Alien Thoughts

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. Proverbs 4:23

 A common complaint heard in our nation concerns our government’s immigration policies. These concerns include the lack of enforcement at the border, the violent crimes, the generous rights and welfare that strain our schools and social services, and the difficulty of acquiring citizenship through legal means.

While we complain about what we see as immigration policies that encourage illegal aliens, we often ignore a more personally devastating immigration which we ourselves can control: alien thoughts. We allow to invade our mind all kinds of conclusions, ideas, philosophies, fears, perceptions, desires, and allegiances that are alien to God’s will for us.  We not only don’t control the border of our mind very well, our sinful nature actually encourages these thoughts to enter through wide open doors.  What we watch, read, listen to, as well as the company we keep, are all entrance points for these alien thoughts.

The results are predictable. Discouragement, anxiety, vanity, deception, pride, discord, resentment, lust, greed, and lack of self-control exert undue influence on our mental and spiritual health. It hurts families, marriages, churches, vocations, and our self-confidence when we don’t guard our hearts and minds.

But there is Good News.  Philippians tells us that when we pray about all things the anxieties that have crept in through alien thoughts will be replaced by the peace of God that will guard our hearts and minds.   Christ’s victory over sin and death by way of the cross and the empty tomb tells us that our past is not our future.  He is mighty to deliver us from the alien thoughts and heal us from their devastation.

But this is not a passive event.  By daily repentance we take inventory of those ports through which we have allowed the alien thoughts to enter our minds and influence our lives.  We seek God’s discernment and his desire to encourage the good thoughts and counsel of his Word that will bless our lives.  After Paul invites us to pray and receive the peace of God he tells us how to keep that peace. Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. 9 …Then the God who gives this peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Pastor Tom Konz

“Have a Modest Thanksgiving”

“Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.”  1 Chronicles 29:12-13
 
Like most parents and pastors, I am a huge proponent of making good choices that can bring blessings into our lives.  However, I also acknowledge that many good things come our way through no choice of our own. Some call it luck, or “winning life’s lottery”, and respond to another’s undeserved blessing with jealousy.  Those that are so blessed may misinterpret their good fortune as a sign that they are special and therefore deserving. 
The truth is that there is no accounting for many of the good things that come our way, except that it is God’s goodness and mercy.  God is a dispenser of all things that are good and it is for us to leave such dispensations up to his wonderful and mysterious will. At any rate, it is no reason to resent someone whom we feel got all the breaks.  God has a plan for that person’s life and it’s an exercise in futility to discern it, and arrogant to judge it. 
But we all are more blessed than we deserve. King David, who is quoted above, said as much of himself. He acknowledged that he and his people were able to give toward the building of the temple only what God had first given.  It wasn’t so much giving as returning. So when asked, “How are you doing?” modest gratitude answers, “Better than I deserve”. David remembered the unmerited mercy that covered his sins, the blessing of God that raised him from an obscure shepherd to a revered king. He didn’t get there through any grand master plan he had laid down. He didn’t there by his own abilities alone, which were considerable.  He was blessed in order to fulfill the vocation God had chosen for him.
As we each examine how we got where we are we can thank God for his help and that of many others along our way. Natural abilities and learned attitudes passed down from parents and mentors whom God put in our path led to our success. He has a plan for each of us and gives us the blessings we need to fulfill that plan. That leaves no room for longing for what is not ours, resenting those who have more, or complaining to God about our life.  It is not a sin to strive for more if you can obtain it honorably, but God’s will for each of us is that we be thankful and content.  If we are using our God-given abilities then we will be where he wants us.  If we are not, then the fault is ours and there is room for improvement.  There are still some better choices to be made.
As we slow down this week to give thanks for the many gifts, remember that God was kinder, more generous, and more grace-filled toward us than we deserve.  If you need a reminder of that, just look at the Cross. 
 Have a modest Thanksgiving.    Pastor Tom 

Prepositioned Assets

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.”  Ephesians 6:13

If you know a disaster is coming, you should have your resources lined up ahead of time.” That’s what more than one disaster expert said after Hurricane Sandy left so many devastated in New York and New Jersey recently. Not being one of those experts, nor being a witness to the devastation, I am not in position to judge just how much more ready they could have been than they were. While prepositioned assets would not have prevented the hurricane, having more food, shelter, and fuel nearby would help the recovery go faster and be less stressful. That advice also makes sense in our own everyday world. We all have heard that it’s wise to have a “rainy day fund”, a prepositioned asset to pay for emergency and unforeseen circumstances. Especially is it wise to save up ahead of time for those things you know are coming: bills, college, car replacement, and yes, hurricanes. While physical disasters can really set us back if we are not prepared, it’s the spiritual ones that do the most harm. When temptations flood in unchecked they can destroy the reputation and career of anyone, whether army general, pastor, teacher, business professional, laborer, civil servant, or housewife. Our success in resisting them depends largely on self-awareness and diligence. A city at sea level knows it must have special preparations for floods. Where is your sea level, the place where you are most susceptible to temptation? Be particularly alert to your own weakness so that you can avoid situations that may cause you to fall. Because He knows our weakness, our Lord provides prepositioned assets to help us resist temptations that come our way. For all temptations He gives us His Word and Prayer. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 Jesus told his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:40 These are part of the full armor of God that Paul tells us to take up each day. What if it’s too late to prevent temptation and you have given in to it already? You disregarded the Word and prayer, underestimated the temptation, and did indeed sin against God? The Gospel is a prepositioned asset for recovery to keep us from hopelessness and despair. John writes in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jn 1:9 “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 Jn 2:1-2 As we avail ourselves of the assets of confession and absolution we gain God’s grace to recover from the disaster of our sins. Jesus Christ is the ultimate Prepositioned Asset, the Son given to the whole world so that all who believe in him will not perish in their sins, but may have forgiveness and eternal life. Yet He is not just a resource that you keep on the side in case of emergency. He is the gift of God that invites himself to live in the very center of your life every day. Let Him live there daily and you will be ready for anything.

 Pastor Tom Konz

Self-Governance

Self-Governance

“The fruit of the spirit is… self-control.” Galatians 5:23

One of the beliefs that get advanced in an election year is that one’s well being is tied to who’s running the country, state, county, or city.  The campaigns depend on us believing that it will make a real difference.  Now I’m not cynical enough to say that it doesn’t matter at all. Public policies do vary and can definitely affect the health and wealth of our land.   

However, in the much smaller individual world we each inhabit, our well being is much more dependent on self-governance, that is, on our private, not public government.  In those decisions we make each day we determine whether we will be healthy, treat our neighbor kindly, give to one who has a need, give of ourselves in service to our community, be financially and spiritually sound, happy, content, and at peace.  No one leader can give that to us, nor take it away. 

Our sinful nature resists self-governance. It’s easier to rely on others for our welfare or to blame others if our life is not going well.  While we can’t control everything that happens to us, if we examine our lives carefully we will see that our own decisions often do account for the good and bad in our lives.

As believers we are blessed with the Spirit of Christ, who is the source of our self-governance. He helps us to say no to poor decisions and yes to wise ones. He pours into our hearts the consolation of Christ’s cross-won forgiveness so that we won’t despair of the poor decisions, but can move forward in grace to better ones. He is the one leader we need.  We didn’t elect Him, He elected us, but by His Spirit we can make the daily choices to let him govern us.  We will be blessed when we do, no matter who governs the public offices of our land 

Pastor Tom Konz