Our Every Need

Midweek Meditation

February 25, 2015

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

 For the past two weeks our local courthouse has been a microcosm of humanity’s pain and hopes. Represented were widows, fatherless children, and family members who lost sons and brothers through death or detention. They brought their pain with hopes of justice. Justice was served, the verdict was signed and sealed, and some degree of closure was reached. Yet, they return to realities that have not been altered by the outcome of the trial. Legal professionals move on to the next case, jurors return to their daily work, reporters find another story to tell–but these families return to their ongoing loss and pain.

Though different in degree and detail, their experience is common to all.  We too suffer losses that sadden us and change our lives. We also are impacted by the sins of others. Though we want only to live our lives in peace, they are altered by the heart wrenching events that dash our dreams. We cry out for peace and joy, but one thing after another makes them elusive.

No person, mortal like us, can fulfill our dreams or never disappoint us.  But the One who is not like us, who is immortal, can and does. One who is indeed rich in grace and glory can and does supply our every need.  In our loss He supplies hope–in our guilt, forgiveness.  In our fear He reminds us to be still and know that He is God. If we hope to live full lives without distress, we will be disappointed. We will not find peace in this world, for this world cannot give it. Yet if we turn to the Prince of Peace, we will get all that we need because he gives all that we need.

Deceptive Substitutions

Midweek Meditation

February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

 And lead us not into temptation.” Luke 11:4

Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, brings us to a theme that never should leave our Christian consciousness: repentance.  What that looks like in real life is more than the formal signs of our contrition. It is also our desire to live with greater awareness of temptations to sin and a sincere desire not to give into them. While that is a tall order, given our corrupt nature from birth, the Holy Spirit does come along side us to strengthen us against such enticements to sin.

Along with that, it would be helpful to understand something about the nature of sin’s allure. It works via deceptive substitutions, as the very first temptation and sin illustrate. The Serpent got Adam and Eve to believe that they didn’t need the good promised by God and that the bad  promised by God for sinning was not going to happen. They would not really die, but they would be wise. The peace and joy of submission to God’s perfect will was not going to be lost. Indeed they would be better off not submitting.  Trading truth for lies.

This hit home one day last week as I read the package of a popular yogurt. I like yogurt and appreciate that in its unadulterated form it is really good for you.  For some reason, the manufacturers of this yogurt thought they could improve on it by taking all the fat out of it, which the body needs in modest measure, and adding sugar and fructose (and other things I can’t pronounce), leading contributors to obesity and diabetes. Of course, the additions were in the very small print, as if to be snuck in unawares. I will give them credit for a very enticing label and convenient pull-off top.

So when tempted, remember this yogurt or any number of such products.  What bad results will come if I give into it? Though it looks harmless and even good for me, is it really? Will this action or word bruise my spirit, harm my neighbor, or create guilt?  What good am I giving up, like peace of mind, a joyful spirit, and a clear conscience?  If we understand temptation is always a matter of deceptive substitutions disguised to look good, perhaps with God’s help we can better resist them.

The very worst, and only fatal temptation, however, is that we despair of God’s grace to forgive us when we fail.  The cross is God’s sign that he knows that we are but dust, weak, and sinful, and yet promises grace and mercy to all who repent when they fail. When Jesus went to the cross in our place to take our sin and punishment, he cancelled sin’s power to condemn us.  His was not a deceptive, but rather a Redemptive Substitution. For us.

Peace and Victory in Christ,  Pastor Tom Konz

To 4C a Good Marriage  

Midweek Meditation

February 11 2015

Recently I was asked by a young single college student what I thought was the secret to a successful marriage. That question led to a long discussion, which when summarized, resulted in identifying 4C’s of a good marriage. Based on 30 years of ministry and 39 years of marriage, I foresee a good marriage ahead when it has these qualities.

Chemistry:  This young woman was concerned that some of her very spiritual friends were under valuing the importance of “chemistry”—the physical and emotional attraction that makes the relationship exclusive and exciting.  Over the years, chemistry changes in character and intensity, yet it is important to keep it alive on some level. That is the Eros love of a good marriage.

Compatibility:  Simply put, that means getting along in an ordinary everyday way. This C could also be Companionship, sharing viewpoints and values, and enjoying the same activities.  When someone says, “I married my best friend” that means Compatibility is high.  Of the kinds of love known in the Bible it is Phileo, “brotherly love”.  It’s not exclusive to marriage, but is a vital part of it.

Commitment:  Like in any worthy endeavor, commitment is the glue that holds when feelings and friendship don’t seem very strong.  It’s a decision to outlast conflicts and quarrels and a determination that problems will not derail the marriage.  Commitment in a successful marriage is not just to the spouse, but to marriage itself.  It means taking your vows seriously, “in sickness and in health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, until death parts us”.  Some marriages fail because the commitment has not been there to sustain them in the hard times. Among the loves of the Bible, Commitment reflects Agape, the subject of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love never fails” and “endures all things” (vs. 8,7).  Sin will inevitably damage some marriages beyond repair, a divorce is a concession to that, but commitment can make those rarer.

Christ: First and finally, commitment is strengthened by faith in the one who said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). The spiritual connection of both partners to Christ strengthens the chemistry, compatibility, and commitment of marriage. Christ also brings the greatest attributes of agape needed in marriage, and in any relationship: Sacrifice and forgiveness. Jesus teaches and empowers these qualities by his words and actions.  He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  Based on Christ laying down his life for us, St. Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  This kind of love was displayed not only by Christ, but also by the Christian martyr, St. Valentine. It is not without good reason that he has a day named for him.

These four C’s work in all our relations, in different ways.  May the love of God in Christ be with you and keep you. Pastor Tom Konz

Too Wise for Your Own Good?

Midweek Meditation

February 4, 2015

Be not wise in your own eyes.  Proverbs 3:7

 You are never too old to learn new things.  That’s a well-known but not always appreciated statement. I believe Solomon, the author of most of Proverbs would say, “You’re never too wise to keep re-learning what you already know.”

And he should know.  Given the gift of wisdom as a young king, a gift he was already wise enough to ask for, he became internationally famous for his astute judgments and knowledge. I am not sure why, but vanity led him into many fool’s errands. Seven hundred foreign wives and three hundred concubines turned his heart away from God and to idols. Had David not been his father, he would have lost the kingdom entirely.  As it was, over ninety percent of it was taken from his son. The lesson: Wisdom needs to be nurtured by continual fear of God. Verse seven ends with, “fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”  

What about us? Do we assume that we are immune to sinful foolishness because we were baptized, confirmed, or made a decision to follow Jesus? All of us are vulnerable to the self-deception of pride, the lure of the world, the temptations of demonic ideas, and the lust of our flesh.  It is the daily meditation and study of God’s Word that helps to keep these forces at bay.

Verse 5 of this chapter you may have heard: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. If not ours, then whose understanding do we trust?  God’s wisdom is our source and security, revealed in Scripture. It is the truth that keeps us from falling for the lie.  It is daily nutrition for our spirit, which evil powers are always on the prowl to conquer.  Paul said it well when he wrote to Timothy “… from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 

You are never too old, too young, too wise, too righteous, or too experienced to take a pass on a daily dose of God’s wisdom.  You would be wise to learn from Solomon’s writing, and wise to learn from his errors. Be wise in God’s eyes.

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Beauty that Counts

Midweek Meditation

January 28, 2015

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

 Much has been said about beauty over the centuries.  Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote, “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.” Ancient Greek philosopher Plato is credited with the familiar line, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”.

Outward beauty is subjective. As a result, it elicits subjective responses to it, often giving people a free pass to misbehave. Some women had expressed sympathy for the Boston Marathon bomber because he’s “cute”.  Most men will react more positively, at least at first, to a physically attractive woman, no matter how she acts.

Yet as Mrs. Roosevelt would agree, the outward appearance does not make up for the lack of truth and honesty, and, I would add, a kind and generous spirit. Men tire quickly of a woman whose beauty is only skin deep–as do women toward such men. The handsome prince in the current movie “Into the Woods” thought he might get a pass from his new bride Cinderella for his philandering ways, having learned only to be “charming, not sincere”.

While God’s Word is confirmed by these secular sources, it is saying much more. Those who fear the Lord attract others, because they display qualities that satisfy the yearning that God has placed in each person. Only God can satisfy the soul and someone who displays His character will be the most attractive person in the room. This doesn’t happen naturally, but comes about when we die to our pride, repent of our sins, and allow Christ’s death and resurrection to bear fruit through us.

Yes, human nature desires to be found attractive to others, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, outward beauty will change and fade. The beauty that will matter most today and tomorrow is that of the soul transformed by the love of Christ. Be beautiful inside, where it counts.

Pastor Tom Konz

God “Likes” You

Midweek Meditation

January 21, 2015

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  Psalm 139:1–4

 Why does Facebook have such a wide appeal with people of all ages?  Why do we so cherish being greeted on our birthdays and “liked” for even our ordinary posts?  Why do we spend time putting our thoughts and whereabouts out there for potentially the whole world to see?  I don’t know what the psychologists might call it, but it sure seems to have something to do with the need for significance, recognition, value—that we matter in this huge universe of which we are just a tiny speck. Some of it may just come from being friendly, bored, lonely, or narcissistic. Yet, we are trying to meet a basic human need when we reach out through social media.

Whether it’s through social media or some other means, we do need to be known.  The Good News is that we are known. The Psalmist declares that our Lord knows even our very thoughts from afar.  Whether we send him a prayer post or not, He knows what we are thinking, wanting, needing, and yearning for. After all, He made us.  More so, He entered our human existence and experience as the man Jesus Christ.  We can be assured that He understands our humanity.

And He “likes” us. On Facebook that doesn’t always mean approval, but acknowledgement, understanding, or empathy. Similarly, that God “likes” us doesn’t mean that He is crazy about everything we do. Though He loves us, He doesn’t approve of our every thought and action. Sin still grieves Him. Still, He hits the “like” button, staying connected to us to make sure that we know that He has not abandoned us for our errant ways. To the contrary, He “invites” us to events, like confession, the Sacrament, the reading of His Word, worship, prayer, fellowship with others He has “friended”.  There we learn how much He loved us on the cross, suffering to death for our sins and then rising to life so that we too may live after we die.

Our Lord “likes” us because in Christ He loves us with an everlasting love. He will never unfriend you, so “like” and love Him back. You can never be any more significant than to be a friend of Jesus.

Pastor Tom Konz

Bearing Burdens

Midweek Meditation

January 14, 2015

 

 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,

as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

 

A dear woman of faith recently died of a disease that many did not know she had until the very end of her life.  She chose to share that burden with only a very few. Of course, God knew her burden and was with her as she bore it. That knowledge sustained her faith to the end.

How much any of us share about the challenges in our life is our choice. Some people readily share everyday challenges, large and small, while others may keep even the most difficult burdens to themselves or to only one or two others. The burden may be a terminal or acute illness, chronic pain, memory of past abuse, an unwanted habit or attachment, broken family or other interpersonal relationship, or some stress that is unique to the individual.

There are no rules on how much or with whom we share. Whether you are the one who has the burden or one from whom such knowledge is withheld, consider the following:

First, know that many burdens can be eased by sharing them. Your pastor’s ordination vows include keeping in strictest confidence everything that would be confided in him. Any trusted friend can do the same. This sharing may or may not result in a solution, but it can make the load more bearable to “talk it out” with someone.

Secondly, as the Bible says, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another”. We often don’t know the burdens that others carry when they offend us.  It doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it can help us be more forgiving if we don’t take the offense personally, but rather consider that it may be an expression of a burden carried in secret. Certainly, our Lord knows that our offenses have to do with the burden of our sinful nature. He knows our weakness and forgives our sins.  Being His Body, the Church on earth, means we will do likewise.

May Christ’s love reign within you,  Pastor Tom Konz