Putting Our Heart on the Altar
Frank really enjoyed being on the mission trip. It had been quite an experience to be in another culture for a week and also to work for the Lord. The church group he was with would work all day helping people reconstruct their homes after a storm and then hold revival services at night. His week was going well on this missions’ trip, but he knew things at home were not going well. The day before he left with the church group a big medical bill came in the mail. It was a stressful thing having more bills than income. How would he get the money? He took off this week of work to be on the mission trip which means his paycheck would already be less than what he needed when he got back.
One night in the middle of the trip it happened. He had helped the servers collect the offerings from the small congregation and the leader of the mission trip handed him a large sum to put with the offering for the church to help them along. There he was with a large amount of money handed to him. Everyone else walked out of the room and he was alone with the stack of money and the offerings for the congregation. That’s when it happened. Why did he do it? He took a few of the bills the leader had handed to him and put them in his pocket. Why did he do that? He did it because he needed the money. Why did he think he could get away with it? Not sure. Just as he was putting the money in his pocket, the leader of the mission trip stepped back into the room and saw him insert the bills into his pocket.
Brenda was hanging out with her friends at the local pizza place like normal. It was Friday. School was done for the week and no one wanted to think about Monday. It was time for fun! They were done eating pizza and were all so full. They had a few slices left because none of them could eat another bite. It got boxed up. Now it was time to head to the movies. On her way out of the pizza place with her friends, they noticed a homeless woman in the parking lot digging through the trash. “She must be hungry,” one of them said. “That’s gross,” another friend said louder. “Follow my lead,” Brenda said to her friends.
The homeless woman turned around to see 4 teenagers staring at her. Brenda had the perfectly fine leftovers in the box in her hand. Brenda indicated that the homeless woman could have the pizza in the box. The woman nodded excitedly. The hungry woman started to walk towards them and Brenda opened the box. She grabbed a slice of the pizza and ate it hurriedly. Each of her friends grabbed a piece and by the time the woman reached them, the pizza leftovers had all been eaten. Brenda tossed the box at the homeless woman and laughed. All the teenagers laughed at their very funny joke.
Brenda turned around to leave only to find her mother standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Tears filled her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She had seen the whole thing.
Michael is a good man. He is a hard-working man. He works two jobs to provide for his wife and kids and loves them so much. Michael does all that he can for them. When Michael relaxes, he definitely relaxes. He works so hard that his off time must really be restful and entertaining and enjoyable. He’s gotten in the habit of going down to the casino on his half-a-day off and hang out with friends. They have horses that race. They have slot machines. They have poker and blackjack. Unfortunately, Michael didn’t realize he had a problem until the day he bet all of the grocery money on a particular horse named “Daddy’s Overdraft.” The name of the horse should have made him stop, but he thought if he could win one big race it would be a big financial boost. He lost. “Daddy’s Overdraft” did not win. He did not win. His wife and children did not win. The house won. The house always wins.
Michael had to go home and explain to his wife that he had gambled away their grocery money. How would they get groceries? He wasn’t sure. He had wanted to say it was an accident, but he did it on purpose. Michael had placed that bet on purpose on the chance he could win big. He got caught up in the moment. He also realized that he’d been spending more and more time at the casino and he had a problem. Obviously, he had a problem.
Kim and Kathy were the best of friends. They had been friends since grade school and had grown up together. They were like family and their children even called them “aunt” … they were all so very close. They even had a bakery business together. Their business had grown and they took on some employees because business was going well and their bakery items was getting famous!
It was all going well until one day one of the employees told Kim that Kathy had said something quite derogatory towards Kim behind her back. Kim could hardly believe it. She couldn’t believe that her best friend for so many years had been so incredibly mean and used such cutting words behind her back. Kim started to avoid Kathy. She began being short and stern with her in conversations. Kim even missed Kathy’s birthday because her feelings were so hurt. Kim started to keep Kathy at a distance and was wondering how the business would survive if the two owners did not get along.
In a long overdue conversation several months later, Kim discovered the employee made it all up. There had been no harsh words. Through tears Kim could not explain why she didn’t come to Kathy in the first place. Their long-standing deep relationship warranted at least a conversation. Kim had allowed a stranger to come between them. Both ladies had so many tears.
How do we express our sorrow after having sinned?
How do we offer God our broken spirit?
How do we offer God our broken and contrite heart?
How do we offer God a sacrifice He delights in to show our sincerity in wanting forgiveness?
How do we put our heart on the altar of forgiveness?
The One Answer
Psalm 51:16-17 says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
To answer the question of “How do we put our heart on the altar of forgiveness?” we need to unpack Psalm 51:16-17 a little bit. King David wrote Psalm 51 as a reflection of his own heart, but the Psalm is also helpful for us when we are experiencing sorrow or have sinned. These verses instruct us, direct us, and encourage us on our own actions when it comes to sorrow and asking for forgiveness.
The way we can put our heart on the altar is “contrition.” The verse speaks of a “broken and contrite” heart. This means that our inner spirit is crushed with a sense of our guilt. Contrition means we have a genuine and deep sorrow for our rebellion against God and a determined desire to do differently in the future.
What does this mean for Frank?
This means Frank doesn’t blame someone else for leaving him alone with the money and confesses that he stole the money to the leader who walked in. It means that whatever the consequences are that he will accept them and he will not complain. The choice not to blame and the acceptance of whatever consequences shows that he has a contrite heart and wants to be forgiven. His heart is on the altar of forgiveness.
What does this mean for Brenda?
This means Brenda doesn’t accuse her mother of spying on her for whatever reason she was at the pizza place. Brenda doesn’t lie to her mother when asked if she had done such a thing before… which she had. Brenda doesn’t point fingers at her friends who made her mistreat a homeless woman. Brenda doesn’t lie to herself that she is an abuser, mean-spirited, and enjoyed seeing another’s misfortune. The realization that she is an abuser shakes her to her core and she will accept whatever her mother has planned. Her heart is on the altar of forgiveness.
What does this mean for Michael?
This means that Michael does not got to AMSCOT or some other means of trying to cover up his financial mess. Michael doesn’t hide what he did from his wife, but admits to God, himself, his wife, and his children, that he has a problem. He also told his grandmother whom he knew would be crushed, but also knew that if he had to tell her then it was real and not hidden. He asks for his wife’s forgiveness and even takes steps to move away from his addiction. He decides to take himself off of their bank account, shred his debit card, and will go to counseling for gambling addiction. His heart is on the altar of forgiveness.
What does this mean for Kim?
Kim does not blame the employee for her treatment of her friend. Kim doesn’t blame Kathy for anything either. Kim has to confess that she mistrusted her closest friend on the word of a stranger. Kim obviously has some ‘trust’ issues and she does not defend, justify, or excuse herself as she speaks with her crying friend through tears of her own. Her heart is on the altar of forgiveness.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?