- Written by: Don Goulding
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains… (John 15:16)
“Many are called, few are chosen,” a nurse said to me when I was nineteen.
She wrapped gauze around a surfing injury on my foot, but said nothing more. Was it a warning against surfing, a prophetic utterance, or not directed at me?
The nurse quoted Jesus, as he finished his parable of the wedding banquet. He lifted a finger, and pointed to the simple truth that many are invited to the wedding feast of the Savior, but few come.
Forty years of contemplating the cryptic words haven’t resolved the mystery. I still wonder in what sense we choose Christ, as opposed to being chosen by him. Many are my theological betters who have stubbed their toes on this question. I can happily wait until heaven for the answers, but perhaps some outer layers of truth are accessible now.
The majority of the world’s population doesn’t profess Christ, or they don’t display fruit to substantiate their claim. So why me? I’m not smarter, more godly, or less self-serving than many who are not saved. I can’t explain why I’m rescued by Jesus, I only know that I am, and so I stand with my mouth open, the drool unchecked.
On the other hand, following Jesus requires every ounce of my energy. The treadmill started slow. Admitting I needed a Savior was all the spiritual exercise I could handle. As I got in shape, the speed increased. It’s exhausting work to die to self. Keeping in step with the Spirit saps every calorie, and yet, somehow, I know this, too, is from him.
It’s not my effort that brings me salvation. Jesus both died for my sin and empowers me to serve him. The only part I have is to say yes.
Mine is a simple, plain choice. I choose him, because he chose me.
Prayer: Lord, your love for me is my greatest joy and most profound mystery.
- Written by: Don Goulding
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7) (NIV)
I visited my friend, Seru, in Fiji the other day. I caught him in a foul mood. At first he wouldn’t talk. I picked up one of his trinkets, and he snatched it out of my hand. Then he lay down and ignored me. When I pestered him to play a game, he changed the rules and cheated. Still, I was thrilled to have him near.
I overlook Seru’s behavior, because he’s three years old. I love him as a one of a kind feat of God’s creation. He has a sharp mind, a munchkin voice, and dimples on his hands behind each of his ten little fingers.
Seru is a work in progress. I don’t rush him toward adulthood, but relish each stage along the way. I rejoice in what Seru is, and disregard everything he’s not.
The acceptance I have for Seru is far exceeded by the acceptance God has for me. Love for me soaks into his heart like rain in the desert. He cherishes the me he created, while he moves my sin to Jesus. God keeps the good, redeems the bad, and looks forward to what I’ll become.
I’m patient with Seru because I know God will grow him over the years. Just so, God peers into the future and sees me completed in heaven. That’s why he’s forbearing—he knows what’s coming, and that I’ll eventually get there. He doesn’t force me to skip ahead, but rejoices over each stage of my development.
The grace I have for Peru, the grace God has for me, I can have that grace for all people. There is no room for me to refuse others the same acceptance I have so undeservedly received. No, I can never again be that infantile.
Prayer: Savior, thank you for accepting me. Help me accept others.
- Written by: Don Goulding
Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Our family paddled a canoe in the Canadian wilderness. The lonely call of loons passed a primal connection to nature through our chests. Glaciers in the Caribou Mountains peeked over conifers to view their reflection in the Bowron Lakes. Best of all, coho salmon raced through the liquid universe beneath our boat.
After living three years in the Pacific Ocean, a drive for perpetuating life overtakes the coho. From the tidal Strait of Georgia, the silver heroes swim a thousand miles into mountain tributaries. By the time they passed under us, they were transformed into red for mating, and their bodies were battered from jumping up cascades. After releasing eggs and sperm in the shallows of their birth, the valiant cohos die, giving everything for the great exchange.
I want the attitude of a salmon. My body has a far greater purpose than comfort or temporary thrills. It was not given to me to spend on whatever feels good. It is to be nourished, but not idolized with obsessive fashions, or desperate healthcare. Using my body for earthly gain is sacrilege, akin to a salmon refusing to spawn so it won’t be injured.
The purpose of my body is to carry my spirit to the stream of eternal life, where I can make the great exchange. The sacrifice requires swimming against the world’s current. It’s a suicide mission, but what a glorious spending, and what a noble purpose, freely given for the praise of Jesus, only to share in his reward.
Prayer: Lord, I choose to exchange my body for life in you.