Dig Deeper

 

Dig Deeper (1)

September 27, 2017

Dig Deeper

… let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,… Hebrews 6:1

One morning in exercise class, I mentioned to the instructor that it seemed like a particular exercise was getting easier. He replied with what should have been obvious to me: “You can use heavier weights.” Point taken. What I was tempted to celebrate as a “mission accomplished” was actually a signal that it was time to keep improving.

That applies to our spiritual growth as well.  It is certainly a blessing that our Lord has delivered to us free and full salvation received simply by faith in Jesus. Given our propensity to feel unforgiven for sins God has forgotten, we do need to receive that Good News frequently in God’s Word and Sacrament.  However, if we are to grow in the faith, for our sake and for those we mentor in the faith, it is incumbent upon us to grow in knowledge about that faith.

To dig deeper into the meaning of Scripture is as rewarding as it is difficult. In a television series, a man was digging for a treasure his sister had buried twenty years earlier. Just as he was about to give up, his shovel struck the desired target. He had to dig deeper than he originally planned, but it paid off.

What treasures of God’s Word will you find when you dig deeper into the precious ground of God’s truths?  As I continue to explore more deeply, I often discover new meanings and applications in familiar verses. When I teach what I learn, students ask questions that remind me that I have even more to learn. How many parents have searched the Scriptures (or asked the pastor) because a child asked a question they could not answer?

There are many reasons to dig deeper and to grow in knowledge of our faith. One of these is faithful stewardship of God’s gifts for the spiritual good of others. To give wise counsel, disciple a young believer, or witness to an unbeliever is more rewarding and effective when God’s Word has equipped us.

So I invite you to continue to dig the treasures of the Word.  Whether you do so on your own or with others in a class, the rewards are great. If you have plateaued in your faith, and it starts to seem too easy, use heavier weights.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

A Monument Worth Saving

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September 20, 2017

“A Monument Worth Saving”

“We preach Christ crucified, an offense to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

1 Corinthians 1:23

 These days, there is intense disagreement and very strong feeling about whether or not certain monuments and statues should be removed from public view.  While the statues of those who lived in a different time of our history cannot do any actual harm today, it is understandable that there would be a desire to forget what they commemorate by removing them.

However, remembering what we would rather forget has solemn value.  Several years ago, I visited the Dachau concentration camp outside Munich, Germany, the first Nazi camp of many to follow.   It was a depressing reminder of atrocities committed not only against Jews, but also political enemies, non-Germans, and clergy, to name a few whose lives ended miserably on those grounds. The torture rooms and ovens remain as a grim memorial of man’s inhumanity to man.

Yet, it is maintained as a tourist destination—not for entertainment purposes, but to remember that we should never forget what sinful human nature is capable of doing. A 1991 movie about death camp survivor Mel Mermelstein and his battle against revisionists who claim the Holocaust never happened is fittingly titled, “Never Forget”.  Monuments that preserve our past can help us to never forget that evil resides in human nature and must be resisted.

No monument does that more completely than the one that commemorates every evil, great and small, that has ever been committed in the history of this planet: the cross of Jesus Christ. It was our collective wickedness that nailed Him to it. Yet it was the will of the Father that He should suffer to make satisfaction for our sins and reconcile us to Himself. Now alive and in heaven, Christ will never suffer again for sins. His work for our salvation is complete.

Sadly, some misguided churches have removed the cross so as not to offend others. Instead, we should gladly lift high the cross and never forget the blood that was shed for us on it.  Let us remember the cross not just with our eyes, but with our hearts in humble daily repentance, believing that by it, our sins are forgiven. While the cross does offend the proud, for the humble it is the greatest source of joy and freedom in Christ.

It is a monument worth saving, for on it God counted us worth saving. .

Grace, mercy, and peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Free Love

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September 13, 2017

Free Love

“Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” Galatians 5:13

The sinful world would give an entirely different meaning to the title of this meditation than what Paul would give. To some people, “free love” means to have carnal lust for anyone you want. It’s been that way since the sexual revolution took off in the 1960’s and is accelerating toward a painful crash into natural consequences and Divine judgment.

What free love means to Paul is summed up famously by Martin Luther in his essay, “On the Freedom of the Christian”. He wrote,

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”

Paul taught that loving one another is fulfilling the law, and there is none better able to love than those who are fully loved by Christ and motivated by that love to love others. Such love has set us free from the fear of death, and want, and guilt. It sets us free to do as we please. But what is Christ’s love in us pleased to do?  Love our neighbor. So we keep the law by doing what we want, because what we want to do is to serve in love. It’s not a matter of having to do something, but rather doing it because we want to do it.  Love freely received, freely gives. That is it’s nature.

