Jeremy Stopford photo
Retired Pastor Jeremy & Thuvia Stopford


By retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

Originally preached “Graduate Recognition Sunday, June 12, 2011

TODAY’S FUNNY: “Words not yet in the dictionary”

A graduate needs to be prepared to learn new words – especially ones which have not yet been entered into the dictionary. For today’s enjoyment:

“Elbonics” = “noun, the actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater”

“Petonic” = “adjective, one who is embarrassed to undress in front of a household pet”

“Phonesia” = “noun, the affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting who you were calling just as they answer”

“Pupkus” – “noun, the moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it”

“Intaxication” = “noun, euphoria at getting a refund from the IRS, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with”


You are headed on an exciting journey, many of you leaving home for the first time. And when all is said and done, perhaps you will finally settle down in a place which you could not have imagined today. Abram, now called Abraham, went through a similar experience. It is good to learn from those who have already walked the path you are about to walk.


1. “HARAN” – A PLACE WE CALL HOME (Genesis 12:4)

“So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

ILLUSTRATION: The student was in his first college class, English. The professor began the first class of the semester with this warning: “There are two words I don’t allow in my class. One is ‘gross’ and the other is ‘cool’.

And the student asked, “Yes, so what are the words?”

Everybody has a place we call “home”. My hometown will always be Rye, New York, about 30 miles north of New York City. Home of John Jay, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and first justice of the Supreme Court. Rye was home of Playland Park, which was home of one of the older wooden roller coasters in the country. Playland was also home of one of the main scenes of Tom Hanks movie, “Big”. According to Wickpedia online encyclopedia, “In 2010, Coldwell Banker reported that Rye was the third most expensive city in the country in which to buy a home.” Thus it was a good reason why when my Dad retired in the 1960’s, we moved to Ft. Lauderdale. I only spent 8 years in Rye, but I still call it my Hometown.

“Haran” means “strong, enlightened”. It was Abram’s hometown. It is still in existence. It was home of the worship of multiple deities of the Chaldeans. Its residents had many choices, just like us.

Where is YOUR hometown? More importantly, as with Abram, where is the home town of your heart? Are you searching out which of many seemingly nameless gods to worship? Are you hoping to find the true Deity when you leave home? I imagine so did Abram!


“Abram passed through the land to the place of SHECHEM, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.”

“Shechem” means “shoulder”. It was a Jewish city of refuge where the criminal could go if he was seeking a proof of his innocence. It later was called by the Romans “Neapolis”.

It was the place where God introduced Himself to Abram (verse 7). There is no recorded worship reciprocated to God by Abram. It was simply where God introduced Himself to Abram, and gave him promises. Abram builds an altar, but there is no formal worship, only a seeking, a ritual.

It was there that Jesus introduced Himself to a woman at a well (John 4). For some of you, today might be your introduction to the true God.

Let’s look at the progression of that introduction:

#1. Jesus: “Give me a drink” (from this well”

Woman: “How is it that You, A JEW, ask drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”


#2. Jesus: “If you know Who I am, I’ll give you living water.”

Woman: “Are you GREATER THAN OUR FATHER JACOB, who dug this well?


#3. Jesus: “You drink from this well, you’ll thirst again.

You drink of the water I give, you’ll never thirst again, but have everlasting life.”

Woman: “Give me this water.”

Jesus: “Go call your husband.”

Woman: “I have no husband.”

Jesus: “You have well said – you’ve had 5 husbands, and now you’re living with a man.”

Woman: “Are you a PROPHET?”


#4. Woman: “Jerusalem is THE PLACE to worship.”

Jesus: “God desires worship in spirit and in truth.”

Woman: “I know THE MESSIAH is coming.”

Jesus: “I AM HE.”

Woman: “Come see a Man Who told me all things that I ever did.

Could this be THE MESSIAH?”



“ And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”

“Bethel” means “House of God”. It was located about 12 miles from Jerusalem, and is still good pastureland. “Ai” means “a place of ruins”, it was so called as it was established only to be a military outpost, not a settled city.

But it was between these 2 points that Abram not only built another altar – a place of marking – but also he called on God, a place of COMMUNION. We’ll see later that when Abram wandered from this place, he had to return there in order to restore the sweetness of his understanding of Who God is.


“So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.”

ILLUSTRATION: The English test had only one question: “Write an essay on ‘The Most Beautiful Thing I Ever Saw.’”

One of the students finished his essay in less than a minute. It read in its entirety: “The most beautiful thing I ever saw was just too beautiful for words.”

He got the only A in the class!

For many, that is what Egypt is. Note that the famine was still in Bethel as well as in Egypt. God was in Bethel, but Abram chose to go to Egypt, the place of the world, where God did not chose to make Himself known.

And you will find, as Abram did, that when you leave the place of God’s presence, you have entered the place of emptiness. It not only IS empty; it leaves you empty as well. Abram was EMPTY.

And to get back to where he was full of God’s presence, he had to go back to where he left off – Bethel.


Hebrews 11:8-10 tell us that Abraham responded BY FAITH! God wonderfully calls every step – every “place” of our lives – our “journey”.

The most important point is this: IDENTIFY where you are in this journey. Are you:

1. HOME – a place of seemingly ENDLESS CHOICES, but the one from which I begin my journey.

2. A place of INTRODUCTION – where I first hear about the one true, intimate, personal God, Who loves me with an everlasting love. Where is your place of INTRODUCTION?

3. A place of COMMUNION – where you came to the cross and found Jesus to be true and worthy of your every day.

4. A place of EMPTINESS – where the world is and all it has to offer with its thrills and high prices, with a high cost for those who fall. If you are here, get back to where you left off.

Respond like Abram by faith – come to the CROSS.

Like our chorus, “seek first the kingdom of God.”

Close in prayer