Follow the Recipe

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January 17, 2018

Follow the Recipe

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…, And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12, 14

 Has it ever happened that you were careful to follow a recipe for a dish you wanted to serve to your guests, but you did not have all the ingredients? If time was short, you may have substituted something else and hoped that would work.  What if you totally forgot to add that essential ingredient, such as a sweetener for a dessert! It was obvious to you and your guests that something was missing.

Sometimes we do that with the ingredients that we use in our relationships. We believe we are doing all the right things, saying what we need to say, but we forget love, the most important ingredient. Love comes from a heart that has accepted the love of God in Christ. Love changes us, and affects how we relate to one another. It is what moves us to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us and enables us to put the needs of others above our own. “Without love”, Paul said to the Corinthians, “I am nothing”.

So likewise, in his instructions to the Colossians he emphasized that to the relational ingredients of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” they should add “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  I read a devotion recently that said, “if the heart is right, everything else comes together.” If you think you are doing everything you should, but the relationship still is not going well, ask yourself, “Do I truly love that person from the heart?”  Ask God to help you truly love the other person–the rest will fall in place.

One of my old favorites from the past is the Judy Collins song, “Cook with Honey”.  In one verse, she expresses her joy of loving others:  “Well, our door is always open and there’s surely room for more; Cooking where there’s good love, Is never any chore.”

Follow that recipe and life will taste just right.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

All Are Teachers; All Are Students

Ephesians 4 32

January 10, 2018

All Are Teachers; All Are Students

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Hebrews 10:24

How does a family, business, school, congregation, or any group create an atmosphere of caring, compassion, and patience? In a classroom, what the children learn is what the teacher teaches. In a family, the children learn what their parents exemplify. They learn what they see, hear, and experience.

And in some ways, we adults are not much different. Though we are not as impressionable as children and more ably can filter out what needs not to be learned, we are still influenced by the conditioning of what we see and hear every day.  Advertisers wouldn’t repeat their commercials if that were not true. Cultural changers, for good or evil, know that change does not happen overnight, only after repeated patterns of actions and words.

We all have influence over others, whether we realize it or not. We can all impact how others act by how we act towards them.  We are all “teachers”.  Likewise, we are all impacted, in varying degrees, after varying spans of time, by the words we hear, things we see, and the experiences we encounter. We are all “students”.  That’s the real world.

Now, the question is, what are you learning?  More importantly, what are you teaching?

The video linked below offers possible answers, both good and bad.  Its focus is children, but also applies to how adults treat one another, whether in a marriage, family, church, classroom, workplace or anywhere.

May Christ be our means and motivation to be a teacher of caring, compassion, and patience!

.View “Children learn what they live” (2:10): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlQPJTlt-_A then go, and “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

 Bless and be Blessed,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Big Picture Priority

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January 3, 2018

Big Picture Priority

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Matthew 23:24

According to a survey, if you make a New Year’s resolution you are among only 40% of the population. If you keep it, you are among 44% of those that make them. Since a majority of us do not make them or keep them if we do, you may not need to know about the “holiday” coming up on January 17. It is “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day”.  Someone decided we needed an official day to acknowledge and drop those New Year’s resolutions that, after all, were not that doable.

That may not be relevant to you if you do not make them to begin with, but, in truth, we actually make resolutions quite often. We call it “bargaining with God” or promising him that we will “do better”.  When yet another failure sabotages our good intentions, we repeat them with even more resolve, often inserting words like “never again” or “always”.

What we often miss is the big picture priority: a life of grace. Jesus took to task Jewish leaders who made laws and lists for themselves and everyone else. Call them resolutions. He called them hypocrites, because their lists were unimportant tasks that they themselves did not faithfully follow, even while demanding that others do. They were “straining at gnats and swallowing a camel.” That is, they majored in minors and failed to prioritize weightier matters such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (v. 23)

Whether it is at the beginning of a new year or after a frustrating failure, focusing only on promises and resolutions we can’t keep perfectly is futile. Let us spend our time on the big picture, the grace of God that he has given us through Christ. It covers our failures and forgives our sins. May we not only receive it daily by faith, but also gladly share it freely with others.  When we do, we will be less concerned about our lists and rules and successfully show “justice and mercy and faithfulness,” resolutions for which there is no day to ditch.

Where there is grace, there is peace.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Christmas Contrasts

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December 20, 2017

Christmas Contrasts

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. Isaiah 9:2

       Charles Dickens famously began his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”, contrasting England and France during the French Revolution. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness”  This quote came to mind listening on C-SPAN to members of both houses of Congress give their one-minute speeches on the tax reform plan.  “It is the best plan, it is the worst plan.” History will judge soon enough.

       What history has already told us is that when Christ appeared in human flesh in Bethlehem it was a “season of Darkness”.  Cynical despair had settled in among the Roman populace. Whatever faith they had in their gods was eroding. The light of hope for the Jews awaiting for the Messiah was growing faint. Their religious leaders had carved out comfortable positions for themselves while oppressing the poor and public sinners. They hated the Roman occupation of their land and longed for deliverance.

        Then Isaiah’s prophecy came true: On those dwelling in a land of deep darkness, a light had shone. The brightness of angels in the night alerting the shepherds and the guiding star over the Magi were merely supporting lights for the Light of the World that had arrived.  No more darkness, no more despair, no more “worst of times”.

         Dickens wrote a novel, based on history.  Our personal history is non-fiction based on our own best of times and worst of times.  The contrast is sharper at Christmas. Families travel far to consume their gifts and feasts while the homeless and hungry endure the coldest month and shortest light. The exuberance of children contrasts with the depression of those who are enduring loneliness and loss.

         It is wise not to expect from the Christmas holiday what it cannot deliver. Family and feasts do not themselves give us the Light that overtakes the darkness of the soul.  Only the Light that outshone the Bethlehem angels and Star can heal the source of all our despair and darkness. Our joy at Christmas is not sourced in our celebration of it, but in the Christ who endured the darkness of the cross and tomb and shone the Light of forgiving grace on Easter morning.

Christmas means we can still have the worst of times, a season of darkness, but ultimately have the best of times, an eternity of Light.

        Blessed Christmas all Year.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Gifts of Pain

 

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December 13, 2017

The Gifts of Pain

There are many things in our life that cause us to feel pain. Physical pain and discomfort may result from a broken bone, a muscle strain, a cut, bruise, heart attack, and all kinds of disorders and diseases.  There is also emotional pain felt in broken relationship, personal failure, fear, and the like. In addition, pain can be preventable, short-lived, chronic, or permanent. We prefer to avoid pain, but we would do well also to consider the gifts of pain as it reminds us of the need for care, prayer, and despair.

Care: Pain is a wonderful wake-up call that we need to take care of something in our life, our relationships, habits, or physical condition.  This is the kind of pain that is often preventable and temporary, or at least can be lessened with certain changes.  Proverbs 4:21-22 tells the reader to “keep (God’s Words) within your heart, for they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh.”  Much pain is preventable is we take care to mind what brings health. Whatever causes us to make better choices and habits is a gift.

Prayer:  Some pain is neither preventable nor curable.  No medicine will make it go away.  Those who suffer pain because of their faith are said to be “carrying their cross”. Jesus promised persecution, suffering, and tribulation in this life. For some, he prescribed it, as with St. Paul, who suffered a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming proud.  To his request for relief from the pain God said,  “No, you have may grace. That is enough.” Jesus and others tell us to count it all joy when life is painful, for that works Godly qualities in us.  It also demands a life of prayer to be able to live with the pain. Whatever leads us to more faithful prayer is a gift.

Despair: That sounds like nothing positive, but chronic pain, whether of the emotions, mind, or body can remind us that this life is not our final home. We can and should despair of ever finding complete joy in this life, but rather long even more for the life to come. Thus we will not cling to the things of this world, but realize the things of this world are fading and we ought not to make gods of them or pin our security on them. The ultimate spiritual pain was the cry of Paul who despaired that he could not do the good he wanted to do, but rather did the evil he did not want.  He called himself “wretched” beyond all hope of getting it right. But that led him to celebrate Jesus Christ, who rescues sinners from the despair of their helplessness with the all sufficiency of his sacrifice for sin.  Anything that causes us to despair of our own righteousness and by faith cling to the righteousness God gives in Christ is a gift.

May your pains lead you to take better care, to enter deeper prayer, and to despair of all but the righteousness of Christ that will open to you the gates of God’s pain-free paradise.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Habitual Life

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December 6, 2017

The Habitual Life

Daniel … got down on his knees three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10 

It seems that I have formed a good habit that I’m not sure I can break, even when I try to.  Catching up on some sleep seemed to be the most reasonable option this morning at 5am, instead of rising to join my wife and others for a 5:30 work-out we do three times weekly. After she left I awakened anyway without an alarm, and since my body and mind were in the habit of exercising during that time, I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, out of habit, I arose and joined the group, just a few minutes late. It turned out to be far more beneficial than what little sleep, if any, I might have added to my morning.

Habits, of course, can be ill-chosen and become addictions that do harm. Inactivity is also a bad habit. However, good habits, like flossing, daily devotions, prayer, exercise, and worship are good for the body and soul. It is good when they become habits, because we don’t need to waste time and mental energy having to decide each time whether we will do them.  If it’s beneficial, why debate with yourself whether or not you will do it. Just do it.

Daniel was in the habit of praying three times a day. When a decree went out that praying to anyone but the king would land a person in a den of lions, he prayed anyway. He knew where his real security could be found. His friends, who previously did not bow to another king, but nevertheless survived a fiery furnace, also testified to the importance of well-placed faith.

It’s not likely that a godly habit will actually cost us our physical life, at least not yet, as it might have for Daniel without the Lord’s protection. But a habitual life that strengthens our faith and encourages others in their faith, which corporate worship does, will keep us secure whether life brings good or evil.

May you be blessed with a wonderfully habitual life.

Pastor Tom Konz

       P. S.  I’m still struggling to make flossing a habit.

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