Leaving Haran

Being fully committed to God should be a goal of every Christian.

Linn Winters
Jan 15, 2017    37m
We should plan on being fully committed to God. Stopping short of what God fully plans for us leads us to shortchange ourselves from our full potential. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Pastor Linn: 00:51 Hey Cornerstone, how you doin', super excited about today where we're starting out in a new series called Experiencing God. And if you've never done the Experiencing God series I'm just telling you you are in for an absolute treat. We actually did this series about five years ago and since then they've actually kind of modified the study guide. They've become more streamlined. It's just been redone and we thought man if, if it's better than what we did five years ago then it's going to be amazing. So I just want to encourage you to be part of this to just let God speak to your heart and do whatever he's going to do with you over the next few weeks. One way to just take this completely to the next level is for you to pick up a study guide. So these are out on the patio. If you're at one of our multi-sites, that will be at the info booth but to grab one of these, what's going to happen is every single week you and I are going to have the conversation in here.

Pastor Linn: 01:42 This has the opportunity for you to go a little bit deeper. Go a little bit further. It's got some super short daily devotions you can do. They're just going to kind of amplify what we've talked about. But the most powerful way to do this is to do it in community, to have someone that your doing this with, if not a group of people that you're doing it with. This is my fourth time through experiencing God and I will tell you that every single time I go through I'll run into a chapter somewhere and I'll go, "Man, I don't remember that." And it, it just didn't seem to speak to me this time. And I thought last time all of the chapters spoke to me and then I'll get to the group time where we're meeting and somebody who answered exactly the same questions as I did this, man this, was the best chapter ever, let me tell you what God spoke to me, and also you go, "Oh my goodness I totally missed that. I didn't even think about it that way and that's life changing to hear that." And I'm just telling you this is better together. So when you go outside to pick up of one of the books if you're not already part of a small group or part of one of our small churches or men's ministry or women's ministry then you can just go out there and say, "Hey, I've got three friends and we're going to just do this together. Just wanted you to know we're going to do that." If you don't have any friends we will assign you friends okay? For a short period of time for eight weeks we'll, we'll find some people to hang out with you and you can do the book. At the very, very least do it with your spouse. Just say hey we're going to take some time and we're going to do this together and just see what I'm going to do. I'm just telling you this becomes completely different when you're doing the study guide for it. It's absolutely worth it. Okay, so think about doing that.

Pastor Linn: 03:25 Experiencing God. We talk about God. We pray to God, we come to church, we sing to God, we study God. But the question is do we actually experience God. I mean the way that he intended for you and me to experience him, or is he simply something we observe from a distance. How many have had a dry spell in your Christian walk at some point? Okay, all of you that are not raising your hands you've only been a Christian for a week, and I'm just, it's just the only answer to that. Because let's just be honest. We've all had moments we felt a little dry and you just kind of felt like I'm putting one foot in front of my other. I'm just trying to follow Christ as faithfully as I can. What do you do though when that dry season feels like something other than a season, other than a blip on the radar? What do you do when you get to a moment where you go you know what, God actually feels distant to me right now. He just seems further away than I've ever felt like he was in my life. And it's one of those moments when you go and you pray and you just go man, it doesn't feel like anyone's even listening to my prayers. And you just want to say to God, "Hey God look, I took time, I took time out of my busy schedule to come meet with you, the least you can do is listen." You read your Bible and you get to one of the genealogies and all of a sudden it's Meshivoshef begat, I need a haircut, begat, it's a bowl thing, I mean who names their kids those names, and then you go how much did those parents hate their children to do that to them.

Pastor Linn: 05:14 You get to a Sunday sermon you're walking out to the car and before you even get there you're turning to your spouse and you're going, "I don't think he had a clue what he was talking about because I sure don't." And you all of a sudden just go, it just this, this probably is not what God intended, this just feels like God is at a distance right now. And if you've ever felt that way or maybe or even in a season like that right now in your life then this is going to be a super super exciting series for you and today we're going to peek into the life of the guy who figured out what you do. How do you respond in those moments when it feels like God and you are at a distance? So grab your bibles and go with me to Genesis Chapter 11, Genesis Chapter 11, this is going to be really easy. You go to the front of your Bible it's the first book of the Bible, Genesis Chapter 11, starting in Verse 31.

Pastor Linn: 06:18 You and I are actually going to peek into the life of a guy by the name of Abraham. It's interesting because we actually take a look before Abraham's name is changed and he's actually called Abram at this point. His name Abram means respected father, father of esteem. Here's why that's a big deal because he gets that name before he's had any children. So imagine the moment every time Abram gets called to dinner Hey father of esteem, hey respected father, time to eat, which only serves as a reminder that God still hasn't fulfilled his promise to you. Later on his name is going to be changed to Abraham which means father of nations and it's going to be changed before he even has his first child. How frustrating does that have to be if you're Abraham.

Pastor Linn: 07:23 Here we go. It's Genesis Chapter 11 starting in verse 31. Terah took his son Abram who will later be Abraham, Terah is Abraham's father. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and his daughter in law Sarai whose name will later be changed to Sarah the wife of his son Abram. And together they set out for Ur of the Caldians to go to Canaan. Okay, so Canaan is just another phrase for Israel for the promised land and so apparently God has spoken to Terah and said Terah look here's the deal. Pack up your family. You're going to move. I'm going to take you to the Promised Land. And when you get there it's going to be remarkable. It's going to be amazing. So pack up, move your family, here we go.

Pastor Linn: 08:22 Next word: "but", but. But when they came to Haran they settled there. So you get the moment. God has said to Terah, hey Terah you're going to take your family. You're going to the Promised Land. It's going to be amazing when we get there. Terah says, "OK god lets do this." He starts out on the journey. But when he gets to Haran he decides we've come far enough and he settles there. Scripture doesn't really tell us why. It just simply says he got that far. He stopped. Maybe, maybe Terah said look I wasn't counting on all these dust storms. This is crazy. Maybe he said wow I had no idea when God spoke it was going to be this far. I mean my shoes are wearing out. I feel like I've gone far enough. Maybe, maybe the journey was harder than he ever imagined. He said look I'm just done, I'm worn out. Supplies are getting down and here's the deal, look I have no idea how good it's going to be when I get to Canaan, when I get to Israel. But I'm just thinking Haran is good enough. It's all right. And so he stops. He settles for Haran, Haran becomes a picture of incomplete obedience. It becomes a picture of that moment when we go to a certain point with God and then we just say Okay God far enough is far enough. I think I'm satisfied with where I am spiritually right now, and what you need to know is if you ever settle for Haran you'll never actually experience god.

Pastor Linn: 10:15 Let me see if I explain this OK. So I need some volunteers real quick. I promise I will only mildly humiliate you. Okay, one, I need one more, two. Come on let's go. Here we go. All right good. Okay come on up. Yeah. All right. So here's the deal, one of you needs to be God, who wants to be God?

Pastor Linn: 10:37 Oh you're okay. Good for you OK. So stand right here. You're going to be God. You're going to be just us OK. Normal. All right. All right. So here's the deal. How many you've heard the saying if God feels distant guess who moved? OK great three of us. All right. So anyway it's actually something Christians say to each other, hey if God seems far away guess who moved. It's mildly accurate. It is probably in some ways a little bit oversimplistic, it's simply just saying this, hey here's God, and if you and I decide to live in just out and out rebellion, in other words we just go god, "I don't care what you say I'm going to live life my own way. I'm in charge of me. I'm the boss of me," and you turn and you live in absolute rebellion. Well then you realize every step you take away from God you're just going to create distance. No wonder God's going to seem far away, right? Here's the deal. My guess is there are probably only a few of us who would say that that's my life. In fact most of us would probably say, "Linn, no no no no I'm not living in absolute rebellion to God. I mean I wouldn't be here if that's what I'm doing." And yet I'm just going to tell you that God feels a little bit distant and chances are something that is much more subtle is happening in your life.

Pastor Linn: 11:58 Because, because, because, you ready for this? God is always up to something, God is always working his plan. So God is moving. And if you and I get to a spot in our Christian life where we go, "No, no, no, no. Hey God this is far enough, no, no. That next step that you want me to do I'm just telling you that's scary." And here's the deal. I don't know what that is for you. I don't know what "Haran" is for you. It may be a relationship that God says hey that's not a good relationship, I want you to get out. You just went God, no no no this is as good as it gets. I like him. I like her. It may be a habit in your life. You just, you go God look I'm not telling you all never. I'm just telling you not right now. It may be a moment when you were supposed to join a small group and you just said look god my my schedule is too busy. You don't understand and I think I'm OK in Haran. I think this is far enough and close enough and you push pause and when you do that you realize God continues to work and move. And the longer you linger in Haran the further away God will feel. And the only way, are you ready for this? the only way to change, this is going to feel weird, but we're going to do ... OK is for you to say no no no look look look I can't I can't afford to stop. I can't I can't stay here. And instead you walk in lockstep with God in what he's doing. And when you're doing that you will experience God because you're going with God. So it makes sense.

