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. [emphasis added]

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

Evelynne Bahn -29

David, Louis & Lynne Bahn outside the newly-opened David Louis Motel | Cape Girardeau, MO | 1953

In 1953 my parents opened the David Louis Motel in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Boasting a total of 5 rooms they soon found themselves needing to add more rooms, until – 17 addition projects later – they had 42 rooms, a swimming pool and restaurant on the property. Back in those days you didn’t need a guaranteed reservation. We knew many of our customers, from Mr. Daily (room 4) to the railroad crew “regulars” who stayed with us. And if they needed to cancel, we would allow it, no questions asked. We didn’t have many no-shows in those early days. My family no longer owns or runs the Sands Motel.

How the times have changed! Reserve a room today and you will provide your credit card number as an assurance that you will show up. If you cancel too late you’ll still be charged for the room. Such is the state of the art in the motel/hotel business these days. But if your hotel overbooks and you arrive without a place to stay – too bad for you. They may try to get you a room elsewhere, but reserved doesn’t always mean reserved when it comes to the hotel industry. The airline industry is even worse.

Thankfully, however, God is faithful to his promises, and those who have been guaranteed a place in his kingdom will never fail to find one available. That’s because God is faithful to his word and promise. It’s also because, in the words of an evangelistic hymn, “There’s room at the cross for you.” Admission is guaranteed to those who come by means of Jesus’ cross. 

I notice that our guarantee is grounded in Jesus Christ. In fact the phrase, “In him” and “In Christ,” is found four times in these verses as well as a number of times in the verses preceding these. He even makes the point that Jesus Christ has the place of ultimate preeminence in the heavenly realm: “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.”

In the hotel or airline industry we guarantee things through names like VISA, MasterCard, or American Express. That’s OK, but holds no candle to the guarantee that is in the name above all names: Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

20191007-DSC09643

Meadow Sage | Dogwood Canyon Nature Park | Near Branson, MO

I know of several people who have squandered their inheritance. They take the money and have one party after another. They travel, and party, and spend. They get new cars, new toys, and have one new experience after another. Until the money runs out. What a sad moment – much like the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son, they find themselves without hope or a future. Often they spiral into a ruined life and one failed foray after another into responsible living. I wish I didn’t know anyone who had done such things. But it happens.

Even worse, however, are those who squander the inheritance of God. They take the grace of God and imagine it to be license for profligate living. They think God’s grace is not valuable, not worthy of careful treatment. Here’s the thing about God’s grace. It is inexhaustible this side of eternity. Paul makes that clear in Romans 5:20.

Those who presume upon God’s grace seem to make those endless forays into repentant and Christ-honoring life. When they make the turn, there is great joy (cf. Luke 15). And if they stay the course there is yet a storehouse of God’s grace for each moment and time.

Perhaps I squander God’s grace as well. I’m not given to profligate living, an immoral lifestyle, or gross sin and unbelief. But I wonder whether I reach deep enough into the storehouse of God’s grace when dealing with others. I wonder if I allow my shallow supply of personal grace to run dry because I fail to recognize the extent of God’s grace to me.

Many years ago we received an inheritance. My uncle passed away and we received several thousand dollars. I recall the joy in sending gifts to various ministries, and family members. Eventually the money ran out. It was not squandered but it was not limitless either.

God’s grace is abundant. It overflows to us daily. We may run dry in dealing with others. But that is only because we fail to tap into this rich inheritance that comes to us through Jesus Christ because of the Father’s grace, and which we access and share only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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

20190820-DSC09124

Cabo San Lucas | August 2019

Do you live with a sense of destiny? Is there a sense of purpose and fortune in your everyday life? Or is life a grind? A kind of Groundhog’s Day existence? Or do you live with a sense of purpose and meaning – aware of someone greater than you who has a plan for your life? What’s more, God’s plan for us is good and his purposes are pure and good.

As I consider my life, and especially as I consider what lies ahead it’s easy to lose sight of my true destiny. It’s easy to think more about how the Astros are doing, or to rejoice in a Texans win than considering how my life has a purpose greater than my daily dose of “bread and circus.”

So what does it mean to live in light of your true destiny? How do my daily choices differ if I’m more concerned about where God is leading me than how my retirement account is faring? Three things come to mind.

I will worry less about those things of the world – even the big things – that might easily weigh me down. I won’t pretend that nothing matters. I won’t ignore the real challenges of crime, injustice, moral decline, or my own health. But I will give them to God and trust that he does have a plan for my life, and a good one at that.

I will look for God’s presence and purposes in my life. That is not merely reserved for my purposes as a pastor – as significant and important, and sometimes life defining as they may be. God’s purposes and presence in my life extends to my wife and family. It has to do with how I interact with my photo club friends and the server at the restaurant. God’s purposes are not reserved for an hour on Sunday. He has to do with all of life.

I will pray differently. I will still pray about my need for daily bread, good health, for my family and friends. But I will hold lightly in my hands just how I think God should take care of the concerns I voice. God not only has a higher purpose than my personal convenience, and preferences. He also has a more grand view of all of life and every facet of my interactions with others.

I’m going to continue to keep in mind God’s purposes and my destiny as an heir of his eternal glory. I wonder, dear reader, will you join me in this life-long quest?

Jesus says, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:20

Artist’s Statement

Locks
David Bahn
Cypress, Texas

At a friend’s farm in the piney woods of east Texas I saw these locks on the gate to his property. As I looked more closely, I discovered something about them that was not initially apparent. See if you can tell…One of the locks was not locked! Secure? No.

Since then I have been interested in locks. Whenever I see locks, I naturally want to take photos of them. I hit a treasure trove of locks when we visited Fort Casey on Whidbey Island in Washington state. One after another, large steel doors with massive latches boasted locks. Abus, Master, and generic locks secured something – the life of me I cannot imagine. Actually, I suspect they are simply there to keep people out, not to keep treasure in.

These images, except for two of them, are from Fort Casey. One of the others was found in St. Maarten and the other in Guatemala. I wanted to bring out the grunge, texture, and harshness of the locks. Therefore, I over-saturated, over-emphasized the vibrance, added black, and adjusted the texture slider to bring out the hidden colors, textures, and already-grungy character of the locks.

My Goals

I hope the viewer will enjoy viewing these images, and perhaps think a bit about what it means to be secure. “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” says the Jewish rabbi from Nazareth. Perhaps we might consider what we are seeking to lock up and hold secure. Perhaps we will consider whether we are trying to protect our possessions. Maybe we’re isolating ourselves from others’ access in the process. Whether it’s fear, appropriate care, or other motives that leads us to use locks, we must remember that even the strongest lock is not perfectly secure.

Bio

David was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. A high school friend introduced him to photography, a “real” camera (Minolta A-5) and the darkroom. Once he saw the images developing in the darkroom he was hooked. Graduating to a Canon SLR film camera, then to various Canon SLR cameras, he now shoots Sony a6000 and a6500…with a couple of Canon L-series lenses. He serves as senior pastor at St. John Lutheran Church and considers light to be one of God’s greatest created gifts.

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:9-15

20190820-DSC09109

Cabo San Lucas | August 2019 (This is the third of my photos of this famous arch.)

When I first encountered the teachings of the Lutheran Church in a significant way – beyond attending worship – I was impressed. Every teaching was grounded in the Bible. When I had questions, I was directed to Bible passages that spoke to the issue I questioned. Baptism? Ephesians 5; Titus 3; 2 Peter 3; Acts 2. The Lord’s Supper? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians 11. Salvation? Ephesians 2:8-9. Sin? Psalm 51; 1 John 1:8-9; Romans 3:23; 6:23.

The result of that process of learning and exploring led to a strong conviction about what is true. This is the foundation of true faith. True faith requires a corpus of teachings to believe in. As a result – and due also to the important truth that we are saved by grace through faith – leads one to an understanding of “believe” as an act of mental ascent. We acknowledge something to be true: we believe that.

Such a faith is not the full expression of the faith revealed in the Bible – especially if we consider Jesus’ words here. Believing the Good News puts us on a new and different path. When we believe we gain a relationship with God, and a responsibility of representing God. God is our Father. We represent him to the world. If we believe the Good News, our sins are forgiven, and we live in light of that forgiveness by honoring God with our bodies and possessions, obeying God’s commandments, and showing his true nature to the world around us.

Years ago I faced some very difficult and challenging accusations to my ministry as a pastor. I was being vilified by certain members of the church I served. I was being judged and criticized by others. It was a difficult time. I recall wanting to ask the people of the church, “Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? Is that forgiveness for you alone?” Of course, there is the issue of my need to repent and acknowledge my sin – which I did. But you get it: if you believe in forgiveness for yourself, it would stand to reason that you would seek to offer it to others.

To believe means to embrace from the heart the truth of God and act and live accordingly. Any failure to do so, cuts short the fullness of the Good News of Jesus, and puts us on a dangerous footing not founded on the fullness of God’s truth. Do you believe? Are you living it out? This is Jesus’ calling to us and all people.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:9-15

20190820-DSC09106

Cabo San Lucas | August 2019

Sometimes I see it. Plain as day. Obvious. Two women were at our photo club’s portfolio review. I knew one. The other was obviously her sister. More often I don’t pick up on it. Flash a bunch of statistics on the TV screen during a ballgame and I have to pause the video to take it all in. Sometimes I’ll make a comment about a certain play or player only to discover – as my wife looks at me with furrowed brow and confused expression – “He  just said that.” Oh. I guess I missed it. Then there is that colorful expression: “He doesn’t know his ____ from a _____” [expletives supplied at your own risk].

How are you at recognizing God’s rule and reign over all of life? What does it look like? Is it peaceful waters and quiet moments? Is it decisive put down of any evil plan? Is it perfect health and richly delightful relationships?

In the end that will be the perfect consummation of Jesus’ reign and rule. All will be right. Every injustice will be rectified. Every tear wiped away. Every pain gone. Every illness banished. Everything will be in perfect harmony with no intrusion of sin, Satan, sickness, or sadness whatsoever. That is the picture we see of the heavenly banquet feast at the end of all time.

But look here: Jesus announces the presence of God’s rule and reign in the face of John’s arrest. This is hardly a high point of perfect harmony and “lines drawn in pleasant places” (cf. Psalm 16:6). This does not appear to be an obvious expression of the reign and rule (better way of thinking of the term “kingdom”) of God. This looks like the devil is in charge.

But Jesus says, “The time has come. The kingdom (reign and rule) of God is at hand.” In regard to the question of God’s timing, the “R” we need to exercise is to recognize the rule and reign of God. Jesus rules above all things even now (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25–28; Matthew 28:18). It may not appear to be so, but he is seated at the right hand of God. This we recognize only by faith. We look to the things that are not seen. Faith sees beyond the current trouble and tumult of these days. Faith recognizes that God is writing a story across the span of time. The rule and reign of God is present but not yet – both at the same time.

This is a mystery. But if we are to fully embrace the timing of God, we must embrace the mystery while yearning for the final consummation of all things being reconciled to Christ. That means Jesus reigns and rules by grace in the hearts of believers. Do you recognize it? Does he have his proper place in your heart?

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:9-15

20190820-DSC09103

Cabo San Lucas | August 2019

M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie, is a profoundly insightful work. In it he describes people of the lie as those who are the essence of evil. According to Peck among other things evil persons consistently deceive themselves, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection. In the process they deceive others as they deceive themselves. Bottom line, evil people refuse to acknowledge their own sin. One blogger put it this way:

Peck describes evil as “militant ignorance”. Evil people are obsessed with maintaining their self-image of perfection through self-deception. In addition, evil people will be very selective about who they inflict their evil upon, while going to great lengths to maintain an image respectability and normality with everyone else.

Arrogant. Haughty. Self-righteous. Full of hubris. That is the Pharisee of which Jesus speaks in Luke 18:9-14. This is in sharp contrast to the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, and to Jesus’ initial sermon recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus calls us here to repent and believe the Good News.

We all need to repent. Everyone of us. No exceptions. If we say we do not, we deceive ourselves (a true hallmark of evil) and make God to be a liar (cf. 1 John 1:8-10). So, yes. You and I need to repent. I do not wish to call God a liar. I wish to believe the Good News that God accepts real, broken, faulted, blemished sinners and makes them new. This is Good News indeed. And repentance is the pathway to experiencing the full sweetness of it.