Romans 4. Abraham’s Faith Can Be Our Faith Too!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 4.

Your life is a part of God’s overarching story of Creation to Redemption.  The key players in this real-life journey are not just famous names in the Old Testament. Nor are they acclaimed people of faith who have walked since John penned The Revelation. Nor are they prolific pastors or authors in today’s culture. They are “ordinary” people too. Your brother. Your aunt. Your son. Your daughter. You.

“But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” (Romans 4:2, MSG).

Read that sentence again and this time, insert your name where Abraham’s name is:

But the story we’re given is a God-story, not a _______-story. What we read in Scripture is, “_______entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. _______ trusted God to set _______ right instead of trying to be right on their own.

Do you see? Your life is a God-story, not merely your story. We are a part of His work in this world. We are part of the story of eternity. Trusting Him is the turning point! Can you trust Him to set things right in your life? Yes, you can!

Hear this: There is nothing we can DO that will make God love us more or less. Faith is not a “doing” thing. It is a heart thing. This grace that Jesus offers flies in the face of all of us who are rule followers. It is merely trust. Can we trust that God has led us to where we are? Can we trust that He will continue to lead us? Yes. Absolutely! I keep returning to the Romans 2:4 passage from last week. “In kindness, He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into radical life change.”

Your life is a God-story, not merely your story.

Look at Abraham’s life. Even when everything appeared impossible, he believed anyway: “God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations. Abraham’s faith never became weak.” (Romans 4:18-19, CEV).

Wow! How do we get that kind of faith? I’m sure I’m not the only one who says, “God, give me Abraham’s confidence.” But yet, he didn’t have it easy. God told him to leave the land of his youth. Even after he believed and was recognized for his faith, he still had trials. He was challenged to lay it all down for God. He was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. And God continued to guide him and encourage him and bless him… even through those impossible and challenging seasons.

Do we have impossible and challenging seasons? You betcha! The whole country, even the whole world, continues to face its most imposing age. But God has a plan for each one of us. And it starts with death. When I see all that Abraham had to give up, I ponder these words of Jesus: “If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, CEV). What does it mean to give up your life for Jesus? Abraham did it by trusting God. And God responded.

I believe God will do the same for you, for me, for us. So today, my prayer is this: “God, help me to lay down my life, my wants, my desires. Do what only You can do. I will trust You.”

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.


Isaiah 51. God Will Turn Deserts into a Lush Garden.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 51.

Again, words of comfort and the assurance that God will set things right for those who obey Him. The people of Israel, and us by way of Jesus, are chips off the block of Abraham. Just like the great Jewish patriarch, we can also be called a “friend of God” as we remember our roots (see Isaiah 41:8).

“Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God. Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. Yes, ponder Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. Think about it! One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied. Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins. I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden, her moonscape into the garden of God, A place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs.” (v1-3, MSG).

Who wants a home filled with exuberance, laughter, thankful voices and singing? I do! Isaiah reminds us, that we can be transformed! If you’ve traveled to Israel you might recall the moonscape of the lands around Masada. Those will be reborn into lush gardens. He did it. He does it. He will continue to do it.

“My salvation will last forever, my setting things right will never be obsolete… Pay no attention to insults and when mocked don’t let it get you down. Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden. But my setting things right lasts! My salvation goes on and on and on!” (v6-8, MSG).

This echoes what the Psalmist says: “When I was really hurting, I prayed to the Lord. He answered my prayer and took my worries away. The Lord is on my side, and I am not afraid of what others can do to me.” (Psalm 118:5‭-‬6, CEV).

We can trust completely in the delight of God. This is a promise the people of Israel hold on to every day. It is a promise we can cling to as well!

Be comforted today in the beautiful transformational work God is doing in you, in each of us! You may feel like a wasteland or a desert. But God sees you as the Garden of Eden! Hear the singing and laughter. Experience His joy!

I love the word picture described here: “On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”(Zephaniah 3:16-17, NLT).

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Blessed Like a Tree

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

Ever feel like you’re on the cusp of something big? Like you are “this close” to a receiving a blessing of some sort? A really big blessing?

The Bible is full of “blessing” stories. The first is a promise from God to Abram.

Genesis 12:

The Lord said to Abram:

Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.  Genesis 12:1-3 (CEV)

This is the promise to Abram, which means “Father” … who later became Abraham… “the Father of Many.”

Abram had no children. Yet because of his faithfulness to God, he became the father of Isaac, who became the father of Jacob, who’s name was later changed to Israel.  He had twelve sons, the heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people, who crossed the Jordan River at Jericho and inherited the Promised Land.

This idea of Abram’s blessing is the picture of a conduit.  We are blessed with the express purpose of being a blessing to others. There is a continual motion with our hands of receiving and giving… receiving and giving… receiving and giving. Can you see yourself as both a receptacle and dispenser of God’s grace and joy and blessing?

Let’s jump a couple of thousand years to David, Psalm 1:

God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won’t follow sinners or join in sneering at God.

Instead, the Law of the Lord makes them happy, and they think about it day and night.

They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves.

Those people succeed in everything they do.

Psalm 1:1-3 (CEV)

The Psalms are  mostly David’s journal, his intimate thoughts with God. These prayers detail his struggles, his joys, his defeats and his victories. He gets the concept of blessing through the Word of God. The idea of “thinking about the law” — or other translations suggest the phrase is “meditating on the Scripture” — is the picture of a dog, chewing on a bone. Or more precisely a lion growling over his prey, followed by licking and chewing it up. Taking his time. Enjoying the blessings of his spoils. Usually in solitude.

So, it is THAT person, who is like a tree growing beside a stream. Its roots are long and deep. Have you ever seen a tree growing on the bank of a river and its roots run long down the bank until they are touching the water? That’s the kind of tree we are to be, someone with long and deep roots. And that tree? It produces fruit!

These are trees that do not worry. They are blessed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)

And  just like trees “those people succeed in everything they do.” They are blessed.

Proverbs says “the roots of the righteous give life, and more life.” Proverbs 12:12 (MSG)

Blessing happens when we enjoy our times with God. Please hear that the only way we produce fruit, or more accurately when God produces fruit in us and through us, is when we enjoy, when we relish, when we love quiet times of digging into and digesting His word, lingering over it, often; when our heart is connected to His heart.

One more Bible story about blessing:

When Jesus taught His first sermon, what’s the key word He used? At the Sermon on the Mount, He affirms eight additional Blessings.

God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven!

God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!

God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!

God blesses those people who want to obey him more than to eat or drink. They will be given what they want!

God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!

God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him!

God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children!

God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-10 (CEV)

One thing each of these Blessings have in common? These Blessings are given to those who are active, not passive.

You’ve heard “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s not in the Bible. That’s a quote most often ascribed to Benjamin Franklin. That’s not what I’m saying. Indeed, God’s grace is offered to all, because we really cannot help ourselves, right?

Here’s the true statement. Again from Proverbs: The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed. Those who help others are helped. Proverbs 11:25 (MSG)

Jesus is describing actions taken. Who receives blessings? Those who are depending and grieving. Those who are humble, obedient, mercy givers. Those who have a pure heart and who make peace and who do right.

Proverbs has two additional blessing promises:

God blesses everyone who trusts him. Proverbs 16:20 (CEV)

And then there’s this one:

When God blesses his people, their city prospers, but deceitful liars can destroy a city. Proverbs 11:11 (CEV)

I believe God wants to bless your city, your state, our county. But I don’t believe we are called to sit around and wait for it. I believe He will continue to bless this Land through each person who trusts in Him.

Jesus had an encounter with a dad who was hoping that the Messiah might heal his son. The boy’s father says: “Please have pity and help us if you can!” Jesus replied, “Why do you say “if you can”? Anything is possible for someone who has faith!” Right away the boy’s father shouted, “I do have faith! Please help me to have even more.” Mark 9:23-25 (CEV)

Maybe that’s our prayer too? “God, please give me more faith.”

That takes us full circle back around to Abraham. It was his faith that allowed him to see and believe that he’d have as many descendants as the stars in the heavens. It will be our faith, and our taking action steps — not passively sitting around waiting — to receive God’s blessings. And then its up to us to be obedient to pass them on… to our family, our neighbors, our city, and our country. And through our passing them along, we are blessed!


(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.

Abraham, a true friend of God. My friend too!

"Count the stars, Abraham. That's the number of your descendants!"
“Count the stars, Abraham. That’s the number of your descendants!”

My name is Abidah. Believe it or not, I have been a servant of Abraham for over 100 years now. No one has been with Abraham as long as I have been, not even his wife Sarah.

He was a wealthy, wealthy man. Always has been as long as I’ve worked for him. He hired me when we left Haran. I was number 1 of 318 servants. It was a joy to serve this great, great man.  You know, he had more sheep and cattle and camels than anyone in the entire region, maybe more than anyone on earth. Of all his possessions, he truly cherished one thing more than anything else: the gift of his son Isaac.

He made sure everyone knew that God made a promise to him. The promise went like this: God said “I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous, you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” Abraham always told us stories of his personal encounters with God. I don’t know anyone who knew God like Abraham knew God. And everywhere we went, he built an altar to the Almighty.

Yet, early on, while Abram owned many things, I would hear him arguing with God. “What good are all these things if I don’t have any children to pass them down to?” he’d say shaking a fist at the heavens.  And I’d say Abram had every right to question God’s promises, as he was an old man, and Sarai’s womb was closed.

One night, the Almighty took Abram outside and said to the man: “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!” And the man believed. He believed God. And because he believed, God called him his friend. My master? A true friend of God! Amazing!

Yet even though he was God’s friend, Abram’s troubles didn’t magically cease. Ten years after we left the Land of Ur, Abram and Sarai were still childless. They decided God might need man’s help in bringing to fruition all these “star children.” So Abram slept with the much younger, and much more beautiful Hagar, Sarai’s servant. It was Sarai’s suggestion. Can you believe it? And Hagar gave birth to a son. They called him Ishmael.  But God wasn’t too pleased and Ishmael caused more problems than Abram ever dreamed of. Even though he sinned, Abram still had this tight relationship with the Father.

Thirteen years later Abram is out tending the sheep when God shows up in power. The way Abram tells the story, one more time God reminds the man of the Almighty’s promises and tells him that he’ll have a huge family. Abram says he fell flat on his face. The next day he announces that we are all to start calling him Abraham. No longer is he merely “Father,” he is “Father of Many Fathers.” We joked with him, because by this time he was 99 years old! And Sarai, who we were to now call Sarah, was 90!

While we laughed, something about Abraham changed. He set a covenant between God and himself… and all of us male servants were dedicated to God that very day!

And just as God promised, about a year later, little Isaac was born. Isaac. The name means “laughter.” And we all laughed with his new parents, for they were so old.

While this was a joyous time, it wasn’t the end of Abraham’s struggles… but he remained faithful to God. Oh so faithful. No one in all the land was as faithful as this man. Sarah died some 27 years later.  And that old man? He passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 175. He lived a long, joyful life! We just came back from burying him next to Sarah in the land of the Hittites. He has seven children. 13 grandchildren so far. All those star children are just getting started!

Abraham. The father of many fathers. A friend of God. He was my master and my dear friend as well.


My interpretation of some of the key points of Genesis, Chapters 12-25, the life of Abraham.

(c)2015. Rich Ronald.

Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Abraham

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

Abraham was called “Friend of God.” You too are God’s friend!

The story of Abraham begins at the end of Genesis 11.  He was the son of Terah, who Scripture tells us was at a minimum an idol worshipper, possibly a man who made his living as an idol maker. He lived in Ur, a thriving metropolis, a place full of the excitement of a city.  And it is on this stage where we hear God’s call.

Genesis 12:1-3 (The Message):

God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.

 I’ll make you a great nation 

      and bless you. 

   I’ll make you famous; 

      you’ll be a blessing. 

   I’ll bless those who bless you; 

      those who curse you I’ll curse. 

   All the families of the Earth 

      will be blessed through you.”

 And then, verse 4: “So Abram went.”

Just like that.  He left the only city he ever knew.  He took his things and his wife and left.  And he journeyed through the wildernesses of the land of Canaan.

And next, verse 7:

God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.

First, have you noticed that Abram, and a lot of the people of the Old Testament, built altars to God… to worship Him… to acknowledge that God moved supernaturally in their life at a certain point? I believe it is important to remember to do that regularly. If we do nothing else when we go to a church building on Sunday morning, my prayer is that the time spent there is a time of remembering and thanksgiving — worship!

Continue reading Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Abraham