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  • Adam Schell

The Right Place

So, as many of you know, I’m a military kid. And, as a military kid, I spent most of my childhood around Fort Knox. Now, the history of Fort Knox can be traced back all the way to 1861 when Fort Duffield was built during the Civil War…but Fort Knox, as we know it, didn’t really begin until 1918. But even though Fort Knox has been around for more than a century, there’s really only one thing that most people know about this military base. And that’s that Fort Knox is the home of the Gold Vault.

Now, since the James Bond movie Goldfinger came out back in 1964, we’ve all tried to imagine the Gold Vault as a vast space with suspended staircases that reach the vaults on four different stories. The doors to each of the vaults are made from shiny chrome bars, and each vault is jam-packed with shimmering bars of gold.

But the reality is that the real Gold Vault is nothing like the one in the James Bond movie. According to Philip Diehl, who is a former director of the U.S. Mint, the real Gold Vault is really just a vault. Diehl says that the real Gold Vault is small, less than 4000 square feet…and it’s only two stories high. Its walls are two feet thick and constructed of concrete-encased steel plates and I-beams. The vault walls and roof are separated from the Depository’s outer walls and roof, which are constructed of granite-lined concrete. And the door to the vault is actually a 20-ton door that is blastproof, drillproof, and torchproof.

But even though the Gold Vault is really just a vault, there are still plenty of legends surrounding it. And as a kid who grew up in the shadow of Fort Knox, I think I heard them all. Now, most of the legends about the Gold Vault are about what is actually kept in the vault. And the truth is that the Gold Vault has been home to important artifacts like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. But as far as I know, no one has ever been able to prove that the Holy Grail or the alien’s ship from Roswell ever made it to Fort Knox.

But my favorite legends about the Gold Vault have always been about the break-ins. Like, as a kid, I heard a legend about a guy who crawled into the sewer system underneath the Gold Vault and accidentally ended up popping up inside of the massive vaults and getting trapped. And since the doors weigh more than 20 tons, no one knew he was there and they didn’t find him until months later.

But in spite of all of the legends about people trying to break into the Gold Vault, none of them ever happened. The truth is that no one has ever broken into the Gold Vault because no one has ever even tried.

The closest that anyone has ever come to breaking into the Gold Vault happened decades ago – before any of the fences were constructed around the building. And, according to at least one former guard, there was a private serving at Fort Knox who went out on a weekend pass and had a little too much fun. So, when he made it back to the base, this private walked right up to the door of the Gold Vault and started knocking. But he wasn’t knocking on the door because he wanted to get his hands on a little gold.

No, this private was banging on the door to the Gold Vault because he was convinced it was the barracks that he was living in. Even when the guards came out and detained him, the private continued to swear that he was right where he was supposed to be. He was at his barracks. And all he wanted to do was go back to his bed.

Well, it didn’t take long before the Military Police showed up and escorted this poor private away from the most famous vault in the world. But it did not change the fact that even as he was led away in handcuffs that this private continued to believe that he was in the right place.

Have you ever had anything like that happen to you? Have you ever thought you were in the right spot only to learn you really needed to be someplace else?

Maybe you’ve gone to the wrong gate number at an airport. Or maybe you’ve gotten off at the wrong stop on a subway system. Maybe you were planning to meet up with a couple of friends at McDonald’s for breakfast only to go to the wrong McDonald’s. From time to time it happens. We’ve all had moments where we thought we were in the right spot only to realize we needed to be someplace else.

And that includes people in the Bible, too. There are times when the people in the Bible seem like they’re in the right spot, only to realize they needed to be someplace else. And one of those people is Abraham. And who was Abraham?

Well, Abraham is the person that God makes his covenant with. God promises that he will make Abraham into a great nation so that all the people and nations of the earth might be blessed by Abraham and his descendants. Because of this, we consider Abraham to be the father of our faith.

But this morning I want to tell you the part of Abraham’s story that happens before he becomes the father of our faith. I want to tell you the story that happens before God promises to make Abraham into a great nation. I want to tell you the story that happens before God makes his covenant with Abraham.

So if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn to Genesis 11. And, as you’re finding Genesis let me tell you a little bit more about this particular book. Genesis is the first book of the Bible and that’s actually why we call it Genesis, the word “genesis” means “beginning.” So the book of Genesis is all about beginnings. Genesis tells us about the beginning of the world, the beginning of humanity, and the beginning of sin. And, in the passage that we’re going to look at today, we’re going to read about the beginning of Abraham’s story.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at Genesis 11 together, where we’ll start reading in verse 27. It says:

27 These are Terah’s descendants. Terah became the father of Abram [who would become Abraham], Nahor, and Haran. Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died while with his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Abram and Nahor both married; Abram’s wife was Sarai, and Nahor’s wife was Milcah the daughter of Haran, father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30 Sarai was unable to have children. 31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (son of Haran), and his son Abram’s wife, Sarai his daughter-in-law. They left Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan, and arriving at Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

Genesis 11:27-32 (Common English Bible)

Now this passage isn’t exactly the most captivating passage in the Bible. I mean, in these six verses there are a whole lot of names thrown around that just don’t mean much to us. But in the midst of all of these names, there are a couple of details that can help us understand where Abraham is in life. And I’m literally talking about the places that are mentioned in this passage.

In this passage, the author mentions three different places. He mentions Ur, Haran, and Canaan. Now those three places may not mean much to you. But all three of those places would’ve meant something to the first people to hear Abraham’s story.

Think about it this way: at the beginning of this sermon, I mentioned Fort Knox. And just hearing the name of that military base triggers images in your mind. Like I said earlier, most people will think about the Gold Vault. But you might think about the James Bond movie. Or you might think about tanks since Fort Knox was once the primary training facility for the Armies Armored Division. You might even think about a relative you had that once served at Fort Knox. But just hearing the name Fort Knox makes you think of something.

So let’s talk about what these places – Ur, Haran, and Canaan – would’ve meant to the first people to hear this story. And to help with that, I’ve brought along this map.

And if you look closely at the map, you’ll see that Ur – where this story begins – is near the southern end of the Euphrates River. And you can see that Haran – where Abraham and his father settled in the passage we just read – is near the northern tip of the Tigris River.

And if you can remember back to the world history class you took in high school, you might remember that there is a specific name for the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. We call this area Mesopotamia – which means “in the midst of rivers.” But you may have also heard this piece of land referred to as the cradle of life.

And it’s sometimes called the cradle of life because human civilization began in Mesopotamia. As a matter of fact, the very first urban civilization sprung up near where Ur is on our map about 2,000 years before Abraham was born.

So this was an area that was prized by virtually every nation or empire that existed in the eastern hemisphere for thousands of years. The Babylonian Empire and the Assyrian Empire both established their capital cities right in the middle of Mesopotamia. And people from all over the world routinely traveled to this area because it was so prosperous.

And this is where Abraham is living. He’s living in the heart of civilization. He’s living in a place that people flock to. He’s living in a place where empires will be born.

But all of that is about to change. You see in Genesis 11:31, Abraham and his family may have settled in Haran...but in the very next chapter, he’s going to be called away from it. So let’s look at that together. We’ll read Genesis 12 and start in verse 1. It says:

1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.”

Did you hear that? In this one verse, God asks Abraham to leave the heart of civilization. God asks Abraham to walk away from a place that people flock to. God asks Abraham to flee from a place where empires are born. And then, in verse 2, God tells Abraham why. He says:

2 “I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you.”

And when Abraham heard God say all of this to him, I can’t help but think that Abraham thought...but God I’m already in the right place to do all of those things. God, if you want to make me into a great nation, I’m in a place where nations will be born. God, if you want to make my name respected, I’m in a place that people are flocking to. God, if you want me to bless all the families of the earth, I’m in the heart of civilization.

God, I’m in the right place where all of these things can come true. But there’s a difference between thinking you’re in the right place and being in the right place.

There’s a difference between thinking you’re in the right place and being in the right place.

And there was something big that Abraham would not have realized about where God wanted him to go. That third point on the map, the area called Canaan, would eventually become the crossroads of the continents. If someone wanted to go from Europe to Africa, they had to go through Canaan. If someone wanted to go from Africa to Asia, they had to go through Canaan. If someone wanted to go from Asia to Europe, they had to go through Canaan.

So even though it may have seemed like Abraham was in the right place to bless the whole world when he was in Mesopotamia, God knew that there was someplace better. If Abraham would just go down to Canaan that the whole world would come to him.

So all of that was a great story, right? And, you know what, you even learned a little bit about ancient geography while you were that was a bonus. But what does all of this talk about Abraham and being in the right place have to do with us?

Well, right now, our church is kind of in the same place that Abraham was centuries ago when God told him to leave Mesopotamia. In just a few weeks, we are going to be moving into our new church home. And a lot of us are wondering if this new place is the right place.

And I wish that I could stand here today and tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the building that we will soon be calling home at 11003 Bluegrass Parkway is definitely the right place for our church to be in. I wish that I could tell you that God will use our church when we are in our new location the same way that God used Abraham when he arrived in Canaan. But I can’t.

But what I can tell you is that we’ll never be in the right place if we aren’t following God.

We will never be in the right place if we aren’t following God.

Abraham never would’ve made it to the land of Canaan – the place where Abraham and his descendants would bless the world – if Abraham wasn’t following God. And we will never make it to the right place for our church if we aren’t following God.

And I can tell you that our church has a long history of following God. That’s actually how our church began in the first place. Over seventy years ago, God showed the men and women who would one day start Melbourne Heights that there was a need for a church to minister in their community. So those folks followed God’s calling and all these years later, we are still ministering to our community.

And just five years ago, when our church has to make a decision to sell our old building so that we could continue to minister to our community – even when we had no idea where we would go – we did it. We followed God into an uncertain future that has led us through the doors of UofL and onto our new church home.

So, as we move forward into our future together, I believe that we are following God. And that God will allow us to be the church God wants us to be and to do the things that God wants us to do wherever we call home.

But, in order for that to happen, we always have to be willing to do the same thing Abraham did. Genesis 12:4 tells us:

4 Abraham left just as the Lord told him.

It’s almost time for us to move forward as a church. And I believe that our next home will be the right place for us because it will be exactly where God wants us to be. We all just have to be willing to follow God wherever it is God leads.

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