Pastor Linn: 13:50 Thank you guys for doing that, you you're amazing on the deal. Back to the passage verse 32, Terah Terah lives 200 then five years and he died in Haran, how sad is that, he never got to where God was taking him. He never got to enjoy what God was offering. He got to Haran and he said hey this is far enough. It's been hard enough it's been good enough and he settled there and guys you know as well as I do. Chances are he said to himself eventually we'll get up and move again. Eventually I'll get back on track eventually I'll follow again and Terah dies in Haran. The Lord said to Abram, said to his son go from your community your people and your father's household to the land that I will show you, so God comes and says Look Abrahm you're going to finish what your dad couldn't do because this isn't where you were supposed to stop. So get up and you realize he's been there long enough that this is starting to feel like home to the point that god has to say look you're going to get up you're gonna have to leave your people now and continue the journey that your dad could not finish.

Pastor Linn: 15:16 Here's what you got to get. I promise you, I promise you, I promise you this is not Abraham's plan. This is this is not what Abraham was thinking next. Matter of fact Abraham was completely happy in Haran. Matter of fact Abraham was getting ready to open his used camel superstore. He'd already figured out zero percent Mr. Ed financing, he had come up with his slogan, "Used is better than new. What are a few fleas amongst friends?" I mean he's ready to launch. He's ready to go. And suddenly God steps in and says Abraham you've been there too long, time to get up. It's time to finish what we started together. Abraham get up and go and this is not Abraham's plan.

Pastor Linn: 16:06 And isn't it honest isn't it true guys that one of the reasons this is hard for us is because we've made plans. We, we've kind of thought out hey here's where I am this is kind of where I'd like for it to all end up. And we started making plans and not necessarily detailed but big block plans and and we're waiting for God to help us with our plans. See we would say to God look here's the deal. Career wise I'm thinking you know upper management. I don't have to be the president. I don't have to do that. But upper management, if I could get a key to the executive bathroom. I'm good. I'm good. And here's what I thinking as far as marriage, I'd like to marry her. I get it I get it. I get that her spiritual life is pretty and anemic and I guess she's got a long way to go but God have you seen how she looks in a bikini. So I'm just thinking her, her. See we said god if you can just leave me in Chandler Arizona because I'm just not the moving type and I've I've looked at the North and the North is cold and I look at the South and it's humid. And then I look to the east and they're are all jerks. So if you can just leave me Chandler here's what I'm thinking. If we could do San Diego ten miles from the beach we can work on the plan. But you know I'm flexible, and but God if you could simply bless my plan. And here's what we do. We take a little bit of God and we want to rub it on our plan. So that he'll bless it for us.

Pastor Linn: 17:56 Can just tell you that when you go with God he will always change your plan. I've been in ministry for about 17 years and I was serving as a youth pastor in Southern California. I got to this moment where I knew that I knew, that I knew that I had probably run my laps as youth pastor and so now I try to figure out what's next. And so I come up with a plan. I decided hey, I've you know I've gotten this far I've been pretty successful. If I could now transition to a senior pastor role into a church of like 200 or 300. I'm not asking for a lot, if I could do that. And then if I could grow the church, could grow like 80 or 90 people every single year then by the time I'm really old like 45 it could be a thousand. And what a great plan. In the midst of my planning I sent out my resume to a whole bunch of churches. Nobody nobody return my calls, finally one of the executives in the conference that we're part of came to me and he said to me, "Linn, have you ever thought about church planting?" To which I was highly insulted because you, you guys got to know this is back before church planting got sexy and this is, this is back in the season where when your executive came to you and said, "Hey, what about church planting?" That was code for I've mentioned your name everywhere I can. Nobody's interested. So how about you, if go out and start your own church. Kind of like launching sea turtles to the ocean for the sharks. Why don't you do that. I said that's horrible. Besides the fact, besides the fact it made no sense. You know I wanted to say hey look I've been in ministry for 17 years, I've had certain amount of success. This feels like starting over again. Let me, let me let me put this in real world terms. This would be like being in a fairly successful thriving company. And now you find yourself in a moment where someone's advising you and saying hey why don't you go work for this startup. And oh by the way you have to take an entry level position with entry level pay, and I'm just going to tell you that did not sound like a plan to me. Matter of fact it required that I was going to have to go out and raise support like a missionary, raise support which meant I was going to have to ask my friends and my family and people I didn't even know for money. And I was going to tell you I hate asking for money. Now I know some of you are going Linn you couldn't prove that by me, but I'm just telling you. I hate talking about or asking for money. I despise it, it meant, you are ready for this? That I was going to have to take my wife and my son at age 35 and move back into my mommy's basement and I just said God I don't think I like the plan.

Pastor Linn: 21:23 And guys, guys, guys this is what you got to get, when you go with God, God will always change the plan that you and I have. And here's what you need to know. You don't want to miss the plan. Matter of fact I've thought since then because I mean it was such a real wrestle in my life. I thought what would have happened if I had done my plan, if I had found that church of 2 or 3. What would have happened? And what would I have missed if I had never come to plant Cornerstone, and guys, and guys here's you've got to get. You will never experience God doing your plan. You'll never experience him the way he wants you to experience him. You'll never enjoy the blessings, you'll never see the power of his movement doing your plan. It's only when you do his.

Pastor Linn: 22:24 Back to the passage, starting in verse 1 again chapter 12 verse 1. The Lord said Abram go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. 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 curses you I will curse and all the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you. Now guys not only is this not Abraham's plan. It's not much of a plan. I mean think about what you just read. God basically says the Abraham, Abraham get up and go, and when we get there it's going to be really neat. I mean think about this for a second. Can you imagine if it came time for a family vacation and someone said hey here's what we're going to do, we're going to hop in the car head west and it's going to be cool. And I would, I'm not getting in that car. Oh that is not a legitimate plan. And yet that's exactly what God says to Abraham, "Hey Abraham get up go. And I just promise you it's going to turn out really really good." Which is just be honest. Isn't this one of the things we hate about how God works that many of us would say hey this is the deal I did. I got to a moment in my walk with the Lord. And God said do that next, and that was hard. That was scary. That was tons of commitment, tons of work and so in that moment I said to God look if you would simply explain what the next steps are where this goes then I could approve the plan.

Pastor Linn: 24:31 You get that God will never do that. That in that moment that you and I panic and we go Hey I'm just telling you step number one was hard. So I want a little bit of insight into steps number two and three. I'd like to know where this ends up is somewhere that I would be open to. So God you know I'm not saying no I'm just saying would you explain yourself. Would you tell me how you're going to do it and where this is going to end up. And God will never never, never, never, never explain the plan. He'll simply say, "Get up, go." It's going to be good. You know why? Because you and I would modify the plan. See you and I would look and go, oh this is exactly what I thought God, this needs to be right over there. How did you not think of that. And this one, this one is completely in the wrong spot. It needs to be way over here and this one completely unnecessary. We can put that one away. Here's what's interesting, did you hear what God said to Abraham when he sent him. He said Abraham you go and I will be with you. And I will bless you as you do my plan. You realize Abraham got stuck exactly where you and I get stuck. Some of you that know the story of Abraham would know this. They get to the Promised Land no babies. God's promise to me is going to be the father of nations no children. And so his wife Sarah comes to Abraham and she says Abraham look, God need some help. So let's modify the plan a little bit. God said you are going to be the father of nations. He didn't say I was going to be the mother of nations so I'll tell you what. Take my handmaid Hagar, sleep with her. Then you'll end up having a child. Everything will work out. Abrahams says, "What a great plan." And so he sleeps with Hagar and they end up having a son by the name of Ishmael. Sarah becomes unspeakably jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael to the point that she forces Abraham to run them out of the camp. Anybody know who Ishmael becomes the father of? All the Arab nations. The very people who have contended with Israel till this day because they all claim to be the sons of Abraham. See, when I follow God's plan he promises to bless but when I modify God's plan then I'm out of the plan. And there is no promise and there isn't...this is all on me now. This is all human effort now.

Pastor Linn: 27:54 And God will start to feel distant. You know why he doesn't tell Abraham the plan? Because Abraham would have vetoed the plan just like you and I would have vetoed the plan. Think about this for a second. Hey Abraham, get up and head to the Promised Land. Okay. Hey by the way just so you know next steps, after you get there, there is going to be famine for three years and then next step in the plan your nephew Lot, he is going to end up kidnapped. After that. Sarah and you, you're not going to have children for twenty five years. You're going to be 100. She's going to be 90. And then wait, wait, wait, best part of the plan...After you have your son you're only going to have one son. His name is going to be Isaac and I'm going to command you to take him up on a mountain and kill him. That's the plan. The plan. What are you think are the chances that Abraham ever agrees to that plan. About the same as the chances that you and I would agree to the plan if God ever told it to us. You want to hear something ironic? They get to the land and there's famine for three years but not one person in Abraham's household dies because God preserves them/ When his nephew Lot is kidnapped Abraham takes the small group of men that are with him. God empowers him. They're able to overcome the bandits and not only do they recover Lot they recover millions of dollars and God sets Abraham up financially for the rest of his life. Sarah doesn't get pregnant for twenty five years so that by the time she is pregnant at 90 every single person knows this did not happen through natural circumstances. It had to be the blessing of God on Abraham and Sarah and when he gets to the top of the hill to sacrifice Isaac at the eleventh hour, at the last possible moment God stops the hand of Abraham and says No, no, no, no. I was just asking. I needed to know where your heart was and he takes Isaac and he becomes the father of Israel but if we had known the plan we'd have stayed in Haran.

Pastor Linn: 30:34 The problem is some of us in here right now, we're stuck in our Christian walk. We're standing in Haran and we know, we, we know what that thing is that terrified us when God asked. We know what that relationship is that we weren't willing to give up. We know what that act of service was. Joining a group or serving it we knew what that was. We knew the habit that God was saying was next and we just said God that's too scary. It's too big and we stopped and we've been stopped there waiting for the clouds to dissipate so that we could see the rest of the plan and approve it before we went in. And here's what I'm telling you. It will never happen if you stay in Haran, you'll die in Haran and you'll never truly experience God in Haran.

Pastor Linn: 31:30 Let me ask the question. What if Abraham doesn't go. What if what if he continues to push pause and he never goes. Does God still build the nation of Israel? I don't know. I don't know. Does Abraham experience God if he never goes? Not the way he should. If I had never left Southern California to come plant a church would Cornerstone be here? I don't know but here's something I do know. I would have never experienced God the way that I have experienced God here if I had stayed there. And here's the question for you. Will you experience God if you stay in Haran if you keep the pause button on your life.

Pastor Linn: 32:53 Lets go back to the passage. Verse 4, So Abraham went as the Lord had told him and Lot went with him and Abraham was 75 years old guys guys. He's 75 years old when he finally decides to get serious about God which just means guys I'm just telling you. Nobody in this room is excluded from this conversation. I don't care how old you are. I don't care how far you've gone in life. You're a young one and you can do this. He was 75 years old when he set out for Haran and he took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot and all the possessions that had accumulated and the people that had acquired in Haran and they set out for the land of Canaan and they arrived there and they experienced God there. So where does this leave us. If you are at a spot in your walk with God and you pushed pause then here's what I'm going to tell you. You know what this is. You know what that step is, that requirement, the thing that got, you already know. You know that it's a relationship, you know that it's a place where you've got a habit in your life that you just said God, "Look, it's not like I'm going to keep this habit to rest of my life. I'm just not going to deal with it now." And you're stuck in Haran and I'm just telling you that the only way you're ever going to experience God is if you get up and go where he's already asked you. And then when you grow enough, when you get far enough he'll show, show and then you'll do the next. And then when he's gone deeply enough in you and you've experienced enough of him and you grow. He'll do the rest, but you'll never do that in Harang.

Pastor Linn: 34:37 Some of us in the room say, "Linn you know I get that and that makes a lot of sense to me that's just not my story. I can't think of anything, I can't think of anything that's been my pause button, anything that's holding me back," and then I would just say that's good. So what would it be like if a church just simply said hey we want to experience God on a much deeper level, on a much more personal level. And so for the next eight weeks we're just going to chase after him and see what that would be like to experience him in a fresh, in a new way. And so I'm going to get back and just say, "Hey guys, then don't leave without getting yourself a study guide. Without signing up for a group, men's groups, women's groups, small churches. If you did a small church you could come in here one hour and go to a small church next then you'd have it all done in one morning."

Pastor Linn: 35:25 But don't leave here without getting in, signing up and just say, "Look, I'm going to chase God for the next eight weeks and just see what God does with me." And we already told you if you need a group we'll give you a group. What would God do with a church like that. Let's find out.

Pastor Linn: 35:49 Let's pray. Dear Lord Jesus, we simply come to the moment and some of us in this room need to confess and say out loud we know the moment that we stopped in Haran. We know what the issue was. We know what their relationship was. We know what the habit was. We know what the thing that seemed too hard was that causes us to say, "You know, maybe Haran's good enough," and we just kind of settled there, and god I'm just praying for every one of us that we would have the courage to get up and go where you had planned. God I pray for some of us in the room to say, "Linn, I don't know why the pause happened. I don't, I don't know of a specific issue that I slowed down on but I do know that God right now feels kind of distant and I just I just want to chase God for the next eight weeks and see what it be like to have a new fire and a new energy in my walk with him. And so I'm just, I'm just, and I'm going to do this in community. I'm going to I'm going to do this with all of my heart. I just want to see what God would do me if I was truly experiencing him."

Pastor Linn: 36:56 So God take us today, take us on that journey. Surprise us with the end. And this we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
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Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286