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  Jesus has repealed our sin and guilt and replaced it with grace and salvation.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

christian-target

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

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

Jesus and guy on bench

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

 

Evil and the Two Kingdoms

do not be overcome with evil

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

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

Revolution!

Is26

May 24, 2017

Revolution!

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

 The 60’s were a time of much change.  Songs and demonstrations about revolution were common. Today, political revolutions are still called for from both sides. Some produce positive changes, while others result only in death and destruction.  There is another revolution, often called “revival”—when the Spirit of God stirs the hearts of a nation for good.  Revolutions can be a welcome change to correct systemic abuses by arousing people from complacency.

What kind of revolution we get depends on what or whom we revolve around.  In our solar system, the planets orbit in an orderly and predictable fashion.  On Earth, because the sun’s gravitational pull is pretty constant, we get a stable life-sustaining climate.  Were we to leave this orbit and somehow start encircling a distant star that was too hot or too cold, we could not survive. That would be a destructive “revolution” indeed.

Likewise, if we revolve around influences that do not sustain life, we would experience much harm.  History is littered with destructive revolutions that have revolved around false gods.  Men have sought to change the world (in their mind, for the better) by making themselves, their philosophy, ideology, money, security, or power be the “sun” around which their every movement orbits.  But when we human beings seek to make those things the center of the universe, the revolutions create chaos and disruption, not peace and good will.

Isaiah spoke of one who finds perfect peace by staying his mind on God. When our lives revolve around the One who gives, preserves, redeems, and sanctifies all life–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we will have the revolution that brings peace, stability, grace, love, and all that we need to sustain both physical and spiritual life.  As we need to orbit the Sun for physical life, we need to revolve around the Son, Jesus Christ, to have spiritual and eternal life.  To experience a good revolution in your life, it matters around what or whom your life revolves.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

God Loves Hate!

romans-12-9

May 17, 2017

God Loves Hate!

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, love what is good. Romans 12:9

“Oh, you’re just a hater,” says the one who loves his sin and seeks to deflect all righteous criticism and loving correction. And he would be half right, if he were speaking to a Christian whose love is genuine. (Note: “genuine” is a translation the Greek, “without hypocrisy”. The world labels Christians “hypocrite” if they claim to love but still have hate in their hearts. The opposite is true–we are hypocrites if we say we love, but do not hate evil, because it is contrary to love.)  Real love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, does not “rejoice in wrongdoing”.  In this section of Romans 12 he teaches how we are to regard our fellow Christian. All the verbs point to loving and supporting one another.

Except this one: Hate.  We hate what is evil, because we hate what evil is doing to those we love. If we truly love a person, or people in general, or a nation, we cannot treat sin with apathy or a “hands-off” approach.  That doesn’t mean we come at people with a judgmental attitude. We must always remember that we also have our own sins to hate as well.

But it is true that other people, as well as we ourselves, are often blind to or desensitized to the failings within. That’s why Paul also wrote in this chapter that we are to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”. That means we will be honest about our own sins, and with gentleness and patience we will help others see the harm sin is doing to them.

This world says not to hate anyone’s sins. That is nice, but it is not good. It will eventually lead us to call evil good so that we can be nice all the time, having a numb conscience and hypocritical love for a fellow believer caught in hurtful sin.

Genuine love will always hate evil enough to confront it. The cross reveals that God is the greatest lover and biggest hater of all.  So much does he hate what is evil that He loved us enough to take human flesh and die to remove evil’s power to condemn us.  Yet if we continue to ignore, accept, and not repent of evil, it retains its power over us. So pray that God may make your love for Him and for your fellow believer so genuine that you will genuinely hate the evil that harms your neighbor and yourself.  If we don’t hate what is evil, we don’t truly love what is good.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz