Joyfully Submitted

Joyfully Submitted

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;

Let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38

I wonder what would have happened to Mary if she had not agreed to become the mother of Jesus when the angel Gabriel told her she would give birth to him. If He had just moved on to someone else Mary would have missed out on a great blessing. But she did submit willingly and later sang one of the greatest songs of joy in the Bible: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (vs. 46-47) She praised God for choosing her for this special assignment and for what the Child to be born to her would mean to the world.

       Mary was totally on the receiving end of that first Christmas gift, Jesus, but in a way she gave a gift in return: Her joyful submission to God’s plan. She trusted God and entrusted her life to Him.  Months later Jesus came to Mary in a miraculous way—through the womb of a  virgin—conceived by the Holy Spirit. 

      Jesus comes to us in no less miraculous fashion—through the same Holy Spirit who works the miracle of faith.  He wants to pour out the blessing of an abundant life upon us.  That doesn’t mean an easy life, but a fruitful one that He can use to bless others even as he is blessing us.  

Yet, unlike Mary, often our first response is not submission, but resistance.  What will it cost me to lay down my will and follow His?  What do I have to give up in order to receive what He wants to give me?  We don’t always resist just because we are willfully stubborn, though at times that is the reason. Sometimes our faith is just too weak to trust that God has something better to give than what we already have. Our hands are full of our own goals, fears, and desires. We can’t take what God offers unless we lay them down and lift up to him open hands and willing hearts.   

In times of tragedy like what our nation witnessed last week, we lay down vengeance and anger to receive his comfort.  In times of temptation we lay down our desires to receive his satisfying fullness.  In times of indecision and confusion we lay down our fear to receive his guidance.  We might not always do it joyfully at first, but submitting to God’s summons and offer of grace will result in joy as it did for Mary.  Christ also gave us the example as he submitted Himself to the Father’s will to be crucified for our sins.  Not a happy event at the time, but His submission resulted in our salvation and great joy in heaven and in our Savior’s heart.

This Christmas remember that God blessed the whole world through the joyful submission of His Son who came not to be served but to serve and give his life for us. He came through a young woman who also submitted to God as His servant. Do you want the joy of which she sang? Do you want your life to bless others as hers did?  Be a joyful servant of the One who first served you.  Let it be to you whatever God says. 

Pastor Tom Konz

“Twelve”

31Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 1 Kings 18:31    

 1And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. Matthew 10:1 

12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.   Revelation 21:12–14

 Are you writing down today’s date for any reason?  If you just use the numbers you are writing 12,12,12.  I don’t normally attach special significance to numbers other than for coincidental curiosity.  However, today’s numbers are a good reminder of something that we can celebrate as God’s Church.

Twelve is the number of God’s Church in both Testaments and for all eternity.  The story of the twelve tribes ofIsrael(from the 12 sons of Jacob, whose name God changed toIsrael) tells us that when God makes a covenant with those whom He chooses, he keeps it.  He is faithful when we are not, forgiving when we don’t deserve it, and patient with our faults.  Though he disciplines, he heals and restores—for the sake of His covenant. 

The twelve disciples were called apostles when they were sent out. A disciple is a learner, a follower, by definition. Apostle means “one who is sent”.  Jesus chose these twelve of the New Testament to receive the full revelation of God’s Word through Him.  He taught them, trained them, and sent them.  We today are the beneficiaries of their teaching and preaching.  And we are also heirs of their calling, sent to proclaim the forgiveness of sins through Christ.

The twelve of the Old and the New Testaments are theChurchofGodwho first foresaw, and then saw, the promised One. The twelve’s of Revelation 21 point us to the blessed victory for those who remain faithful to the end.  We see through John’s vision that it is theChurchofJesus Christthat will stand forever.  Despite hardships and setbacks the Church will prevail.  God’s Word will never fail.

So be encouraged when you write out today’s date.  The numbers themselves are not magic. But they can remind you of the wonderful God we serve—One who perseveres in patience, keeps His promises, and will abide forever.  We are the number twelve.  He is the number One.

PastorTom Konz

“A Good Offense” “…

and take the … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Ephesians 6:17 There is a saying in football that the best offense is a good defense. You don’t have to score many points if you keep the opponent from scoring. But if your defense is full of holes you better have some offensive weapons. Last Sunday the Dallas Cowboys won, not because they had a good defense, but because their offense finally got in gear, with the return of their leading rusher. While the opponent’s starting quarterback and runner were out with injuries, they still scored often against a porous defense. So that day the best defense was a good offense. It seems to me that often we try to win battles against sin and Satan relying only on defense, which St. Paul identifies in Ephesians 6: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation. These are the promises and gifts of God which are ours by grace. With such defenses we can prevent many attacks against the soul, like temptation and condemnation. Resting only on our defensive armor, however, we might think that the devil will leave us alone because we are God’s children who have these promises by faith. But he doesn’t leave us alone. Rather, he tempts us to sin and condemns us for sinning. That’s when we need to be on the offensive. We take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Paul’s language suggests that in speaking forth God’s Word it becomes an offensive weapon, not just a defensive one. Speaking God’s Law to the devil can drive his temptations away, as Jesus did in the wilderness: Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matt. 4:10. By speaking the Gospel to ourselves we silence Satan’s accusations and condemnation. Paul gives us this Gospel Word: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34 When battling sin and Satan, the best weapon is a good defense and a good offense. The promises of God’s Word are the best defense. Speaking those promises are the best offense. May the victory be yours, in Christ. Pastor Tom