Monday, 10 January 2011

Off you go....?

I am working through the E100 programme – as are most of the church, and a couple of last week’s readings really challenged me. You know what it is like when you read something you have literally read hundreds of times but suddenly it springs to life in a totally new way and you know that God’s Word isn’t just alive ‘out there’ or ‘in someone else’ but in you!

In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul tells Timothy the kind of things that he should expect to happen when reading or teaching God’s Word:
Teaching, reproving, correcting and training, or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message:

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

Sometimes I find all four happen at once.......and I guess that is a reflection of how far I have yet to travel!
Anyway as I read through Genesis 11 and into Genesis 12 we find the whole of the ‘Abram family’ (yes, he hasn’t been ‘renamed’ Abraham yet) are on the move. Terah the father and the rest of them have set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. However, they never get there because somewhere on the way they found a place, Harran, that they liked the look of. They settled there, put down roots, got comfortable and got on with their lives.
Until that is, we reach Gen 12, and God prods Abram something, I imagine, like this:

G: Oi, Abram, what happened?
A: Ummm, excuse me?
G: You were on a journey, but you seem to be on the longest ‘comfort break’ in history...
A: Well, Lord, it’s like this.....
G: I know what it’s like.. you got more comfortable with ‘settled’ than with ‘journey’, go on, off you go....
A: Where Lord?
G: To a land I will show you... – you, your wife, your nephew
A: Any clues Lord, even North, South, East or West would be a start....
G: Just go will you, I’ll give you directions once you’ve set off! – oh and you can take some stuff with you..
A: What stuff?
G: Oh, possessions and a few people, you know.....stuff

And off Abram went.....

It was at that point that the word that shows us truth also became the word that challenges – exposes rebellion, corrects and sets us off on a new phase of training....

What represents ‘Harran’ in our lives? Where is it that we have settled and made ourselves comfortable when, in fact, we should have simply moved on through as part of our journey?
It could be an activity, habitual or otherwise, that is not part of God’s travel plan for us, but we prefer to settle there rather than journey to the place God will show us.

It could be an attitude or a way of doing things or indeed of not doing things. Are there areas where we have settled within our comfort zones and are in the business of putting down roots, rather than stepping out into the things God has for us, all the time knowing that we are not where He wants us to be?
It feels a lot like Paul’s ‘that which I want to do, I don’t do, and that which I don’t want to do, I keep on doing. When God said ‘Go’ to Abram it was a command, a challenge and an invitation to break a cycle and continue on the journey. It was an invitation to discover both a new level of personal faith and God’s faithfulness and provision. It is a challenge and invitation He made to me as I read this story again. I know the areas of my life where the challenge was issued and I know that the invitation is not to be refused. Does any of this ring bells?

Finally, I like the way that Abram was not told to leave empty handed, but to take stuff on the journey. There are things in our lives that are important to take with us for different reasons. There are those things God has done, or has given, that will strengthen and encourage us and there are those things that we have gathered – experiences, lessons, relationships, even the bad ones, that can serve to teach, to warn and to strengthen resolve to carry on with the journey and, importantly, to increase even further the value and wonder of the invitation.