Anne Frank was wrong…

Gobstopped by GraceAnne-Frank You’ve probably seen it somewhere. Maybe even been inspired by it.

“…in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

You can’t help but be inspired by her. Anne Frank was an amazing girl and wrote some very quotable things.

“I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quiet, and to sing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” again and again.”
Oh, wait, maybe that last one was somebody’s remix.

Born in 1929, the young girl of the Holocaust penned her thoughts into her diary while secreted away with her family in a home in Amsterdam. This April 14th commemorated the 70th anniversary of her death at age 15 in the Bergen-Belson Nazi concentration camp.

Wise beyond her years and full of hope in a hopeless situations, she provides us, even today with the knowledge that people can find light in the darkest night.

But Anne was a girl, not a prophet. She was writing a diary, not holy writ. And as beautiful and wise as many of her thoughts were, one of her most quoted was, well…

wrong.

I don’t fault Anne. Plenty 14-year-olds don’t get much further than “OMG – did you see him?!!”

It is more about the adults who desperately want to grasp on to this message of everyone being basically good, who really want to believe that everyone, deep inside is just like a giant Tootsie Roll Pop, sweet and chewy at the core.

Actually, Anne also penned the following far more accurate statement but it doesn’t look nearly as nice on a coffee cup.

 
I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago!

There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

Anne knew that Hitler and his armies were not enough to spread evil. Otherwise, it would have been stopped.

We like to think that we are better than that.

“If I had lived in Germany then…”

Really? Why do we think we are impervious to the indoctrination of falsehoods through empty rhetoric by an entrancing individual?

“I never would have done what they did!”

Really? Do we really think that Hermann Goering decided as a small child that he wanted to build concentration camps when he grew up? Or that a four-year-old Heinrich Himmler planned to wipe out an entire race of people?

These men were evil. And in a way that you and I cannot imagine, they gave in to the bloodlust within and allowed it to consume them.

However,

(and this is really ugly)

as much as I don’t want to think so, every man, woman and child alive has the potential for being another Himmler, Goering or Hitler.

In fact,

(and this is even uglier)

not a single one of us is one bit better than they were.

This literally make me want to puke.

I’m not them. I’m Anne. Sunny, optimistic, good in the face of all that’s bad.

Uh uh.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?”

And just in case we argue that it is entirely the fault of our environment, Jesus said, “For from within, [that is] out of the hearts of men, come

base and wicked thoughts,

sexual immorality,

stealing,

murder,

adultery,

coveting (a greedy desire to have more wealth),

dangerous and destructive wickedness,

deceit;

unrestrained (indecent conduct);

evil eye (envy),

slander (evil speaking, malicious misrepresentation, abusiveness)

pride (the sin of an uplifted heart against God and man),

foolishness (folly, lack of sense, recklessness, thoughtlessness).

All these evil [purposes and desires] come from within, and they make the man unclean and render him unhallowed.” (Mark 7:21-23)

Oh yeah, lovely. Nothing like an Angela mirror with a really nasty reflection staring back. With Hitler and his cronies looking over my shoulder.

BUT…

And this is one case where you want to look in the mirror and see a big but…

That nastiness is not what God sees.

There are no shades of gray when God views humanity. He sees evil and He sees righteous.

You, if you have asked for His forgiveness, you are righteous.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NKJV)

You, me, Hitler and Anne.

But every single one of us has the opportunity to be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

I’ve got to requote that last part from the Amplified version:

“…justified

and made upright

and in right standing with God,

freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy),

through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus.”

Gratuitous grace.

There’s a beautiful phrase to take with you.

No matter how gratuitous your sin, His grace is more so.

People really aren’t good at heart. We are nasty, foul creatures. Every one of us.

But with the power of the redeeming blood of Jesus and through His gratuitous grace, He declares His children pure to the core.

Like a holy Tootsie Roll Pop.

So if you want to share inspirational truth, don’t tell people they are basically good. Offer them the chance to be righteous. Romans5_8

 

 

 


 

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The chosen one…

Ephesians_RegimensWithGrace

Chosen…

Choice is a big word these days.

We choose to give awards. There are the People’s Choice, Critics’ Choice, Teen Choice and Kids’ Choice Awards.

We watch the news to learn of the constituents’ choice for political office and how that politician will vote about the constituents’ right to choose to smoke marijuana, own firearms and have abortions.

