BE STILL!

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted  in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 

One of the oft overlooked aspects of the Passion of the Christ is that all along He was in charge of all the events. It had always been that way from birth.  Being pre-existent with God the Father from eternity, He chose the opportune time in history to take on human form. He was never “humbled” by people, but rather humbled Himself so that He could suffer and die for sin. He chose the time and place for that death. It was not to be inNazareth, when the citizens would have thrown Him over the cliff for blasphemy—nor at any other time before it actually happened.  He had been telling His disciples what would happen to Him and when it was time, He told Judas to go ahead with his betrayal. Nor was Peter’s denial a surprise to Him, as He told this disciple that he would do what he vowed he would never do. He played Caiaphas and Pilate in such a way as they would have no choice, short of repentance, but to see that He died.

Death on the Passover was His choice as well, to illustrate how He was the fulfillment of the Passover ceremonial law. God’s promise to forgive sin and deliver us from its power and punishment was not empty words. Christ fulfilled that promise when he shed his lifeblood for us. Even while on the cross, He provided for his mother’s care and promised paradise to a robber next to him, while forgiving his tormentors and executioners. Then, to top it all off, He came back to life when He said He would. Nothing that happened was ever beyond his control or authority.

Now why is that good to know?  We can’t have much faith in a victim that was unable to manage the events of his life, can we? Plus, knowing that Christ chose everything that happened, not using his authority to rescue Himself, shows the depth of His love in dying for us.

It is important for our confidence today. The kind of social, financial, and political upheaval in our nation today has been cited by historians as precursors to the fall of other nations in the past. Rather than worry and despair over this, we can simply hear the Word of the Lord, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Nothing that happens to His people is ever out of the realm of God’s control or care. We may be challenged and tested to the breaking point, but those who trust and call on him may be confident that He is in charge.

Remember how Christ’s own challenges turned out. He rose from the tomb glorified and victorious never to die again. No matter how bad your life can get, Christ is as much in charge of your circumstances as He was His own. Even if your trials take your life, faith in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life will assure you that too will never die again (John 11:25-26).

Be still, and have a blessed life of resurrection hope.  Pastor Tom Konz

 

Practical Atheist?

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days . . .

people will have the form of godliness but deny its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1 & 5

“Practically speaking…” So we begin a sentence to say how things really are. Regardless of how someone may describe us, see us, or how we want to be, “practically speaking”, we are, well, what we practice–what we do, think, and say.

In writing to Timothy Paul would warn the young pastor that in spite of the show of godliness there are some who, practically speaking, don’t really believe in God. They may say he exists, but if they don’t serve him, conform their lives to him, then practically speaking, God does not exist to them.  There is no practical difference (or difference in practice) between them and an atheist.

As we Christians confess our faith it is important that we also practice it. By that, I don’t just mean do things that everyone expects good Christians to do.  Some unbelievers do good things also. What I mean is this: If we believe that God exists and has created and redeemed the world, then we will live in fearful expectation that one day he will return to judge. His law matters. He looks not only at what our hands have done, but also at what is in our heart and head. He looks for love and faith.

It also means that we will have faithful expectation that when our lives do not measure up, when we don’t practice what we confess, then we trust in God’s love and forgiveness toward us. We live unburdened by past sins because Christ paid their penalty on the cross.

A Christian can be a “practical atheist” who ignores God’s law, avoids worship, and lives in self-condemnation. For such people, it is as if there were no God, no matter what others may say about them or what they think of themselves.  The bottom line: God wants us to live as if he were real, as if he holds us accountable, and as if he truly forgives sins, because he is and does.

If you believe you’re a Christian but no one could ever tell from your conduct or conversation, then practically speaking, it’s doubtful that you are. Repent and become a practical Christian.

Growing in grace to the glory of God,  PastorTom Konz

 

Hell on Earth?

[Jesus said:] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,

that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 

  A brother pastor’s message this week reminded me about the reality of hell—not that I had forgotten it, but his words moved me to think again about how its horrors can easily be overlooked or minimized.  For instance, when we describe a very horrible situation, place, condition, or event we might describe it as “hell on earth”. It’s an expression however, that does a great disservice to the concept of hell. There is nothing on earth that even comes close to hell. From various descriptions in the Bible we learn that it is a place of indescribable sorrow, regret, agony, and pain. Worst of all, it is eternal.

We love the well-known words of Jesus of John 3:16 when he talks about eternal life, but we don’t think about the alternative in very concrete ways.  Perishing, if it is the alternative to eternal life, is also forever. Perhaps more people would be moved by Christ’s words to believe if they realized the consequences of not believing.  (Perhaps more believers would share their belief if they also more seriously considered those consequences.) The only other option besides eternal life in the glorious presence of God is not some neutral place that isn’t quite so glorious.  It is the horrific eternal absence of God that cannot be described by any place on earth, no matter how horrible it is. The brother’s useful, though limited, comparison would be to think of the absolute worst and realize that hell is far worse.

The apparent absence of God on earth is a preview of hell in a way.  Throughout history, whenever people and nations have rejected God we get a “hell on earth” kind of world. Evil’s domains on earth should serve as a mild glimpse of what the real hell is.

Thankfully, earthly “hell” doesn’t need to be anything more than a preview. Another reason “hell on earth” is not an accurate expression is that it does a great disservice to God.  He is never absolutely absent from us while we are still on earth, as he will be in hell. As long as we are still on this earth Jesus invites us and empowers us with His promise to accept his life as a ransom for us. He wants us to have eternal life. In doing so He is not just being nice. He is rescuing us from hell. So much does he desire to save us that He offered the sacrifice of His Son.  He did this for love, for life, that we may not perish.  For the same reason, we tell others about Him.

PastorTom Konz

The Lord’s Battle

“For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:47

David, the shepherd, the defender of sheep against lions and bears, was about to become David the warrior, the defender of God’s people against the vile Goliath. His advantage was the knowledge that the battle was the Lord’s. He confessed his faith to King Saul, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  And the Lord who has delivered us in times past stands ready to deliver His faithful from threats and through dangers today.

However, the Christian today, including pastors, can become intimidated by the giants that oppose God. These Goliaths bluster, and we are flustered. They pretend to have powers they do not possess. The defy God and seek to make the Almighty seem powerless in our eyes.  They have one ruler, whether or not they know it, who has brought them down into the depths of sin and unbelief.  To defend their unbelief they will attack your belief.  To defend their sin they will remind you of yours, so that, forgetting you are forgiven, you will not warn them, but rather compromise and affirm them in their sin. They are not open to God’s Gospel because they are deaf to the accusation of God’s Law.  Professing to be free, they are the most enslaved of all. Though supposing they “have it all”, they are the most impoverished of all.  Though often envied in this world, they are to be the most pitied.

The problem is that we can’t just ignore them and live in peace. The Enemy that animates them seeks our souls as well. We must engage the battle for our spiritual survival, lest we fall into sin and unbelief ourselves.  We must also engage it because the battle is the Lord’s.  He desires that his enemies repent and be saved.  To that end he has made us warriors against the Enemy, who bear the Word of reconciliation through Christ.  We dare not take our ease when souls are dying around us.

Not only is the battle the Lord’s because it is His mission to the dying world, but also because he gives the victory. David came to the giant in the name of the Lord. We go into the world with His Name—not intimidated by God’s enemies but filled with concern that they are perishing eternally.  If we believe that God so loved the world that he gave His only Son to save it, then we cannot be content that only a sliver of the world knows this.

It is the Lord’s mission and the Lord’s battle.  Let us engage the battle with compassion and confidence.  PastorTom Konz