Where Each Story Leads…

Over the past weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve shared a series of messages through the inspiring stories retold in Hebrews 11 called Incredible Faith.

Here’s the capstone message…

We revisit these messages from past weeks and the central theme behind each…

~Incredible Faith is Something I’ve Never Done Before.

~Seeking the Father Heart of God

~Incredible Faith: Noah

~Incredible Faith: Abraham & Sarah

~Incredible Faith: Joseph

~Incredible Faith: Moses

It all points to a powerful truth nestled in Hebrews 12:1-2

Photo by Bianca G. on Pexels.com

-What joy propels you? 

-What risk is before you?

Incredible Faith – Moses

In the life of Moses, we discover that we are called to live by faith, having the courage to…

  1. Follow the unseen plan of God (Hebrews 11:23).
  2. Identify with the people of God (vv. 24-25).
  3.  Embrace the mission of Christ (vv. 26-27). 
  4. Celebrate deliverance before it comes (v. 28).
  5.  Step out in obedience (v. 29). 
Photo by Mat Reding on Pexels.com

Incredible Faith – Joseph

If you had to pick one thing that stands out to you from the life of Joseph, what would it be?

In Hebrews 11:22, the Holy Spirit highlights one thing… one defining scene from the life of this hero of the faith. Before you look it up or listen to the message below, what do you think it is?

Hint: it may not be what you expected!

Did your Joseph highlight reel match what Hebrews 11 underscores?

Did “his bones” even make your top ten list?

What will you leave as your legacy for future generations?

Photo by Andreas Fickl on Pexels.com

“Go!” said the LORD.

I started this message on the incredible faith of Abraham & Sarah from Hebrews 11:8-19 with a retelling of Genesis 12:1-4 and 15:3-6.

In what ways does the faith journey of Abraham & Sarah encourage you?

Which parts challenge you?

What is your “I will…” (your next step to “go”)?

Who will you share with what you discovered?

“Abraham, Abraham…” said the LORD.

“LORD, is that You?” Abraham asked.

“Yes, My child,” He responded tenderly. “I have something I want to say to you.”

With eagerness, Abraham shot back, Well, speak, LORD! I’m listening. I will do whatever You say and go wherever You ask me to go!”

“I know, Abraham. That’s why I’m calling you today. I have put that faith in your heart, so you will trust Me wherever I send you,” He said.

Bubbling over with excitement: “Thank You, LORD! Praise You, LORD! I do trust You. I love You. Thank You for speaking to me and thank You for calling me and thank You for loving me and…”

“ABRAHAM. Abraham,” His strong voice echoed.  “I am calling you… to leave your home country, the people you know, the land you’re accustomed to, even your father’s family – and go!”

“Go? LORD, go where?” the man of faith wondered.

The firm and loving One replied: “Go… to the land I will show you.”

Shaking but believing, His son said, “Go… Okay, go. And You will show me where to go. What should I do in this new land where You are sending me?”

Abraham, do you trust Me?”

Yes, LORD! I trust You with all of my heart,” Abraham immediately responded.

“Abraham, I’ll show you what you must do in this new land,” the ever-gracious One said.

Again thinking out loud as he wondered: “What about my wife?”

“Bring your wife with you of course,” the compassionate Father said.

Abraham processed aloud, “When we go to this new land that You will show us and we do what you will tell us to do, what will happen to us?”

“Abraham, do you trust Me?”

Abraham said, “Yes, LORD! I trust You with all I am. And then some… I trust You, because You have taught me and You help me to trust You!”

The LORD promised, “Abraham, I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever speaks against you I will curse. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. I am going to send the Savior through your family.”

“LORD, I trust You,” the man of God confessed.  “I believe what You say is true. At the same time, You have given me no children, and I am already an old man. My body is as good as dead.”

“Abraham, do you trust Me?”

“Yes, LORD! Oh, I trust You,” Abraham said from the deepest part of his being.  “You are God, and You can be fully trusted always. Everything You do is good, and everything You say is true and right.”

With a gentle hand, the LORD lifted his son’s gaze heavenward: “Abraham, look up and count the stars. If you can…” He said with a love-laced chuckle.  “This is how many children your family will have. Every person who believes in My Messiah will join your family of faith. Because you believe, you are right with Me, and we are close friends.”

“LORD, let’s go,” His son Abraham responded, exploding with anticipation.  “I will listen. I will follow You. I will… Wherever You lead, let’s go together.”

“Yes, Abraham, I will be with you every step of the way. I will always keep My promises to you – no matter what happens. I will speak to you, and you will follow Me. And you will speak My words to others. Let’s go,” said the LORD. “For I will be with you.”

(A retelling of Genesis 12:1-4 and 15:3-6)

Incredible Faith – Noah

What does faith look like? In fact, what in the world is it?

~Is it something etherial that’s near impossible to wrap our arms around?
~Is it just superstition, something we muster up in an attempt to be spiritual?


Or is it something quite powerful that we can experience, express, and walk out every day?

If you know me, you probably know my answer.

Hebrews 11 is chock full of examples of people who lived, loved, and walked by faith!

Today, I got to share a message about one of these everyday people, who lived with incredible faith, and how faith changed his life, his family, and the course of human history…

Artwork: “The Celebration” by Tom duBois

Hebrews 11 is chock full of examples of people who lived, loved, and walked by faith!

What stands out most to you from the story of Noah and his family?

How will you apply these discoveries in your life? Who will you share with?

Something I’ve Never Done Before

Growing up, our parents would often send us to camp or on field trips with disposable, single-use cameras. I remember the excitement of waiting for the film to be developed and ready for pick up!

As I prepared a message from Hebrews 11 this Sunday (6/14), “Something I’ve Never Done Before,” part of a series called Incredible Faith, I reflected on the power of remembering that pictures provide us…

I took a walk down Memory Lane with a photo album, I dug out of a storage bin.

As a kid, I think I looked so longingly toward getting those pictures developed, because they allowed me to remember and to retell the stories!

What are some family pictures that are most meaningful to you and your loved ones?

What memories do you plan to hold onto, as long as you live? Are there any that you hope to retell in eternity?

As a kid, I think I looked so longingly toward getting pictures developed, because they allowed me to remember and to retell the stories!

Photo by Magdalena from StockSnap

I will…

In recent years, we’ve been on a journey, discovering more and more of what it looks like to follow our Lord Jesus in loving obedience.

James is a great book on this topic filled with Jewish-style wisdom from a Jesus-loving Jewish leader, James the brother of the Messiah.  His focus isn’t primarily doctrine or logic but the practical outworking of our faith, how faith works out in everyday life.

According to Dr. Gordon Fee, James is “…the New Testament counterpart of the Jewish Wisdom tradition, now in light of the teachings of Jesus.”

My heart’s desire is to grow as a disciple of Jesus, following in His footsteps (1 John 2:6).  As I spend time in His Word, I’m developing the habits of:

  1. identifying a specific way “I will…” put into practice in my life what I’m learning. 
  2. sharing with someone else who might benefit or be encouraged by something I’m learning.

I recently shared a message on some of these themes from James 1:19-27 at our dear friend’s church in Rochester, NY.  I pray hearing it will stir in you a similar desire to walk out your faith.

As you listen…

~What’s your “I will…” (your next step of obedience)?

~Who do you feel prompted to share with?

"Go!" said the LORD.

“Abraham, Abraham…” said the LORD.

“LORD, is that You?” Abraham asked.

“Yes, My child,” He responded tenderly. “I have something I want to say to you.”

With eagerness, Abraham shot back, Well, speak, LORD! I’m listening. I will do whatever You say and go wherever You ask me to go!”

“I know, Abraham. That’s why I’m calling you today. I have put that faith in your heart, so you will trust Me wherever I send you,” He said.

Bubbling over with excitement: “Thank You, LORD! Praise You, LORD! I do trust You. I love You. Thank You for speaking to me and thank You for calling me and thank You for loving me and…”

“ABRAHAM. Abraham,” His strong voice echoed.  “I am calling you… to leave your home country, the people you know, the land you’re accustomed to, even your father’s family – and go!”

“Go? LORD, go where?” the man of faith wondered.

The firm and loving One replied: “Go… to the land I will show you.”

Shaking but believing, His son said, “Go… Okay, go. And You will show me where to go. What should I do in this new land where You are sending me?”

Abraham, do you trust Me?”

Yes, LORD! I trust You with all of my heart,” Abraham immediately responded.

“Abraham, I’ll show you what you must do in this new land,” the ever-gracious One said.

Again thinking out loud as he wondered: “What about my wife?”

“Bring your wife with you of course,” the compassionate Father said.

Abraham processed aloud, “When we go to this new land that You will show us and we do what you will tell us to do, what will happen to us?”

“Abraham, do you trust Me?”

Abraham said, “Yes, LORD! I trust You with all I am. And then some… I trust You, because You have taught me and You help me to trust You!”

The LORD promised, “Abraham, I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever speaks against you I will curse. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. I am going to send the Savior through your family.”

“LORD, I trust You,” the man of God confessed.  “I believe what You say is true. At the same time, You have given me no children, and I am already an old man. My body is as good as dead.”

“Abraham, do you trust Me?”

“Yes, LORD! Oh, I trust You,” Abraham said from the deepest part of his being.  “You are God, and You can be fully trusted always. Everything You do is good, and everything You say is true and right.”

With a gentle hand, the LORD lifted his son’s gaze heavenward: “Abraham, look up and count the stars. If you can…” He said with a love-laced chuckle.  “This is how many children your family will have. Every person who believes in My Messiah will join your family of faith. Because you believe, you are right with Me, and we are close friends.”

“LORD, let’s go,” His son Abraham responded, exploding with anticipation.  “I will listen. I will follow You. I will… Wherever You lead, let’s go together.”

“Yes, Abraham, I will be with you every step of the way. I will always keep My promises to you – no matter what happens. I will speak to you, and you will follow Me. And you will speak My words to others. Let’s go,” said the LORD. “For I will be with you.”

(A retelling of Genesis 12:1-4 and 15:3-6)

Wedding Symbolism

The marriage covenant is an eternal promise based on the truth of God’s Word, rooted in Christ’s love, and centered on His steadfast character.

*Marriage as a picture of the Gospel relationship:
The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with those who love Him (Ephesians 5:29-33).  Each of us has turned away from right relationship with the God who loves us.  God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, clearly reveals our selfishness.  By loving others more than the LORD, lying, hating, lusting, and refusing to forgive, we have pushed ourselves away from relationship with Him.  
If we come to God trying to earn His love or to deserve a place in Heaven because of our good works, we will never know Him.  Our sin has separated us from Jesus, and we deserve only God’s judgment in Hell.  However, He wants us to experience His love and a close relationship with Jesus that marriage was designed to depict.
The good news is that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth.  He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead!  As a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will come again for all those who have turned from sin and put their trust in Him.  Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves.  He paid the bride price with His own life.  Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and sacrificing for the good of their wives. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by cooperating with their husbands – that together the couple might be ministry partners for the Master.
Jesus calls you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20).  Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever.  Are you in right relationship with God?  Have you fully trusted your heart and life to Jesus?  In an act of bold love, He invites you to do so today.

 

assorted signage decors
Photo by Craig Adderley

*Bridal party walking down the center aisle in participation:
Walking down the center aisle is based on a tradition from the Bible.  The LORD made a promise to bless Abraham, who was a forefather of Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 15:9-21, the LORD instructed Abraham to sacrifice several animals, cutting them in half and laying them on the ground.  Two parties making a covenant would confirm their agreement by walking between these two halves of an offering that had been split in two.  In Genesis 15, only the LORD walked down the center aisle, because it was His sole responsibility to unconditionally uphold His promise to Abraham’s descendants.  Abraham was asleep.  We walk down the center aisle today as a symbol of involvement, either as participants or witnesses, in this marriage covenant.
*Vows as terms of our covenant:
In the Bible, the LORD made many promises to His people.  God is always faithful, perfectly upholding His vows to love and provide.  In Exodus 20, after the LORD delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God and His people exchanged vows.  We call these vows the Ten Commandments.  In verse 1, He begins by stating who He is and reminding His people that He set them free from their bondage.  The ten commands that follow are the vows that His loved ones promised to uphold in the relationship that they would enjoy with their God.  Today, the New Testament provides many examples of promises that the Lord Jesus made to His Bride, the Church.  Our vows today are the terms of our life-long covenant relationship with each other.

 

love rings wedding bible
Photo by Caio

*Rings as visual symbols of our lifetime commitment:
We have chosen to exchange circular wedding rings as a continual sign of our marriage, serving both to announce to others and to remind us of our vows.  A circle is a shape without starting or ending point.  It symbolizes the eternal nature of God, who is without beginning or end.  The Trinity – the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – has always existed and always will (Genesis 1:26).  This eternal God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6).  He empowers us to remain faithful in our marriage, as He has first been faithful to us.  1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” 
*Salt covenant as a sign of irreversible partnership:
In biblical times, when two people wanted to make a covenant promise of loyalty, each would take some salt from a pouch carried on the belt and sprinkle it into the other’s pouch.  Both would then shake their pouches, intermingling forever the grains of salt.  Just as the individual grains of salt could never be taken back, their covenant would never be broken.  The LORD also included salt in covenants that He made with His people (Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5).

 

bright burn burnt candle
*Unity candle as a symbol of our new united family:
The Bible records that Eve first introduced sin’s darkness into the human heart (Genesis 3:6).  However, God also brought Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, through a descendant of Eve, a woman named Mary (John 8:12; 9:5; Luke 1:30-35).  As followers of Jesus, we have been called by Christ to be light in this world (Matthew 5:14-16).  Because they brought us into the world, we have chosen to have our biological mothers light candles representing all of our family relationships.  In a beautiful way, we leave and cleave to each other, forming a new family of our own, which includes our extended families.  The unity candle in the center represents this union of two people and two lives joined by Jesus Christ to become one.

 

heart shaped candle
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Overcoming fear

We experience fear so often that many learn to live with it and tolerate it, as if fear is immovable.

 
Fear is no excuse for disobeying our Lord’s clear commission to make disciples. If we have faith in Jesus the size of a mustard seed, we can overcome the mountain of fear (Matthew 17:20). 


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Romans 14:23 explains, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” When we’re plagued by fear, we must confess our sin to the Lord Jesus and receive His unconditional love anew. His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). If we are willing to humbly ask, Jesus is willing to increase our faith and help our unbelief (Mark 9:24). 


All the power we need is available to us as we rely on the Holy Spirit and surrender to Him. He empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8). We can remind ourselves of God’s promises to be with us, to empower us, and to draw near to us.
 
When we confess fear and surrender our feelings to the Lord Jesus, we can step out in faith and bold love to witness.
 

Is it really that simple?  What roadblocks have you experienced as you seek to step out of your comfort zone with faith and bold love?