Revolution!

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May 24, 2017

Revolution!

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

 The 60’s were a time of much change.  Songs and demonstrations about revolution were common. Today, political revolutions are still called for from both sides. Some produce positive changes, while others result only in death and destruction.  There is another revolution, often called “revival”—when the Spirit of God stirs the hearts of a nation for good.  Revolutions can be a welcome change to correct systemic abuses by arousing people from complacency.

What kind of revolution we get depends on what or whom we revolve around.  In our solar system, the planets orbit in an orderly and predictable fashion.  On Earth, because the sun’s gravitational pull is pretty constant, we get a stable life-sustaining climate.  Were we to leave this orbit and somehow start encircling a distant star that was too hot or too cold, we could not survive. That would be a destructive “revolution” indeed.

Likewise, if we revolve around influences that do not sustain life, we would experience much harm.  History is littered with destructive revolutions that have revolved around false gods.  Men have sought to change the world (in their mind, for the better) by making themselves, their philosophy, ideology, money, security, or power be the “sun” around which their every movement orbits.  But when we human beings seek to make those things the center of the universe, the revolutions create chaos and disruption, not peace and good will.

Isaiah spoke of one who finds perfect peace by staying his mind on God. When our lives revolve around the One who gives, preserves, redeems, and sanctifies all life–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we will have the revolution that brings peace, stability, grace, love, and all that we need to sustain both physical and spiritual life.  As we need to orbit the Sun for physical life, we need to revolve around the Son, Jesus Christ, to have spiritual and eternal life.  To experience a good revolution in your life, it matters around what or whom your life revolves.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

God Loves Hate!

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May 17, 2017

God Loves Hate!

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, love what is good. Romans 12:9

“Oh, you’re just a hater,” says the one who loves his sin and seeks to deflect all righteous criticism and loving correction. And he would be half right, if he were speaking to a Christian whose love is genuine. (Note: “genuine” is a translation the Greek, “without hypocrisy”. The world labels Christians “hypocrite” if they claim to love but still have hate in their hearts. The opposite is true–we are hypocrites if we say we love, but do not hate evil, because it is contrary to love.)  Real love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, does not “rejoice in wrongdoing”.  In this section of Romans 12 he teaches how we are to regard our fellow Christian. All the verbs point to loving and supporting one another.

Except this one: Hate.  We hate what is evil, because we hate what evil is doing to those we love. If we truly love a person, or people in general, or a nation, we cannot treat sin with apathy or a “hands-off” approach.  That doesn’t mean we come at people with a judgmental attitude. We must always remember that we also have our own sins to hate as well.

But it is true that other people, as well as we ourselves, are often blind to or desensitized to the failings within. That’s why Paul also wrote in this chapter that we are to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”. That means we will be honest about our own sins, and with gentleness and patience we will help others see the harm sin is doing to them.

This world says not to hate anyone’s sins. That is nice, but it is not good. It will eventually lead us to call evil good so that we can be nice all the time, having a numb conscience and hypocritical love for a fellow believer caught in hurtful sin.

Genuine love will always hate evil enough to confront it. The cross reveals that God is the greatest lover and biggest hater of all.  So much does he hate what is evil that He loved us enough to take human flesh and die to remove evil’s power to condemn us.  Yet if we continue to ignore, accept, and not repent of evil, it retains its power over us. So pray that God may make your love for Him and for your fellow believer so genuine that you will genuinely hate the evil that harms your neighbor and yourself.  If we don’t hate what is evil, we don’t truly love what is good.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Valley, Shadow, Death

 

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May 10, 2017

Valley, Shadow, Death

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Psalm 23:4a

This familiar verse from the beloved “shepherd’s” psalm brings great comfort as we look ahead to the inevitable conclusion of life: death. “Even though”, not if, means we will walk through that valley, but also implies something positive in the midst of the valley of death and other low places through which we walk.  “Through” means that we don’t linger or encamp in the valley, but that we pass through it. “Shadow” means that it is not all dark. Where there is a shadow, there is also light.  The Light with us is Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

The current Lutheran Witness theme is the persecution of Christians around the world. Many are being killed for their faith, as was St. Stephen, the subject of one of the readings for next Sunday. As it has been from the beginning, is now, and will increasingly be in the future, the valley of the shadow of death is a reality for any who follow Christ. Peter, writing about persecution, told the church not to be surprised by it. Jesus told us that a disciple is not above the master. If they persecuted Christ, why would his followers be exempt?  Expect it.

Whether death is by disease, accident, or intentional persecution, it is something we can always be ready to face if we remember two things:

1) Jesus died.  In that death God signaled that though our sins separate us from Him, Christ reconciled us to Him. Death no longer brings the fear of eternal separation from God. The cross means that God has forgiven us for past, present, and future sins.

2) Jesus rose from the dead.  He said, “Because I live, you too will live.” If we die with him in repentance, then we will live with him in the resurrection.

I recall two vacations in which our family entered a cavern. On my own, I would not have ventured in. However, the guide who was leading us had been in and out of the cave many times. I could be confident that with him, I would walk through that valley of darkness.  Since Christ has entered death and come out on the other side, we can trust him to take us through it when it is our time to walk that valley.

May God so comfort you that there is no fear of death, but only gratitude that it’s a short walk into the darkness until we get to the Light on the other side.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Price of Reconciliation

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May 3, 2017

The Price of Reconciliation

“Be reconciled to your brother”  Matthew 5:24

 This week I asked a Korean born pastor what would happen if North and South Korea were united under a free democratic government. He talked about the patience the South would have to show as their Northern countrymen went through a sharp learning curve to adapt to a new way of life. As we started to compare it the unification of East and West Germany, we invited into our conversation a German born pastor/professor who had lived through it. He remembered the high monetary price of unification the West payed to catch up their Eastern brothers and sisters.

Paying the price and patience are part of any reconciliation between individuals and groups.  When adversaries put aside their differences, confess and forgive sins, life doesn’t just automatically get better.  People don’t always get over their hard feelings overnight, even though they want to.  The pattern of distrust and suspicion lingers.  Besides the patience required by parties to adjust their attitudes and expectations, there is also the price of restitution, making good for any harm that the previous animosity created. Though reconciliation comes with a price, the joy of peace and lessened tension are worth the effort.

As in all good things, we can look to our Lord for help. Jesus Christ first reconciled us to Himself by paying the price of His own life.  By His saving work, we know that God desires to be reconciled to us, and that we be reconciled to each other.  He makes this happen, not only by the cross, but by His enduring patience with us. As we go through the learning curve to live out the reconciled life, He walks alongside us, continuing to forgive us and give us His Spirit of peace.  Germans reconciled with fellow Germans. We pray that Koreans might do the same.  Likewise, we pray that we may pay the price to live in the patience of reconciling with our Christian brothers and sisters.  For the sake of peace, and the glory of God.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz