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Throughout the month of August, we’re taking a close look at 23 verses of the New Testament.  They comprise Ephesians chapter one, which paints one of the Bible’s most comprehensive pictures of what it means for ordinary people to be “in Christ.”  
A young boy sat down to write God a mid-summer letter concerning the things he hoped to receive for Christmas.
“Dear Lord,” he began, “I have been very good this whole year.”  He thought about that for a while and then changed the sentence to, “I have been pretty good the last three months.”  Following a twinge of conscience he wrote, “I’ve done my best the last two weeks.”
Sighing, he got up and went to the closet where his family kept their Christmas decorations.  He rummaged around until he found the box marked “Manger Scene,” then removed the figure of Mary.
Then he took a fresh sheet of paper and started over: “Dear Lord, if you ever want to see your mother again…”
The good news is that God cannot be manipulated.  Threats don’t faze him.  Nor can he ever be bought off with good intentions or sparkling performance records – as if any of us actually had one.  The even better news is that God does not need to be manipulated.  He is perfectly willing to give us, for free, what we could never earn or deserve. 
That spectacular news flash dominates the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus – especially his lengthy opening recitation of God’s blessings in verses 3-14. 
He writes in verse four: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” 
Sometimes, in our daydreams, we fantasize how marvelous it would be to be rich, famous, powerful, beautiful, respected, or feared.  Or at least to have claimed a share of last week’s $1.6 billion Mega Millions drawing.  But nothing holds a candle to being loved.  Wanted.  Chosen
Many of us are haunted by memories of not being selected at some important moment.  Perhaps you remember being the last kid picked on the playground.  Or not getting into the college or study program that was at the top of your list.  Or being turned down by the person you had dreamed would be your life partner.  Being the Not Chosen One can feel like the end of the world.  

But God renders all such dismal headlines null and void. 
The descendants of Abraham, who became known as the Jews, were chosen by God to be “blessed to be a blessing” – to come to know God in a unique way and to share their spiritual riches with the rest of the world.  But now, according to Paul, followers of Jesus (whether Jews or Gentile) are the new Chosen People.  Notice that God has chosen us to fulfill a task.  Being chosen brings responsibility.  We are “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” We are the ones who get to embody Christ’s character and extend his healing mission to people everywhere. 

Not only that, but God has had his eye on you for a very long time – from “before the creation of the world.” 

Which means you have always been known, always been loved, and always been chosen. 

It is impossible to overstate how difficult this can be for many people to believe. 
If you grew up emotionally crippled in a grace-challenged home, then the message that God’s love for you predates the Big Bang may seem like a farce or a dream.  You can accept it intellectually – perhaps as an article of faith that you have to recite as part of a creed – but secretly, at the level of your emotions, you struggle to believe this verse is on the level.  If you rarely experienced fairness, compassion, or grace growing up – and if recent circumstances in your life have only tended to reinforce such emotional poverty – why should you believe that God is willing to bestow such undeserved kindnesses on you?   
The answer is that God loves you.  And there’s nothing you can do about that but accept his love with empty hands.
Myriad people are afraid that life has no meaning.  Therefore we have to invent such meaning for ourselves.  When we ultimately fail at such an important venture, we can always numb ourselves with vodka, vacations, video games, or shopping sprees. 
To a numbed and fearful humanity, God says, “I have claimed you for myself.  I’m not saying this because I’m stuck with you, but because you’re eternally wanted.  Even though I’m the one who knows you the best, I also love you the best. 
“To put it simply, I have chosen you.”
Which means we don’t have to bribe, beg, or manipulate our way into God’s good graces.  
Or roll the dice to see if our number comes up.
Those who say Yes to Jesus have already won the jackpot.