Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Location, Location, Location: Evangelism Takes Place in One’s Life, Not in Church)

The so called Church Growth Movement, which was based on social or sociological practices suggested that the church service was the place for evangelizing and tended to make the worship service an evangelistic event. One problem with this teaching is that most people who attend worship are already Christina. Another problem is that those who are Christian are often seeking to deepen their faith in the worship service. And finally, the use of the church service for evangelism is that it leaves the Christian with no place to go for spiritual growth and it negates the fact that it is in one’s daily life that the Gospel is shared best, on a one on one contact.

Thus, as we go back and listen to Jesus tell us that as we are going about our daily lives, as we are living lives of faith, no matter where we are, no matter our location or vocation, that we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. We attend Divine Service so that we are given forgiveness of sins, so that we are strengthened in our faith, and so that we so filled that when we are asked, so that when we have the opportunity, we know that God will give us both the words, which we have been given in the Divine Service as well as the courage to speak the words He gives to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus.

So, whether you are at your workplace, office, school, workshop, lobby, at home or out, no matter what your location, as you live your life as a priest, serving God by serving others, so you are bearing witness of your faith. And as you are asked, then the one asking will be open to hearing your answer. God will give you the courage and the word to speak. And yet, God will give faith, when and where He pleases, according to His time frame and good and gracious will.

Yes, sometimes God may give faith in church, but more often than not, it happens in life. Thus, we are always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus as our Savior.

25 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Go, Prophesy to My People - July 15, 2018 - Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Amos 7:7-15

Certainly we have all heard jokes that start like this, “I have good news and I have bad news. Which would you like to hear first?” Certainly we have actually had people, not telling a joke, tell us that they have good news and bad news and then ask, “Which would you like to hear first.” In our text for this morning Amos does not come with good news and bad news. He comes only with bad news and his bad news is not what the people want to hear. As a matter of fact, his bad news, which really is not even his bad news, but he is simply the messenger, bringing the bad news from the Lord. Amos has only bad news, he does not even have any good news to share. And he has no choice except that God told him to tell the bad news.
 
Our text begins with the vision of Amos from the Lord and the accusation of the people, “7This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; 9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’ 10Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land’” (v. 7-11).
 
Amos speaks of a vision from the Lord. In the vision, the children of Israel are compared to a plumb line. A plumb line is a line that is drawn in order to make sure everything was perfectly aligned, level and squared. In his vision, then, Amos is shown a plumb line by the Lord to point out the fact that the Lord had created a good upright nation. The Lord showed Amos a plumb line and then when asked what he saw, he answered and the Lord says He will measure Israel and they will not measure up to what is just and right and good. And so the Lord has determined to make Israel desolate. And because of his words, or rather because of the Lord’s vision which he speaks, Amos is accused of being a traitor and a conspirator.
 
Because of his words, or rather because of the Lord’s Word of prophecy through Amos, Amaziah, who is the priest of Bethel, finds Amos to be a threat. How do you deal with a threat? You tell the king, but you do not tell the king the whole truth and nothing but the truth, rather you tell him what you want him to hear.  Amaziah tells the king that Amos is conspiring against him and this is not good for the people to hear. Amaziah says that Amos says the king will die. These words are intended to anger the king even more.
 
What is Amos really saying? He is saying that the king, Jeroboam will die by the sword and that the people will be taken into exile into a far away land, a land not their own. Amos tells the truth. He speaks the words the Lord has given him to say. These are not Amos’ words and they are words he probably does not really want to speak, but they are the Lord’s Word which He has given to Amos and so Amos must speak them.
 
Our text continues with the words of Amaziah to Amos, “12And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom’” (v. 12-13).
 
In essence, Amaziah tells Amos to get out of town before it is too late. He tells Amos that he is no longer allowed to make a living as a prophet. You see, Amaziah was a paid prophet, which is why he only spoke what those who paid him wanted to hear. Today we might refer to someone like Amaziah as a “yes man.”
 
Amaziah threatens Amos that he should not prophecy any more in Bethel because that is the kings sanctuary and he does not need to hear any gloom and doom proclaimed in his sanctuary. Amaziah forbids Amos from prophesying in Bethel. Notice that for Amaziah truth does not matter. It does not matter to him if what Amos is speaking is true or not true, whether his words are really from the Lord or not. He is simply more concerned about keeping his position of prestige, power and authority.
    Finally, we are given Amos’ response, “14Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”’” (v. 14-15).
 
Amos’ response and answer to Amaziah is to assure him that he was not a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but was a shepherd and a gardener, taking care of sycamore-fig trees. Amos has no connections with any of the prophets, nor with their disciples. He was not hired by anyone. All he did was care for sycamore-fig trees and sheep and that is all the business he really wanted to have. But the Lord had other plans for Amos.
 
The only reason Amos has come to prophesy is because the Lord took him and told him to go and prophesy. Amos’ defense is that he can only say what the Lord tells him to say, these are not his words.
 
It was not Amos’ idea, it was the Lord’s doing. How could Amos stop his prophesying? What could Amos do? He was doing only what the Lord gave him to do. In other words, Amos is telling Amaziah, it is not me that you have a beef with, but with the Lord. Amos must obey God rather than men.
 
So, what does this text mean and what does it mean for us today? Just as in the days of Amos, so today, the Lord calls us. You might recall last week we talked about the callings from God. God calls us to life at our conception. God calls us to faith through the means of grace. He calls us to faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. He calls us to faith through the means of His Word. He strengthens and keeps us in faith through that same Word, through our remembering our Baptism, through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper.
 
God also calls us to vocation. God calls us to be His people where ever we are. No matter what our vocation, no matter what our job, God calls us to live lives as priests. God calls us to live lives as living sacrifices for Him. God calls us to do, whatever it is we do, our best, and to do whatever we are doing as if we are doing it for Him.
 
For some, God calls some men into the office of Holy Ministry. Those He calls into the office of Holy Ministry, He gives His Word to proclaim to His people. The man called by God is to speak as the Lord gives him the word to speak and he is not to be concerned about what his hearers want or desire to hear. Sometimes, just as was the case with Amos and other prophets, this means he proclaims words that are hard to hear, or that we do not want to hear such as repent.
 
Mostly, the Lord calls our pastors to rightly divide the law and the Gospel. To preach the law in all its severity, that is to make sure we hear the law, to make sure we understand that we are conceived and born in sin, that we sin in thought, word and action, that we sin sins of omission, not doing what we ought and sins of commission, doing what we should not do, that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, that we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. We need to hear the law otherwise the Gospel will mean nothing to us. Why or of what would we need to repent if we did not know we were sinners. So, even if our pastors should not necessarily want to preach the law, they must, because the law was given to them by God to proclaim to His people.
 
And our pastors are called by God and given His Word and authority to preach the Gospel in all its sweetness. We are to hear our pastors proclaim the fullness of that Gospel that is that Jesus lived for us, perfectly, obeying all of God’s laws perfectly, for us, in our place, because we cannot. We are to hear our pastors proclaim that Jesus lived perfectly, and then He took all our sins, all your sins, all my sins and He paid the price, He suffered the eternal death penalty, the price for sin, for us in our place and He died. But death and the grave had no power over Him, because He rose from the dead and now He lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit. He has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. And we know because He rose, we too will rise again. That is not simply good news, but that is the greatest news in the world. It is news that truly is out of this world.
 
Our response to all that God does for us and gives to us is that God calls us to be His witnesses, through our thoughts, words and actions. No, we are not all ministers or pastors, but we are all priests. Remember the role of the priest was to offer sacrifices. The pastor is not a priest. He does not offer sacrifices. We are priests, we offer sacrifices. We offer our lives as living sacrifices for the Lord.
 
We live in a world that has changed and continues to change. We live in a world where one sides against another and just as Amaziah did not always speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth but rather spoke his own version of the truth to gain support, so too it happens in our world today. As Christians we must be very discerning at what we hear and do not hear because there are many false prophets and false proclaimers in our world even today. What is more is that we were once a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, yet this foundation has been given up for the lies and false teachings of fallible humans. Indeed, as a country we have lost much of our heritage and Christian foundation.  All one needs to do is to look at the so called Christian churches in our country today to see that too many do not look much different than our society, that is that what was once considered sin by the church is now hailed as meet, right and salutary, and what was once considered meet, right and salutary is now hailed as wrong. And yet, we are to continue to obey God rather than humanity and to proclaim what God says as truth, even in the face of persecution. We are indeed to be like Amos for the sake of the truth of God’s Word. And like Amos, our Lord will protect and defend us.
 
We may most certainly feel like Amos. We are simply practitioners of our vocations. We are simply minding our own business, and I would add, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in our faith in Jesus. We would rather not be accused as Amos was, yet with the help of the Holy Spirit, we stand firm in our faith, giving an answer for the hope that we have as we have the opportunity. We rejoice and share the good news of sins forgiven, faith given, and eternal life won for us and given to us. And we rejoice and give God praise. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Seeing Opportunities)

“Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15b). It is a fact that a person will not listen to you if they are not interested in what you have to us, unless they ask you. In other words, it is best to be ready to give an answer when someone asks you for a reason for the hope that you have, just as Peter tells us.

So, what are such opportunities and can we create such opportunities? We cannot create opportunities, but God can. What we can do is to pray for opportunities. We can live lives of faith bearing witness of the hope that we have. We can wear clothing and/or jewelry that is of such a nature that one might ask about our hope, in other words, we might wear something with a Christian message, a shirt or tie, or hat or the like. We may wear a necklace or earrings that suggest our hope as Christians.

More often than not our friends are like-minded people that we have come into contact with because of similar interests. Perhaps we only have Christian friends. Think about your travels, the groups or clubs of which you are a member. Are their ways you might work the conversation so as to be asked about the hope that you have, not in a contrived, fake or phoney way, but that fits the conversation?

It might be helpful for you to ask a question remembering to ask permission to ask first especially if it is a personal question, such as, “May I ask you about your church?” “What do they teach about . . . ?” perhaps some social issue or the like, any question that might bring the question back to you.

The point is that as you pray for opportunities to share your hope, the Lord will give you those opportunities. With the opportunity is the encouragement to be ready to give an answer and we are ready as the Lord gives us both the words and the courage to speak. And then we leave it to Him to work when and where He pleases.
24 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I Am Sending You - July 8, 2018 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 09) - Text: Ezekiel 2:1-5

Our text for today is the call of Ezekiel to his prophetic office. The name Ezekiel means strength of God or God’s strength. As we will see, Ezekiel has a fitting name, because His strength as a prophet of the Lord does not come from within himself, but from outside of himself, from the strength the Lord gives to him. Ezekiel’s name reminds us that we are like Ezekiel. We are not strong, in anyway, because of our own strength. Our faith and strength do not come from within ourselves, but from outside ourselves. The Lord calls us through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. As He calls us He put faith in our hearts and God gives us all His gifts and blessings, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
 
Our text begins with the call of Ezekiel. We read beginning at verse one, “1And [God] said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’ 2And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me” (v. 1-2). Notice that our text begins with the Lord calling Ezekiel to stand on his feet. When the Lord called him, he fell down. He fell down in awe. Although Ezekiel had fallen down because He heard the Word of the Lord, when the Word of the Lord tells Him to “stand up” on his feet he is raised to his feet by the Spirit who comes through that same Word. As always, the word of the Lord is efficacious, it does what it says, it lifts him to his feet.
 
As we hear Ezekiel’s call this morning we are reminded that there are different calls from the Lord. The Lord’s first call is to everyone is the call to life. God calls us to life at the moment of our conception. At conception we are called to be the person God would have us to be.
 
The Lord’s second calling is the call to faith. God’s will is that all people come to faith and know and believe in Jesus. God’s call is to all people, of all places and all times, and yet there are many who resist and refuse the call to faith, yet the Lord still calls and He continues to call until we pass on from this world. For most of us God’s call to faith came while we were yet infants as He called us through the waters of Holy Baptism. For others, God’s call to faith came at a later age through His Holy Word which stirred in us a desire to be Baptized.
  
  The Lord’s third calling is to our vocation. In other words, the Lord would have us to do whatever we do to His glory. Often we equate vocation with job and that is a good equation, but our vocation goes beyond simply our job. Our vocation includes that fact that we serve in many vocations at the same time. For some, you may serve in the vocation as a husband or wife, and a father or mother, a brother or sister and an aunt or uncle, as an employee and perhaps a supervisor, even as a grandparent or mentor. Unfortunately, we often equate the value of a job, one of a persons vocations, with the amount of money that person earns, or the amount of perceived prestige or power one might wield. God equates the value of a person’s job with how well a person serves Him and gives glory to Him through that job or vocation. In other words, the person who does manual labor at minimum wage to the glory of God is serving the Lord and, to put it in human terms, is of greater value to the Lord than the person who makes millions of dollars a year, but does so for his own personal glory and gain. God calls us to our vocation so that we serve Him by serving others.
 
God calls to life, to faith and God calls to vocation. There is one other calling from the Lord and that is the calling to the office of Holy Ministry. When it comes to this last calling, we understand that the Lord calls only some men to the office of Holy Ministry, that is to be pastors.
 
Getting back to Ezekiel’s call. The Lord calls Ezekiel for a purpose. We pick up at verse three, “3And he said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” 5And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them’” (v. 3-5).
 
The Lord calls Ezekiel to speak to a rebellious nation. What is interesting about this calling is the language of the text. The children of Israel are not called the children of God, but are called a rebellious nation. The word for “nation” that is used is “goyim” which is the Hebrew word for nations in general and is often translated as Gentiles. Goyim are non-Hebrew, non-covenant people. In other words, the Lord is intimating, if not outright saying, that these people are no longer the Lord’s people because they have rebelled and refused the Lord’s gifts.
 
God calls Ezekiel to speak the Word of the Lord. Ezekiel is not to speak his own words, but he is to speak the words which the Lord gives Him to speak. This means that when the people rebel against Ezekiel’s words they are not rebelling against Ezekiel, but against God. Here we are reminded that we are people who act the same way today. It happens too often that someone will disagree with what I, as a pastor, will say from the pulpit. Now, this does not negate the fact that you are to be as the Bereans and you are to check everything that I say against the Word of God and if I do preach something that is contrary to the Word of God, certainly you are to take issue with me. But if what I am preaching is from the Word of God, then if someone takes issue, unfortunately, they will not be disagreeing with me, because I am merely passing on the Lord’s Word. So, they find themselves disagreeing with God.
 
Back to Ezekiel’s call. The Lord’s call to Ezekiel was not a call for results, or as we may think today, it was not a call for success. Ezekiel was not expected to change the people’s minds. He was not expected to make the people listen and change their ways. He was expected only to proclaim the Lord’s Word to the people. The Lord would take care of the rest and “they [would] know that a prophet has been among them.”
 
God’s call to us is a call to faith and His call to faith is through means. As we mentioned earlier, for most of us that call was through the means of Holy Baptism, in other words at our baptism God called us to faith. At our Baptism God put faith into our hearts. For others that call was through the means of God’s Word. In either case, God comes to us, God calls to us, God gives to us, through the means He has given us, the Word and the Sacraments. God comes to us through these means to bring us to faith, that is to give us faith, to strengthen us in our faith, to give us forgiveness of sins and to give us eternal life.
 
God calls us to faith and He calls us to be His holy priesthood. We are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all sinful human beings. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And yet, our Lord sent His only Son, Jesus, to give His life for ours on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Thus, we are all equal in God’s eyes as being redeemed children, not of our own, but by the shedding of Jesus’ blood for us. It is Jesus and the shedding of His blood that makes us just and right in God’s eyes. It is faith in Jesus’ shedding His blood, faith given by the Holy Spirit, that moves us to live lives of faith. It all points to God as the prime mover. God does and God gives and we are done to and we are given to.
 
God calls us to our vocations. As I said earlier, we each serve in various vocations at the same time. The purpose of our vocation is not to serve ourselves but to serve the Lord and we do that in our vocation and vocations by serving others. We serve in the various vocations such as husband and wife, mother and father, brother and sister, parent and child, uncle and aunt, grandmother and grandfather and so forth. We also serve in various vocations when it comes to our work or our job. Whatever our vocation according to our work or our job we are to work to bring God glory. We may think that we are working for our employer, yet we have a higher calling. No matter what our job, we are to work for the Lord. Just think how much more value there is to our work as we realize that we are working for the Lord. This means that we do our jobs in such a way that we bear witness to the hope that is in us and that we do our work to the glory of the Lord.
 
God calls some men to be pastors. As human beings we are all equally sinners and saints in God’s eyes. Yet our Lord has set certain boundaries, He has given certain roles to us as men and women in His church. He has set certain boundaries and roles for the sake of order and for peace and harmony. One role in particular is that God calls only men and only certain men to be pastors. To put this into a bit of a perspective, God has called women to bear the image of God in that they can procreate, they can give birth to children. God has not given this calling to men. God has called men to be responsible for their families. God has not given this calling to women. So we each have our calling and we each have our role.
 
God calls us all to be faithful, not necessarily successful. To suggest that God calls us to be successful would necessitate defining the word success. In the Bible, the only times the word success is used is in connection with a military campaign and the success is what is given by God. Our world would define success as a matter of wealth, fame, power, or glory. God does not call us for any of these. God calls us to be faithful. “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of live” (Rev. 2:10).
 
God calls and He moves in us to not refuse His call. We do not come to the Lord, looking for Him, seeking Him. We do not have a spark of faith in us which we must kindle. To speak in terms of what we are doing is to speak in terms that would suggest that we are enemies of God, spiritually blind and spiritually dead. I think it is so unfortunate that the world, movies, novels, and so forth urge us to look inside ourselves for the answers and yet we know that when we look inside ourselves all we see is the fact that we are sinful human beings fighting as enemies of God. Thus, I would encourage you, I would urge you, look outside yourself. Look to God’s Word. Look to Jesus. It is the Lord who comes to us, looking for us, seeking us. He comes to us through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He comes to us to gives us the gifts He has to give, gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, eternal life and salvation. He comes to give us the gifts earned by the giving of Jesus life for us on the cross. He comes to give us His gifts and to stir in us so that we do not refuse His gifts.
 
The example of God’s call to Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord has called each one of us. He has called us to faith, through the Gospel and the waters of Holy Baptism. He has called us to our vocation, to work to His glory. And He calls us to be faithful unto death. Most important is the fact that as He calls us He also stirs in us to not refuse His calling. And He stirs in us to give glory to Him alone. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.