Bread and Butter

Buttered Bread

May 25, 2016

Bread and Butter

1And God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:1–3

 

The saying, “knowing which side your bread is buttered on” refers to knowing the source of your blessings and who is on your side versus who isn’t.  That Israel didn’t seem to know where their blessings came from must have made God scratch His head many times in the years after He gave the Ten Commandments.  Yes, it was He who freed them from 400 years of slavery to Egypt with one mighty miracle after another. It was He who provided for them in the desert and kept them safe from their enemies. But in spite of all this, they acted as if God were the source of their woes, not their blessings. Not only did they complain to God, but they also turned to idols who had done nothing for them. In fact, these idols would mean their downfall.

But in mind-numbing forgetfulness about which side one’s bread is buttered on, they are not alone. We Christians, the New Testament Israel, can be pretty forgetful about the source of our blessings. Every blessing, both material and spiritual, comes from God.  He has provided for us here and, in Christ’s passion and resurrection, for eternity. Yet we tend to fear, love, and trust other gods, as if our blessings came from them.

Let us remember that we have been set free from our own slavery to sin. We are redeemed by the blood of Christ, God in the flesh.  We know on which side our bread is buttered.  May God help us to live accordingly in trust, obedience, and joy.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Acceptance, Tolerance and Love

galatians-6-1

May 18, 2016

 

Acceptance, Tolerance, and Love

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

 

When we don’t confront a transgression that is hurting the one who is guilty of it, we love ourselves, not the transgressor. We spare ourselves the uncomfortable conflict that accountability requires. In addition, we get to wear the badge of “tolerance” and claim that we love people because we tolerate and accept what they do.

But true tolerance is the allowance of something we don’t accept. Some people who say they want us to tolerate a behavior really mean that they want us to accept it as good. If you don’t, they are not likely to tolerate your non-acceptance.

Paul teaches that we are neither to tolerate nor to accept a harmful behavior that enslaves a fellow believer. Tolerating what harms our neighbor is a sin of omission. Not accepting that sin is a good start, for then we will guard against becoming guilty of it ourselves.  But by not even tolerating it, we will also try to guard a brother or sister from that sin.

Now, to be clear, what is not to be tolerated or accepted is the transgression, the harmful condition, self-delusion, or sin.  What is to be tolerated AND accepted is the person caught up in the transgression.  He or she is not the enemy–the sin is. Our brother or sister in Christ is just like us.  His or her sins are covered by the same blood of Christ that covers ours.  The “spirit of gentleness” must be applied to all intolerance of sins, because sins can trip us up just as easily as they do our neighbor.  The Golden Rule applies here, that we be direct but gentle with each other, for that is how we would want others to be toward us.

Our motive for not being tolerant or accepting of enslaving sin is the way God dealt with ours.  If God accepted our sin, He sure had a strange way of showing it: coming in the flesh to be crucified in our place as just punishment for our sin. That doesn’t look like acceptance or even tolerance of sin. But it does look like acceptance of you and me–acceptance that doesn’t leave us enslaved to our transgressions, but frees us from them.

We don’t expect the world to draw the distinction between the acceptance of the sinner and the intolerance of the sin. But, we in the Church can.  For we understand, as recipients of God’s transforming love in Christ, that intolerance can be the greatest act of love. It can bring us to repentance and the acceptance of God’s saving grace.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

P. S. The above refers to those serious sins that harm and enslave our neighbor, and is not to be taken as a license to pick at our neighbors’ annoying habits or unlikeable traits. For that, we press forward in grace, love, and forgiveness.

Danger, Danger

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May 11, 2016

Danger, Danger

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain

from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11

 

A television news report about tornadoes in Oklahoma featured a few seconds of a horrific twister destroying homes in its path.  I was surprised that whoever was filming it dared to be close enough to capture the damage in such detail as it was happening. It was more shocking to see two vehicles drivingtoward the tornado. Even though they live where tornadoes are common and perhaps knew what they were doing, it seemed foolhardy to drive in the direction of such obvious danger.

Yet, as I watched this, I couldn’t help but think how common it is among us to foolishly pursue danger.  Unhealthy attachments to substances, activities, or relationships that “war against your soul” don’t at first seem to be dangerous.  It’s not until we get caught up in them that we feel depleted and damaged in our spirit, soul, and body. Whether the pull is from the devil’s lies, the world’s enticements, or from our inner drives, Peter urges us to abstain from dangerous passions. Resist the temptation of pride to think that we are strong enough to play with fire and not get burned.

Resisting temptation is not an easy battle, but it is necessary.  Sometimes we fail, and sometimes we succeed.  Failure should never be a cause to give up the struggle. Doing so will dull our conscience and lead us to ultimately deny our sin and our Savior.  Giving up the struggle is also a denial of the grace of God that offers His ongoing forgiveness. This grace is also our support in the struggle, as Paul wrote: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.  (Titus 2:11–12)

      Our Lord knows our weaknesses and has compassion for us because of them.  On the cross, he freed us from the penalty of our sin, but he did not free us from the struggle against sin, which is a battle for our soul.  For this struggle, He offers His grace when we meditate on His Word, receive His sacraments, come to Him in prayers of repentance and renewal, and when we avail ourselves of the support of others.  One day, the danger will be gone forever, when sin and struggle will be no more.  Until that Day, remain faithful, for our Lord is faithful and forgiving to us.   The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

Pastor Tom Konz

KONZ, THOMAS; (Staff)43

Where is He?

I am with you always

May 4, 2016

 

Where Is Jesus?

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens,

that he might fill all things.  Ephesians 4:10

 

Besides being what it is every year, Cinco de Mayo, May 5 this year marks the Ascension of our Lord. This event took place after He appeared for forty days following His resurrection. He visibly and physically rose from the earth in a glorified body and disappeared into the sky. He ascended, having given His body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and having been raised victorious over the power of death and sin. He ascended with the promise of His visible return at an undetermined date, and the promise of His return in Spirit on Pentecost ten days later.

He is now located at the right hand of God.  This is a designation of authority, not of physical geography, for as Paul teaches, he ascended, “that He might fill all things”.  This does not mean He is in all things, so that we should worship nature, but that He is with us, as he said, “unto the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20.) We find Jesus located where He promises to be found: in His Word, and in the Sacrament.  He has also promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  (Matthew 18:20) 

In pre-school chapel we introduce prayer time with a short verse that follows the question, “where is Jesus?” We continue singing and motioning with our hand, “He’s up there (heaven), He’s in here (within us), He is everywhere, He hears our prayer.”  The ascended Lord is indeed near, to be found by all who seek Him and to be heard by all who come to Him in prayer.

May 5th this year is also the National Day of Prayer, when we observe a time of prayer for all nations and peoples of the world. We can do so because the answer to the question, “Where is Jesus?”  is “He is here”. If you want to join others of our community in prayers, you may choose a time and location that fits your schedule from the listing found here:

  http://www.stephenvilletexas.org/events/details/national-day-of-prayer-05-05-2016-2713

Blessings,  Pastor Tom Konz

KONZ, THOMAS; (Staff)43