A Good and Godly Arrangement

November 29, 2017

A Good and Godly Arrangement

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

Acts 17:26-27

It was a far-fetched plot, but nevertheless entertaining and touching. In a new TV movie, The Christmas Train, two former war correspondents who had been in love years earlier meet again aboard a train on its four day cross-country journey. She is now a writer for a successful Hollywood director who is also on board. He is now a feature writer looking for a story about Christmas on a train. Would their random meeting reignite their love for each other?  Even with all the characters involved and plot twists, it turned out to be less random and more arranged than the viewer would suspect. Circumstances were put in place, but still they had to choose what they would do with those opportunities to find love with each other again.

Paul, in speaking to the Greeks in Athens, proclaims to them that the god they seek does not act randomly.  Since the beginning, he has determined the places where people will live and arranged the circumstances so that they would seek after Him.  Yet the arrangement itself did not guarantee that all would seek their Savior.  Though He calls and equips us by the Spirit to respond to His gracious invitation, God also allows for people to resist His grace.

As we approach another Advent, we are reminded again of how God chose the time, the place, and the people to help us to find His love.  When the time was right, God sent forth His son to redeem and reconcile us to Himself through the blood of the cross.  Though it looks like a far-fetched plot to unbelievers, for who believe, it is indeed a good and Godly arrangement.

Blessed Advent

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Thanks-giving, living, grieving

 

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November 22, 2017

Thanks—giving, living, grieving

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.         1 Thessalonians 5:18

Even as we focus on Thanksgiving this week, we are tempted to give thanks in a limited way and for limited blessings. But we can truly give thanks in many ways for many things.

Thanks-giving is a verbal expression of gratitude. We give it in prayers, words to friends, and in hymns. By giving thanks we show that we are aware of a certain kindness from others and blessings from God. No doubt, it is a good and proper thing to give thanks, not only for your sake, but also to encourage the person you are thanking.

But giving thanks is more than words. It permeates and flows out of our everyday life. Thanks-living expresses gratitude through our actions, our attitudes, and assumptions. We live out our gratitude when we gladly share our blessings with others and cherish them in the way we use them, when we express a joy over even the smallest of blessings rather than look at our negative circumstances, and when we do not take them for granted or assume that we deserve them.

Even when life causes us grief, we can be grateful.  Thanks-grieving happens when we can know that a problem is making us more reliant on God or other people, when it moves us to deeper faith, and when we understand that it is shaping our character to be more Christ-like. Ultimately, with our eyes on the final prize, we can give thanks that whatever suffering we endure in this life is temporary.  For God’s people there is no comparison in this life to the glory that will be revealed in the life to come. It is with this bold promise that Paul could claim that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. His confidence was rooted in the promise that since God did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, we can be assured that He will spare no other good thing for those who trust in Him.

In words, in actions, in trials, in all things and every circumstance, let us give thanks.

Blessed Thanksgiving to All

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Something’s Shaking

Keep Calm

November 15, 2017

Something’s Shaking!

8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. Mark 13:8

 A visit to a website, earthquakestoday.info/ revealed that in the last seven days there have been 95 earthquakes around the world of 4.5 magnitude or greater.  Most are in the ocean, but the lands affected include countries on four continents.  Earthquakes happened below and above the equator and in both hemispheres, i.e. “various places”.  The world is shaking with great regularity. Earthquaketrack.com indicated that eleven more happened in the two hours before I finished this meditation, though most of them of smaller force.

As for famines, a NY Times article headline reads, Why 20 Million People Are on Brink of Famine in a ‘World of Plenty’.  The columnist’s answer is hard to accept, but easy to understand:   “Each country facing famine is in war, or in the case of Somalia, recovering from decades of conflict.”  Jesus predicted both together: nation against nation and famine.

Paul described a geological world that illustrates the spiritual world: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Rom. 8:22.   God cursed both humans and the earth we inhabit because of sin. Ever since, and seemingly at a quicker pace today, there have been cultural quakes that have shaken the foundations of our society and jarred our institutions from their long established foundations. There is a famine of God’s Word in lands where once the Church of God flourished. The signs of the end are certainly clear today, perhaps more clear than ever before.

Another sign of the end time that Christ predicted is that His Gospel would reach throughout the world.  Unlike it has ever been before, it is being translated, spoken, written, and otherwise communicated globally.  That does not mean that all will receive it. Rather the divisions will deepen between those who accept it and those who adamantly reject the Gospel and persecute those who believe it.

None of this should alarm or surprise us. Jesus gave signs so that we would not wonder what’s going on—world events are going as planned.  All the earth will end and He will return to take His people home forever. Of course, we do not know when, or if we will be alive on this earth when He returns, but we are ready. Christ’s shed blood has cleansed us of our sin and He has given us the robe of righteousness.  Though the whole world will be in upheaval geologically, morally, and spiritually, we will trust in the Lord, and rejoice with the Psalmist: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6

Keep Calm, Christ Cares for His people.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

A World at War

Matthew 10 28

November 8, 2017

A World at War

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the … spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.     Ephesians 6:12

     It is painful again to be reflecting on yet another mass shooting, especially in a church and one that victimizes the smallest of children.  Add to that the horrific realization that now even small towns are not immune to such horror—and right in our own state.

Close up we turn our hearts to the victims and ponder prayerfully about their deep sorrow, anger, and loss. We can’t help but think about how to prevent or respond to such an incident in our own sanctuary or school.  What would we do? How would we feel?  What affect would a tragedy like this have on us and our faith?

If we draw back from a close up view that hits so close to home, we see that such terror has been striking the world all over in many forms.  Sometimes with guns, sometimes not.  Sometimes with clear motives, sometimes not. Sometimes driven by a certain ideology, sometimes just seemingly random.

What is clear, and has been since the very beginning of humanity, is that God’s people have always, and will continue to be, opposed by the spiritual forces of evil inspired by Satan and the demons that serve him.  It often takes on the wretched form of “flesh and blood”, both in the perpetrators and in the carnage of the crime scene.  Other times, more times, the evil forces strike with the weapons of deception, discouragement, and fear.

Whatever weapon is chosen, and whether the outcome is death of the body or death of hope, God’s people need not lose faith.  We do not give up hope, for we are with the Lord always and already, whether in this life or the next.  Having been buried with Christ in baptism, we have the assurance that we will also be resurrected with Him.

As Luther wrote, and as we sing, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us. “ Therefore, Jesus said, “do not fear those kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) Satan has no power over the soul that entrusts its eternal security to the One who has already conquered the power of sin, death, and the devil.  None are destined for hell that depend on Christ, who took into His own flesh and blood all the punishment that our sins deserve. His victory over death is ours.  We need not fear it, for we cannot die.  We only depart this world, to await a new world to come–a world no longer at war.

May God keep you in His peace, through Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Family Shows

galatians-6-10

 

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

landscape_nrm_1422465397-talking

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

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Our Mission: Drawing everyday people to faithfully follow God’s Word

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