Answered Prayer

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

  I marvel each morning that I can pick up my mobile phone, and by pushing icons on the screen, I can open up a world full of information.  News from around the world, messages from friends, and answers to previous questions I had sent can all be found with a simple touch. A person could get spoiled with such easily gained information. Actually we are spoiled.

  This expectation for quick and convenient answers should not be transferred to prayer, however.  Oh, yes, praying itself is very convenient. We don’t even need a phone to post our petitions. We can pray anytime, anywhere, and in any language.  The problem comes when we expect our questions of God and petitions to be answered in the same way we get information from our electronic gadgets—with a simple touch. 

   Recently I made a frantic search for something I needed to find.  As soon as I started the search I prayed that God would open my eyes to be able to see it.  He chose not to guide me in finding the item right away. It took longer than I expected, but the search was a success.  All along I kept praying, not for instant sight, but that I would find it eventually. Now I believe that God was delaying my success to see if I would continue to trust him or give up. We can’t read God’s mind to know why some prayers aren’t answered right away. Yet, His delays can teach us about patience, trust, or some other valuable lesson. I learned about persistence.

   We may not figure out why God doesn’t answer a prayer in the time and way we want. Still, the answer He gaveSt. Paulis all the answer we need as well: God’s grace is sufficient. It removes doubt of His love for us, as it is so vividly demonstrated on Christ’s cross. His grace removes fear that God has rejected us, even if he doesn’t give what we asked for.  His grace reminds us of the real reason God delights to hear our prayer: not so our circumstances will change, but so that our faith may grow. It’s a wonderful “coincidence” of God that when our faith grows, the circumstances do change!  His grace is the best answer to prayer.    Pastor Tom 

 

The Mystery of Marriage

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  Ephesians 5:32  What mystery is Paul referring to?  Marriage.  Anyone who has been in it for a short or long while knows it is indeed a mystery. Yet the author of Ephesians is not referring to something that mystifies. Mystery in the Scriptures refers to something that is revealed, and this revelation is a profound one: That the marriage between man and woman is an earthly illustration of the marriage between Christ and His Bride, the Church. 

Before exploring that illustrative connection, let us put marriage in perspective. The fact that many unmarried people are fulfilled tells us that marriage is not a necessity for happiness.  Those that are married should therefore not see marriage as something that completes them. Nor should we put upon our spouses the responsibility to fulfill all our needs of happiness and self-esteem. Doing that makes us idolaters and our spouses the idol. That will only lead to frustration and unhappiness.  Only God’s love in Christ completes us, whether we are married or single.

Having said that let’s see how Christ and the Church illustrates what marriage can be. Christ loves the church (you, me, all believers) so much that he gave his life for it. Furthermore, Paul writes in Romans that he did this “while we were yet sinners.”  Husband, do you love your wife sacrificially? Does your willingness to sacrifice depend on whether or not she returns your love?  When such love is hard to give, look to Christ’s love. He loves us even when we don’t love him back.  His blessings to us are based on grace, not on merit.  A husband desiring to love his wife will do well first to know deeply how Christ loved him and then ask God to help him model that love in his marriage.  Do I need to say that love is empty, if it’s only words and no action?  (Check out 1 Corinthians 13 for a fuller description of sacrificial love.)

When people are loved unconditionally there is the temptation to think that they somehow deserve that love just for existing.  God is under no compulsion to love us.  He just does.  Our response to Him then should be not to take it for granted or to continually test it.  For that reason, Paul counsels wives not to take their husbands’ love for granted, but to appreciate it as something freely given. If she voluntarily submits to her husband’s love as the Church submits to Christ’s love, then the relationship is not strained. Paul calls for sacrificial love from husbands and the voluntary response of submitting to his love from the woman, as we see in the marriage of Christ and His church.  However, both husband and wife are continually to submit to one another out of love.  

We cannot do that without the supernatural love of Christ.  Instead of trying to love your spouse by yourself, ask God to love him/her through you.  Let your marriage not just be about that man or woman whom you married. Rather let it become a lifelong education for you about how to love as Christ loves the church. All marriages, like all relationships with the Lord, are God’s works in progress, not to be given up on or judged too early. The more each spouse seeks to strengthen his or her own relationship with Christ, submitting to Him and being filled with His love, the more their own marriage will resemble the spiritual union of Christ and His Church.    Mystery solved.    

Pastor Tom Konz

Long Enough?

 

 “And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness.” (Numbers 14:33)  With that pronouncement the God of the Israelites sentenced them to delay their arrival into the Promised Land by one generation.  Their “faithlessness” was not trusting that with God’s help they could overcome the people whose land He promised to give them. Only after the adults of that generation had died in the desert would their children be allowed to enter the land. God had already heard enough of their grumblings and lack of faith. What blessings they gave up for their faithlessness!

It’s been forty years this coming Sunday since it’s been legal in our nation to abort children in the womb. What blessings have been forfeited for such faithlessness?  We still reel from the memory of losing about 3000 of our fellow citizens on 9/11. Yet many are numb to the fact that approximately the same number of lives have been taken each day for the last 40 years by abortion. Or imagine eleven of our Midwestern states totally depopulated of any residents—that many lives abortion has taken in the last 40 years. Long enough?

The Israelites had little to complain about or little reason to distrust God.  That generation had witnessed the miraculous plagues against Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the same water. Yet they were faithless.  We have had even less to fear in our land over the last 40 years. Were we afraid of our own children: that we couldn’t support them, or that they would come at the wrong time, that they would interfere with our plans, or our pleasure? Were there so many unforgiving and harsh parents that would disown unwed daughters for carrying their own grandchildren in the womb?  Were there so many potential fathers who wouldn’t man up to their responsibilities and too few Christians to show compassion to those in need? Some of all of that contributed to the last 40 years, though Christian compassion has certainly stepped up since to assist young mothers. Perhaps the root cause was the unwillingness to repent of a lifestyle that gave rise to so many unplanned pregnancies.  

Though repentance too often was and is lacking, it is still the answer today. A nation doesn’t repent, people do. As each of us has some responsibility for this climate of death and immorality each of us should repent of our part. The good news of repentance is why God wants us to do it: so that he may show his loving kindness. He was incredibly patient with Israel throughout her history. He always wanted her to repent that he may forgive.  He does the same today through Christ’s death and resurrection. Repentance reveals to us the truth of Psalm 103:8-10  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  How long, though, will we test his patience and abuse His grace?  How long will we wait to repent and forfeit His blessing of mercy?  Forty years is long enough.   

Pastor Tom

 

Nature’s Mirror

Nature’s Mirror

And to Adam he said, cursed is the ground because of you; Genesis 3:17

As one reads about this curse on man’s sin a connection is apparent between the state of mankind and that of the earth.  This occurred to me as I was looking out my window at the soft, soaking rain that refreshed the ground this week.  Left to itself by God’s permissive will, water sends blessing and cursing. We like the rain, but hate the floods.  We quench our thirst but not with sea water, the most abundant water on earth.  Yet on that water our ships sail, unless capsized in a storm by waters too rough.  Good and bad from the same element.

And isn’t that a mirror image of our own state!  We are capable of blessing others and yet we still do harm.  St. James points out how we do that in speech, both praising and insulting with our tongues.  With our hands we can help or hurt, shoot a gun to hunt food or to murder. Paul, in Romans 7, bemoans his own inconsistency between what he knows to be right and what he actually does. 

Then in Romans 8 he writes of how the earth, cursed by mankind’s sin, awaits for its redemption. Again, this mirrors our state as well, for we too look longingly in faith to the day of our deliverance from this sinful world and our sinful nature.  The seal of assurance for that day comes to us with God’s own special use of water.  In our baptism He washes us clean of the sin that has attached itself to us since and because of Adam’s sin.  His Spirit works and keeps faith in us until that day of redemption.  

Water not only reflects our nature, but also God’s.  Once He sent the flood to punish sin with law and death. Now, in Christ, He deals with sin in baptismal grace. There he connects us to the cross, which canceled the curse on sin. The resurrection of Christ shows that God accepted the sacrifice as final and sufficient payment.  In simple water, backed by the promise of his Word, he gives us this blessed assurance.  Water: God’s mirror.    Pastor Tom