“Education that Matters”

August 29, 2012

 “Education that Matters”

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments,

 for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:12b-13

 This is a wonderful time of year.  School children and teachers meet again to learn and teach the various subjects that help to make sense of the world we live in.  Education stretches and strengthens the mind and opens up new possibilities to our hopes.

So it is a bit ironic that one of the most learned men in the Bible, Solomon, would conclude Ecclesiastes with cautionary remarks about the value of much learning.  To him God had given much knowledge about science and other useful information and also the wisdom to apply that knowledge.  Yet, he discovered what he penned in “Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  Although he had to learn late in life how true that was after compromising his faith with many wives and their gods, he did reach that conclusion in the end.

And how true that is for all people.  My oldest granddaughter starts Kindergarten this fall and my wife has retired after a long and fruitful career of teaching school on various levels.  One thing she has always shared as much as she could, and what I pray my granddaughter learns, is that the most valuable knowledge of all is the respect of the Lord. Knowledge, as Paul states in I Corinthians, will pass away.  Only the word of the Lord lasts forever.  To paraphrase what our Lord asked about wealth, what does it profit us if we have all knowledge but do not fear and love the Lord?  His sacrifice on the cross demands our respect and love. It is the one way to eternal life.  How can we get so wrapped up learning everything else but not know the one thing that matters eternally.  

Pray for the success of God’s Word, that the lasting knowledge of the Lord may be learned by every teacher and student. There is no end of the number of text books, but in the one Good Book there is no end of wisdom and salvation. It does not weary the flesh, but gives life to the soul.   Pastor Tom Konz

“Back on Track”

August 22, 2012

 “Back on Track”

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.

And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  Luke 19:8

It happens every time I visit my grandchildren.  I watch some well selected children’s TV programs with them.  One of their favorites, and mine ever since I was their age, is the Thomas the Train series.  It’s not just because I’ve have always been fascinated by trains since childhood. There is much more to these stories originated in the 1940’s by British clergy man Rev. Wilbert Awdry.

Three points make this a wonderfully instructive series for young and old alike.  First, the theme song names many of the other train engines and their responsibilities or traits.  To me it sounds like a pastor describing his congregation–so many different characters with different duties and gifts to use.  To see how each engine has a assigned role on the fictionalislandofSodorillustrates how a church functions best when each disciples uses the gifts God has given.

Secondly, in each episode at least of these engines decides not to follow the protocol, to do more or less than is their proper role.   While sometimes well intentioned, the effort always has unintended and bad consequences. At other times the effort is a result of jealousy, anger, impatience, and the like. Thomas and his friends are really all of us. How instructive to see our own sins and their consequences on display.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the errant engine recognizes that what happened was his fault. He doesn’t blame the others or try to rationalize it by saying he meant well.  He sees his role in the problem and then takes responsibility for making things right. What a great picture of true repentance: not just saying you’re sorry but making amends. They don’t blow off the consequences as nothing, relying on “cheap grace” to let them skate through.  There are few lessons more important than that for our children and for us to learn.  (And a reminder to parents not to “rescue” children from their choices.)

In the end, we can’t undo our errors entirely, or fully atone for our sin.  Only Christ can cover our sin with his blood bought grace.  But true repentance, the kind that trusts that grace, will move us to seek reconciliation and make amends as much as it is in our power to do so. Zacchaeus illustrated that when he repented to Jesus of his cheating past.  And I think Thomas the Train can help us see what it takes to get us back on track. May God grant us grace to repent in word and deed.   

Pastor Tom

“Time Surges On”

August 15, 2012 

“Time Surges On”

For man does not know his time.  Ecclesiastes 9:12

One of the difficult parts of losing a loved one in death is that we see again time passing by without regard to our feelings.  We cannot hold onto it.  We cannot bring back from the dead those who have passed and relive any of the years we enjoyed with them. To even want to do so I suspect is about more than just having them with us again.  We also are reminded that our own life is slipping by. Depending on the age of the deceased we are reminded that life is fragile and death is sudden, or that even a long life eventually ends. We can do nothing about any of this except to accept it for what it is.  Cherish the memories and thank God for the blessings that came our way through the dearly departed. In that vein, we can thank God also for photography today. As a friend wrote me, a “photograph captures one specific moment in time that will never exist again. (It) Puts in perspective how many special moments God gives us every day.”

While the passing of time leaves us with little control except to freeze the moment with a picture, we can seize the moment even as it passes by.  Though that moment will never exist again we can chose whether we make it matter or not.  Depending on what we do with it the moment will either have an impact and influence greater than that moment or it will be lost and wasted.  While time is never repeated the consequences of what happens in time lives on.  This does not mean that it always has to be serious work. For certainly, time spent in leisure and rest can pay wonderful dividends in the time ahead. The point is this: Will we appreciate time as a passing opportunity for good or will it be lost in vain?  How much of it we will have on earth we don’t know, only that we will not have the chance to relive it.  That is in God’s hands. 

The good news is that we are in God’s hands as well.  In the hands nailed to the cross Christ redeemed us and our time.  Past time wasted in sin he forgives.  Present time he renews us to use in thanksgiving for that forgiveness and for the eternal time that we will have in His glorious presence.  Though all the time in the world is not very long, we praise God that the time to come is endless.  Live today as one grateful for that promise. 

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Be Perfect?

Be Perfect?

“Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Epke Zonderland just won the first ever medal for gymnastics for The Netherlands. And it was gold. Having watched the performance, I can see why. He performed his very challenging routine flawlessly. At least I thought it was flawless. But the judges made some deductions. What could have possibly been deducted in such an astonishing performance? To the untrained eye it seemed perfect. But the judges know what perfection looks like and they didn’t see it. 

Our Judge in Heaven knows what perfection looks like as well and demands it when He says, “be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Who can be perfect, we ask? To justify our performance of his commands we imagine God will settle for our best effort, our good intentions, or our relative goodness compared to others, or what serves society. But the problem with that is that we are playing to the crowd, or to our own ego, but not to the Judge who decides the score. He says be perfect and that means no deductions. How frustrating and hopeless.

It is to sinners who realize the frustration of ever achieving that perfect score before the judge that the Good News of Christ comes to console the conscience. It says to us that though we have not earned the perfect score he has with his perfect life. Though we deserve the death sentence God says that sin deserves, Christ has paid that penalty for us. How do we know that all is paid up for us? God raised Christ from the dead. Punishment is over. God’s standard of perfection has been achieved. His law is not compromised because violations of it have been punished. Justice is served, and Jesus served it.

The world may give us a gold medal even if we don’t arise to perfection. But God will give us something much better. He gives grace, in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

“A Reminder on Repentance”

“A Reminder on Repentance”

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”   Psalm 51:17

 

In my readings on the Apology of the Augsburg Confession I recently encountered quite a long commentary on the subject of repentance and making satisfaction, or atoning, for sins. Our church forefathers contended for the truth that in Christ’s death and resurrection there was satisfaction for the guilt and the punishment of all sin. We obtain that satisfaction by faith.

The adversarial position was that guilt was atoned for by the blood of Christ but the punishments could only be avoided by performing certain deeds or rituals, or good works.  There are two major problems with that.  For one, it robs the cross of Christ of glory.  It makes it seem as Christ’s death were a half-way measure, as if Christ’s punishment were not enough.  Secondly in instills uncertainty in the sinner.  What deeds shall we do, how many, and how well should they be done so that we can be sure to avoid punishment?  These questions cannot be answered, nor certainty obtained because it depends on our effort and our opinion of the worth of that effort.  

The Reformers were accused of saying that good works were unnecessary because they taught that they did not contribute to the relief from punishment. To the contrary, they did indeed hold good works in high regard, as signs of repentance and because our neighbor benefits from them, fulfilling the command of Christ to love.

True repentance is an activity that flows from our hearts and minds and outward to our actions. It never imagines that outward works alone accomplish anything when the spirit is not first broken over one’s sin. Put another way, repentance before God does not consist in performing deeds we imagine will rise to His level of His holiness.  The truly penitent, however, does grieve the sin and despairs of any attempt to atone for it in his own power. This sinner reaches out to the cross where not only guilt was paid for, but punishment removed. Such a sinner, relieved of the necessity of good works, will do them anyway out of thanksgiving to God.

Such a heart, God will not despise. Pastor Tom