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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Sometimes, Burning Coals.

Paul talks about the difference between giving from the heart and giving out of fairness by telling us that there is a difference between inviting your friends over to eat, when you know that they will invite you over to eat with them the next time. This reciprocation is simply taking turns in feeding each other. Now, in and of itself, such action is not a bad thing. The problem is when we think we are being generous when we are really only trading with each other. Paul suggests that true giving in this sense is to invite those to eat whom you know will not be able to invite you back in order to repay you for your kindness.

Wise King Solomon, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes this idea one step further. He suggests, “If you enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22). The first lesson we learn is the way to rid yourself of your enemies, by making them your friends. Not only are we to make them our friends, but we are to feed them as well.

The second lesson we learn is how to be truly mean to those who are mean to us. We spoke before about speaking a kind word to those who have spoken rudely to us. Here we are told that the best way to “get back” at someone who has hurt you and is your enemy is by being kind to him/her, even treating him/her to a meal. The result is that you will indeed inflict great amounts of shameful pain on them, and your reward will be a Godly reward given in heaven.

There is much truth in Solomon’s Word (of course, you say, he is speaking God’s Word); therefore, if you have never tried overwhelming your enemies with kindness, I would encourage you to do so. Being mean by being so nice is the best way to witness the love that Jesus Christ has taught us. It is also a most excellent way of doing something which will make you “feel” good and know that your reward is in heaven. Here again, we might paraphrase this lesson in Lifestyle Evangelism as, “Kill them with kindness.”
27 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . A Kind Word.

Have you ever noticed how angry some people are in our world? Angry words are often exchanged instead of nice pleasantries. One person says something which is misunderstood by another and then there are words of retaliation. The idea is to speak harsher words in order to inflict further hurt and perhaps more pain on the other person. As words of anger escalate, sometimes it even gets to the point of fists swinging and, as we have seen or heard, even to people being killed.

Therefore, how does one respond to another when there is a misunderstanding or when harsh words are spoken? The once wise King Solomon, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Some have paraphrased these words by saying, “Kill them with kindness.” The fact of the matter is, it works. When someone speaks harshly or rudely, they are usually taken aback and perhaps even ashamed, when those words are met with words of kindness, that is with sincere words of kindness.

We could meet the world head on, which it probably deserves. We would be justified in speaking meanly to others as we have been spoken meanly to; yet, here I would remind you of our lesson on the Golden Rule. However, we are not of this world. We are of our Father’s world, and we represent our Father as ambassadors. As ambassadors for Christ, we want to represent Him and live as He would live, move and have His being, in other words, and we can only do so with His help; then, we will speak kind words in order to turn away any wrath which is directed toward us. We will also understand that, very often, harsh words of wrath which are spoken to us as Christians are really being spoken to Christ who lives in us. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world.

How easy to respond in kind. How difficult to turn the other cheek. Only with Christ’s help are we able to do the right thing which, in turn, shows the faith that is in our hearts and reflects Christ’s love to others.
26 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Knowing Who Chose Who.

Do you remember as a child being on the playground at recess and all gathering to pick teams to play some sport? Do you remember that it seemed as if it was always your best friend who was one of those who always got to pick? Do your remember how you always chose to be on her team? Do you also remember that it really did not matter if you chose to be on her team or not? What mattered was whether or not she chose you to be on her team.

There are some people who can tell you the day, date, and time that they “chose” Jesus to be their personal Savior. There are some that will tell you that not only have they chosen Jesus to be their Savior, they have “dedicated” their lives to Him. They have made Him the Lord of their life. Perhaps they are trying to say that they believe in Jesus as their Savior.

As Lutheran Christians, we know who chose who. We know that, similar to its not being important as to whose side we choose to be on in a sporting event, it is not important that we “choose” Jesus. As a matter of fact, we even confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 12:3; Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:8,9). What is important is that He chose us. We confidently confess, “But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

What great comfort we can find in the thought that it was not we who chose God, but God who chose us. This truth is of great comfort because we know that God keeps His Word. If God says it, we can believe it. If God says it, it will happen. When God chooses us, we know that we are His, and we can rest assured that He will do everything He can to strengthen and keep us in faith until Jesus comes to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.

What great joy to share with others that God chose us and that He has already chosen them, too.
25 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Shall Love - October 23, 2011 - Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25) - Text: Matthew 22:34-46

Last week we watched as the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law sent their underlings to attempt to trick Jesus into saying something that would turn either the government or His own people away from Him. But, as we saw, their plans were foiled again. This week we continue in our saga of the Life and Times of Jesus. This week our text begins by telling us that the Sadducees have failed again and now it is the Pharisees turn, again to attempt to waylay Jesus.

We actually have two parts to our text for this morning. In the first part of our text are told that a questions is asked of Jesus in order to test Him, as was the usual reason the Pharisees and teachers of the law would ask Jesus questions. And in the second half of our text we are told that after Jesus answers their question, He asks them a question, perhaps not so much as a test, but in order to help those who were gathered and listening to understand who Jesus truly is. First, the test, “34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37And he said to him, 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (v. 34-40).

It has been said that one way to defeat your enemy is to divide and conquer. In this question the lawyer is attempting to divide Jesus by dividing His emphasis, placing one part of God’s Word over another part. Now, we know that there are Ten Commandments, because that is what we are told that God gave Moses and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. So, out of these Ten Commandments, the lawyer asks, “What is the greatest commandment?” Again the test is an attempt to get Jesus to give greater emphasis to one commandment over all the others.

Jesus, being Jesus, being truly God, knows all and knows what is at the heart of the question, thus He does not answer according to how they might have thought He would answer. His answer is a twofold answer. First Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” As we have been taught and hopefully have learned in confirmation, the summary of the commandments is love. It is true, if we could love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, we would never disobey any of the commandments. The problem is that we cannot do this one thing. Because we are conceived and born in sin, it is against our nature to love God above all else. Jesus says to love God and this love for God is a love which flows out of love, God’s first love for us.

But Jesus does not stop, He continues, “39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Here again, if we could love our neighbor as our own self, we would never break the last seven commandments which deal with our relationships with each other, we would not steal, kill, commit adultery, bear false witness nor covet. But, again, the problem is that we are conceived and born in sin and so not only can we not love God above all else, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves. Interestingly enough, when we do love our neighbor it is only as we have been first loved by God, thus loving our neighbor shows our love for God, and His love for us.

Jesus even goes so far as to conclude that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” All the Law and the prophets depend on love, love for God and love for neighbor, which is the summary of the commandments. How is this the case? We will answer that question after we look at the next words of Jesus.

Just as the lawyer asked a question to test Jesus, these last words of our text might be considered a test of Jesus. Our text continues, “41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”? 45If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ 46And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (v. 41-46).

Notice that unlike the questions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and even the Sadducees, who asked questions to trap Jesus, Jesus asks a question which is at the heart of the matter, the heart of the controversy, “Who is the Christ? Is He the Messiah?” Now, understand, the Pharisees do not believe that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah. They believe Jesus is simply asking a theological question concerning the promised Messiah, the one promised back in the Garden of Eden and reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Moses and so forth. The theological question is this, “Is the promised Messiah truly God?”

The Pharisees answer Jesus question saying that the promised Messiah is the son of David, in other words He is truly human. We would agree, Jesus is truly human, but Jesus is even more than simply being truly human as He will instruct the Pharisees.

In response to their answer, Jesus agrees, but furthers the answer by declaring that He is also truly God, as David calls Him Lord. Now, if you have been paying attention to the news of late, concerning the Mormon church, the question has been asked if the Mormon church is a cult or a part of the Christian church. For the Mormons, who consider themselves to be Christians, they view the Christ as a man who became a god and so they speak of the divinity of Jesus in such a way, also suggesting that we humans may also become gods. In other words, they believe they are a part of the Christian church because they do believe that Jesus is God, but not in the same way we believe that Jesus is God. Here again we are reminded that very often when speaking to others concerning our Christian faith and beliefs we must begin by defining our words. Concerning Jesus being God, He Himself answers otherwise and so does the Christian Church. As we profess and confess in our creeds, Jesus is truly God who was born as a human, taking on human flesh and blood. So now Jesus is both God and man at the same time and thus is the divinity of Jesus. And so according to the traditional Christian church, the Mormon church is a cult.

So, what does this mean? We answer this question by getting back to Jesus’ statement, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” All The fulfillment of the commandments today, that is the fulfillment of God’s demand of perfection, and all of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, flow out of love, not our love for God and love for neighbor, but out of God’s love for us.

Who is the Christ? He is God. He is truly divine, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and He is truly human, born of the human woman, the virgin Mary. Jesus is God who gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood and to do for us what we are unable to do.

After Adam and Eve sinned, the world was cursed. No longer do we have free will. Our will has been tainted by sin so our will is always to not do what God would have us to do. Again, our will is simply to sin, to live in sin, to sin daily and constantly. Since our will has been tainted so that we no longer have free will, we cannot meet God’s demand of perfection.

Because we cannot rescue or save ourselves, God provided a Savior. Jesus came to earth, God in flesh in order, first and foremost to live in perfection for us. God’s demand is perfection and we cannot be perfect. The fulness of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus lived for us. Jesus obeyed all of God’s laws perfectly, thus fulfilling the demands of the law of the commandments and Jesus fulfilled all the promises, all of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, thus fulfilling the demands of the Prophets. If Jesus had not obeyed all the laws perfectly and fulfilled all the Prophets perfectly, He would not be the Messiah.

After fulfilling all the law and the Prophets perfectly, after living a perfect life, Jesus then traded His righteousness for our sins. He who was without sin, He who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus suffered and died to pay the price for our sins, but not just our sins, He paid the price for all sin, for all those sins committed before His incarnation and all those sins we have yet to commit. He paid the price for all sins, for all people, of all places, of all times. He paid the price for sin which was set in the Garden of Eden, death, physical death and apart from Him, eternal spiritual death which is hell. He suffered hell for us in our place so that by faith in Him we will never have to suffer hell.

In His fulfilling of the law and the prophets, in His fulfilling of all of Holy Scripture, in His living, taking our sins, suffering and dying, Jesus showed and shows His great love for us. He loves us. He shows His love for us by creating us, even though He knew we would bring a curse on His creation. He shows His love in His promise to send a Savior. He shows His love in His giving up the glory that was His in heaven as true God, in His taking on human fleshing, being born of a human woman, in His living perfectly for us in our place because we cannot, in His taking our sins upon Himself, in His suffering and dying to pay the price for our sins, in His rising from the dead, in His giving us faith, forgiveness and life, in His robing us with His robes of righteousness for eternity.

God loves us. God first loves us. Jesus is God who shines His love on us even through us so that we might love others. We love because He first loves us. Because God loves us, because He gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life, He also works in and through us to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do and we do those good works as we are motivated by Him, as He works them in and through us and as they are done to His glory. Yes, after we are given faith we do have some free will but only with His help are we able to exercise our free will for good.

The two great commandments, the summary of the ten commandments is love. And as always we get love right when we start with God. God is love. God loves us and God moves and stirs in us to love one another. We love because He first loves us. And in so loving others we do show forth the faith that is in our hearts and we do say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Do (ing) Unto Others.

When asked “What is the Golden Rule?” too often it is quoted as, “We are to treat others like they treat us.” Or, “We are not to be mean to people who are not mean to us.” Very often, even too often, the Golden Rule is quoted and interpreted in a negative way.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12), is the Golden Rule. Notice that this “rule” is given in a positive, even proactive way. The emphasis is not a reactive emphasis, but a proactive emphasis. In other words, we are not to wait and see how someone will treat us before we decide how we will treat them. Instead, we are to treat them first in the manner in which we would like them to treat us. We are to begin the treatment of others with love.

This statement does not mean that, if we do good first and that good is met with evil, then we can reciprocate with evil. Even then, we are to continue to follow the way of doing good.

Because this approach to life is so different from the self-centered, self-absorbed world in which we live, our actions will be noticed. Our way of Lifestyle Evangelism will demonstrate what it means to live a life thinking and caring about others besides ourselves. Especially in the cases where our good is met with evil, our kindness will shine even greater. In much the same way, that Jesus met adversity with love, so with His help, we are to do the same.

The Golden Rule is not outdated. As a matter of fact, if you follow the Golden Rule, you may notice how even those who have treated you with unkind intent before may begin treating you as you treat them. Although such a change may not happen immediately, as new behaviors sometimes take time to develop, all we have to do is watch and see if it does happen. Then, we can rejoice that others have seen our witness and as always, be ready, when asked, to give the reason for your actions, namely, that we love others because God loved us first.
24 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . C & E and More.

Most of us have heard of “C & E” Christians. “C & E” Christians are those people who attend worship twice a year - on Christmas and Easter (thus the name C & E). Of course, Paul reminds us that it does not matter the motive for going to worship does not matter, simply that it is important to be in worship so that one might hear the Word (the means of grace) so that the Holy Spirit might work through that means in order to give faith.

For us Christians, our Lifestyle Evangelism will most certainly include celebration at Christmas and Easter as well as at the many other festivals and celebrations during the church year and especially during the festival portion of our church year. Our church year begins with Advent and the time we take to prepare ourselves for our celebration of the birth of Jesus. We will want to hold off on our Christmas celebration until Christmas Eve/Day. Then, for twelve days we celebrate Christmas, culminating in our Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6. Epiphany leads into Transfiguration Sunday, which is immediately followed by Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. Lent concludes during Holy Week which begins on Palm Sunday and includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday and concludes on Easter morning. The Easter Season continues until we celebrate Christ’s Ascension and then the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The following Sunday we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday and the we move into the non-festival portion of our Church Year.

How important these celebrations are and what a great witness we make of our Christians faith and our worship life as we bring these celebrations into our own homes. Our worship life is not just a secondary part of our lives. Our worship life is the main focus of our lives as all our life has as its center and focus our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we are seen celebrating these great events in the life of our Savior, so we will be asked and we will have the opportunity to give an answer for the hope and joy that we celebrate because we have our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.
23 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . The Lord’s Supper.

As noted before, the Lord uses the means of grace, namely, the Word of God (the Bible), and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), to come to us. It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings (faith, forgiveness, life and salvation). This week we concentrate on the Lord’s Supper.

Another big part of our lives is the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is that meal wherein our Lord invites us to come to His table to partake of His body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine and through which we remember, that is, participate, in His death and resurrection. As we partake of the Lord’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, we participate in His death. His death, that is His eternal death, becomes our death. He died the eternal death penalty, paying the price, the cost, the wages of our sins. We participate first in His death and second in His resurrection. His rising from the dead becomes our rising from the dead. As He rose to new life, we know that we too will rise to new life, even eternal life. And His life becomes our life. We have life, life more abundantly in this world and life in the world to come, known as eternal life in heaven with Him. We also are given strength to face the world as we live in it but are not of it.

Because the Lord’s Supper is very important, we demonstrate that fact in our lives of Lifestyle Evangelism. We demonstrate the importance of the Lord’s Supper through a proper understanding of the importance of the Supper and its sanctity, respecting it as His Supper and partaking of it as He has given it and as the Word of institution say. We demonstrate the importance of the Lord’s Supper through our proper preparation as we approach His Supper, examining ourselves and approaching in faith and partaking only with those who believe in Christ as we do (thus it is called Communion - being on with God and our fellow believers).

What a great witness we can make to others as we give due respect to our Lord’s Supper by partaking often and explaining its importance to our faith and hope in Christ Jesus.
22 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Give to God What Is God’s - October 16, 2011 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: Matthew 22:15-22

If you have been following along through the Gospel of Matthew you will see how our drama continues to unfold this morning. Previously the Pharisees and teachers of the Law had questioned Jesus concerning His authority to do the things He was doing, after which Jesus “put them in their place” by showing that they are the ones who are not doing as God would have them to do (remember the parable of the two sons, the one son who said he would go out and work but did not go and work and the second son who refused to go and work, but later repented and did go and work). Jesus, then, showed them that they are guilty of killing the prophets and will be guilty of killing God’s Son (remember the parable of the vineyard and the tenants and the killing of the servants who went to collect the rent, and the killing of the son with the intent of gaining the vineyard). Jesus then showed them how they are not a part of God’s wedding banquet as they think they are (remember last week’s Gospel lesson, the parable of the wedding banquet). As we approach our text for this morning we see the Pharisees and the Sadducees licking their wounds trying to find a way to get back at Jesus. They are bent out of shape about Jesus’ accusations and now they are really out to get Him again.

This time, instead of approaching Jesus themselves, they decide to send some undercover spies, some people that Jesus does not know or recognize, at least that is what they are attempting. They know that they will get no where if they try to trick Him, so they recruit some of their disciples to approach Jesus to trick Him. But, of course, Jesus is on to them. (Hey, He is Jesus. He is all knowing.) Their idea is to present Jesus with a question of such a nature that if He answers one way He will set Himself at odds with the government officials and make them suspicious of Him, and if He answers another way He will offend another, His own people. In their own opinion, either way, Jesus is trapped into getting Himself in trouble and that will take care of Him for them.

These recruited disciples begin with flattery, certainly an attempt to build up Jesus’ ego so that He might be caught off guard and trapped. They begin with, “Teacher, we know you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think” (v. 16). Notice several things about this flattery. First they call Him “Teacher” because He does teach others, yet, notice their sarcasm as they do not like what He is teaching. It is rather ironic that the words they use are words of truth, yet they are not words which they believe. “We know that you are true” and we know that you “teach the way of God truthfully.” Neither of these might be said of those who are asking the question. Second, there is irony in the words “you do not care about anyone’s opinion” and here I would emphasis the word opinion. I would suggest that there may have been a note of sarcasm in their expression when saying these words, especially since they believed that Jesus did not care about their “opinion,” which really bugged them. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law expected others to give them certain privileges and respect because of who they are and they do not like the fact that Jesus does not understand that He is supposed to do this too. Finally, notice that they do not ask Him to tell them the truth in the matter they are going to present, but they are only asking for His “opinion.” As if this matters to them as we will see.

And now comes the loaded question. The question they ask is this, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (V. 17). It is almost as if they are asking, “have you ever been caught cheating on your taxes?” “Have you ever been caught beating your children?” “Have you ever been caught beating your spouse?” The thought behind their question is this: If Jesus answers that they should not be paying taxes to Caesar, the people will love Him, but they can then turn Him over to the Romans as a traitor. If He answers that, yes, they should be paying taxes to Caesar, then the Romans will have no problems with Him, but the people will turn against Him because they do not like paying taxes to Caesar. What a dilemma they believe they have set for Him.

Jesus, being God, being all knowing, sees right through their plan. “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax” (v. 18b, 19a). “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (v. 20). Jesus calls them what they are, hypocrites. The word means “actor.” They are acting like they want Jesus “opinion.” But Jesus, rather than run from their question, and their trap, meets them head on. Show me a coin He says.

They find a coin and they answer His questions. On the coin is the image of Caesar and the inscription is also an inscription giving evidence that it is a coin of Caesar and the Roman empire. There is no mistake, it is a coin belonging to the Roman government. We could look at one of our own coins. We have images of past presidents as well as buildings, memorials, and the like on our own monies. The inscriptions we have are also inscriptions having to do with the things of our country.

Jesus’ answer to their question then is this, “Therefor render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21). Simple enough. If it has Caesar’s name on it, it must be his, give it to him. If it has God’s name on it, give it to God, it must be His.

Our parable this morning reminds us of several important facts. One fact of which we are reminded is that we should never underestimate God or in this case, His Son, Jesus. He is all knowing and all seeing. He knows what is in our hearts and on our minds, even before we speak or ask.

More implied than directly stated in this parable is the fact that God gives. He gives all things. He gives faith, forgiveness, life, and salvation. He gives families. He gives food and drink. He gives house and home, monies and goods. He gives good governments. He gives all things and we are the ones to whom He gives. And He gives without expecting anything in return. As a matter of fact, He even goes so far as to give us His son and the life of His Son for ours.

Here and in other places in the Bible we are reminded that God gives government. Certainly we would agree that not all governments are Christian governments, but all governments are from God because the main purpose of all governments is to bring order to the land, which brings peace to the people. Without governments there would be only anarchy and chaos, thus no peace. Thus, governments are given for the sake of law and order and peace in the land.

Here and in other places in the Bible we are reminded that we are to support our government. We are to pay our taxes to keep our government going. Again, government is a gift from God for the keeping of good order and peace in the land. Yes, we are to pay our taxes. We are still to give to the government the things that belong to the government (just look on a coin) and we are to give to God the things that are God’s.

I do not want to sound like a broken record, or should I say, CD, but God gives to us all that we need. Here I would refer you to the Apostles’ Creed and the explanations to the articles of the Creed. In the explanation to the first article we list God’s gifts as “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.” In the second article we list the fact that we believe that it is Jesus “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.” And finally, in the third article we confess that we believe that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” And all this He does because of His great love for us.

No, today is not “Stewardship Sunday,” and I am not one for preaching stewardship sermons. I believe that if I preach the Gospel, you will be motivated, by that Gospel, to give. I also believe in preaching the text and this text does speak about stewardship, that is it speaks about how we are to be good stewards of all that God gives to us. With this text it is only fitting and proper that we should come to some understanding from this parable that we will want to return our first fruits to the Lord according to what He has first given to us. That is what is meant by “giving to God the things that are God’s.”

Have you ever been caught stealing from God? That is not the type of question we like to hear. And we might think that this questions is a loaded question and we would rather not answer it. The task that is before us, according to this parable is this: Do we recognize the gifts that God gives? And if we do, how do we respond? Do we respond begrudgingly? Do we respond joyfully? Do we respond according to whether or not we like the pastor and what he is preaching or doing? Do we respond to how we are treated in church or in the world? Do we respond just by giving our leftovers, our change, or our collection? Or, do we respond with our lives, living lives of faith, as priests serving God by serving others?

We get it right when we start with God. God gives and we are given to. God gives faith, forgiveness and eternal life. And God motivates in us a response of faith. Because we are conceived and born in sin, our first response to what God gives is usually a response of sin, to sin in thought, word and deed, to sin sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing and sins of omission, failing to do what we should be doing, like living lives as priest, serving God by serving others. And so, God’s response to our sin was to give the life of His Son. Jesus came to live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot be perfect. Jesus came to take our sins and pay the price of our sin because we cannot. Jesus died and rose for our forgiveness and eternal life. So now, moved by God, our response to God’s gifts, moved by God, is to give our lives and I do not necessarily mean in death, but that we give ourselves while we live to Him. Only as we give ourselves to Him will we be able to share with Him anything else of which He has first given to us. Again, it all begins with God, He first gives to us and stirs in us. Yet, once we have given ourselves to Him, which we do only with His help, then we will be able to joyfully give of our first fruits, our tithes and our offerings, while at the same time, giving to the government the taxes that we owe. Thus, as we fail to joyfully give of our first fruits, tithes and offerings, it shows that we have failed to give ourselves to the Lord and that we are instead refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give.

God is the prime mover and He continues weekly and daily to give to us, to stir in us, to move us to be the people He would have us to be. And He does this, stirs and works in us through the very means He has given us to do this work, His means of grace. As we make regular and diligent us of His means of grace, as we do every Sunday at divine service, He gives to us, pours out on us and lavishes us with all His good gifts and blessings and stirs in us to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. And in so doing we will be witnessing our faith and we will be saying, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Holy Baptism.

As noted before, the Lord uses the means of grace, namely, the Word of God (the Bible), and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), to come to us. It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings (faith, forgiveness, life and salvation). This week we concentrate on Holy Baptism.

As Christians, a big part of our lives is our Baptism. It is through our Baptism that the Lord puts His name on us (as water and His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, were put on us). He puts faith in our hearts. He gives us forgiveness of sins. He claims us. He writes our names in the book of Life. He gives us a part of His Kingdom.

This putting on us of God’s name is very important, because what God puts His name on He claims as His; it belongs to Him. Thus, when God puts His name on us, we are His. We do not choose Him, He chose us.

Because our Baptism is so very important, it is a big part of our Lifestyle Evangelism. As we live each day, we face trials and tribulations, we struggle with the difficulties of each day, and we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness; what a great witness we can make when we are reminded that when we “mess up” (when we sin) we have been baptized and we can start over, no matter what time of day or what time of life. And what a great opportunity to witness as we share this good news with others as they ask us how we do it.

We show how important our Baptism is when we do things like celebrating Baptismal birthdays along with regular birthdays. We show how important our Baptism is when we talk about the difference our Baptism makes; when we share what Baptism really is because of, what God works through Baptism, and when we live its importance in our own lives. We are adopted as children of God, our Heavenly Father and so we are a part of His family.

What great joy we have knowing that God has chosen us and has put His name on us - Christians. We are His. How important to live in this joy!
21 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . the Word.

As Lutheran Christians, one of the things that sets us apart from other Christians is that we believe and understand that the usual way our Lord has of coming to us is through means. This word does not mean that He can not come directly, but His usual way of working with us is through means. More in particularly, we believe that the means He has of coming to us is the means of grace, which are the Word of God (the Bible) and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings (faith, forgiveness, life and salvation).

With those definitions in mind, it is important that a big part of our lives and our lives of Lifestyle Evangelism include the Word. The Word is what is at the heart and center of our life. Not only do we know and understand the importance of the Word (reading our Bibles), but we demonstrate its importance through our actions. There might be a Bible always within sight. The Bible is the first book we consult for important matters and decisions. We may even read the entire Bible - chapter by chapter- during the year.

Certainly, the Word is a big part of our own lives, but it is also a great tool in our exercise of Lifestyle Evangelism. Because we understand that God works, not through people, but through His Word, we understand how important it is to help our unchurched family and friends hear that Word. Thus, we understand the importance of encouraging them in their own lives to read the Word (maybe even giving them a Bible if they do not have one) and of inviting them to come to worship and Bible class where they will have opportunity to hear the Word directly and to hear it explained and proved.

As our Lord comes into contact with our unchurch family and friends through His Word, the Holy Spirit will give faith through that Word. He will then continue to work through that Word to strengthen and keep them in faith. Thus, we see the importance and the power of the Word even the Word made flesh, Jesus Himself (as John witnesses to us).
20 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Pain and Joy.

Too often, Christians are believed to be people who never experience the pain of life; rather, they are “entitled” to experience only joy. Certainly, we Christians understand the fallacy of this perception. We know from our own personal experience that we, too, suffer from times of pain and sadness. We experience the death of a loved one. We experience the loss of a job. We experience the pains of physical, mental and emotional illnesses. Yes, we Christians suffer the ills of this world in the same way as our non-Christian counterparts.

Unfortunately, there are too many Christians who think they need to keep up appearances, especially during difficult times. What we fail to realize is that when we work so hard at keeping up appearances during difficult times, we are making a witness to our non-Christian friends which, they may either not understand may think too difficult for them to follow, which would keep them from wanting to be a Christian.

Think about this: If you were not a Christian, and you knew someone who was and this person always “seemed” cheerful, even during times that you knew they were having difficulties, would that not make you stop and think? You might think that your Christian friend is either really strong in his/her faith, or more than likely, that s/he has no emotions; otherwise, s/he would not be so happy at a time when you know s/he should be sad.

We witness best when we witness that we, too, are human beings living in a sin-filled world and that we suffer the same difficulties of our non-Christian counterparts. The exception is that we have Someone to cling to and we have Someone who holds us up during our difficult times. We have God, Who is always there with us to give us comfort and encouragement during difficult days, as He has demonstrated numerous times. We also have a family of Christian brothers and sisters who work to encourage and build us up as well.

What a great witness, especially during difficult times, to let our unchurched family and friends know that we are affected by the trials and tribulations of this world, but, we also have a faith that sustains us during these difficult times. Thus, we witness what a great God we have.
19 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . To Speak Law & Gospel (Part4).

Too often, when one speaks about the Gospel, it is said that the Gospel is the fact that Jesus died for our sins. And of course, even though not stated, it is implied that Jesus did not stay dead. We do not worship a dead God, but a living God. Jesus died and rose from the dead. And that fact is the Gospel, the “Good News,” but if we stop there, then we miss proclaiming all the Gospel in all its sweetness and in all its truth and purity.

The fullness of the Gospel can only be appreciated when we understand its completeness. The completeness of the Gospel goes way beyond the matter of Jesus’ death. Yes, the purpose for Jesus’ coming into the world was to give His life for ours, but not only did He come to die, He also came to live.

The Law requires certain things from us. We can do none of the things required by the Law. The fullness of the Gospel is seen in the Truth, that Jesus did everything for us that we are unable to do. Because we are unable to keep the Law perfectly, Jesus obeyed the Law perfectly, for us. Because we are unable to keep from doing the things we are not supposed to be doing, Jesus resisted all temptations to commit the sins of commission. Because we are unable to do the things which we should be doing, Jesus did all them for us, thereby removing our sins of omission.

The fullness of the Gospel is that Jesus is our substitute. He lived, and then by faith, He gave His life for ours. When we are judged, God will look at us and see Jesus’ life of perfection, and by faith, it will be counted as ours. At the same time, when God looked at Jesus, instead of seeing His perfection, He saw our sins, which Jesus freely took upon Himself in order to pay the price for those sins on the cross.

It is by faith, which is also a gift from God, that we are able to take hold of all God’s good gifts and blessings and make them ours. The fullness of the Gospel is understood only as we understand that by faith Jesus’ life is my life.
18 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . To Speak Law & Gospel (Part3).

We have spoken the word of the Law. We have explained what sin is, rebellion against God, by occurring when we do the things we should not be doing and do not do the things we should be doing. We have explained how we sin in thought, word and deed (actions). We have acknowledged and confessed our sins. Now what?

Now comes the part of joy and celebration because, as sins are confessed, so sins are forgiven. When someone sins against us and says, “I’m sorry,” what great joy and what a great privilege we have in that we may announce to them, “Your sins are forgiven.” And instantly, as the words are spoken, because they are words which do what they say, we forgive sins. Is it true because we speak those words? No, but it is true because Jesus has already paid the price for the sins which were committed, and because He has paid the price; therefore, as the words of forgiveness are announced, there is forgiveness and life through Jesus Christ.

The Law might be summed up in Exodus 20, where the Ten Commandments are stated. Jesus summarized the Law of the Commandments with the words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39b). Love is the summary of these commandments. If we could love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we could keep the rest of the commandments. If we loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would not sin against them.

The Gospel might be summed up in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God is love, and in His love, He gave the life of His Son who paid the price, the cost, the wages of sin, for us in our place.

As the Law must be proclaimed in all its severity, lest the Gospel mean nothing, so the Gospel must be proclaimed in all its sweetness lest one be led to despair.
17 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . To Speak Law & Gospel (Part2).

It is unfortunate that we live in a society which has such a high disregard for intolerance of sin, so much so that we do not even like to use the term sin. Yet, unless we recognize and confess our sins, there can be no forgiveness and absolution.

We have a problem in that we confuse a recognition of sin with a condemnation or judgement. Such is the case when we suggest that what someone did was wrong, even a sin, and we hear a response such as, “You’re not supposed to judge people,” as if quoted from the Bible. Our response is that to recognize sin is not the same as judging and that if a person continues in his/her sin, not only has s/he judged her/himself, but we, as a Christian congregation, may judge her/him as well. Excommunication means, that a congregation has studied that situation on the basis of God’s Word and determined that a person has sinned and refused to confess and repent that sin. The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are to be exercised in that way..

However, we must understand that the judgement of excommunication is not, in any way, to be a mean-spirited plot, but rather is a call to the one who remains in his/her sin to see the seriousness of his/her sin so that s/he may repent and be restored to the fold.

Accordingly, for us to practice true Lifestyle Evangelism means that we must be prepared to call sin what it is, sin. We must be prepared to have accusations brought against us (fair and unfair). And we must stand firm and thus, in love, explain the devastating results of unrepentant, sinful living versus the rewards of repentance, contrition and forgiveness, and absolution.

Again, how can one take seriously the need for a Savior unless one is shown his/her need? The Law must be proclaimed in its severity, especially to unrepentant sinners so that the Gospel may be taken seriously, may be proclaimed and may be believed. And once the Law has been taken seriously, then the Gospel must be proclaimed in all its sweetness, giving the assurance of forgiveness of sins and the certainty of eternal life in heaven. Such is God’s Way as shown in His Word.
16 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tenant or Son? - October 2, 2011 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost 16 (Proper 22) - Text: Matthew 21:33-46

I want first to remind you that the events of Jesus’ life are not random, haphazard events, but are events which happened for a purpose. Through the events of Jesus’ life as given to us through the accounts of the Gospels we have a better understanding of Jesus, who He is and what is His mission. So, this morning, the mission continues. Our text for this morning comes after Jesus has ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem, that is after what we call Palm Sunday. The crowds cheered. They threw down their coats or palm branches, or whatever they had available, as a “red” carpet. So, Jesus was seen to be very popular, especially by those trying to kill Him, which upset them. He then proceeded to cleanse the temple, casting out the money changers and making the statement that the temple was His Father’s house and was to be a house of prayer, not a “den of robbers.” Then comes that thing, that account about the fig tree, which we do not know what to do with, so we skip past it. If you want to talk about it in Bible Class, we can do that. Anyway, next, as we read at the beginning of our Gospel reading for last week, Jesus is questioned as to His authority, which He does not answer, but instead directs their attention to the authority of John the Baptist. And last week we also heard as Jesus told the parable of the two sons to get across the idea of who is a part of God’s Kingdom. Finally, this week and the parable following this parable, next week’s Gospel reading, the parable of the Wedding Banquet, are more “accusations” against the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. So, let us look at our text for today.

If you listened really close to the Old Testament reading and to the Gospel reading you may have noticed that they sounded a lot alike. God, through the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus here in the New Testament, uses the imagery of the vineyard and the vineyard owner to help the people understand the relationship of God to His people. We are told that the landowner planted a vineyard and built a wall around it. This wall is the wall of the Law. The children of Israel were different from all the other nations and peoples around them. They had a God who was a personal God, who cared for them, who was personally involved with them and their lives. Their God was one who gave them the Ten Commandments, a set of Laws to help them to be better people in this world. Actually, God gave them three types of law, the civil law, or what we might call the law of government; the moral law, which is the Ten Commandments; and the ceremonial law, which were the law governing sacrifices and temple worship. Now to those who today would suggest that we are no longer under the Old Testament laws, that statement is only partially true. We are no longer under the ceremonial law, but we continue to live under the moral law of the Ten Commandments and in this country we continue to be under the civil law which protects us as citizens in this country.

Now, as we look at this parable I would ask that you put yourselves in the shoes of the children of Israel, which is right to do, especially as we understand that the Children of Israel were Old Testament Christians, people saved by faith in the promised Christ, promised back in the Garden of Eden, just as we are New Testament Christians, saved by faith in the Christ, namely Jesus who is our Savior. If you want to put yourselves in the shoes of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, that is up to you, but at least put yourself in the shoes of the Children of Israel. Today we can see ourselves as being set apart. As Christians we are different from the people of the rest of the world. We are different from the people around us. Or at least we should be. The comments of the media and our society in general remind us of our differences. Above all is the difference that we have the Word of God. We have God’s Word which is our handbook and our guide to life. Like the Children of Israel, we are different. And please understand that the reason God gives us His Word, His Law and His Gospel is because we need it. Just as children need rules to set boundaries, and let me tell you that although they may test those boundaries, they are glad they are there, because those boundaries make them feel safe. In much the same way, we like God’s Word which sets boundaries for us which make us feel safe. And it gives us the comfort of knowing our sins are forgiven when we trespass those boundaries.

Getting back to our text, we are told that the landowner even went so far as to put a vine-press in his vineyard. A vine-press is what is used only after the fruit is ripe and harvested. If there is no fruit, the vine-press is useless. In other words, the landowner is expecting that there will be a harvest of fruit. God, speaking through the prophets, expected that the Children of Israel would be different than those around them. He expected that they would bear the fruit of faith, that they would show themselves to be different. What about us? God expects fruits from us as well. He gives us His Word. He gives us His Holy Spirit. He works through the Word to give us faith, forgiveness and life and He expects that we will show forth the faith that is in our hearts. It is kind of like that old “campfire” song, They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love. They will know we are Christians because we are different.

And to insure that there is a crop, the landowner builds a watchtower over his vineyard. The wall and the watchtower are ways of protecting the vineyard from stray animals that might trample over it as well as from stray people who might try to come in and rob the vineyard. The watchtower was often manned by the prophets and priests of the Children of Israel. They watched over the people, bringing God’s words of justice and judgement as well as His words of grace and mercy. In the same way God watches over us. He gives us His Word, the Bible, as well as Pastors to instruct us in the ways in which He would have us to go. He gives us His sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He gives us confession and absolution. Through these means He gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He gave His Son and the life of His Son so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Notice that there is no statement on production, on how much fruit was raised, rather there is simply the statement of the coming to collect the rent. God did expect a harvest. He did expect His people, the Children of Israel to be different and to live differently than those around them, instead of blending in and being like the idol worshipers who were there. Likewise, God expects fruits from us. He expects us to be different. He expects that we act differently, that we speak differently, that we stand out and be different in this world.

When it was harvest time, the landowner sent his servants to collect the rent. Unfortunately, the servants who went to collect the rent were killed. This is the killing of the prophets and priests of old. As I have said before, if you do not like what is being said, kill the messenger. At least we are a little more refined in our “killing the servants” today. If you do not like what the Bible says, either rewrite the Bible, or discount it as not being applicable to today. Sure, the Bible tells us the world was created in six literal days. Sure, the Bible tells us of the first man and the first woman and their fall into sin which corrupted the rest of the world. Sure, the Bible says we should not kill, even the unborn. Sure, the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. Sure, the Bible says that women should not be pastors. Sure, the Bible tells us that there is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Jesus, alone. Sure, the Bible says that the Lord’s Supper is His meal and should be administered with special care. Sure, the Bible says a lot of politically incorrect things. But what do we do. If we do not like what the Bible says, we change it or discount it as being not applicable or we call it a cultural thing and ignore it. Perhaps we try to fit the culture of today into the Bible and give it a new interpretation. In these ways we continue to kill the servants even today.

Ultimately the vineyard owner sent his son and the renters killed him as well. Of course, we know the rest of this story. We know that the vineyard owner is the Lord. We know that the Son is Jesus Himself. We know that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law plotted and brought about the killing of the Son of God. But, lest we put all the blame on them, we might remind ourselves that we too are involved in the death of the Son of God. We are conceived and born in sin and we daily add to that sin through our own sins of thought, word and deed, as we confessed at that beginning of this service. The renters in the parable are judged by the members of the Sanhedrin to eternal judgement and in their judgement they had judged themselves. Thanks be to God that there is a difference for us and that difference is what we just said, that we do confess our sins and are given God’s forgiveness earned for us by the death of His Son.

Yes, very often in life we are just as guilty as the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. We are even guilty as the Children of Israel for their lack of faith. But again, thanks be to God that He has given His Son and the life of His Son for our forgiveness.

Jesus continues by telling us the words of Holy Scripture. “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.” The rejected stone, the killed Son is be the foundation on which the Church is built. Our hope and our faith is built on the crucified Son, because He did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. Death and the grave have no hold on Him. But, how do we reject the Son, You ask? We reject Him every time we try to rely on ourselves for salvation. Every time we think we are good enough by ourselves to get to heaven. Every time we think that we have not sinned enough to earn hell. This is how we reject the Son.

Salvation is for all who believe. Salvation is for us. It is ours and although it is ours without a cost to us, it is not without a cost to Christ. Our salvation cost the life of the Son, God’s Son. Because of His great love for us, He freely gave His life that we might have life.

I suppose that if Jesus told this parable today He might remind us of all that God has done for us. He might remind us of the fact that we live in a very wealthy country and that we have all that we need as well as more than we need. Very often we have all that we want as well. He might remind us that we have the freedom, not from worship or from religion as seems to be the case in our country, but we have freedom to worship as we wish. He might also remind us that He has given us the means of grace through which He has given us faith and forgiveness of sins and through which He comes to strengthen us in our faith. Through these means of grace He will also remind us of the gift of His Son and the life of His Son, the shedding of Jesus’ blood for our sins. And finally, He may remind us that He expects fruits of faith from us as well. He did not give us faith and salvation for nothing, but so that we might do the good works which He has for us to do even today. And finally, He might remind us that He also stirs in our hearts and gives us the ability to do the good works which He would have us to do, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. Yes, He would also point us to Jesus, just Jesus. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . To speak Law & Gospel (Part1).

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). How true, how important, and how fitting are these words from John. These are the words we speak on Sunday mornings before we confess our sins, all our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed. These words remind us of the importance of confessing our sins so that we might be given forgiveness of sins, because, if we do not recognize and confess our sins, we are refusing God’s gift of forgiveness.

What does this confession have to do with Lifestyle Evangelism? Confession has much to do with Lifestyle Evangelism because, too often Christians are perceived to be either hypocrites or people who think they are better than others. Thus, it is important that we begin by recognizing our own sins and the fact that we are “by nature sinful and unclean.” It is important that we do not put on airs, that is, that we do not present ourselves as being better than non-Christians because the fact of the matter is that we sin just as much as anyone else, and often even more, because we know God’s commandments and still disobey them.

In his explanations to the Ten Commandments, Dr. Martin Luther reminds us that we sin against the commandments, not simply by doing something we should not be doing, but by not doing some things we should be doing. Or to say it another way, we sin more sins of omission than sins of commission; yet, these sins are just as damnable as the others.

Therefore, it is important that we recognize and confess our own sins first; then, so that we might be able to recognize and lovingly call attention to the grave sins of our unchurched family and friends (who may not know or understand what sin is nor its grave implications). Remember, the Law must be proclaimed in its severity if the Gospel is to be taken seriously. For, as many people believe, if I am not so bad, then why would I need a Savior? Yet, we speak the words of the Law with love, care and concern for the one to whom we are speaking.
15 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs