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A Dark Night; A Bright Future - Genesis 15:7-21

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8/31/2003
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A Dark Night; A Bright Future
Genesis 15:7-21
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Making Your Mark

Are you satisfied with just getting through life or do you want to make a difference? God calls each of us to play an important role during our lifetime, but we often forget to seek His will. Join Pastor Skip Heitzig as he looks at the life of Abraham in this two-volume series. Abraham had both ups and downs when it came to his spiritual journey, but he made a lasting mark deep within the fabric of three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. You may find striking parallels between Abraham's life and your own experiences. Learn how to leave a lasting impression on your world as you study the life of this great father of faith. Don't just live--make a mark with your life!

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Well good evening. Would you open those Bibles you brought to Genesis chapter 15. I presume you already have done that some of you from the announcements, by the way you like the new bulletins. Hey, that's an upgrade, definitely, with the color pictures especially. And would you welcome all those who are listening now, our friends by radio around the country on CSN? (Applause, cheering) There's some rather random weird facts about Americans that I found. Twenty-one percent of us don't make our bed daily, five percent of us never do (isn't that a frightening thought?) only thirty percent of us can flare our nostrils, men do twenty-nine percent of the laundry each week but only seven percent of women trust their husbands to do it correctly. This I'm not surprised about), three out of four of us store our dollar bills in rigid order with singles leading up to higher denominations. Thirteen percent, mostly men, have spent a night in jail. When nobody else is around, forty-seven percent of us will drink milk or juice straight out of the carton. Now I know these are useless pieces of information, just random info. In fact, the only reason that they are interesting is because they are so weird. The section you are about to read, it's in the Bible, it's the word of God but it is a weird section of scripture. In fact, it's something I've always remembered and every time I go over this story again, I go, "Oh yeah, that's that really weird story that I never quite understood what was going on." And that's what we're going to read tonight in the second part of Genesis chapter 15, in fact let's just skip ahead and look at verse 9. "And so he (that is God) said to him (that is Abram), 'Bring me a three-year-old heifer and a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. And he brought all these to him, he cut them in two down the middle and placed each piece opposite each other but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram and behold horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then he said to Abram, "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and will serve them and will afflict them for four hundred years. Also the nations whom they serve I will judge and afterward they will come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace, you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet comploete. Now it came to pass when the sun went down and it was dark that behold there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces." Now I know that we're separated by time and language and culture, but that sounds weird, doesn't it? It sort of sounds like Ripley's Believe It Or Not," one of those kind of shows. Now let me give you a hint, what is taking place here is an ancient form of what the Jews called a berit or a covenant, the making of a covenant, that's what is mentioned in verse 18 where God says, "And I will make a covenant with you." Now the term covenant is a very Bible sounding word. It simply means a pact, an agreement, a deal, a testament; all of those mean basically the same thing. Abram is nearing, if you remember ninety years old and his wife isn't far behind. And he's approaching this age, he is believing God but God is about to open the doors of heaven and bless him in ways he could never imagine. He'll have a son and that son will have sons and that son will have more sons and eventually an entire nation will come out of Abram. Remember the old adage that says, "Be careful what you wish for because you might get more than you bargained for." Literally a nation will come out of Abram.

There was a couple I read about, they were sixty years of age, they had been married forty years and on the celebration of their anniversary, a fairy appeared to them and said, "Because you guys have been such a good loving couple for so many years, I'm going to grant each of you one wish. Without hesitation the wife said, "I know what I want, I want to travel the world, so the little fairy waved her magic wand, poof! she had tickets in her hand to travel anywhere on earth. The the fairy said to the husband, "Now it's your turn, you get one wish, what do you want?" he thought about it a minute, looked at his wife kind of shyly, looked down, he said, "Well I'd like to have a wife that's thirty years younger than me." The fairy said, "No problem," waved her wand, poof! and instantly he was ninety years old. He got what he wanted. Now Abram is almost ninety years old in this story and he's about to get more than he can imagine. But in this last section of chapter 15, there are some great principles. There's principles about how God deals with us in times of trouble. But most important is the principle of trusting God. How do you know that you can really trust God? How do you know that all of the promises God has ever made to you are going to come true? How can you know that? Well, if you're taking notes, let me just sort of give you a little bit of an outline here since you don't have one in your bulletin. Verse 7, there is a simple affirmation, what I call a friendly affirmation from God to Abram about the covenant that he makes with him. And then verse 8 through 12 is a formal confirmation, they enter into a treaty and we'll discuss that. And the rest of the chapter is the future destination of Abram and the nation of Israel.

Let's look back at verse 7 with this affirmation, "Then he said to him, 'I am the Lord who brought you ought of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit it." Now I don't know if that strikes you as odd but it sounds to me kind of strange that right midway in the dialogue God decides to introduce himself. "Hi, my name's God." Nice to meet you." That's what it sort of sounds like but we already know they know each other, we know they have spoken on several occasions before. In fact, we know that Abram is called the frined of God. So this really is not an introduction, God isn't introducing himself again to Abram, this is simply an affirmation of what God has already said, but it's done in a friendly/formal kind of a way. It is what scholars call the autocarrigma of God, the sself-proclamation of God in making a covenant. "This is who I am, Abram, I want you to know that and I want you to know what I'm about to do very clearly, I am the lord God who delivered you out of Ur of the Chaldees. There's a point I want to make before I go any further in this: God initiates, man responds. Oh I know, I've heard people say, "I'm searching for God." News flash, he's not lost. If you're searching for God it's because you're searching for your place before God, your lost, not him. And God put that within you to search for spiritual matters because God always initiates and man is the one who responds. It's the way it was with Abram all the way through their relationship. It was God who called him out of Ur of the Chaldees, he wasn't running around searching for God, and said, "Get out of your country, leave your family, go to a new land." Years later it was God who appeared in Haran and said, "Okay buckaroo you've been here a long time, it's time to get going." (I'm paraphrasing a bit but that was the gist of it.) It was God who spoke to him after Lot separated a few chapters back and said, "Abram, lift up your eyes and look north, south, east and west, everything you see, all of that land I'm giving to you and to your descendants. God initiated it. In chapter 15, the very first part, after the kings were defeated in that previous war, it was God who came to him and said, "I am your shield and your exceeding great reward." So all through Abram and God's relationship, God initiated the covenant and Abram responded to it. That's how it works and it really is no different with us. When it comes to our salvation, God started this thing, he initiated it, he sent his son from heaven to go to Calvary's cross to die for our sins but he made the first move. Isn't that what the Bible says? We love him because what? He first loved us. He initiated it.

One day Jesus said to his disciples who had made the choice to follow him, "You didn't choose me, I chose you and I appointed you to bring forth fruit." Paul said, "While we were sinners, God demonstrated his love for us in that Jesus died for us. And actually you have to go back even further than that, don't you? You have to go before time and space, don't you? Because it says by Paul in Ephesians that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the earth. Talk about initiating something, before there was ever an earth, God thought about you and initiated and enacted the plan of salvation. I like that, in fact I like what Charles Spurgeon used to say, "It's a good thing God chose me before I was born, he probably never would have chosen me after I was born." Of course, that's not true, God knew all about you before you were born and the good news is he picked you anyway.

I want you to notice something in verse 7, this affirmation that God makes of his covenant is based on two things, can you see what they are? Number one is the character of God, number two is the activity or the track record of God. Look at it, "I am the Lord." That's what it's based on. You can trust me because I am the Lord. Get this straight Abram, I am the Lord, you're not. And by the way the term that God uses is that tetragramaton, yahveh or Yahweh or Yehovah or Jehovah, we don't know how it's pronounced. It's four consonants but that's the covenant name of God and everything God does is based on who God is.

And then second, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees. So that's God's track record. "This affirmation, Abram, is based on who I am as God and what I've already done for you in the past." Now think of Abram, there he is listening to God, he has already believed in God, it's already been accounted to him for righteousness but just in case Abram might beheistating at all about his future, God sayes, "Yeah but remember the past. I mean if I brought you all the way from Ur of the Chaldeans here, you're going to be fine there in the future. Here's my point, don't let any of the circumstances you are facing tonight keep you from moving forward tomorrow. You know why? Because he's the Lord. How can you trust God? Why should you count on his promises? Simply because he is the Lord. So move ahead, go for it.

I found this poem about a man. There was a very cautious man who never laughed or played, he never risked, he never tried, he never san or prayed. And when he one day passed away, his insurance was denied, for since he never really lived, they claimed he never died." I don't want to die that way, do you? I want to die going for it, moving ahead in the promises of god. Now, a promise is only as good as the one who makes it, isn't it? Have you ever had somebody make you a promise and they make it and you think, "yeah right, it'll never happen. You know why? Because you know that person. But God makes the promise based on who he is and his track record, what he's done.

Now look at verse 8, here's the second slice of it. After a friendly affirmation comes what I'm calling a formal confirmation. Now in verse 8 we read, "And he said (Abram's asking God now), "Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?" Stop right there. Now you're reading that and maybe you're thinking, "It sounds like unbelief to me. It sounds like he's doubting god to me." But he's not. You know how I know that he's not? Because in verse 6, he believed God, didn't he and God accounted it to him as righteousness.And then if I move ahead in the Bible to Luke chapter 1, I read about another guy who asked the exact same question to God. His name was Zacharias. And God said, "You're going to have a kid, I know you're old, your wife's old but you're going to have a son named John." And he said, "Well how can I know?" God struck him dumb for brining it up, because of his unbelief. God didn't do that here and it's the same God so Abram doesn't disbelieve God, in fact verse 6 says he believed God. So it's not unbelief, it's simply ignorance. How can I know? Lord, I want a confirmation. I'm trying to understand, you said I'm going to have this land, I'm going to have kids and I believe that but I guess I need to know how my descendants are going to occupy this land especially since it's not our land to begin with, it's occupied by ten nations. In fact, I want you to look at those nations. Look down at verse 19, "the Kennites, Kenezzites, the Cadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Refaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Gergashites, and the Jebusites." That's a lot of --ites. But there's just a lot of people and that's sort of the crux here. He's saying, "You made this promise, I believe you, but how will I know they're going to occupy, is this the land? So he's asking for a confirmation.

Now God does something very bizarre, that we read at the beginning but let's focus in on it one more time. Verse 9, "So (now here's God responding, answering the question-how can I know? Here's how you can know. "Bring me a three-year-old heifer." Now you and I read that and we go, "Okaaayy. That's your answer?" A three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and young pigeon. So he brought these to him and cut htem in two, down the middle and planted each piece opposite the other but he did not cut the birds in two." Aren't you glad you know that? "And the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram and behold horror and great darkness fell upon him."

I know that sounds weird but I've got to tell you what this is. If you lived that long ago, you would listen to this and go, "Yeah I get it. He's cutting a deal, he's making a covenant, he's signing a formal contract. Now we odn't do this any more, thank the Lord. We simply sign our name, don't we? And it's notarized. Or, if it's in a court, we place our left ohand on the Bible, raise our right hand, "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help us God." But in Abram's day they cut up animals and they split them in two, these bloody carcasses and they would walk between the two halves and they would hare covenant promises, one party sharing terms of the contract, the other party shouting the other terms of the contract. And because there was blood that was shed, it was considered a sacred deal, you don't break a covenant like that. It's a dishonor to dishonor that contract.

There is an oath that I found digging through some history books, a Hittite soldier's oath taken from about the same time era. And this soldier took the sinews of an animal that had been cut up, salt and threw it in a pan, a cooking pan. And he said, "Just as these sinews split into fragments on the hearth, whoever breaks these oaths shows disrespect for the king. Let these oaths seize him and let it split him into fragments like these sinews." So the idea here is a declaration of a contract and if you fail to keep the contract, may you end up like this. In fact, in Jeremiah chapter 34, the Lord God says to the nation of Israel, "Because you have refused the terms of our covenant, I will cut you apart just like you cut apart the calf when you walked between its halves to solemnize your vows." That's all this is then is a formal contractual agreement between two parties: God and Abram. Some people even think that the modern practice of cutting a ribbon to open up a bridge or a road comes from this ancient practice in Canaan.

But go back to verse 11, "When the vultures came down on the carcasses Abram drove them away. And when the sunw as going down a deep sleep fell on Abram. Picture the scene. "Lord, how will I know this?" Answer: "Get these animals." And he does it, it's morning, it's still early. He cuts them up, lays them out, sits down, and he waits. And he waits and he waits and he waits. And the sun rises and it gets hotter and hotter and the scent of that bleeding rotting flesh in the sun attracts these birds of prey. So all day, all day, Abram waiting on God, is shooing them away with his arms. "Okay God, I did what you asked, when are you going to show up?" All day long til he gets absolutely exhausted. Now don't you think he looked foolish? Can you picture him out there? He's cut up these animals, he's shooing all the birds away, his wife's out there looking at him, his servants are on the other side looking at him, thinking, "this old guy's had too much sun. He says he's making a deal with God and he's been doing this all day long, shooing off these animals. Can I just say right now as I go through this, it is very hard for us to wait on God, it's one of the hardest things you'll ever do as a Christian. Because God makes a promise, we read it, and then we wait. We pray about it and then we wait. And we keep waiting and we have to shoo away all those stray thoughts, fend them off as they come. Have you ever sat in traffic? I mean gridlock, for a long time? Now picture this scene, you're in traffic, there's a semi truck in front of you and one behind you and you're stuck, you can't go anywhere, it's like a wall that surrounds you. And you sit there and what feeling do you get? Frustration. You read the license plate, you read all the ads, you read what the carrier's paid on taxes every year, it's all written out there on the back of the truck. You know that truck and you want to move and you can't move because you're waiting. It's hard to wait on the Lord when you're asking him to answer. And he's been waiting all day. Now here's a question I have and I'm drawing your attention to this for a very important reason, why did God take so long? Why on one hand did God say, "Abram here's the confirmation, get these animals and cut them up." But then decide not to show up and really answer him until nighttime? Do you want to know the answer? It's so that Abram would be absolutely exhausted and couldn't participate in the covenant. Now listen carefully, it's to exhaust this guy totally so that he could not participate in the covenant. Now keep in mind in the ancient times two people, two parties walked through these carcasses, shook hands, hugged, whatever; and they stated the terms of the covenant with each other. However, if you look in verse 17, that doesn't happen. Abram's exhausted, he's wiped out, he's in that semi-conscious state, this deep dread because he's so wiped out.

Verse 17, "It came to pass when the sun was down it was dark and behold there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces." It sort of sounds like a B rated scary movie, doesn't it? This torch just kind of moving through these bloody pieces of flesh. You think, what is going on here? This is what's going on. Jewish sources believe that both of these elements are symbols of the presence of God: the oven and the torch. Just like in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were kicked out. There was that cherub with that flaming sword guarding the way. Or, in the wilderness later on, God led the children of Israel through with a cloud and a pillar of fire by night. Or the Shekinah glory of God later on, or Elijah when he went to Mount Horeb and he expected to get the message of God in a fire or in a wind. That's how he expected it to come. In other words, here's the point of verse 17 and this whole scene, God is the only one participating in the covenant. He's the only person going in between the pieces. Abraham's on the sidelines snoring, he's exhausted. He can sort of pick up what's going on, getting in and out sleep but he's not walking between these pieces, only God is. Why is that significant? Because remember this is a covenant and if only one person walks between those carcasses it is a unilateral covenant. In other words, it's an unconditional eternal covenant. In other words, "Abram, I'm going to do something for you that you don't deserve, you didn't earn, I just decided to do it solely based on my grace." An unconditional covenant. Let me give you a quick little synopsis: in the Bible you will discover as you read it two classifications of covenants. One is called the conditional covenant, the other is an unconditional. A conditional covenant, God will act, God will respond to man's obedience. But then there's an unconditional covenant. In an unconditional covenant, it might include some human responsibility but by and large God is just making a declaration, "I will do this." Period. So, go back to the Garden of Eden, what they call the Edenic covenant. It ws a conditional covenant wasn't it? You can stay here as long as you don't eat what? That fruit from that tree. They did it, they were kicked out, so it was conditional. The law of Moses was a conditional covenant: You keep these laws, you'll be all right. You don't, I'm kicking you out of the land," Deuteronomy 28. It was conditional. But this covenant is an unconditional covenant where God says, "I am going to do something for you and for your progeny, your descendants, forever. Forever. An unconditional covenant of the land.

Now having said that we are faced with a problem. This poses a huge, huge issue. And here's the issue, if you've got the law of Moses which is a conditional covenant but this promise to Abraham which is unconditional covenant and both sort of speak about the land, with Abraham God says you'll own it unconditionally. Moses says, but you'll live in it conditionally. Don't we have a conflict? I mean, how do you own land unconditionally but occupy it conditionally? Here's the answer: they're going to disobey God once they get in the land. God will send marauders in, foreigners in, who will take them captive to their land. And God will make it so miserable for them that they'll repent. And then God's heart will open up wide and he'll bring them back into the land and several years later, they'll blow it again and God will kick them out of the land, like he did in the Roman occupation. But when they turn to him again or when God just sovereignly decides to do it, he'll bring them back into the land like he did in 1948.

For centuries, Israel as a nation was without any land. It seemed that it would always be that way. In fact, in 1932, G. Campbell Morgan, one of my favorite Bible commentators, great historian, great Bible teacher, said these words, "I am now convinced that the teaching of the scripture as a whole is that there is no future for Israel as an earthly people at all." I can understand why he'd say that, it's been two thousand years, they're still out of the land. If he'd only have waited a few years. 1948, May 14th, the initiation of the state of Israel, literally, geographically, even politically. And they still stand today. Queen Victoria once asked her prime minister, they were having a discussion about the Bible. And she said, "Show me one thing that proves the scriptures are true." The prime minister smiled and said, "the Jew, madam. The Jew."

There's a big issue today, if you haven't been following it, you should, who owns the land of Israel, whose land is it? Does it belong to the Palestinians or the Jews? Do you know what the answer is? It belongs to God. Leviticus 25, "It's my land," he said, "and I'll give it to whoever I want." And he happened to give it to Abraham, and happened to give it to Isaac and happened to give it to Jacob and his descendants forever. And he can do that because it's his.

Let's finish off this chapter and look at a future destination. Keep in mind, Abram's sort of phasing in and out of sleep here, God makes this covenant. And now God predicts the future. Verse 13, he said to Abram, 'Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and will serve them and they will afflict them four hundred years. Also that nation whom they serve I will judge. Afterward they will come out with great possessions. As for you, you will go to your fathers in peace, you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they will return here for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. And it came to pass when the sun was going down, it was dark that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and burning torch that passed between the pieces on that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, 'To your descendants I have given (notice it's past tense, it's done) this land. From the river of Egypt to the great river to the river of the Euphrates and (all those nations that I just read a few minutes ago). So out of the horror of darkness, Abram sees this sight and hears the voice of God make a prediction of the future and of the future Israel as a nation. Number one, he predicts hardship for them, 'you're going to be slaves four hundred years' (which happened, didn't it? Joseph was sold to Egypt, he brought his brothers down there, there arose a pharaoh who knew not Egypt, Exodus chapters 1 and 2, they were slaves for four hundred years until God raised up Moses on the fourth generation exactly and delivered them out. No question Israel as a nation has suffered more than any nation in the world. I read an estimate that if the birth and death rate for the Jews was the same as the birth and death rate of the Gentiles, that today there would be two hundred million Jews alive. There are fifteen million, that's how they have been slaughtered and persecuted for centuries. Hardship for them is predicted.

Number two, judgment by them is predicted. Did you look at verse 16? God says, "For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." Now what does that mean? It simply meants this, Israel will be delivered but not yet. In fact, Israel will not be delivered until the pagans living in the land that Israel will inherit have run their course of sin. Do you know why? Because God is patient. God waited four hundred years, giving them a warning to repent, to turn, and they didn't do it. And so the very nation of Israel became the rod of punishment for these pagan nations, when it reached its measure.

And then the third thing God predicts is an inheritance given to them. Now the borders that I just mentioned, in verse 19, Israel has never enjoyed those borders, did you know that? When they got their land in 1948 and in 1967 when they got some more and if you go all the way back, even when they first occupied it, they never ever enjoyed all of those borders. And when you understand those borders, you understand why, they go all the way from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan; that hasn't happened yet, in fact a lot of those countries don't even want that little tiny land of Israel in that section of the Middle East. But one day, one day the promise to Abraham will be fulfilled, when in the millennial kingdom, when there is a literal thousand year reign of Messiah in Jerusalem, all of this land will be called Israel at that time.

