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Summertime

Well, it is definitely summertime in California! The apricot tree in our
yard bore plentifully already. Our plum tree is in “high gear” with its
sumptuous fruit and the peach tree is bowed down with over a hundred
peaches! Yummm!

Veggie-wise, we’ve already started plucking tomatoes from our plants
and the bell peppers are growing daily. They should be ready in a couple of
weeks. Yes, the harvest of the fruit has begun!

On the spiritual front, we have seen growth, too. Our little, humble
“flock” of 17 members continues to meet online and, in person, quarterly, in
the clubhouse where we live. We have grown from when Patty and I first
got here, 12 years ago; when we were only 12 members. Trials and
tribulations, deaths, and Covid affected our growth but God has always
blessed us. We are averaging 20 souls every Sunday for worship! The
“fruit” is there, even as we see souls outside of our parish eager to study
the Word of God.

Does God promise that because we are faithful in planting seeds or
trees that we will have fruit or veggies to put on the table? No, of course
not. Oppressive heat, viruses, bugs, caterpillars, vermin, etc., all combine
to stop us from harvesting our “bounty”. Patty and I are vigilant in watering,
fertilizing, trimming, and spraying (organic spray, of course) but, even so,
we have lost a few pieces of fruit to opossums. But the battle continues
until the harvest is over.

In the same way, the Church must continue on with the Truth of
God’s Word. The Lord does NOT promise that, because we are faithful, we
will reap a “harvest” of souls. No. In fact, Jesus said, regarding the last
days, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith
on the earth?” (Luke 18: 8) The spiritual “bugs and vermin” will continue to
plague our little “flock” but by God’s grace we will continue to pour out the
“water of life”, fertilize with the nutrition of the Gospel, and squash
(spiritually) the enemies of the “holy, Christian Church” as they assault the
Bod of Christ.

May God bless us abundantly at Christ the Rock Lutheran Church with
many more souls who are seeking the Truth. But more importantly, may
we feast on the truth of His Word daily; most importantly glorifying Him
Who sewed His “seed” of grace into our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Irenaeus

On the Christian calendar, today (June 28) is the day we celebrate the accomplishments of a bishop of the early (180 A.D.) Church, Irenaeus. He lived in Lyons, France, and argued that his conception of orthodox Christianity was passed down to him from the apostles who knew Jesus personally, while the Gnostics and Marcionites of his time were distorting this apostolic tradition.

While the Gnostics offered salvation through secret knowledge available only to a few, Irenaeus contended that the true doctrines of the Christian faith were the same taught by bishops in different areas. While many of the Gnostics viewed the material world as flawed and from which believers sought to escape to an eternal realm of spirit, Irenaeus saw creation as good and ultimately destined for glorification. He referred to I Corinthians 15:50 quite often, which says, “I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” I John 3:2 says, “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him.”…..He, Jesus, rose physically from the grave. (John 20: 27). We shall rise, physically, to be with Him.

Irenaeus also polemicized against  Marcion of Sinope, who preached that the creator God of the Hebrew Bible and the Father of Jesus Christ were two different gods. Irenaeus argued that the same God who sent Jesus to the Earth also led man through history by way of the Jewish law and prophets. Marcion forgot the verse where Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30).

Irenaeus went on to be the “champion of Christian orthodoxy” in the 2nd century; defending the doctrine of the Trinity without rival. Pray that God would send another “champion” to the Church today! With so many supposedly “Christian” churches denying or ignoring the Trinity we need more warriors for the faith; those who would uphold the true teachings of Holy Scripture! While Jesus does say that in the latter day's men would, overall, deny the faith, (Matthew 24:22)(cf. I Timothy 4:1), pray that workers would be sent to the “holy, Christian Church” to uphold the souls of those who desire to be faithful. Irenaeus had a difficult time with various heretics. We do too. But the love of Christ continues to draw us to profess the Truth of God’s Word in its purity until He comes again. May His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness fill
us for this task. For we ask it in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wedding Month

June is known as the “wedding month” for many. I was blessed to marry my wife on June 23; 48 years ago! Wow! It seems like only yesterday……Right……πŸ™„

Marriage is a blessing from God. Sometimes it doesn’t SEEM that way! Why? Because even Christian couples have a sinful nature; one they have to deal with every day. Arguments, disagreements, dashed hopes, and hurt feelings are found even in those homes which profess to be following Christ. Whereas, at last count, non-Christian marriages end in divorce 55% of the time, those who are church-going believers “only” divorce 45% of the time. Not a great “witness” to the world to be sure.

But on top of having a sinful nature, Christians have to deal with the world; unbelievers. Whereas, 200 years ago, that group was held “at bay” by the refusal of spouses to allow unChristian talk and ideas into the home. Today, however, horrible thoughts, evil words, and unspeakable deeds are not only invading the home, they are actually invited in! How? Through the T.V., D.V.D.s, computer and other types of media. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good stuff found on all of those but the percentage of demonic garbage is growing…..every year. And Christian marriages are suffering more and more.

The devil, too, will constantly try to affect those who profess Jesus as their Savior. His best offensive weapon is convincing people that he is NOT real; that a disturbing mindset is psychologically “off” because of a chemical imbalance. That may be TRUE! But sometimes it is not. Demonic possession is real….and can enter believing households if not repelled. 

Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19: 6). Let the wife subject herself to her Christian husband, as Paul says, (Ephesians 5: 22-24) and let the husband sacrifice himself for her (Ephesians 5: 25- 31); as Christ did the Church. That mindset of sacrificial love constrains the heart to put the other person first and to keep spiritual ideals first in life (Matthew 6: 33). This is an “alien” mindset to most people today; worldwide.

But if I am going to make it to 49 years of marriage with the girl I’m presently married to, I know that to keep Christ as the center of our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives is the key. It has “worked” so far…..I guess I’ll give it another 48 years and reevaluate……😊 God’s plan is always the best. Blessings to all, in Him Who saved us eternally.

Pastor William C. Mack

Flag Day

Today is “Flag Day”. σΎ“¦ 'The flag of the United States of America often referred to as the American flag or the U.S. flag, is the national flag of the United States. It consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the "union") bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows, where rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternate with rows of five stars. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America, and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the U.S. Nicknames for the flag include the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and the Star-Spangled Banner.' (Wikipedia)

On December 3, 1775, our country decided to have its own flag; the “Grand Union flag”. It evolved into a 13-star version on June 14, 1777, and eventually, the current 50-star version was adopted. (Wikipedia)

So….what has this to do with the “holy, Christian Church; the communion of saints”? The Cross, like our flag, is a symbol. As we are commanded by Scripture to be subject “to the governing authorities”, (Romans 13:1) we do so (as far as our faith allows us); proudly serving our closest physical neighbors and blessing those far away. The symbol of the American flag reminds us of the incredible liberty we have and of the many, many men and women who sacrificed themselves or were killed (unwillingly) so that we might have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

The Cross reminds us, too, of our liberty and freedom from sin, death, and the power of the Devil; properties that are spiritual and eternal. The American flag represents something that is none of those but something that no other nation on earth can proclaim; a republic free of government interference with personal life…..to a lesser extent today, but still a “republic”.

While our flag is under attack both within and without our country today, we serve as patriots gladly; knowing that it was God Himself who created our nation and allowed our ancestors to come here to both give and to proclaim the greatest truth mankind has ever known; the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let us proudly and LOUDLY sing, “O say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous night, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming. And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night that our FLAG was still there! O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free….and the home of the brave?” Yes, praise God it does! πŸ˜ In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Memorial Day

Today is “Memorial Day”; a time when we reflect on those who died and who were wounded in combat while fighting for our country. We, also, think about those who served and who left the armed service unscathed; yet who fought bravely to assure that our nation would remain free.

My father lied about his age and entered the second world war at the age of 16! He was no coward! He served on a destroyer escort and saw some of the most ferocious sea battles of that conflict; even getting two purple hearts in the process!

Historians go back and forth with their opinions on whether the wars we fought in were justified or not. In my era, the validity of the Vietnam War was hotly contested; so much so that my own decorated father refused to allow me to get into it; even tearing up my enlistment papers!

And as we go back through the history of our nation, war after the war was fought, both on our country’s land and off it, taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men and women. Was it worth it? As we look out today we see that we are definitely the freest nation in the world. Our republic, though tottering at this point due to Socialism, still stands as “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. People can still express themselves in any way they desire (as long as they do no physical harm to another). Amazing.

But the taking, and giving, of lives in war means nothing to God as far as being justified before Him. Don’t get me wrong. We truly are thankful for those deaths but only those works done by believers shall be a “memorial” before Him on the Last Day. The “good” works (as seen by society) are actually stained by sin (Isaiah 64:6). The works done by Christians, seen by God as good, are actually done by the Holy Spirit Himself in the believer (Philippians 2: 13).

God has used the greed and hate of men (the cause of wars) to bring the Good News to untold thousands. The native Indians of North America had never heard of the triune God until Christians came from Europe to claim their “wild land”. The natives of Africa only heard of the Good News after traders realized that gold and ivory abounded there! In the meantime, the Lord has blessed us here, in the United States, with a republic that guarantees the Church religious freedom. So, on this Memorial Day we are thankful that through all the intentions of men, both godly and evil, we are still free. “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Yes, indeed….In Jesus’ Name, Amen. πŸ˜Š

Pastor William C. Mack
 

Holy Trinity Sunday

This Sunday is “Holy Trinity Sunday”. On that day churches throughout the world confess their faith in the words of the Athanasian Creed. Normally, at least in Lutheran churches, the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed is professed. But on this one Sunday a year, the point to say this particular profession of faith is emphasized. Why?

Because as soon as the early 4th century, the spiritual poison had entered the mainstream of the Christian church! The biggest threat was Arianism; the denial of the Trinity. Athanasius, a champion of the Nicene Creed, fought hard against the Arians who, like the Jehovah's Witnesses today, deny the reality of a triune god. In reality, too, the Mormons do the same; saying that the Holy Spirit is not a person but the “power of God” and that Jesus, though God “now”, is not eternal God. They believe that Jesus, supposedly, “made it to god-hood” (like all Mormon males believe they will also do one day”). Wow…..

While the exact authorship of the Athanasian Creed is not known, we give credit to Athanasius for its formulation because he was such a strong warrior for the teaching of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed.

The life of Athanasius, itself, is one to be admired and modeled after as his life showed great heroism, fortitude, and faith. Through all the controversies he battled through, he was banished five times and spent twenty years in exile; never renouncing the true faith.

Statements from the Athanasian Creed like: “Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic (i.e., universal, Christian) faith.” are “bizarre” to most churches today. The teaching of Universalism is rampant throughout the visible church. This teaches that the triune God is “one of many ways to enter Heaven”. This, of course, flies in the face of the First Commandment (“I am the Lord your God. You shall have NO other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20: 2-3) and the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO man comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6). Universalism is paganism “clothed” in Christianity.

So, like Athanasius, we “fight the good fight” with the Gospel “armor” God gave us (Ephesians 6: 13-17); knowing that the true God has saved us through the Cross of His Son and believing that God, the Holy Spirit, will continue to work stronger and stronger faith in our hearts through His Word and the Sacraments. His love draws us to confess with all our hearts the words of the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds because they are formulated from the Holy Scriptures. This we believe, teach and confess to His glory! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!!
 

Face Masks

“No more masks!” The call has gone out and “freedom” to not wear the mandated face-covering is growing! Although some states, like California, still require masks for the public, indoor shopping, etc., we are becoming more and more “free” to not wear the dreaded face coverings. What a relief! πŸ˜€

What is it about man-made or even God-given, laws that cause us to rebel? Some laws are good for us! “You shall not commit adultery” (the 6th Commandment), when followed willfully (or against the will) brings about a noticeably lower rate of sexually transmitted diseases and divorce! God is pretty smart! And the 7th Commandment (“You shall not steal!) keeps people content (forcibly or meditatively….” I think I have all I need.”); not to mention a drop in people being shot as burglars! Two illegal men in Montana, recently, thought they could harm and steal from an 11-year-old girl while she was in her house. They had knives and had just killed a guy down the street. SHE had a 12 gauge shotgun! Their deceased bodies are being shipped “south” of the border. πŸ’€ Lesson learned….we hope.

Our sinful nature just HATES laws; divine or human. Some distaste is understood. When you are in a hurry, for a good reason or not, the state laws regarding speed limits are a true “bummer”! Some we simply cannot abide by; like the law permitting abortion (it is a breach of the 5th Commandment- “You shall not murder”).  But, as Christians, we do our best to obey the laws, even the mask laws. I “faithfully” griped my way through every store purchase because I had to have a mask on. The clerks were "appreciative" of my bluntness, and irritability, I am sure. πŸ™„

Fortunately, Jesus fulfilled all laws for us and for our salvation. He, as God, knew which ones were spurious. We, being human, however, must check with the ultimate authority (His Word) and go from there. The divine satisfaction of Jesus’ life, given to us, leads us to obey all (mask) laws, even when we desire otherwise.

So, we go on from day to day, from week to week, wondering what new law that man will come up with; spiritual or otherwise. In the meantime we know that a Place awaits us, by God’s grace, where there are no laws and no masks (Yay! πŸ˜Š). Through faith in the risen Savior Heaven is ours and that will bring the ultimate freedom, joy, and peace we have longed for as believers. God grant it to all our hearts, ever-increasingly, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

The Ascension of our Lord

On May 13 we observe “The ascension of our Lord.” “He ascended into Heaven”, we believe. It’s something Christians worldwide confess every Sunday. Hundreds of millions of us profess it! It’s in the Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds that make up our liturgy; our order of worship.

So “what’s the big deal” about Jesus “ascending into Heaven”? Most obviously, if Jesus had only died for our sins and, simply, rose again, never to die again, He would still be on this earth! “So what would be so bad about that!?”, you may ask. As nice as the earth is, it still is “groaning” under the effects of sin. We still have earthquakes, tornados, thunderstorms, floods, freezing, and incredibly hot temperatures, and mosquitoes (!!!), etc. I HATE mosquitoes! β˜Ή Besides, Jesus promised that when He would go to His “Father’s house” (Heaven) He would prepare a place for us, “that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 2-3) I really look forward, more and more, to being with my Savior eternally….minus the mosquitoes….

Saint Paul wrote, “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens.” (Ephesians 4:10). In Luke’s Gospel, we read the actual event which reads, “While He (Jesus) was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)

Are you certain of being in Heaven? As a Christian, you should be! As one who trusts in Christ alone, He promises that you shall be with Him in Paradise! Where is Jesus? In Heaven! Where will YOU be when you die? In Heaven! Christianity is so simple….What a comfort to know that, as we are passing from this world of pain and tears,  He who “ascended higher and all the heavens” has proclaimed through His Word that we shall be where joy never ends, love is perpetual and peace is divinely centered in the One Who loves us eternally. Amen! πŸ˜Š  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Grandparents Day. Valentine’s Day.  Why do we need a special “day” pointed out to us to tell those around us that we love them? The greeting card people love it! Without those “days” they would (probably) be out of business! The flower shops, too, go “crazy” trying to fill orders on those days; not to mention the jewelry that is sold. And if we do not make a special effort of some kind….wow….our name is “mud!"  

What do I have against those “days”? Nothing! It is just sad that we, in the last 100 years, have become so self-centered and so apathetic toward others that we need T.V. ads and calendars to remind us to “love one another.” 

Of course, growing up, I was obligated to do something to remind my Mom that I loved her on Mother's Day. She, of course, was thrilled when I got a card for her or made a bracelet (out of pasta) to adorn her wrist. Hey…..she loved me too; “wrinkles” and all. 

Every morning….and I mean EVERY morning, as I headed out for school I kissed my mother. I remember one day in high school, I headed out of the door quickly in order to avoid the morning kiss for my mother because my friends were waiting for me. I was “too cool” (I thought) at that age to show affection toward my Mom. About 4 houses away, we heard a loud voice yelling out,  “WILLIAM”!!!  My buddies turned to me and said, “What did you do?” I said, “I ‘forgot’ to kiss my Mom.” They all gasped….I ran back, gave her the obligatory kiss. She smiled and I was “good”. If only I could give her another kiss today…..How I miss her…..

“Honor your father and mother,” God told us in the 4thCommandment. Obey them when you can, spiritually, and love them 24-7-365. Mothers are a miraculous vessel that God uses to create life. Incredible. As a male, I cannot conceive (no pun intended) the pain my Mom was put through to give me life. Doctors have told me that men cannot, physically, stand that much “torture.” But not only appreciation for the obvious bodily stress but God’s love for them draws us to “honor” our Moms. 

Jesus showed that love toward us on the Cross and sealed it with the approval of His empty Tomb. Let us get the (obligatory) trinkets (or your name will be “mud”!) but most of all, let us love our Moms with the love our Savior showed us which included telling Saint John to watch over His Mom as He died on the Cross. If my Mom could read this I’d say, “Love you, Mom!” But since she is in Heaven, she can’t. But when I get there, however, we’ll have a love for each other unknown before on earth. Praise God. May He bless our mothers, daily, to His glory.

Pastor William C. Mack

The Dentist

I just got back from a dental checkup. Ever since I was a kid I HATED going to the dentist. Every time I even THINK about the dentist’s office my nose itches and my pulse races! I have (too many) fillings and had a very painful experience in the dental office as a kid. Admittedly, however, it was due to my own neglect of my teeth. Whereas my parents forbade any candy in the house, I was an entrepreneur; catching catfish in the Delaware River (that flowed next to Philadelphia, PA) and selling them to folks in our area. I made a “bundle”; most of it going to support the candy store in our town! The sweets rotted my teeth but they tasted so good! Eventually, my health deteriorated in my digestive system because of my “sweet tooth” and I went off of processed sugar forever. Ironically, after adopting a healthier diet, the cavities stopped and I healed inside. Funny how what I THOUGHT was great for me actually harmed me and threatened to take my life at the “tender age” of 28!

Have you had a spiritual checkup lately? Many folks go through life living egocentrically; having a “great time” (as they see it). Sometimes things like cancer, Covid-19, divorce, poverty, etc., get their attention and they attempt to correct their “course” but too many times, unknown to them, they are dying or are dead; spiritually. Their lifestyles have not had a “checkup”, spiritually, and their souls are headed in the wrong direction, eternally.

As we look at God’s Law we see that we are corrupted and spiritually sick. Our souls need the Gospel healing that comes through Holy Baptism and the Gospel. The Holy Spirit continues to heal us and strengthen us as we hear of His love for us in Christ, embrace the promises of those holy waters of the baptismal font, and partake of the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion. The love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ are better than any other spiritual “sweet” in the world. He, alone, brings redemption and eternal life. Get a “check-up” through God’s Word and be blessed with His gracious healing of your soul. In Him Who rose again for us,

Pastor Bill Mack
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