I don’t want to be capable!

Gobstopped by Grace

My lip wants to curl a bit as my nose tilts slightly into the air with a sniff.
Looting… Hmph!CapableBaltimore2
A sex change?! Hmph!!
CapableJennerThe headlines are ripe with things to “hmph!” over.

In fact, we can usually find some psychotic murderer, some dastardly evil-doer, some over-the-top celebrity – someone with different junk than ours – to “hmph!” over.

Here’s the problem.

It isn’t a skin thing.
It’s a sin thing.

It isn’t a sex thing.
It’s a sin thing.

It isn’t a socio-economic, psychotic, neurotic crime thing.
It’s a sin thing.

It isn’t a little white lie, a juicy piece of gossip, an innocent flirtation.
It’s a sin thing.

Whatever it looks like on the outside, baby, it all looks the same inside.

You, me, the mayor, the Pope and the guy who led the Rwandan genocide.

I do not like saying that.

I do not like thinking of myself with a look of hate on my face, shouting obscenities at a sweet high school girl on her way to school, just because her skin is a different color.CapableAP1957

But I am capable.

I do not like to think of myself throwing fire bombs through my neighbor’s store window because of years of discord.CapableFerguson2

But I am capable.

I do not like to think of myself swinging a machete through someone’s neck because a neighbor is a member of a different family or of a different religion.capableIsis

But I am capable.

I don’t want to imagine hammering a spike through my Savior’s hands.CapableJohn316

But I did.

There is no such thing as pretty sin.

Jeremiah 17:9 puts it like this: “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]?” (AMP)

Mine is just as ugly as the next guy’s. It is so important for me to remember that. If I’m not as bad, then I don’t need as much of Jesus.

I want all the Jesus I can get.

He told us “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

I confessed my gratuitous sin to allow for God’s gratuitous grace.

Sweet, sweet, wonderful amazing grace.

“Jesus paid it all,” the old hymn goes, “all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”

He felt the pain of the sin that drove spikes into His hands and feet. All of that sin we sniff at on the news. All of those nasty things we did yesterday and will do in the future.

My big crud and my little crud gave Him pain that I cannot imagine.

And He offered forgiveness.

I chose to accept it.

Sweet, sweet amazing grace.

He does not look at me and hmph.

He looks at me with eyes of love and sees His righteousness.

I was capable

but oh, praise God, so was He!!

 

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

 

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.

But where sin abounded,

grace abounded much more,”

Romans 5:19-20

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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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Jerk or Just?

Gobstopped by Grace

There once was a man who lived in a fairly nasty place surrounded by pretty horrible people. To keep some special guests from harm, he once offered his daughters to the neighbors as sex toys for the night.

Later those daughters got him drunk so they could have his babies.

And God called him righteous.

Okay, there are some things in the Bible that I just don’t get.

To me, Lot sounds like a major jerk.

I think Hollywood did all of those old movies about David and Bathsheba and Samson 1951_DavidAndBathshebaand Delilah in order to push a few boundaries in the guise of a (highly embellished) Bible story.

Mr. DeMille wouldn’t have touched Lot with a 10-foot pole. Homosexual group orgies, rape and incest wouldn’t have gone over well in the fifties. That would be a hard sell even now.

There is a whole lot of good meaty material in Genesis 13, 14, 18 and 19 that I would love to cover but you would run out of coffee long before I ran out of words. So we’ll save the cool comparisons of Noah and Lot, the study of Lot’s wife, the results of the sins of his daughters and the righteousness of Abraham for another time.

As it is, you may want to heat up your cup or pop some popcorn because we have some good stuff coming up.

As I have studied this, I have come across commentators who try to point out some of Lot’s better attributes. Frankly, I think they’re stretching it. The Bible doesn’t editorialize on his actions. It just states them.

  • He was offered his choice of land in Genesis 13 and took it. Selfish or forward-thinking? Doesn’t say.
  • He lived in a sin-filled, utterly depraved city and sat in its gates, indicating a position of leadership. (Genesis 19:1) Light-bearer or compromiser? Doesn’t say.
  • He protected his guests at risk to himself. (Gen. 19:6, 9-10)
  • He offered his virgin daughters to a crowd of perverted men. (Gen. 19:8)
    Now this is a huge example of the grace of God because, had it been up to me, ol’ Lot never would have gotten back in that door.

Lest you think God was okay with that unconscionable suggestion, read Judges 19-20. More than 65,000 men were killed because of the death of one young woman placed in a similar situation. God is not okay with the abuse of women. He does not condone it and He never has.

  • He begged to stay in a city rather than go to the mountains as he was told. (Gen. 19:17-23)
    Um, seriously? Ignore advice from angels?
  • He got so drunk two nights in a row that both of his daughters had sex with him in order to get pregnant. The Bible also clearly states he was unaware of their actions. (Gen. 19:30-36)
    Only the Bible can convince me of protestations to that effect.
  • He trusted that two men he had never met were messengers of God, gathered his family, urged his daughters’ fiances to come along and left everything he had to go with them. (Gen. 19:14)
    He has me beat on this one. He welcomed those guys into his home from the start. I’m much more cynical than he was.

Plenty of facts with little commentary. But here is one little phrase, a gem almost hidden in the middle of verse 16:

“And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Merciful.

And that leads us into the really interesting part about Lot.

You see, the Bible is full of really creepy weird people who were far too barbaric to make it into a Cecil B. DeMille epic. (Like the guys in Judges.) But  2 Peter 2:5-8 places unlikely Lot in a list of distinction with a favored few.

“For if God…did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8(for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—9then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.”

What??

There are precious few people in the Bible other than Jesus that God calls righteous.

  • Noah (Gen. 6:9, 7:1)
  • Joseph (Matt. 1:19)
  • Abel (Matt. 23:35, Heb. 11:4)
  • John the Baptist (Mark 6:20)
  • Elizabeth & Zacharias (Luke 1:6)
  • Simeon – who blessed Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:25)
  • Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50)
  • Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10:22)

And Lot.

To me, saying Lot is a big, fat jerk is putting it nicely. If you told me your husband offered your daughters up like that, I’d be on my way over with the firing squad.

And God called him righteous.

I’ve really wrestled with this one. Nothing is in the Bible by accident and I am certain that God didn’t give us this sordid little story of a sorry little man just to gross us out. Or even for the sole purpose of warning us of the dire consequences of unrepentant debauchery. Otherwise, why include Lot in the tale?

Do you know the meaning of Lot’s name in Hebrew?

Covering. Veil.

And here is where I quit getting upset about Lot and start getting excited about God.

Lot is the perfect Old Testament representation of New Testament grace.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

You see, there is someone else in the New Testament called righteous.

Me.

I’ve often thought about my own years spent in places I shouldn’t be, living a life a child of God had no business living. And I read that then and now, as His forgiven child, I am covered in His righteousness.

Me.

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (Romans 5:21-28)

Justified. It means “declared righteous.”

Lot isn’t listed in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. The Bible doesn’t tell us anywhere that he did great things or that he had wonderful faith.

It tells us he was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” and that his “righteous soul” was “tormented.”

Oppressed is also translated as distressed (HCSB), tormented (NIV, NLT), driven nearly out of his mind (MSG).

The Greek word means to wear down (Strong’s); to tire down with toil, exhaust with labor;  to afflict or oppress with evils; to make trouble for; to treat roughly.

It is only used in one other passage in Scripture and deals with slavery.

“Now when he [Moses] was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.” (Acts 7:24)

Turns out ol’ Lot the jerk and I have a good bit in common. Oppressed, worn down, afflicted and pulled out by a merciful God.

Are you living in a place of oppression, in a life of slavery?

My friend, you have been set free, redeemed, declared righteous! A merciful God is tugging at your hand!

Just as God declared Lot righteous and saved him from the fire reigned down on Sodom and Gomorrah…

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 3:9)

Justified. Declared righteous!

Lot was afflicted, oppressed, worn out and worn down by what the Bible calls the outrageous conduct and lewdness of those who break through the restraints of law and gratify his lusts.

He was tormented, tortured, buffeted about as by waves.

He couldn’t even run on his own.

God had mercy on him and “while he lingered,” pulled him out.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter where you are.

The almighty God of the universe holds out His hand, ready to pull you out of whatever holds you down. He offers forgiveness.

He declares you righteous.

“Cornerstone”

by Hillsong

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.
Verses by Edward Mote
Words and Music by Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan & Eric Liljero

 

 

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