Repeal and Replace

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July 19, 2017

“Repeal and Replace”

1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…                                       3to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful                                        headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,                 the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; Isaiah 61:1a, 3a

In the context of today’s headlines, “repeal and replace” may evoke a number of responses: “replace with what?” or “I’ll believe it when I see it.” For some it suggests a broken promise, for others, a threat. We have heard these words often enough to wonder if they are just that—words. Though our Lord did not express His plan for us in these exact words, He did promise to repeal and replace. The question is, “repeal what and replace with what?”

Isaiah’s prophecy cited here is one of many Messianic promises that would begin their fulfillment with the first coming of Christ.  In fact, after Jesus read these words in the Nazareth synagogue, He proclaimed that Isaiah had written them about Him. These words promised that Jesus would repeal the ashes of mourning over sin and faint spirit and replace them with a beautiful crown, joy, and praise.

Our Lord is not someone who makes promises, or threats, which He does not intend to keep, or which He is unable to keep. He does not need our vote or even our consent to keep them.  Nor does He wait for us to be worthy of His blessing.  What a relief that is.  We who mourn our sins may have confidence before God, because He has forgiven them fully and freely. He who promised is faithful and He does what He promises.  Therefore, let us not doubt, but respond with joy and praise, for even now we wear a crown of victory and will forevermore.  Jesus has repealed our sin and guilt and replaced it with grace and salvation.  Amazing: a promised kept.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Grip, Stance, Sight

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July 12, 2017

“Grip, Stance, Sight”

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:11, 15

Yesterday I had my first lesson and practice on how to shoot a pistol, while deepening a friendship and creating new ones.  Besides reviewing the vital and valuable safety measures, I learned the essential elements of successfully hitting the target: How to grip the gun, stand, and align the sight of the gun with the target. With these properly accomplished, we can hit the target when we pull the trigger, which in itself is another skill to be learned.

Reviewing these steps brings to mind the essential elements of hitting the target in our Christian walk.  Since the Biblical word for “sin” means literally “to miss the mark”, we definitely want to “hit the target”, in other words, to live in alignment with Christ’s teachings.

First, we need to get a good grip of what those teachings are. We can only follow Christ if we know what He has taught.  So we “store up” God’s Word in our heart and mind. Just as weak grip on a gun can result in a missed target, a loose grip on truth will cause us to “miss the mark”.

Secondly, we need to take a proper stance on the things that God has revealed in His Word.  Sometimes, we dig in our heels about things that do not matter for our salvation.  If we fail to focus firmly on the Gospel, we will “miss the mark” because we will have let lesser concerns create conflicts with others and needlessly bind our conscience.

Thirdly, properly aligning our sight on the goals of Christ helps us to stay on target. If we let our attention wander, letting distractions tempt us, we will certainly miss our goal.  The sinful nature, the world, and the devil are only too eager to have us look at other targets.

Jesus certainly set his sights sight firmly on the way of the cross. He took a stand on the truth of His mission, instead of being sidetracked by tricks and traps. He knew the Truth, because he is the Truth.  He had a firm grip on who he was and why He came: for our salvation.

To live the life of Christ that is, to pull the trigger and successfully hit the target instead of miss the mark, we need to get a grip, take a stand, and fix our sight on His saving work of salvation for us. May you, by the grace of God, hit the target.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Join the Side You’re On

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July 5, 2017

 “Join the Side You’re On”

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve,

… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

The title of this week’s meditation comes from a recent article written for Imprimis by journalist Michael Goodwin.  He is encouraging citizens not to sit on the sidelines and passively watch those with whom you agree fight the culture wars for you.  Join them.  If you believe in a cause, go all out and fight for it, support those on the front lines, engage, and participate.

Why is that so important also in our walk of faith?  In an interview with Brother Andrew, who for the last 60 years has ministered to persecuted churches throughout the world, he shared the following conversation:

A pastor came into my office. He said, “Andrew, those Muslims now they have brought another empty church and they are going to convert it into a mosque. Isn’t that terrible?” I said, “No, that is not terrible.” He said, “Why not?” I said, “You know what’s terrible–that your church was empty. That is terrible. If your church were full there would not be a mosque, would not be a place nor a demand for a mosque.”

I just experienced another Independence Day parade in our community, but this time from the sidelines, with friends, in a shaded and grassy area.  Nice breeze.  For the first time in a long time, I was not “in” the parade walking the hot street in the baking sun.  Of course, there is no point in a parade if there are no sideliners to watch and cheer.  Yet, in sitting on the sideline, I realized how tempting it is to be the one who never takes the heat or does the preparing and hard work–not in parades, but in the significant causes of life. Just as there would be no parade if people were not willing to be “in” the parade, so there would be no free nation, family, civic club, or congregation if people did not put their convictions into action.

Thanks be to God, Jesus did not, and does not, sit on the sideline.  He came to us, died for us, rose to secure our life, and sends His Spirit to work through us the mission He gave us—to share that Good News of sins forgiven with everyone.  By His grace and gifts, you have all you need to “join the side you’re on.”

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Evil and the Two Kingdoms

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June 7, 2017

 Evil and the Two Kingdoms

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … 17Repay no one evil for evil, … 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…  20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;  21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. …  4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Romans 12:14—13:4

Without skipping a beat, St. Paul contrasts the two kingdoms of God and how they are to respond to evil. Both kingdoms, the Church and the State, are under God’s authority and are ordained by Him.  Neither is an invention of human reason, nor has permission to usurp authority from the other.  The Church is to do its Kingdom work, and the State is to do its Kingdom work.

By “Church” I do not mean only the institution whereby we collectively preach repentance and forgiveness (Luke 24:47) through the ministry of God’s Word and the administration of the Sacraments.  We are also the Church individually as we personally apply God’s grace in everyday life.

Such is the content of Paul’s 12 chapter of Romans cited above. The Church (collectively and individually) does not curse those who do evil, seek revenge, or is unkind to its enemies.  We are not only to be innocent of the sin of commission, but also of the sin of omission. Therefore, we “overcome evil with good”.  To our enemies we do the opposite of what they do to us.

It is what God did and still does for us in Christ. Though our sin gives God every reason to curse us eternally to hell, he reached into this world with sacrificial love on the cross.  He continues to reach us with love, communicating in Scripture and Sacrament the never-ending and ever-patient mercy of God.

That is not the role that God has given His other Kingdom, the State, as Paul explains in Romans 13.  While the Church is showing mercy, the State has the responsibility to impose order, even by way of punishing the evildoer.  That too is a work of God.

Therefore, a Christian law enforcer or member of the military serves in both kingdoms. He or she will have two vocations: one as servant of the Church, the other as a servant of the State, in one to show mercy and kindness, in the other to punish evil.

The purpose of pointing these distinctions out is that our society gets them enmeshed and confused. When we try to make the State a place of mercy, ignoring the law and not protecting with force those it is to serve, chaos ensues. The Church is not free to fulfill its ministry.  Likewise, when the Church becomes militant it gets in its own way. It presents only the vengeful God, not the Lord known in Christ as one who forgives and restores the penitent.

There are other finer points to this that are fodder for latter discussions, but suffice it to say here that God has ordained two kingdoms.  Pray that each may do its own work, and not that of the other, so that the citizens of both kingdoms will be blessed.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Subjective “Sins”

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February 22, 2017

Subjective “Sins”

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

                                                                                                       Proverbs 19:11

 In my personal observation of others and of myself, I come to realize that we are all prone to take offense at what I call “subjective sin”.  It is subjective, because we label what someone else did or said as sin, based on our feelings about it, not on whether God’s Word actually calls it a sin. By contrast, objective sin is “every thought, desire, word, and deed that is contrary to God’s Law” (question 78, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation.) That definition of sin has nothing to do with our feelings.

For example, if you take offense in a sermon when I truthfully speak God’s law to you, I am not sinning against you, no matter how you feel about it.  Likewise, if you speak truth to someone that needs to hear it, it may be taken as an offense, but you have not given offense.  The Proverb above recommends having the good sense not to get easily offended or to be quickly angry. Consider whether the words were true and if so, the motive behind speaking them. By doing that, we may realize that while we took offense, no offense was given.

However, that does not take the “truth” teller off the hook. He or she has the Christian responsibility to speak the truth in love and with gentle humility. (Galatians 6:1-2)  This month’s character theme for Faith School is “Sensitivity”, described as “being aware of the true attitudes and emotional needs of those around me”.  So yes, again, the hearer is to be sensitive to the “true attitude” of the speaker, not attributing to the speaker unkind motives that are not there. But the speaker is to be sensitive to the emotional needs of the hearer. That means we speak with consideration to the meaning of our words, the tone of our voice, and the motive of our heart.

Still, no matter how careful the speaker may be, he or she may still commit subjective sins, unintentionally causing offense. At such times, the offended hearer would do well to acknowledge the feeling without ascribing an unkind motive to the speaker. “I felt offended,” rather than, “you offended me” is more likely to result in a humble apology from the one guilty of the “subjective sin”.

Whether a sin is subjective or objective, love and forgiveness is the best Christian response. Christ himself forgave those who sinned against him by having him nailed on the cross, “for they knew not what they did”. He daily forgives us our sins as well. Seek reconciliation whenever you can, but understand that is to His glory that we overlook an offense.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

God’s Authority

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January 18, 2017

God’s Authority

The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1b

St. Paul wrote this verse to the Romans who were living under the Caesar Nero, an adulterer, pervert, and murderer. He had no love for the Church and did not believe in the one true God, or His son Jesus. Yet, the apostle instructs them to be subject to this ruler, a few years before being beheaded by him.  He reasoned that all earthly rulers are in power with the permission of God. Through government, God keeps order. That is why we are to pay respect to authority. (vs. 7). And it is also why Paul encourages us to pray for those in authority.  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Two of the most important Biblical figures lived by that principle.  When Paul was brought up before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest Ananias ordered that he be struck on the mouth. Paul railed against him verbally, calling him a hypocrite. When told that he had just insulted God’s high priest, Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest: for it is written, ’Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:5) When the future King David, at the urging of his men, had the opportunity to kill King Saul, who was trying to kill him, he only cut off a corner of his robe. Feeling guilty about even doing that, he said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 24:6) Both Paul and David respected God’s hand in establishing authority, whether good or bad, and determined not to usurp it, even if it seemed legitimate to do so. God assures us of his ultimate justice when he says, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay.” (Deut. 32:35) 

This week many are planning to protest and prevent the inauguration of our next president. Every past president has been at least verbally maligned, insulted, and disrespected. But none have been a Nero or Saul, out to murder their own family and subjects.  While it is not surprising that unbelievers, who already reject God’s authority over them, also rebel against His appointed rulers, it is fitting that Christians follow the example of David and Paul. The greatest example however is our Lord Jesus Himself. Peter, who also taught respect of authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), wrote these words about Jesus:

 “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1:21-24)

“Lord, by the power of your blood shed for us, forgive us and deliver us from the sin of every form of rebellion, Amen.”

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

 

Family Shows

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October 5, 2016

 

Family Shows

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

 

Two to three decades ago television viewers were treated to a number of highly rated family shows with clever titles that conveyed more than one meaning. If you raised your children then, or were being raised then, you recall how the shows connected with issues in your family. But they still ring true now twenty to thirty years later for a different reason: they mirror concerns facing the church family as well.

In Family Ties, much of the comedy arose from the different political and economic views between the parents and their children. The Keatons navigated the inter-generational differences. with understanding and patience. Successful churches learn to do likewise as they energize their traditions and the wisdom of experience with the zeal and optimism of youth.

Family Matters (both noun and verb) gave us Steve Urkel, the nerd next door who could be low on common sense and social skills, but scored highly on sincerity and genuine care. Every congregation has a few Steves to nudge them out of their comfort zone and to see things from a different angle. The Winslow family’s acceptance of Steve showed that family is not just who you are related to, but who matters to you.

Step-by-Step showed us the classic blended family, bringing together youth and adults who grew with different backgrounds and experiences. They learned to understand and accept each other as brothers and sisters who shared the same Lambert family name.  In our church family growth in spirit and number requires openness to those different from us. For in our shared baptism, we are all adopted into one name: Jesus. We are the ultimate blended family, as Paul wrote of the Gentiles’ relationship to the Jews. “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. Eph. 2:13

Home Improvement wasn’t about improving the house or the car, but the Taylor family. They learned that “more power” was not always the answer, but rather serving and listening to one another.  This usually happened when Tim, the head of the household, sought the guidance of his mentor, the half-hidden neighbor Wilson who peered over the back yard fence. Likewise, Church Improvement happens when leaders seek the wisdom of God, partially visible in Christ, who shares His Word and Spirit with all who ask.

Like program titles above, the title of this article also has another meaning. The Christian family shows—it shows up.  Whether it’s your home or church family, its members are there for each other in time of need.  When there is work to do and sacrifices to make, the family shows up to pitch and get it done. Anything that works in your family do in your church; and if it doesn’t work in your family, don’t imagine that it will work in your church.

Human nature being what it is, we always have the same needs, and all relationships play by the same rules.  Christ sacrificed himself to save all people and to heal all relationships.  His Spirit gathers and keeps us as the household of God, the family of faith. Regularly worship with the saints, meditate on the Word, pray through Christ, and feast on His sacrament. By doing so we can improve our family ties, step by step, because Family matters.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Revealing Speech

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January 27, 2016 

Revealing Speech

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34 

Words reveal much more than just what they mean.  The tone, the direction (to whom one speaks), and their content tell us much about the person speaking them. As to our tone, for example, anger and impatience are revealed by scornful words spoken with a high degree of frustration. It’s not hard to tell, most of the time, what emotions are erupting by the words chosen and how they are spoken. The tone of our words reveals, in real time, our emotional state.

Less obvious is how the direction and content of words reveals ongoing character. How people talk about others in their absence is how they will talk about you in your absence. Those of good character will be charitable in their assessment of others when they are not there. Any complaints they have toward others, they will speak directly to them. However, less charitable people will talk about others “behind their back.”  It is best not even to listen to them, for if they speak negatively about others to you, then they will speak negatively about you to others.

People also reveal their character simply in what they talk about.  If they are the only subject of their monologue, they reveal an insecure or narcissistic person. Whatever they talk about most of the time, whether trivial or monumental, reveals what they think about most of the time. Do their words reveal disturbing priorities, unfair and uninformed biases, or lack of trust in God or in the good of other people?  You can tell enough about them if you listen enough to them.

It is good to ask yourself, “What do I reveal about my character by what I say, to whom I say it, how I say it?”  An honest answer to that question may reveal a heart that is not pleasing to God or to others.   We all fail, at times, to speak in ways that edify others and glorify God. But thanks be to God, in Christ, he renews us with grace.  Remember His words:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John  1:9   and   Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10.

If our hearts are clean, our words will be also.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz