To Be Chosen


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I think from the time we are very young each of us has an innate desire to be chosen. We want someone to pick us for the team or to choose us first for something or some reason. Too many of us recall the embarrassment of being the last one chosen for the game or team. It probably wasn’t meant to be personal, but it felt that way. I know I have memories of the “Red Rover” game in the church parking lot at VBS and teaming up for kick ball at recess on the playground at school. I was never athletic and never a fast runner so I was never picked first and often last of all.


Those early memories create a fear that we are not good enough. It stalks us throughout our school years. It doesn’t just happen on the playground, but it happens when tryouts occur for the musical or a play. It happens when tryouts for “first chair” in your section of the band are announced. It happens when you go to the first school dance and discover they aren’t doing just “line dancing”.


The truth each of us comes to grips with is that we will be in this spot of wanting to be chosen over and over again throughout our lifetime. It happens as adults when we desire to be part of a particular committee or small group study. It happens when the church choir’s anthem has a solo part to be sung. It happens when job interviews are on the line. It happens when scholarships are being decided. It happens when we want to be considered for a promotion or move up in the company when someone retires or leaves.


Of course it also happens when we want a particular person to choose us as a lifetime IMG_2335partner and wants us to marry. A nagging fear can creep in that we are not wanted or desired if that doesn’t happen early or perhaps at all.


While I was reading Luke 6 during my devotions a few days ago, I saw it again. It’s the passage where Jesus is choosing His disciples and there in verse 13 we read, “And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” The names of the disciples, the 12, that we have come to know so well were chosen. What struck me when I was reading the passage this time was the phrase before those 12 were chosen. It seems clear when He called His disciples there were likely more there than the 12 the verse says He chose. If that is true, what became of them? Did they still follow Him?


We know by reading the gospels that later others were called. At one point we read about 72 being called and sent out. In that case and in the case I have pointed out, these disciples are nameless to us today. What caused Jesus to choose the particular 12 men who became the apostles who tell the stories of His ministry on the earth? I wonder.


Did He choose those 12 because He knew their hearts were open and responsive to Him? Did He know they would follow Him? None of them were scholars. Did He see them as more teachable somehow? We cannot know, but we do know that time and time again scripture points to our hearts as His primary concern. He has no interest in religious acts and traditions that come from what we think we should do. He wants to woo our hearts to Him and as an omnipotent and omniscient God, surely He would know who would respond.


I was perhaps like some of you, wanting to be chosen and unsure I would be. The BEST news was learning that Jesus chose me. The important question was whether I would choose Him.


To come to the realization that despite every flaw, failing, or false self I had ever been, He really wanted me…blew my mind.


Too often we miss that He chooses us because of who He is and because it is His nature to love and show grace and mercy to us.


After all, our condition doesn’t surprise Him!


He made us!


It is we that must humble ourselves and come to grips with who we are and more importantly, who we are not. Once we do, we need never let the shadows of doubt and fear overtake us.


If the God of the universe has chosen us, if the King of Kings is preparing a place for us in His eternal Kingdom, we can rest in the sure knowledge that we are wanted, desired, valued…valued enough for Jesus to die for us.


Choosing Him means He has already chosen us!!!!!!!








God’s Darkest Hours


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Photo by Elise Finch

As the sun began to set, those who had followed the Lord could not let go of the events of the day. He had clearly told them, but what they had witnessed was beyond their imagination despite His words.


What would it have been like to be one of His disciples on that long, wrenching day at the end of such an incredible week?


I wonder.


Would I have steeled myself against the horror unfolding and clung to His words while still standing at the foot of the cross or would I have been one of those who were not present?


Would I have been overcome by grief and fear of what would happen next or would I have fallen prey to doubt?


So much had happened during this week…


The triumph of Palm Sunday had filled so many with hope and celebration! Then on Monday Jesus had entered the temple courts zealously overturning the tables of the moneychangers who were buying and selling. He was reminding them this place was to be a place of prayer and not one of robbers. A noisy melee broke out in the chaos of doves and money flying everywhere, people scrambling, and reeling at the scene. They had never seen Jesus this way.


Then on Tuesday as the disciples were walking along with Him, He had cursed the fig tree that was not producing fruit. How puzzled they seemed to be at how quickly the tree had withered before their very eyes! Once more He exhorted them if they had faith and believed as they prayed, what they prayed would be done.


How astonishing were those things the disciples witnessed, but now to think He was saying they could do such things was more than they could take in.


From there they went on to the temple courts that He had just cleared the day before and He was confronted by the chief priests and elders about where He had received authority to do what He had done. It was a trap they were setting for Him and He knew it. His wise answer rebuffed them and left them stymied as Jesus then refused to answer them and expose their unbelief.


Then came the Olivet Discourse where He warned the disciples through another story. This time He spoke of the foolish and wise virgins charging them to keep watch. To think this admonition came prior to that long night in the Garden of Gethsemane and yet they had not taken in the meaning for either the future or the present.


How Jesus loved them and longed for disciples to hear and understand!


I think He does for us as well. How can I possibly judge their behavior when I am not always listening and hesitating to follow if I don’t understand what He has asked of me?


It was on Wednesday that Judas slipped away from the others and made his bargain with the chief priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Did his fellow disciples have any clue he might be tempted to do such a thing?


It reminds me that in the “now” those I share the journey of faith with are also tempted even as I can be. How deeply and openly I share my doubts, fears, and temptations may well determine my ability or their ability to withstand it and make all the difference in this walk with Him. That means that I need to be purposeful in my times with those closest to me to help guard their hearts and allow them to guard mine as well.


Thursday was a feast day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Jesus directed His disciples where to go in the city and whom to speak with about preparing a place at his house for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate the feast.


When they were gathered there, Jesus broke bread and served wine giving thanks and once more giving them information few could likely grasp. He plainly told them they would not share this meal with Him again until they were together again in His Father’s kingdom.


They sang a hymn and then left for the Mount of Olives to the garden in Gethsemane. As they walked along in the moonlight, what was their conversation? Did they wonder at the interaction between Jesus and Judas? Did they question Judas abruptly leaving them?


Jesus wanted them to be with Him, to watch with Him, and to pray.


He knew and understood what lay before Him and despite His willingness to be obedient to His Father, His heart was in anguish and He asked His Father if there was any other way while still being willing to endure what lay ahead.


As the disciples looked back on that last sweet time with Jesus in the upper room and then their failure to watch with Him as he asked, were their own hearts burdened with guilt and shame for their failure?


The ugly scene of Judas arriving with soldiers to arrest Him angered them. How could he have done such a thing? Yet their own fear caused them to flee the scene. Peter’s curiosity brought him to the courtyard where early in the morning the prophecy Jesus had spoken about his betrayal would come to pass.


It was 6 AM on that Friday that Jesus would stand before Pilate. It had been a long night. He had already suffered much, but within an hour He was sent on to Herod for a decision on what to do with Him. Pilate must have hoped Herod would handle things, but instead he was returned to Pilate where Pilate looked for a way out and offered to release one of the prisoners. The priests had spurred on the crowd and elders who had arranged the betrayal by Judas to choose Barabbas rather than Jesus.


So in the end, as Old Testament prophets had foretold, Jesus was sentenced to death and by 8AM had been led away to Calvary. An hour later the grisly crucifixion had begun with only a handful of those He loved standing nearby to testify to the events. They were the ones who watched the soldiers casting lots for his clothing and heard the insults and mocking railed at Him.


These few would bear witness to the exchange Jesus had with the criminal crucified to one side of Him who was promised paradise. They also heard His words to His mother and the admonition to John to care for her as a son.


By noon that day, darkness covered the scene and at 1PM Jesus cried out to His Father and spoke of His thirst. By 2PM they would hear His final words “It is finished”. At the end of three hours, the soldiers would thrust a sword in His side to assure He was dead and then as sunset approached He was taken from the cross and Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb as a burial place.


The sun sank further and further and I might think the disciples’ hearts weighed heavy as it dipped below the horizon.


Was it all over?


What would become of them?


It was God’s darkest hour as He set aside His Son’s life for me, for you, for any who believe in Him.


Good Friday?


Perhaps we for whom He died can say it was good because He gave us the best gift we could have ever received.


 He gave us life with Him.


Photo by Elise Finch





Are We Asleep?




The Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mt. of Olives gives us poignant images of Jesus as He seeks his Father in anguish and travail as what we know of Holy Week nears the climax at the cross on Good Friday.


The place itself carries so much symbolism. The name of the garden represents an olive mill or olive press. Here, surrounded by olive trees harvested and pressed into oil, the passion of Jesus would begin.


He too would be crushed.


On this night, He would feel the crushing agony He was about to face and would plead with His Father to consider if there was no other way that His will might be accomplished. It was a deep crushing of His heart and spirit that would precede the crushing of His body as He would be beaten and then crucified.


Jesus and his disciples would have walked here after the Passover meal they have shared together. Passover was always at the time of the full moon so the moonlight would have illuminated the path they took. He had already spoken of what was to happen to Him when He had broken bread and poured out the wine, but what did the disciples really understand?


He had invited them to share this night with Him, this elite group who had walked with Him during His three of ministry. They had heard His teaching, seen His miracles, and enjoyed the intimacy of His company that was theirs alone.


And of course there were the three closest to Him (Peter, James, and John) who even on this night were singled out to go farther with Him into the garden where He would fall on His knees. These three had been chosen to be with Him and observed His transfiguration. They were perhaps His closest companions and now they had been invited into another very sacred moment.


As I read the passage and how the disciples responded to His need and how Peter, James, and John fell asleep, I can feel anguish for Jesus in His loneliness. I confess to feeling very judgmental of the disciples for their failure to watch with Him, pray with Him, be truly with Him.


Jesus had told them He would lay down His life and be taken from them and asked them to watch and pray. We have a similar image when Elijah tells Elisha he will be taken, but Elisha does not depart nor take his eyes from Elijah.


Peter, James, and John, however, have fallen asleep despite the Lord’s attempt to awaken them more than once. Even though He has shared with them that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to the point of death, their concern for Him does not keep them alert to minister to Him.


What about this troubles me so much?


I think there is something inside of me that wonders if I too fail to be concerned about His heart, His desire for my companionship. How often do I think about or even consider it?


Perhaps we are more like those disciples than we would desire to admit.


They were tired. They had been with Him ministering day after day doing the business of ministry and caring for the people. Now they fail to care for Him, for His heart, in this dark hour.


Have they been so busy doing the work of ministry they were insensitive to His desire for a relationship with them above all else?


Am I? Are you? Can we be caught up in doing so many good things for Him that we have little energy to simply be with Him?

 Ultimately, He offered them grace even as He does us, but I am drawn back to the reality that He left off praying and had gone to them. What was He seeking from them, hoping for? We will never know.


What I am reminded of as I read the passage out of Matthew 26 is this:

I don’t want to be too tired, too weary, too involved with the busyness of life or ministry that when He comes and simply wants to spend time with me that I fall asleep and miss that time He has carved out for me.


This passage isn’t the only passage in scripture that speaks to being available and ready for being with Him. We see it when Mary chooses the best part. We see it in the parable of the foolish virgins when they have no oil and miss the Lord’s appearing.


Lord, help me, help us, to be available to you, to be alert, and to be ready and make time to be with you the priority. You gave us all you had, sparing nothing. Awaken my heart, our hearts, to what you most desire of me, of us.






You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know


I will never forget the spring day of my second grade when my life could so easily have ended. I had not taken the bus home that day because I had joined my friend, Ruth, when she and her parents went to an event that afternoon at her church across the street from my school. I have no memory of what the event was, but I knew there would be great food served with it so I had accepted the invitation. It was a church known for how well the women baked pies, cakes, and any creation a six-year-old could imagine.


After the event I jumped in the backseat of the car with Ruth for her dad to drive me home. As my house came into view, he stopped on the road to let me out and continued on rather than driving in the driveway. His choice meant I needed to cross the both traffic lanes, but I was confident that I could easily manage that. I looked both ways and then I saw my mom waiting on the front porch and quickly started across the road. What I didn’t see was a truck that was barreling down the road and about to come over a small hill straight toward me.


What I heard was the sound of my mother’s voice screaming for me to stop and it was then that I noticed the truck. I scampered as fast as I could across the road and jumped across the ditch as my mom came running toward me. I am not sure if my mother was more grateful I was safe or angrier at my lack of awareness I was in danger. As I recall it now all these years later, I am pretty sure the anger came first before her hugs of relief.


Yes, I knew how I was supposed to cross the street, but I was not paying close enough attention and didn’t have the maturity to realize what I didn’t know or how much harm I could face. How grateful I am that my mom was watching!


