Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a time, because the famine was severe in the land. 11 It came about, when he was approaching Egypt, that he said to his wife Sarai, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman;12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well for me because of you, and that <sup class="footnote" style="font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;" data-fn="#fen-NASB-312j" data-link="[j]”>[j]I may live on account of you.” – Genesis 12:10-13

Historic Cabin | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

Yes, I’m quoting from the musical Camelot again… This time, however, the reference is brief and filled with false bravado. Lancelot presents himself as the most godly man he knows. See below for the full lyrics. They’re priceless. 

Several years ago in a couple’s Bible study, we heard of an encounter between a dangerous dragon and a chivalrous knight, who was protecting his damsel in distress. As he set off to slay the dragon, the damsel says something like, “No! Don’t use that sword. Take this poison. It will work so much better.” It struck pretty deeply in my heart: Being told how to rescue someone in distress might not be the most affirming experience – to put it mildly. 

Contrast that, however, to this foolish idea of Abram. He tells Sarai to pass herself off as his sister to save his own skin. Seems he didn’t really care about Sarai’s welfare. Seems he didn’t really even have a long-range plan. If ever there was a time for the damsel to tell the knight what to do, and how to keep them safe, that would have been the time. Sarai doesn’t say anything. We have no idea what she thought. And Abram’s plans end up failing. Except Pharaoh does send them away – apparently safely – when the encounter is ended. 

In a time of rampant blame-sharing, this doesn’t seem that unusual. Why did you do that Sarai? Abram told me to.

Does this remind you of anything? 

  • To Eve in the Garden: What is this you have done? The serpent tempted me and I ate the fruit.
  • What is this that you have done, Adam? The woman you gave me gave me the fruit and I ate it.

Us in our day:

  • I can’t be held responsible for these poor financial decisions. I’ve never been taught about how to handle money.
  • I’m sorry you’re upset with me. I hope you get over it soon.
  • I can’t help it if I got the job by being more cunning than you. 

What if we all just took responsibility for our own actions? What if we owned up to our failures and simply said, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Such is the currency of God’s reign and rule. Truth and grace. Sin and contrition. Confession and forgiveness. Repentance and life. 

We’re not told specifically that Abram or Sarai – or Pharaoh for that matter – ever repented. But the story does go on, and Abram will have other opportunities to blame or to take responsibility. Thankfully God is gracious and allows even sinners who blame others to come to repentance. And faith. And salvation. And life.

It all started from the foundation of eternity when God determined to redeem a world that had not yet been made, but would be taken captive by sin. But it all comes to fruition when we take responsibility for our own actions and seek God’s mercy. Given in Jesus. Sustained by the Holy Spirit. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post. 

The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable,
His heart and his mind as pure as morning dew.
With a will and a self-restraint
That’s the envy of ev’ry saint
He could easily work a miracle or two.
To love and desire he ought to be unsparkable,
The ways of the flesh should offer no allure.
But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so untouched and pure?
(C’est moi!)
C’est moi! C’est moi, I blush to disclose.
I’m far too noble to lie.
That man in whom
These qualities bloom,
C’est moi, c’est moi, ’tis I.
I’ve never strayed
From all I believe;
I’m blessed with an iron will.
Had I been made
The partner of Eve,
We’d be in Eden still.
C’est moi! C’est moi! The angels have chose
To fight their battles below,
And here I stand, as pure as a pray’r,
Incredibly clean, with virtue to spare,
The godliest man I know!
C’est moi!

When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. – Genesis 12:14-20

Historic Cabin | Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

I’m a Camelot fan. From quoting Lancelot, “If I’d been made the partner of Eve, we’d be in Eden still!” [NOT!], to Arthur’s, If Ever I would leave you, to the title song, Camelot: I love the music. That might be related to the fact that I had the cassette tape many years ago and played it many times as I drove from Vernal, Utah to Rangely, Colorado – a 50 mile trip – serving that dual parish. It was my first call. When I think of this event in the life of Pharaoh, Sarai, and Abram, I thought of this one:

I wonder what the king is doing tonight?
What merriment is the king pursuing tonight?
The candles at the court, they never burned as bright.
I wonder what the king is up to tonight?
How goes the final hour
As he sees the bridal bower
Being regally and legally prepared?
Well, I’ll tell you what the king is doing tonight:
He’s scared! He’s scared!

Arthur realizes that Guinevere is a formidable woman. He may be king, and she may be the woman of his dreams, but he is king and must never show fear. Not to mention that he has some competition for Guinevere’s heart. So as he prepares for their wedding night he is afraid.

Pharaoh was not preparing for his wedding, but surely he was afraid as he and his whole household were experiencing the visitation of God’s wrath because of his and Sarai’s improper relationship. It seems that it was not so much a matter of being found out. Pharaoh does as Pharaoh pleases. It’s good to be king, after all. You answer to no one. Except to One. And the One True God will require an answer. From all of us.

So whether it is fear in the face of an upcoming wedding or the onset of illness that Pharaoh experiences: fear intrudes into all our lives. Whether we are king or vassal, boss or new hire, hero or rescued, we will all one day give an account to God. 

This isn’t only about justice – which it certainly is. It’s not merely about proper acknowledgement of the One to whom we will all give an account – that day will come. But in the here and now – before that final Day of Accounting – it’s about God’s desire that we repent and embrace his reign and rule in faith and love. God doesn’t wipe out Abram, Sarai, and Pharaoh. He doesn’t abandon them in their folly. He brings illness to bring them to repentance.

Outwardly Pharaoh seems to repent. At least he brings an end to his relationship with Sarai. Abram and Sarai are outed and will continue their sojourn according to God’s calling and his good will. Whether that amounts to true repentance we’ll leave for God to determine. 

We, however, can determine whether or not we will repent from the heart and seek God’s reign and rule in our lives. If we think this is a matter of surrender under duress, we might experience only part of his true reign and rule. For God’s purposes in calling and leading Abram and Sarai are profound and far-reaching. They will have a child of the promise. They will experience a miraculous birth. They will become the parents of the child of promise. And from that child will come – ultimately the 12 tribes of Israel. And from the tribe of Judah will come the Savior of the World. 

God isn’t interested in mere outward compliance and solely fear-based surrender. God’s desire is for our faith. And Abram is the father of that faith. So whether from grave consequences, an encounter with soul-shaking need for mercy, a new glimpse of God’s glory, or a life-long experience of God’s grace, God deeply desires our hearts of fear, love, and faith. Jesus is the embodiment of that and the source of the grace needed so that we may fear, love, and trust in the One True King. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman.12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”

17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. – Genesis 12:10-13, 17

Low Tech Security | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

My dad, many years ago, suffered from panic attacks. At first he thought it was a heart attack. Then possibly a stroke. Then he would hyperventilate. The solution? Carry around a paper bag and when he felt light-headed, he would lie down and breathe into the bag until the oxygen levels got readjusted. That was helpful. But he also discovered a Bible passage that he clung to: “Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18) He would repeat this when the waves of fear would overwhelm him. He made no bones about it. In fact, he would tell people both about the fear and the Bible verse. What a great example of humble dependence on God he was!

Too often fear paralyzes us in different ways. Even the man of great faith – Abram – had his moments of misplaced fear. He was afraid for his life so he bartered his wife in exchange for his safety and security! And he ultimately paid for it. Pharaoh finds out about his duplicity. Abram will be outed. That’s because God will not let this stand. He will intervene. He will cause grief in Pharaoh’s household. All because of Abram’s misplaced and self-serving fear.

There are other Bible verses worth considering regarding fear:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    Fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7 [ESV]
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. – Proverbs 9:10 [ESV]
  • So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. – Acts 9:31 [ESV]
  • If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth. – 1 Peter 1:17 [NASB]

But self-serving fear is so powerful! It can derail our obedient faith. It can thwart our proper place in God’s reign and rule. It can short-circuit prayer and an even greater reliance on God.

A colleague told a story of an encounter he had on the foreign mission field. When one member of the church was discovered to have embezzled some funds from the church, a fellow church member exclaimed, “Don’t you fear God!” The fear of the Lord can reign us in from gross sin. Better is faith and love. But sometimes fear must do its work.

Thankfully we need not only fear God, but love and trust in him above all things as well. Jesus is the perfect example of that and our source of courage to face down the challenges. And our source of forgiveness when we fail to do so. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” – Genesis 12:10-13

Tom Branch Falls | Great Smoky Mountains National Park | April 2021

The young family called me late that afternoon. They were traveling from New Orleans where he was in medical school at Tulane University. They had a young baby, and were stranded. Traffic was a jam-packed gridlock on US 290. They were worried about the safety of their baby. Could they spend the night at the church? Hurricane Katrina was bearing down and they were bugging out. No duplicity. No presence. Just an need that we could fill. They ended up staying with us that night, and were able to get on their way the next day.  

We can more easily identify with such acute needs than that of famine. Our food shortages may last for a week or two with the threat of disease or weather. But even when we need to leave our homes, it is normally only for a short time. We don’t typically take our family cross country in search of food. Even so, events such as hurricanes, flash floods, and pandemic stretch our resources and our sense of personal peace often to the breaking point. 

So I can understand why Abram was worried about his welfare when he entered the land of the Egyptians. He feared for his life because of his wife’s beauty. But his fear led to unbelief and distrust of God’s providential care. Matthew Henry notes:

The grace Abram was most noted for, was faith; yet he thus fell through unbelief and distrust of the Divine providence, even after God had appeared to him twice. Alas, what will become of weak faith, when strong faith is thus shaken! If God did not deliver us, many a time, out of straits and distresses which we bring ourselves into, by our own sin and folly, we should be ruined. – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

On the one hand we might find great comfort here in knowing that a man of such great faith stumbled in this manner. We can point to Abram and think, Well he fell, after all. I can’t be blamed for my failures. I’m not a man of great faith. Never is someone else’s failure a justification for our own. It’s true: we all sin. But it’s also true: the wages of sin is death. Thankfully we do not always bear the full brunt of our sin. God’s grace abounds to Abram and to us. 

Sadly, however, Abram’s deception not only sullied his faith, it taught his wife and even his servants that deceit and dissembly was an option in drastic times. Drastic times call for drastic actions. But the most drastic action is that of continued faithfulness in the face of temptation and fear. The most drastic action is that of loving God and relying on him in every situation. 

That’s what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did in the face of the most drastic time ever. When on the cross, though pure and sinless before man and God, he remained faithful. Even when God abandoned him, Jesus still called out to his God, My God, my God, why…” [emphasis added].

God will rescue Abram and Sarai because of his grace. Because of that grace they are part of a grand story of redemption and salvation, blessing and grace that will reach through the centuries to our very times. This is the most drastic action of all, because our need, too, is drastic.

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post. 

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. – Genesis 12:10-20

The Greens of Spring | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

You might remember – if you are as old as I am – a song by Debby Boone, You Light Up My Life. It’s a compelling melody, inspiring, and memorable. Among the lines:

And you light up my life
You give me hope to carry on
You light up my days
And fill my nights with song…

It’s meant to be a beautiful love song, but there is a troubling lyric:

It can’t be wrong
When it feels so right

That is not most certainly true. Ask the cocaine addict. Ask the porn addict. Ask any addict. Some things seem so right, feel so right, provide success, safety, and satisfaction, only to evaporate into a mist of lost dreams, dashed hopes, and sad reality.

Abram had what he thought to be a great idea, a means of safety, security, and success. And for a while it worked. Initially – after Abram passes off Sarai as his sister and allows her to be taken by the king – his stock is on the rise. He gains sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. It is going well for him. 

So if you equate success with the favor of God, beware! It might be. Or it might simply be a short-lived encounter with the permissive will of God. And there will surely come a reckoning. We think we can dodge the bullet. We think we can hedge on our taxes. We think we’ll not be caught fudging on our expense reports. We think we can just take a bite of the forbidden fruit. And we can. And we do. 

Thanks be to God, however, he intervenes. Yes, I said, “Thanks be to God.” Sometimes the affliction comes to others who provide a lesson we can learn at their expense. We don’t have to make all our own mistakes. Sometimes the consequences fall closer to home. I’ve known men who were taken to prison for embezzlement. I’ve known women who have lost their families because of unsustainable false behavior. I’ve known shame myself for things in my past that I wish I had never done. 

Honestly, we all do. Some of us are just not caught yet. 

The path to restoration begins with sincere repentance. It ends at the cross of Jesus. It finds comfort and healing in his mercy. Abram is not yet there. We’ll have to wait to see if he ever truly repents. But we do see God acting. And his intervention prevents a train wreck that could have thwarted Abram’s and Sarai’s part in God’s amazing story of redemption. 

If you’re on that wayward path, thank God when he intervenes. Whether through the suffering of others, the full stop  of circumstances allowing your continued dalliance, or the tug of the Holy Spirit calling you back to the true love and life in Jesus. The greatest sign of success is seen by God alone. It is the sign of a broken and contrite heart, taking refuge in God’s goodness and mercy. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

For your personal edification and reflection on this Lord’s Day

Psalm 134:1-2
Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the LORD!

Psalm 104:33-35
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!

Psalm 74:1-3
O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Psalm 44:1-3
O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

Psalm 14:1-3
[Note: That there is none who does good is a hard reality to face if we believe that none means none. But it puts us in a position to seek God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace. That is found in Jesus alone. ]

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

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. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 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. From there he moved 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 called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. – Genesis 12:4-9

Dogwood Blossoms | Smoky National Park | April 2021

I grew up in a mom and pop motel. Our family had a living quarters adjacent to the front office. There was a small “lobby” which was really more of an entry area where the registration desk was located. We would yell, “Me!” whenever we came in the door so other family members wouldn’t have to jump up and come to the desk. It was a family business and we all pitched in. We were all directly part of the successes and struggles of those years. 

Some people think of the Christian faith as an intensely personal matter. It’s true, “God has no grandchildren.” Our faith in Jesus is a personal faith. I cannot believe for you, nor you for me. Except that’s not totally true.

An example: Years ago I was providing pastoral counseling to a member of the church I served at the time. She was struggling deeply in her faith. She had doubts and spiritual struggles that plagued her. She told me that she just couldn’t believe that God would help her, that he loved her, or that he listened to her prayers. I told her, that I would believe for her. I prayed for her. I believed for her. And over time God’s Holy Spirit revived her faith. She took hold of the promises of God. She saw God’s work in her life. She embraced faith and continues to do so today. 

Perhaps Sarai had her doubts. Lot, too, and his wife. No doubt the servants who traveled along with Abram as he set out had their own degree of faith in God or in Abram. But they were in the throng of followers. And sometimes you must follow before you believe. Sometimes faith follows obedience. 

Studies continually show that the most important factor in a person’s faith is the nurture of parents and family. There are exceptions no doubt. Some come to faith despite their families’ faithless foundations. Others grow up in a family of faith and abandon it altogether. But the impact of fellow family members in the faith formation of a person is powerfully important. 

Abram takes his family along on this trek of faithful obedience. That included servants as well as immediate and distant relatives. If we seek to extend the boundaries of who we think of as family we will perhaps also extend the reach of our witness and impact of God’s grace into more lives as well. Lutheran Hour Ministries has an excellent in depth study on this that is well worth exploring. 

Where are you taking your family? Are you seeking to help them follow God, believe in Jesus, and declare his goodness? Whom do you need to thank within the family of which you are a part for their influence and bolstering of your faith?

Click here or on the podcast link below to listen to an audio version of this blog post. 