Now I want you to just think of their history briefly as we wind this down. They went from Egypt as slaves, they went into the new land, they grew, they flourished, they got cocky, they disobeyed, they worshipped idols, God brought them out of the land to Babylon. They repented in Babylon, after seventy years they got back into the land. They grew, they flourished, they got a little bit cocky, they forgot the Lord; they became rigid, legalistic; the rejected their Messiah, they were booted out of the land in 70 AD and 72 AD. And they existed outside those borders until May 14, 1948 when God by his sovereign will brought them back into the land. And you know what? God still has a plan for this nation, God made a promise and he keeps on fulfilling it regardless of that nation, it's an unconditional covenant. Listen to what Nehemiah wrote, "In your great mercy you did not destroy them completely (referring to the captivity) nor abandon them forever, what a gracious and merciful God you are." Now today some people are worried about that little nation. I'm not, I'm not worried about Israel one bit. I worried about the nations who come against Israel. And I look historically, these great superpowers are little Podunk country villages because they went against God's people. Israel's going to be just fine. I know they're surrounded by millions and millions of people who want to destroy them. But I read ahead, you know they always say that the answers are in the back of the book, read Revelation 14 sometimes, you find 144,000, 12,000 Jews from each tribe; 144,000 Jews sealed by God, kept through the great tribulation, they become believers and evangelists during that period of time. Israel will be just fine, God makes his promise secure.

A few things I want you to walk away with: Number one, God initiates, man responds. Think of salvation, think of the incarnation, think of the cross, that's God's way of saving, "I love you, I'll save you." Now the choice is up to you. He won't force you and you won't automatically go to heaven, but he's initiated. Will you respond? Number two, Gods' promises are based on God, his character and his track record. And if you look at his character and you look at his track record, you'll have to say tonight, he's reliable, he can handle my rent payment, he can handle this bad marriage that I'm going through, this disagreement, he can handle what's happening with me at work, he can handle my future. And number three, out of the darkest times come the brightest hopes. Abram on that dark night of the soul, wrestling with this issue, God raised his eyes up to see a bright future. God made a covenant with Abram that day, that night and God has kept it time after time after unfaithfulness of the people, after the sin of the people, after a dispersion, after a captivity, but he's always brought them back to fulfill this promise.

Now I've got to tell you folks, he's done it with us. Did you know that God made a covenant with us? It's called the new covenant. And he's also sealed it in blood, not the blood of an animal but the blood of his son who also encountered three hours of darkness on a cross and was forsaken by his Father so that God would never have to forsake you. That's a covenant sealed with blood. And because of Jesus' death, we will never perish, we will never be snatched out of his hand. So I want to bring it down to one central thought: if all of that's true, and it is, when will we learn to trust him? When will we learn to go through life relaxing just a bit more because we trust him? In fact, when will we learn to enjoy the ride a bit more? If God has you in his hand and he has made those promises to you, how come you live like this? You should just go, "Oh yeah. God's in control, whew." That's the way to live.

You've heard that illustration, it's been around for years, it's called Footprints. Remember the dream about the guy who had footprints in the sand and one was his, one was the Lord's 'and I carried you.' Here's a new version of it: Imagine you and Jesus walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord's footprints go along steadily consistently rarely varying the pace. But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags. Starts, stops, turnarounds, departures and returns. Gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's soon paralleling his consistently. You and Jesus are walking as true friends. Then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus are now walking precisely in his steps. Inside his larger footprints are your smaller ones, you and Jesus are becoming one. This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change: the footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger, eventually they disappear all together. There's only now one set of footprints, they have become one. This goes on for along time and then suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse, zigzags all over the place. Stops, starts, gashes in the sand, a variable mess of prints. You're amazed and shocked. And in your dream you pray, "Lord, I understand the first scene with the zigzags, I was a new Christian, I was learning. But you walked on through the storm and helped me to learn how to walk with you." "That is correct," the Lord says. "And when the smaller footprints were inside yours, I was actually learning to walk in your steps." "Very good," the Lord continues, "you've understood everything so far." You continue, "When the smaller footprints grew and filled yours, I suppose I was becoming like you in every way." "Precisely," says the Lord. "So Lord, I don't understand what went wrong, the footprints separated and this time it was worst the first." And there's a long pause, Jesus answers with a smile, "Oh you didn't know? That's when we danced." How about that for a metaphor to walk away with? Dance with him, enjoy the journey, relax a little bit. "How come?" Because the one who made the promises to you is God. Aren't you glad he's God and not me or you? Amen.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, you are God, you have a track record of faithfulness, you delivered us from sin and we believe you're going to deliver us all the way to heaven, all the way through the gates of glory. We really have nothing to fear, because you know our future, you predicted it to Abram and you made a covenant with him, one that he could understand but it was solely based upon you. He really didn't have a part of it except to observe and receive it, a covenant sealed in blood that was shed. But our covenant is based on an even more sacred bloodline, for it was the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh that enables us to have an eternal covenant and because you died on the cross Lord Jesus, we will never perish. We can walk away tonight enjoying the journey. Help us to do that. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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7/20/2003
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The Past: Guidepost Or Hitching Post?
Genesis 11:27-32
Skip Heitzig
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Today we embark on a new journey, studying the life of Abraham. I'm calling it, Making Your Mark. Abraham made his mark deep within the fabric of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. More than that, Scripture exonerates him as being an example of faith. But what about his past? How did he begin his journey of faith? You may find striking parallels to your own spiritual experience as we see five experiences that shaped Abraham's earlier life. Let’s learn the first steps in how to leave our mark of influence in our own culture.
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7/27/2003
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Buckle Up! You're Going on an Adventure!
Genesis 12:1-9
Skip Heitzig
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Have you ever thought of life as an adventure? Most people don't. Daily life becomes the daily grind as many just survive: eking out a tasteless and meaningless existence hoping something better comes along in the future. There's one factor that can make all the difference—it's called God's will! To live life according to God's promises and commands, even though difficult at times, will be the most exciting way to make your journey through this life. In this second study on Abraham, Making Your Mark, let's see three principles that brought this sense of adventure.
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8/3/2003
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Warning: Doubt Can Be Hazardous To Your Health!
Genesis 12:10-20
Skip Heitzig
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Doubting God's promises is often the foundational reason we don't experience His blessing. The children of Israel wandered for forty years before entering the Land. Why? "They were not allowed to enter his rest because of their unbelief" (Hebrews 11:19). Their legacy was often to doubt, for the Psalmist says that they, "limited the Holy One of Israel" (Ps. 78:41). Now, even Abraham, the father of faith, struggles with trusting the most trustworthy Being that ever was!
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8/8/2003
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Two Men Under One Microscope
Genesis 13
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8/17/2003
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The Glimmer of the Godly in a Cauldron of Crisis
Genesis 14
Skip Heitzig
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8/24/2003
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The Journey from Fear to Faith
Genesis 15:1-6
Skip Heitzig
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9/14/2003
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Taking the Long Way Around
Genesis 16
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9/21/2003
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A New Start for an Old Soldier
Genesis 17:1-8
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9/28/2003
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When God Makes His Mark
Genesis 17:9-27
Skip Heitzig
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10/5/2003
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How To Be God's Friend
Genesis 18:1-15
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10/12/2003
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Have I Got Plans For You!
Genesis 18:16-33
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10/19/2003
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Shock and Awe!
Genesis 19:23-29
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10/26/2003
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Re-run of a Star's Worst Episode
Genesis 20
Skip Heitzig
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The basic idea: Even after years have gone by, years of growth for Abraham, he relapsed into old behavior patterns. The sin principle is always a problem, even for the Christian. If the "old ways" are not sufficiently dealt with, they will grow and threaten to undo us. We look at four scenes in this rerun episode of Abraham, revealing how seriously this battle between the flesh and the spirit really is.
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11/9/2003
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The Gift of Laughter for Senior Citizens
Genesis 21:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Abraham is old here (age 100—a centenarian). His wife Sarah delivers the child promised by God (Isaac) and the result is joy and laughter. We learn five things about the nature of God in this passage.
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11/16/2003
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Faith... For Better or For Worse
Genesis 22:1-19
Skip Heitzig
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Skip speaks about the greatest test of Abraham's life and how he responded to it.
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11/23/2003
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Funeral for a Princess
Genesis 23
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This message highlights the death of Sarah and her husband's response.
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12/7/2003
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Passing the Baton
Genesis 24
Skip Heitzig
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Abraham was the recipient of God's promises and blessing for many years. Now it's time to make sure that his son Isaac will also make his mark and inherit the promises of God. Abraham wants to pass the mantle of patriarch and the baton of blessing to his son by ensuring he marries the right person and continues the family line so that "all the nations of the earth will be blessed," as God had promised. What are the key principles for such an endeavor?
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12/14/2003
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A Senior Saint's Sunset Years
Genesis 25:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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Skip looks at Abraham's obituary as given in Genesis 25. After following his life from his call to leave his homeland, we now come to his last breath and subsequent burial. Encouragement and instruction for facing our own mortality will be considered.
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There are 18 additional messages in this series.
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