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Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness

This morning I received a call that my dear friend, LeeAnn had been called Home to glory. While I knew this day was coming, and since last week with the doctor's report that it was coming sooner than any of us had thought or hoped, it still hit me hard. You see, LeeAnn was a gift from the Lord to me in many ways. Since converting to Lutheranism from Reformed many times there were verses that suddenly made more sense. Often, before the Ladies Bible Study LeeAnn would be there early and so we would talk about the Scriptures and how certain ones just seemed to make more sense now. Reading them without trying to make them mean something other than what they were plainly saying. As I spoke with her grand-daughter, this hymn was playing in the background on verse 3:

Let us praise the Word Incarnate,

Christ, who suffered in our place.

Jesus died and rose victorious

That we may know God by grace.

Let us sing for joy and gladness,

Seeing what our God has done;

Let us praise the true Redeemer,

Praise the One who makes us one.

You may listen to it here.

Then, I called other dear friends and shared with them our loss and heaven's gain. With my friend Sally, we shared the hymn Rock of Ages and as she quoted the lines this one stood out:

Nothing in my hand I bring;

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Notice a word that is repeated? Yes, it is the word Grace. LeeAnn knew God's grace and helped me understand it in a much deeper way than before. Often we talked about all the rules in our church backgrounds and how we longed for a simple Gospel. We both found in the Scriptures as taught in our Lutheran Church. We both found the assurance of salvation in the work of God who washed us in the flood of water baptism with the Word. We both found joy and peace and now she enjoys eternal peace in the Presence of our Beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

The final verse of Rock of Ages made me think of what I hope can be my own testimony at the end:

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyelids close in death,

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

In my upcoming book, The Accidental Lutheran, I wrote about LeeAnn and her influence, encouragement, shared moments and I share them with you here:

These past two years what God did for me in baptism has become a precious teaching. It has brought comfort and assurance to know that all the blessings of the Gospel, of salvation and the forgiveness of sins, were fully realized in the waters of baptism. There has been one dear friend, LeeAnn, who also grew up Baptist, with whom this comfort has been shared. Each week we would speak to each other about verses we had read dozens of times and now see that they were about baptism and how God does the regenerating, forgiving and declaring us justified in Jesus Christ and that none of it is our work. In mid-week Bible Study we were learning about the Sacrament of Baptism but also in our Ladies study we often came across the biblical teaching on this Holy Sacrament. Sometimes we would just look at each other knowingly that once again what we had been taught was either incomplete or simply wrong and how now assurance of salvation had come. At the time I am writing this, LeeAnn’s cancer came back and she will soon be Home with her Savior Jesus Christ[i], forever rejoicing and praising Him that she is God’s Own Child … and gladly says it. [1]

God used LeeAnn, many many times, to help me realize the blessings of our baptism and how God brought us to a more biblical understanding of the work He did for us even when we didn’t understand it at the time. Often, when something became clear to us we would just look at each other and smile. On Wednesday nights Pastor would sometimes have us sing the following hymn (God’s Own Child I’ll gladly say it) and it has taken deep root in my heart. I thank God that He brought LeeAnn into my life and will miss her greatly. Still, come to my office when I am working and you will often hear this hymn playing in the background as I write or read:

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!

He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.

Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any

That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!

I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!

Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.

Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,

And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!

When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!

Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:

Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!

Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.

Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:

I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise![1]

The work which Jesus did on the Cross is what gives us our hope. Nothing that we can do will ever merit eternal life. Jesus died as a propitiation (covering the sins, satisfying God's Laws) for sinners like you and me. No matter how much good we do we will never earn God's favor. He made the way. He gave His only Begotten Son to die in your place so that you too may have eternal life. Look to Him alone for salvation. As St. Peter said,

Repent and be baptzed for the forgiveness of your sins.

If you are reading this and have not repented and been baptized, I emplore you to look to Christ for your redemption draws near.

[1]. Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Lutheran Service Book: Three-year Lectionary (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2006), 594.

[i] (Today, January 29, 2019, I received a call that LeeAnn had been called Home to be with her Faithful and Gracious Savior forever and ever. I will miss her greatly but our comfort and her’s is and was that in the waters of baptism Christ had regenerated, forgiven, redeemed her and given true faith and He sustained and kept her nourishing her on His True Body and Blood. She now sees Him, whom she loved so much, Face to face and is rejoicing with saints of all ages praising Him. I look forward to the day I am called Home and will worship Him with all who have gone before me.)

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