So when given the opportunity to serve your neighbor, do not sigh and grumble that you “have to do it”. Instead, take a moment to reflect on that willing love that served you salvation with nails in its hands and feet 2000 year ago. He who so freely served us at such a great cost is the One who sent His disciples with power to do great works of service in His name. As Jesus sent them He said, “Freely you received; freely give”. Matthew 10:8

With these words He sends us.  Free love, free to love.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Why Me, Lord

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September 6, 2017

“Why me, Lord”
My grace is sufficient for you. 2 Cor. 12:9

“Why do bad things keep happening to me?” When I was asked this question recently, I replied that it was one of life’s mysteries that misfortune follows some people more than others. We could probably look at a person’s life and trace a series of decisions that brought “bad luck”. Or, as I have discovered too often, what others have done to some people in childhood has set them up for choosing the wrong people in their lives. This, too, brings much sorrow and hardship. In general, sin has ruined our world, and whether in fires, hurricanes, or personal misfortune, we will have trouble in the world because of sin.
We could say some people are getting what they deserved. Yet for others, we just shake our head and ask, “Why her, Lord? What did he do to deserve that? Ultimately, it remains a mystery. Through the prophet Isaiah God says “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:8-9) We may never know the answer to our hardest questions.
What I do know is that we can’t determine God’s grace or our unworthiness by what suffering we have to endure. In spite of some of the televangelists, life is not guaranteed to work out pleasantly even if we have enough faith. In reality, it’s a greater sign of faith it we still have it when life is decidedly unpleasant.
So that we neither become conceited because life is good, nor despair because it isn’t, we learn to take the good and bad both as God’s will for us. It strengthens our faith when we have little, and fills our heart with gratitude when we have more than we deserve. Whatever life gives us, God has his reason for letting it, whether good or bad, much or little.
The important point is that we always have Him. He promises in His word, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” His grace is enough for every need. Forsaken on the cross, Jesus died so that our sins will never cause God to forsake us. In rising from the dead, He showed that death will never separate us from the love of God. If it feels unfair for us to suffer for being good, it’s even more unfair that we sinners receive anything good from God at all. That’s His grace at work, and it is enough, always.
May God’s presence keep you in His peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Never Weary

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August 30, 2017

 Never Weary

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:9–10

Ever so often, and too often, we face the kind of widespread tragedy that we witness now from a distance on the Texas coast. The trouble is varied, from blown-down houses, lack of infrastructure, floods, rain, lack of necessities to the intangible but very real problems of weariness, worry, sadness, loss, and despair.  The sustained length in time of all the above is unusual and especially tiring this time.

At first, the survival mode keeps everyone moving because they have no choice. Yet, that can only be sustained for so long. The sheer weariness of body, mind, and spirit, starts to sap the strength. People eventually require a time-out and rest.  The rescued find that in shelters where they can. The rescuers do not. They keep going. But they too must rest at some point.

That’s why it takes all hands to hold, to lift, and to strengthen the worried and wearied. God always seems to grant supernatural strength and endurance to hurricane heroes who never seem to grow tired of doing good, even when they are exhausted. We praise God for them, and we pray to God for them. So then, lift up also the rescuers in prayer, as you pray for your family and friends who are among the millions of others also in need of God’s sustained grace.

For those whose lives have been devastated by the floods and winds of Harvey, let us not be weary in doing good either.  The first responders are doing a remarkable work of God. We can be second and third, and perpetual responders for the long term needs that will still be there years from now.

To never weary in doing good is but to follow the example of our Lord’s work in rescuing us from the unthinkable disaster of eternal death.  Jesus did not grow tired as he ministered the love of God in His life and in His death. We love because he first loved us, and as He loved us.

For strength we pray that we may strengthen others.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

P. S. That we may render aide “especially to those who are of the household of faith” consider donating at http://txlcms.org/how-can-i-help-hurricane-harvey/ .

Other aide can also be given at helpsalvationarmy.org. or redcross.org. or any number of other ways.

A Forgotten Cause of Conflict

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August 23, 2017

A Forgotten Cause of Conflict

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

The song “Satisfied Mind” includes this verse: “The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind.”  Envy, on the other hand, brings a poverty of the spirit. Often disguised as ambition and a motive for hard work, envy is a disease of the soul that “makes the bones rot.”  It disrupts our tranquility and tempts us to compromise our values and violate our conscience.

Scripture shows that it is a cause of conflict. It was out of envy that the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate.  Envy of the wicked who seem to go unpunished tempts us to join them.  The desire to acquire money by any means has led many to abandon their morality, betray their neighbor and neglect their families. It gives birth to worry and faithlessness when we compare our finances, health, beauty, strength, assets, popularity, etc. to those of others.  Envy creates a false standard for success based on comparison rather than on contentment with God’s gifts.

