Abram probably led quite a comfortable life in the Mesopotamian city of Ur. He was obviously wealthy with many possessions and servants. But he also lived among a people who worshiped idols of multiple gods. According to some Jewish sources, even Abram's own father, Terah, made and bowed down to idols although his son vigorously opposed the practice.
Then one day everything changed. Abram experienced a call from God: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” Just imagine how startled Abram must have been at this message. He might have even resisted a bit at first. Life was good. Why should he just pick up and leave? God, however, assured Abram that He had even better things in store for him, and He sweetened His command with a few promises. He would bless Abram, making him a great nation and giving him a great name. He would protect Abram, and eventually every community on earth would be blessed because of him.
Abram probably didn't fully understand any of this, but he decided to take the risk. He let go of his plans and his comfort. He gathered up his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, his servants, and as many possessions as they could haul away and set out on a remarkable journey to a land he'd never seen before. He had no idea whom he would meet along the way or what would happen to him. He didn't know what he would find when he got to where he was going. His whole life was turned upside down and inside out, but he trusted God. He had faith that God had a plan for him, and he acted on that faith. How many of us would do the same?
Tuesday – The Narrow Gate
Jesus says to enter through the narrow gate. The word “narrow” has negative connotations for modern people. Narrowness often suggests a way that is hemmed in by do's and don'ts and fenced by a multitude of rules and regulations.
Narrow, however, doesn't have to mean restricted. Instead, it can mean intimate, focused, guided, protected, and loved. God wants us to keep our eyes on Him. He wants us to be right with Him. He wants us to be the best people we can possibly be, the most fulfilled human beings, the happiest of creatures.
That's why Jesus tells us to strive to enter through the narrow gate. That's why He gives us rules to follow. He wants only what's good for us, and human beings have a bothersome knack of choosing the exact opposite. We lean toward the wide road with its many distractions and pitfalls, when it is really the narrow road and the narrow gate that will lead us home to God.
Wednesday – John the Baptist
Today we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist, one of the most interesting figures in Scripture. John is a strange mix. He's the last in a line Old Testament prophets, but he has a very special message: the Messiah has come. The time is now. The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is here. John has the privilege of witnessing the Holy Spirit descend upon Him at the Jordan River, where he has been preparing a way for Him with a baptism of repentance. When Jesus begins His public ministry, John steps aside. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John explains. His mission is ending; his message is fulfilled. His job now is to speak God's truth even at the risk of his life. That's what he does, and it costs him his life at the hand of Herod and Herodias, who don't appreciate John's blunt denunciation of their immoral “marriage.” John was born for God; he has lived completely for God; and now he dies for God.