Revolution!

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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!

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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

Valley, Shadow, Death

 

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May 10, 2017

Valley, Shadow, Death

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Psalm 23:4a

This familiar verse from the beloved “shepherd’s” psalm brings great comfort as we look ahead to the inevitable conclusion of life: death. “Even though”, not if, means we will walk through that valley, but also implies something positive in the midst of the valley of death and other low places through which we walk.  “Through” means that we don’t linger or encamp in the valley, but that we pass through it. “Shadow” means that it is not all dark. Where there is a shadow, there is also light.  The Light with us is Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

The current Lutheran Witness theme is the persecution of Christians around the world. Many are being killed for their faith, as was St. Stephen, the subject of one of the readings for next Sunday. As it has been from the beginning, is now, and will increasingly be in the future, the valley of the shadow of death is a reality for any who follow Christ. Peter, writing about persecution, told the church not to be surprised by it. Jesus told us that a disciple is not above the master. If they persecuted Christ, why would his followers be exempt?  Expect it.

Whether death is by disease, accident, or intentional persecution, it is something we can always be ready to face if we remember two things:

1) Jesus died.  In that death God signaled that though our sins separate us from Him, Christ reconciled us to Him. Death no longer brings the fear of eternal separation from God. The cross means that God has forgiven us for past, present, and future sins.

2) Jesus rose from the dead.  He said, “Because I live, you too will live.” If we die with him in repentance, then we will live with him in the resurrection.

I recall two vacations in which our family entered a cavern. On my own, I would not have ventured in. However, the guide who was leading us had been in and out of the cave many times. I could be confident that with him, I would walk through that valley of darkness.  Since Christ has entered death and come out on the other side, we can trust him to take us through it when it is our time to walk that valley.

May God so comfort you that there is no fear of death, but only gratitude that it’s a short walk into the darkness until we get to the Light on the other side.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Price of Reconciliation

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May 3, 2017

The Price of Reconciliation

“Be reconciled to your brother”  Matthew 5:24

 This week I asked a Korean born pastor what would happen if North and South Korea were united under a free democratic government. He talked about the patience the South would have to show as their Northern countrymen went through a sharp learning curve to adapt to a new way of life. As we started to compare it the unification of East and West Germany, we invited into our conversation a German born pastor/professor who had lived through it. He remembered the high monetary price of unification the West payed to catch up their Eastern brothers and sisters.

Paying the price and patience are part of any reconciliation between individuals and groups.  When adversaries put aside their differences, confess and forgive sins, life doesn’t just automatically get better.  People don’t always get over their hard feelings overnight, even though they want to.  The pattern of distrust and suspicion lingers.  Besides the patience required by parties to adjust their attitudes and expectations, there is also the price of restitution, making good for any harm that the previous animosity created. Though reconciliation comes with a price, the joy of peace and lessened tension are worth the effort.

As in all good things, we can look to our Lord for help. Jesus Christ first reconciled us to Himself by paying the price of His own life.  By His saving work, we know that God desires to be reconciled to us, and that we be reconciled to each other.  He makes this happen, not only by the cross, but by His enduring patience with us. As we go through the learning curve to live out the reconciled life, He walks alongside us, continuing to forgive us and give us His Spirit of peace.  Germans reconciled with fellow Germans. We pray that Koreans might do the same.  Likewise, we pray that we may pay the price to live in the patience of reconciling with our Christian brothers and sisters.  For the sake of peace, and the glory of God.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Big Picture in a Small Frame

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April 26, 2017

The Big Picture in a Small Frame

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30

When I paste a picture from the internet onto a bulletin cover or Bible study, I start with a big original. I can reduce a big picture in size without losing any quality or clarity. In fact, it may appear even sharper than the original. However, enlarging a small original will result in a grainier, less focused picture. A big picture in a small frame, or text box, is the best view.

If we try to get a clear picture of our big God from the small snapshots of our lives, we end up with a distorted or grainy view of Him.  For instance, a bad day does not mean we have an uncaring God; and being blessed in spite of our sins does not mean that God is indifferent to them. We do not necessarily get an accurate and sharp picture of God from the small pictures of our life.

On the other hand, when we start with the big picture of God revealed in Scriptures, His divine qualities come into even sharper focus in the small frames of our lives.  On a bad day, we can see His love more clearly by trusting His promises never to leave us, to care for and to count even the hairs on our head, and to hear our prayers. When our sins do catch up to us and we confess them, we can see more clearly the God that His Word describes: “Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”. His patience and forgiveness come into sharper focus.

The biggest and best picture of God that we begin with is the one of our resurrected Savior who bore our griefs and atoned for our sins on the cross. When we bring that big picture into the small frames of our lives, God’s mercy and grace become much clearer.

Peace and mercy,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Help Needed!

Galatians 6-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 19, 2017

Help Needed!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

What is the first thing you think of doing when you read the above text?  Think of people you can help?  Feel guilty that you haven’t been thinking of people you can help?  Resolve to help people and be kinder and more compassionate?  Pat yourself on the back because you are doing that already? It’s natural to read this and think that you have a caring responsibility to another Christian. Clearly, you do.

Let’s also look at it from the other direction. Isn’t there someone else in this verse besides the burden bearer? Could that someone else be you? If Paul is telling some of us that we need to bear another’s burdens, then it also must be true that some of us are the “another”. Some of us have the burdens that require bearing by our brothers and sisters.

Are we willing to admit that?  Do we have enough trust that the Spirit of Christ living in a fellow believer can bring encouragement and hope back into our lives during a particularly burdensome period?

When you say you belong to the Church, you are not testifying to your membership in an institution or club, but to your membership in the body of Christ. Paul compares it to the human body. When one part of that body hurts, other parts hurt as well. Therefore, being connected to each other, we help each other so that the whole Body can be well together. The Holy Spirit would not have called and gathered us into one holy Christian Church if we could go it alone.

Likewise, when man first sinned, God knew that we would need a Savior. Sin is not a disease we can overcome on our own. Therefore, Jesus redeemed us from sin with His holy life and holy blood. The risen Lord now empowers us to care for each other. As He never left it to us to solve our own problem of sin, neither does He expect us to resolve on our own all that results from sin. Christ, the third person in our verse commanded us to love each other as he first loved us. He gave us all the Church, each other, to help in crisis, loneliness, loss, helplessness and other challenges.

At different times we are either giving help or needing it. When it’s your turn to help, help; when it’s your turn to need help, just ask. It’s what Christians do.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Foot Washers

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April 12, 2017

NOTE 1: This week’s meditation was to be shared by our LWML women during the worship service on Palm Sunday, but their pastor forgot. While part of it was shared between services, I wanted to include all of it here.  The author is Linda Bailey of Cullman, AL and it also posted on LWML website. For your mid-Holy Week meditation, I pray you will be as blessed as I was to read this:

Foot Washers

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.                                                                                            John 13:14

Jesus was a teacher extraordinaire! Not only did He explain with words, but He also used examples easily understood by common people. Jesus taught His disciples, including you and me, humility and love when He knelt down and washed the disciples’ feet.

The custom of washing a person’s feet was a sign of hospitality but it was usually done by a servant and not the host. Of course, Jesus could have asked a servant to do this demeaning task but because He wanted to make a lasting impression, He did it. Remember this took place on Maundy Thursday evening, just before He was betrayed, just before He became the Servant Savior of the world.

The reality of this story was made clear to a catechism class. The story goes that one afternoon the pastor walked into the class with a towel and a bowl of water. As the students sat and watched, he took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and asked them to remove their shoes. With giggles of embarrassment, they did what the pastor asked. He knelt in front of each student and washed his or her feet.

When he was finished he asked, “Why did I do that?” After a long silence, one student answered, “I guess you just wanted to get our attention!”

Not a bad answer. Jesus got the attention of His disciples, especially Peter who did not want Him to wash his feet because he felt unworthy. But Peter missed the point. Jesus wasn’t just removing dirt from feet; He was showing His love by becoming a servant. No one is too great to serve another. He wanted to demonstrate humility and love to them so they would in turn show it to others, not necessarily by washing feet but by performing acts of kindness out of love. The pastor wanted his students to experience the same feeling as Jesus’ disciples so they, too, would “wash the feet” of others.

Jesus expects us to imitate His example also. We are to show love to one another because He first loved us.

Prayer: Gracious Father, You showed Your great love for us by sending Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to live a life of love. You have taught us by Your example how to live; we need Your Holy Spirit to help us. Humble us Lord, so we might willingly “wash the feet” of others.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

NOTE 2: I am also reminded by this that Jesus said in Mark 10:45,   “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  That he served us His forgiveness and life by dying on the cross and rising from the dead is the reason we celebrate this Thursday and Friday at 7 and on Sunday at 8 or 10:45     

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Your Time Is Up

 

Your Time Is Up

April 5, 2017

Your Time Is Up

“and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14c

Timekeepers, whether they are a board game hourglass, a giant stadium scoreboard, an oven clock, or a bedside alarm, all say the same thing: “Your time is up.” They remind us that time is finite. We cannot dawdle on one task, or else we will bump into another task for which our time was already scheduled.

When we see time running out, we might panic and think less clearly, making the time seem shorter than it is.  Or we might become more focused, motivated by the dwindling time to remove all other distractions. That has a way of “stretching” time, as we get more done in less time. Whether we panic or focus depends on our personality. Are we the kind of person that gets disoriented under pressure, or do we actually concentrate better when time is shorter?

How we respond to the shortening of our lifetime is a function of our faith and sense of accountability to God. If we have lived without faith and accountability, a deathbed realization that our time is up will fill us with fear. An inventory of our life will tell our conscience that we are in trouble. We paid little attention to the consequences of how we lived, because we gave no thought to the day when our time would run out.

If, on the other hand, we live with faith and accountability, we are ready for the end when it comes. We will have lived with purpose, knowing that our life mattered to God. We also will have lived with faith that, while our life came up short of what God desired, Christ’s perfect life and death prepared us for eternity in His presence. Since God has declared us forgiven through Christ, “your time is up” is not a dreaded announcement.

Rather, it is music to our ears. Jesus said that when we see the end coming, look up, for our redemption is near.  For the faithful and faith-filled, this will be a celebration.  For while it is the end of this life, it is also the eternal end of sorrow, sickness, trouble, tears, and timekeepers that say, “Your time is up.”

Peace today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Reading Test

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March 29, 2017

Reading Test

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10:26

This week fifth and eighth graders in Texas are taking the STAAR reading tests. The exams present a story followed by questions similar in essence to what Jesus asked a certain young lawyer about the law, “What is written? How do you read it?” The test then presents multiple answers from which the students are to select the correct one.

The lawyer answered correctly without a selection of options from Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him for his answer, saying, “Do this and you will live”.  In order to convince himself that he could keep the law, the lawyer sought to qualify his answer by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”

“How do you read the Law?”  a. as what I must do to be saved   b. as a reminder to try my best   c. as God’s notice that I need a savior.  When we understand that the Law demands purity in thought, word, and deed, we must conclude that c is the only correct answer. Can we, or do we, ever consistently love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves?  If we are to pass the reading test about the law we must answer with a resounding “no”.

Thanks be to God that there was another reading test question about the Gospel! It leads us to understand that we do have a Savior.  The apostle Philip approached an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from Isaiah the prophet. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30)  Philip explained how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by dying as the sacrifice that atones for our sins.  In his perfect love, He met the requirements for our salvation. Therefore, God raised Him from the dead to show that punishment for sin is complete.

How do you read the Law?  If you read the Law correctly, you can also read the Gospel correctly as well.  The answer to all the reading questions is Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Blessing of Blessing

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March 22, 2017

THE BLESSING OF BLESSING

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35

 While this saying of Jesus is not found in the Gospels, Paul attributed it to Him.  Why is it true that it is more blessed to give than to receive? What is the blessing of blessing?

In a recent meeting with other pastors about our calling to help the poor and needy in our midst, one of them confessed that by nature he could be a stingy person.  How many of us could say the same? Giving to the poor and needy is a wonderful solution to that problem. Not only does it actually help them, but it also gets us unstuck from our natural stinginess and inward focus.  Helping others puts our own needs into perspective. They do not seem so big when we help someone whose needs are bigger than our own. By distinguishing between our needs and our desires, we realize we are more blessed than we thought we were.

Another way we are blessed is that we grow in our faith that God is unlimited in His resources. We can become discouraged that we are unable to do more or enough for others.  Yet, does our Lord ask us to bless others because He cannot do it without us?  Is His arm too short to provide for everything we need?  Certainly, the Lord knows how to care for all his creatures.

It is when we are generous that we see the evidence of that. In giving, we get to witness Him replenishing that which we give and even more than we give. His generosity increases our faith in his ability to provide for our needs and the needs of others.  He can take care of the poor all on his own, but He invites us to participate in the blessings of blessing others.

In summary, the blessing of blessing is that we grow in gratitude for what we have and in faith in what God can do for us, through us, and even without us. May God bestow such blessings always, in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz