Free Love

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September 13, 2017

Free Love

“Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” Galatians 5:13

The sinful world would give an entirely different meaning to the title of this meditation than what Paul would give. To some people, “free love” means to have carnal lust for anyone you want. It’s been that way since the sexual revolution took off in the 1960’s and is accelerating toward a painful crash into natural consequences and Divine judgment.

What free love means to Paul is summed up famously by Martin Luther in his essay, “On the Freedom of the Christian”. He wrote,

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”

Paul taught that loving one another is fulfilling the law, and there is none better able to love than those who are fully loved by Christ and motivated by that love to love others. Such love has set us free from the fear of death, and want, and guilt. It sets us free to do as we please. But what is Christ’s love in us pleased to do?  Love our neighbor. So we keep the law by doing what we want, because what we want to do is to serve in love. It’s not a matter of having to do something, but rather doing it because we want to do it.  Love freely received, freely gives. That is it’s nature.

So when given the opportunity to serve your neighbor, do not sigh and grumble that you “have to do it”. Instead, take a moment to reflect on that willing love that served you salvation with nails in its hands and feet 2000 year ago. He who so freely served us at such a great cost is the One who sent His disciples with power to do great works of service in His name. As Jesus sent them He said, “Freely you received; freely give”. Matthew 10:8

With these words He sends us.  Free love, free to love.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Why Me, Lord

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September 6, 2017

“Why me, Lord”
My grace is sufficient for you. 2 Cor. 12:9

“Why do bad things keep happening to me?” When I was asked this question recently, I replied that it was one of life’s mysteries that misfortune follows some people more than others. We could probably look at a person’s life and trace a series of decisions that brought “bad luck”. Or, as I have discovered too often, what others have done to some people in childhood has set them up for choosing the wrong people in their lives. This, too, brings much sorrow and hardship. In general, sin has ruined our world, and whether in fires, hurricanes, or personal misfortune, we will have trouble in the world because of sin.
We could say some people are getting what they deserved. Yet for others, we just shake our head and ask, “Why her, Lord? What did he do to deserve that? Ultimately, it remains a mystery. Through the prophet Isaiah God says “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:8-9) We may never know the answer to our hardest questions.
What I do know is that we can’t determine God’s grace or our unworthiness by what suffering we have to endure. In spite of some of the televangelists, life is not guaranteed to work out pleasantly even if we have enough faith. In reality, it’s a greater sign of faith it we still have it when life is decidedly unpleasant.
So that we neither become conceited because life is good, nor despair because it isn’t, we learn to take the good and bad both as God’s will for us. It strengthens our faith when we have little, and fills our heart with gratitude when we have more than we deserve. Whatever life gives us, God has his reason for letting it, whether good or bad, much or little.
The important point is that we always have Him. He promises in His word, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” His grace is enough for every need. Forsaken on the cross, Jesus died so that our sins will never cause God to forsake us. In rising from the dead, He showed that death will never separate us from the love of God. If it feels unfair for us to suffer for being good, it’s even more unfair that we sinners receive anything good from God at all. That’s His grace at work, and it is enough, always.
May God’s presence keep you in His peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Never Weary

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August 30, 2017

 Never Weary

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:9–10

Ever so often, and too often, we face the kind of widespread tragedy that we witness now from a distance on the Texas coast. The trouble is varied, from blown-down houses, lack of infrastructure, floods, rain, lack of necessities to the intangible but very real problems of weariness, worry, sadness, loss, and despair.  The sustained length in time of all the above is unusual and especially tiring this time.

At first, the survival mode keeps everyone moving because they have no choice. Yet, that can only be sustained for so long. The sheer weariness of body, mind, and spirit, starts to sap the strength. People eventually require a time-out and rest.  The rescued find that in shelters where they can. The rescuers do not. They keep going. But they too must rest at some point.

That’s why it takes all hands to hold, to lift, and to strengthen the worried and wearied. God always seems to grant supernatural strength and endurance to hurricane heroes who never seem to grow tired of doing good, even when they are exhausted. We praise God for them, and we pray to God for them. So then, lift up also the rescuers in prayer, as you pray for your family and friends who are among the millions of others also in need of God’s sustained grace.

For those whose lives have been devastated by the floods and winds of Harvey, let us not be weary in doing good either.  The first responders are doing a remarkable work of God. We can be second and third, and perpetual responders for the long term needs that will still be there years from now.

To never weary in doing good is but to follow the example of our Lord’s work in rescuing us from the unthinkable disaster of eternal death.  Jesus did not grow tired as he ministered the love of God in His life and in His death. We love because he first loved us, and as He loved us.

For strength we pray that we may strengthen others.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

P. S. That we may render aide “especially to those who are of the household of faith” consider donating at http://txlcms.org/how-can-i-help-hurricane-harvey/ .

Other aide can also be given at helpsalvationarmy.org. or redcross.org. or any number of other ways.

A Forgotten Cause of Conflict

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August 23, 2017

A Forgotten Cause of Conflict

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

The song “Satisfied Mind” includes this verse: “The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind.”  Envy, on the other hand, brings a poverty of the spirit. Often disguised as ambition and a motive for hard work, envy is a disease of the soul that “makes the bones rot.”  It disrupts our tranquility and tempts us to compromise our values and violate our conscience.

Scripture shows that it is a cause of conflict. It was out of envy that the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate.  Envy of the wicked who seem to go unpunished tempts us to join them.  The desire to acquire money by any means has led many to abandon their morality, betray their neighbor and neglect their families. It gives birth to worry and faithlessness when we compare our finances, health, beauty, strength, assets, popularity, etc. to those of others.  Envy creates a false standard for success based on comparison rather than on contentment with God’s gifts.

On a societal level, it causes much strife, unrest, and violence.  It can work into the human heart so much anger and bitterness that people lose their minds and behave in unreasonable ways.  One author even pointed out that for him it was a major factor in the confusion about his gender identity and behavior.   It is the opposite of love and faith.

Have you lost peace, sleep, contentment, and faith because of envy? The cure is the peace of God that the world cannot give, which is beyond our understanding. Paul invites us to bring all our needs in prayer to God through Christ Jesus, with thanksgiving, so that we may know that peace. (Phil.4) Faith that operates in such a prayer brings contentment. It trusts God that we do not need to fret when the wicked prosper, or feel that God has abandoned us because we don’t have it as good as others. Contentment, a “satisfied mind”, is the greatest wealth we can have.

Jesus empowers us to be satisfied because He has filled our greatest need: acceptance by God. His death and resurrection brought peace between the human race and the divine Judge. He answered the underlying fear of death and abandonment that creates such strife in our soul and pushes us to want and fight for more.  There is no peace possible until that peace comes from God through Jesus Christ.  When we can say with the hymn writer, “It is well with my soul” envy will vanish.

May it be well with your soul and may you have the gift of a satisfied mind.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

 

You Are Special!

Psalm 139

August 16, 2017

You Are Special!

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

This week’s title can be interpreted in unhealthy ways.  First, I could think, “If I am special, I am beyond criticism or correction. I am to be catered to.”  That is the response of immature people of any age.   Secondly, one’s inflated ego might boast, “I can do and be anything I want.”  That vain view lacks the wisdom of knowing that we are born with some gifts to do certain things well, but not all gifts.   We are not so special that we can live independent of others or of God’s constant care and guidance.

On the positive side, that we are special is a much-needed antidote to the prevailing social disease of groupthink and identity politics.  Society likes to invent categories of people by age, race, gender, and political party. By doing so it reduces us to a set of expectations about how we are to act or vote.  Marketing experts and politicos use groupthink to steer us to their way of thinking or product, but it tempts us not to see ourselves as individuals with our own set of opinions and values.  We project upon one another stereotypes that hide the uniqueness of the individual.  Consequently, we don’t really know people, and that makes it hard to love them as they need to be loved.  This is true not only in broad circles of society but also in the intimacy of marriage.

This is especially dangerous to our salvation when we fail to see how special God Himself is.  It is the height of hubris for us mortals to subject the Immortal to categories limited by our own small minds. The result is that we make Him to be what our experience or desire interpret Him to be: loving, but not challenging; or judgmental, but not merciful; or any shades in between.  Our source of revelation concerning God’s character is God Himself.  Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah he declares, “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?” (23:23)  In Christ’s death and resurrection, God the Father reveals Himself as Holy, taking sin seriously enough to  punish it with death. Yet He is also Merciful, loving us so much that He took that punishment upon Himself.

Yes, made in the image of God, you are special. Christ died for you. In Christ, we see that uniqueness not as a reason for pride, but as a reason for gratitude and personal commitment to employ the special grace and gifts of God to the service of others.

Go in God’s peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

God Incomprehensible

VBS

July 26, 2017

God Incomprehensible

“… no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

Even with all the faculties that God has given us we still cannot comprehend what He has done, who He is, or what He has in store for us. Nor can we even imagine it.

Yet, to enable children to grasp somehow that knowledge on some level, the dedicated and talented volunteers of Vacation Bible School are making their best effort. Their students use all their senses: ears that hear music and words of praise and prayer, eyes and hands that see and create art and music, voices that praise, pray and shout, “The victory is won”, minds that learn the Word from its stories of faith, hearts that embrace the wisdom of that same Word, and the whole body that runs, jumps, and throws as they express without words what the Word means. Fed with food for the stomach and the soul, the children can perhaps begin to comprehend how much God loves them and believe what He has in store for them.

By the time you read this, Vacation Bible School may be done. It has been a lively week of learning, rejoicing, and growing friendships. Who knows what fruit the Spirit will produce and grow in the receptive souls of children, helpers, and teachers as they have all sought to imagine God’s love for them. “God’s Word does not return to Him void,” is Isaiah’s promise to us.

People of Faith, give thanks to God that a mighty and incomprehensible thing happened at your Church this week. Faith was shared, love was shown, God was glorified and the Good News was proclaimed. We do not yet know what faith was cultivated. We do know that God equipped His people to labor in His vineyard this week. Their work was well done. God will get the glory as we get the grace.  That is enough, for even that is incomprehensible.

Thank you VBS.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Timely Advice

 

Timely Advice

June 28, 2017

Excerpts from Proverbs 18.

My daily devotion brought me to Proverbs 18.

I present these selected verses that seem to be particularly relevant today:

1Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

        (Addictions love secrecy. Have fellowship with others and God, for in doing so, the needs that addictions cannot satisfy are met in friendship with God and others.)  

 2A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

        (We look foolish if we cut off understanding of other people as we form our opinions.)

5It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.

            (In the end the wicked will not reward you for your partiality, while those who remember the righteous God Himself will remember.)

9Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.

        (This is straight talk for those of us who are tempted to underperform in our vocations. Slothfulness is not morally neutral.)

10The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

        (His name is Jesus, and He is indeed grace for the sinner, and hope for the weary. “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”)

 12Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

        (This is so much on display today in our political world, but truth be told, this verse is a warning for us all.)

 15An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

        (Before you expound on a subject, do your research on the matter. You could be wrong. If you don’t know something, see verse 12.)

 17The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

        (How relevant today, whether you sit on a jury, consume news media output, or form an opinion about anything.)

 22He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

            (On a personal note, the Lord favored me with a “good thing” 41 years ago yesterday. May all spouses work to be “a good thing” for their mates!)

 24A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

        (“What a Friend we have in Jesus, all and sins and griefs to bear.” He will never leave you and is ever present to hear your prayers. Would he who gave His very own body on the cross for you, not also give all that is needed today?)

  Timely advice, no matter what time it is.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Nearness of God

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June 21, 2017

The Nearness of God

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Perhaps you have you have read this before, a story that was recently sent to me.

Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youths’ rite of Passage?  His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.  He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone.  Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.  It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

After sharing this legend, a pastor who is part Cherokee, added: “Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. But, it has a very good lesson for all of us. Even though the Cherokee youth couldn’t see his father sitting next to him, his father was indeed there, ready to fight for his son. We, too, have our heavenly Father with us all the time. The truth is that we are never alone!”

Well said. Your pastor adds this: Whether or not the legend is true, the Word of God always speaks truth. Jesus, who is God and Lord, promised, “I am with you always.”  In every doubt, every problem, every illness, every fear.  Always.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Two Allegiances

June 14, 2017

 Two Allegiances

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

two flags

 

Today is Flag Day in the United States, which honors the June 14, 1777 resolution of the Second Continental Congress to call for an official United States Flag. It called for thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and thirteen stars against a blue background, representing a “new constellation.”  It honors the federation of independent yet united states with colors that stand for valor, loyalty, and purity.  Flying that banner shows that we still honor those values, and pray that our nation continues to practice them.

That we are to “honor everyone, love the brotherhood, and fear God” is implied in the pledge to that flag: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As we consider our allegiance to a flag and its country, we remember from last week’s message that we have two allegiances.  While as Christians we always honor God above all else, we also respect that His rule also takes the form of our nation’s civil authority.  When we “honor the emperor”, we respect the authority of God himself. This lessens my often-felt angst about displaying the American flag in church. We do so with the understanding that our nation is a gift of God under His rule.

About 120 years after the United States flag was mandated, Charles C. Overton, Sunday School superintendent from New York, proposed that Christians should also have a flag. About ten years later, in 1907, he teamed up with Ralph Diffendorfer to create one.

It uses the same colors with the same meanings as the U.S. flag. Instead of white stars of the states, there is the red cross of Christ. The red represents His valor, shown in the blood He shed to make us pure. This demonstrated the loyalty of God the Father to keep His promise of a Savior. The national flag reminds us of what our forefathers did and what we are to continue to do.  The Christian flag points to what God has done for us in Christ. That too, is expressed in a pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe.”

With that, we can honor two allegiances, our State, and our Savior. One is for this life only; the other is for this and eternal life. Both are gifts of God. So let us display our allegiances not just with flags, but also with daily displays of valor, loyalty, and purity, in honor of Him who displayed them for us.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

What Do You Expect?

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May 31, 2017

What Do You Expect?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Expectations are fickle and malleable phenomena. For example, when your favorite ball team is on a winning streak, you watch the game with a different set of expectations than if they were on a losing streak.  During the Texas Rangers recent ten game winning streak, the expectation was that they would just keep winning. During a game in which they trailed, fans didn’t wonder whether they would win, but only when and who would get the winning hit. Likewise, in a losing streak, no lead is safe enough. Fans would expect the bullpen to give up runs that they didn’t allow when they were in the winning streak. Expectations can make someone overly optimistic or overly pessimistic.

That’s why faith is so important. It doesn’t base expectations on recent history or current circumstance.  Instead, faith remembers God’s past actions and rests its expectations on His words and promises.  By faith, in obedience to God, Abraham would offer his only son Isaac on an altar. He expected that God would keep his promise to make him a father of a great nation and raise him from the dead. And why not? Had he not seen God’s faithful promise already fulfilled in Isaac’s birth to his 90 year old wife Sarah?

By faith, we can dare to expect God’s forgiveness for our many sins.  Our expectation is not based on our current behavior or circumstances, for in truth, we daily fall short of God’s will. Rather, we base our expectation on the promises fulfilled by Christ on the cross and risen again for the forgiveness of our sins.

What do you expect from God?  Sin puts us all on a losing streak of sin.  You might expect punishment appropriate for your sin.  However, if by sincere repentance you hold to the promises fulfilled in Christ, then you can expect eternal life. Let faith, not history, or your personal losing streak, shape your expectations.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz