Pastor Laux Devotion September 20, 2017
Rock of Ages
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!” (Hebrews 13:1)
The famous hymn “Rock of Ages” was written in the famous year of 1776. Augustus Toplady, a very earnest and talented English clergyman, was 36 years old when he wrote this popular and beloved hymn. It has been described as a hymn: “that meets the spiritual needs of all sorts and conditions of people from the derelict snatched from the gutter by the Salvation Army to Prime Minister Gladstone as whose funeral it echoed through the dim spaces of Westminster Abbey.”
Opening with the cry of the soul for divine help and refuge, and closing with the soul’s exultation in triumphant certainty, this hymn glorifies Christ as the only and eternal Savior from sin. It stands as a ringing reminder of the unchangeable character of the Savior of sinners. A song of the soul sighing for salvation, it exhorts us not to be carried away with the latest whim or fad, but instead to stand on Jesus Christ, the unchanging Rock of Ages for salvation and safety.
We are all sinners. The Law condemns us and leaves us no wiggle room. The soul that sinneth shall die.
The Gospel assure us of an even more blessed truth, “Christ hath redeemed us from the cruse of the Law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Here is perfect atonement for all our sins. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water and the blood from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
Christ not only died for our sins but was raised also for justification. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Because Jesus lives we too shall live.
“While I draw this fleeting breath, when my eyelids close in death, when I soar to worlds unknown, see Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hid myself in Thee.”
Two years after writing this hymn the young author and pastor died at age 38. His last words were said to be: “Now my prayers are all turned to praise.”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The gift of forgiveness and even heaven and the resurrection of the body is as certain as our Lord.
Pastor Laux – Devotion
September 11, 2017
“But What Is There to Fear”
This is an edited version of the sermon I preached after September 11, 2001.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
The great Presbyterian minister of Scottish descent and boyish good looks, Peter Marshall preached one of his most famous sermons at the Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. As the story is told both in book and film Peter was asked to preach a sermon at the Naval Academy chapel one Sunday morning. His topic and text had been well publicized in advance and people flocked to hear this powerful preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the last-minute Peter had an overwhelming feeling that he should change his announced topic and instead preach a sermon on death and immortality called “Rendezvous in Samarra” to the young navy officers to be. The date was December 7, 1941. On his way back to Washington D.C. that afternoon Marshall and the nation heard the stunning announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Peter Marshall had proclaimed the assurance of life after death to young officers to be who would soon be on the high seas, many of them never to return to their families.
In some ways September 11th is a new Pearl Harbor for a new generation…. Terror is not simply something a world away but it has horribly touched our people, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our nation.
The Lord willing or God willing should not be a pious cliché to us. Instead it is a clear recognition that our future is in God’s hands. The brother of our Lord, the great apostle teaches us always that life is a vapor, a mist that disappears as quickly as the fog burns off in the morning.
Indeed, for each and every one of us life is a fragile thing. The messenger that summons us into the next life may be visible or invisible, expected or unexpected. Either way the summons is just as certain and final.
History is full of dramatic illustrations of the frailty of life. In the days of Noah, no one expected a world-wide flood and death as they ate, drank and were merry. The people on the Titanic did not awake in the morning and say I think I will die this day. The people heading to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the subways on Tuesday had no idea they would die on this day.
Yes, James life is like a vapor.
But what is there to fear? On our own there is plenty to fear. On our own we are lost, lost in sin and death and destruction.
But what is there to fear? Our God is love and He did not leave us to die in our sins. Instead the Father sent His Beloved Son to this world to save it. The silent night of Christmas assures us that Jesus took on our flesh as His own to live the perfect life for us and for all. It assures us that He tasted death for all suffering the punishment of hell that we all deserved for our guilt and shame
But what is there to fear? Jesus rose from the dead the assurance that the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of all.
But what is there to fear? God has called us to faith in Christ. In our baptism, we have put on Christ and we have received all the gifts of Christ as our own.
But what is there to fear? Our true life is not blown out like a candle in the wind. Jesus said to the repentant thief dying next to Him, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.” This is heaven.
But what is there to fear? Even the grave is not the final heritage of our body. On that last great day, Christ will come back to earth and raise our bodies from the dust and ashes and then both in body and soul we will be with the Lord and all of God’s people in heaven singing His praise forever and ever.
The final convincing proof is found in Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. “Because I live you shall live also.”
Yes, James life is a vapor, a mist, but in Christ there is a glorious new and eternal day beyond our dying sun.
But what is there to fear?
Devotion – August 29, 2017
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
An immense hurricane with violent winds and sheets of rain have devastated the gulf coast of Texas. Now the Houston area is getting more and more rain with more and more flooding and more and more destruction. Some have lost their lives. Many people had to be rescued from precarious situations. The help and rescue efforts came from first responders, the national guard, and just everyday people. Tragic earthly times often brings out the best in our people. Many of us have family members and friends in the Houston area. We pray for all the people that they would be kept safe from harm and danger. We pray for the flood waters to recede. We pray that God would be with these folks as they rebuild their lives. We pray for open doors for the gospel. We pray that in some small way the door would be open for us to help them.
We know that God is still God. He is still in control of this world that He created. He has the seas in His hand. The winds obey His voice. But we don’t always know God’s way and plans and thoughts.
When the prophet Elijah felt the immense burden of his day, when he felt even all alone as a child of God he cried out to God. 10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”(1 Kings 19:10) Elijah just wanted to die.
Reread the verse at the start of this devotion and we will see that God wasn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. We can’t really know God from those things or from a terrible hurricane and flood. Instead the Lord came to Elijah with a still small voice. He came to him with His word of truth and life and forgiveness and salvation and hope and comfort. He came with His word of assurance that 7000 did not bow before Baal. Elijah was not alone. He had God’s people with Him. He had God and His word of promise and hope on his side.
So that same small voice of God is with us in His word.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.(John 14:27)
2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. (Psalm 46:2-4)
Our hope is always in the one true God who has saved us from all our sins and given us the promise of the resurrection of the body and the life eternal in heaven.
Pastor Laux - Devotion
August 21, 2017
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:16-18)
As I write this morning I am still thinking about the Eclipse which will begin shorty in Texas. We won’t see a total eclipse here but still it will be a noteworthy event. This occurrence reminds me of what Paul wrote about to the Colossians that not only did God create everything in heaven and on earth but also that in Him all things consist. We call this divine providence or divine preservation. After God created the world He didn’t withdraw from it but He remains in contact with the world and sustains everything in it by His divine power. This is a very comforting thought for us as we make our way through some difficult days in this world.
Johann Gerhard, born almost 100 years after Martin Luther, was an important and faithful pastor in the early years of the Lutheran Church. He wrote many doctrinal books but he was also known for his devotional writings. I think the little prayer he wrote in connection with God preserving the world would be helpful to us as we experience this special event in God’s wonderful creation.
“To you, the creator and preserver of all things, be glory and honor forever. Without You, the true sun, I would vanish like a shadow. Without You, the true light, I would be destroyed immediately. Without You, the true being, I would be brought to nothing instantly. To You alone, do I owe my being, my living, and my moving. I will live only for You and depend only on You for eternity. Amen” (Meditations on Divine Mercy, Johann Gerhard, 2003 CPH)
Pastor Laux – Devotion
August 14, 2017
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Next Monday August 21, 2017 many in the United States will look to the heavens as a total solar eclipse will cross our land from Oregon to Florida. We aren’t anywhere close to the path of the eclipse here in south central Texas but a number of my friends in the Midwest will be able to see the complete solar eclipse. There is no doubt that a sense of awe will come upon those who will witness this spectacular event.
As God’s people when we consider the wonders of nature and especially when something so unusual happens we can’t help but think about the creative hand of God. We believe from the Scriptures that God created the heavens and earth out of nothing. God didn’t have to do this but out of His love He wanted to share His life and love with His creation. He created Adam and Eve and gave life to us as well. He gave us this wonderful creation for our welfare and for our life.
Not only did God create this world out of nothing but also after the fall into sin He promised and then sent His Son to live and die and rise again for the sins of the world. Jesus is not only the giver of physical life but also spiritual and eternal life as well. Read John 1:1-18 to see again how Christ was both the Creator and the Redeemer. Read those verses and ponder the connection between these two teachings of the Bible.
Next week I will experience this eclipse through the news and social media of others. But still it will remind me of God for the heavens declare His glory. It also will remind me though that Christ Jesus came to this very world that He created in order to redeem it. This is how God’s love works in and through creation for the height of His creation, namely you and me and all people of all places of all times.
Devotion – August 7, 2017
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Hebrews 13:7
Today out of the blue I saw a reference to Dr. William Houser in a publication that I receive at church. I hadn’t thought about my good friend and dear professor for many years. In fact, I just assumed that he had died in the Lord many years ago. Pastor Houser must be about 92 or 93 years old.
Dr. Houser was a faithful professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne when I was a student there in the 1980’s. He served as my advisor for my Master’s Thesis: A Literary Analysis of Selected Peter Marshall Sermons. I tried to take as many classes as I could from this man of God who spoke the word of God to me.
Dr. Houser was the best preacher that I ever heard in person. He had a Master’s Degree in English besides his theological degrees and his use of language in the service of the gospel was amazing. His sermon style was different than most (it was narrative at times and expository at other times) and what we were taught by Dr. Aho who emphasized a logical structure and style. Dr. Houser always encouraged us to find the style that fit us. If you are a “C” preacher in Dr. Aho’s style find another he would say.
I found this quote from Dr. Houser in the Concordia Theological Quarterly from 1989. In it he points out the elements of a proper sermon. You might find his remarks helpful when you listen to a sermon even as I find it helpful when I prepare a sermon.
“It goes without saying that every sermon must possess four characteristics: (1.) It must be scriptural. It does not matter if the preacher uses a verse or two, or a chapter, or even an entire book of the Bible, as long as the text is from the Bible. (2.) It must properly divide the Law from the Gospel. The Law points out the eternally damning consequences of sin, while the Gospel proclaims Christ's sacrifice upon the cross and justification through faith. (3.) It must give a proper interpretation (exegesis) of the text which includes the teaching of pure doctrine, "refuting false doctrine, correcting an ungodly life, and encouraging a godly life." (4.) The sermon must be relevant and not expounded in abstract and confusing terminology.”
It is good to remember those who have taught us the Word of God. It was a delight to think again of someone who had so much influence on me as a young seminary student. God gives us these pastors and teachers to bring the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to us. I know in your life; besides your parents, you have pastors and Day School and Sunday School and Bible Class teachers who have meant much to your spiritual formation. Remember these people. Thank God for them. Consider the outcome of their conduct in Christ Jesus. I know it was a special day for me to thank God again for Pastor Houser and pray God’s richest blessings upon him in these days.