In addition to choosing, there’s being chosen. Chosen for a game at recess, for a team sport, a prom date, for college acceptance, for the right job, for a marriage partner…

We spend most of our lives wondering if we are adequate enough to be chosen.

Someone says yes.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”

(Ephesians 1:3-4)

Wait. Don’t just skip through that.

“He chose us…”

Think of the very best thing for which you have ever been picked. Savor that moment for a sec. Boss, best friend, teacher, boyfriend/girlfriend? It was a pretty awesome moment. You felt special. Wanted.

Paul starts this by giving praise and through that he lets us know the enormity of all that he’s about to tell us. He gives praise to the Trinity.

God the Father: “Blessed be the God and Father..”

God the Son: “of our Lord Jesus Christ”; or “the Lord of us, Jesus the Messiah”

God, the Holy Spirit: “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing…” This one doesn’t immediately jump out but it is really cool. That word “spiritual” is pneumatikos, and comes from the word pneuma, which means breath or spirit. When you see the word spirit in the New Testament, Holy Spirit or otherwise, pneuma is used. Pneumatikos relates to the realm of spirit or the invisible sphere in which the Holy Spirit imparts faith, reveals Christ, etc. So, as the Amplified version puts it, every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing…”

PPaul to Ephesiansaul is about to spend a good bit of time reminding the Ephesians who God says they are. So, a little like a person introducing the main speaker, Paul is first emphasizing His magnitude.

“In the heavenly places in Christ” Just in case we aren’t properly awed by the thought of the Trinity, he is telling us to remember: God has given you every spiritual blessing in heaven and it is yours in Christ.

And now that we have proper context,

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…

That is a really big deal.

The Greek for that implies to make a highly deliberate choice, a real “heart-preference” with a definite outcome.

This was not a random, eeny-meeny-miny-mo kind of choice. This definitely wasn’t a choose-and-then-put-on-the-shelf kind of choice. And beyond a doubt, this was no “Well, I have to take her because she’s the last one left” kind of choice.

This is an “I have wanted you since before the beginning began” kind of choice.

As far as romance goes, this love story beats all others.

And no matter who you are, what you think or how many horrible things you’ve done – they do not matter because He chose you before any of that happened. It doesn’t even matter if you believe that He exists because He chose you.

He chose to make you “holy and without blame.”

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ makes those who accept His offering pure in His eyes. We are His bride, set apart for Him, “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but…holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27)

You are chosen.

He chose you so that “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

Redemption means ransom paid. He has paid the necessary cost to set you free.

He chose you.

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:11)

I love this part! We only see this particular word for inheritance one time in the New Testament and it has a different meaning than you would expect. It means to BeFunky_Roman20dice2.jpg“assign by divine lot-cast.” Now, if you or I were rolling the dice, it would be a game of chance. Pure luck. However, this is a divine lot-cast. Think weighted die. When God rolls the dice, they land exactly the way He plans.

He chose you.

“being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (1:11)

He chose and appointed us, marked us ahead of time, before it all began, for His purpose, and He promises to work it all together for His divine plan and our good. (Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”)

When Robert Downey Jr. was picked for favorite movie actor in the 2015 People’s Choice Awards, he could have rejected the people’s choice and refused the award.

And so it is with God’s choice. Salvation and all He offers with it can be rejected.

That’s our choice.

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation;…”

And when we choose Him, it is a “done deal.”

“…in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

You are chosen,

you trusted,

you believed

and you are sealed.

In the ancient wax-seal_21349252world, a seal served as a legal signature, guaranteeing the contents of what was sealed. The Holy Spirit has set His stamp of ownership on you. He is the guarantee of your inheritance until Jesus comes back to redeem His already ransomed possession.

You belong to Him.

He has already paid the price.

He is coming back to pick up His chosen bride.

That’s you.

The chosen one.


I encourage you to read this passage in Ephesians with today’s devotion. To do so online, you may click here: Ephesians 1:1-14

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Blame-free…

Ephesians_RegimensWithGrace“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace; by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 4:1-6

I was recently reading Acts 13. It was the Sabbath and the Bible says that almost the whole city had gathered to hear the Gospel. The Jews however, were “filled with envy” and “opposed the things spoken by Paul.”

Then in verse 46 it says, “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold [I like that part!] and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”

Oh boy! Is that the height of arrogance or what?!

God determines something should be and man decides otherwise.

But that’s what we often do today. We accept His gift of eternal life, resting in His promise that had been preached by Paul the previous Sabbath that “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:39

Then we continue to wallow in shame.

“I am justified.”

“I am such a sinner.”

“Jesus made me whole.”

“I am broken.”

“I am forgiven.”

“I am so ashamed.”

Judging ourselves unworthy.

While we continue to remember the wonderful grace of Jesus, we must also remember that God loved us before He created this incredible universe.

Before He laid the foundations of the earth,

before He buckled Orion’s belt,

before He taught the morning stars to sing,

He chose you.

Before the beginning, the Lord God Almighty decided that He wanted you to be His.

He desired to make us holy and without blame.

He sent His Son to die and be resurrected in order that He might adopt us as sons and daughters, that He might “freely bestow” His grace on us.

I have accepted His amazing grace. I have been adopted into the family of God. He has called me blameless. He has taken away my shame.

I have no right to judge myself unworthy

when He has called me holy.

 Blame-free_RegimensWithGrace

You see, God not only gave us the gift of salvation.

He gave us the gift of blamelessness.

 

 

“Oh most holy God, I don’t get it but you have decided to love me and to make me Yours. You have given me, not only the gift of salvation and eternal life, but have called me blameless. Help me Lord, not to insist on walking in shame, dredging up what You no longer see.”

  • For more on being blameless, shame-free and holy, click here:  He calls me holy…
  • For the first in our series Ephesians: Paul’s letter to me…, click on the tag Ephesians to the left or start with the first devotion here: Faithful in…
  • As a personal study aid, you can print or download Bible study notes here: Eph – Week 1 Chosen

Blessings!

 

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Wielding a broom…

broomWe still find traces of her around the house.

It’s been about a year since our beautiful Maine Coon cat died and I still find fluffy bits of fur now and then. She was gorgeous and I can’t imagine why anyone would dump such a good-natured cat unless it was because her fur was taking over their house.

Every rib could be counted when she first sidled up to our door but she quickly made up for those lost meals. We joked about a taking a picture of her seated, with a caption below her triangular shape: “Does this fur make my butt look big?”Chewie

Chewie was definitely a curvy girl. And she shed. A lot.

I thought about applying for some kind of breeding license. The result of the dust bunnies mating with the cat and dog hair, had to create something worth putting a sparkly collar on.

Some of you still have your mouths open at those first words “still find.”

I really admire you guys. Dust bunnies quake with fear at the sound of your step and Chewie’s fur would have rolled obediently into your dust pans without being asked.

Me? Not so much. Dust bunnies love me. They hide out, invite their friends and hold parties under my bed. They see my broom and giggle derisively, knowing they can escape. I host a dust bunny safe house. I am beginning to look at it as a charity. Perhaps I’ll file for a non-profit.

Lately, I’ve begun to see this as a metaphor for giftings and callings.sword Some of us would rather face a fire-breathing dragon than a dust bunny any day of the week. Our weapon of choice is a sword. Dust bunnies do not die at the edge of a sword.

Others are truly gifted at taking care of the details that overwhelm some of us. These people are really good at wielding brooms, at slaying dust bunnies. Broom wielders and dust bunny slayers sometimes feel under-appreciated (and quite frankly, sometimes you are overlooked) but without you, things simply would not run and a whole lot of dragon slayers would wind up falling on their own swords in desperation.

Please understand that I am not talking about housework or someone being needed to keep the home fires burning. While those are important and necessary gifts, I’m certain that there are people quite handy at wielding a figurative broom who have literal dust bunnies under their beds.

(I’ll never forget the memorial I read back in my obituary writing days. A presumably well-meaning family wrote a poem eulogizing their deceased mother, describing how she went on to dust and sweep the streets of gold. Questionable theology aside, I’ve often thought of that poor woman and how much she must appreciate her heavenly mansion where she doesn’t have to clean up after anyone.)

The importance of being a broom-wielder

If you want a good Biblical depiction of the importance of the dust bunny slayers, just read the book of Leviticus. Every time the Israelites moved camp during their 40 years of wandering about the desert, the tabernacle had to be packed up a certain way. If God had picked someone like me to do the unpacking, the golden lampstand may have stayed in the box the whole 40 years.

I am not a dust bunny slayer. And since I want to be good at things, I don’t like that. I would love to take broom-wielding lessons. But learning to be comfortable in the role of dragon slayer is a post for another day.

When God first gave His laws to Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses and Aaron took a census. Only Kohathite, Gershonite and Merrarite men between the ages of 30 and 50 were eligible to serve in the temple. (These were all of the tribe of Levi.) The count came to total of 8,580 qualified men. Out of those, only three were allowed to pack the tabernacle and it wasn’t three nameless workers from Three Guys Movers.

Aaron (heard of him?) and his sons. That’s all.

God gave them very detailed instructions on exactly how to wrap each holy article. (Numbers 4) The second most important man in the nation was given the job of packing.

There were items that God called holy and there were certain people to whom He entrusted those items. They were the detail guys. There were routines that God called holy and there were certain people with whom He entrusted those routines.

Routines of Holiness

The laws that God gave the Israelites give a beautiful depiction of the holiness of everyday living. These “broom wielders,” these slayers of dust bunnies, were protectors of the routines of holiness decreed by God and it was a high calling.

In Leviticus 18:7, God says, “I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service…”

We see the importance of this come full circle in Hebrews 8:1-5.

“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore, it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.
For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle…”

Do you see this?

God gave the Jews 613 commandments to govern their daily lives. These were not designed to make their lives oppressive. Among many things, these laws taught them that every thing in life – down to the way their daily food was prepared – everything is holy.

This was a copy and a shadow of what was to come. Everything we do in the service of our Master is holy. Every regimen. Every routine.

A dragon-slaying sword-slinger was not the kind of person to teach those precepts.

 

That job belonged to a mighty broom wielder.

Slayer of dust bunnies.

Protector of the holy.

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For more on the study of routines of holiness, click here: CelebrateJesus/RoutinesofHoliness

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He calls me holy…

Ephesians_RegimensWithGrace“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
“just as He chose us to Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”
Ephesians 1:3-4

Do you ever just have those days when one small thing sets you off on to a path of discouragement?

Why do I…? Does anyone…? Should I even…? The thoughts take off.

And if we allow it, the enemy will eventually twist those thoughts until we question our calling.

Spouse, parent, employee, student, teacher, minister. Whatever it is that God has called us to do with excellence, “the wiles of the devil,” as Paul calls them, will work against us to make us think that it isn’t making a difference.

And eventually we’ll think it is because we are lousy at whatever it is we’re trying to do.

Today started out as one of those days.

Why do you teach? Why do you write? A handful of readers. A handful of attendees. You’re fooling yourself. Wah. Wah. Wah.

(And I thought pride was my problem.)

Then I thought of the passage on which I was about to write.

“Holy”

“Without blame”

Wait a sec.

The Creator of the universe “chose [me] in Him before the foundation of the world, that [I] should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

Okay, the “wah, wah” is starting to recede.

He loved me before He created the first sunset.
He chose me before He carved the first canyon in place.
He wanted me before He whipped the first mountains into a peak.
Tetons

He did that because He wanted to set me aside as holy and without blame.

That word “holy” means “prepared for God with solemn rite. Pure. Clean.”

Like a virgin bride.

Me.

“That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)

Now if I let it, this could get even more depressing because I am often less than holy and definitely not without blame.

But…

the verse before that is the clincher.

Ephesians 5:25&26 tells us that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that he might wash and sanctify her.”

We don’t use words like “sanctify” outside of Bible studies much so let’s bring that to today’s terms. Jesus gave up His life for us to make us holy.

Me?BeFunky_holy-ppt-backgrounds-powerpoint.jpg

Not so much.

Through Jesus?

I am holy.

I am without blame.

When we skip down to Ephesians 1:7, we see “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

I’ve accepted His forgiveness. I’ve been given His grace.

He has called me holy and deemed me blameless.

The junk that causes discouragement may not disappear. Nothing changed for me today.

But my perspective changes when my focus changes.

    The God of everything loved me enough not to just see past my flaws but through His Son to declare me without them.

And now I can tell my husband that the burning smell coming from the kitchen is not my fault.

Blameless through Jesus.

Father, no matter how many times my thoughts spiral, continue to remind me how You think of me. Thank You so much that before You created anything – You loved me. And You wanted to make me holy. Thanks Lord, for not seeing me as a mess, but beautiful and without fault before You.

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