This week as I was listening to a podcast about the role of a watchman, this personal story came to mind vividly. The speaker was not only telling about the places in scripture where the word is used, but also exhorting anyone listening that each of us as believers are called to be a watchman. He was also using the context of the “signs of the times” and the importance of the admonition “watch and pray”.


The Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines watchman as a “Military or civil security person who had the responsibility to protect ancient towns or military installations from surprise attack or civil disasters. Watchmen also had the responsibility of announcing of a new day.” Clearly, my mother protected me that day and on many other occasions as well. But in the book of Ezekiel the prophet reported the watchman also had the responsibility to warn of impending danger and my mother had done that also.IMG_2320


The role of watchman was a significant responsibility. A sentry in the military served and still does serve a similar duty and must be alert at all times in the discharge of his or her duties to assure no harm comes within the area to be guarded.


In the days of Ezekiel, failure to warn of impending danger would result in being charged as guilty for the blood of the people whom he failed to warn.


If the podcast was right and each of us as believers are called to be a watchman, whom are we called to protect or warn? Initially it seems clear that it would be to protect or warn those close to us of impending danger, but does it not also include our brothers and sisters who are not close to us? If so, what are we to protect them from?


Paul speaks to that clearly in Galatians 6:1: 

“Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.” Amplified Bible, Classic Edition


To fulfill what Paul is admonishing the church at Galatia, it seems he describes the role of a watchman to protect and warn within the body of Christ. Perhaps it also extends to evangelism when we might ask someone if they were to die tonight where would they go.


Unless someone warns us we will never know what we don’t know and if you, anyone, or I don’t warn someone, they won’t either. Warning is a part of loving.


Are you a watchman?









Caught in the Act: When Imitation Doesn’t Work




Attending a one-room schoolhouse is something most people have only read about, but for me it was a reality for the first and second grade in rural Ohio. Eight grades in one large room provided an experience like no other. Of course there were only a few students for each grade and as I think about it, those moms today who home school their children probably have a greater feel for the experience than most anyone else. Even so, to have 25 students in one room at different grade levels taught by one teacher meant you needed an extraordinary teacher. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Queen and the name fit her as perfectly as the smile she always wore. I couldn’t wait to see her each day.


The room was arranged with desks in rows and sections according to grade level. A large coal stove stood to one side and was used to heat the room in the winter. Behind the stove were a row of hooks for coats and jackets. Bathrooms were the more primitive outdoor variety. The playground had one set of swings and an abundance of grass. Somehow it all worked and in the late spring, Mrs. Queen sometimes walked with us down the road to an open field near a creek where we could eat lunch and have room to explore.



I was one of three little girls in the first grade. Our desks were up front in the room, but the front wall’s black chalkboard gave us a glimpse of what other grades were assigned and we could also hear and benefit from the instruction students above us received. The disadvantage for me was my seeming inability to tune out the instruction for other grades and focus on my own work. It sounded more interesting than the work I was assigned. I also am and was a very auditory learner so I would zero in on all sorts of new information long before that material would be given to me. In fact, I learned a lot by listening. (I still do!)


I listened so well to the other girls in my class reading aloud that when it came to my turn, I could read the pages without stumbling over a single word. It seemed like I was the best reader in the class and I got credit for that until Mrs. Queen discovered the truth. I was not reading the words, but imitating. I pretended to read, but had instead memorized the stories in the reading book. It was almost the middle of the first grade and I was caught. My parents were told and I needed to start at the beginning of the first grade reader again. I was mortified.


There are many things I learned by imitation and this may not be a bad thing, but some things do not work that way. I can imitate the way my mother crimped a piecrust. I can imitate how I use my camera lens after I watch a You Tube video. I can imitate a British accent after watching Downton Abbey perhaps.


In the spiritual realm, however, I cannot imitate the nature of Jesus. It is either in me or it is not.


As a believer, I am called to often be and do what is not my duty, to love when it would be easier to resent, to persevere when it would be easier to walk away, to respond with grace when a comment made is less then loving.


If I only imitate, I will be found out as surely as Mrs. Queen detected I was not reading. I will also dishonor the Lord in my life when others discover I was only imitating.


His character cannot be imitated. It only happens by the infusion of His life and Spirit at work within me.