When Kingdoms Collide

Untitled drawing (45)

January 31, 2018

“When Kingdoms Collide”

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

We live in two kingdoms. Sometimes they get along famously. Other times they collide with each other with great force. We live in them both and have the challenge of reconciling them with they are in conflict with each other.

What kingdoms are these?  Long time Lutherans know them by various terms: The Kingdom of the Left, and the Kingdom of the Right, the Kingdom on Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven, The Secular and the Spiritual, the State and the Church.  God rules over both and we live under Him in both.  He ordains State to govern for the sake of order in this world. He ordains the Church to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with words of truth and acts of mercy.

We make decisions depending on our understanding of that kingdom applies.  A current example is the question of immigration. This issue calls for law and order by the state. Loss of control of a nation’s border and undermining the rule of law creates chaos. It is the State’s God-ordained duty to maintain that. At the same time, it is the Church’s calling to show compassion and concern for the sojourner. Where we can do so while honoring the State’s necessary role as keeper of order, we do so. The Church should not do so in order to pad its coffers with government largesse, or to inflate its membership roles.  Such motives do not serve the Gospel, but undermine it. We love for motives that are spiritual and heavenly, not secular and earthly.

It is an ongoing and timeless challenge of both the State and the Church to tend to its own business and not to usurp the role of the other. Of course, in real life, it is not as clear cut as all that. I mean this meditation not as solution to a problem, but as a reminder to remember that both Kingdoms are God’s.  Pray that His will is done in both, for the sake of good order and peace, and for the sake of compassion and love.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Changes that Challenge

Untitled drawing (44)

January 24, 2018

Changes that Challenge

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; Lamentations 3:22

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6

For years, it seems that nothing changes, or at least nothing that was not expected.  Then you run into a period when one change after another meets you.  Cancer shows up on your medical exam, a loved one dies suddenly, or you have to move due to a job change, divorce, or some other stressful event. Not all changes are unforeseen. While births, graduations, marriages, and retirement do not surprise us, but they still can be challenging.  All changes require us to adapt to new realities, adopt new routines, and reestablish a new balance.

Whether or not the changes are wanted or anticipated, they have the potential to draw us closer to God. Years ago, an elderly man told me he liked his worship style to be the same every week. His job and the world events had more than enough changes every day. He just wanted to know that something in his life was constant.

A familiar worship could do that. However, it is not how we worship, as much as whom we worship, that helps us manage all the changes in life that challenge us.  Our Lord, who has steadfast love for us, does not change.  Even if a negative change in our life is due to a sinful choice we have made, God’s love in Christ does not change. He remains faithful even if we are not. His mercies never end. That is not because he changes His mind about sin, but because Christ took away sin’s dreadful penalty and punishment on the cross.

That means that when death, the ultimate change draws near, surprisingly or expectedly, we have full confidence that it will not be a challenge. God’s grace will prevail. Thus, we can join the millions who have sought comfort in these words:

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

“Abide with Me” LSB 878:4

May His changeless grace abide with you,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Follow the Recipe

Blog-1120x745-16

January 17, 2018

Follow the Recipe

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…, And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12, 14

 Has it ever happened that you were careful to follow a recipe for a dish you wanted to serve to your guests, but you did not have all the ingredients? If time was short, you may have substituted something else and hoped that would work.  What if you totally forgot to add that essential ingredient, such as a sweetener for a dessert! It was obvious to you and your guests that something was missing.

Sometimes we do that with the ingredients that we use in our relationships. We believe we are doing all the right things, saying what we need to say, but we forget love, the most important ingredient. Love comes from a heart that has accepted the love of God in Christ. Love changes us, and affects how we relate to one another. It is what moves us to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us and enables us to put the needs of others above our own. “Without love”, Paul said to the Corinthians, “I am nothing”.

So likewise, in his instructions to the Colossians he emphasized that to the relational ingredients of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” they should add “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  I read a devotion recently that said, “if the heart is right, everything else comes together.” If you think you are doing everything you should, but the relationship still is not going well, ask yourself, “Do I truly love that person from the heart?”  Ask God to help you truly love the other person–the rest will fall in place.

One of my old favorites from the past is the Judy Collins song, “Cook with Honey”.  In one verse, she expresses her joy of loving others:  “Well, our door is always open and there’s surely room for more; Cooking where there’s good love, Is never any chore.”

Follow that recipe and life will taste just right.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

All Are Teachers; All Are Students

Ephesians 4 32

January 10, 2018

All Are Teachers; All Are Students

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Hebrews 10:24

How does a family, business, school, congregation, or any group create an atmosphere of caring, compassion, and patience? In a classroom, what the children learn is what the teacher teaches. In a family, the children learn what their parents exemplify. They learn what they see, hear, and experience.

And in some ways, we adults are not much different. Though we are not as impressionable as children and more ably can filter out what needs not to be learned, we are still influenced by the conditioning of what we see and hear every day.  Advertisers wouldn’t repeat their commercials if that were not true. Cultural changers, for good or evil, know that change does not happen overnight, only after repeated patterns of actions and words.

We all have influence over others, whether we realize it or not. We can all impact how others act by how we act towards them.  We are all “teachers”.  Likewise, we are all impacted, in varying degrees, after varying spans of time, by the words we hear, things we see, and the experiences we encounter. We are all “students”.  That’s the real world.

Now, the question is, what are you learning?  More importantly, what are you teaching?

The video linked below offers possible answers, both good and bad.  Its focus is children, but also applies to how adults treat one another, whether in a marriage, family, church, classroom, workplace or anywhere.

May Christ be our means and motivation to be a teacher of caring, compassion, and patience!

.View “Children learn what they live” (2:10): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlQPJTlt-_A then go, and “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

 Bless and be Blessed,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Big Picture Priority

Untitled drawing (43)

January 3, 2018

Big Picture Priority

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Matthew 23:24

According to a survey, if you make a New Year’s resolution you are among only 40% of the population. If you keep it, you are among 44% of those that make them. Since a majority of us do not make them or keep them if we do, you may not need to know about the “holiday” coming up on January 17. It is “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day”.  Someone decided we needed an official day to acknowledge and drop those New Year’s resolutions that, after all, were not that doable.

That may not be relevant to you if you do not make them to begin with, but, in truth, we actually make resolutions quite often. We call it “bargaining with God” or promising him that we will “do better”.  When yet another failure sabotages our good intentions, we repeat them with even more resolve, often inserting words like “never again” or “always”.

What we often miss is the big picture priority: a life of grace. Jesus took to task Jewish leaders who made laws and lists for themselves and everyone else. Call them resolutions. He called them hypocrites, because their lists were unimportant tasks that they themselves did not faithfully follow, even while demanding that others do. They were “straining at gnats and swallowing a camel.” That is, they majored in minors and failed to prioritize weightier matters such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (v. 23)

Whether it is at the beginning of a new year or after a frustrating failure, focusing only on promises and resolutions we can’t keep perfectly is futile. Let us spend our time on the big picture, the grace of God that he has given us through Christ. It covers our failures and forgives our sins. May we not only receive it daily by faith, but also gladly share it freely with others.  When we do, we will be less concerned about our lists and rules and successfully show “justice and mercy and faithfulness,” resolutions for which there is no day to ditch.

Where there is grace, there is peace.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz