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Today’s Bible reading: Genesis 11-12, 13:1-4; Matthew 5:1-26; Psalms 5:1-12; Proverbs 1:24-28

God called Abram to leave his native country, his relatives, and all that he had known (Genesis 12:1). God wanted to use Abram but had to get him out of his comfort zone. I often think about this with regard to my own life. Its easier to remain with the status quo than branch out and do something daring. Of couse anything we do should be because God is leading us to do it. But its easy to ignore God. He wants us to grow and to grow a person needs to be challenged. A potted plant will only get so big in its current container. For it to grow larger it needs to be moved to a larger pot.

Notice that God didn’t tell Abram where he was to go (“to a land I will show you” Genesis 12:1 emphasis added). God doesn’t often give us the big picture. He wants us to trust Him one step at a time.

Abram obeyed God and got up and went. It must have been very difficult to leave all that he had known his whole life – he was 75 years old at this point. But he did it. But even Abram, with his great faith in God, was not perfect. He made mistakes including lying to Pharoh of Egypt (Genesis 12:11-12, 18). Despite his flaws, God wanted to use Abram for a great purpose. Things are no different today. God is still wanting to use people like you and me to do great things. All we need is to step out in faith and follow God where He leads.

Today in Matthew we read passages of Jesus’ teaching known as The Beatitudes. The Beatitudes focus on love and humility rather than force and control. These were new concepts to the people back then. Each Beatitude is made up of two phrases: the condition and the promise. The term “Beatitude” comes from a Latin word meaning “blessed or happy”. Each Beatitude starts with “Blessed are…” implying that those who follow these teaching will be happier than those who don’t.

One of my favorite Beatitudes is Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are those who are merciful  for they will be shown mercy”. We get hurt at times by others (and we, in turn hurt others ourselves) but focusing on the hurt will not bring happiness. Forgiveness will. It reminds of one of my favorite sayings: “The only people you should try to get even with are those who have helped you“.

Jesus also tells us (Matthew 5:11) that God will bless those who are mocked and persecuted for being a follower of Christ. This is good to know. Sometimes I am hesitant to identify myself with Christ because I’m not sure how someone will react. No one likes to be ridiculed. But God has my back. I can trust Him to look out for me just like Abram trusted Him.

One important thing to keep in mind when reading the Bible is the audience to whom the speaker was speaker or to whom the author writing. Was he speaking/writing to believers? To unbelievers? To both? In this passage Jesus is talking to His followers (verses 1 and 11). So He is talking to people who will be in Heaven. In verse 19 we see one of the many references in the Bible to the fact that there will be different levels of reward in Heaven. Everyone who gets there will enjoy Heaven, but some will enjoy it more than others. Being saved gets a person to Heaven. But how that person lives on Earth once saved determines the reward that awaits him/her once there.

In verse 21 and 22 we see some behaviors that we are all accountable for. Certainly being held accountable for murder is no surprise. But God doesn’t even want us to be angry with others or call them names. Hmm… I’m going to have to be a lot more tolerant with those idiot drivers during rush hour!

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