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And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

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Bird Houses | Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Missouri | October 2019

Hubris. It’s a word rich in meaning. It is excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods. If you have excessive pride toward the gods, imagine how you must feel toward other mere mortals? It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true,they say. I’m not certain about that, but I am certain that there is no truth in the idea that we can earn God’s favor, or that we stand on our own two feet before him.

We’ve been saved. That means we were in trouble. That means we needed help. That means someone had to come to our rescue.

It’s not like the game is on the line and we’re up by 3 runs. The closer comes in and “saves” the game. No. It’s the bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Two strikes. Last game of the World Series. You’re down 5 to 0. The closer is at his best. You’re blind and have no bat. Worse yet, this game is life and death.

Someone else steps in. You are rescued. You don’t brag about striking out in the bottom of the 9th. You don’t brag about being needy and helpless. You don’t brag about having to rely totally on the grace and kindness of others.

Neither should we brag about our status as having been saved. We’ve been rescued. The rescuer gets the glory, not the ransomed.

That calls for humility toward God and one another. There are no super-saints. There are no people who are more saved than others. There are none who can take the judgment seat of God. There are none who can call God into account.

Being saved places us in a place of humility. We have nothing to brag about. When we talk about our salvation we should indeed be like one beggar telling another where to find bread. So we feast together on the grace of God, delighting in his mercy and salvation.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

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Fisherman | Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Missouri | October 2019

We had to throw out the lasagna, but managed to save the rest of the dinner. We were able to save the house by putting out the fire quickly. We have saved and saved and now have enough for a dream trip to Hawaii. I think I saved a squirrel’s life today when I swerved to miss it on the road. But I almost took out three mail boxes in the process.

We have been “saved” by grace through faith. But that’s more than a matter of reserving a portion of a meal, preventing the loss of a home, or setting aside money. And it’s certainly more significant than avoiding running over a squirrel. Each of these images, however, shed a beam of light on what it means to be saved. One commentator put it this way, “you are having been saved.” That means it’s something that has been done and is being done all at once. We are in the state of having been saved. It’s been done by Jesus. We are now identified by that truth.

That means we won’t be destroyed and ruined like those who have not been saved. It means that God spared us condemnation by condemning Jesus in our place. He suffered loss but we don’t. It means that we’ve been set aside for God’s good use and joy. It means that he determined that it was worth it to avoid running us over with a steamroller of accusations and condemnation.

That’s our state. That’s our status. All this is from God’s grace. There is nothing we can do – nor do we need to do anything – in order to attain this status. God has done the heavy lifting. He has secured our status. He is provided for our rescue.

It has all been done for us. Living that out is our life’s calling. Let’s get ready!

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

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Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Missouri | October 2019

On the one hand, there is nothing more important than faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation that comes to us by means of that faith. After all, if we’re saved, the moments of life here on this earth, and the challenges and joys of it are nothing compared with the lasting glory that will be ours, “seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly places.” What more could there be than that? 

Well…actually a lot more. For while – as my friend used to say – “Eternity lasts a long, long time.” It is also true that the times and seasons we do have are gifts from God and are to be used for his purposes. We are commanded to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). That must mean that the opportunities we have are valuable and important to God and to us. 

Martin Luther explains who Jesus is, what he has done, and what that means in his Small Catechism:

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, [emphasis added] even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

But one more authoritative is here: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We’ve been saved. We have the riches of Christ’s grace. His goodness and kindness abounds. That is a present reality. Also present – and into the future – are the good works God is preparing for us. He’s at work in and through us for his glory and our eternal good. Even the opportunities for our good works are gifts from his grace. 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

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Autumn Decorations | Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Missouri | October 2019

Maybe you’ve heard the, “But wait! There’s more!” line one too many times. It has become for many people like the uninvited phone call that begins, “Hi”…[pause] “I’m calling about…” You know it’s canned. You know it’s not a real person. You hang up quickly. At least I do.

But what is there is more? What if the call is for real? What if there is no bait, but only a lavish banquet of God’s favor and blessing?

  • This is the message of Paul here in this passage. Note…
  • We’ve been made alive in Christ.
  • God has saved us from eternal doom and destruction.
  • We’ve been raised up with Christ and seated in glory with him.
  • We have a ring-side seat to view the vast vista of his grace and kindness to us.

Surely this is enough. But wait, there’s more. After having extolled the grace of God, made the point again and again that God’s grace is centered in Christ, precious and saving, he then says it again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 

The implications (which we’ll consider tomorrow) of this salvation, has to do with humility (no boasting, much thanksgiving to God). But wait, there’s more! God has prepared good works for us to walk in. We’ve been saved. We’re heaven-bound. We’ll be seated with Christ in glory. We’ll revel in God’s grace and kindness. And if we’re true to God’s purposes we will follow the path God has laid out and walk in the good works he has prepared for us

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

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Azaleas | Dogwood Canyon Wildlife Park | Missouri | October 2019

Perhaps you know someone – or are someone – who has been brought from unbelief to faith. Such a one was obviously dead in trespasses and sins. Such a one was following the course of the world: living apart from God, neither honoring God nor obeying his commandments. This is the life of one who follows the passions of the devil.

Such people are neither unintelligent or of poor physical appearance. They can be the beautiful people and the smart ones – from a worldly perspective. The challenge of reaching them – from a human perspective – is that they have often learned to make their way in life quite successfully. They drive nice cars. They have good jobs. They are often admired. They are often, however, unaware of their deadness and their identity as children of wrath.

The reason that such people are unaware of their identity as children of wrath has to do with the nature of wrath. We think of wrath is blistering anger with the strong sting of blistering judgment. Wrath, however, is much more insidious. Wrath is when God lets his hands off, allowing us to go wherever we wish, do what we want. He allows us live under the illusion that we are our own god – even though we’re really lousy at it.

We should not wish to live in the apparent freedom of self-determination. Better to have God mess with us, wake us to our deadness, and give us a clear vision of the futility of life apart from him. Better to have the scales lifted from our eyes and a clear picture immerge of our need for God and his grace.

You may not think of yourself as one who is in that spot. You might be a lifelong Christian. You may never have strayed from the straight and narrow. We might not think that we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” Look closer at this passage:

We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

All of us are converts. Our conversion may have happened when we were only days old, as God poured out his blessings and made us his children – no longer children of wrath – through the waters of baptism. For others is may have been a later awareness of faith in Jesus. Still others may have come to faith later in life. But we’ve all been saved by grace, because of his mercy, and brought from death to life.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, [emphasis added] what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:11-23

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Azaleas outside of Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Lampe, Missouri | October 2019

We watched the Astros last night in their strong win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Altuve and Brantley hit home runs. Springer led off with a hit. Cole was lights out for 8 full innings. Our hopes are high for another World Series win this year. So are the hopes of those who took Mattress Mac up on his offer to pay for their furniture if “the Astros win it all, like they did in 2017.”

Maybe that’s not really your hope. You may root for another team. Maybe you don’t really care at all who wins the World Series, or any baseball game for that matter. Your hopes may be tied to winning a health battle. You may hope to get your finances all straightened out. Your family may be the focus of your hope. We all have hope of some kind. If we don’t, a part of our soul begins to wither and die.

Morgan Freedman in his role in the movie Shawshank Redemption said, “Hope is a dangerous thing.” Some people subscribe to that theory and stifle their hopes any way they are able. They lower expectations. They give themselves an emotional out. They hope, but they take out insurance of one kind or another.

When it comes to our hope in God, it impossible to get our hopes too high. This is the gift of God that will not disappoint. The Astros may disappoint us. Our family may never be all we wish it would be. We may never conquer our illnesses this side of heaven. But when we hope for the glory of God, and the full joy of his salvation our hopes will be rewarded.

This hope is guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection. It is held safe by the one who has immeasurably great power and might. Ours is a grand inheritance – greater than any World Series ring, bonus check, or clear diagnosis.

I don’t know about you, but I lose sight of that hope from time to time. I let the worries of this world, the impinging challenges of the devil, the world, and my own sinful flesh get in the way. It’s not so much that I lose hope as it is that I lose sight of my true and greatest hope.

For that reason, I look again and again at Jesus on the cross and the empty tomb, and try to imagine what it was like to see him ascend into heaven. I consider his miracles and his loving kindness toward humble people, sinners, and lost souls. I am thankful for that, for in spite of the fact that I lose sight of my hope in him, he never loses sight of me. That sustains my hope – even in my darkest hour – if only I don’t lose sight of it.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:11-23

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Are there special people in your life who bring joy to your heart? Is it a grandchild? Your husband? Wife? A best friend? A work partner, classmate, or favorite teacher? When you see him you smile. When she walks in the room your heart enlarges. Are you that kind of person to someone else?

Actually you are. If you are a person of faith in Jesus, you are that person…to God’s servants, and to God himself. Paul begins this letters to the various churches (Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians for example) expressing thanks to God for the people to whom he is writing. “I thank God for you…” he says. Get that? He is thankful for people who have faith in Jesus Christ.

And it’s not just a flash in the pan eruption of praise that fades into the silence of forgotten happiness. This is a “I do not cease to give thanks” expression of lasting joy…for the people to whom he was writing.

Ephesians is generally thought to be a letter that was circulated among several churches in the area. Although it mentions Ephesus in the salutation, many scholars consider it to be a letter read in a number of different churches. The theological teaching is general, but profound. The application is generic, but vital.

So just as the truths apply to you about being chosen before the foundation of the world, for the praise of God’s grace, and sealed for salvation by the Holy Spirit, so too does Paul’s expression of thanks for those who have come to faith. God’s servants are thankful for people who put their faith in Jesus.

Think of the person for whom you give thanks, who enlarges your heart, and brings you joy. Now imagine God having those same attitudes toward you. Thanks be to God for you, dear reader. God delights in you, and so do I.