Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn

James-1_19-20

February 28, 2018

Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn

19Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,

slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19

I used to think we were a racially or economically divided nation.  At least that’s what some would have me believe. The truth, as I see it, is that the greatest division is political. That is the most challenging of all divisions because politics involves everyone. Defined as the “art or science of government” it affects all people, even those who want no part of politics.

While we are united in our common need for government, we are sorely divided over how best to be governed. Of course, other divisions affect politics: religious, geographic, racial, and socio-economic, but in themselves, they do not create division. They do not establish policies over how we ought to live. They are descriptive. Politics is of necessity prescriptive. It results in laws.

How can the art and science of government work better?  James suggests that our communal life, whether family, church, or state, will prosper when we learn to listen. (“Be quick to hear, slow to speak.”) Yes, we do have to learn to listen. It is not natural for us to put aside our agenda, answers and opinions long enough to learn what somewhat else is saying. It takes work. It takes reflecting back to the speaker what you heard, so that he or she knows that the information was accurately conveyed and received. That doesn’t happen in a shouting match. (“slow to anger”.)

When we learn to listen, we can listen to learn. We are much wiser voters when we have opened our minds to facts and possible solutions we have not considered before. Listening also can help us discover that some “facts” we know for certain are not as true as we thought, or we uncover mitigating aspects that change how we received them.

Learn to listen, listen to learn: It’s not only the way to interact with each other, but also with God. Learn to listen to His Words, and you will learn so much about Him and about yourself. The greatest discovery is that, in Christ, we are not divided from His love, nor from each other. It is amazing what we can learn when we listen.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Deadly Warnings

 

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February 21, 2018

Deadly Warnings

1There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1–3

Colorado state representative Patrick Neville, a veteran and Columbine survivor, shared thoughts this morning that reflect the wisdom of Jesus. Asked about what he would say to the survivors of the Douglas HS massacre last Wednesday, he spoke of making the incident matter in their own lives. As a Columbine HS student, he had been going down the “wrong path”. The mass shooting at his school caused him to reflect on his life and change his course. As minority leader of the Colorado legislature, he is making his life count. Those who were killed did not die in vain, because at least one life was changed for the better.

Jesus would say something similar. Legislators and others who shape laws and procedures are considering how best to decrease the likelihood of another shooter. However, you can do something that affects you personally—and only you can do it: Consider death’s reminder that your life is uncertain in this world, but infinitely worse is the tragedy of dying without faith in the Savior who gives you eternal life. Repent of that which is not pleasing to God. Then live by faith that you are forgiven. Live with the certain hope that by God’s grace, when you die by any means, you will enter the presence of your heavenly Father.

As if we needed another reminder of what Ash Wednesday means. To be told “you are dust and to dust you shall return”, not with words and ashes, but with malice and a rifle, is a harsh lesson. But let us learn it, live in that truth, and make our lives matter. There are many ways to die, but only one way to live—in Christ.

May His peace keep you,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Loving like Jesus

 

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February 14, 2018

Loving like Jesus

“(Love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing”, 1 Corinthians 13:6

 What a wonderful day to think about and express love. Lent, the season for celebrating and meditating on the greatest act of love ever given, coincides with Valentine’s Day. (Elsewhere I have already written about the connections between the two: Ash Wednesday bulletin and February church newsletter.)  In this space, I want to focus on how love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.

First, why would anyone rejoice in sin?  If it is your own wrongdoing, we should not be happy about violating a command of God, damaging a relationship, or stepping further into a possible addiction in the making. Nothing there to celebrate.

Secondly, we do sometimes take pleasure in the sin of another, because it means we look better to ourselves. Though we are admonished not to gloat over our enemies, we do not mind when they trip themselves up in a public scandal. If they were a business or political competitor, we would consider that an advantage to us.

Yet, the Bible teaches that love does not rejoice in any wrongdoing, because those who love like Jesus loves do not wish any harm in body or reputation on anyone. Had Jesus rejoiced in our wrongdoing, he would have smiled at the prospect of how God would now lower the boom on us. He would not have entered human flesh, suffered the consequences of our sin, and ultimately taken our punishment on the cross.  What a disaster that would have been.

This Lent, we can meditate on our failure to love sincerely and our gloating over the failures of others. As Jesus first loved us, let us love one another, even those who do wrong—for that includes you and me, whom Jesus loves.

May we know and show love that does not rejoice in wrongdoing.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

“You Must Not” or “You Are Free Not To”

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February 7, 2018

“You Must Not” or “You Are Free Not To”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34–36

Chapter eight of John’s Gospel begins with men condemning a woman caught in the act of adultery. “She must not do such a thing,” they yelled. The law declares her deserving of death. After Jesus has them realize that since none of her accusers are without sin, none can condemn her. He then forgives her, setting her free from her sin and setting her on a new path. I doubt that she lived a sin-free life from then on. None of us do. But she lived a life of freedom from sin’s total control. She knew she had choices enabled by grace.

Whether our sin deserves public punishment or is some continuous impulse that robs us of joy and peace, it is by nature enslaving. As a house slave had no authority or power to free himself in the ancient world, so we have no power to break the bondage of our sin. Repeating the prohibition to yourself, “I must not do that again” only makes the struggle more difficult.

While the slave could not free himself, the son of the house could. He would inherit the slave bought by his father and would have authority to free the slave. The Son to whom Jesus refers is himself. By the blood of atonement He shed on the cross, all who will accept His gift of forgiveness He frees from the punishment and penalty of sin. He gives His Spirit not only to confirm that forgiveness, but also to empower and free us to live in that grace.

So next time you are tempted by a sin, instead of saying to yourself with the grimace of self-determination, “I must not”, say “I am free not to”.  Grace is more powerful than law. It turns to God and his love for strength, not to ourselves who have already proven to be weak.

The Son has set you free. You are free indeed.

The grace of God be with you, in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz