Joel Osteen - Build Your Altar
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I want to talk to you today about Build Your Altar. We can all look back in life and see times where God made a way. He protected us from an accident, he sustained us in a slow time, he promoted us when we didn't deserve it, strengthen us when we were weak, brought us through that loss. Those weren't lucky breaks, they weren't just a coincidence, that was the hand of God protecting you, healing you, favoring you. In the Old Testament, when these things happened people took time to build an altar to thank God for what he had done. They would look back at those altars, and that was fueled for their faith. They knew if he did it back then, he would do it again.
Today we should still be building altars. It's easy to take things for granted, get so busy, that we don't recognize the blessing of God. But when you take time to acknowledge what God has done, you realize he brought you through the pandemic, some people didn't make it, he gave you that person to love, you were at the right place at the right time. He healed you when it didn't look good. He opened that door and now you're further than you've ever imagined. When you pause to say, "God, I recognize, this didn't happen on my own, this is your goodness. Thank you for your favor. Thank you for your mercy. Lord, I'm grateful for what you've done", that's building an altar.
God told the Israelites in Exodus 20:24, "Build altars into places where I remind you of who I am, and I will bless you there". God will bless you where you built altars, when you're always thanking God for what he's done, remembering his goodness, talking about how he's made ways where you didn't see a way. While you're thanking him, God says he'll bless you. You're there to express your gratitude, but when you're at the altar, God says, "I'll be good to you". This begs the question: are we not being blessed because we're not building altars? Are we not seeing favor because we're not acknowledging God's goodness? God said, "Build altars where I remind you who I am".
We all have these times where we know it was the hand of God. That car on the freeway should have hit you, but somehow at the last second it missed. I wasn't a lucky break, those were angels assigned to protect you. Take time to build an altar. Had contract at work should have gone to three other people, they had more experience, they looked better on paper, but somehow you were chosen. That was the favor of God, causing you to stand out. Have you built your altar?
I talked to a young couple. They were told they couldn't have children. She had taken all the fertility treatments, nothing more the doctors could do, but seven years later against all odds they brought their little baby boy after the service. And those places where you see the hand of God, what are you supposed to do? Just take the blessing and move on? No, build an altar! Pause for a few minutes to say, "God, I recognize this is your mighty hand at work. I give you the praise. I give you the honor". When you get in a habit of building altars, then you'll look back over your life and see all these times where you should have been stuck, depressed, defeated, but God stepped in and did what only he can do. As you see the different altars although reminders of God's goodness, that will not only encourage you that God can do it again, but God says he'll bless you at the altars you built, he'll bless you as you go back and remember the good things he's done.
Genesis chapter 6, God told Noah that there was going to be a great flood. He was to build an ark, large boat: 450 feet long, and to take two of every kind of animals on it. The floods came. 40 days 40 nights it rained, wiped everything out except Noah, his family and those animals. For over a year Noah was on that boat, cooped up with all the stinky animals. It was smelly, noisy. I'm sure he was tired, ready to get off. Well, finally the waters receded. After 377 days they opened the door to dry ground. Noah and his family walked off. What is the first thing you would think Noah would want to do? Have a big party, celebration? Maybe go for a long walk, get away from everyone? The first thing Noah did was build an altar. He took time to thank God that they made it.
I can hear his children saying, "Dad, we need to find food. We need to build a shelter". There were no roads, no houses, no crops, so many important things to take care of. But Noah said, "No, the first thing we're going to do is thank God that he spared our lives. We're going to build an altar and thank God that we didn't drown. We're going to thank him for showing us mercy, thank him for his faithfulness". My prayer is, "God, help us to be like Noah. When we see your favor, when you give us the victory, when you bring us through tough times, cause us to defeat giants, let the first thing we do be build an altar. Let us recognize your goodness, acknowledge your mercy".
Noah took animals he had set aside, and sacrificed them on the altar. When God smelled the aroma, when he heard Noah giving him praise, the scripture says God promised that he would never flood the earth again. There are times like with Noah, when you build that altar, you thank God for what he's brought you through, God will say, "You will never have to go through that again". He will put an end to what's hindered you. Get in a habit of building altars. Today we don't have to do it physically like they did, it's simply acknowledging God's goodness, it's taking time to say, "Lord, thank you for healing me from this sickness. I know it wasn't just the medicine, God you're the healer. Thank you for turning my child around. Thank you for promoting me when I wasn't next in line. Thank you for giving me beauty for these ashes".
We went through a two-year battle to acquire the Compaq Center. This building was owned by the city, and we needed 10 city council members to vote for us. And we had all ten, but two days before the main vote one of our council members said he wasn't going to be there. He received so much pressure from the other side. And him not being there meant that we're going to be one vote short. But a day before the main vote one of the council members that had been against us for two years suddenly changed his mind and decided to vote for us. The vote was on a Wednesday morning. Victoria and myself, and all of our team were there, plus about a hundred people from Lakewood. We packed the city council room. And they went through the council members one by one. "Do you vote 'yes' or 'no' for Lakewood having the Compaq Center"?
It was very dramatic. My heart was beaten so fast. They came to the last man. We had nine, he paused, seemed like five minutes. We were waiting, and waiting, he finally looked up smiled and said, "Yes, I vote for them", we got the building. When the meeting was over, 10 minutes later maybe, we all went out on the steps of city hall and begin to thank God. We didn't plan it, but we started singing praises, declaring the greatness of our God, thanking him that he made a way where we didn't see a way. It just came up out of us, impromptu. I'm sure people walking downtown thought, "There's some of those crazy people. What's all that singing, shouting, celebrating"? Like Noah, first thing we did was build an altar, "God we recognize your hand a favor. You opened a door we never dreamed but open. You've caused us to defeat a giant". Right there on the steps of city hall we built that altar.
You can build an altar wherever you are: your car can become an altar, your office can be an altar, walking out in the park can become an altar. At the places that remind you who God is, when he does things that only he can do, don't just think that was nice, build an altar, acknowledge his greatness, thank him for his favor. God will bless you where you built altars.
In the Old Testament, when the people were facing large difficulties, often their prayers would start by reminding God who he is, and thanking him for what he had done. They would go back and look at their altars, the times in the past where God made a way. This is what king Jehoshaphat did. He and the people of Judah were surrounded by three powerful armies. They were outnumbered ten to one. He called the people together, they met in the main courtyard at their city hall. He looked up to the heavens and said, "Oh, Lord, you are powerful and mighty no one can stand against you. Are you not the God that drove the inhabitants out of this land? Are you not the God that gave this land to our ancestor Abraham? Are you not the God that provided us this temple to worship in"? They reminded God of all their past victories. They look back at all those altars they had built, and that fueled their faith. They knew if God did it back then, he would do it again.
All of us have some of these Am-I-Not-The-God stories. When you look back over your life, you need to remember what God has done. "Am I not the God that brought you through the pandemic? Am I not the God that caused that contract to go through? Am I not the God that puts you at the right place, and you met that spouse? Am I not the God that turned your child around"? Make sure you're building some altars, recognizing his favor, thanking him for his goodness. That's where he promises to bless you, at the altars you built.
I'm celebrating a birthday today, as you know. I finally made it to 39, but you know what I did this morning, long before the sun rose? I built an altar, "Lord, thank you for bringing me through another year. Thank you for giving me favor, for opening new doors, blessing my family, keeping me healthy, still good looking. Lord, thank you for sustaining me. Father, you didn't let my enemies defeat me. I can say with David, 'by this I know the Lord is on my side, my enemies could not take me out'".
I look back and see some other altars that I've built. Seven years old I was in a car accident and injured my head. By the grace of God I'm still here, just a little bit crazy. But God helped me survive being raised by my brother Paul, a great miracle. He caused me to walk into a Jewelry store and meet beautiful Victorian. It's blessed me with two amazing children. When my father passed, God gave me strength in the storm, help me learn how to minister. Now, when I face giants, tempted to get discouraged, I can hear God saying, "Am I not the God that gave you the Compaq Center? Am I not to God that changed that council member's mind? Am I not the God that healed your mother of terminal cancer? Am I not the God that pushed back that 18-wheeler, that's about to run over you? Am I not the God that promoted you when you didn't feel qualified, that brought talent out that you didn't know you had"?
Look back over your life: all those places we just have altars. Well, God has done unusual, uncommon things. Don't take them for granted. "Well, Joel, that's great about your birthday, but hey, everybody has a birthday, no big deal". No, when you have the right perspective, it is a big deal. God gave your breath to breathe for another year. He woke you up this morning, he told your heart to beat. He's the one that sustained you. He protected you from things you know nothing about. The disappointment, the loss may not have been easy, but you're still standing, still healthy, still blessed. If it had not been for the goodness of God, where would you be?
Sometimes you build an altar simply for the fact that you're still here. The enemy couldn't finish you off, you may be up against some big obstacles today, but God is saying, "Am I not the God that parted the Red Sea? Am I not the God that closed the mouths of lions? Am I not the God that gave Sarah a baby at 90? Am I not the God that has brought you this far, that has protected you, promoted you, favored you, made ways where you didn't see a way"? When you look back at all those altars, those places that remind you who God is, and you thank him for what he's done, God says he'll bless you at the altars you've built. Don't miss out on favor, healing, protection because you're not building any altars. Take time every day to thank God for what he's done, recognize his goodness in your life.
Genesis chapter 12, God told Abraham that he was going to become the father of many nations, that his descendants would own all the land, that he was going to be blessed and become a great blessing. When Abraham heard this promise, verse 8 says, "He built an altar in worshiped the Lord". What's interesting is the promise hadn't come to pass, he wasn't a father, his wife Sarah was still barren. They didn't have any children. He wasn't greatly blessed, he didn't own any land, yet he built an altar simply to thank God for what he promised. This is showing us a principle: don't wait for the promise to come to pass, thank God in advance for what he said he would do. "God, you said my children will be mighty in the land". There may not be any sign of it, they're running with the wrong crowd. "Joel, when it becomes a reality, then I'll thank God". No, do like Abraham: build your altar now. Thank God before you see the promise, that's what faith is all about.
When God sees you at the altar, when he hears you thanking him, praising him, declaring his goodness, that's when angels go to work, that's when doors will open, healing will come, favor is released. "Lord, you said I would lend and not borrow. You said my cup will run over. You said I will have a bountiful year", that's the promise, now build the altar. "Lord, thank you that you're my provider. Lord, thank you that you have supernatural increase. Father, I thank you that you take pleasure in prospering me". Maybe you're dealing with an illness? God said he would restore health back into you. He said he would heal you of your wounds. "But when I feel better, I'm going to build that altar". Build it now, that's what's going to activate the healing, "Lord, thank you that I am healed. Thank you, that I will run and not be weary. Thank you, that health, energy, vitality is flowing through me".
Abraham left that place where he built that altar and traveled to a different city, but this time he had become very blessed: cattle, silver and gold, he was seeing the promise come to pass. Well, his nephew Lot and all of his flocks were with him. The land couldn't support them both. He told Lot to choose wherever he wanted to go, and Abraham would relocate. Lot chose the best part of the land, the place with plenty of springs and lush pastures, looked like a garden. Abraham got stuck with just the opposite: his land was dry, not nearly as desirable, didn't seem fair. Abraham should have gotten to choose, but he took the high road. After this disappointment, after he was having to start all over, God came to him and said, "Abraham, look around. For as far as you can see, I'm going to give you that land for you and your descendants". What did Abraham do? The scripture says he built an altar, and worshiped the Lord. He didn't have the land yet. He was discouraged, coming off a disappointment, but he began to thank God for what he promised. He knew the power of an altar. They didn't wait for the fulfillment, for the provision, for the land to become theirs. They thanked God in advance.
God has spoken promises to all of us. He's whispered things in your spirit that may seem impossible. How can you accomplish that dream? How can you get well? How could your family be restored? You have the promise, now do your part and build the altar. Thank God that it's on the way. Remind him of his greatness. Go back over some of your Am-I-Not-The-God stories, make them personal. "Are you not the God that opened that door I couldn't open? Are you not the God that prospered me despite how I was raised? Are you not the God that freed me from that addiction, that blessed me with a spouse, that promoted me in the pandemic, that turned my child around, that caused that contract to go through"? When you look back at the altars you built, you thank God for what he's done, that's fuel for your faith. That makes it easier to build those altars looking ahead, thanking God for what he's about to do.
Lakewood was started on mother's day in 1959, and my parents were coming off a great disappointment. My father had been pastoring for many years when they asked him to leave this certain church. They didn't like his new message of faith and victory. My parents were very discouraged. They felt the sting of rejection. It didn't seem fair, but God wouldn't have allowed the disappointment if he didn't have a purpose for it. It looked like a setback, but really it was a setup to move them into a new level of their destiny.
There was a lady that owned an old rundown feed store. She told my parents that they could use that building for a church, that's where they started Lakewood, never knowing what God was up to. The truth is: they had to be pushed out, they had to be asked to leave, it was a part of God's divine plan. Instead of being bitter they built an altar. They said, "God, thank you for this little building, thank you for this opportunity". They never dreamed it would be what it is today. But we look back now at that altar that was built 64 years ago, and we can say, "Lord, thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for sustaining us. We recognized we have not done this on our own, this is your hand, the blessing".
When things get difficult, I can hear God saying, "Am I not the God that gave you the feed store? Am I not the God that sustained you when people said it wouldn't last? Am I not the God that took the original 90 members and multiplied them into thousands? Am I not the God that turned that disappointment into a blessing, that would lead you into the Compaq Center"? When you remember what God has done, it gives you faith to believe for the greater things he has in store.
In the scripture, Jacob was dishonest. He tricked his brother Esau, he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that belonged to his brother Esau, his older brother. He had already cheated Esau out of his birthright. When Esau found out about this he was furious. Jacob had to flee for his life. He went far away, and worked for his uncle Laban, all the while in hiding, hoping Esau wouldn't find out. 20 years went by, Jacob wanted to return home. He didn't know what Esau would think, so he sent messengers to tell Esau that he wanted to see him. Esau agreed. Their two parties met on the road, was this incredible moment, this drama. You can imagine how apprehensive Jacob was, thinking, "This may be the end. He may want revenge. He could wipe me and my whole family out". The big moment finally arrived, Esau came up with 400 men. I'm sure Jacob thought, "Oh, great, a whole army". Esau walked over, reached out both arms and hugged Jacob. He kissed him. They both had tears running down their cheeks. Esau went over and hugged Jacob's wives and children.
There was little Joseph, Jacob's young son, watching all this take place. He'd been so worried, he'd heard stories about the feud between his father and Esau. He was expecting the worst, but he saw his uncle Esau treat his father with such kindness. Esau told Jacob to follow him, and he would lead the way home. When Jacob arrived, the scripture says, "Jacob built an altar there and named it, El Elohe, which means The Mighty God". Jacob didn't just take it for granted, think, "Oh, I got lucky". No, he built an altar and said, "This was the mighty God". This was something greater than he ever imagined.
We all have these times where we can say like Jacob, "That was the mighty God". Getting the Compaq Center - the mighty God. Healing my mother of cancer - the mighty God. Freeing you from that addiction - the mighty God. Turning that child around - the mighty God. You may have some big challenges today, let me encourage you: the mighty God is still at work, the mighty God is still healing, the mighty God is still parting red seeds, still defeating giants, still raising Lazarus, still opening supernatural doors.
Every morning when little Joseph would go out, he would see that altar that his father built out of thanksgiving to God for resolving the conflict, restoring the relationship. Fast forward 30 years, now Joseph was second in command of all of Egypt. There's a great famine in the land. His brothers came to the palace to try to buy food, these were the same brothers that threw him into a pit 13 years earlier, and eventually sold him as a slave. The brothers that were so jealous, they betrayed him and made his life miserable. Now, they were standing before Joseph, but they didn't recognize him.
This was his big chance to get revenge. He can finally pay them back. But Joseph's mind went back to that scene where his uncle forgave his father. He remembered the altar at their house, outplaying always seeing it. That said to him, "Am I not the God that brought peace when you should have had conflict? Am I not the God that caused Esau to forgive? Am I not the God that showed your father mercy for his mistakes, the God who gave him a second chance"? Joseph could have gotten revenge, instead he treated his brothers like Esau treated his father. He forgave them, he was kind. He had them all come to Egypt and live with him.
When you're constantly building altars, recognizing God's goodness, thanking him for what he's done, it's not just affecting you, it's affecting your children, your grandchildren. What if Jacob had not built that altar? What if he thought, "Man, I got lucky today. Esau didn't destroyed me. I'm glad he's in a good mood", we wouldn't be talking about Jacob, or probably talking about Joseph. Are you missing favor, blessings, breakthroughs because you're not building an altar? At the place you build an altar, God says he's going to bless you.
My challenge to us is: build a lot of altars. Be aware of the goodness of God in your life. Take time to thank him every day. Look back at the great things he's done. You've had times where you saw the mighty God at work, doing what only he can do. Remember those Am-I-Not-The-God moments, "Am I not the God that healed you, that freed you, that promoted you, that sustains you"? If you'll build your altars, I believe and declare: you're going to see the mighty God do things you've never dreamed, supernatural doors are about to open, healing, provision, restoration, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today? Amen!