This morning’s devotion comes from our friend, magician and author, Jim McNeely. 

grand_illusions_04He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:4-7 (NASB)

In past years I made a living as a children’s entertainer; I did magic tricks, storytelling, and we wrote children’s songs. I travelled all over Texas and beyond performing at preschools, elementary schools, malls, festivals, and all kinds of other events. It was a lot of fun really!

Whenever I would do a trick that involved a volunteer, I would use the opportunity to settle the kids down and let them know what how I wanted them to behave. It was shameless but incredibly effective. I would say,

“Now, I need a volunteer.” (All hands up, kids yelling “me, me me!”)
“Someone being quiet.” (Hands going crazy, but suddenly silent)
“Sitting on their bottom” (everyone suddenly sitting, waving their hands around)
“Behind the line” (everyone scoots behind the tape line I would put down.)
“Using their manners” (confused looks and deep pondering, as no one knows the etiquette behind raising your hands while not talking)
“That doesn’t stink very much” (weird looks as in, “what? Is he serious?”)

Then I would pick someone that I felt would go along with the trick without being a smartass. It worked every time; I could tell which kids would work well, and I had a very controlled crowd. I would make sure that these opportunities were sprinkled through the show at regular intervals so that it was easy and fun to keep things under control.

It made me think about the incredible power and allure of getting chosen. We will do anything to get chosen, and as soon as there is some law or expectation given, we will line up immediately to earn the coveted status of the chosen one. There was always a visceral sense of disappointment in the crowd with the kids who perfectly complied and yet didn’t get picked to volunteer; it was almost like a familiar NT passage:

“Lord, Lord, didn’t I get quiet, sit on my bottom, behind the line, use my manners, and not stink? How could you not pick me?” (2 Opinions 4:12)

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I have been thinking about Ephesians 1 a lot these days. How is it that God, who created life and the mountains and the oceans and the earth and the universe and the very mystery of existence, was mindful of me from before the foundation of the cosmos? The Creator chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and I am deeply and incredibly unworthy of such an honor. He didn’t choose me with a mere thought either; He forged a way to choose me in the most painful and costly way (Ephesians 1:7)! Why would He choose me? I know myself, and I am a selfish and rotten sinner. I steer clear of soup kitchens and homeless shelters. I watch too much TV. Really, I don’t know how to explain how much this whole idea has undone me. I walk around with this sense of worship and gratitude and humility and this deep brokenness and weeping that is something quite new to me. He didn’t choose me at all because I comply with His expectations, He chose me despite the fact that I do not.

So all of us are like a little kid that wants to get picked, and we think that it all hinges on how well we comply. All along, He knows us, and He chooses us despite how greatly unqualified we are. It is, after all, rich grace that He has lavished upon us! It doesn’t hurt to comply, in fact I believe it is a result of being chosen, but He has chosen us first for His own reasons and I am deeply grateful and humbled for that.