So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram set out for Canaan. He took along his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the servants they had acquired in Haran.

They arrived in Canaan, and Abram traveled through the land to the oak tree belonging to Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I’m going to give this land to your descendants.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

He moved on to the hills east of Bethel, and he put up his tent—with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He also built an altar to the Lord there and worshiped the Lord. Abram kept moving toward the Negev. – Genesis 12:4-9 [GW]

Smoky Mountain Waterfall | April 2021

“Rejoicing Along the Way.” That was the theme of the message Pastor Robert Lange preached at our wedding. We were headed for the seminary in Springfield, Illinois with stars in our eyes and hopes for a rich and full life of service to God. Looking back, I’m certain that our parents were concerned about our future. I had no job. She had a degree in biology (a completely un-marketable degree). We had little furniture an less than $1,000 to our name. But we were off! Rejoicing along the way.

Only we weren’t. Rejoicing along the way that it. We were rejoicing in being newly married. We were rejoicing at meeting new friends at the seminary. We were rejoicing to be on our own. I was rejoicing in no longer working at the brick factory. But we were fully devoted to rejoicing once we got much further along the way. We were living in the future. Won’t it be great when we have our first call? Won’t it be wonderful when we have children? Won’t it be a blessing to buy our first house? 

All these were in the future. And all of them would be realized. We look back and thank God for the many blessings we have enjoyed over the years. But, along the way…what blessings might we have missed? Blessings of others not received. Blessings to others not given. Some received and given, but not recognized. That whole along the way thing is sometimes more difficult than we would wish. 

Abram’s response and Moses’ record of that response gives us some insight to rejoicing along life’s way. I notice that Abram goes. In obedient faith he takes his family and leaves for a place unknown. God will show him when the time comes. But for now he simply goes. It’s a family affair. The whole extended family and all they had were part of the convoy. Abram was apparently wealthy so this was no little caravan. This was a major move. Abram was all in, with his family and able to enjoy the wealth he had accumulated along the way. 

Abram also looked for God along the way. How many days go by without any awareness on our parts of God’s place in the day-to-day events? How many divine appointments have we rushed by in a mindless quest for lesser things or distractions? Seems clear to me that rejoicing along the way involves looking for God and listening for his voice. Clearly that will include looking to God’s word to shape our hearts and hopes. Setting our hearts on his truth, grace, provision, and blessings will sustain us in true joy.

Abram also prayed. This is the second time in the Bible that the phrase, “called on the name of the Lord,” is used. The first (Genesis 4:26) is connected with Enoch’s sons. Now Abraham does the same. This phrase has a formal and informal meaning. Formally it means public worship. The Good News translators even translate it as such (see above). The phrase also means to pray. Whether this was a more formal manner of prayer or a more spontaneous expression, it signifies both an acknowledgment of God’s blessings and our continuing need for his provision. 

All this is instigated by God’s initiative in calling Abram, and his promise to him and his descendants. We, too have been called by God’s initiative and grace. Promises abound for us as well. And just as Abram kept moving along, so we do. There will be tests. Abram will fail some and pass others. In it all remains a faithfulness on Abram’s part and a great example for us to follow if we want to live in faith in rejoice along the way. 

Click here or on the podcast player below for an audio version of this blog post.

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you into a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing;
And 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 will be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3 [NASB]

Wildflower Cascade | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

I was riding bareback on a horse, on the way to the barn to saddle him and enjoy a day of horseback riding. I had worn a pair of brand new white jeans. And (you can see this coming, can’t you?) as we trotted up a small incline, I steadily bounced backwards on the horse’s back. Without a saddle or reigns I wasn’t able to keep my grip on the horse’s main or my legs tightly enough around his belly. And (here it is…) I bounced right off the back of the horse…wait for it…right into a fresh pile of horse apples (not the hedge apple kind either)!

I don’t recall much of the rest of that day’s horse riding adventures. I do wish, however, that the horse I was riding hadn’t gotten so much giddy-up-and-go at that particular few moments. 

