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!


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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Abel giving.

What was the difference between Cain’s offering (sacrifice) and Abel’s offering (sacrifice)?

We read the account in Genesis 4:3-7.
“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’” (Emphasis Added.)

Notice that the text says that “Cain brought some” of the fruits of the soil and God told him, “if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” In other words, because Cain did not bring the best of his first fruits, his offering was not acceptable to the Lord.

On the other hand, “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn” and “the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering.”

Abel’s example to us is that of returning the best of the first fruits that we have been given by the Lord. In so doing, the Lord will accept our offering and will give to us even more.
14 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Gift of the Spirit of Truth - May 29, 2011 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 14:15-21

Last week Jesus told His disciples, and us, that He was going away, to heaven, to prepare, to get ready a place in heaven for them, and for us. This week our text is the continuation of Jesus’ words to His disciples. This week Jesus comforts and encourages His disciples by promising to send them the Holy Spirit. Of course, we are looking back and we know how these events played out. We know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which we will celebrate in two Sundays. In defense of the disciples, they had not yet experienced this Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, so they were still puzzled about all these things of which Jesus was speaking. They were going through time one day at a time, looking forward to the fulfillment of these things about which Jesus spoke and trying to understand.

In our text, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus’ words remind us that what we think reflects what is in our hearts. What do you think? Is your mind on the things for which you are praying, or does your mind wonder while you pray? Is the Lord’s Prayer something your rattle off, or do you think about the words, making sure you have forgiven others as you ask God to forgive you? Is your mind on the sermon, or on the Bible reading, or does your mind wonder? Are you thinking about the sporting event which will be on TV when you get home? Are you thinking about dinner which is in the oven? Do you always think the best about other people and put the best construction on everything or do you always want to hear the worst possible gossip and rumors? What you think reflects what is in your heart.

But not just what we think, what we say reflects what is in our hearts as well. Your Mom was right when she told you, “if you cannot say anything nice then do not say anything at all.” Are you always there, ready with a kind and encouraging word, or are you always there, ready to kick a person when they are down, by what you say? Jesus reminds us that out of the heart come the evils that are inside of us.

But not just what we think and just what we say, reflects what is in our hearts, what we do reflects what is in our hearts. What we do is motivated by our thoughts and our words. What do your actions say about what is in your heart? Are we always ready to stop and lend a hand? Are we ready to volunteer to serve or do we simply wait to be asked or not serve at all? The point is, if we think about it, and if we admit it, we are all sinful human beings. Our sin begins in our hearts, it makes it to our lips and it shows itself in our actions.

Let us try another one. Did your parents every tell you or simply imply, or do you tell or imply to your own children something like this: “Do as I say, not as I do.” In other words, do not look at my actions, even if they do not match what I say, instead, do what I tell you. That mantra does not sound like what Jesus is telling us in our text. Thankfully Jesus reminds us, “I have already done everything for you.”

Jesus’ words remind us that what He thought reflected what was in His heart. Jesus was always thinking about others, about us, about how He could love us, about what He could do for us, about how He could help us, about how He could save us. Jesus always thought about others. Remember His words from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And what Jesus said reflected what was in His heart. Again, on the cross, Jesus, in the midst of His suffering, thought of His mother as He gave His mother to John and John to His mother so that they might care for one another. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished!” He had completed the payment for the sins of the world, for your sins and for my sins.

And what Jesus did reflected what was in His heart. Jesus went about doing good, healing, raising from the dead, teaching, preaching, casting out demons and the like. Again, the point is that Jesus has already done everything for us, everything we cannot do, He did, and He did it perfectly. Jesus lived perfectly for us, showing us by His actions, by His words, and by His thoughts that He is the sinless Son of God who came into our world to save us.

Now I would like to take a moment to speak to the sinners of the congregation and then I would like to speak to the faithful. So, if you are not a sinner you can tune me out for a bit. First, to the sinners of the congregation I say: Repent! Take seriously the words that we confess almost every Sunday morning, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved [God] with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve [God’s] present and eternal punishment.” Do not just recite these words as if they mean nothing, take the time to repent of your specific sins, sins in thought, word, and deed.

We are sinful human beings. We sin by doing the things we should not be doing, those are the sins we call sins of commission. But more often than not, as Christians, we commit sins of not doing what we should be doing, those are called sins of omission. So I say, repent of the sins you have committed, but also of your sins of omission. Repent of neglecting to help and be of service to your God as well as to others in the congregation. Repent of failing to be in God’s Word regularly, every day and every week. Repent of not letting your faith show through in your thoughts, words and actions.

And repent of not taking God seriously. Repent of thinking that God is not always the answer, that God will not always provide, that God is something less than all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, all loving, everywhere present, that He is anything less than God. You have not because you ask not and you have not because you pray without believing. My word to the sinners of this congregation are that you should repent.

As you hear those words to repent, I pray that as each and every one of you heard them I hope that you were not thinking, “you tell them pastor,” because the person sitting next to you is thinking the same thing. At the same time, I also hope you hear the words of Jesus, “your sins are forgiven, go out and sin no more.” Your sins are forgiven. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness and our Lord daily forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

And now, to the faithful of this congregation I say: Keep the faith, but do not just keep it, give it away as you have been, by thought, word and deed. Keep the faith. Continue to be in God’s Word. In season and out of season, come to be given the gifts that God has to give, the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Come to be given the gifts where and how He gives them. Come to the spiritual supermarket of God’s Word, to church, to divine service and be given His gifts in the ways that He has to give them, through the means of grace, confession and absolution, the Word and the Sacraments. Come, confess your sins and hear His most beautiful words of absolution, “your sins are forgiven.” Come and hear His Word read and proclaimed. Take time to remember your baptism and how at your baptism God chose you, He put His name on you, He made you His child, He wrote your name in the book of life. And come to the Lord’s Table. Come partake of His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.

This morning our Lord urges us to keep the faith and to remember that we are not alone. God is with us. Just as He promised His disciples in our text, so His promise is to us, that He will continue to send the Holy Spirit who will be with us in doing the work which God has for us to do. God has blessed this congregation through over 110 years in this place and He promises that He will always be with you that He will never leave you nor will He forsake you. Even in our unfaithfulness, even in our doubt, God never goes back on His promises. God is faithful.

Our three texts for today show how this works itself out in our lives and in our world. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, which He did on Pentecost. In the first lesson from Acts, Paul shows the power and working of the Holy Spirit, first in the fact that He, a Christian killer, was redeemed by Jesus and given the opportunity to be a witness for Him and He did as we hear him in the lesson for this morning, boldly proclaiming the message of salvation to the “religious” men of Athens, who were not Christian. Peter, in his epistle (letter) reminds us that we should be like Paul, that is, by the power of the Holy Spirit we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And how do we prepare to always be prepared, by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. By our daily reading the Word, by having family and personal devotions, by weekly being in divine service and Bible class. As we make regular and diligent use of these means of grace, the Holy Spirit is able to use this learning in order to work in us the words we might need to give an answer for the faith and hope we have.

