Are You Listening?

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April 18, 2018

“Are You Listening?”

4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.                2 Corinthians 1:4

I have a confession to make. If you tell me something today, I may forget it to tomorrow, or at least part of it. On discovering that, you may ask, “Were you even listening?”  My answer would be, “Yes, I was.” (See next paragraph). Don’t confuse bad memory tomorrow with lack of listening today.  Another confession:  I even forget most of what I say. I know that is true, because when someone tells me, “I remember when you said in your sermon yesterday….” I think, “That’s good, because I sure don’t.”  Recently, a church member told me, “I remember what you said a few weeks ago and I have been sharing that with others.”  I had no memory of that either.  The down side is that you will have to remind me what I said, and what you said. The upside is that any confessions are confidential. After absolution, I won’t remember them. Neither does God remember them, though with Him it is entirely due to pure grace, not a mental lapse.

Now, why do I say, “Yes I was listening” even when later I can’t remember what you said?  Because listening is not always about being a human tape recorder, though sometimes, it must be that in order to do a proper follow up or take requested action.  But often the proof of my listening is simply that you were talking freely, confidently, openly, and honestly.  If you did that, then I was listening. If you thought at the time that I was not listening, you would have pulled in, shared little, and thus not received the benefit of unburdening yourself of whatever you were carrying at the time of the conversation. Whenever you received feedback that comforted, clarified, or helped you gain perspective, then the one hearing you really listened at the time you were speaking.

All the above applies to how we converse with each other.  It means we can’t expect people to remember everything we said, for who can, but we can expect and give the gift of listening in the present.  Such a gift duplicates the gift God gives when we pray. Knowing He listens to our prayers, we can go to Him in confidence that, while He may not act on our prayer, He has given us the privilege of being heard. On the cross, He heard and already answered the deep groan of our confession of sin.  On that request, He listened and acted.  He paid sin’s wage—death, and they our sin is forgiven.  Let us listen to one another and give the comfort we have received from Christ.

The often forgetful, but always listening,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

More than Just a Face

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April 11, 2018

More than Just a Face

1O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Psalm 139:1–3 

Currently Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the sharing of personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users. It seems that people are very sensitive about having such details shared without their permission.  It is not completely clear to me what could be done with that information that would make it harmful—embarrassing, perhaps, or exploitative, but not necessarily harmful.

It’s odd that the world panics over the exposure of privacy to those who can’t hurt us while it cares nothing that God, who can condemn us forever, knows far more about us than anyone could ever learn on Facebook. No privacy settings can keep him from knowing our every thought, action, word, or even our attitude. Now that should scare us, for He knows our every secret and silent sin. And as the Psalmist asked, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?

“But with you there is forgiveness” that Psalm continues. (130:3-4) Jeremiah says that even though He knows everything He “will remember our sins no more”. Furthermore, He does not deal with us as our sins deserve, but chooses to cover them with his grace.  While God knows much more than our face, in Christ he has turned His Face upon us and given His grace, forgiveness and peace. (Num. 6:25)  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 139:6)

Wonderful indeed!

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Well Done

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April 4, 2018

Well Done

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant…”   Matthew 25:23

 

 

This meditation started with a strange dream I had last week. It was time for my final service before retirement. However, instead of standing at the pulpit, I was sitting in a pew. The guest preacher was my father.  I had no idea what he was going to say. Of course, it is only a dream, as he left this world over eleven years ago.  When I awoke, the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 came to mind. I hoped that my father would have spoken to me these very words. More importantly, I hope that I will hear my Heavenly Father say to me, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  And I pray that He will say these same words to each of you when it is time to retire from your earthly vocation of being His servant in this world.

The context of these words is the parable of the talents. To each of three servants, a master had given different amount of talents, a unit of money.  After leaving them for some time, he returned to see what they had done with them. The first two servants invested the talents and produced even more. The third, with the least given to him, hid it and merely preserved what was given.  Translated into the intention of the parable, his life had no impact on those around him, blessed no one, and gave no honor to the master.

What will your heavenly Father say about your stewardship of the valuables He has given you to manage? For me, the office of the ministry has been that responsibility. He will hold me accountable for exercising it in such a way that His people heard His Word faithfully proclaimed and that His name was glorified. Only by His grace and with His guidance will I have been able to do so, and thus to hear the words, “Well done”. Because Jesus did well my salvation on the cross, I can have confidence that my work will be acceptable. His grace has covered many sins of commission and omission, and made the work a joyful task.

Whatever responsibility God has given you in your life, whatever your vocation, professional or volunteer, He will look for faithfulness in carrying it out.  If you have retired from one job, His call on your life remains as you invest your talents in new ways of service. God’s grace in Christ will cover and guide you so that you will hear His grace in the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Peace be with you,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

“That was the Week That Was”…and Still Is!

 

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March 28, 2018

“That Was the Week That Was”…and Still Is!

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,  Psalm 103:17

In the early 1960’s a British weekly telecast, followed later by an American version, satirized the news events of the past week from around the world. Through comedy sketches and songs, they made light of serious news stories.  It was called, “That Was The Week That Was”, more simply written as TWTWTW.

I wonder what the writers of that show would have done with the days we call “Holy Week”. How would they have looked at the eight days during which Christ entered Jerusalem with praises and palms, fulfilled the Passover in the Lord’s Supper, bore on the cross the guilt of the world’s sins, and then triumphantly rose from the dead to demonstrate His power over sin, death and the devil?

Actually, it isn’t too difficult to imagine, for they were a reflection of the secular culture of that day. And what does the unbelieving world do with Holy Week now?  Some mock it, others ignore it, but I suspect most just don’t understand it. They understand neither their sin nor the gift of salvation from sin. It just doesn’t make any sense to them. Perhaps many see it as merely a tragic historical week in which a good Jewish rabbi was unfairly tried and executed, after which his followers invented stories of his resurrection to comfort themselves. For them it was simply “the week that was”.

We Christians are blessed to know and celebrate it as “the week that Still Is”.  The ongoing benefit of Christ’s Supper, Sacrifice, and Resurrection bless us today with the assurance that our Lord loves us enough to have given us grace, life, and salvation in Christ, and still does today.

So what will you do with this week?  I don’t expect that anyone who is reading this will mock it in unbelief.  No, the greater temptation will be to treat it more as old news than Good News and, taking it for granted, ignore it.  To have special observances of the week that was the most important in all history is not something commanded in Scripture.  However, to celebrate it is an opportunity to remember that Holy Week is not just a week that was, but a week that IS, now and forever.

Grace and Peace to you in Christ,

Pastor Tom

P.S.  We are remembering the week that was and IS this Thursday and Friday at 7PM 

and Sunday at 8 & 10:45 AM

 

United Against the Enemy

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March 21, 2018

“United Against the Enemy”

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18b

Waking up to the news that the serial bomber in Austin had destroyed himself with his own bomb was both sad and thrilling. It was sad that another soul had entered eternity without knowing the grace of God in Christ who could have saved him.  It is thrilling that the fear that pervaded in Austin can finally subside, once law enforcement can rule out the possibility of accomplices and left over bombs.

More than the obvious story, it was the example again of careful and faithful coordination by many levels of law enforcement professionals that grabbed my attention.  On the Federal, State, and Local level they worked together to expose, track and trap the bomber.  They united against the enemy and prevailed.

Jesus said that on the profession of Peter, that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, He would build His church and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What is the Church, except the people whom the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, and equipped for the ministry of the Gospel.  This mission of the Church will prevail against the forces of hell.

But like law enforcement, the mission of the Gospel takes coordination of committed men and women of the Church.  At all levels–Synod, District, and Congregation–the Gospel is proclaimed so sinners may believe it and be saved. Locally, the mission is coordinated among all the members working together, using talents and resources that our Lord has given for such a purpose.  Some of us are faithful prayer warriors—pray with all your might. To some are given the ability of administration—exercise that with all wisdom and prudence.  Others are entrusted with worldly wealth—share that joyfully for the Lord’s work.  Some have more time than money—give that time gladly.  Still others have specific talents in teaching, technology, writing, worship, spiritual care and counsel, and other means that promote timely, effective, and faithful communication of the Gospel—employ them according to your gift.

The point is that as law enforcement worked together to prevail against a bomber, even more so can a committed team of Christians, gathered into a Christ-centered congregation, prevail against hell itself.  When the Church works utilizing all the gifts God has given it, God can do incredible things.  As Faith members begin to transition toward new pastoral leadership, may they remember and praise God for the truth that they are the Church, and even the gates of hell shall not defeat them.

Grace and Peace to Faith

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

 

You and Me, or We?

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March 14, 2018

“You and Me, or We?”

 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4–6

Recently, I answered a survey designed to determine one’s lifetime exposure to other socio-economic classes. It asked questions that made me wonder about its purpose.  Was the point simply to sharpen my awareness of social differences or perhaps to guilt me into some kind of behavior? Whether it was intentional or not, the questions appeared to make value judgments, as if one should feel ashamed if they experienced an upper middle class childhood. It was hard to know what the real point was, especially since people are not ultimately members of a class. Rather, we are individuals with unique personal needs and attributes who at the same time also share common needs with people of every class. It is hard to unite when there is so much emphasis on differences that in the end, do not really matter.

Jesus, Son of God, creator with the Father of all who live, does not see the differences. He see what is common to all, our sin, and He came into this world to save us from it, not to classify us by superficial categories.  A church member and I last Sunday ministered to a young man and woman whose background, social class, and present appearance had very little in common with our own, on the surface. But inside, all of us shared the same need for mercy, kindness, grace, and encouragement. Those needs unite us, and Christ meets all those needs through the cross. He unites what we divide. He helps us to see, not “you and me”, but “we”.

Peace and grace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Disciplines of Discipleship

1 Timothy 4;7-8March 7, 2018

Disciplines of Discipleship

  “… train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7–8 

 Not knowing yet who will win the elections today (March 6), I would not be surprised that the victory will go to the ones with the most frequent ads and phone calls. Persistent, continuous messaging works because we learn from repetition. Likewise, our bodies respond positively to continuous exercise and healthy food consumption over time. Our minds also improve with intellectual stimulation from reading and various mental exercises. However, if we are intermittent, starting and stopping frequently, inconsistent, and uncommitted to a routine, we find much less success in those areas. Scholars, teachers, athletes and trainers knows this.

Pastors know this too. In Faith School chapel, it’s easy to spot a child that comes from a family that has been consistent in teaching God’s Word. It is not only by what the child knows, but also by how he or she behaves. They are well-trained in godliness.  There is also a positive relationship between adults’ maturity of faith and their consistency in study of God’s Word, prayer and worship. Aside from the spiritual growth that comes with consistent presence in God’s House, they also have stronger social bonds with other believers. Inconsistency is not a friend of social and spiritual growth any more than it is of physical or mental health.

The young Jew Daniel was an example of this, when he was in the den of lions. The next morning, the sympathetic king called out to him, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”  Ironically, while Daniel was in the lions’ den because of his continual and regular prayers, it was for the same reason that he could trust God to deliver him. Likewise, as Christ hung on the cross because of the charge that He claimed to be the Son of God, He was able, as the Son of God, to entrust His life to the God whose Son He is. Throughout His earthly life, he had been regular in worship and prayer.

If we would be His disciples, Jesus said that we should pick up our cross and follow Him. We cannot do that without consistently practicing the disciplines that come with discipleship: All of them are included each Sunday morning at your church. That’s an exercise that benefits not only for this life, but “also for the life to come”.

 

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn

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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