You Are Handpicked

A devotional thought for the week…

John 6:70-71

Jesus responded, “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man—one from the Twelve!—was even then getting ready to betray him.

Judas was handpicked by Jesus to be a follower. We don’t know when he made the fateful decision to betray his friend and leader. All we know is that he did, and became a glaring example of how to blow up our lives. So often the Scriptures about Judas are the proof text for betrayal, for deceit and for back-stabbing. But within the story is also an incredible example of mercy and grace. Think about it; Jesus knew Judas would betray him, BUT HE HANDPICKED HIM ANYWAY!

Jesus called him a “devil” in this passage; the original, Greek meaning of the word was ‘to oppose the cause of God’.

So let’s get this straight; Jesus knew Judas would betray him and that he was opposed to the cause of God the Father. Yet Jesus intentionally chose into a relationship with Judas.

If Jesus had mercy on and a relationship with the guy who would ultimately get him killed, don’t you think he could have mercy on us?

You need to know that you’ve been handpicked. You’ve been selected based on no merit of your own. Loved in spite of your bad behavior. Graced in spite of some future sin. Jesus knows our past, present and future, the Father forgives it, and we are free to live in light of Grace.

We are handpicked to be in a relationship with Him!

 

The Crane Game

I was talking with a client about God and Christianity recently and, while describing his journey, he used this analogy:

“Believing in and trusting God is like playing one of those crane games at the arcade. The game is rigged against you. Its nearly impossible to get the stuffed animal out. Ever so often, you’ll get really close; close enough to keep you playing. But you’d be better off spending your time and money doing something else rather than wondering and hoping if you’ll ever get the prize.”cranegame

I can totally relate. It seems like sometimes God shows up in profound ways and renews hope and keeps me interested in Him. I get the prize. Then other times it feels like I’m steering the silly crane around, picking up stuffed animals that end up falling out of its grip, ultimately wasting time and quarters. I struggle with this, and I’ve never even been burned by church.

But my client has been. And so have many others. Being burned only serves to compound the confusion and frustration, making Christianity feel more rigged.

This really isn’t a ‘how to get past it’ post. It’s an ‘I’m sorry your faith journey has felt like an arcade’ post.

I apologize on behalf of the Church if you’ve been burned. I’m sorry that perhaps in the most difficult circumstances of your life it has felt like you couldn’t put enough quarters in the God machine to get him to react. I have no explanation for it. I don’t know why God shows up sometimes and seems a million miles away at others.

The good news is that being able to admit it feels rigged is a step in the right direction. Being able to confess that you feel gamed and even ripped off by God, the church and/or Christianity is a good place to start.  Maybe it’s time to quit plugging quarters in the machine and hoping to get a prize.  Instead it might be more fruitful, for a while, to simply do life with people that love you and are authentic about their own journey.

Instincts

Another devotional thought –

Jude 1:10

But these people sneer at anything they can’t understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction.

Some things we instinctively understand can be very dangerous if misused. It is easy to write-off something that is instinctual because it seems so natural, so simple, so expected. But, in order to live well and honor God, we have to learn to contain those instinctual impulses and let them guide us accordingly.

Consider food; eating is instinctual isn’t it? We all know the dangers of overeating or eating really poorly though; diabetes, stroke, heart attack, etc.
Let’s take sex; seems pretty instinctual too, right? If we’re honest, some of us have misused our sexuality too. We’ve engaged in acts we swore we would never commit, with people we never imagined, at times and places we would otherwise never visit.

Too often I hear men express their “high sex drive” as the reason they act out sexually with pornography, masturbation and even affairs. “It’s natural for me to want to have sex” they say. Then, when coached or guided on containing those instinctual impulses and delaying sexual gratification, they get defensive, argumentative and angry. In other words, they sneer at the advice.

Perhaps Jude was speaking to us when this scripture written, encouraging us to look deeper than our animal instincts.

Might our lives be different, and our relationship with God be different, if we tried to acknowledge our natural instinctual impulses as both physical and spiritual?

If we’ll allow it, our natural instincts can lead us in 2 ways; 1) to act in a physical way and 2) to act in a spiritual way.

The urge to eat can prompt us to find food for nourishment of our bodies. It can also be a prompt for us to seek spiritual nourishment too. That’s partly why we see fasting can be such a spiritual experience. The same can be true of sex. Sexual desire can be a prompt to engage intimately with another human, and by the same token, perhaps it can signal our need to engage intimately with our Creator.

What if sexual temptation and lustful thoughts are actually a cue to connect with God rather than just an opportunity to sin. We get to decide what it will be for each of us today.