And so I leave you with Jesus’ words to His disciple and His word to you, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” Let me assure you, Jesus has kept His promise. We do have the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth in this place. And He will continue to work in you and in your lives. And it is He who stirs in us to rejoice and say, to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stewardship is . . . first fruits giving.

What is the difference between first fruits, tithes and offerings? We see the difference by defining the words.

Offering is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as: 1. The act of making an offer. 2. Something that is offered. 3. A presentation made to God or a deity as an act of religious sacrifice; an oblation. 4. A contribution or gift, especially made at a religious service.

Tithe is defined as: 1. A tenth part of one’s annual income, either in kind or money, contributed voluntarily for charitable purposes or due as a tax for the support of the clergy or church. 2. Any tax or assessment of one tenth. 3. a. The tenth part of something. b. Any very small part.

First Fruits is defined as: 1. The first product of a season’s harvest. 2. The first result or profit of an undertaking.

We might further define these words by saying that an offering is anything we offer to God, usually done out of a felt need on the part of the offer-er. A tithe is the Old Testament tax Law, but it can also be a great New Testament Gospel, wherein we are privileged to respond to our Lord with a tenth of what we have first been given (received) from Him. First Fruits giving, however, is the most Gospeling type of giving. First fruits giving is that giving which recognizes that God gives first, that He will continue to give, and that I do not need to fear that if I do give, that He will not return to help me make “end’s meet.”
13 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stewardship is . . . receiving gifts, not presents.

Very often, people equate the words “gift” and “present”. To some degree they are the same thing. To some degree they are two different things. The following is meant to help narrow the definitions of these words in order to better understand the difference between the gifts that God has to give and the presents we often exchange with one another

Christmastime is a special time. It is a time for exchanging presents as we celebrate the one true gift, the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s Son to humankind. Did you hear what that last statement said? It stated that a present is something that is exchanged. I give you a present and you give me a present. That is what a present is, something that is exchanged with someone else.

Did you hear the second part of the above statement? There is one true gift, the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s Son to humankind. There was no exchange involved. God gives and we are given to (receive), that is a gift. A gift is a giving and a being given to (receiving), particularly, God’s giving and our being given to (receiving).

God does not give us presents, He gives us gifts. The gifts He gives us, He gives through means, the means of grace, the Word (Bible) and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Through these means of grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), God gives us the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, salvation, and the list goes on. God gives His gifts, all of His gifts, and He gives us even more of His gifts. And they are gifts, because they are given without our presenting anything back to Him. We may exchange presents, but God gives gifts. To God be the glory!
12 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a heart thing.

Whatever has first place in your life is truly your God. That statement makes sense, because God is the person you want to give top priority. He has given you top priority, giving the life of His only Son for you. So what has first place in your life?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:31). What Jesus means is that where you spend your money shows what or who is truly your God. So where do you spend your money?

Try this exercise. Sit down with your checkbook, your charge account receipts, and all your other receipts. Make a list of where you spend your treasure. Now, compare that list to how much of your treasure you give (back to) the Lord.

So, how did you do? If you are like most people, your gods are the Internal Revenue Service and Walmart. Unfortunately, we can do nothing about the IRS god, except try to be better at tracking our finances, keeping good records, so that we give the IRS their due, but only their due. We can also strive to take better care of what we buy, things we need as distinguished from things we want.

The hardest thing we can do is we can take a leap of faith and put God first in our lives by honoring Him with the better portion of our treasure. Of course, we cannot do this on our own. If we could, we would already be doing it. Pray. Pray to the Lord to forgive you for putting Him in third, forth, or fifth place in your life. Pray to the Lord to forgive you for having other gods before Him, your house god, your boat god, your Walmart god. Pray to the Lord and ask Him to strengthen your faith so that you will have the assurance that as the Lord has provided you will all that you need in this life, you will believe that He will continue to do so. Then, live and act accordingly, making Him your number one priority, your true God. With His help you can do it. To God be the glory!
11 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life - May 22, 2011 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 14:1-14

When you go to the mall, especially a new mall, one you have never been to, you often look for the mall directory in order to find where certain stores are. And as you look at the directory it often has a little tag stating, “you are here.” This is an important bit of information, because you need to know where you are in order to be able to get to someplace else. In our text for today we see Jesus giving His disciples directions to the place that they will be going. The problem is that they do not seem to know where they are now. And, although we may at various times in our own lives feel like these disciples, fortunately, for us, all we need to know is that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Our text begins with Jesus preparing His disciples for His departure. We read beginning at verse one, “1Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.” (1-4).

Jesus tells His disciples that He is going away. From time to time He had intimated and at other times outright told His disciples of His suffering and death and of His resurrection. In this instance, He is telling them that He is going away, namely that He is going to heaven. He is going there to prepare a place for them. Jesus is not going to create a place, rather to prepare an already created place. Heaven is already there. Heaven is a present reality. Heaven is there waiting for us. Jesus is going there to get their rooms ready.

Jesus’ words are not just to His disciples, they are to us as well. Jesus is going to prepare a place for us along with His disciples and all the saints who have gone on before us and who will go on after us. Jesus goes and He will return to take us. Jesus’ words are for us, to remind us that He did everything for us, for His disciples, as well for the whole world, for all people of all places of all times.

These words of Jesus are indeed words of comfort, especially to those who lay near death. Many times I have shared these words with someone who knows they are about to fall asleep in faith. These words are words of comfort and assurance, to know that Jesus has a place ready for us when we pass on from this world, from this vale of tears to be with Him in heaven.

Continuing on in our text, Jesus explains to His disciples the way to heaven, that it, that the way to heaven is by faith in Him. We read picking up at verse five, “5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him’” (5-7).

Thomas heard what Jesus said. He heard the words and he probably understood the definition of each word, yet He did not understand what Jesus was saying. And so he honestly speaks his mind and the questions he has on his mind.

Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus, that is faith in Jesus, is the only way to heaven. There are not many paths that lead to the same enlightenment, there is only one way. There may be many religions, even cults and sects in the world, but there is still only one way. Although there are many gods (small “g” gods) in our world, there is only one true God who can give us eternal life. And as I have said before, this exclusive claim of one way and only one way to heaven is why we Christians are so hated by the rest of the world, especially those who would seek enlightenment by another, shall we say, more carnal path.

Jesus is the way and Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the only truth. Apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth, and we can see how true that is in our world today. Without Jesus, without God, there are no certainties, there are no absolutes, and no absolutes means no truth, and so truth becomes relative. What may be true for you may not be true for me and what may be true for me may not be true for you. Truth becomes what I feel. If I feel it, then it must be true for me. That is the truth of the world in which we live today and it is no wonder we have such a confused and mixed up world. This type of truth finds its way into the church when we hear such thoughts as, “All religions are equal paths to an eternal existence.” “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere in your faith or as long as you believe strongly enough.” “The Bible can be translated in so many different ways, it means different things to different people so how can you say your interpretation is right and mine is wrong?” This type of truth is also seen when the Bible is misquoted, when we hear such statements as, “The Bible says you’re not supposed to judge others.” “The Bible says you’re not supposed to repeat gossip, so you better listen close the first time.” Have you ever wondered why we have such a problem with truth in our world today. It is because, apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth. And we live in a world that is quite apart from Jesus.

Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. And Jesus is the life, that is, He is eternal life. Faith in Jesus is the only way to discover the truth that Jesus is the only way to eternal life in heaven.

Jesus clearly tells His disciples that He and the Father are one. We profess faith in a triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We may not be able to completely understand, or explain, this triune God, but we believe it, because God’s Word tells us this is so.

As our text continues we get a further explanation of the way to heaven. We read picking up at verse eight, “8Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ 9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves’” (8-11).

Philip missed the point. But Philip was not alone, all the disciples, and even we today, oftentimes miss the point. We miss what Jesus is trying to tell us. Jesus shows Himself to be God, by His signs, by His wonders, and by the miracles He preformed. These signs, wonders, and miracles showed that Jesus is who He says He is, true God and true man. He is the Savior, born in human flesh, born to fulfill the law, born to give His life as a ransom for the world.

So, as the Father speaks, Jesus speaks. Jesus did not come on His own, He came as He was sent by the Father. He came to fulfill a mission. He came to love us and He loves us by giving His life as a ransom for all. He came to live a perfect life for us in our place. He came to trade His perfection for our sins. He came to suffer the worst death possible, the worst death we human beings deserve, death on a cross. He came to suffer eternal spiritual death. He came to rise again so that we can know, for certain, that it is an absolute, that we too will rise again. He came to give us His robes of righteousness.

Jesus does not try to talk anyone into anything. He simply points to the signs, wonders, and miracles. He says, do not just take my word for it, rather see what I am doing and then believe because of the signs, wonders, miracles, and the works that I do.

In good Lutheran fashion, verse twelve (12) answers our question, “what does this mean?” As we read verse twelve we realize that we have been saved for a purpose. We have not been saved for nothing. And please understand, I am speaking in terms of sanctification, that is in terms of a response of faith. We have been saved as a preparation for good works, we read, “12Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

As we hear these words, that we are saved for good works we must never get these words backwards and think that we are saved by our good works. Listen again, we are saved for good works. Here we hear Jesus loud and clear as He tells us the close relationship between salvation and good works, the close relationship between justification and sanctification. Jesus does not save us for nothing. He saves us to do good works, the good works that He has for us to do. The correlation of that would be to say as James says, faith without works is dead, that is, if we are not doing good works then it shows that we do not have faith.

Jesus tells us that we will do good works and as a matter of fact the good works that we do will be greater good works than the ones He did, because Jesus has greater things for us to do. Of course, we understand that we do not count Jesus’ death on the cross as a good work. His death on the cross is what saved us. And because of His death on the cross, because He saved us, we are moved to do good works, the good works that He has for us to do.

We also come to realize that we will do greater things than Jesus, not because we can do greater things by ourselves, but because Jesus will work these greater things through us. So, there again it is not we who are doing them, but Jesus doing them through us. We will do greater things than Jesus because what we do will be done to the credit and to the glory of Him. That is what makes it a good work, because it is motivated by God, because God does it through us and because it is done to the praise and glory of His Holy name. Anything less is not a good work in God’s eyes and is not the good works that God intends for us to do.

Today, May 22, 2011, Jesus speaks to us as He speaks to His disciples. Jesus reminds us by His words that He is true man and true God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, that apart from Him there is only the way to hell, apart from Him there is no truth, and apart from Him there is only eternal spiritual death in hell. Jesus reminds us the He came into our world to show us the way, the truth and the life, to rescue us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He came to bring us salvation, but not just salvation for the fun of it. He came to bring us salvation so that we might do the good works that He has for us to do. And we do those good works, not because we are all so fired important, not because we can do them by ourselves, but because He motivates us to do them, because He does them through us, and because He does them to the credit, the praise and glory of the Father in heaven. And to all this we stand in awe as we see that we are the recipients of all these blessings from Him and more. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stewardship is . . . managing Godly things.

Whatever you are born with and whatever you take with you when you die, that is what truly belongs to you. That is like the observation one man made, “you never see a U-haul trailer following a hearse.” Nothing is truly our own.

What is one thing that we have that did not first come from God? One thing that we have that did not first come from God is our sin. God did not give us sin, nor did God create sin. Sin is a man-made creation and the only thing we have of ourselves.

God owns and man owes. Everything we have we have as a gift from God, we have to use while we are here on this earth, we have for a very short period of time (compared to eternity).

So, how are we doing managing God’s things? If we are like most people (read sinners) we are not doing as good a job as we could. By our very nature we tend to mess up. Thanks be to God that even though He gives us the world to take care of, He does not leave it completely up to us. Like a good parent watching over their child taking care of their room, pets, the lawn, etc., God watches over us to make sure we are caring for His world.

Isn’t it an awe inspiring thing? God gives us this world to live in, to use, to take care of, and yet He also helps us to take care of it. God moves in us to be aware of our world, our city, our neighborhood, our block, our house, our families, ourselves. He moves in us to care for all His good gifts and blessings. God gives and He keeps on giving.

How are you doing managing God’s things? With the help of God and by the grace of God, we are doing a job that is to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.
10 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stewardship is . . . doing Godly deeds.

Almost every Sunday morning, we confess our sins to our most merciful God. We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We confess that we have sinned against Him, as well as against our neighbor, in thought, word, and deed.

When we hear the word stewardship, it is often used with the words, time, talents, and treasures, the three “T’s” as they are called. But our stewardship is not merely the three “T’s,” our stewardship is our whole life, time, talents, treasure, body, mind, personality, worship, prayer, witnessing, all that makes us who we are, me.

Our culture seems to teach us that we can do whatever we want to do, as long as it does not hurt anyone else. My freedom to extend my fist stops at where your nose begins. Well, just like in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so too in our spiritual life. Every one of our actions, what we do, whether we think it affects someone else or not, does have an equal and opposite reaction, on someone else. There is not such thing as my doing something that will affect no one but myself.

God has given us life and He has given us a brain to use to take care of this life. He gives us everything we need in and for this life. He gives us the abilities we need, the family and friends we need, all that we need to do what He would have us to do. And what He would have us to do is to live our lives to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.

By ourselves we are unable to accomplish what God would have us to do, but He does not expect us to do it alone. He moves in us to do the good works He has for us to do and then we do them to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. To God be the glory!
9 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stewardship is . . . speaking Godly words.

Almost every Sunday morning, we confess our sins to our most merciful God. We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We confess that we have sinned against Him, as well as against our neighbor, in thought, word, and deed.

Is the first word out of our mouths always a word of discouragement, sarcasm, put down, or the like? Or is the first word out of our mouths a word of encouragement, can-do, building up, and the like?

We live in a world which tells us that to get ahead we must, at times, put others down. You sometimes have to step on others to get to the top. If I put you down, below me, then I am better than you, or so we think.

Do our words give glory to God, or make Him ashamed that we wear His name (Christian)? Those are tough questions and tough words.

We do have the Word. We have the Word of God, the Old and New Testaments, words of the promise of a Savior. We have the Word of God, the Savior, Jesus, the Word made flesh. We have the tangible Word of God, as He comes to us in His body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. We have a good Word of God.

As we read, hear, and receive that Word of God, He works through that Word to bring us to faith, strengthen us in our faith, and keep us in faith until life everlasting. And He works through that Word to move in us to be able to speak words, good words, encouraging words, to our brothers and sisters in Christ. To God be the glory!
8 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Have Come to Bring Life - May 15, 2011 - Fourth Sunday of Easter/Good Shepherd Sunday - Text: John 10:1-10.

Last week and week before last we heard accounts of Jesus resurrection. Two weeks ago we were there with the disciples and with the disciples and Thomas as Jesus appeared to them, showing Himself to be alive. Last week we were there with the disciples on the road to Emmaus as they realized that Jesus was alive. And actually, both those events happened on the same day, Easter evening. This week we shift gears (so to speak) as we celebrate what we call “Good Shepherd” Sunday.

We begin by setting the context for our text this morning. Our context is that this account is one which took place well before Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus had already been baptized by John and was out preaching and teaching, as well as healing, casting out demons, doing other signs, wonders, miracles and the like. By this time, Jesus had established Himself as someone who captured peoples attention. And one group whose attention He had captured was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Pharisees are watching Jesus very closely. They do not like Him and they are looking for a way to get rid of Him, any way or any excuse. Besides Jesus did not make them look very good. In the verses before our text this morning we read about Jesus healing a man born blind, that was our text about six weeks ago. In that text we saw how the Pharisees tried every way they could to disclaim the miracle of the healing of the blind man. They questioned the parents about their child really being born blind. They questioned the man about his blindness, and finally they resort to putting him out of the synagogue. Though their attempts at disclaimer were futile they persisted. The end of the chapter as it is marked in our Bible does not mean that the story is concluded, rather, the story continues in our text for this morning. In our text, Jesus tells this story of shepherding in order to explain what true shepherding is all about, what true caring is all about, and that He is the True Shepherd who has come to bring us life in contrast to the Pharisees who come as thieves and robbers to take life away.

In order to get a better feel for our text let us talk about shepherding. Our text tells us that there is a gate keeper. From what I have read about the practice of shepherding, at night all of the sheep from several shepherds are kept in one pen, a corral, with walls, but no roof. There is one door to the sheep pen and it is watched by the gate keeper. When morning dawns each shepherd comes and claims his sheep calling them each by name. After his sheep are all out of the pen he goes before them and leads them. The sheep know their shepherd by his voice. They do not mistake another for their shepherd, like a thief or a robber. Our text explicitly tells us that the thief or robber does not come through the gate, but climbs over the wall or comes in some other way. When he comes in, not only do the sheep not listen to his voice or come to him, but they run away from him. The thief comes not to bring life, but to take it away.

Jesus intentionally uses this story about shepherding because He knows that the Pharisees are familiar with the concept of shepherding and they are familiar with the Old Testament symbolism of the shepherd. The shepherd symbolizes a royal caretaker of God’s people. We see this symbolism in the twenty-third Psalm which is a favorite psalm of many people. In the twenty-third Psalm we read how “the Lord is my shepherd.” The leaders in Israel were their shepherds. And God often times denounced the false shepherds and promised to provide a true Shepherd, the Messiah to care for His sheep. The Pharisees knew and understood the imagery Jesus was using. They knew that Jesus was at least a prophet. They knew His claims to be the Messiah, but they just could not and would not believe this to be true. Today it is easy for us as we look back to see the Pharisees as the false shepherds and how they were seeking to take life from their people. They took physical life by imposing many tedious laws and spiritual life by taking away the Gospel.

So, what was their problem? What is it about these Pharisees? The Pharisees were a group of “separated ones,” which is what their name means. Their religion amounted to following a code of rules and regulations to the letter. In order to do this they separated themselves from the common people and devoted their lives to following these, their own rules. They, with the high priests, had set themselves up pretty good with the ruling Roman government and had good positions of authority. They did know the prophecies of a coming Messiah, but their idea of the Messiah was different than Jesus. They were looking for an earthly king, someone who would be born of royalty, would overthrow the Roman government and would set them up as rulers. Jesus did not fit their specifications so they wanted nothing to do with Him. Whether He was truly the Messiah or not did not matter. They were not concerned about the people, whether they had life or not. Their only concern was for their own life, which in their blindness they lost. They were like the people today who believe that their good works and deeds will be seen by others to merit for themselves a high place in society and who hope that will translate also into a high place in the afterlife, if they are thinking that far forward. They were like people today who look only to their own interest and especially to their own interest in this world, perhaps their own positions or seeming positions of power and authority rather than to be concerned about others or about God’s will and work. It is these same people who use their goodness as a measure of how others should act. They really do not know what is true life in Christ.

Thus, when the Pharisees hear Jesus tell the story, they do not understand. So, Jesus tells the story a second time hoping that they will understand. From the first telling of the story two truths come clear to us today, obviously none of which the Pharisees understood. Each of these truths comes with the understanding that Jesus is the shepherd He is talking about. First, we know that Jesus the True Shepherd calls each one of us by name. He knows each one of us and as He knows us, we know Him. He alone can see in our hearts and He knows all about us. He is the one who called us by name at our Baptism, putting faith in our hearts, giving us forgiveness of sins and writing our names in the book of Life. With the faith He has given to us, we hear His call in His Word. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we respond to His call by following Him. Thus, the opposite is true as well, that is that if we live lives refusing God and the gifts He has to give, absenting ourselves from His means of grace, from divine service and Bible class, then truly we do not know God, nor His voice, nor are we known by Him. Which means we have put our souls in jeopardy of losing heaven.

Second, we know that Jesus has given each of us, that are truly His sheep, His children, the ability to discern between what is truly His Word and what is false doctrine coming from false shepherds, or teachers. We know the difference between the true shepherd and the thief or robber. We know that the true shepherd is the one who teaches that Jesus is the only gate, the only way into His kingdom, the only way into eternal life in heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we follow only the true shepherd and flee from the thief.

Because the Pharisees were blind to the truth by their own unbelief and did not understand what Jesus was saying, He tells the story a second time. The second time He tells the story He hopes the Pharisees will understand and come to faith, while knowing that if they do not they will fall even more into their unbelief. Again they do not understand, but, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we do. We understand that when Jesus says that “all who ever came before me were thieves and robbers,” He is talking about the Pharisees and the high priests. We understand that Jesus is the gate into eternal life. As Jesus specifically states, “9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture”(v.9). It is through Jesus that we are saved. It was just three weeks ago that we remembered His suffering and death upon the cross and celebrated His Easter victory. Finally we understand that through Him, through His victory on the cross over sin and death, not only do we have life, but we have it to the full. Verse ten reads, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”(v.10).

Jesus has come as the True Shepherd, the Messiah, in order that these people, the children of Israel, yes, even the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, and we today might have life. This is in contrast to the death which comes through the lies of the thieves and robbers who come to kill and destroy, the same thieves and robbers who today preach and teach anything other than the Gospel of eternal life through faith in Jesus alone. This life Jesus has come to bring is eternal life, but not only eternal life, also life here on earth. It is through this Jesus that these people and we were first given life back in Genesis, when, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, all of creation, and topped it off with the man and the woman as He breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and they became living beings. It is this Jesus whom God the Father promised to send as a Savior back in Genesis 3:15 right after Adam and Eve sinned. It is this Jesus whom God promised to send through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and so forth through Mary and Joseph. It is this Jesus for whom the children of Israel were waiting. It is this Jesus standing right before the very eyes of the people, the Pharisees, the high priests, and before us today who has come to bring life.

This Jesus is the one who has also come to bring us a more abundant life. God promised Abraham to make his descendants a great nation and to give him a land. The Israelites were given the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Jesus here comes as the True Shepherd to bring us an even more abundant life. Abundant life is not only eternal life, but is life without death, that is without eternal spiritual death, or fear of death. Abundant life is living in the joy and peace of the Savior, the peace that only He can give, the peace about which we spoke two weeks ago when Jesus gave His peace to His disciples, that is a peace which comes from His suffering, death and resurrection and restores our relationship with God the Father. This does not mean that we will not have struggles while we are here on this earth, but with our struggles God will provide for us the strength to handle them. Abundant life is life lived in faith in Jesus.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus came to us first in our Baptism bringing us back into a right relationship with Himself. We were given our first abundant life through this gift of living water. Today we grow in our faith and abundant life through His Word, the Bible. As we remember our baptism we daily partake of His abundant life. As we daily read and study His Word we daily partake of His abundant life. As we daily and weekly confess our sins we partake of His abundant life. As we weekly come here to divine service and Bible class and hear His Word proclaimed we partake of His abundant life. And when we come to His altar to be given His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper we taste of His abundant life. Through these means we are daily renewed and enriched in the abundant life which Christ came to bring so many years ago and still brings today. As we are enriched in that abundantly life, our desire is even more to revel in that abundant life and with His help we go out and live the abundant life, for Jesus sake. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stewardship is . . . having Godly thoughts.

Almost every Sunday morning, we confess our sins to our most merciful God. We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We confess that we have sinned against Him, as well as against our neighbor, in thought, word, and deed.

Sin is not just an act, it is not just something we do, or do not do. It is not stealing only if we actually take the thing. It is stealing, already in our heart, when we think about it and devise a plan to take it.

Unfortunately, there are so many ungodly images with which we are daily bombarded. To keep our thoughts Godly is a daily, even hourly struggle. We live in a multimedia society. We receive messages and images from radio, television, newspapers, magazines, computers, billboards, word of mouth, and so on. It is a difficult thing to keep from these ungodly messages and images.

Fortunately, for us we have God’s Word. We also have God’s Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, the Lord helps us combat the ungodly things, messages and images of this world. By daily exercising our minds with the Word of the Lord, we strengthen our spirit and our resolve to keep ungodly thoughts from our minds. If we are thinking Godly thoughts, we cannot at the same time think ungodly thoughts.

How is this done? This is done by staying away from, or avoiding temptation. If that radio or television show causes us to think ungodly thoughts, do not listen to it or watch it. If that newspaper or magazine, that computer or billboard, if that person who is speaking to us causes us to have ungodly thoughts, remove ourselves from them. Godly thoughts begins with good stewardship of our minds, with God’s help.
7 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stewardship is . . . not a church collection.

“I was giving $20 a week to the church, until I got mad at the pastor, now I only give $5.” What is wrong with that statement? First, it equates our offerings as giving to the church, or to the pastor. Second, it equates our offerings with paying for a service, the more you like the service, the more you give, the less you like it, the less you give. Third, it equates our offering with power.

Now, to correct those misunderstandings about the giving of our offerings. First, we do not give to the church, nor do we give to the pastor, but we give to God. Actually, we return to God, a portion of what He has first given to us. God gives to us first. Fortunately for us, He does not, necessarily, stop giving to us when we stop giving to Him. I wonder how we would react to God if He did just that.

Second, we do not give our offerings in order to pay for our worship experience, as if we are going to a movie, play or performance of some kind. Worship, the Word, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, these are all gifts that God gives to us. They do not cost us anything. (They cost Jesus His life.) God does not charge for His gifts. Our giving is in response to what God first gives to us, spiritual and physical blessings.

Third, the giving of our offerings to God does not affect the service of the church or the pastor. If one person stops giving, if the largest giver stops giving, God will find another way to support His church. It is God’s church and as long as His church is doing His ministry, giving the Word and the Sacraments, He will make sure that there is the where-with-all to continue to do so.

Stewardship is our responding to what the Lord has already given to us. We respond with our firstfruits (returning to Him from off the top), our tithes (a certain percent), and our offerings (of thanksgiving and praise).
6 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a privilege for Christians.

When we receive a gift or a present from someone we say, “thank you.” When our children receive gifts or presents we teach them to say, “thank you.” Saying “thank you” is a courtesy, and a show of good manners.

When we give a gift or a present we do not necessarily expect that person to say, “thank you,” but it sure does make us feel good when they do. Mostly it makes us feel good just to be able to give something to someone else. Giving makes the giver feel good.

What would you do if you were unable to say, “thank you,” or if you had no way of acknowledging a gift or present that you have received. It would certainly bother you that you would not be able to say, “thank you.” As the receiver of a gift or present, it is important for us to be able to acknowledge that we have receive the gift or present with gratitude.

God gives everything to everyone. We are given (receive) everything we have from God. God gives, we are given to (receive). Fortunately, for us Christians, God also gives us a way to respond, to say, “thank you.” The way God gives us to respond is through returning to Him some of our time for service to Him in His kingdom and in His church. We are able to respond by giving of our talents, using our special gifts and abilities for service in His kingdom and church. We are able to respond by taking care of our bodies, living lives to His glory. And we are able to respond by returning a portion of our treasures, our monies to the Lord.

Praise the Lord that He gives us this privilege to respond to all His good gifts and blessings. Without this privilege we would indeed be unfortunate.
5 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God moves us to respond.

God gives, we are given to (we receive). God gives spiritual gifts and respond by being given (receiving) those spiritual gifts. We are given (receive) His spiritual gifts in the way in which He gives them, through the means of grace, through the Word and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

God gives physical gifts and respond by using them, as He motivates us, to help others and to His glory.

God gives us His example, He fulfills His example and He works His example in us. All of this comes to us through His Son, Jesus. Dr. Martin Luther summarized it best when, in explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed he wrote:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Jesus is our perfect example, but He is not just an example. He fulfilled His example by giving His life on the cross for us. He shed His blood for us. And now He moves in us to respond by our following, though imperfectly, the example He set for us.

God gives, God gives, God gives. We are given to (we receive) and respond according to God’s giving. To God be the glory!
4 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, May 8, 2011

He Explained to Them - May 8, 2011 - Third Sunday of Easter - Text: Luke 24:13-35

Our Easter celebration continues as we continue to declare that Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! It is with great joy that we continue our Easter celebration and this morning we continue our Easter celebration as it coincides with our secular holiday of Mother’s Day. So, we wish all our Mothers a happy Mother’s Day and glad you are here and especially glad you have brought your families. As for our Easter celebration, for us Christians, every Sunday is an Easter celebration as we come to divine service to worship our risen Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Today we pick up the after Easter story again on Easter evening and the account of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As we hear this story, we place ourselves into the shoes of these two disciples as if we were there on the road with Jesus.

Our text begins with Jesus meeting up with the two disciples. We read beginning at verse thirteen, “13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (v. 13-16).

A couple of comments about these first verses. Notice that these were disciples, not apostles. The distinction we make between a disciple and an apostle is that the apostles were the twelve closest to Jesus, they were His inner circle. They were the ones that were set apart for special work for Jesus. Jesus had many other followers who were His disciples, which means they were His followers. We rejoice because this definition reminds us that by faith in Jesus we too are His disciples.

These two disciples were discussing the things that had been happening in Jerusalem. Their minds were filled with mixed emotions; grief, wonder, awe, and confusion. They were not thinking about who was around them or who was listening in on their conversation, so they did not notice nor did they recognize Jesus as He walked along the road with them. The text says that their eyes were kept from recognized him. Jesus did this for a reason.

Our text continues with Jesus speaking with the two disciples and asking a question. We pick up at verse seventeen, “17And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ 19And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see’” (v. 17-24).

These two disciples cannot believe Jesus does not know what had happened. Of course, we know that Jesus does know what had happened. He asks the question in order to help them express their feelings and so He can show them the truth.

You can almost sense the excitement in their voices as they share with Jesus, and yet at the same time there is sadness as we see that their faces are downcast. It is like it was an almost experience. We almost had a Messiah.

They explain everything that had happened according to their understanding. They thought that Jesus might be the Messiah, but He did not fit their understanding of the Messiah, because they were looking for an earthly Messiah. He was almost the man they were looking for, but not quite. The man they were looking for would not die on a cross.

Jesus responds as we continue at verse twenty-five, “25And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 25-27).

Jesus begins with a gentle, but caring rebuke. And He goes on to explain all of Moses and the Prophets. It is almost like He says, “alright I will try to explain this to you one more time, now pay attention.” Interestingly enough, they finally do get it, after the fact. Are we not the same way? After something is explained it becomes obvious to us. Oh, yeah!

For the rest of the story we read picking up at verse twenty-eight, “28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (28-35).

The two disciples had reached their destination, a place about six to seven miles from Jerusalem. Jesus acted as if He were going on, yet they urged Him to stay. They liked what they were hearing and wanted to hear more. In such a short time they had come to like this new found friend, this traveling companion. Jesus has such a way with touching peoples lives.

So, Jesus stays. He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it. Please understand, this is probably not the Lord’s Supper, simply an evening meal. As He gives them the bread we are told they recognize Him and He vanishes from their sight. What was it about this encounter? What was it that gave Jesus away? Was it the way He broke the bread? Was it what He said? What was it that now brought them to the realization that this was Jesus? It was the fact that Jesus opened their eyes so they could recognize Him. Jesus opened their eyes so they could understand all that had happened, that it happened according to God’s perfect plan and purpose.

After Jesus left, they began to express their excitement to each other. And they were so excited that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem, some six to seven miles away. And when they got to Jerusalem they shared what happened to them with the apostles and all the others that were there. Oh, what an exciting day.

What does this mean? We are a lot like those disciples on the road to Emmaus. We tend to be slow to believe. Last week we talked about the fact that we tend to be a skeptical bunch. Often, we want to believe only what we want to believe, and only the way we want to believe it. Whenever you ask for peoples opinions, everyone is ready to jump in and give you theirs. But are we ready to put our opinions aside and take a long, hard look at what God says, at what the Bible says? We are very much like those two on the road to Emmaus. We would rather form our own opinion and state our opinion as fact, and not change our opinion, rather than actually face the facts, as the Bible tells us. We like to think that we are so much smarter than God. What does God know anyway? What has He done for us lately?

It is only when we go to Jesus, in His Word, that we can know the truth and then it is the Holy Spirit who works through the Word to point us to the Truth and that Truth is Jesus. We do not have to go very far, simply to the means of grace. The means of grace are those ways in which God gives us His gifts, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Those means are the Word, the Bible, confession and absolution and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, when we absent ourselves from these means we have a greater tendency to depend on our own thoughts and opinions, based on our own realities and not on God’s Truth, Jesus. And that is when we often have questions, concerns, cares and even worries about why God is not acting the way we think He should be acting. I am amazed at how many people turn their backs on God, shun Him, refuse His gifts by neglecting to be in divine service and Bible Class and then get upset with Him for not being the God they expect Him to be.

Being God is much like being a parent and a mother, except with greater responsibility, for the world. We try to raise our children right, yet we cannot make them live and do what is right and even though it hurts us when they stray and fail, we still love them and desire that they come to us and seek our wisdom and advice. And we continually fail God the same way. He has created us to love us. He loves us and He has shown His love in the giving of His life in Jesus for us. His desire is to be our God, to love us, to care for us, to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and yet how we hurt Him as we daily sin much, as we daily and weekly refuse His gifts and blessings opting to do something more important than be where He gives His gifts. And yet, He continues to love us.

Our Lord’s desire is to be our God, to love us and to care for us, so that when we do make use of His means of grace, when we do read His Word, when we do confess our sins, when we do remember our Baptism, when we do partake of His body and blood, then our eyes are opened. With our eyes open, we confess our sins and we are given forgiveness, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation.

God has so much that He wants to give to us. We are very much living in the days of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, that is we are living after the resurrection fact. We can look back and with eyes wide open we can see how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the books of Moses, the Law and the Prophets. We can look back and see the Easter fact of the resurrection. And we then move from depending on ourselves and our misunderstandings to depending on the Lord and His Truth, and grace, Jesus Christ, the Lord. We are moved to be loved by God, to be forgiven and robed with His righteousness. And we are then moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God giving physical gifts.

Everything we have is a gift from God. Everything we have can be traced back to God. In one way or another we see that God is the prime giver and we are the ones to whom He gives (the receivers).

Take a loaf of bread, for instance. We pay for it at the local grocery store, but it does not start there. The local store purchased that loaf of bread from the bread maker. The bread maker purchased the ingredients that went into that loaf of bread from other sellers. The farmer raised the wheat. The Lord provided the farm with the sun and the rain to grow the wheat. Likewise with the other ingredients in the bread. It all goes back to God providing.

The money that we used to purchase that loaf of bread is money which the Lord gave us through our jobs. The Lord provides us with jobs, with the ability to work, with the skills, talents, education, and mind to hold down and work a good job, to earn a living, to buy food to eat.

“For health and strength and daily bread we praise Your name O Lord” is a wonderful, prayerful, song that reminds us that all our physical blessings, in one way are another, are indeed gifts from a loving, caring, Creator, God.

Dr. Martin Luther expressed is so well in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed when he wrote:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
3 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God giving Spiritual gifts.

Stewardship begins and ends with God. God is the prime mover. God gives, we are given to (or we receive). God gives, God moves us to respond. God gives and moves us to give praise and glory to His Holy, Precious, name.

Dr. Martin Luther said it best in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
It the Holy Spirit who brings us to (gives us) faith, strengthens us in our faith and keeps us in our faith until we reach our home in heaven. At our Baptism the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts. Throughout our lives the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace (the Word and Sacraments - Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to strengthen us in our faith. And it is the Holy Spirit who keeps us in faith until we reach heaven.

We are given (receive) God’s gifts through His means. Through worship and Bible class, as we read our Bibles, as we hear God’s Word read on Sunday morning and any other way we are given God’s Word; as we remember our Baptism, and partake of Christ’s true Body and Blood, in, with, and under the Bread and Wine, in His Holy Supper, the Lord fills us with His spiritual gifts.

2 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a life living process.

We are all stewards, whether we understand what a stewards is, or not, whether we are good stewards, or not, we are all stewards. Webster’s Dictionary defines a steward as:
  1. One who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs; an administrator; supervisor.
  2. One in charge of the household affairs of a large estate, club, hotel, or resort.
  3. An officer on a ship in charge of provisions and dining arrangements.
  4. Any male member of the staff of a ship, airplane, or bus who waits on the passengers.
  5. A shop steward.
Over the next year we will come to understand what God means, from His Word, by our being stewards. Every other week you will see a half sheet similar to this one which will describe what it means to be a steward, again according to God’s Word.

From the title of this week’s insert it is hoped that you will begin to understand that a steward, being a steward, good stewardship is not something that we do once and forget, it is not something we pledge, rather it is a process of living. Stewardship is an attitude of living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. This is not something we do on our own. This attitude is one which is done in response to Christ’s gift of life, is motivated by the Holy Spirit, and is done to the glory of God.

The antithesis of this is that stewardship is not just money. Our Lord has given us more than money and He has given us to be stewards of more than just His money. Our Lord has given us our lives and He moves in us to be stewards of our whole lives. To God be the glory, in all my life.

1 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Life and Peace in His Name - May 1, 2011 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: John 20:19-31

It is amazing how there are so many signs in our world which point to our Savior Jesus Christ, yet there are so many who do not know, or at least do not profess to know or believe in Jesus. Here we are celebrating the day of rest, the Sabbath day and worshiping on Sunday, no longer on the Saturday. Why? Because something important happened on Sunday. Something important enough for the world to change its pattern of worship. We are living in the “year of our Lord,” 2011. The years before our Lord was on this earth are referred to as the “Before Christ” or B.C. years. And the evidence of Jesus’ life continue, but we seem to find ways to doubt and to not believe the evidence which is before us. We are a skeptical bunch of people. And I must admit that there are times when I may be one of the most skeptical. In a few minutes we will meet up with Thomas, affectionately known as Doubting Thomas, a man with whom many of us can easily relate.

There are times that I believe we should be skeptical, not of our Lord and His gifts, but of the false teachers and false leaders of this world. Our Lord has given us His Word and it is His Word which helps us to understand His Word. You may have heard the phrase, “Scripture interprets Scripture.” In other words, if you do not understand one part of the Bible, keep reading and it will explain itself. I get real skeptical when someone says, “what this Bible verse means to me is . . .,” especially if they are trying to pass their own interpretation off as being what God had in mind. I get skeptical when people try to change what happens at Baptism, like when they use something other than God’s name as He has given it to us or when they baptize in some other name than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I get skeptical when people try to change the Lord’s Supper to tell me that it is merely a symbolic act or that we do the Lord’s Supper out of obedience to God, when our Lord tells us that it is His body and blood, with the bread and wine through which He gives us forgiveness of sins. I really get skeptical when people attempt to change the Gospel of the Lord into a new law with phrases like, “all you gotta do . . .,” “if only you . . . do this or that,” or when they use the salad phrases of “let us . . .,” “may we . . .,” as if we do anything for our salvation, and the list of my skepticism goes on.

Because our Lord has chosen to come to us through means, namely through the means of His Word, confession and absolution, and the Sacraments as His usual means, we are reminded that when we neglect to make use of these means, when we neglect to make regular, meaning every day and every week, and diligent use of these means, when we neglect to read His Word, when we neglect to remember our baptism, when we neglect to confess our sins, when we neglect to come to His table, we take away His usual way of giving us His good gifts and blessings and we put ourselves in jeopardy of weakening our faith. Likewise, when we misinterpret His Word, when we add our own interpretation, when we change what He has given us and how He has given what He has given, we put ourselves in jeopardy of losing His gifts.

As I took the time to look at what we have said about “doubting Thomas” in past years, perhaps we have been a bit unfair. Maybe you remember, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Thomas showed his true faith in his words that he was ready to die with Jesus. Yet, we beat up on Thomas because of his doubting that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, which, let us admit, is a hard thing to believe, someone rising from the dead. Perhaps we might put Thomas into a more favorable light in suggesting that his skepticism was simply a desire to be fully convinced of something that, at the time and even today, might be truly unbelievable. Is it believable that someone was raised from the dead? What we can say about Thomas was that he was demanding that God deal with him the way he wanted. Let us look at our text and see what is happening.

Our text begins setting the scene. It was the evening of the first day of the week. In other words, it was Easter Sunday evening and the disciples were gathered behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. Jesus’ body was missing and the disciples were the number one suspects. John does not give any explanation, but simply says, “Jesus came and stood among them” (v. 19). Jesus Christ, true God, risen from the dead, stood among them. How He got there is not the important thing, that He was there is what is important. Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (v. 19). What wonderful words our Lord speaks. The disciples were afraid because of the Jews and Jesus tells them He has brought them peace. But the peace that Jesus gives is a peace that is more than a mere human peace. His peace is the peace which only He can give. The peace which Jesus is giving to His disciples is the peace which He earned for them, and for us, on the cross. It is truly the peace which passes all understanding. Jesus peace is that peace of a restored relationship between us and the Father. Jesus peace is true peace. Notice here that, as always, God’s Word does what it says. When Jesus speaks His words of peace, His Word does what it says, His word gives peace so that there is peace.

It is our sins which separate us from our Father in heaven. It is our sins of disobeying the commandments, of putting ourselves before God, of taking His name in vain, of not letting His Word work faith and strengthening of faith in our hearts, of disobeying our parents and authorities, of hating, name calling, hurting and actual killing, thinking lustful thoughts, committing adultery, of stealing, of gossiping, not explaining everything in the kindest way, coveting, and the list goes on. We are sinful human beings, we are born in sin and we daily sin much, adding to our sin, and it is our sins which keep us from a right relationship with our Father in heaven. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection which we celebrated last Sunday and which we celebrate each and every Sunday are what brought us back into a right relationship with God the Father. It is because of Jesus’ work on the cross that He gives us His true peace, peace which only He can give.

John goes on to tell us that after Jesus reiterated His peace to His disciples, He gave them and His church on earth, the office of the keys. Jesus gave His church on earth the authority to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, and to forgive and retain sins. Jesus gave the office of the keys to His church which calls pastors to exercise that authority in the local congregation. Jesus has given us our church in this way for good order. It is not an either\or, but a both\and proposition. Without the congregation there can be no church. Likewise without the pastor there can be no church. A church is made up of a congregation and a pastor, again, this is for good order. God gives us His gifts for our good and this is another example of our Lord’s usual way of dealing with us, His people.

As we continue in our text, John tells us that Thomas, the one we affectionately call Doubting Thomas, was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them this first time. When Thomas returned, John explains Thomas’ response to the excitement of his fellow disciples as they told him about their seeing Jesus alive. And he tells us about his requirement of faith. Thomas, required that for him to believe that Jesus was alive, all of his senses must be convinced. Thomas required not only to see, but also to feel. He would not be convinced unless his senses were convinced.

Immediately we are moved to a week later. Again, all the disciples were in the house, and we are told specifically that this time Thomas was with them. Now, do not misunderstand, the Lord does not always bow to our requirements. The Lord does not always bow to do what we want Him to do in order for us to believe. Here, however, in this case, our Lord saw the value in showing Himself personally to this great skeptic Doubting Thomas. Maybe the Lord knew there would be a lot more Thomases in our world and if one were convinced it might convince others.

Jesus appeared and called Thomas to put his finger in His hands, to touch His side, to stop doubting and to believe. Immediately we are told that Thomas believed. We are not told that he actually touched Jesus at all, simply that Thomas’ response was “My Lord and My God!” (V. 28). Thomas was convinced and if he was convinced so should we be convince.

Jesus’ response to Thomas’ faith may be seen as a chastisement, but for us it is a blessed assurance. Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed” (v. 29). Although we have not physically seen Jesus, we have seen Him in His Word and we believed. How blessed are we.

But our text does not stop there. John goes on to give us a bit of commentary. John tells us that “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). In the very last verse of his Gospel John expands these words saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). In other words, John has not set out to give a full, detailed account of the events of Jesus’ life. He has given us just enough and all that we need to know for our salvation.

John’s objective was as he says in verse thirty-one, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). John’s objective was to present the Gospel to us so that the Holy Spirit might work through these words in order that we might be brought to faith, strengthened in our faith and have eternal life.

What John has given us is our Lord’s usual order for dealing with us, His people. God’s usual order is that He works through means, namely through His means of grace. Yes, God can come directly to us, or in a vision, or a dream, but those are not His usual means. His usual means for coming to us are through His Word, the Bible, confession and absolution, and the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When we read His Word, when we confess our sins and hear His words of forgiveness, when we remember our Baptism, when we are given His body and blood at His table, that is how our Lord’s comes to us. He comes to us through these means to give us His gifts and blessings, the gifts of forgiveness, life, eternal life, and salvation and indeed, His peace, which is true peace. We rejoice, because every time we read God’s word, every time we hear words of absolution, every time we remember our Baptism, every time we are given His body and blood, we are reminded that we are forgiven, that our relationship with Jesus and God the Father has been restored, and that we have life and salvation and peace in our Lord’s name.

It is no wonder that Thomas was skeptical, because he wanted God to work his way. Although we may be skeptical of the things of this world, when God works in and through us the way He has given Himself to, then we no longer need to be skeptical of our Lord. Our Lord has given us His Word and His Sacraments. We know that with our Lord, He does what His Word says and when His Word says we are given faith, we are given faith. When His Word says we are forgiven, we are forgiven. When His Word says we have life, even eternal life, we can be sure that we have eternal life. When His Word says “Peace be with you,” we have true peace. Our Lord works through His means of Grace in order to give us faith, forgiveness, life, salvation and true peace. And we say, to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.