Answering God’s Call

Genesis 12:1-9 shows us the beginning of Abram’s journey of faith and obedience before God to leave behind much of his family and country and go where God instructed him to fulfill God’s plan for his life.

12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.[a]” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord. Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.

God had great plans for Abram. God told Abram to leave his country and his family, to leave what was familiar and comfortable. God clearly said that He would be with Abram and had plans to bless him and make a great nation from him. However, God had not revealed all the details about the journey or the plans He had for Abram. Abram made a choice to trust and obey God.

We should be careful not to assume this was an easy choice for Abram. He was leaving behind much that was familiar and taking a difficult journey with his family and possessions.  Perhaps his family did not want to go. This was not a choice to take a comfortable and easy path, but rather a hard one. Through obedience Abram opened the door to receive God’s blessings and fulfill the plans God had for him.

To live a life in close relationship with God, we must not only read God’s word, but also to learn to hear from God when He speaks to us specifically about the choices in our lives. We must learn to trust and obey Him even when we don’t have all the details.

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Why does God share detailed family lineage in the Bible?

I have often wondered about the significance of the sections of scripture that detail family lineage. At times I recognize in myself a tendency to read over them quickly, without much thought as to why they are in the scripture. Even in sharing my most recent journey through the Bible with these devotionals I nearly skipped this section in Genesis 11:10-32. I encourage you to read through it and I will summarize some points that God showed me at the end of this devotional.

10 This is the account of Shem’s family.

Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of[c] Arphaxad. 11 After the birth of[d] Arphaxad, Shem lived another 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. 13 After the birth of Shelah, Arphaxad lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.[e]

14 When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. 15 After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. 17 After the birth of Peleg, Eber lived another 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. 19 After the birth of Reu, Peleg lived another 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. 21 After the birth of Serug, Reu lived another 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. 23 After the birth of Nahor, Serug lived another 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. 25 After the birth of Terah, Nahor lived another 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living. 29 Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) 30 But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.

31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years[f] and died while still in Haran.

I am sure if I studied it in detail, I could (and likely will in the future) identify a more complete list of why God shares this type of history with us in scripture. However, as I come before the Lord humbly seeking to understand His word I see several important points in this type of scripture.

  • These were real people, not fictional characters. Studying the Bible from a literary perspective that means that the sections or books of scripture that contain these detailed family lineage are historical records of actual events, not parables.
  • God shows us that the family structure He established for man is important to Him. In other words, family has high significance to God. He further shows us through these lineages how family leaders that had strong faith and obedience before God often set the tone for multiple generations of family to follow.  Though notably there are examples where one person rejecting God or turning to follow God can change the direction of the family’s relationship with God.
  • God loves each of us as individuals and cares about the details of our lives. Every individual is important. We are not just an easily exchangeable part of a block of people called humanity that God cares about only as a whole.

We each need to take time and consider…

1- Am I applying scripture to my life properly, recognizing that the historical books of the Bible are factual records. (Not all books of the Bible are literal, historical documents but many are. Some use other literary approaches to communicate God’s word to His people as in Revelation.)

2-  Am I leading my family to follow God and be different from the world? or letting them blend in with the world? My actions in how I lead or fail to lead may have impacts on multiple generations.

3- Am I living my life truly recognizing how God loves me (and everyone else) as an individual, not just one of many easily exchanagable parts of a whole called humanity?

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Prayer and Fasting

Jesus provides specific guidance on prayer and fasting in Matthew 6:5-18. Prayer and fasting are intended to be part of a personal relationship with God, not something intended for show or attention before men.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
    but rescue us from the evil one.[c]

14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair[d] and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

God does not want us to perform “religious” activities like prayer or fasting as displays for men. He wants us to develop relationship with Him through these activities by doing them privately.

Jesus lays out in simple instructions the way we should come before God in prayer. It is not about memorizing and repeating words. Instead let the words of Jesus guide us in our approach to prayer before our holy God. Focus first on God… on His kingdom… on His will.  Then ask Him for our daily needs and provision. He intends for us to come before Him every day… not once in awhile. As an extension of our daily needs Jesus guides us specifically to go beyond our physical needs and to ask for forgiveness and for help to resist temptation and the evil one. Satan is real. He is not a metaphor. We need Jesus’ help daily to resist Satan and the traps he lays out for us.

Jesus also reminds us in this scripture that being forgiven by God goes hand-in-hand with forgiving others who you believe have sinned against you. This forgiveness does not mean you endorse or agree with what they did. It means you will not hold a grudge or hold bitterness against them for something in the past. If they wholeheartedly repent you accept them back joyfully and relationship is restored. Even for those who choose not to repent, you should be careful not to harbor bitterness in your heart. Bitterness hurts most the one who holds it.

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God Speaks To Us In Many Ways

The Bible is filled with examples of God speaking to individuals on matters of broad significance and even just significance to them in their personal lives. He cares not only about His plans but also about each of His people. For those who have ears to hear Him, life is  much more fulfilling as we share the journey with our creator.

Today I will list some of the ways in which the Bible shows us that God speaks to His people. I have pulled this summary largely from Hearing God’s Voice by Henry and Richard Blackaby.  I recommend this book for further study on the topic of hearing from God.

Throughout the Bible God speaks through:

  • Creation
  • Angels (God’s messengers)
  • Prophets and preaching
  • Dreams and visions
  • Gentle voice and dramatic events (e.g. burning bush that was not consumed (Moses), fire from heaven to light the sacrifice on the wet alter (Elijah), etc.)
  • Signs and Miracles
  • Unusual and unique events like talking donkey (Balaam) and writing on the wall (Daniel)
  • Prayer
  • Scripture
  • Jesus Christ
  • The Holy Spirit
  • and many more…

God certainly has not limited himself in the ways in which He speaks to His people. God often uses communication that is personal and unique to each person. God never says anything that contradicts what He has already said in the Bible, and He usually confirms what He has said. If you seek wholeheartedly to hear Him, you will learn to discern the voice of God, identify ways He speaks, and respond to His revelations of His will. After you learn to listen to God, hearing from God will be as natural as communicating with a close friend.

I certainly do not have all the answers on how to hear from God. I am on the life-long journey to hear Him more clearly. I invite you to join me on this journey toward a more fulfilling life… a life where we can personally enjoy the love and guidance of our creator more intimately.

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Why Did God Confuse People With Different Languages?

God made it clear in the beginning to Adam and Eve and again to Noah and his sons after the great flood that He wanted them to have many children, grow God’s people, and spread across the earth to govern it.

[Genesis 1:28] 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

[Genesis 9:1] Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.

It is not hard to imaging that in both cases, as God’s people were growing in size, they still spoke a common language as they were derived from a single family and thus culture. This common language had potential to be a powerful asset in accomplishing God’s purposes.

Unfortunately, as we learn in Genesis 11:1-8, the people came to a point in time where they decided they had a better plan than God. They wanted to stay together in one place and thus set about building a great city for themselves. They had become prideful and arrogant, leading to ignoring or outright rejecting God and His instruction.  Thus God intervened to humble them.

11 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia[a] and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel,[b] because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.

It was not God’s intent to force people to have different language, but rather His response to their arrogance and failure to follow His instructions.  How glorious it is when we decide to obey God and follow His plans. We do not have better plans than He does. When we think we have better plans, we often start down a difficult path that leads us further from God and the good plans He had in mind for us.

Challenge yourself to submit to God’s will and God’s plans over your own desires.

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Give Your Gifts In Private

Jesus speaks to us directly about our motivations for giving to those in need in Matthew 6:1-4.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Jesus speaks right to our hearts and motivation for giving. If we give to get “credit” from man, than that is all we get. Our motives are selfish. However, God loves when we give with a heart and motivation to do God’s will and show love for others. When this is our motivation we give in private and give glory to God instead of seeking credit for ourselves.

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You, O Lord, Are a Shield Around Me

David was a man after God’s own heart and a gifted musician.  There were several times in his life where David had to run from his enemies. Psalm 3 shows us that David’s heart turned toward God when he was in trouble and fearing for his life.

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” (Interlude)[a]

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. (Interlude)

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. (Interlude)

Some of us can identify very directly with fearing for our lives. Some even fear for our lives because of our faith in Jesus. Others have been fortunate never to face this level of fear. All of us encounter times of difficulty and stress. When we find ourselves in the midst of great storms, turn our hearts and minds toward God and seek His presence, wisdom, and protection.

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HFJ News: Please Check Out Website Content

For those of you who have visited our website before, we are constantly adding more. For those who have not yet visited, please click through and look around. As always we are interested in your feedback on how we can better help you in your walk with Jesus Christ. We are always happy to hear from you. Please Contact Us with feedback or suggestions.

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Thank you for spending time with our Christian community. May the grace and peace of our lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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Noah Obeyed God Even in the Greatest Storm

Genesis chapters 6-9 takes us  on a dramatic journey through time starting with God’s broken heart over humanity’s wickedness, continuing through God’s choice to work through a small but righteous remnant in Noah, and God’s confirmation of His covenant with His people.

I encourage each of you to take time and read the entire scripture by clicking through the link at the top of this devotional.

1- God observes the wickedness of man and it breaks His heart. He is disappointed with the choices man has made given their free will to choose or reject God. But He also observed one righteous man in Noah.

[Genesis 6:5-7] The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” But Noah found favor with the Lord.

2- Starting in Genesis 6:13, God speaks directly to Noah, who walked in close fellowship with God. God explains His plans to send the flood and provides Noah with detailed plans for how to carry out God’s will and save his immediate family in the process.

Noah did not complain. Noah did not say what God was doing was too harsh. Noah did not say what God was asking was too hard. Noah simply obeyed.  Noah showed how obedience allows us to fulfill the plans God has for us and others.

I am sure many mocked Noah as he build the boat. He listened to God instead of to men.

[Genesis 6:22] 22 So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

 3- Again when God told Noah it was time to get in the boat with all the animals, Noah did not complain or say it was too crowded, or too smelly, or He did not want to get in yet. Noah obeyed God. He did not just obey some of God’s instructions, but all of them.

[Genesis 7:5] So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.

4- The rain lasted 40 days. The flood waters took much longer to recede. It was not until five months after the flood began that the boat came to rest on a mountain. It took 2-1/2 more months for the waters to recede enough to reveal other mountain peaks. All told, it took more than a year for Noah and family to get off the boat. This was not an easy task God had laid out for Noah.

[Genesis 8:13-14] 13 Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began,[k] the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. 14 Two more months went by,[l] and at last the earth was dry!

Noah’s consistent response to this time of great adversity and difficulty was to obey God carefully and consistently. Noah trusted God.

5- Once they left the boat and released the animals, Noah did not take time for himself… which would seem well deserved. Noah first built an altar to the Lord and honored God. This was pleasing to God.

[Genesis 8:18-22] 18 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. 19 And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose.[m] 21 And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

6- God confirmed His covenant with Noah and his sons.

[Genesis 9: 8-17] Then God told Noah and his sons, “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, 10 and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth. 11 Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”

12 Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”

The rainbow has great significance to remind us of our covenant with God. This is what the rainbow represents.

The scripture of “Noah’s Ark” is so simple a child can understand and remember. We as adults should be careful not to overlook the details because we feel it is such a familiar story. It is a dramatic journey that demonstrates God’s love and God’s desire to have personal relationship with those of us that walk closely with the Lord. It also clearly shows us the behavior and attitude of righteous men in the midst of great adversity.

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Love Your Enemies

In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus continues challenging us as His followers to be different from the world, to live according to His instruction.

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[q] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies![r] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends,[s] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Loving your enemies does not mean you want them to destroy you. It does not mean you agree with or accept what they are doing or how they are living.  Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Sometimes loving someone means you have to reject their sin, tell them how they are wrong and encourage them to repent… even if they do not want to hear it. To ignore or accept their sin is not showing show love, but rather it shows ambivalence… it shows you do not care about them.  To accept and endorse someone’s sin is equivalent to walking by children who are playing with a sharp knife and choosing not to say anything.

Praying for those who persecute you does not mean you pray for them to be successful in their efforts towards persecution. It means you pray for them to be open to the true word of God, for their lives to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. You pray for them to know, love, and serve Jesus.  How glorious to have more people to follow in the path of Saul, who after encountering Jesus Christ turned his life around and became Paul… one of the most effective missionaries for Jesus Christ ever.

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