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

Disclaimer

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

To You I Have Committed My Cause - September 23, 2018 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20) - Text: Jeremiah 11:18-20

Many people are familiar with the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, “I Did It My Way.” The singer touts as his greatest achievement in life that he lived it his way. I might would ask, how many of us do or would like to tout that same thing about ourselves today? Maybe you have heard the phrase, “it’s my way or the highway.” We are people who often have our own opinions, and sometimes strong opinions, about one thing or another. The questions we might ask about our opinions are, “Is it a helpful or hurtful opinion?” “Is my opinion in line with what God’s Word says, or contrary?” “Is my opinion based on fact or hearsay?” Opinions can be dangerous because, as we know, it was an opinion that put Jesus on the cross.
 
In our text for this morning we will see how Jeremiah was a type of Christ. What it means that Jeremiah was a type of Christ is that he was not Christ, but what happened to him was an example of what was going to happen to Jesus. Our text begins by telling us that the Lord revealed to Jeremiah the plot against him. We read beginning at verse eighteen “18The Lord made it known to me and I knew; then you showed me their deeds” (v. 18). Jeremiah was not necessarily unaware of what was going on in the world around him. He knew that there were people who had a negative opinions about him, the called prophet of God, but he did not know how bad it was until the Lord revealed it to him in revealing to him their plot to kill him.
 
Jeremiah is like Jesus, he is not Jesus, but is like Jesus, because the Lord revealed to Jesus, from the beginning of time, the plot against Him. Jesus knew what He was doing when He left all the glory that was His in heaven. He knew that He would be coming to a hostile earth and a hostile people. He knew that His own people would be hostile to Him and would be against Him. He knew that He would be coming to give His life for ours on the cross.
 
Our text tells us that Jeremiah was to be lead like a lamb to the slaughter. We pick up at the first part of verse nineteen, “19But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (v. 19). A lamb does not really think for itself, it merely follows the leader. Up until this point, that the Lord revealed this plot to him, Jeremiah knew the some people had a negative opinion of him, but he did not know they were plotting to attempt to lead him to his death.
 
Jesus, too, was lead like a lamb to the slaughter. The difference was that Jesus knew before He came to earth that He would die. Jesus knew He was being lead to be crucified. And Jesus went willingly to give His life as a ransom for us.
 
Our text tells us that the plot was to rid the earth of Jeremiah’s name completely. We read the second part of verse nineteen, “I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more’” (v. 19). Not only did the people want to get rid of Jeremiah, they wanted to get rid of him completely. They wanted to remove his name completely from history. They knew he had no family, no children, thus killing him would kill his name completely.
 
In the same way, the plot of the Pharisees was to rid the earth of Jesus’ name. As Isaiah tells us, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (Is. 53:8). Jesus had no family, no children, no descendants, at least no physical descendants, contrary to what the gnostics, such as Dan Brown and others may propose as scandalous cover-ups. Yes, Jesus had no descendants, but to all who believe on the name of Jesus, they are, we are, the children of God, members of Jesus’ family.
 
Finally, our text tells us that Jeremiah prayed that the Lord would judge righteously and bring about vengeance. We read verse twenty, “20But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause” (v. 20). Jeremiah knows he is not in control. He knows who is in control and so he commits himself to the Lord. Jeremiah also knows that vengeance, that revenge is not something he should seek, rather he is to let the Lord have His vengeance, His righteous judgement be on his enemies.
 
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Lord take this cup from me, not my will, but Your will be done.” Jesus came, not to do it His way, but that the Lord’s righteous justice would prevail. Jesus came to do the will of the Father.
 
How do we relate? Quite frankly as a pastor, and I am sure it is not just me, but all pastors probably sometimes feel like Jeremiah. I happen to be a sinful human being like the rest of the world and I do not always do the right things at least not according to the opinion of some people. Fortunately, unlike Jeremiah, I do not believe that anyone is out to have me slaughtered, but even if that were the case, I would be like Jeremiah, gently lead to that slaughter. Yes, friends, the same things that went on in Jeremiah’s day are still going on in our world and even in our own churches today. We still live in a sin filled world in which we still like to knock others down in order to raise ourselves up. We still like to not put the best construction and explain everything in the kindest and best way. We still like to gossip. And we do not like to be told we are wrong. If we disagree with what the pastor is preaching or teaching, rather than be as the Bereans and search the Scriptures, we just avoid divine service and Bible Class. If we disagree with how things are going we just decide to not participate. We act like a child who pouts because he does not get his own way. And we spend our time speaking to others about our “concern” that things are not being done the way we believe they should be done.
 
