Surviving church camp.
I was about 12 years old when I went on my first youth church camp. The camp was in Colorado where I made some great friends as we played cards for candy and night capture the flag. Beyond those, I have two distinct memories from that camp.
At one point, I was pretty sure I was going to meet Jesus…like straight on my way to heaven, meet Jesus. While I’m sure our youth pastor was in complete control of the van he drove during one outing, he was swerving up and down, in and out of the mountain roads…all to get a rise out the junior high students riding with him.
There was a lot of screaming. When we finally came to our destination, we were rushing toward an edge of a cliff. From my back seat vantage point, I was sure we were going to run right over that cliff.
More screaming as this insane youth pastor slammed on the brakes.
When I finally stepped out of the van (on shaky legs), I saw he stopped with plenty of room to spare. I had dodged that bullet.
Picked out. Invited in. Called up.
The other memory I have from that trip is of one of the older student leaders. He was this skinny dude with HUGE glasses. I remember he was pretty cool to me, a younger kid, and really encouraging. Specifically, I remember going to a soccer field to goof around. He complimented me on my ability to play.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had picked me out to encourage me to greater things. Honestly, he may not have really understood it either, but it was the beginning of a life-long friendship. That skinny kid grew up to be my current boss (though, I don’t really think of him as a boss – in some ways we’re still those two kids on a church camp).
I tell this story because my friend was simply following the example of Jesus. Again, he may not have really realized it at the time, but throughout the stories of the gospels, Jesus did the same thing over and over again. He picked people out, invited them in and called them up to greater things.
Jesus constantly picked people out, invited them in and called them up.
Jesus picks Peter
One of the times we see Jesus do this was his first encounter with his friend and disciple Peter (Luke 5). Jesus is teaching by the Lake of Galilee where a huge crowd gathers to hear him. In order to keep teaching, he borrows Peter’s boat to give himself some space.
Peter was a fisherman, along with his partners, James and John. This was a fishing community, so there were more than the two boats the partners owned and operated. For some reason, out of the entire community and all the boats in this area, Jesus chose Peter.
If you’re like me, you get a little queasy at the thought of being picked out. For me, it goes back to my 3rd grade gym class and playground kickball game at recess. I still see the fifteen kids lined up in front of two other kids. One by one the two captains chose their teams.
As I stood in that line, all I could think was, “Don’t pick me last!”
This scene of Jesus picking Peter out isn’t him choosing the best possible option. In fact, I’d argue it had nothing to do with picking the best candidate for a follower of Jesus. This was different; it was beyond logic. Jesus choosing Peter was Spirit led. It was God doing what only God can do.
Doing for the one.
Andy Stanley, the pastor and leader of a church of 25,000+ in the Atlanta area, says this about leadership, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” In that moment, Jesus was both fully man and God. His humanity kept him from choosing everyone. So Jesus did for the one what he wished to do for everyone.
Fast forward 2000 years and you don’t need to feel like that kid in line hoping to be chosen. Today, there are no limits on Jesus. He can do for everyone what he did for the one while on earth. You ARE chosen. Jesus has picked you out.
Set apart and appointed
Hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, God picked out another man. This man, Jeremiah, was called to be a prophet to both Israel and the surrounding nations. Here is what God spoke Jeremiah:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” –Jeremiah 1:5
By simply choosing to read this bit of text know that Jesus is calling you, just like he called Jeremiah. You are set apart. You are appointed.
You have been picked out.
So God has picked you out. What do you do with that information? What does it mean? There are a lot of things it could mean, but here are three important things you need to know about being picked out by Jesus.
1. God picked you out because God is for you.
We don’t hear this enough. Oddly, those who have grown up around church and Christianity may hear this less than those a million miles from those entities. Even more strange, we tend to grow up believing the exact opposite. We grab onto this idea that God is against us.
Let me be as clear as I can about this. God is for you. God believes in you. God is overwhelmed by you. God believes you are amazing. God picked you out because God is for you.
During the lockdown in the Spring of 2020, I began journaling. It’s been a great habit for multiple reasons, but one thing I love about journaling is going back to see what I was thinking and feeling.
A consistent line I wrote throughout the Spring and Summer of 2020 was this line, “God is for me.” Don’t believe the lie that God is against you.
God is for you.
2. God picked you out because God has a plan for you.
God picked out Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. God picked out Peter to build the church (Matthew 16:18). God has picked you out for a reason. It probably isn’t to be a prophet to the nations, but it could be to be a voice of truth to your family. It may not be to build a church, but it could be to help in your church.
God’s plan for you may be to raise kids who love Jesus. The plan for you may be to start a business. God’s plan for you may be to be involved in local politics.
God has a plan for you, and you probably have a feeling of what that may be. You probably don’t have the whole picture, but you have an idea. Start taking steps! Why?
God is for you, and He has a purpose for you!
3. God picked you out because He is more concerned with your future than your past.
This may fit within the “God is for you” category, but I think it’s deeper. I can’t tell you how often people tell me some version of this statement, “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done, said, thought.”
If we all were honest, we would all have some version of this statement in response to the thought that God is for you and has a plan for your life. You don’t know my past!
God is more concerned with your future than your past.
Think about this. Jesus picked out Peter knowing (as he was both fully God and fully man) that Peter would deny him at the moment of Jesus’ greatest need. Jesus chose Peter because he knew that future moment of failure would one day be Peter’s past, and the future beyond that moment was immeasurably greater than Peter’s past.
God is more concerned with your future than your past, so God picked you out (warts and all).
God has picked you out, so now what?
Here’s the great thing about God. God gives us choice. He allows us to make decisions about our lives. We can choose to reject Jesus. I can believe God is against me. You can choose to trash the plan God has for your life. We can choose to sit in the failures of our past.
We also have the ability to believe the opposite. We can see how God is for us. I can accept God’s plan. You can look toward your future. You can run to Jesus because he has picked you out.
What will you choose?
If you choose to run to Jesus and begin to walk the purpose God has for you, there is great news. In my next post, we’ll see how Jesus always follows his call with an invitation into community. Jesus invites us in!