Where is He?

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April 27, 2016

Where Is He?

[Know] this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep,

all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3–4

 

I just finished up a message for our monthly newsletter yesterday while our community was anticipating a major storm to hit. Schools let out early, and meetings and trips were being cancelled. These dire warnings reminded me of the signs that Jesus foretold would accompany the end of the world and divine judgment. The bottom line was that we need to be prepared.

And what happened with the storm?  No much, at least not in our local area, compared to what was feared. The storm that did come was later and weaker than anticipated. So, what does that do to our confidence in weather predictions?  What are we to think of all of our weather aps, warnings and meteorologists who do their best to prepare for us for the worst?  Some people will lose trust in these predictors of calamity and relegate them to the status of Aesop’s “boy who cried wolf”. People tend to weary of what they view as “false alarms”.

And certainly that will apply to those who speak as Peter describes above. They will scoff at Biblical doomsday prophesies. Especially now, as we have seen two thousand years pass and still no sign of His coming. It’s one thing not to believe in human predictions, even when backed by the best science.  It’s quite another thing not to trust divine prophecy from God Himself.

But, what is seen as slowness or tardiness on God’s part is actually a blessing to the unbelievers of every generation.  God’s nature is always to extend mercy and to be patient so that people will repent of their ways and turn to Him.  Peter says as much in verse nine of the same chapter. And, it is good to remember Christ’s words about His own mission. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)  If that takes giving people and even whole nations time to repent, so be it.

For us who do believe, we can rejoice that in due time God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy will rule the day. For those who do not believe, be patient with them.  God certainly is.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Work of Wisdom

the-lord-gives-wisdom

April 20, 2016

The Work of Wisdom

                                                                                                                                                                                

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; Proverbs 2:6

 

King Solomon displayed wisdom by praying for it.  It was a far better goal than wealth for a young king inheriting the throne of the great King David. The works of wisdom are wonderful to behold and should move us all to pray always for it. Besides mercy, God can give nothing greater.

Wisdom rightfully acknowledges the shortcomings of humanity as the root of all problems.  It is not distracted by pursuing what cannot be known, and neither does it ignore the obvious that we pretend not to know, the proverbial “elephant in the middle of the living room”. It calls a thing, a condition, a situation what it truly is. It sees sin and temptation for what they are: traps that ensnare, not opportunities for happiness.  Yet, while it deals in honesty, it doesn’t do so with destructive bluntness, but is tempered by mercy.  It is the gracious application of truth.

True wisdom is rooted in divine truth, not human knowledge.  While wisdom rightfully acknowledges human sin as the problem, it sees divine grace as the solution.  Paul tells us that the “foolishness of God” is superior to the “wisdom of man”.  True wisdom is found in Christ, through whom God solved the problem of human sin with a divine solution.  Acknowledging what should be obvious by millennia of experience, that humanity is incapable of saving itself, God’s wisdom intervened, encased in bodily form: Jesus the Christ.  In what seemed foolish to human reason, He laid on Jesus the penalty and consequences of human foolishness that did not acknowledge God as worthy of obedience. Thus, God’s “foolishness” proved greater than our wisdom.

That I may learn more and more about truth and grace and how to apply both in their proper measure and timing, I seek humble wisdom from God, both for my own good and the good of everyone whom I may encounter.  I pray the same for you.

Grace, mercy, peace, and wisdom be yours in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

“Shear” Delight

The Lord is my shepherd

April 13, 2016

“Shear” Delight

The Lord is my Shepherd  Psalm 23:1

 

God’s Word has numerous references to sheep and shepherds.  God’s people are His sheep, and He is our Shepherd. Also, He is the lamb, slaughtered to take away the sins of the world. In a reference to His willing crucifixion, Isaiah compares Him to a lamb that is being sheared without protest.

One of the jobs of a shepherd is to make sure that their sheep are regularly sheared.  Either they do it themselves or hire it out to professional shearers.  Sheep need to be sheared because their wool steadily grows, and they would eventually be wearing an unhealthy and unbearable coat of wool. Chris, a stray sheep found in Australia after five years yielded 88 pounds of wool.  It has a new life now.

While the Bible does not use this illustration, I see the wool that needs regular shearing as a reminder of the weight of sin that we all wear.  Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.  A shepherd has to remove it, or else it only continues to grow in size and weight. When we, as sheep, submit to the shepherding of Christ in repentance, he lifts the burden of the sin by pure grace. He earned this forgiveness through the difficult work of submitting himself as sheep to be slaughtered for our sins. He uses His under-shepherds to deliver this forgiveness through the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, and the bestowing of absolution in His name and stead and by His command.  Through human hands and voices, grace is bestowed by the Shepherd Himself.

With the weight of sins lifted, we are lighter and lifted up in joy.  I have included here a link to a three minute video of two sheep being sheared by professional shearers. As you watch it, imagine all that wool as so much sin being lifted off you and setting your free. Then, be sure to watch the newly shorn sheep leave the barn at the very end.  It might illustrate how you can or do feel when you are reminded that your Shepherd has removed the weight of sin from you. Like sheep, we too need to be sheared of our burdens regularly.  Take a look. (You don’t need the sound on.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7mKE19TjQk&nohtml5=False

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

P. S.  If you want to see Chris before he was shorn see this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHu-r4gx2kI&nohtml5=False

Like I said, sin keeps growing and endangers our lives.

Patient Growth

Flower in rock

April 6, 2016

Patient Growth

1I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. ×

References for Exodus 23:29

Cross References

Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.   Exodus 23:29-30

The pilgrim people of Israel were making their way from Egypt toward the Promised Land of Canaan. God had promised them much prosperity and peace if they would continue to obey him and not be distracted by any idols or sinful practices of the people who were already in Canaan.  For practical purposes, however, He would not drive out the Canaanites all at once. The land had to be cultivated by someone, and the predatory animals needed to be held in check by a large enough human population. He was giving the Israelites time to grow in number so that they could responsibly inhabit this land. Therefore, He would not allow them to take it over all at once. The challenge for the Israelites was that they not be influenced by the Canaanite culture that remained in their midst as they were increasing in population. Anticipating this, God warned them against practicing their lifestyle and idolatry. Thus, a practical accommodation carried with it a spiritual test.  Unfortunately, the Israelites often did not pass the test as the pagan population became a thorn in their side. .

This is illustrative of our own experiences today. We strive to live faithfully before the Lord in the midst of a culture that presents so many temptations and opposition.  It would be so much easier, we think, if God just snapped His fingers and made all the evil vanish into thin air. Then, we could be faithful without so many struggles. Instead, He allows us to grow into our sanctification so that we will not think that we can live independently of His guiding and guarding hand. He is patient with us when we falter and forgives us when we repent. He wants us to know both His power and grace.  When Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”, God answered only that His grace was enough for Paul, as it is for us.  In our struggles, he gives us that empowering grace through His Word and Sacraments.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that even if all the “evil” people disappeared, we would still have to struggle against the evil within each of us.  With our scapegoats and excuses gone, what would we say to God then about our sin?  “Lord, have mercy”, is all we can say.  We praise God that He is gracious and patient with us.

One last thought: While God did not call Israel to change the Canaanites, but rather to replace them, we the Church are placed into the midst of a “Canaanite” world not to replace it but to change it by being its salt and light. May God grant us patience, grace, and strength as we grow into His likeness!

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

A World Full of Surprises!

Spiritual-Gifts-Logo

 

March 30, 2016

A World Full of Surprises!

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,

let us use them: Romans 12:6

 

One of the things I find inspiring is looking at videos of talent-show contestants who totally surprise the panel of judges.  In the pre-performance chat, the singers may talk in a strange manner, or appear frumpy, too old, or too young, or just too unsophisticated for anyone to expect real talent from them.  Sometimes, the judges’ low expectations are on target, but, then, there are some who wow them and the audience with amazing performances.  It tugs at the heart when they are given a new life through the gift of their particular talent.

God has a way of concealing His gifts in the most unusual places, behind unexpected masks.  He gives himself in the form of a Nazarene carpenter’s son, an itinerant preacher and teacher who has no permanent home.  He gives us life through an instrument of death, a cross reserved for rebels and criminals.  By rising back to life, he assures us that we, who will one day die, will also rise.  He gives His Spirit and Himself through life-giving, yet simple, water and soul-nourishing bread and wine.  He appeals for our assistance by coming to us in the form of the prisoner, the patient, the beggar and the homeless.

While we are amazed at the surprising ways that God blesses us and connects with us, our only role is not that of the awestruck spectator.  He conceals some surprising gifts in us as well.  Through the talents He gives us, He empowers us to minister to each other.  God raised His Son from the dead and, by that action, He saved the world.  But, he calls us to serve the world.  Open yourself to the gifts God gave you to bless others and to the gifts by which others can bless you.  You may just discover a world full of surprises.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz