Risk with an unknown future (Genesis 12)



Everyone knows the damage that is done or can be had when a person is driving while intoxicated. Additionally, the past couple of years have surged a new form of DWI’s – Driving While Intexticated (cell phone texting).[1] 

  • 47% of texting adults say they have sent or read a text while driving
  • 75% of cell-owning adults say they have talked on a cell while driving
  • 49% of adults say they have been in a car when the driver was texting
  • 82% of Americans own cell phones, and 17% say they have bumped into another person or object while talking or texting on their cell phone. That is fully 14% of all Americans.
  • 23% of all auto collisions involved cell phone usage – that’s 1.3 million crashes.
  • 23x more likely to crash if you are driving while using a cell phone.
  • Yet 77% of people say they are somewhat confident they can text & drive safely.
  • 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2012
  • ~ 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012.
  • 5 seconds is the average time your eyes go off the road while texting and generally that’s the length of driving more than a football field.


Distractions are dangerous and can be deadly.

This is also true spiritually. Too many Christians drift and coast spiritually. Seldom does anyone ever drift towards their dreams. Distractions lead to drift. Simply put, distractions are often the result of not paying attention. “Attention determines direction and ultimately our destination.”[2]


Think about what captures your attention

  • May be a piece of furniture or artwork when entering a room
  • May be the smell of morning coffee and fried bacon
  • May be a new business opportunity
  • May be a person with pretty eyes and cute smile
  • May be a thick tension-filled room that causes you to remain silent

Hopefully today it

  • May be a message that God is speaking to your heart and life.


Today’s message is about a man who had many distractions in his life but something greater captured his attention – the call of God. logo_1


EXAMINE   Genesis 11:27 – 12:9                      Title: RiSK with an uncertain future

The book of Genesis shows humanity’s failure and God’s faithfulness. In Genesis 1-11 humanity has failed 3 major times: 1) Eve with Adam where all humanity became under the curse of sin, 2) Noah’s day where all humanity was corrupt and continually wicked. Only 8 people were spared. 3) The Tower of Babel where the nations were many and attempted to build a city to their own glory and conquer God’s glory. Yet, God confused and dispersed them into multiple languages. Humanity has been a failure.


The line of Shem will be the line of promise (cf. Gen 3:15; Mat 1:2; Lk 3:36). The future looked bleak.

  • Terah (name sounds like word for “moon”) was from Ur of the Chaldeans (Babylon); a people who were idolatrous and worshiped the moon.
  • Terah appears to lack persistence as he set out from Ur to go into Canaan but he settled in Haran. The phrase “settled” harkens back to the earlier peoples who rebelled against God (Gen 11:1) and ultimately the fact that humanity did not “fill the earth” (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:1).
  • Terah’s son Abram has a wife who is barren.


God’s faithfulness can be seen in 3 ways that inspire faith and risk for us today.

Abraham risked with faith because God’s calling was personal.

The Lord spoke to Abram. God knew all about Abram: His birth place and people, his family and sense of need. God was sovereign of all of human history. God saw all of humanity’s failures and it was His faithfulness that would give them hope and a future.

God’s calling to Abram is personal to him as an individual. In fact, Abram (father) will have his name changed in Genesis 17:5 to Abraham (father of multitude). This was the sign of God’s calling to transform Abraham & Sarai from barrenness to blessing. At one point the Lord tells Abraham “ I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth” (Gen 13:16) and then another time, “look toward heaven and number the stars – so shall your offspring be” (Gen 15:5).


As a result of God’s personal calling we often see Abraham worshiping God at special places.

  • Altar of hope. In Gen 12:7 Abraham builds an altar at Shechem trusting God’s promise.
  • Altar of perseverance. In Gen 12:8 Abraham journeys toward the new land and builds an altar between Bethel (“house of God”) and Ai (“ruins”).
  • Altar of assurance. In Gen 13:18 Abraham builds an altar by the oaks of Mamre at Hebron because of God’s continued promise.
  • Altar of sacrifice and provision. In Gen 22:9, 14 Abraham builds an altar to fully obey God with son Isaac where God provides.


Altars represent times when God grabbed our attention and we worshiped Him with faith and obedience. It is mentioned 334x in the Bible as a place of worship.


Altars alter your life.

  • Mine: Bedtime prayers, BBC, City block in Philly, Sidewalk at CN, Picnic tables at MPNICA
  • Where are your altars?
    • You will never live a life of legacy without an altar.
    • If you don’t have an altar meeting with God…
      • Start with the cross and empty tomb (cf. Hebrews 13:10)
      • Surrender today to God saying, “Here am I…”
      • Take a Prayerwalk or spiritual retreat
      • Altars happen in adventure… Take a risk. Go somewhere out of comfort zone.
      • Altars were made out of rocks – hard things. God wants to build something from the hard places of your life.


Abraham risked with faith because God’s promise was certain.

God gave a command and a promise. The command was to “Go”; the KJV says “Get thee out”. The call came to Abraham some time when he was in Ur (Babylon). He was to leave and go to an unknown place that would be revealed by an unsparing God.

God’s unsparing nature: “I will” mentioned 6x in Gen 12:1-9. This shows that the guarantee of it coming true is depended upon God and not Abraham. God’s gifts are satisfaction guaranteed.

God promised to bless Abraham at least three-fold:

  • A great nation
  • A great name
  • A great legacy to bless others


God takes joy in blessing and giving grace. It’s like tidal waves flowing with blessing.

  • In our mission trip to Nicaragua we take t-shirts, pillow case dresses, bowls, crayons, booklets, bracelets & necklaces. Each of our team members have assigned roles of items to handout. Honestly, it’s kind of a tie between two items to give out: dresses and bowls. There is something special about sizing the right dress to a little girl and seeing her look at its colors, ribbons, and bows and just go away with a smile. Likewise, pouring rice into a bowl to hand to a hungry child – knowing it is likely his or her only meal for the day – could not be more humbling and meaningful. Sharing each of these gifts gives new meanings to Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
    • Jesus knows the blessing of giving from creation to the cross.


Notice Abraham’s response to God’s certain promise:

12:4 “So Abram went, as the Lord told him…”

12:5 “Abram took his family and possessions and they set out…”

12:6-7 “The Canaanites were in the land… the Lord appeared [with His certain promise] and so Abram build an altar to the Lord”


Abraham could have been distracted and doubted God’s promise by returning home to Haran. Yet, he trusted God’s promise was certain. We can risk in the present because God is certain of the future.

Corrie ten Boom understood this. During the Nazi holocaust, she trusted God as she hid Jews and helped them escape to safety. Her fear was driven out by the certainty of her God. As she said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”


The response was faith and risk.

Hebrews 11:8-13 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.


Faithfulness is not holding the fort but forging ahead in faith and risk. In 1812 William Milne left to be a missionary in China. With his family he purchased one-way tickets. And instead of suitcases they literally packed their belongings in coffins. They said out of port leaving everything and everyone they loved behind, never to return home. Milne lived for 20+ years in China and when he died the people buried him in the middle of their village and inscribed this epitaph on his tombstone: “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.

In studying the Chinese language he said, “Learning the Chinese language requires bodies of iron, lungs of brass, heads of oak, hands of spring steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels, and lives of Methuselah.”

  • Abraham went all-in. William Milne went all-in. What holds you from going all-in?
  • What is something you would do if you believed you wouldn’t fail or you wouldn’t lack for resources?
  • What is something that you could not accomplish and finish on your own without a large group of people and ultimately the hand of God?


Abraham risked with faith because God’s name was great.

God’s blessing upon Abraham was so compelling that he followed fully and obeyed completely. He had a vision for the Lord and called upon His name (Gen 12:8).

Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the great classical musicians. He wrote 256 cantatas, one of his most popular is Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Nearly four centuries later it is a classic at wedding ceremonies. Interestingly, Bach’s cantatas did not originate as music but were prayers before they were songs. Before Bach started scoring a sheet of music he would write at the top “J.J. – Jesus juva”, which means “Jesus help me.” Then at the completion of every composition he would inscribe three letters in the margin: “SDG”. These letters stood for the Latin phrase, Soli Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone. Soli Deo Gloria was one of the rallying cries of the Protestant Reformation.[3]

Bach personalized living for God’s glory. So can you. Your life is a sheet of music played to the tune of God’s glory.

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”




There is one greater than Abraham and us who heard the call, left His Father’s house and risked everything including His own life. Therefore, the Father made the Son a blessing to others.

Jesus gave up safety so that we could gain eternal security.

Jesus left His Father so that we could gain a Heavenly Father.

Through faith in the Son, we can be partakers of God’s promise to Abraham.


Galatians 3:9 “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”


“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void…That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring” (Rom 4:13-14, 16)


What place or people is God calling you to leave?


Where’s your altar of worship? What are you laying on the altar for the glory of God?


What’s the risk for you in light of God’s personal calling / certain promise / worthy name???


[1] Statistics from http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/research.html and http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats/

[2] Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path to where you want to be, p.136.

[3] Inspired by Mark Batterson, All In.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wanda Murray says:


    Sorry I couldn’t stay for the whole sermon!

    They were having a prayer of blessing for Jordan at “The Well” before she takes off for her mission training this Thursday . She had been a big part in getting it up and going with her mom. (Grandchildren CAN be a real blessing!) When I saw this post , I thought of the awesome risk Joe and Mandy took in buying the building on Pennington Avenue for that ministry. Not a great investment real estate wise but a wonderful investment in the lives of people in Curtis Bay. Look what God is doing there because they chose to obey! He raised up a church also and it is growing!

    Wanda Murray

    Cell: 410-245-1386

    RE/MAX Executive

    8432 Veterans Highway

    Millersville, MD 21108

    E-mail: wandamurray@remax.net

    Website: http://www.wandamurray.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s