The long and live version of this message:
God interrupts Abraham’s life as Abraham is living it and invites him to take a faith-walk for the rest of his life in:
God alters the course of Abraham’s life dramatically. Let’s examine this word COURSE as an acronym for walking a life of faith.
First notice, that God and Abraham were on speaking terms.
12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram,
- So the first requirement of this COURSE is in the C – CONVERSATION.
"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.
The next thing that happens is that God, in changing Abraham’s course, and in the course of the conversation, calls Abraham O-OUT of his comfort zone, OVERRIDING his plans and OBLITERATING his comfort zone without a road map. “Go from …” shakes us from our assumptions and patterns.
12:2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Then, God calls Abraham into a covenant. God makes a string of promises and offers blessings to Abraham and his descendants, but, it is at the end of this call to covenant is the clue to blessings, promises, destiny, and the whole faith journey. It was a journey to:
Our job is to the useful to God and a blessing to others because God’s purpose in calling and election and the exercise of our faith is UNIVERSAL.
Walk in faith so that God can use you for God’s own purposes universally to bless the world.
This all called for a life of responsiveness to God that started Abraham on his course and led him to continue that course to the end.
12:4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. op12:5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 12:6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Abraham had to make a choice that would inform all of his choices for the rest of his life. The choice was to obey God and follow God’s course for his life.
Bit by bit, step by step, God revealed the path for Abraham and Abraham followed. This required submission to God’s plan and direction.
But we also need encouragement which brings up several e-words.
12:7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 12:8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord.
- E is for ENCOURAGEMENT. We are emotionally ENCOURAGED to continue on this course as God shows us a vision through a faith EYESIGHT to ENTER the EXPERIENCE of faith walking over a lifetime.
Sometimes to get to catch a vision of the Promised land that EVOKES our faith and E-MOTES our motion forward. WE do like Abraham; we build an altar there; we worship God; we call on the name of the Lord; we keep moving forward.
12:9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
I am out of letters for the word course, but this is rather obvious: Any journey of faith as we follow the course set before us, happens in STAGES. So, our COURSE (singular) is made up of COURSES that may seem like separate journeys, but are all a part of one big journey.
Here how Paul describes Abraham’s journey in Romans 4:13-25
4:13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 4:14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
4:16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 4:17 as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations") --in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
4:18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be."
4:19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 4:20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 4:21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
4:22 Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness."
4:23 Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone, 4:24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 4:25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
Dop the COURES template here and see, through Paul’s reflection, God’s CONVERSATION with us, how we come OUT of old attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and comfort zones into a new calling to USEFULNESS through faith that is counted as righteousness (ie … the right path where we are in right relationship with God.) Further, God REVEALS what we need to know to follow the course and ENCOURAGES us along the way as we pass through the STAGES of our lives.
I have left the illustrations for the end, and they all come from the ministry of Jesus, a tapestry of faith-stories that show us four people on their own courses of faith, exercising faith, and living it out in the critical moments of their lives:
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
First, Matthew shares his own story of how Jesus changed the COURSE of his life:
9:9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. 9:10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 9:11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
9:12 But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 9:13 Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
Apply the COURSE to Matthew’s life:
C- He had a COURSE-Correction that grew out of an unexpected CONVERSATION with Jesus.
O – He was called OUT of one lifestyle into another.
U – He was called into a new life of USEFULNESS as a disciple apostle, and author of one of the 4 gospels and the Gospel makes Matthew’s experience UNIVERSAL in scope
R – Jesus REVEALS, to and through Matthew, to all, his own COURSE and purpose to call sinners.
S – Matthew, as we understand the backstory, SUBMITS to Jesus’ call and begins to follow in faith.
E – Jesus ENCOURAGES s all the people to begin their own course, to go, and to learn mercy.
S – The course, of course, is always in STAGES and there are three more stage, implications, and implications in this drama around Matthew’s call to a new course, showing us that one person’s calling by God, entangles all of us:
Thus, all the families of the earth are blessed:
A Synagogue Leader:
9:18 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."
9:19 And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.
Notice how this man is already exercising faith and how it is changing everything about the course of his life in his moment of deepest crisis, sorrow, and anxiety.
A Woman with a Hemorrhage:
9:20 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,
9:21 for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well."
9:22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." and instantly the woman was made well.
Jesus commends this woman, with her quiet, unassuming faith-walk, whose course of life has brought her through profound pain and into contact with Jesus.
Back to the Synagogue Leader:
9:23 When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,
9:24 he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him.
9:25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.
The third illustration involved the Masses.
9:26 And the report of this spread throughout that district.
How many people’s life-courses were changed that day?
How many entered into a new CONVERSATION with God?
How many were shaken OUT of old assumptions and complacency?
How many would be USEFUL in proclaiming the UNIVERSAL call of God?
How many would receive a REVELATION of the expansion of the Kingdom of God?
How many would SUBMIT to the message of God in Jesus to learn the meaning of God’s mercy and grace to all?
How many would be ENCOURAGED in their own journey as they saw with their EYES what God can do? They were set in MOTION by the E-MOTION of God EVOKING their faith.
9:26 And the report of this spread throughout that district.
The report continues to spread.
The Abrahamic covenant and blessing continue through Abraham’s lineage, Jesus.
The report is being spread, even this morning, in Clovis, simulcast around the world, literally, and landing on our ears.
All the families of the earth are being blessed.
How does this alter the COURSE you will take.
This morning, you are being invited into a CONVERSATION with God and God is shaking your comfort zone, calling you OUT of uselessness and into UNVIERSAL USEFUNESS through faith. God is REVEALING something to your heart and mind that will change the course of your life forever. God is calling you to begin a new journey, a lifetime walk of faith. Will you reject the call or SUBMIT to it? God is ENCOURAGING you right now to submit and follow, STAGE by STAGE and STEP by STEP.
What will your response be?
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