Pro-Life Sunday

Yesterday was “National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday”, or “Pro-life Sunday” (as we used to call it).



Is it me or is it weird that we have to point out that human life is “sacred”? When something is not sacred, we use it for whatever means we see fit, trample on it, spit on it, say nasty things about it, etc. Why the necessity to point out to the world that human life is sacred?

Because infants in the womb, the elderly, and the severely ill “get in our way” and remind us that this life on earth is temporary. We want to have all the “fun” we can have before we “bailout” of existence. Babies, both born and unborn, demand our attention and force us to make commitments we would not otherwise make. The elderly frustrate us and test our patience (not to mention our checkbooks). The terminally ill drain our economy. Such is the mentality of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Traditional Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all have (historically) condemned abortion and have revered their elderly. (Approaching 70 years old, I appreciate that mindset….. 😊 ) But man is fickle and the sinful nature is strong! But God has said in His Word that He Himself made us (Job 33:4, Psalm 139:14), hence taking a human life in the womb is “murder” (Exodus 20: 13). The same reverence for the lives of the elderly and ill are made in Holy Writ.

Life, both physical and spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44, John 6:63) is a gift from God. We are here to protect and nurture it. As zealous as we may be to “save the whales” (etc.) let us save the even more (Luke 12:7) important human children; both born and unborn. Let us bring them to the saving waters of Holy Baptism (1 Peter 3:21) and protect the frail; both elderly and ill; bringing them the blessed message of Christ crucified and risen for them.

As John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb ( Luke1: 41- 44) may we, too, “leap for joy” knowing our Creator Who sent His Son to ransom us eternally and to give us days to live even before we came to be (Psalm 139: 16). May the light of His grace empower us to do all these things, to His glory, in Jesus' Name! Amen!

Death

“Death” seems to be a topic that people are avoiding these days. We, hourly, hear of the spread of Covid-19 and can view the “tide” of the disease, country by country, state by state. The “death toll” is there for us to see but no comfort is forthcoming. Occasionally an elderly person will be shown on the media as “overcoming” it….but the death rate continues.

Actually, none of us is “going to get out of here alive”, as they say. The “death ratio” is still one-on-one. It will always be that way until Jesus comes again.

But why is that? Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Every man, woman, and child is a sinner and shall die…..Notice I said “shall” die, not “will” die. We do not “want” to die (for various reasons) but the divine truth is that we shall…..every one of us.  No emotional objection, devotion to health, or religious fervor will permit us to avoid death. Period.

God has drawn a “line” for our length of days (Job 14:5) When it is our “time” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) we “shall” die.  We can “shorten” our “gift of life” by suicide or foolish/dangerous living, but even good stewardship of our bodies has a “limit”. Embrace it. Believe it.

Thank God He has given us life; physical, spiritual, and eternal. We, as Christians, look at life as an opportunity to serve the Lord via our family, our work, our church, etc. He blesses us according to His will and promises us that we have been forgiven; possessing real, spiritual life (John 1: 4, 5:21) and eternal life (John 3:16, 3:36). Trust His promises and know that even if Covid-19, a bus, or cancer takes your life, you are in the Savior’s arms. He is with you “always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) His “peace” (John 14:27) will be with you eternally; by His grace through faith. You, and I, are headed to a place where there is nothing but joy, love, and divine blessing. (Revelation 7: 15-17) May those truths fill your hearts as death approaches, for with it comes the opening of the gates of Heaven! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

What is the role of a Christian under his government?

What is the role of a Christian under his government? And why does God permit things to happen to the Church by that government?



Good questions, right? “Government”, by definition, is “the exercise of authority over a state, district, organization, institution, etc.. A system of ruling, controlling, etc..” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary). Man, by nature, desires to “rule” over others. Why? There is within us a need to have ordered; via the Law of God in the conscience. That is a good thing. Family “order” became tribal order which, as the earth’s population grew, became geographical control (states/provinces), kingdom-rule and countries governed by chiefs, princes, pharaohs, kings, etc.. Man governed by his conscience (often “muddied) and by the “sword”. The believer in the triune God was directed and ruled by the immediate voice or printed word of God; hence, Adam, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, etc.. The Scripture of the New Testament forbids us, now, (Revelation 22: 18-19) to add to the voice of God. He has spoken all that He wants to say until His 2nd coming. So are we to just follow any, and all, governmental mandate as Christians? Saint Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Roman 13: 1-2). Saint Peter wrote, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts. 5: 29) Moses, most of the prophets, Saint Paul, and Saint Peter all lived under pagan rulers! We may, then, not like what a government demands but unless it directly, and clearly, contradicts God’s Word we must obey its rules. God uses even pagan governments to chastise the Church! Do we need “chastisement”? The (visible) Church today has all but abandoned the morality and guidance of Scripture. It is the Last Days. If chastisement comes, may the “light” of His Word guide and fill us with divine peace in Christ until we are taken Home to Heaven where no further chastisement is needed. May His will be done, in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Epiphany

January 06 marks the beginning of the season of “Epiphany”; characterized by the coming of the “wise men”. It is also known as the “Gentile’s Christmas”. Overall, it is a time of realization that God has manifested Himself…..to the world.



So, with the beginning of the “wise men” (Gentiles) how does God “manifest” Himself to us today? A recent clergyman opened Congress praying to “Brahma…or any other manifestation of God.” Our political and religious leaders, by far, say that God manifests Himself through any, and all, deities worshipped in the world. Isn’t that “nice”? It DOES make us feel good. It gives us the “right” to ignore that “complex book” (Bible) and “give life our best shot” (morally); “hoping for the best”. (And we wonder why we, as a nation, are so afraid of dying…..) The First Commandment, however, narrows divine truth down to ONE God; the triune God.

In it, He says that all who die in their sin without faith in Him are going to eternal Hell (John 3: 16-19). “Wow, Pastor Mack! Did you not have enough roughage in your diet yesterday?! That is kind of harsh!” Do a Bible study on “Hell” and “everlasting punishment” (ex.- Matthew 25:46). Reality is a real eye-opener!

Fortunately (here comes the Gospel!) God gave the Jews (first) and then the whole world baptism and the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ birth, suffering, death, and resurrection. Baptism would be the main avenue of bringing salvation to millions of souls! (1 Peter 3:21) As souls were “buried with Christ” (Romans 6:3) and “clothed” with Him (Galatians 3:27) they saw, by faith, their Savior; manifested to them by His grace alone through the waters of Baptism and proclamation of the Gospel. May we become “wise men” this season and embrace the importance of the Christ Child to our hearts through these means of grace to His glory! For we ask it, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Happy New Year!



“Happy new year!”, we said to numerous people a year ago. But, overall, 2020 was filled with unhappiness! Covid-19 took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide. Wars continued. Earthquakes decimated cities. False prophets abounded as never before. Personal trials and tribulations never stopped….One would think that it was the “End times”! Oh….wait…it is! “You mean Jesus is coming back?”. Of course! “When?” Who knows!? But as we enter another new year we look back and see that mankind has not changed at all! The birth of Christ in a manger means even less today, to people, than it did 365 days ago. How do we know this? Church attendance (before the “Covid pandemic”) continued to drop. Crime rose worldwide; showing people’s lack of love for one another. Immorality (homosexuality) was officially condoned by the largest (professing) Christian body in the world! (Roman Catholic Church). Polygamy was officially condoned in Utah for the first time since the mid-19th century. Let me just say “etc”., because you know how bad it is “out there”.

So how can we honestly say “Happy new year” and look forward to 2021? The “12 days of Christmas” leads to Epiphany (which means “manifestation”). With the birth of the Savior, we are assured that He desires to “manifest”, or show Himself, to us ever more deeply. As we daily remember the blessings of our baptism and study His Word we “see” with ever-increasing clarity His love for us in Christ. “Happiness” that is eternal flows to us through the means of grace and we find that comfort and peace that no one else can give us. “Blessed is he whose sins are forgiven.”, indeed.

2021 may bring unexpected troubles but the peace of God “which passes all understanding” shall guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. HAPPY new year, my friends!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Christmas

My favorite Christmas special T.V. program was almost canceled this year! “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was, according to my sources, on the “chopping block” but someone came to their senses and decided to “run it” again. Thank goodness! 

Since 1965 that wonderful little show has reminded us that Christmas is a time when God sent His Son; “A Savior, Christ the Lord.” While, literally, hundreds of millions of souls have watched that show since its inception, our nation’s church attendance has continually dropped since then; especially in this time of the Covid-19 “pandemic”. What has happened? What is it that has changed, especially on the church scene?

In the early 20 century, the Christian church in America began to embrace the “new theology” of European Christianity, called “liberalism”. It called into question the reliability and validity of the Bible. By the mid-20 century, “Form Criticism, Historical Criticism”, and ilk like it began to poison the Church. This “liberal theology” gave way in the late 20th century to “post-modernism” in the American Church; a teaching that basically said, “Whatever you believe is true is true….for you.”. That, of course, was extreme subjectivism. People began to question who the true god was and whether they truly needed a “savior”….from anything! Attendance at worship waned and started plummeting.

Objectively, the Bible says we are all sinners who shall die and deserve eternal Hell. That same Book also says we have been saved from all sin, from death, and from Hell. We are headed for Heaven, by God’s grace, through faith in Christ. He has, already, “saved” us. God, in human form, came to this earth to suffer, die, and rise again so that we might live with Him in Paradise. Christmas is the season for rejoicing in the FACT that we have been saved by Jesus Christ. It is an objective truth that is
ours, subjectively, by His grace alone. May His love, mercy, and grace draw us to gather to praise Him, corporately and individually, this Christmas season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The True Meaning of Christmas




The new church year has begun! You can always tell because stores are crammed with Santas, red and green ribbon, and flashing, artificial Christmas trees. There’s nothing like preparing for the “true meaning of Christmas” in the Advent season with visions of commercialism dancing in our heads. 
(In case you missed it, that’s sarcasm….) 

Advent has lost its meaning in our country. Instead of using it as a time to contemplate our spiritual weakness and to look for the coming of the Savior, we fill it with “what to buy for whom” and “who is coming to Christmas dinner and what to cook for them”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like presents as much as the next guy and I REALLY like to eat but to have them as a priority this time of year kind of defeats the purpose that our spiritual forefathers set for our soul’s growth. The liturgical calendar (pericopes) is there for a reason. It aids us in refocusing on what truly is important, year long.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (earthly needs) shall be added to you.” (Mt. 6:33) “Zeroing in” in our sins and the need to repent during this time of year and lifting up our heads and hearts to the One Who created and redeemed us, we find, again and again, that which is most important. Let us remember that the “red” colors prevalent symbolize the Son of God’s blood that was shed for our salvation. “Green” reminds us of everlasting life and Santa….well, he was a real pastor whose main love was to proclaim the Savior’s life, death and resurrection for us.  So, let us daily repent and trust in Him Who came for us and for our salvation.

He is coming again! Rejoice and prepare your hearts! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Thanksgiving Sermon

                                          Thanksgiving

Text( Luke 17: 11-19) Subject (Why Should We Give Thanks?) Theme (1. Because Jesus shows pity. 2. Because Jesus shows power. 3. Because Jesus gives praise.)

     In our text this morning, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. He would cross the Jordan River in Galilee, go south, cross again at Jericho and head toward Jerusalem along with other Jewish Passover worshippers. This was the customary path for Jews because of the hostility that existed between Samaritans and Jews.

     Samaritans, as you may remember, were a racial “cross” between the Jews and non-Jews; mostly the Jews old enemies, the Babylonians! The religion of the Samaritans was an odd “cross” too; one of the Hebrew faith and pagan Babylonian religion.  Of course, they hated each other!

     One of the ten men in our text is a Samaritan. But all of them were afflicted with the same disease; leprosy. In those days, there was no known cure. It was, eventually, fatal.

     In the Old Testament, over a full chapter (in Leviticus) is devoted to this awful ailment of leprosy. The law of God said that a leper must wear clothes that have been torn, no covering for his head was allowed, he must cover the lower part of his face, and cry out the words, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he met someone who did not have the disease. They were, also, not permitted to go near others who were healthy. They must live alone; outside of town.

     In our text, Saint Luke writes, “Now it happened as (Jesus) went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” Jesus met ten lepers who, in accordance with Jewish law, “stood at a distance” and “said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Notice that race and religion no longer mattered (socially) to them. They were together because that was the only way they could be heard; Jew or not! Notice, too, that the Bible, in the original language, does not say, “They yelled out”! Why? Because their vocal cords, which normally allowed a person to increase one’s volume when “yelling”, were gone; rotted out by the awful disease of leprosy!  They had to unite in hoarsely saying the words in order to be heard. “Jesus, master have mercy on us!”

     They wanted to be healed, yes, but even more importantly they wanted to be back with their families and friends! For those who had faith, I am sure they wanted to be able to hear the Word of God again! Remember, they were absolutely cut off from the Temple; forbidden to even get close to where the Word of God was read and proclaimed!

     If, God forbid, we were stricken with such a disease that we had to be quarantined, how would we feel? There are deadly viruses about that cause people to be cut-off from their families and friends; for which there are no cures. Think of the loneliness, the pain of being separated from your loved ones and friends forever! As we lay there, imagine not being able to hear the Word of God ever again! No comfort, no assurance and constant pain. Such is the condition of the unbeliever today. They walk this earth as “spiritual lepers”; “unclean” and without God; their consciences constantly convicting them.

     The ten men in our text today begged for mercy. They depended on Jesus for healing and salvation. They trusted Him. We are not sure how they heard of Him, although at this point in history, it is not difficult to imagine the different avenues of “news”. For four years Jesus had traveled that area; hassling the Church leaders, intriguing the Roman leaders, healing the dying, curing the sick and raising the dead! Good news, even back then, got around fast! And somehow....the ten lepers believed.  Jesus “got to them”.

     How did Jesus get to us? We have had, what some may call, “minor healings”; like colds, the flu, chicken pox, etc.. But God also had “mercy” on us in our Baptism and through His Word of forgiveness. Are we, truly, thankful for that, too?

     Most importantly, God cleansed us spiritually; we who were “lepers”(so to speak); making us whole in His eyes through the blood of His Son. Our spiritual hearts were miraculously changed as the water and the Word of grace swept into our souls; making us new creations. “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endures forever.” Amen, indeed!

     We, too, can identify with the feelings of the lepers in our text! Christ has shown us His pity and mercy.

     But the ten lepers were not healed right away! Our text says, “So when (Jesus) saw them, He said to t hem, ‘God, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Where there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’”! Something had moved the  hearts and minds of the former lepers to go to the Temple as Jesus had commanded. The question, “Hey, why should we ‘go to the priests at the Temple?’”,never came up! There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to go to the Temple priests but they found themselves going anyway....in faith; trusting the Word of Jesus.

     Why have we been so blessed? The majority of the people in this world have no car, do not own a home and have no idea what it means to have a “bank account”! The majority of the people of this world go to bed in terror; hoping to see the light of the next day for fear of God. But we, praise the Lord, not only are blessed with earthly things, we go to bed knowing that God has forgiven us all our sins. We rest in the wounds of Jesus, Who awaits us in Paradise. Many of us pray just before falling asleep, “....and if I die before I wake, I pray Thee Lord, my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” What blessed peace and comfort are ours in Christ. What a joy it is to trust in Jesus’ Word; just like the lepers.

     The lepers found themselves cleansed as they walked and we, too, have found ourselves “cleansed” by the blood of Christ as our parents walked away with us from the Baptismal font. Also, as our hearts heard the message of salvation for the first time, we, too, found ourselves walking as those cleansed; “whiter than snow” through Him Who purified us. Are we thankful? Amen!  J

     But...in our text, only one of the ten who were cleansed came back to thank the Lord. Notice that it does not say that the nine fell away from the Lord. Perhaps they did or maybe their immature faith did not allow them to do what the Spirit of the Lord was prompting them to do; “Give thanks”.

     Whether they had fallen into unbelief or permitted their love for their families and friends to overwhelm their new-found faith, we don’t know. But only one out of ten came back to thank the Lord for cleansing them; physically and spiritually.

     Imagine their hearts now! “I can see my wife and kids again! I can go to the different shops and talk to my friends and smell the good smells of the bakery again! .....I can go to worship and hear God’s great love for me.” Perhaps, eventually, they “came to their senses” and gave thanks. I like to think so.

     The Samaritan came back and, with his new “loud voice glorified God.” The Holy Spirit, working within him, moved him to thanks and praise.

     But Jesus was sad and disappointed. He asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”  God expects our entire lives to be a thank-offering to Him Who is the source of all good things; whether that be grades at school, a raise, a new car, good health, etc.. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

     How blessed we have been. At work the Lord looks after us; preventing tragedy after tragedy. At school, we are blessed with teachers who bestow upon us needed knowledge. The hands of our physicians and nurses are guided by an unseen Source and, best of all, we have the Word of the Gospel given to us; at home, at worship and wherever we read It. Tremendous blessings!

     In our text, Jesus praises the “foreigner” (the Samaritan) for coming back and giving Him thanks. Jesus said, “’Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”We who were spiritual “foreigners” and who are now God’s children shall hear the Lord’s praise on the Last Day. God Himself shall announce to all people who ever existed, both believers and unbelievers, all the wonderful things He did through us; His children.  You see, every “good work” done, is the action of the Holy Spirit living inside us! As Paul says in Philippians, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God “works” in us who believe.  Isn’t it interesting to note that the word Jesus uses in our text, in saying, “Your faith has made you well.”, can also be translated, “Your faith has made you saved.” !? Using the same word that is used in our text, Saint Paul again says, in Ephesians, “By grace are you SAVED/healed, through faith, not by works. It is the gift of God”. Saint Peter, too, uses the same word, saying, “Baptism now SAVES/heals you.”! You see, God, Who gave us saving faith in our baptism and through His Word, sent the Holy Spirit into our souls, and has “healed” (or “saved”) us eternally; the best kind of healing! J Amen? And the Lord will say, on the Last Day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” So, while multitudes in our country only take one day a year to thank their Creator, let us DAILY give praise and thanks to Him Who provides our tables, our bank accounts, our bodies, etc., with many blessings. And best of all, let us give thanks to Him Who “healed” us from our spiritual “leprosy” of sin; bringing new life and salvation to our souls. “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” As the old hymn says, “It is well with my soul.” Thank God in Heaven! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.