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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! 😀

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. 💀 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. 🙄

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! 😊). 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! ☹ 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! 😊  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

After-Life Travels

Death is a subject rarely spoken about in social circles. Recently, one of our dear members passed away. It was sad. We really enjoyed his presence and encouragement. Like all people, he was not perfect. He had his “quirks” (as some call them) but….don’t we all? What a blessing to have known his personal testimony of faith; both in private and in our worship setting. He passed away quietly in peace, according to his daughter.

How many people can say that about their relatives and friends who have died? I, personally, have been there as professing unbelievers die. It was never a pretty sight. One (unchurched) man grabbed me by the clergy shirt as he died; yelling out “Don’t let me die!” I had just entered the room, via request by his nurse, and never had a chance to say a word to him. After his demand, he took a deep breath and succumbed to the “last enemy” (as Paul calls it- 1 Corinthians 15: 26); death. His friends and relatives were in the room with him. They were beyond consoling. Sad.

How different it is for those I’ve known who have died in the Christian faith. I’ve ministered for over 40 years to brothers and sisters in Christ who have breathed their last breath in my presence. How humbling it is as they cling in trust to the words of divine promises like, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16: 16) and “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11: 25) These words bring comfort and peace from the throne of grace to the believing hearts of those whose bodies are failing them. They are divinely true.

Recent movies have told about people who have died and come back to life. I, too, have had such an experience. But let us not look to other’s after-life travels to find hope and assurance. Rather, let us continue to search the Scriptures and embrace to our hearts the promises of the Gospel; “the power of salvation to all those who believe.” (Romans 1: 16). In Christ our crucified and risen Savior.  Amen!

Pastor William C. Mack
 

Tax Day

 “Tax Day” (April 15) is almost upon us. What fun! ☹ Heart attacks, strokes, and blood pressures all will increase nationwide as we diligently search to save as much as we can from giving to the I.R.S.; and rightfully so! But let’s remember that taxes pay for our military, police protection, road construction, and improvement, etc. We might cringe at the thought, but even politicians must be paid to keep the aforementioned going. The debate continues as to the degree of efficiency THAT has occurred. But taxes are not a new thing….

Under Moses taxes were levied by the Church; mostly to keep the worship of God going as they moved the Tabernacle from place to place. When the Israelites settled in Palestine taxation assumed a more regular and organized form for the purpose of supporting, not only the spiritual side of society but also the civil side. As politics became more of an issue in Israel, taxes grew. (What a shock!) Finally, when Rome took over, the taxes were imposed to support the conquering army, civil matters (roads, bridges, etc.), and political support… Yes, the politicians have always had their hands “in the pot”, so to speak. Money and power are a strong allurement.

So, should we refuse to pay taxes? No! To do so would be a crime and a sin (we must follow the law) (Romans 13:1) and we could end up with a huge fine and even jail time! Even Jesus paid taxes! When some Pharisees tried to “entangle” Jesus in His talk, they challenged Him on the dreaded paying of taxes to the hated Romans. He showed them a coin, worth a day’s wage, and said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22: 21)

So, as painful as it is….and it IS….let us pay our taxes, and thank God we live in the very BEST country in the world! 😊 What a blessing to live where we can worship freely and work to the glory of Him Who created us, redeemed us, and rose again to assure us of everlasting life. Amen!

Lucas Cranach Day

Happy Lucas Cranach Day! “Who?”, you say. On April 06, Lucas Cranach the Elder is commemorated in the Lutheran Church as being one of the greatest Christian painters.  Born in central Germany, in 1472, he learned the art of drawing from his father. He soon took up painting and drew the attention of Duke Frederick III of Saxony who brought him into his court. 

He painted numerous court individuals and branched out, eventually, painting emperors and, most importantly to us in the Lutheran Church, Dr. Martin Luther himself! 

Although born and baptized in the Roman Catholic faith, Cranach became part of the Lutheran church; even becoming a close friend of Luther. He strove to convey the Truth of the Gospel, forgotten by so many clergies in the Roman Catholic Church, through his works of art. He was even the godfather to Luther’s first child!

Close to our own hearts, as Lutherans, Cranach made numerous woodcut illustrations for Luther’s German translation of the Bible. Duke Frederick III even conferred on him a printer’s patent with exclusive privileges as to copyright in Bibles. His presses were used by Martin Luther to spread God’s Word near and far. It has been said, if it were not for Cranach’s printing presses, “the Lutheran movement would have died an early death.” As we know, thanks be to God, the Word of God spread as thousands took their beloved copies of the Bible to their homes, to relatives, etc. The printing press of Cranach also sent hundreds of Luther’s documents to parts throughout the world. 

Cranach made a bold statement in an era when being Lutheran was not popular but his, God-given, faith led him to proclaim the Truth through his paintings and his other business of printing. He died at the age of 81 in Weimar, Germany.

In this Easter season, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us take a moment to thank God for using his servant, Lucas Cranach, who painted his Savior’s love on canvas and was used by the Lord to print His incredible Word; a message that has spread worldwide and has changed untold millions of hearts. Oh that God would use each and every one of us today in our own vocations to that end! 

One of Cranach’s last works is the altarpiece for the Stadtkirche Church at Weimar.  There, Christ is shown twice,  trampling on Death and Satan, to the right crucified, with blood flowing from the lance wound. John the Baptist points to the suffering Christ, while the blood-stream falls on the head of a portrait of Cranach, and Luther reads from his book the words, "The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin." Amen and Amen!  A blessed Easter to all, in Him Who is risen indeed!

Pastor William C. Mack

Easter Truths

O.K. Time to “bad mouth” the Easter bunny….When I was a kid my Mom would sing “the Easter song”. Here it is:

“Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping' down the bunny trail,
Hippity, hoppity,
Easter's on its way.
Bringing' every girl and boy baskets full of Easter joy,
Things to make your Easter bright and gay.
He's got jellybeans for Tommy,
Colored eggs for sister Sue,
There's an orchid for your Mommy
And an Easter bonnet, too.
Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping' down the bunny trail,
Look at him stop, and listen to him say:
"Try to do the things you should."
Maybe if you're extra good,
He'll roll lots of Easter eggs your way.”

Yes, my parents lied to me about Easter. I never knew about Jesus until I was 19 years old and for years, like my “faith in Santa Claus”, I believed that some rabbit brought me jelly beans and chocolate eggs (which my brother and I ate until we were sick). First of all, it was quite an act of “faith” to believe in a rabbit that could give all the kids worldwide jelly beans and chocolate eggs! “O.K.”, I remember thinking, “maybe, like Santa, he has help.” But when I “busted” my parents unloading the grocery bags full of candy one Easter (I was about six), that dream vanished. Good thing too, because like Santa, the Easter bunny expected me to be “extra good”. Remember, Santa was “making a list and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.” For years I thought I had the old guy fooled because there were plenty of gifts under the Christmas tree every holiday. But my conscience always bothered me about those “naughty and nice” and “if you’re extra good” requirements.

Don’t lie to your kids or grandkids. Tell them the wonderful truth of Easter that sets the conscience-free: Jesus, true God, and true Man, came to earth to suffer, die and rise again to forgive all people all their sin. And through faith in Him, given at your baptism or through the Gospel, you can be absolutely certain of everlasting life. It is a matter of faith, yes; a gift of God the Holy Spirit. But it comes not from a popular singer but from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He, unlike all others, can be trusted eternally. A most blessed Easter to all! He is risen!
Amen. In Jesus’ Name, amen!

Pastor William C. Mack

Spring has Sprung

Spring is here! Just a few days ago, the calendar informed me that a whole new season was upon us. Strange that we, in southern California, are going through a “cold snap”; temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below normal! But…. "Spring has sprung”, as they say, whether you see and feel it or not!

The dictionary definition of spring is: “That season of the year in which plants begin to grow after lying dormant all winter: in the North Temperate Zone generally regarded as including the months of March, April and May.” (Webster’s College Dictionary) Well….we in southern California (like the southern portions of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona) virtually never see snow or temperatures dip below freezing. In fact, I’ve seen the temperature go into the 80’s in the “dead of winter” here! We would hardly know it was “winter” as the people in the northern tier states know so well!

Although spring, as a season, is not mentioned in the New Testament, it is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament. (See 2 Samuel 11: 1, 1 Kings 20:22, et al). The references, generally, point to that time when armies were ready to march.

In like manner, we may find ourselves in either of two scenarios; spiritually: one in which we are starting to grow in our faith or one in which we find ourselves preparing for “war” against the world, the flesh, and/the Devil.

The Holy Spirit Himself works through the means of grace (the Word and the Sacraments) to plant the seed of the Gospel and, through that message, to “fertilize” our God-given trust with even more strength! Temporally, it may be “winter”, but the Lord might bless us with spiritual "spring";  incredible insight into the wounds, suffering, and death of Jesus. An example would be the 495-page book by Martin Chemnitz (who lived in Luther’s time), entitled “The Two Natures of Christ”!  One can never “plumb” the depths fully of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. His “spring”, thank God, never ends! 😊

But then, spiritual “spring” might also lead us to “fight the good fight”; a spiritual war. The world wills to never compromise on its atheism. It hates us; the Christian Church. The “flesh”, with us 24-7-365, tries constantly to steer us in the wrong direction, Biblically. And the Devil….well, he is the “champion” of evil. Enough said about him….

May God’s “spring” be with you always in this Lenten season. Remember all that the Savior suffered for our salvation for in Him, alone, we find the strength to hope and endure the trials that we, His children, endure until we are brought to “eternal spring”; Heaven.

Search the Scriptures for God’s love and grace toward you, remember (daily) the promises connected to your baptism, and partake of our Lord’s Body and Blood when they are offered. In doing so, you will find your spiritual “spring” to be a time of perpetual blessing and preparation.

In Him our Savior,
Pastor William C. Mack
Christ the Rock Lutheran Church

St. Patrick's Day

This week we celebrate Saint Patrick’s day. As you may know, that was not his name. He was a “saint” because of his faith in the true God. And while, technically, not the “first” missionary to Ireland, he was the most famous and most successful. After being raised in a Christian home in England, he was kidnapped by rogue Irish raiders (a bit of redundancy there, “rogue Irish”) After years in captivity as a slave, he had a dream in which he was told to escape by way of a boat at a specific location. It is told that he walked out of the tribe of people who had enslaved him and found the boat where he had been told it would be. Eventually, he found his way back to England where he studied for the public ministry. He vowed to go back to Ireland to the pagans and tell them about the true God. As the story is told, he landed just as a bunch of pagans saw him arrive. The custom of the Irish, at the time (fortunately, not today) was to behead invaders and eat their brains. (I guess they realized they needed more…..) Patrick, it is told, leaned over before the pagan warriors were upon him, and picked up a 3-leaf shamrock (not a “clover”….different species) and said, “I have come to tell you about the true, triune God; three in one.” The timing was divinely right. They listened and Patrick would continue preaching in Ireland until his death; many years later. He established churches and even monasteries where future pastors and missionaries could be schooled. He sent hundreds of missionaries to Europe "because of the spiritual darkness that prevailed there" (his words).  Most of the missionaries were killed by the Roman Catholic Church because Patrick’s religion proclaimed, “salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, the Son of God alone” (it is in his diary, by the way). Patrick hated the influence of Rome and her “pope”, so even if the Roman Catholic Church today claims him as their own, Patrick NEVER claimed them as his own!

So, in spite of society “coloring” Saint Patrick’s Day as an excuse to get drunk, eat to excess (although it IS hard not to fill oneself with corned beef and cabbage…..Yummmm!), let us remember that it is, even today in Ireland, remembered as a time to celebrate when the true, triune God was brought to Ireland; a saving message that was (eventually) joyously embraced by the whole of Ireland…..(well, most of it, anyway…).

May all of us, Irish or not, celebrate with joy-filled hearts in this Lenten time; remembering that the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, purchased our salvation once for all time. Through faith, alone, in Him, we know beyond all doubt that we are forgiven and have everlasting life. Unlike the pre-Patrician Irish, we do not want to cut off the heads of those who differ from us. Let us simply proclaim the Truth of Law and Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit, as in Patrick’s time, to determine when and where they will be brought to the true faith. May His will be done. Happy St. Pat’s Day!!!  Erin Go Braugh!
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