Covenants with God

Today’s reading: Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

About four thousand years ago, God made a covenant with a man from a tribe wandering through the desert.  When God makes promises, he means to keep them!

Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b]but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17: 4-5)

God’s pact with Abraham involves the miracle of new life from old, and a promise that from Abraham would come two great nations. From one of these, from the line of Isaac, would come the the Christ!

Covenants in the time of Abraham were traditionally sealed with blood, with something cut, a sign of commitment.  The Covenant of Circumcision was a demonstration of Abraham’s commitment to God, and the acknowledgement of that commitment by succeeding generations.

Abraham stayed true to to his promise, and later would be tested even further by God and found worthy.  I believe, God ultimately wants to bless us in covenant and the more willing we are to give everything to God, the more we are blessed. God asked Abraham to withhold nothing, not even his son, Isaac. God said to Abraham: I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. (Genesis 22:17-18) When God makes a promise, He sure means business!

God would go on to establish a new covenant through Jesus, who’s father Joseph, was Abraham’s descendant. This was a covenant for all people, of every nation. A covenant of the willing! A covenant made through the blood of God’s own son, Jesus.

This covenant was proclaimed in the Old Testament:  “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31:31)

And fulfilled in the New Testament:  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

Matthew 16:24-25 reminds me of the sacrifice we make if we choose to follow Christ:  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

As a child, this evoked fear, as I could only understand it in the literal sense. As I have had decades to ponder this passage, today I see it differently.

The cross for me, represents “that thing’ in our lives that is hardest to do. There is, however, no true parallel to the act of God in the flesh, humbling himself to extreme torture and disrespect, when in an instant he could have vaporized the world. Instead, he endured extreme pain and suffering, out of love for all humanity, and in the knowledge that this was the path God choose to offer reconciliation to man.  The path He chose!

The thing that is hardest for me to do is subordinate my life to God, to surrender it fully. I am invited to follow Jesus, not to a death on a cross (though it could come to that) but to a life of putting God’s kingdom (in every way) above mine.  Death to self!

In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed a prayer I have often prayed in circumstances considerably less arduous than what He faced. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done .” (Luke 22:42)

Our lives are not our own. We are of God, and he invites us to surrender our gifts and our blessings to His divine will and purposes.

To me God’s promise to Abraham seems like a great lesson in waiting on God. A sign for all that our dreams, without God’s hand in them, can never become what we hope. Can we sacrifice our plans for God’s plan?  Are we able to wait on his timing? Lord God, please help me to do so.

What’s in your heart?

print of heart in the soft wheat flour

Today’s reading links: Genesis 16; Matthew 15; Nehemiah 5; Acts 15

Every day when I drive my kids to school, we start our 15 minute car ride by talking to God. In these few minutes, we affirm that we want our hearts to look like Jesus, and ask for God’s help to change them.  I’ll be honest, we’ve been praying this prayer for about a year and a half, but my heart still requires a lot of work.  Many mornings, especially on Mondays, this request is often followed by a prayer of thanks that God’s mercies are new EVERY morning.  Oh how I need them!

Since reading Matthew 12 on Tuesday, I haven’t been able to get the last phrase of verse 34 off my mind, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

In reading Matthew 15 today, we find the Pharisees and scribes challenging Jesus about his disciples’ failure to keep some traditions. I love how he answers their question with question and begins to get at their hearts.  In verses 10 and 11, Jesus gets very direct with those gathered to listen to his teachings, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

My small group is reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  In this week’s reading, Lewis says, “…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is.” Why? Back to Matthew 12:34, because what instinctively comes out of your mouth truly reflects what is in your heart.

Think about what’s in your heart. With my children and I, today will you ask God to help change your heart to look like Jesus?

Son of God

Jesus walking on water.

Today’s reading link: Genesis 15; Matthew 14; Nehemiah 4; Acts 14

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In 2005, I felt God challenging me to come to terms with the fact that I claimed to be a Christian but I was living indifferently, without demonstrating any faith and without any action that might remotely resemble someone who loved, trusted, or followed Jesus. I was lukewarm on God.

The way C.S. Lewis boiled it down was the turning point.  Those words spoke to me saying: decide for yourself, man up. It was time to get rid of my bad assumptions as to what Christians believed or how they behaved.  It was time to act: read, seek, pray, get real and come to a final answer for these two very important questions. Was Jesus who he said he was?  And if so, what did he say?

I had previously dabbled in Bible reading but it was mostly half-hearted. This time I approached the Bible with reverence because I was actually afraid of coming to the conclusion that Jesus was perhaps a madman, and then I’d be left lost and empty.  Then I read the book of Matthew and it spoke to me like it had never done before.

Matthew documents how Jesus faced opposition even though over and over he proved his love for people, he wisely taught them, and performed numerous miracles for the benefit of those he loved and to give glory to God. Jesus healed every disease and became famous:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains,those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. Matthew 4:23-24

People were going crazy for Jesus and his fame was spreading like wildfire but, in his hometown of Nazareth he was rejected. They had heard about his miracles but they didn’t believe, and this disbelief was why he didn’t perform any miracles in Nazareth. Isn’t this how we treat Jesus sometimes? Show me a sign, then I’ll believe.

Matthew 11 tells us that after a long day of teaching, Jesus’ disciples hop into a boat and after dismissing the massive crowd (of 5,000 who Jesus just miraculously fed), Jesus went up the mountain to pray. I’m thinking Jesus had a good heart-to-heart with his Heavenly Father and spent some time mourning the loss of John the Baptist. This John, whom Jesus referred to in Matthew 11:11 as “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater”. John was a relative of Jesus, he prepared the way for Jesus, he baptized Jesus. John served him through imprisonment and a brutal death so Jesus must have been in deep sorrow.

Faith saves, doubt destroys.

When Jesus returns from praying, he finds that the boat had drifted and he performs another miracle: He walks on water to meet his disciples. They see someone coming; they were frightened and thought he was a ghost. Jesus tries to calm them but Peter wants proof of who he is. Peter shows some faith by telling Jesus to “command him” to walk on water. Peter then miraculously walks on water, but even with this he starts to doubt and he begins to sink. Again, like us, we want a sign, we get a sign, but we end up doubting and sinking.

Before closing, I want to take the time to say happy birthday to Rick Jebb. Rick is one of our authors, a close friend, a mentor, a leader, a brother who cannot stop talking about Jesus (seriously, I don’t think it is in his power to stop).  Rick is the person who was integral in my own in-depth study of the Sermon on the Mount – which I am eternally grateful for. Rick, you’re a difference maker and a wonderful human being, I thank God for all that He has shaped you to become!

With that, we’ll close today with some questions to measure ourselves as we consider the Matthew readings thus far. First, please meditate on this verse for a moment:

And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:33

Finally, let’s ask ourselves:

  1. Do I believe that Jesus is the son of God?
  2. Do I live like I believe Jesus is the son of God?
  3. Would my friends, family, and co-workers agree with my answer to question two? What actions should I take to reconcile any differences?


Genesis 14; Matthew 13. Nehemiah 3; Acts 13.

Choices have consequences. There is something ominous about this phrase. Seriously, I get really nervous when I think about it because, like most of us, I have made (am making?) some really poor choices. Today’s scriptures brought this to light in a new way for me. In order to explain, I want to consider Abram. To do so, we need to start in Chapter 13.

In yesterday’s journal, Michael wisely noted Abram’s response to the riches that he possessed. In verse 4, “Abram called upon the name of the Lord.” I think you will see that this sets the stage for many events that follow.

The first of these events begins with strife between Abram and Lot. In order to resolve the conflict, Abram leads the way, suggesting that they split apart. Now, the part that confounds my worldly wisdom is that Abram gives Lot the first choice.   I refuse to believe that Abram did not see the same things that Lot did, as described in verse 10.  He saw the Jordan Valley which was, “well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt.” Even so, Abram did not choose it. He gave the privilege of first choice to Lot. Why not? The simple answer is that it was not important to him. Abram recognized that his blessed life was not a result of his surroundings, but of God’s hand on his life.

The second choice Abram makes shows up in Genesis 14:21. The king of Sodom offers him the loot that was stolen from the city. Not unlike his refusal to take the land in the Jordan Valley, Abram refuses the easy and obvious choice. What is it about Abram that causes him to make such choices? Simple; he knew how to keep God the one thing. The one thing for Abram was crystal clear. His purpose in this life was to serve God. Neither the money (rich in livestock), nor the first choice of where to live (Jordan Valley) or even the enticements by the king were worth his attention.

This world is always falling victim to misguided purpose. In order to make good decisions we attempt to increase our will power or gain more wisdom. It occurs to me that Abram didn’t worry about those things. Instead, he “called upon the name of the LORD,” “gave him a tenth of everything,” and “lifted his hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.” Today is a new day. How will you choose?

Dangerous Witness, Love Ridiculous


Today’s reading: Genesis 13; Matthew 12; Nehemiah 2; Acts 12

Summer Sunny Forest Trees And Green Grass. Nature Wood Sunlight

Often when I read God’s living word, I find myself stopping to say something of the sort “Wait, what’s that all about?” Today’s reading started off this way.

Unto the place of the altar, which he had make there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. -Genesis 13:4

This phrase ‘called on the name of the Lord’ confused me. I thought to myself “that is an interesting way to say Abram worshiped the Lord. What does an old testament sacrifice have to do with God’s Name?” Seeking for answers, I looked for the phrase throughout the Bible. I found it used in several places throughout the Bible, old and new testament, such as; Gen 4:26Gen 13:4, 1 Ki 18:24, 2Ki 5:11, Joe 2:32, Ac 2:21, Ac 22:16To me, it became more clear what this meant with each of the old testament occurrences but none more than in the prophecy of Joel and then later in Acts.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered:… -Joel 2:32

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16

I also looked into the individual words used which helped me better understand the phrase.  The root word for ‘called’, as in Abram called on the Name of the Lord is קרא, which I learned can be used in several different forms. In the form it is used here, it is also used throughout chapter one of Genesis when God is naming his creation: ‘calling the light day’ and so on. Interesting. So not necessarily called as in; Tom called on Jane, but more; Tom called Jane beautiful. Put another way, calling something what it is. 

This phrase ‘calling on the name of the Lord’, in my estimation then, is a proclamation of faith that God is who He reveals Himself to be. Put another way, announcing officially or publicly “God is who He says He is! Jesus is the Christ! I profess my dependence on Him and commit to following Him.” Perhaps not that specifically, but you get the idea.

Another interesting revelation from this study is that this proclamation of faith is a consistent term, if you will, of all the covenants that God graciously enters into with His undeserving people throughout the Bible. Throughout the covenants, we are called to be His witnesses.

In the old testament making sacrifices and observing special holidays was a way to be different from the other people of the earth and in so doing the others could see from afar that these people we’re proclaiming God’s Name. Imagine an animal being sacrificed. Such an act would not go unnoticed by the neighbors. It would be loud. The smell, far-reaching. Like unto it, many of the rhythms of holiday observances and pilgrimages, people about would take notice; ‘There go God’s people.’ As we adhere to the covenants we proclaim God’s name.

Today, Jesus tells us that love will be the signal to all the world that we are His disciples.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. -John 13:35

Trying to think on why love is the way to proclaim God’s name in the new covenant may be another study entirely. Perhaps receiving the Spirit was the only way we would be capable of sending such a signal? Acts 1:8

I feel this understanding has presented me a most precious opportunity to consider a few questions. Can the way I live, the way I love, go unnoticed by the neighbors? When I love does it point straight to God? Does it proclaim His name? God help me. 

The vision statement at Eastview names the local church dangerous witnesses who have ridiculous love.  Perhaps the kind of love that can not go unnoticed? Perhaps the kind of love that is so unselfish, so supernatural, it can only become through the power of the Spirit? God, would you accept my life as a living sacrifice? God, would you help me take up my cross daily and focus on things eternal, letting go of the temporal? God, would you turn my heart towards Your statues and not toward selfish gain? 


Further reading from past studies:

Listening Faith

Today’s reading link: Genesis 12; Matthew 11; Nehemiah 1; Acts 11

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:15 

Today’s readings reminds me to listen, keep faith, and obey.  Sounds easy… but we know its not when we try to do things on our own.  In Genesis 12 Abraham was told to leave his home and travel to a new land and in doing so God would make him a great nation and he would be blessed. Abraham listens to God. How often does God speak to us and we don’t listen because of fears, the unknowns, or our own comfort in our current life? But like Abraham, in our times, when we allow ourselves to lose faith or fear creeps in we make choices that reflect our own desires.  We need to pray and believe God is with us and on our side.  Think of the evidence shared with John in Matthew 11 about acts by Jesus. In our moments of doubt think of what God has done for you, turn to scripture, think of our eternal salvation, pray.  In our trials don’t turn away, turn to him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

God’s steadfast love will heal, provide peace, give grace, comfort, and lead us to him. Our day to day events or burdens that impact our lives are taken care of when we share them with our God who says:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (v. 29-30)

Nehemiah offers this reminder of turning to God in our weakest moments when he discovers his homeland is devastated.

And I said, “Oh Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, Nehemiah 1:5

Nehemiah provides an example of elements of prayer by giving 1) praise, 2) thanksgiving (v. 5) , 3) repentance (v. 6), 4) specific request and 5) commitment (v.9). Doing this will help clarify your problem, allow God to help, and give us guidance.

In my prayers I ask for courage and faith like Peter shows in Acts when he shares the Gospel with everyone. Who better to have travel and share the word with then Barnabas who shows on going support, love, and encouragement to Peter as they share the word.  Together they support and love new Christians and encourage us to grow in our faith.

As we read today remember to keep our ears open to what God is calling us to do, be constant in prayer so we can turn over the burdens of our lives to him, and think of ways to share and encourage believers or non believers to help them grow in faith.

Have a blessed day.



January 10, 2016


Today’s reading link: Genesis 11; Matthew 10; Ezra 10; Acts 10

Team work is an incredible thing. It is by collaboration that man can do amazing works. This is how our technology advances.

When we are united, we are stronger, able to build great kingdoms. When we are united with God, we are privileged to receive His strength, which enables us to participate in the building of God’s kingdom.

We are all from God, all under God, all loved by God, yet still we must turn to God if we are to discover His will for our lives.

The Tower of Babel reminds us that we can do great things if we work together, but if God is not at the center of our plans, in the end, all is vanity.

Why God chose a tribe of nomads wandering in the desert to be His people, to carry His word, to deliver a Savior for all humanity, is a marvelous mystery.  Now all people, from every corner of the earth, are called to be part of God’s “Royal Priesthood,” and citizens of a “Holy Nation.”

As Peter 2:9 reminds us, even today: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.

The disciples were sent out to proclaim God’s kingdom first to the Jews.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel..” (Matthew 10:5-6)

After Jesus had been killed and resurrected, he appeared to te eleven, sending them out to “….make disciples of all nations…..” (Matthew 28:19)

And Peter’s vision revealed God’s plan to offer salvation to all who would receive it.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.” (Acts 10:34-38)

As Christians we are commissioned to take the gospel message to all corners of the earth.  At the same time we are called to demonstrative unity — something only possible through God’s Holy Spirit. Gathering in His name, we become the body of Christ.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

Before we do anything, we must first seek unity with God.  This unity comes from grace through our reconciliation with God by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Only then can our lives become aligned with our true purpose — the glorification of God!

Where is God in your partnerships, and in your collaborations?  What are you building today?


A Pure Heart

A large empty rainbow shaped heart creating a frame on a blue sky background with a big bright sunburst positioned in the cleavage of the heart

Today’s reading link: Genesis 9–10; Matthew 9; Ezra 9; Acts 9

Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  A pure heart is one that is fully devoted to God; no hypocrisy; a condition in which outward actions reflect the true condition of the heart.

Always devoted? Never an impure thought or selfish motive?  We could never get here on our own.  But God gave us a guide, and a lot of grace, to help us.  God’s commandments aren’t simply a list of rules to make our lives more difficult, but a guide to help us purify our hearts and move toward full devotion to him.  This theme runs throughout today’s reading.

In Matthew 9, Jesus saw the thoughts of the scribes and affirmed his authority through a miracle:

When he saw the faith of the people who had brought him and the faith of the paralytic, Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. The scribes/teachers who were looking on said nothing, but Jesus looked at their hearts and saw their accusations of blasphemy.  He responded by also healing the paralytic’s physical disability.

In Ezra 9, Ezra mourned because the Children of Israel disobeyed God’s command to remain pure by refraining from intermarriage:

God commanded the Children of Israel to keep themselves separated from the people of the lands with their abominations. They were not to give their daughters to them in marriage, nor take non-Israelite daughters for their sons, and never seek the others’ peace or prosperity.  All these things would lead them away from full devotion to God.

In Acts 9, Ananias sought after a Saul, a known murderer of Jesus followers:

Saul’s heart, “…still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”, sounds pretty pure.  Purely in opposition to Jesus.  We read the story of his conversion, and know he goes on to purify his heart and become a great man of God.  But the pure heart that rings through in Acts 9 is of Ananias.  When God commanded Ananias to go to Saul, Ananias gently reminded God of Saul’s reputation.  God affirmed his command, but he did not play to Ananias’ selfish desires (like I would have) to convince Ananias to go.  My line would have sounded something like, “Ananias, I realize the risk is great here, but so is the reward.  This guy will go on to write almost have of the New Testament.  You’re going to make history.  This story will be recorded in the best-selling book ever written.  Billions of copies!”  See, God didn’t have to play to Ananias’ selfishness because had a pure heart, he simply followed God’s command.

In Genesis, God punished Ham’s impure actions:

Ham commits an impure act against his father Noah. God doesn’t punish Ham directly, but punishes Ham by making his son a servant to his brothers.  As a mother, seeing my kids pay for my sin is way more painful than suffering my own consequences.  Heart-wrenching is the word that comes to mind.

Samuel 16:7 says, “…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  What does God see when he looks at your heart today?


Concept for procrastination and urgency with torn newspaper head

Today’s reading link: Genesis 8; Matthew 8; Ezra 8; Acts 8

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) closes with two of my favorite verses:

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teachingfor he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.  (Matthew 7:5-7)

Have you ever been astonished at someone’s teaching?  I am picturing jaws dropping, minds blown, tears of joy as well as tears of remorse due to hearts being convicted from this sermon.  They recognized Jesus’ authority and they were astonished because there had never been anyone like him. Still today there is no one like him, and there will never be anyone like him!

In Matthew Chapter 8, Jesus puts his authority into action and performs various miracles where he demonstrates his authority over:

  1. Disease (v. 3, 13, 15-16) – healed leprosy and other diseases
  2. Winds and sea (v. 26) – calms the storm
  3. Demons (v. 16, 32) – cast out demons

Matthew tells the story of the centurion who demonstrated great faith. Centurions were captains in the Roman army and had authority over many soldiers.  We can learn from the centurion as a model for our own faith and prayer life (humble ourselves, honor Him, believe).  This high-powered centurion humbles himself and defines the relationship with Jesus addressing him as “Lord” and further states “I am not worthy” –  and he trusts and believes that Jesus can heal from afar.  Then the best part: kudos from Jesus.  Jesus recognizes the centurion’s approach as an act of great faith and is “marveled” by it.

I’d love to marvel Jesus today, how about you? How about right now? Today’s reading has a couple examples of urgency.

The first example is directly from Jesus and he makes it clear that following him must be on his terms, without delay:

Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22)

The level of urgency in our response to the good news should match how good the news is. Our outward response indicates our true inward feeling. We’re talking about some seriously good news here – eternal life. The eunuch in Acts 8:34-39 gets it right when his immediate response to hearing the Good News is to become baptized in some water along the road and went on his way rejoicing!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18)

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring so the time to respond is now.  Jesus has all authority.  Authority over our past and future, our illnesses, ups, downs, jobs, relationships, needs, addictions, failures, fears, families, and most importantly, our eternity.  He’s proven it and has promised it for you and for me. We just need to trust and follow him.

Lord, I am not worthy.  Forgive me for not marveling enough at your greatness and your authority. Forgive my lack of urgency in following you wholeheartedly. Thank you for this new day and the opportunity to follow you. Amen.


Concept illustration of hiring the best candidate. The graphic shows company making a choice of the person with right skills for the job among many candidates

Family: Genesis 7; Matthew 7. Secret: Ezra 7; Acts 7.

In any given circumstance, I find that I want to be part of the selected group. Not unlike choosing teams on the playground, I’ve always striven to be either the captain, picked first and at the very least, part of the best group. In order to maintain that status, there are certain things that are expected. In my adult life, a few of the worldly traits that get you into the boardroom are intelligence, influence and often status or wealth. Ironically, I have a tendency to transfer this worldly wisdom to God’s eternal kingdom. Surely, by doing these same things, I can get, earn even, God’s favor. Today’s reading sheds some light on how we get favor by God. Let’s take a look at all four of today’s chapters.

First, God’s favor was clearly on Noah. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would have been working desperately to be chosen for that 40 day voyage! How did Noah get chosen? The answer lies in Genesis 7:1, where God acknowledges the righteousness that Noah displays. Where exactly did he become righteous? Turn back for a moment to Genesis 6:9, and see that Noah, “walked with God.” What we learn from Noah is that God does not choose his people willy-nilly. He puts out the invitation, makes himself known and allows us to choose Him.

Second, Ezra was also favored by God. Check out Ezra 7:9. It says, “ The good hand of God was upon him.” Wow, when I read that, I want to have it too! As with Noah, God did not choose Ezra randomly. Verse 10 describes Ezra’s passion for God. “Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Again, God set out the invitation, with the law in this case; it was up to Ezra to respond.

Third, look back at Acts 7. Stephen was chosen to be a leader back in chapter 6. Once again, it was not a random selection but based on his heart. Acts 6:3 records that he was “of good repute [and] full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Now, We may not get a description of how Stephen achieved his wisdom and fullness, but chapter 7 definitely gives us an indication. Most of the chapter consists of him reciting scripture to the men in the synagogue. How do you suppose that information landed in his head? More importantly, the information permeated his heart resulting in transformation. This is evident by the intensity of the Holy Spirit working in his life. (Acts 6:10)

Finally, turning to Matthew 7, we hear directly from Jesus about how we can be part of his chosen. God has sent us an invitation, in his son Jesus Christ. We must now choose him, or not. Our choosing Jesus starts with seeking. Verse 7 says that we should “seek and find, knock and it will be opened.” These are the activities that lead to a renewed heart. The benefit, you ask? “The good gifts.” (v11) While I cannot quantify what they are, history says that being chosen and favored by God are among them.

Seven days into our journey, I am praying that Gods wisdom is working its way into our hearts and minds. As it does, I know that we will find opportunities to be obedient to it. Noah, Ezra and Stephen are all great examples of how God’s word, when accepted whole-heartedly and personally, transforms us. I can think of no better favor from God than seeing for myself “the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)