poverty has its own curses which could be discussed at length. Our purpose is to discuss what often happens when the money is flowing freely.

Look at the church of Laodicea in Revelation chapter three. There seemed to be nothing good that Christ could say to this body of believers. Its spiritual condition had nauseated God. Why? Because material riches had blinded them into believing that obtaining material possessions was the ultimate goal of life. They felt secure in their financial status.

But how did God look at it? It made Him sick. The church of Laodicea said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." God's evaluation was exactly the opposite. He saw them as, "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). Their money bought no respect or merit with God.

In Amos' day there was plenty of money and no prayer. It had been the same in Sodom. But how about Laodicea? It is obvious they had padded pews, but what about their prayer lives? They had need of nothing! You don't pray when you don't need anything. That was the problem. It wasn't their material wealth, but their spiritual poverty! It wasn't the padded pews but rather the empty altars that were bringing God's judgment. They were blind! The riches had blinded them until they believed that nothing else mattered as long as their pockets were full.

Jesus' words to them were, "buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Revelation 3:18). How would they purchase this missing treasure? Certainly, it would not be with anything they now possessed. They were bankrupt in God's eyes. Jesus was giving an invitation back to the altar. It was at an altar of prayer where this poverty-stricken, blind, naked, miserable and wretched group of believers could obtain the priceless gems that only God gives.

Jesus was calling a prayer meeting in Laodicea! Maybe He is calling one in our church today. It was the only hope, lest judgment would come and they would be spued out of His mouth. Is not this our only hope?

Jesus walked to the closed door of the church of Laodicea and started knocking. With His voice lifted, He tried to get someone's attention. Read it in verse twenty of Revelation chapter three. This verse is normally used to give an invitation to the lost. That's good. But the message of Christ was to the CHURCH! It was, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Revelation 3:22). He was calling to the members of the church to open the doors of their hearts. If some would do so, His promise was to partake in the spiritual feast with them which they so desperately needed. It was a promise of a heaven-sent revival!

Money can't bring spiritual revival, but a gathering of earnest hearts around the altar of prayer can. If we could just hear His voice and let Him in, we would experience that move of God that would save our churches from ruin!

We should thank God for His material blessings. The answer is not found in discarding the padded pews. But it can be found in finding again that place of prayer.

May He help us to get our minds off the tehings that this lif affords! May we be led back to a place of consistent, fervent, intercessory prayer! And may the altars again be full. For it is at the altar where one is made truly rich!

COPYRIGHT REPRODUCTION LIMITATIONS: This data file is the sole property of Gene Easley. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 2012 by Gene Easley"). This data file may not be used without the permission of Gene Easley for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations. Please give the following source credit: Copyright (C) 2012 by Gene Easley, Alamo, Texas.

 

Featured Article •

A New Beginning
by Gene Easley

Joshua 3:4 says, “Ye have not passed this way heretofore.”  The children of Israel were to pass for the first time across the River Jordan into Canaan’s land.  It always feels good to get out of the rut and go somewhere you haven’t been before.  It is a relief when we are not going in circles any more but are moving forward in God to a new experience. 

Many churches and individual Christians have spent years in a rut.  They need someone to lead them to a new experience in God with a new vision and a new burden.  We know we are headed to an eternal promised land.  But there are also promises here of victory and blessing for this present time into which many may never go. 

I have witnessed God’s Spirit being poured out in abundance and lives being transformed.  I have also heard and read the testimonies of saints of an earlier era, who spoke of the all-night prayer meetings where great healings and deliverances came with power.  I have heard the stories of the Spirit being poured out and the tabernacle of God being saturated with His eternal glory.  My prayer is, “God get us out of our rut.  Renew the church with a fresh visitation of God’s divine presence.  Move us forward into the promised land of victory, where our lives can be meaningful and our service to God effective.”

God was leading Israel to a land they had never been to before--to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Israel had experienced the cruelty of Egyptian bondage.  They experienced the hardships, the testings and trials of the forty-year wilderness journey.  Most of the group who crossed the River Jordan had been born in the wilderness and had never known anything else.  Canaan would be a new experience.  They would eat the fruit of the land in which they had sown nothing.  They would inherit homes they had not built.  It would be a blessing and gift from God.

The church needs the gifts of God to operate again in believers’ lives and in the sanctuary.  A new beginning does not start with our turning over a new leaf.  It starts with God pouring out His blessings.  A new beginning does not begin with the institution of new programs but rather with a new outpouring of God’s Spirit bringing instant transformation.  If we forsake one program and start a new one, we will still be in a rut.  Nothing will really change.  Only the Spirit of God will bring change.  He will launch us out into a new and effective avenue of service.

I have been at the altars of prayer where the presence of the Spirit of God was so real that no one wanted to leave the sanctuary.  Some were crying with many tears; others were rejoicing; some were speaking in unknown tongues as the Spirit moved on them and gave the utterance.  Some were singing, and musicians were providing the appropriate music.  No one wanted to leave.  It was times like those that one felt the heart being renewed and victory infused over all the bondage and battles plaguing our lives.

A new beginning can be found at the altar of prayer.  My prayer is that God will not allow us to be satisfied with a powerless church--with no souls being saved, with no lives being transformed, with no saints being filled anew with the power of the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost, it marked a new beginning for the work of God on planet Earth.  The 120 believers in the upper room had prayed for ten days.  Their hearts were ready for the outpouring of His Spirit.  May God lead us back to the altars of prayer and prepare our hearts and lives for a new visitation from on high.  May God give the church a new beginning!

 

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