Abram is not given a giddy-up-and-go command, but he is commanded to go. I notice that he is to go…

  • From his country
  • And from his relatives
  • And from his father’s house

This would be a significant distancing from comforting customs and supportive people and familiar places. It was a call to go to a place that God would show him. This would be a walk of faith: away from earthly visible support, to a place God had not yet revealed to him. It would be a walk with God.

This is our daily calling: to leave the familiar safety of our own will and ways, and follow Jesus to a place he will show us. Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:234-25) We abandon our own self interest and self-dependence in deference to Jesus’ better way. This is the life of faith, by which we show ourselves to be children of Abraham (cf. Galatians 3:7).

We’ve been watching The Chosenan incredibly impactful portrayal of Jesus’ ministry, set in the context of possible human interactions with his disciples and others. It is very true to Jesus’ identity and teachings, but necessarily provides imaginative settings and circumstances for these interactions. Jesus calls his disciples to leave family, home, and (even country occasionally as they venture into Samaria). They don’t know where he’s leading them – though they think they do! But they are simply to follow him. It feels very real as we watch it. 

We may not be called to leave home and family, country and safety in order to follow Jesus in our daily lives. But we are called to giddy-up-and-go with Jesus into each day. Jesus is on the move – in your heart, in your home, in your family, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, and in your church. He has immeasurably wonderful blessings in store for those who do follow him. 

Sometimes we may need a pause. Whether it’s at the end of a long week, a particularly trying season, or even a career. But those down times are not to become a resting place. And as God leads us we follow in the confidence of his goodness, in anticipation of his blessing, and in dependence on his daily provision. Even when we don’t feel like giddy-upping and going. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3 [NLT]

Show-Off Red Maple | Biltmore Estate, Asheville, SC | April 2021

We were in Oyugis, Kenya. My colleague was teaching:“You may think that because you are a pastor that you are entitled to special treatment. But that’s not the posture of Jesus. Those who are great must be servants.” My colleague was teaching pastors at a PLI training event for pastors and their wives in Kenya. “You might think that you would be honored, have a privileged parking spot, special access to events and the best seats at the gatherings you attend,” he continued. “But this is not what Jesus teaches. He calls us to serve others. Ministry is not a position of privilege, but of service. 

Many folks think only of the privilege and not the responsibility and burden of leadership. I’m not certain Abram realized this when he was first called. But he would soon live out that reality. His life of blessing would be filled with incredible challenges and difficulties. He will stand in the gap for the cities of Sodom and Gomorra. He will climb a mountain with his son to offer an impossibly difficult sacrifice. He will offer his nephew Lot the choice of the best land when the time came. It was his to keep or give. Abram will be a blessing to many nations. 

But he was blessed…to be a blessing. And in that phrase is a powerful lesson. For many people want to be blessed to be blessed. We want the benefit without the responsibility. We want the blessing without the need to steward it well. More money? Let’s take a grand vacation. Let’s dine on the finest foods and enjoy the richest wine. More success? Back up the Perk Truck! New company car, corner office, country club membership, tickets to the opera. The list goes on. 

It seems, however, that there are few perks offered Abram at this point in time. Perhaps one: He would be the father of a great nation. But all this is not solely for his own benefit. Abram learns that he is to be blessed to be a blessing. The enrichment is not to start and stop with him and his family. He will have the name by which all the nations of the earth will be blessed. 

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind is the idea that the word blessing is related to the word for weight. It’s as though the mantle of blessing is a physical weight on the shoulders of those who receive it. Unfortunately, however, this idea must live in our imaginations only, for I am not able to find a reference to back up that idea. Surely, however, there is a weightiness to this blessing of God to Abram. He will wear the yoke of God’s blessing and favor to the glory of God and to our great benefit. For we who believe – according to the Bible – are the true children of Abraham. As such we, too, are blessed to be a blessing. It’s not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. 

Click here, or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.