God’s School of Nature, Part 1

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

 

Vacations are a good time to sit at the feet of nature’s teaching.  As part of God’s creation, our natural world testifies to His majesty and goodness. What I learned recently while sitting under a large tree was a simple but faith building and humbling lesson.

The tree was very tall, with widely spreading branches, thick foliage and massive trunk.  There was no telling how many gifts it offered the birds and the squirrels, but I know it kept one squirrel busy climbing up and down its trunk for some reason.  High above were two fairly sized nests where God’s winged creatures could find rest and security. In a few months its leaves would be providing nutrition for the grass which soon would be lying dormant in the lawn.  What a testimony to God’s complex wisdom, creativity, and efficient provision for all his creatures. I’m sure that my thoughts barely scratched the surface of what that tree had to offer.

Then the obvious hit me: this is just one of how many billions of trees all over the world! And our Lord knows each one and designed on purpose the variations for every tree to fit its particular environment. Such wonder is hard to imagine.

And then the humbling part: How could I ever expect to really know God’s mind—a mind so vast that it can create such a massive and intricate universe. How arrogant could I be to think that I can know His every thought or dictate His actions with my prayers.

Thankfully, He did condescend to reveal Himself first through His prophets and then through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And what did He tell us—the mysteries of His universe, the depths of His judgments?  No, He revealed only that He loves us enough to come into our lives, give His life for sinners, and promise us eternal life in exchange for simple faith.

So the lesson of nature is that its vastness and complexity makes God’s grace all the more awesome. Or as the Psalmist said it well. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. …  What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (8:1, 4)

Such a God we can only love and praise in grateful obedience.

Pastor Tom Konz

Open Wide the Narrow Door

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:14

 

Jesus said the way to life is narrow and difficult, so few find it. We don’t widen what God has made narrow, but we can open it as far as it can be opened.

To do that, we need to understand why Jesus called it a narrow gate (“door” in Luke). His meaning here reflects his words in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Today, He would be called “narrow-minded”, and rightly so.  Yet, being “broad-minded” would only encourage people to seek false paths that lead to an eternally dead end.  The narrow door is efficient.  It keeps us from wasting time searching for life and salvation in the places that give neither.

As His church we open wide the narrow door by proclaiming this truth to as broad an audience as we possibly can. We don’t change the truth to be less narrow minded. We just say it to more people. That is what we are doing this week in Vacation Bible School. Our endless mission as God’s church continues to be finding various ways to open the narrow door.

Not only do we open that door together as a church, but also in our personal daily actions and attitudes. Choosing the narrow way calls for humble repentance and faith.  It means that we acknowledge both that we have sinned, and that we can only be saved by trusting in our Savior who died for us. When we repent, we demonstrate that salvation does not require perfection, but humility. It is therefore attainable. When we rejoice in the grace God gives through His Son we show that God truly forgives sins. That is refreshing news to those who have been on the wrong paths seeking release from a guilty conscience. They can discover that they don’t need to wear themselves out with worry and works trying to accomplish what Christ has already done for them.  They can discover this from you just being a Christian—walking humbly before the Lord in repentance and finding grace in Christ each day.

At every opportunity, by your attitude and love, open wide the narrow door.

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Righteous Rebellion

Do not be conformed to this world… Romans 12:2a

One might look at the above title and anticipate a brief essay on the American Revolution, or reasons why we need another revolution today.  The latter expectation is what I have in mind, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking.  Revolutions are for re-ordering governments and institutions. I challenge you to join a quieter rebellion that may not impact the social structures of our world, but may very well change the people in your world. It may also change you.

This rebellion is the vocation of the righteous. The “righteous” are not necessarily the outwardly pious or “good” people of sterling reputations. Rather, they are found in and devoted to the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection declare them righteous in the eyes of God.  This is a result and gift of God’s pure grace, not our merit. If you don’t know if you are among the “righteous”, call me. We can talk about it.

The rebellion is our non-conformity to the unrighteous world.  To be a non-conformist does not mean that we eat, drink, dress, think, speak, or vote in a way that is necessarily different from the rest of the world. True rebellion is much harder, but more God-pleasing. It looks like this: Forgiving offenses even when forgiveness is not sought, and then forgiving again; helping with  deeds and dollars those who cannot repay you; dealing fairly in business even when it is a disadvantage to you; praying for those who govern instead of complaining about them; paying all the taxes you rightfully owe; praying for those caught in scandalous sin instead of gossiping  or condemning; attempting to return “found” money to those who lost it and giving back change not owed  you; waiting in line with patience and grace toward slow customers and checkers; being joyful instead of preoccupied only with your own problems; driving legally, safely, and courteously; dressing and behaving modestly; apologizing when you are wrong; serving those who are wronged instead of demanding your rights; fighting for those who are treated unfairly; speaking truth in love to all who need to hear it. Sharing and showing Christ in word and deed. You can add more to this list.

Bible teacher R.C. Sproule asked the man who brought him to Christ, “what difference does it make to be a Christian?”  The man answered, “It means I will outwork you, outfight you, and outlove you.” Sproule took that as living a “life of excellence”.  In a world of narcissism and mediocrity that is rebellion. What it really boils down to is that we imitate the truly Righteous One who did much more than the above list, plus one: He died to forgive our conformity to this world and to transform us by His righteousness. Receiving that forgiveness in faith and gratitude, we press on to continue the righteous rebellion.

Pastor Tom Konz

Stewards of Land and Liberty

The Lord God took the man and put him

in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

 

 “Stewardship is not a spectator sport.” This sign introduces you to an exhibit in the Fort Worth Zoo that illustrates various land management techniques.  The command to care for the land was first given to 100% of the population by our Creator when that population numbered one man, Adam. It continues to be the responsibility of all of us, not just some of us. The techniques on display recognize that we are part of nature, not an intruder into it. God intended from the beginning that we would always be involved in managing it.

The display is based on science and time tested principals, not romantic ideas about leaving nature alone.  In that vein, one of the techniques, employed by nature itself, is the controlled burning off of grasses and forests in order to promote better growth. The Native Americans copied that, and modern land managers have followed suit. It’s similar in effect to “pruning” a tree to make it healthier.

Along with the gift of a rich and varied land, our Lord has seen fit to place us Americans in a land of liberty as well.  Like the land, our liberty also requires that we be faithful stewards. As we prepare to celebrate another anniversary of that liberty, we do well to practice sound principles that enhance and sustain our freedoms.

Like the uninformed land steward who would just let nature take its course, some think that freedom is just letting human nature take its course. Everyone do their own thing. But unrestrained human nature is given to selfishness, violence, and other vices. Personal liberty and national liberty require “controlled burns” of our natural human impulses. St. Paul teaches us to “not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13)   St. Peter echoes that we are not to be using ourfreedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”  (1 Peter 2:16)

Stewardship of Christian liberty is not a spectator sport, but is for all of us to practice as we use our freedom to love God and our neighbor.  That is possible with Christ, who pruned back His freedom, not letting our nature have its way, but giving his very life to serve and to sacrifice himself for sinners.  As a faithful steward of those given into his care by God the Father, Christ rescued us from self-destruction and preserved us for liberty and life.  He “stewards” us with the guidance and care of His Holy Spirit.  That Spirit empowers us to manage our liberty as well as the land given to us.  May God bless our stewardship of all His temporal and eternal gifts!    

Pastor Tom Konz