The Water is the Source

Devotion for January 10, from The LORD Will Answer (2004, CPH):

Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A viper of the Cainite* heresy, lately dwelling in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first sin to destroy Baptism. This is quite in accordance with nature. For vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do prefer arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ICHTHUS** Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!

–Tertullian of Carthage, c. 160-225

Prayer:

Psalm 43:1-3 (KJV): Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

And as a bonus, the rest of the Psalm

Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

*Cainites were a small “Gnostic” group in early Christianity.

**ICHTHUS is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” from the original Greek. “ichthus”, or “ichthys” is also the Koine Greek word for “fish.”

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Prepare the Way! Come, Lord Jesus

Our sermon text at my Field Ed church this past Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent 2013 (Series A in the 3 year LCMS lectionary), was Revelation 22:20.

I have previously and recently written on this verse regarding the end times; as a refresher here it is (ESV): “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The sermon was very good, and is appropriate as an Advent sermon. Advent is supposed to be a time where we prepare our hearts for Christmas and the coming of Jesus. It is a time of penitence and reflection. It is impossible, or rather it should be impossible, to celebrate Christmas and Advent without also recognizing the reason why He had to be born. He was born for us. To save us from our sins while we were still sinners.

And although we look forward to the Second Coming we know that Jesus is still with us today. Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them.”

So one of the points of the sermon was that Christ is with us. And that whenever we pray “Come, Lord Jesus” He is indeed with us. Through all the pain and suffering…that when we ask Jesus to come, we are inviting him to be in our lives, in that muck and grime and into the deep dark recesses of our lives. Those secrets we keep to ourselves, the sin you haven’t told anyone or have maybe just told your confessor…we are inviting Jesus into those parts of our lives. He does and He has. He has borne that sin upon the cross for us and loves us still. Through His sacrifice we know that God the Father will see Christ in us and we shall be saved.

So whether we are talking about preparing for a meal, or a prayer of thanksgiving, or through the tough times of our life, through sin, or in waiting for the Second Coming, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Working in our Faith

Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all creatures. And this is the work that the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith.

Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord IV, 10-12

I read the above paragraphs a couple of days ago as part of my daily devotionals. Honestly, I read the first paragraph and felt convicted, so I wanted to move on from what I didn’t like hearing. The first few sentences of the second paragraph is completely different in tone and I thought, “Yeah! This is so great, so reassuring!” It is all about God’s grace and His promises for is. However, it pivots back to works. Ouch.

Why “ouch”? Simply put, for a few years I don’t think I’ve been living out my faith. There have been countless Saturdays and weekdays where I wasn’t working but didn’t do anything, or maybe I should say anything productive. I didn’t volunteer at a food bank or with kids or at some other ministry; I didn’t learn a new language or a new skill, I didn’t do anything to better myself or my neighborhood or the world around me. At least not regularly.

So you can see why I may not want to hear what God had to say for me. It wasn’t the first time I realized that I had been unproductive, but it’s always tough to hear it and be reminded of it.  But we need to hear it. We need to hear those tough words that our Father has for us, that we are not living up to His perfect standards. Yet, we can take comfort in His promises. We have that “daring confidence in God’s grace” because we know that our robes have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Holy Spirit works in us to sanctify us. Part of this work of sanctification, the process of becoming more holy (a process which shall not be complete while we are here on this earth), is that we desire to do good works. Good works, not for salvation, but because we know that those things are from God

Prayer: Father, we thank you for all you have done for us, all of the blessings in our lives are because of you. Please forgive us for having forgotten this and using our time and blessings for our own selfish desires and not for your. Thank you for the gift of grace through your Son and please give us your Spirit so that we may think, say, and do the things you would want us to do. Through your Son’s name, Amen.

No one said it would be easy…

Well, people do. But they are wrong. Being a Christian…following the Lord is not an easy calling. It never has been. It never will be.

Today’s Old Testament reading (Proper 29, the last Sunday in the church year and the last one in Year C in the LCMS’s Three Year Lectionary so another end right there) was Malachi 3:13-18. Although the pastor this morning used our Epistle (Colossians 1:13-20) reading as the basis for the bulk of his sermon he toughed on this passage and said something that I think most of us know and and have felt and thought but it seemed new to me.

Malachi 3:14–15 (ESV)
14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ”  

Every office has one. Every school has one. The person who doesn’t seem to have to work to be successful. I’m sure they do. But they don’t care about success and yet achieve it. It just seems to come so naturally to them; it almost seems effortless. You desire to be successful in your schoolwork or your career, or you desire to be in a relationship, to find the person God has planned for you. And someone you know seems to go from relationship to relationship, and even though that’s not quite what you desire, you are still somewhat envious that they are in relationships when you aren’t. Or in the office…a colleague may not want to be in that job, and you don’t know if they are truly putting forth their full effort, but then they still outperform you. It’s easy to take our eyes off the Lord and look to someone else. Continue Reading