Pain Is Not the Problem

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy up- on me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  

Psalm 32:3-4 

    Our culture is infatuated with quick cures. We don’t like pain, emotional or physical.  Pills are so available, and if they are not, we can escape our pain through addicting behaviors or substances. But pain is not our problem. It merely tells us something is wrong that needs to be remedied.  (Pain can have other salutary benefits besides alerting us to a problem, but that’s a topic for another day.)

In this famous penitential Psalm, David is expressing physical symptoms of a spiritual problem. He is literally sick with guilt.  Is his pain the problem? No, the guilt is. He needed to confess it, and he did, declaring, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven.”

Before Luther encountered the grace of God, in which he felt like he had been reborn, he too felt the physical symptoms of a spiritual problem. His pain was self-inflicted—extreme fasting and denial, hours on his knees in prayer, self-flagellation.  He had not sinned as brazenly as David did, and he was not trying to deny his sin as David did. Confession was not his problem. In fact, he never ceased confessing his sins. But the guilt was still there. What he needed was not the law, as David did, but the Gospel. We thank God that he not only found it, but that he also refocused the whole church on its guilt-relieving message.

If you are going through emotional or spiritual turmoil, which may or may not have physical symptoms, consider the source of the pain. Do you have un-confessed sin you are trying to hide from God and from yourself?  Confess it. Trust in God’s mercy through Christ, who has atoned for your sin already. Go in peace.

Perhaps you have confessed endlessly, but still can’t find peace. Again, trust God’s mercy. The perfect Lamb of God became the perfect sacrifice in your place. If you believe God is perfect then don’t doubt His Word, which cannot err, that in Christ is abundant mercy. Now go in peace.  (If you still have physical pain that is not a symptom of spiritual turmoil, trust Him to help you bear up under it. He has another purpose for your pain—that you may grow in faith and bear witness to his faithfulness in your life.)

Pastor Tom Konz

Blessing Certainty

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

 

The news does not look good. There is uncertainty inWashington. What will the new health care law mean for us individually, where we live and work?  Will it be challenged again, change, or go away altogether?  Uncertainty and change have been part of our government since it began, just because we have new leaders and new centers of power after each election. What one knows for sure today is in doubt tomorrow.

The news does not look good. There is uncertainty in your life and mine. What will the medical test show about my health? Will this medicine work? Will I have a job next year, or be able to retire comfortably when that day comes? Uncertainty in health and finances has been a part of our lives since we were born, just because we are mortal humans that live in a world of change.

The news does look good. There is certainty in God’s Kingdom. Our eternal health plan and health is a sure thing. Christ is certainly not going to change, nor will the effects of his atoning death and victorious resurrection. The cross proclaims the certainty of God’s love for us. The empty tomb shouts the certainty of our future now and forever. Jesus has conquered the power of death and sin, silenced the doubts, and promised a sure hope for all who believe. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall don’t change when they should, and do when they should not. Through it all Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. In the world of change, cling to the one who changes not. He makes our world certain.

Like I said, the News looks Good.

Pastor Tom

He DOES Know


“If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39

Today’s verse is found in the story with three characters that are still with us today: Two different kinds of sinners and the Sinless One. The Sinless One, Jesus, Son of God, is invited to the home of the sinner Simon, a Pharisee. Simon is not interested in being hospitable to his guest, but in finding something about which to accuse him before the religious law. He looks for some weakness in Jesus whereby he can discredit him as a true teacher of Israel. While they are talking, in comes the second sinner, a prostitute, traditionally known to be Mary from Magdala. Jesus’ reputation is that he is a friend of sinners, which irritates Simon, and so she approaches Jesus in humble repentance, showing him the high regard that Simon should have shown a guest in his house. Simon thinks he has his opening to accuse Jesus, because if he is a true prophet of God he would know this was a sinner who was washing his feet with ointment and her tears, and he would not be allowing her to touch him. “If he knew…she is a sinner.” What surprised Simon was to discover that Jesus did know and that he accepted her. It may have surprised Simon also that Jesus knew his own secret thoughts. Instead of condemning Mary, Jesus accuses Simon of having no love in his heart for her and for him. Both sinners are touched by Jesus that day, but only one is changed by that contact—the one who loves Him as a friend of sinners, because she knows she is one. We are both kinds of sinners, at different times. As Simon, we don’t see our own sins and thereby have little appreciation for the Son of God who gave his life to redeem us from them. We only see the sins of others and wonder why God doesn’t just deal with them according to the law. But then when we look into the perfect and piercing law with complete honesty, we see that we are Mary and are devastated. We may see our pharisaic and condemning pride, a pet sin that we have justified in so many ways, or a sin of weakness that we have not turned over to Christ for strength to overcome. Sinner Simon, Sinner Mary, and Sinners You and I need the grace of the Sinless One poured out on us each day, because He does know what sort of persons we are, even if we hide it from others or ourselves. And amazingly, even though he knows, he forgives—not to excuse our deliberate continuation of sin, but to find hope and healing in repentance. To God be the glory for his grace.

Pastor Tom

Marriage Expectations


For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage,

but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30

Yesterday my parents would have been married 69 years. They made it to 62 years before Dad died, followed by Mom 3 years later. Having personally reflected on their long marriage I was in the mood to share some thoughts, not on the institution of marriage, but on our expectations of it.

Our expectations can be tempered by two factors. One, every marriage is a merger of two sinners.  In one television movie, a wanna-be bride tried to find a man by comparing prospects to her list of “must have” qualities. When she found a man with every quality on her list he turned out to be insufferable. No one finds, or is, a perfect match. So enter or continue your marriage with a suitcase brimming with forgiveness points.  You’re going to need them every day. Fortunately and blessedly, we get those points free of charge from God, who provides them in Jesus Christ, our reconciler to God.

The second factor, as Jesus said in Matthew, is that all marriages are on earth. Marriage is a practical and temporary institution for the procreation and rearing of children. It also fulfills the need for intimate companionship that many, but not all, have in this life. Not everyone needs to be married. Not all are called to it by God. As our Lord and His apostle Paul demonstrate, singleness is also a calling with great potential for service to the world.

Those to whom the vocation of marriage is given are to fulfill it with all the faithfulness of any other calling in life.  Specific roles, rights, and responsibilities are assigned to it.  Love and respect, nurture and discipline, exclusivity and long-term faithfulness are the basic requirements of family life. As in any human endeavor we fail. Some failures are too difficult to overcome and divorce results. But as for all human failure, there is forgiveness from God, and grace to move forward with life.

In summary, let’s not ask too much or too little of marriage. It is only an earthly arrangement, given by God for the formation of and continuation of social order and inter-personal fulfillment. It is a God-given vocation to those called to it. Being single is also a calling from God, in which he gives the ability to joyfully remain so, and for which he assigns other roles, rights, and responsibilities. If your calling is to be married or single, fulfill the vocation faithfully.  God bless all the family of God,  Pastor Tom

 

God Remembers and Rewards

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3–4

 

A familiar axiom in working with people says to praise in public and correct in private. Something close to the opposite is true when we deal with ourselves, however:  In public, correct yourself (take responsibility) but don’t praise yourself. Unfortunately, that is being forgotten by leaders who publicly blame others while praising themselves.  When that happens not much gets done. It would be best to remember another axiom: There is no limit to the good that can be done if we don’t care who gets the credit.

It’s tempting to want credit and praise for a good deed, smart idea, or successful project. To feel like we need to gain public praise is a function of little faith. It is as if we think God is not capable of remembering our deeds or rewarding us for them. Jesus would have us realize that if we do a good deed only for public praise, then we are not acting with loving motive. No heavenly reward awaits us for that deed.

Only one person ever did good deeds entirely motivated by love. Only one person is worthy not only of our praise but also of the praise of His heavenly Father.  Jesus acted only in love when he gave his life as a ransom to redeem us from the punishment of our rebellion and pride against God and each other. Whatever good we do in this world can be nothing more than a reflection of and response to that good deed of salvation.  Let Jesus get all the praise, and in due time he will give us whatever reward his wisdom and grace deem proper.

God knows and will remember what your right hand did. That is worth more than all the public praise we could ever get from others. Pastor Tom Konz