I believe our Gospel lesson shows us what is actually going on in our churches today. Here, Jesus has been with His disciples and they, sort of, know who He is, yet, their concern is about what’s in it for them. Even in our Epistle lesson, James makes us look in the mirror and see that, even though we are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, faith given to us by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, we continue to live lives as sinners. So, as we look at ourselves as members of this congregation perhaps we would do well to ask ourselves, “Am I contributing to the tearing down or the uplifting of this congregation?” Of course we would all like to think that we are a part of the solution . . .  if only they would do it my way. How do you know if you are a part of the tearing down or a part of the lifting up. You can know you are a part of lifting up by being in the Word and by taking it to the Lord in prayer. By volunteering to serve on a board or committee. By offering words of encouragement. By offering to help in any way.
 
God’s desire for us and our lives is what I have been telling you almost every Sunday, that we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace. God’s desire is that we are in the Word, that we remember our baptism, that we confess our sins and hear His most wonderful words of sins forgiven, and that we partake of His body and blood in His holy Supper. God cannot help us when we stay away from the very place where He comes to gives us help, His Holy Word and His sacraments. God’s desire is that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace so that He might pour out on us and lavish us with all the good gifts and blessings He has to give.
 
It is God’s Word which gives us both direction and forgiveness. God’s Word reminds us that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor. And we are not even to bear witness of the truth if that truth does not seek the best for the other person. This word reminds us that we are not to be the ones who are speaking and spreading anything that is not uplifting and that we are to lift up those who are being put down by others. Even if doing that, speaking good and lift up others, makes us unpopular as well.
 
More importantly, God’s Word and His Sacraments give us God’s grace, forgiveness, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation. To absent ourselves from His Word and means of Grace is tantamount to refusing the gifts He has to give. To make regular and diligent use of His Word and means of Grace is to be strengthened and kept in faith.
 
There may be times in our life when we all feel like Jeremiah, that the world is out to get us. There may be times when we feel like we need to get our own revenge. We want to tell them a thing or two.
 
What has happened is that we have forgotten that we are not the ones who are in charge and that we do not do things our way, rather it is God who is in charge. When we think we are in charge and do things “our way,” that is when we become just like those we believe are against us, and then we too are in rebellion against God. And more often than not, when we do it “our way,” we only make a bigger mess of the situation.
 
Fortunately for us, we have a great God who loves us and even more we have a great God who loves His Church and because of His great love for us and for His Church He continues to keep an eye out for us. So, even when we barrel ahead and mess up, even when we do things “our way,” the Lord comes to the rescue. The Lord comes through and “fixes” what we mess up.
 
The ultimate “fixing” was Christ’s death on the cross. Let us face it, we are sinful human beings. We are sinful from our conception. We are conceived and born in sin and by ourselves there is no way we can save ourselves. Left to do things our way, we would be destined to eternal spiritual death in hell, for eternity. Praise the Lord that Jesus did not do it His way. Jesus willingly gave up the glory that was His in heaven. Jesus willingly took on human flesh and blood, being conceived and born as a human being. Jesus willingly was born humble and lowly, in a manger. Jesus willingly took our sins upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus willingly gave in to the will of the Father who sent Him to give His life for ours. Jesus’ death paid the price for the eternal punishment for our sins, all our sins, especially and including our sins of speaking not the best about others and not uplifting others. Jesus has and continues to be the ultimate fix for us in our lives.
 
I believe our church has so much to offer our members as well as our community. We are a church in which the scripture permeates our worship and in which we hear quite clearly, that we are sinners and so we do need a Savior, but even more we hear quite clearly that your sins are forgiven, go in peace. Our Lord has so much to give to us through His Word and His Sacraments. He can and does work through these means to help us give up “our way,” and follow His way. He can and He does work through His Word and Sacraments to lavish us with all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. And He works in us to respond to all that He gives by rejoicing and saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - The Authority of the Word of God)

“We are a Bible Church” is the statement we often hear from a friend or family member who misunderstands the Lutheran Church and our confessional documents, the Book of Concord. Indeed, we too are a Bible Church and more so than any other Bible Church as we let God speak for Himself, not adding to nor taking away according to our own human logic especially when it comes to resolving the tension God leaves us in many teachings of His Word as we will see.

The Book of Concord, our confessional documents in no way supercede the Word of God, rather they are a proper explanation of that word, set out in a systematic way, very much like our Catechism, so that we might rightly understand what we believe according to the various teachings of the Bible. Since the Bible is written in narrative, in prose, in history and poetry, not simply in paragraphs about who God is, who Jesus is, what is the Trinity and the like, our confessional documents lay these teachings out for us in a systematic way. The writers looked up the Bible passages about Jesus and then wrote, this is what we believe about Jesus according to these Bible passages.

At the same time, what we read in our confessional documents is not any explanation using human logic (flawed because of sins) in order to remove any tension of God’s Word. In other words, if God’s  Word is not logical to us, such as the case with predestination and eternal election, rather than resolve the tension we have in God’s Word we simply let God speak. We say what He says, not adding to it and we say what He says, not taking anything away.

We heard it said, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” The problem with this statement is the “I” problem. As Lutherans we right say, “God said it. That settles it.” My belief does nothing to God’s Word. God’s Word is the final authority. As Luther and the Reformers pointed out, Popes and Councils have contradicted each other and have erred, but God’s Word is His Word and so it is the final authority.
34 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Trust in the Name of the Lord - September 16, 2018 - Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19) - Text: Isaiah 50:4-10

When we think of the president of the United States we think of a person with power and authority. When we hear of dictators, czars, prime ministers and the like we think of power and authority. When we think of kings, queens, princes and royalty we think of power and authority. But what about when we think of Jesus? What do we think? Do we think of power and authority? Jesus is true God, King and Ruler, and Creator of all. When we think of Jesus do we think of power and authority? As you read through the book of Isaiah you get the idea that the Messiah, the King, the Ruler, the Creator of all is not a person with power and authority, but is one who would be a servant and a suffering servant at that. There is a theme running through Isaiah and that theme is one which prophecies the coming of a Messiah, a Christ, who will be a suffering servant. We have the advantage of being able to look back (hindsight is twenty-twenty) and see that Jesus was that suffering servant Messiah. But if we were around in the days of Jesus we might have been confused as His disciples and as many of the other people were. As we read through the Gospels, we might notice that the apostle Peter recognizes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is the Christ, but he does not understand about Jesus dying on the cross. And just as it did not make sense to the people then, it still does not always make sense to too many people still today.
 
Nine years ago we were hit by hurricane Ike. September 11, 17 years ago tragedy struck the United States of America when we were attacked by terrorist. Last year tragedy struck here at home when hurricane Harvey came through. Today when tragedy happens we may stop and wonder, where is God and why does He allow these things to happen? If God is God, why does He not stop evil? Does God have power and authority? Does He have the power and authority to stop evil?
 
Getting to our text, we hear the prophet speaking and at the same time we hear the Messiah speaking. We read beginning at verse four, “4The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (v. 4-6).
 
The Lord God, or as the NIV translates it, the Sovereign Lord, is literally God Yahweh or God the Lord. Isaiah’s words are words of the Messiah. The Messiah speaks the words of the Father who sent Him. The Messiah is a teacher (v.4) and we know that Jesus came as one who taught others.
 
The Lord God, or again, God the Lord, comes of His own free will. Jesus is true God, born in human flesh. Jesus is true God who was in heaven enjoying all His glory that was His as true God and yet He gave up His glory in order to be born as a human being. As the Messiah Jesus comes willingly (v.5). No one forced Him to give up the glory of heaven and take on human flesh and blood.
 
The Lord God, or once again, God the Lord, comes to suffer. Jesus does not hold Himself back. The Messiah suffers (v.6). He turns His back so that He might be beaten. He turns His check so that He might be slapped and even worse, He turns His check to those who pull out His beard, which is an even greater insult, especially in His culture. He sits quietly as He is mocked and spat upon. He suffers for the sins of all people of all times of all places. He suffers much of the temporal punishment and all the eternal punishment for our sins.
 
Continuing on in our text we come to see the source of the Messiah’s strength. The Messiah trusts in God. We continue reading at verse seven, “7But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 10Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (v. 7-10).
 
We are read again of the Lord God, or God the Lord who sent His Son, Jesus, the Messiah. The Messiah is determined to die. As we are often reminded at Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ birth, He was born to die. He has set His face like flint, like a rock which is not moved, to do the job that He was sent to do (v.7). Many times in the Gospels Jesus tells His disciples that He must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed and rise again.
 
Who will bring charges against the Messiah (v.8)? Satan will bring charges, not against the Messiah, but against us, God’s people. Satan accuses us of sin and he does so rightly. Fortunately for us, those charges against us are what Jesus has taken on Himself, so they are charged against Him.
 
The Lord God or, God the Lord is the Messiah’s helper. The devil may accuse the Messiah, but he has no case (v.9). Jesus is perfection. Jesus is true God, thus conceived and born perfect. He lived a perfect life, which is God’s demand on us. Yet He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died for our sins on the cross so that we might have forgiveness, so that there can be no charge against us.
 
Finally, the Messiah encourages trust in the Lord (v.10). We are not to trust in ourselves, as if we would be able to save ourselves, but we are to trust in the Lord who saves us. We talked about this before, our help does not come from within us. We cannot look deep down inside ourselves for the answer to our struggles, problems and pain. Our help comes from the Lord. As we confess, our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
 
What does this text mean for us? As we come to this text we come with the understanding that we are the ones who deserve death. We deserve the eternal spiritual death penalty sentenced in the Garden of Eden. We are poor miserable sinners. One quick look at the Ten Commandments reminds us of just how sinful we are. We have not always, do not always and will not always give God first place in our lives. We have, do and will misuse His name. We have not always, do not always and will not always be faithful in divine service attendance, in Bible class attendance, in Bible study and Bible reading, we have not always, do not always and will not always obey our parents and those in authority over us. We have, we do and we will kill in thought, by thinking evil of others, in word, by name calling, and in deed. We have not, do not and will not lead chaste and decent lives in word and deed. We have, do and will continue to steal in thought, begrudging others, in word speaking evil of others and in deed. We have not always, do not always and will not always think or say the best about others. We have, we do and we will continue to sinfully covet. We are sinners and we deserve eternal spiritual death which is eternal life in hell. We might even imagine that we deserved what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 or the hurricane last year or nine years ago. We might well imagine that we deserve any and all bad things that happens to us especially any temporal punishment.
 
But we also believe that Jesus is the Messiah, true God and true Man, that Isaiah said was coming. Jesus fulfills all the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the Christ of God. We believe, not blindly, but because the facts speak for themselves. We believe because all the evidence points to the fact that Jesus is true God and that Jesus gave up all the glory that was His in heaven. We believe that Jesus took on human flesh and blood, that He was born of a woman, that He lived a perfect life, and that He fulfilled all the works of the Law, perfectly.
 
We believe Jesus gave His life on the cross willingly, for all people of all time of all places. And specifically, we believe that Jesus gave His life for ours, for yours and for mine. Jesus did not come because He had to. He came because He wanted to, because of His great love for us, His creatures. Jesus was not coerced into giving His life. Freely He gave His life for ours. Freely, because of His great love for you, He gave His life for you.
 
We believe Jesus gave His life on the cross willingly, for us personally. Jesus died for all people of all times of all places and that fact is a joy to know and it gives us something to proclaim to others, but there is something more important. The more important thing is that Jesus gave His life for you personally and for me. Jesus died for each one of us personally. Even if you or I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have given His life for you or for me.
 
We believe that Jesus death was enough. This fact is important. Let me say it again, we believe that Jesus death was enough. We do not have to do anything to add to what Jesus did to save us, as if there would be something we could do. Jesus gave His life for ours and that was enough. Heaven is ours as a free gift. We can do nothing to earn it nor do we deserve it. It is ours free because of Jesus’ death for us in our place.
 
Yes, we still live in a world filled with sin. Yes, we still sin. And, although God may allow temporal judgement to be imposed on us, that is, although we may suffer temporal suffering from time to time, such as terrorist attack, hurricanes, earth quakes, tornadoes and the like, by faith in Jesus, God will never impose eternal judgement on us. By His power and authority He imposed His eternal judgement on Jesus, for us, in our place. Thanks be to God.
 
In the Gospel lesson for today it is again demonstrated that Jesus is the Messiah of whom Isaiah was speaking. The Epistle lesson reminds us of the importance of our words and action. Because of what Jesus has done for us, gave His life for us, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we are moved to live lives of faith, to live our lives as living sacrifice to the Lord to His glory. We do that by loving others as we love ourselves. We do that, we love others as we love ourselves when we see someone we think is not so lovable, and then remember that if God loved them so much that He gave His life for them, who are we to love them any less. In so doing, we are live our lives to the glory of the Lord. Yes, Jesus has all power and all authority and He uses His power and authority to save us and He does that, He saves us by giving us forgiveness of sins and faith by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace so that we do rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - Introduction)

So, you have invited your friend to worship and have explained the Divine Service so they feel comfortable and understand why we worship as we do. They have come to worship, they have heard the Gospel and now they begin asking, “What is different about Lutherans?”

Not everything is different about Lutherans, as a matter of fact we have many of the same core beliefs as all Christians. To begin, all Christian Churches confess the three universal Christian Creeds; the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. If anyone cannot confess these creeds, such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as other non-Christian religions, then they are not Christian.

As we look at what we believe, teach and confess, as Lutherans, we will see, just as the Reformers noted concerning the similarities and differences between them and the Roman Catholic church, we have many beliefs in common. With that said, there are some subtleties of difference. The Reformers made note of these as well as major differences, which in the Book of Concord, The Augsburg Confession and the Apology at times even condemned certain heretical differences.

The intent of the following is not to condemn but to instruct and to be able to make a clear distinction so as to clarify the Gospel, the reason for our hope in Jesus Christ for our salvation. As Luther believed, so we believe, as a person hears the good news of the Gospel how can they help but respond in the affirmative, yes, that is what I believe as well. And so as we clearly articulate Lutheran faith, certainly others will see the clarity of the Gospel, not mixed or commingled with the Law, not moralized, but pure and simply pointing to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

As Lutherans we believe we get it right by simply pointing to Jesus, never adding nor subtracting, never pointing to ourselves. This pointing to Jesus, just Jesus is the foundation for the purity of the Gospel in Lutheran Theology.
33 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)