Reading Test

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March 29, 2017

Reading Test

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10:26

This week fifth and eighth graders in Texas are taking the STAAR reading tests. The exams present a story followed by questions similar in essence to what Jesus asked a certain young lawyer about the law, “What is written? How do you read it?” The test then presents multiple answers from which the students are to select the correct one.

The lawyer answered correctly without a selection of options from Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him for his answer, saying, “Do this and you will live”.  In order to convince himself that he could keep the law, the lawyer sought to qualify his answer by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”

“How do you read the Law?”  a. as what I must do to be saved   b. as a reminder to try my best   c. as God’s notice that I need a savior.  When we understand that the Law demands purity in thought, word, and deed, we must conclude that c is the only correct answer. Can we, or do we, ever consistently love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves?  If we are to pass the reading test about the law we must answer with a resounding “no”.

Thanks be to God that there was another reading test question about the Gospel! It leads us to understand that we do have a Savior.  The apostle Philip approached an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from Isaiah the prophet. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30)  Philip explained how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by dying as the sacrifice that atones for our sins.  In his perfect love, He met the requirements for our salvation. Therefore, God raised Him from the dead to show that punishment for sin is complete.

How do you read the Law?  If you read the Law correctly, you can also read the Gospel correctly as well.  The answer to all the reading questions is Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Blessing of Blessing

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March 22, 2017

THE BLESSING OF BLESSING

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35

 While this saying of Jesus is not found in the Gospels, Paul attributed it to Him.  Why is it true that it is more blessed to give than to receive? What is the blessing of blessing?

In a recent meeting with other pastors about our calling to help the poor and needy in our midst, one of them confessed that by nature he could be a stingy person.  How many of us could say the same? Giving to the poor and needy is a wonderful solution to that problem. Not only does it actually help them, but it also gets us unstuck from our natural stinginess and inward focus.  Helping others puts our own needs into perspective. They do not seem so big when we help someone whose needs are bigger than our own. By distinguishing between our needs and our desires, we realize we are more blessed than we thought we were.

Another way we are blessed is that we grow in our faith that God is unlimited in His resources. We can become discouraged that we are unable to do more or enough for others.  Yet, does our Lord ask us to bless others because He cannot do it without us?  Is His arm too short to provide for everything we need?  Certainly, the Lord knows how to care for all his creatures.

It is when we are generous that we see the evidence of that. In giving, we get to witness Him replenishing that which we give and even more than we give. His generosity increases our faith in his ability to provide for our needs and the needs of others.  He can take care of the poor all on his own, but He invites us to participate in the blessings of blessing others.

In summary, the blessing of blessing is that we grow in gratitude for what we have and in faith in what God can do for us, through us, and even without us. May God bestow such blessings always, in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Denying the Judgment

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March 15, 2017

Denying the Judgment

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

Today about 2,061 years ago, Julius Caesar was assassinated. It was a turning point in Rome, but I mention it to describe an attitude prevalent today. The 15th was called the Ides of March, the first full moon of what was then the first month of the year. A seer (fortuneteller) warned Caesar to be careful of the Ides of March, for tragedy would come upon him. Sometime during that fateful day, Caesar passed the seer and said, “The Ides have come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled.  The seer replied tersely, “yes, Caesar, but they have not gone.” Caesar was stabbed to death later that day.

As Caesar doubted the seer, so today many scoffers ignore the warnings of God’s Word that a day of judgment is coming.  Peter tells us that they will consider the promise of Christ’s return an empty threat.  “He hasn’t come yet, so why should we worry?” they say. It’s like a man who keeps swimming in a creek with a known population of poisonous snakes, saying, “I haven’t seen them yet, so why worry?”  Such folks want the excuse to keep right on doing what they want.

And how do people live who deny the pending judgment they will face, either in their last day, or on The Last Day?  They live as if they are not accountable to a judge at all, “following their own sinful desires”.  Willful sin dulls the conscience and mind to the natural knowledge of God—that He exists and that we are accountable to him. Atheism is not natural, but a deliberate self-deception.

Yet our Lord, in His mercy delays the judgment so that more may yet repent and live forever.  For our part, we humbly give thanks that God has chosen to give us faith to believe in His Son. We pray for those yet not in the faith. We have no need to deny the judgment. Rather, by faith we look forward to His coming, for our sin has already been judged on Christ’s cross.

Yes, the final judgment has not come yet, but the day is not over.  Be ready, faithful, and joyful that it will come for sure. Until that day, may God’s grace, mercy, and peace be yours through Christ our Lord.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Your Deeds Are Your Creeds

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March 8, 2017

 “Your Deeds Are Your Creed”

“I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

 “Deeds, not Creeds”, say some people that have little use for the formal and ancient declarations of the Church. Are they saying that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you do good?  Perhaps, they are simply agreeing with James that faith without works is dead. The truth of the matter is that all people have a creed, a code of conduct and a belief about the world around and above them that helps them make sense of life. Even those who deny the need for a creed have one.

What they believe is not hard to figure out.  Just watch their deeds, and you will know their creed. Jesus said of the false prophets, “you will recognize them by their fruits.” It did not matter what they professed, what they practiced reflected their true belief. Martin Luther penned the words found on our sign this week. “Where a man spends his time and money, there is his god.” In other words, the deed reveals the creed, regardless of what you tell people you believe.

Do your deeds reflect your creed?  You confess faith in God the Father Almighty.  Yet do you make decisions based on fear, lack a generous spirit, or do not pray often because maybe you really believe that He is not almighty enough to protect, provide, and answer prayer?

You confess faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord, who suffered and died, and rose again for you. However, do you still cling to guilt, deny your neighbor the forgiveness you undeservedly have received from God, and give easily in to sin because maybe you really believe that the cleansing of the cross was not thorough enough?

You say you believe in the Holy Spirit, who inspired and speaks through the prophets and apostles and works faith through the Sacraments. Do you then doubt God, spend little time in God’s Word, or not cherish his gifts in the Divine Service, because maybe you really believe that the Spirit is not powerful enough to help make a difference in your life?

So we can profess the Creed all day, but few will think we really believe it if we do not act upon that belief.  But when we do, people will notice and will want to know our God who is glorified in our life.  Our deeds can bring others to our Creed. To God be the glory!

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Why Try?

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February 28, 2017

“Why Try?”

For I do not do the good I want,  but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:19

 If you are like me, you would admit that you have asked yourself, “Why try to keep God’s commandments if I can’t succeed?” Paul, the author of Romans, felt the frustration of not being able to do the good he wanted but rather do the evil he did not want to do. Then if the commands of God are so unreachable, why even try to do them?  That is a fair question, to which I will give three short answers that have to do with love.

First, we try because God loves us too much to see us suffer the consequences of sin. Having created us, he wrote the manual for what it takes to experience optimal joy, free from guilt and conflict. Sin has natural temporal consequences. Whether they are obvious, such as the effects of gluttony on our health, or more discreet, such as the relational roadblocks that arise from coveting, lust, or other secret attitudinal sins.  We have little idea how much undue suffering we cause others and ourselves when we sin.  Obedience has its rewards. For your own sake, try.

Secondly, we try because God loves us so much that He does not want us to be separated from Him for eternity. God is holy, and nothing sinful enters His presence. The Good News is that in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us, God does not hold our sins against us. Regular repentance reminds us of our need for Jesus.  However, no longer trying to keep God’s commands will eventually lead us to dull our conscience, no longer repent, and finally deny our sin and our Savior altogether. While they still live on this earth, such people may yet repent and return to the Lord, but no one knows how long that window is open.  Today is the day for repentance.  Today is the day to keep trying.

Thirdly, we try to keep God’s commands because God loves also our neighbors too much to see them separated from Him forever.  He desires that all know His Son, and knowing Him, be saved.  Our efforts to keep God’s laws, also called good works, are a witness to the world that give glory to God who does such works in us.   If we take Christ’s name, but live as if He were not abiding in us, then we dishonor Him and give no reason for anyone to believe in Him. For the sake of pointing others to Christ, keep trying.

I know it is frustrating to try when we can never succeed consistently to keep God’s commands. Such feelings of failure vexed Paul as well and prompted him to write a few verses later, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! He pointed His readers back to Christ, the forgiver of sins and the giver of second (and more) chances. When we fail after trying, and we will, we too can rejoice that our salvation is dependent upon Christ, not on us

So we keep trying, for the sake of our neighbor and ourselves, and to give God due honor and glory.  Join us tonight for Lenten service at 6, to better understand the blessings of trying.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz