Dump the Distractions

focus on Jesus

 

June 29, 2016

 

Dump the Distractions

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first … Jesus said to him,

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61–62

 

One of my life-long weaknesses is my tendency to be distracted, or to like so many things it can be hard to choose just one. My high school chemistry teacher told me I would have a challenge deciding on a career because I enjoyed so many different things. Thankfully the vocation of pastor requires a general interest in a variety of topics and comfort with a variety of circumstances and personalities. However, when I do need to truly focus on just one thing, it can be quite a challenge after a while.

What is just a challenge in my work habit, can be devastating in our spiritual life. Our Lord calls us to follow him, yet we get distracted, delayed, and burdened by the clutter of lesser concerns that compete for our attention. If our phone is anywhere near us in time of prayer or devotional we hear it emit its various signals and think, “I wonder who just posted on my FB page?” “Who is that text from?” “What’s the score of the game now?”.

Sin itself is a distraction for discipleship.  By the grace of God in Christ’s death and resurrection for us, we stand forgiven rather than condemned by sin. Yet the flesh that still clings to us diverts us from the way to which Christ has called us. We lose focus on our spiritual vocation of being Christ’s disciples and our witness in the world is weakened.

Thankfully, Jesus was not distracted from the cross by the temptations of Satan, the protests of his own disciples, or the taunting of His enemies as they challenged him to “come down from that cross if you are the Son of God”.  He dumped the distractions because He loved us enough to follow through on His Father’s mission to redeem the world.

What or who is distracting you from a more faithful walk with God?  Divest yourself of any diversion that gets in the way of your discipleship.  It is not to earn your salvation, for that is by grace alone through faith. Rather, we focus on following Jesus so that we can glorify His name before others, and better serve our neighbor. If we call ourselves Christians, then anything that doesn’t glorify Him before others is a destructive distraction.  Dump it.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

 

Pleasure and Pain in Perspective

be content

June 22, 2016

 

Pleasure and Pain in Perspective

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11b

 

We are emotional creatures, by design.  Feelings of supreme joy, deep depression and everything in between enable us to experience life to the extremes, as well as to connect us with each other.  Emotions indicate problems that our brains have not yet comprehended or that we fear to acknowledge consciously. As responses to events both good and bad, our feelings do not interpret their meaning nor teach us what to learn from them.

For that, God also gave us reason and faith–the capacity to make sense of our feelings and put our experiences in perspective. God’s Word gives us the added insight into how he views our experiences and why he would choose to allow both pleasure and pain in our lives.

Paul wrote that in poverty or abundance he learned to be content, because he understood that God, who does not change, was in charge of his life. He did not despair in want, for the Lord would supply his every need. Nor did he count his abundance as his own accomplishment, but as the gift of God, which God both gives and takes away. (Job 1:21) God allows pain and shortage to stem our pride, lest we forget our dependence upon him and go our own way. Hebrews 12 teaches us that he disciplines those whom he loves. The lesson is that we do not interpret God’s attitude toward us through the lens of our lack or abundance, or by the absence or presence of pain or pleasure. God uses both at different times to keep us close to Himself.

The sense we might get from current events is that this world is out of control and perhaps coming to an end. That too is subject to a Godly perspective that can remind us that our times are in God’s hands (Psa.31:15), that we are to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12), that though this earth will be destroyed, the Word of our Lord will never pass away (Matt. 24:35) and that we are to live in repentance and detachment from the sins of this world (Luke 21:34).  The lesson is that we acknowledge that though we have little control of world events our Lord still has the “whole world in his hands”.

So whether you are feeling the highest elation or the deepest sorrow, our feelings do not change God’s love for us. Nor do they tell us what he thinks of us.  His love has been once and for all demonstrated to us on the cross of Christ. Nothing can change that, and from that love nothing can separate us. Ever.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Reputation Restoration

 

Failure

June 15, 2016

 

Reputation Restoration

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. James 4:11

 

Leaving for a week in Wisconsin tomorrow, I am writing this ahead of time in anticipation of the City Park clean up on Saturday.  I am hoping it went well and that several willing hands from Faith were present.  The park suffered a lot of damage and needs some clean up and restoration.

It made me think of another restoration project that I hope Faith members and all who follow Christ will make part of their regular routine: Reputation Restoration.  We all know people, perhaps ourselves, whose reputation has been sullied by a one-time lapse of judgment or by actions or words or life-styles that can be easily misunderstood by others. Not everything is at it seems, and so we are not to be hasty in judgment.  Like a flooded city park, peoples’ reputations can be ragged and shattered by real sins or the perception of others.

Our best response should be to do all we can to restore that reputation. Martin Luther, in explaining the commandment against bearing false witness, wrote how we are to regard our neighbor, We should fear and love God so that we do not … hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. Humbled by the knowledge of our failures, it is not hard to see why some gentle understanding of the failures of others is in order.

As always, when we need a motive and example of why we should do the right thing, we look to Jesus. His life and death and resurrection restored our reputation, tagging us sinners as saints. Surely, in the spirit of His gracious and patient kindness toward us, it’s not too much to expect us to do likewise for others.  “We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.

May God’s grace abide in you and through you.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Go To The Doctor!

matthew_9_12

 

June 8, 2016

                                                                                                                                                                                   

Go to the Doctor!

“Those who are well have no need of a physician,

but those who are sick. Matthew 9:12

 

Maybe you or someone you know has been putting up with a nagging pain that will not go away, or a chronic feeling that you know is just not normal.  Perhaps you or this other person also refuses to get some attention from a health care professional. Or the pain may be emotional, due to past trauma, abuse, or loss, and its symptoms have been present for quite a while.   Very few people at some time in their life don’t ever suffer from pain of one kind or another.

But too many people do not get the help they need.  Either they think they can just “tough” it out, or they have come to expect it as the new “normal”, or believe they are getting what they deserve.  Perhaps they are not even aware there is a problem.

This is a deadly serious problem when it comes to the sickness of our sin. This is a malady that not only brings misery and sorrow into our lives, but also separates us from God.  The only cure is the cross, on which Christ reconciled us to God by giving His life as a willing sacrifice for sin.  God sees us as whole (holy), because He sees us as forgiven through the gift of His Son. This reconciliation is for all, for all have sinned and do sin. When Jesus said that those who are well don’t need a physician, He didn’t mean that there are any sinless people, but rather he was referring to those who thought they didn’t need healing from sin. In other words, He came for all, invites all, even though there are some who will not come.

Likewise, I extend His invitation to come to where the cure of the cross is available to those who are sick of their sin and want the peace that only grace in Christ can give.  Christ instituted His Church as the means here on earth where in the fellowship of other sinners, like me, you can receive the medicine to get well spiritually and emotionally, and perhaps even physically.  I encourage you, whoever you are, to know that you are sick.  Go to the Doctor!

Peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Come and Rest?

Matthew-11_28-Oak-Tree-by-Marilyn-Peddle-on-flickr-copy

 

 

June 1, 2016

 

Come and Rest?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

 

Vacation time approaches. For me, this means getting to rest my weary soul and spirit in a pew, to hear the teaching of another shepherd, and to feast on the sacrament consecrated by another pastor. Truth be told, I get to rest here every Sunday. Although it seems I am “working”, I join all the worshipers in confessing my sins, receiving absolution, praying and praising, and even hearing the sermon, which the Lord has given us from His Word. (Pastors preach first to themselves.) So, whether I am at the pulpit or in the pew, it’s all rest for my soul.

That is why King David expressed such high praise for celebrating the rest that is found in the presence of the Lord’s house:  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!  Psalm 122:1; This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24. The time in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day is for rejoicing, renewing, refreshing and rest.  Jesus Himself worshipped in the synagogue regularly on the Lord’s Day and found rest in His times for prayer.

So it is to me somewhat confusing and sad whenever people consider worship as a chore, obligation, or merely as a requirement to be considered “good Christians”. It’s always good to be in the Lord’s House, but if they are present only because they are assigned a “job” that Sunday, they are missing the joy of God’s unmerited grace. We all can serve on some Sundays, but every Sunday is a day for our Lord to serve us His gifts.  When we can come away from the world’s pressures and enter into the fellowship of Christ and our Christian family we can be better equipped and strengthened to serve His love and grace throughout the week.

Jesus said that He came “not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom” for us.  He did that on the cross, and invites us to remember often what He has done and to grow in the knowledge of His grace and how to live that out in this world. He must have known this was something we need from Him, or he would have never said, “come and rest.”

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz