My Happy Sorrow

 

Untitled drawing (22)

June 13, 2018

My Happy Sorrow

“See how he loved him” John 11:36

I have often thought to myself at funerals how blessed were the departed loved ones that people should shed such tears over their departure. That he or she lived and loved in such a way that great sorrow would be shown is a sign of how much happiness that person brought into the lives of those who mourn. (We don’t grieve the loss of unhappiness.) This observation was made by those present at the death of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. In the shortest verse of the Bible we learn that “Jesus wept.” (v.35) How much he must have loved his friend to show such sorrow at his death.

While leaving Faith and Texas brings me sorrow, it is a happy sorrow. I grieve because there were such joys in ministry and the many relationships attached to it that will not continue in their present and personal form. Though we might disagree with the first part of this statement by WW II General George Patton, he offers a positive conclusion: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I don’t think it’s wrong or foolish to grieve the ending of my ministry with you, but I certainly rejoice and thank God that we shared such a ministry at all. Another voice from the past, the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote about the departure of his good friend, ‘”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Thus, our loss in leaving is a happy sorrow.

Though I will speak of some of those happy sorrows on my last day with you, I can’t close my final midweek meditation without mentioning the greatest joy of all: that we were partners in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each other and with those outside the Church. It gives us, and always will give us, the greatest joy that Christ endured the momentary sorrow of the cross so that we may experience the eternal happiness of heaven with Him—and with one another! And it gives me great joy in my departure that you will continue faithfully in your ministry with your new shepherd. I share with you these words from the apostle Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6). Amen.

Much love and grace to you all,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

No Surprise There!

Luke-17-10-Cover-Photo

June 6, 2018

No Surprise There!

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10

 A widely watched video on the internet shows 8-year-old Maurice Adams assisting an elderly woman with a walker ascend some stairs. In other news, Mary Harrison shoots her husband dead for beating the family cat. (Why he was beating the cat and why that would evoke murder is a mystery.) Those are the headlines. Is there more to the story?  No doubt.

This we can answer without more information: In which family is it apparent that the love of God is at work? Some of the stories give a clue. On the murder, one noted that Mary “had had enough”, indicating a pattern of abusive behavior.  About Maurice, his mother said, “He’s really kindhearted. Countless times, he’ll help people put their groceries in their car at Walmart.”

Whether or not the Harrisons were “members” of a church, the fruit of whatever faith may have been there had certainly wilted. No surprise there, that when love has left, all manner of sin fills the void. When we no longer seek to serve others, we serve ourselves and that never ends well.  Sin curves in on self, neglecting the fruit of the spirit such as kindness. No surprise.

Nor should we be surprised when the love of God in the heart of a young boy, or yours, produces consistent acts of kindness. Again, I don’t know if Maurice was a “member” of a church, but he knows the love of God, because his life displays it.

Jesus, who knew more perfectly God’s love, because He is God, showed it for us all on the cross. Not only does His love produce acts of love in us, but it also offers forgiveness of all sins, including abusing cats and killing husbands. Even Mary is not outside the bounds of God’s love. She need only ask.

Maurice was only doing what Christ commanded, “That you love one another” (John 13:34). Yet while he was only doing his duty, the man who took the video gave him a $100 reward. Our Lord, whom we serve because He first served us, will award our faith with an eternal gift. Knowing that in Christ God gives us unmerited kindness, “no surprise there.”

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

What Matters

luke 925

May 30, 2018

“What Matters”

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:25

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

The Scriptures tell us in these two passages what really matters: Our soul and the heavenly destination for which God created us. One of my favorite quotes is “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to obtain what he cannot lose.”  I sometimes think about this when I see posts on social media that attach so much meaning to events that bring joy and entail significant accomplishments.  In themselves, they are not sinful or insignificant, but do we sometimes let our earthly and temporary joys overshadow our concern with what is heavenly and eternal?  Are we, to paraphrase Jesus, “storing up treasures on earth that will end, or treasures in heaven that will not?”   It matters for eternity that we do not let the joy in our children’s accomplishments in the arts, athletics, or academia cause us to forget that the main job God has given us is to see that they know their Savior and the path to salvation.

Eternity matters not only when we are celebrating temporary circumstances, but also when we are mourning them.  When we grieve the loss of dreams and hopes, relationships and health, and the general inconveniences and hardships of life, we can remember that no suffering can compare to the glory that awaits us in heaven.  “This too shall pass” is an affirmation that has helped many thrive through the troubled times. It sets before our spiritual eyes us the victory won for all who believe in Christ. The cross tells us that suffering is not punishment for the penitent. Christ took that punishment for sin upon himself, once and for all.  Suffering does serve, however, to remind us not to get too attached to a world that will not last.  Greater things are ahead, forever.

So when we are putting into perspective the joys and achievements of this life, as well as the hardships we encounter along with them, what matters?  Eternity matters. And always will.

Keep your eyes on the prize of Christ,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

But I Don’t Feel Like Doing It

Untitled drawing (56)

May 23, 2018

“But I Don’t Feel Like Doing It”

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  1 Corinthians 9:25

By the time we reach maturity, at whatever chronological age that is, that sentence “But I don’t feel like doing it” should have become irrelevant for us. Sure, we may vent at times with such a complaint, but it should not determine our actions.

Obviously, we should not ever feel like doing anything that violates the rules of civility and morality. When we do feel like doing them we pray for grace not to. However, there are many things we ought to do, whether or not we feel like it. Three mornings a week at 5:00, neither my body nor brain feels like going to the gym to work out. But, when I do, I always feel glad later that I did. What is it you don’t feel like doing?

Taking time to pray, meditating on the Bible, or visiting someone in need are things we can easily put off doing because we “don’t feel like it.” Worship at the appointed time with fellow believers is another big one. The unholy trinity of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, have a million and one other things to suggest that we do instead.  Yet, we know that not only are we blessed by doing the good we don’t feel like doing, so also is our neighbor blessed.

How do we learn to put aside the “don’t feel like it” excuse?  First, we remember who and whose we are in Christ. Neither we, nor our time belongs to us. God has redeemed us with the blood of Christ to be His people and He desires our fellowship. Through time with Him, we gain strength, guidance, and perspective.  Secondly, recognize that as a community of faith we owe each other the never-paid-off debt of love. Thus, we take time to pray for each other, study the Scriptures and encourage one another in fellowship. Christianity is not about us satisfying our needs, but about us serving others. Thirdly, see such spiritual disciplines as God’s way of equipping us to be His witnesses.  We can only effectively share what we intimately know, and that comes from regular attention to the things of God

Practically speaking, the best way to avoid the “don’t feel like it” alibi is simply to make our disciplines a habit, which will relieve us of the stress of having to make a decision.  Nike, the name that means victory, uses the slogan, “just do it” for a reason.  So in those things that serve God, your neighbor, and your own soul, just do it, whether you feel like it or not.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Guard Your Heart

Untitled drawing (55)

May 16, 2018

“Guard Your Heart”

One morning I decided to attack the tall vegetation in the back alley with a double blade weed cutter.  After the back neighbor’s dogs quit barking, it was going very well, until a small particle flew up and hit me in the eye. It turned out to be no problem, but it prompted me to retrieve safety goggles from the garage before whacking any more weeds. Again, all was going well until another particle landed in my mouth.  That too was inconsequential, but rather than spend time getting something to cover my mouth, I just decided to keep my mouth shut.

Even the simplest of tasks can remind us of ones that are more important: like guarding our eyes, not from what can harm them, but from what can corrupt the soul. Job spoke of making a covenant with his eyes, (31:1) so that they would not lead him into temptation and sin. John warned against “desires of the eyes” that are not of God but of the world. (1 Jo. 2:16)  Protecting our eyes guards our souls from accepting as good what is harmful.

Along with the eyes, we are to protect our mouth, not from what goes in it, but from what comes out. Jesus said that what comes out of us reveals the content of our heart, which harbors all matter of sinful desires. (Matt 15:18-19)  If such content is motiving our words, the best guard is to keep the mouth shut. Not everything needs saying, especially if it does not edify.  Christ sanctified our neighbor with His blood shed on the cross. We need not destroy His work with careless and harmful talk. His blood also sanctified us, so that we can open our mouth to speak words that glorify Him and build up our neighbor.

When I finished the alley, a blister reminded me that next time I should also protect my hand.  Yes, Christ sanctified that too.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Slow Down

Untitled drawing (54)

May 9, 2018

Slow Down


 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

“Slow down, you move too fast.  You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones; Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy(‘60’s term for cool.)                                       Simon and Garfunkel “59th Street Bridge Song” 1966

A close friend and fellow child of the ‘60’s started singing this song after telling me about the perils of being in a hurry.  I joined in and started reflecting on this song a bit more. Then later I saw a post from another friend on the topic of slowing down. So maybe Someone is telling me to address this with you.

Why slow down? As I was remembering that I had decided lately to make more intentional efforts not to rush about, I came up with three reasons to slow down.

First are the mental mistakes that come with not thinking through things before you do them. That should be obvious to anyone. But for an older person, or one whose mind is overwhelmed with multi-tasking, it is especially imperative to counter any age related decline in mental clarity and the busy-ness of life with a slower pace of thought and action.

Secondly, relationships take a back seat to our rushing about.  It’s been a real joy when I have taken time to visit with someone in a situation where in the past I would have hurried on. Relationships built on deep conversations and casual small talk bring emotional rewards we can’t know until we slow down. People are just plain fascinating and entertaining when you get to know them.

Thirdly, slowing down allows time for the most intimate of all times: moments with God in prayer and meditation.  Disciples whom Jesus had sent on mini-mission trips had returned to tell him about their experiences.  No doubt, there was stress related to this, since Jesus calls them away for solitude and rest. In fact, He Himself modeled that often by going into seclusion for prayer.

Slowing down to talk to God helps us remember our dependency upon His grace and guidance. Jesus, who died and rose from the dead to lift our burdens of sin and shame, invites us to come to Him for rest. Slowing down to rest is good.  Slowing down to rest in Jesus is far, far better.

Slow down.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Confusion and Confession

Untitled drawing (53)

May 2, 2018

Confusion and Confession

“But when he came to himself, he said, … “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” Luke 15:17-18 

It is not hard to notice that there is a whole lot of sinning going on in our world. If you have lived long enough, you know there has always been a whole lot of sinning going on. What seems to be truer than it was before, at least by my observation, is that there is more confusion nowadays about what is sinful and what isn’t.

That is especially true in the areas of sexual morality and moral integrity. For many today, gone are the stigmas of extra-marital sexual behavior between both opposite and same sex couples. It also seems that one’s word is not as dependable as it used to be. Vows and promises are too easily broken and truth seems to be an option of convenience, not a moral imperative.

Society seems to be confused. On one hand, our conscience, common sense and Christ tell us right from wrong. On the other hand, louder voices intimidate us into thinking we may be too judgmental or out of step with society if we call sin what it clearly is.

The Prodigal Son of Luke 15 discovered that the antidote for confusion about sin is confession. He “came to himself” when he realized he must confess to his father the truth that his actions were sinful. The confusion and chaos of his life cleared up from that moment on.

Are you confused or ambivalent about some behavior in your life? The human heart is deceptive and capable of telling any lie to keep us captive to sin. Since Jesus says that the truth sets us free, the first step in clearing up your confusion is to tell the truth to yourself and to God about your sin. The truth is that God hates it so much He offered up the life of His Son to pay its penalty. So agree with God that it is serious. Do not wallow in confusion and compromise.

Then from true and humble confession will arise a renewed mind, a purer heart, and forgiveness that will allow you to live in more freedom and joy than ever before. Without confession, there is only confusion. But with confession there is much grace—in Christ.

In Christ,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Are you an Extra?

Isaiah 4 1

April 24, 2018

“Are You an Extra?”

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1
“We are all just extras”.  With those words, my sister in ministry Emily summed up the insensitivity to death that has come into our society through media and games that portray it as surreal and insignificant. The “extras” she mentioned are like the poor security guard who has no role in a movie but to get shot and killed at a crime scene, but then forgotten as the action moves on. In the movie, the actor is an unnamed “extra”. Yet, in real life, the guard has a family, parents, or children or both, a spouse, and other loved ones whose lives the violence has just turned upside down.

In a world turned in on itself, through cell phones and other screens, gaming, and other escapes, we too may feel like an extra. Who has time to remember us in our sorrow, hear our heart’s cry, lift our burdens with kindness, and just be present? (The very thing Stephen Ministers do so well.) Too often, more “important” actors and plots take the focus away from us.

God makes it clear that we are not extras. Though our names are not on the marquees of this world’s list of priorities, God has given us a name. It is His Name. We are His, and when we suffer, though life goes on in the world, He cares for us. In later verses, Isaiah writes that we are “precious in His eyes.” In context, these promises were for Israel, a people to whom God repeats the promise He will ultimately keep in Christ. We Gentiles are heirs of that promise through faith in Christ. In him God says also to us, “fear not … I have called you by name.”

Do you know individuals who might feel like an “extra”?

Call them by name and love them in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Are You Listening?

Untitled drawing (3)

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

Untitled drawing (6)

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