On a societal level, it causes much strife, unrest, and violence.  It can work into the human heart so much anger and bitterness that people lose their minds and behave in unreasonable ways.  One author even pointed out that for him it was a major factor in the confusion about his gender identity and behavior.   It is the opposite of love and faith.

Have you lost peace, sleep, contentment, and faith because of envy? The cure is the peace of God that the world cannot give, which is beyond our understanding. Paul invites us to bring all our needs in prayer to God through Christ Jesus, with thanksgiving, so that we may know that peace. (Phil.4) Faith that operates in such a prayer brings contentment. It trusts God that we do not need to fret when the wicked prosper, or feel that God has abandoned us because we don’t have it as good as others. Contentment, a “satisfied mind”, is the greatest wealth we can have.

Jesus empowers us to be satisfied because He has filled our greatest need: acceptance by God. His death and resurrection brought peace between the human race and the divine Judge. He answered the underlying fear of death and abandonment that creates such strife in our soul and pushes us to want and fight for more.  There is no peace possible until that peace comes from God through Jesus Christ.  When we can say with the hymn writer, “It is well with my soul” envy will vanish.

May it be well with your soul and may you have the gift of a satisfied mind.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

 

You Are Special!

Psalm 139

August 16, 2017

You Are Special!

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

This week’s title can be interpreted in unhealthy ways.  First, I could think, “If I am special, I am beyond criticism or correction. I am to be catered to.”  That is the response of immature people of any age.   Secondly, one’s inflated ego might boast, “I can do and be anything I want.”  That vain view lacks the wisdom of knowing that we are born with some gifts to do certain things well, but not all gifts.   We are not so special that we can live independent of others or of God’s constant care and guidance.

On the positive side, that we are special is a much-needed antidote to the prevailing social disease of groupthink and identity politics.  Society likes to invent categories of people by age, race, gender, and political party. By doing so it reduces us to a set of expectations about how we are to act or vote.  Marketing experts and politicos use groupthink to steer us to their way of thinking or product, but it tempts us not to see ourselves as individuals with our own set of opinions and values.  We project upon one another stereotypes that hide the uniqueness of the individual.  Consequently, we don’t really know people, and that makes it hard to love them as they need to be loved.  This is true not only in broad circles of society but also in the intimacy of marriage.

This is especially dangerous to our salvation when we fail to see how special God Himself is.  It is the height of hubris for us mortals to subject the Immortal to categories limited by our own small minds. The result is that we make Him to be what our experience or desire interpret Him to be: loving, but not challenging; or judgmental, but not merciful; or any shades in between.  Our source of revelation concerning God’s character is God Himself.  Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah he declares, “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?” (23:23)  In Christ’s death and resurrection, God the Father reveals Himself as Holy, taking sin seriously enough to  punish it with death. Yet He is also Merciful, loving us so much that He took that punishment upon Himself.

Yes, made in the image of God, you are special. Christ died for you. In Christ, we see that uniqueness not as a reason for pride, but as a reason for gratitude and personal commitment to employ the special grace and gifts of God to the service of others.

Go in God’s peace,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

God Incomprehensible

VBS

July 26, 2017

God Incomprehensible

“… no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

Even with all the faculties that God has given us we still cannot comprehend what He has done, who He is, or what He has in store for us. Nor can we even imagine it.

Yet, to enable children to grasp somehow that knowledge on some level, the dedicated and talented volunteers of Vacation Bible School are making their best effort. Their students use all their senses: ears that hear music and words of praise and prayer, eyes and hands that see and create art and music, voices that praise, pray and shout, “The victory is won”, minds that learn the Word from its stories of faith, hearts that embrace the wisdom of that same Word, and the whole body that runs, jumps, and throws as they express without words what the Word means. Fed with food for the stomach and the soul, the children can perhaps begin to comprehend how much God loves them and believe what He has in store for them.

By the time you read this, Vacation Bible School may be done. It has been a lively week of learning, rejoicing, and growing friendships. Who knows what fruit the Spirit will produce and grow in the receptive souls of children, helpers, and teachers as they have all sought to imagine God’s love for them. “God’s Word does not return to Him void,” is Isaiah’s promise to us.

People of Faith, give thanks to God that a mighty and incomprehensible thing happened at your Church this week. Faith was shared, love was shown, God was glorified and the Good News was proclaimed. We do not yet know what faith was cultivated. We do know that God equipped His people to labor in His vineyard this week. Their work was well done. God will get the glory as we get the grace.  That is enough, for even that is incomprehensible.

Thank you VBS.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

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