disciple of all nations // flawed and chosen

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This blog has only been around for two months, but there’s already a common thread running through it: That although we may feel like we’re not something enough for God to approve of — not faithful enough, not spiritual enough, not knowledgeable enough about the Bible, not prayerful enough, just not good enough — these feelings are absolutely not true.

So I want to close out my mini-series on the disciples with a final reminder: The disciples were fundamentally flawed people. And still Jesus chose them to walk with him.

It’s so easy to skim through the gospels focusing on Jesus (which is in itself a good thing) but forgetting about the people around him. Thinking, “Man, those guys were so cool. They healed people and drove out demons and got to hang out with Jesus all the time. I wish I was like that.”

But the disciples were not perfect people.

Peter’s faith wavered when Jesus asked him to walk on water. Judas fell victim to greed and betrayed Jesus for money. And all twelve wasted most of the last supper arguing about which one of them was better than the others. They questioned whether Jesus was really the Messiah all throughout their journey with him. 

Jesus got a little frustrated with them sometimes. And still he chose them.

They weren’t theological scholars. They were fishermen and tax collectors — blue collar folks with no formal training whatsoever. They didn’t have any special knowledge or expertise. Luke says they were “unschooled, ordinary men.”

And still Jesus chose them.

In the same way he chooses us, even though we fail him day by day, even though we’re not qualified.

So for those of you like me who have suffered from what I call Christian Impostor Syndrome, cut it out. He made us — and he called his creation “very good.” And that’s all the qualification we need.

We are flawed and chosen.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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ask away

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So, let’s say you’ve become a Christian. Jesus is your bestest best friend and you’re just overflowing with all the blessings in your life. Life is all puppies and rainbows from here on out, right?

Nope.

Even with God on our side, life is going to have rough patches. When we have fears and struggles and doubts, it’s so easy to feel like bad Christian. If you really loved God, you wouldn’t have these feelings! And if you did, you’d just ignore them and push on through without batting an eye, right?

Also nope.

I recently finished reading Judges, and Gideon’s story stuck with me. God appears to Gideon in Judges 6 and tells him he’s going to lead an army to defeat the bad guys, the Midianites.

But Gideon’s not sure about all this. He has some pretty tough questions for God, and he comes right out with them:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Judges 6:13-16

Gideon is pretty blunt here. He comes right out and accuses God of abandoning his people. An angry god would’ve condemned Gideon or struck him down for his boldness. But our God takes the time to both address his accusations and reassure him about his ability to lead the army to victory.

But Gideon still isn’t sure. What if this wasn’t really God? What if he had been out in the sun too long and was going a little bonkers? So he asks God for a sign that it was really him and that he would really lead his army to victory — not once, not twice, but three times! (See Judges 6:17-22, Judges 6:36-38, and Judges 6:39-40.)

And God did exactly as he asked. Three times. This blew me away.

I have a tendency to think I’m inconveniencing God with my prayers, especially when they’re about problems that seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. But God took the time to prove to Gideon three times that he was real and had set a plan in motion — a plan that needed Gideon to succeed. God’s patience in the face of Gideon’s criticism and fear is revolutionary for my own feelings of inadequacy.

It’s ok to have questions. We might feel like quitting, but God doesn’t quit on us. And if we ask him, he’ll sit patiently with us and help us work through whatever’s on our minds. He wants to be real with us, if we’ll commit to being real with him.

So that thing that’s been sitting on your heart, weighing you down? Ask away.

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disciples of all nations // dividing and conquering

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Christians are called to love and serve others and to make this world a better place until we enter the next.

I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by all that responsibility. Between disease and poverty and lack of clean water and suicide and violence and oppression of women and child abuse and homelessness and drug addiction, there is a lot to fix. And there’s no way you can fix it all.

It’s hard to think about, so it’s easier to just check out. To send a donation here and there for tax purposes but not get emotionally invested. To be honest, that’s been me for a while. I usually enjoy service projects while I’m doing them, but I often get depressed later on about the grand scheme of things.

But the thing is, we’re not called to fix everything. We’re called to fix something.

Acts of the Apostles records the very earliest days of Christianity. This passage gave me a swift kick in the pants and reinvigorated my interest in serving:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 6:1-5

Even the disciples — the people Jesus personally chose to walk with him and carry on his legacy — couldn’t take care of all the challenges their community faced. What a relief!

Only God has the power to fix the entire world. We play just one small part of that. But it’s an important part.

So get out there and find your something.


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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disciples of all nations // flipping quarters

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I suffer from analysis paralysis on a regular basis.

The incredible technology we have at our fingertips with Google and smartphones and pages upon pages of customer reviews is often a blessing, but when we use it as a crutch, even the most unimportant decisions seem mountainous.

I spent at least five minutes in the tea section at HomeGoods last weekend.

Should I buy the blueberry elderflower white tea that I’ve never had before for $2.99? Or should I buy the plain old black tea I know I’ll like for $3.99? Is certainty in enjoying the tea worth an extra dollar? Or should I live a little and try something new? Surely I can give the rest of the box to someone else if I don’t like it? What is an elderflower anyway? But do I even need more tea at all? If I pick up this box of tea, will I then be more likely to buy other superfluous things I also don’t need?

I probably looked like a crazy woman standing there waffling over boxes of tea.

There’s a psychological phenomenon known as “ego depletion,” which states that we only have a finite amount of willpower. The more decisions have to we make, the poorer the outcomes will be as we run out of energy. It’s the scientific backing for laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before you need them.

Despite being responsible for much more life-changing decisions than I deal with on a regular basis, Jesus’ disciples didn’t suffer from analysis paralysis. When the disciples needed to select a candidate to replace Judas, they prayed about it…and then they cast lots.

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:23-26

They didn’t sit around deliberating for hours on end. They didn’t consult their friends or family or Google or experts who had a certain number of years of experience. They just relied on God to show them the right candidate. That’s it.

Can you imagine having that much trust in God that you would flip a freaking quarter next time you need to make a life-changing decision? Not praying as a backup to all your research and contingency planning — guilty here — trusting completely that God will make that 50/50 split fall in just the right way.

It’s scary, but also incredibly liberating, to relinquish the burden of overthinking and let God guide your decisions. I wouldn’t bet on 50/50 odds, but with God, we know that everything will turn out according to his plan.

If the disciples could trust God so fully when picking the one who would join them to carry on Jesus’ commands, then so can I. That trust is growing in me, a little at a time.


This post is part two of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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disciples of all nations // at once

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When Jesus met Simon and Andrew on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and asked them to become his first disciples, Mark 1:18 tells us that they dropped their nets “at once” and followed him.

When was the last time you felt God tug at your heart and dropped what you were doing “at once”?

Nah, I’m busy.

I need to fix this other thing first.

I’m not good enough. Someone else will do that.

What? Nope, I didn’t hear anything. La la la, I hear nothing!

Now think about the times you’ve been “called” by your job, your need for acceptance or approval, your friends, your obligations. Do you find it easier, as I do, to drop everything when you know the tangible benefit you’ll get from changing plans?

As a planner who loves to-do lists and checkboxes and brand new notebooks and Google Calendar, I know that not being able to see God’s whole plan is way scary. But we’re told that all things work together for the good of those who love God. No asterisk.

Next time we feel that little tug at our heart, let’s be like Simon and Andrew and go at once. And not begrudgingly — with excitement and anticipation for what God has put in our path. He had some pretty cool stuff in store for the disciples, and I bet he does for us too.


This post is part one of a series on the disciples. Read part two here and part three here.

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deeply distressed

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In chapter 3 of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees, literal interpreters of Jewish law, criticize him for healing on the Sabbath, a day of rest. Of course, Jesus defies the Pharisees and heals the man’s hand anyway. But that’s not the part that struck me.

Mark 3:5 reads that he was “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” Not just frustrated or annoyed or disappointed. Deeply distressed.

Jesus doesn’t just write them off, Jesus knew that Pharisees gonna Pharisee. He knew they would reject him, but still it deeply distressed him. He wanted nothing more in that moment than for them to follow him.

In those moments when you feel like giving up, it’s so easy to think God won’t bat an eye because he’s busy caring about those good people over there and working in their lives to deal with your mess. You’re just little old you. He has bigger things to worry about, right?

But Jesus is at work in each and every one of us. What’s more, he was also human and very much like us — he felt angry, sad, afraid, distressed. And he wants more than anything for us to have a relationship with him. Even when he knows we won’t measure up to his perfection, it pains him when we fear and doubt and refuse his love.

On the other hand, nothing makes the Lord happier than our commitment to following his will. As Luke tells us, the angels rejoice when just one turns and repents.

On the hard days when you feel far from God, remember Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ rejection — he was deeply distressed — and decide to be that one who causes the angels in heaven to rejoice instead.


This is the first piece I wrote when I began reading the Bible in July 2016. It originally appeared on Riverbend Church’s blog.

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