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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Satisfaction, Guaranteed - July 31, 2011 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus, the man, the myth, the legend. Who is He? For the last few weeks we have been listening to Jesus tell stories, parables and also tell us what those parables mean. But He was more than just a story teller. In our text for this morning we see even more of Jesus, of who He is, as we take a look at some of the events that happened during this one day in the life of Jesus.

We begin with verse thirteen of our text, “13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (v. 13). What Jesus had heard was that His cousin and friend, His way preparer, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by Herod. Jesus, a man of love and compassion, felt the pain of the loss of John, so He withdrew to be by Himself in order to have time to be in prayer and communion with His Father in heaven, in order to be consoled, comforted and strengthened. Here we see what a wonderful example Jesus sets for us. Here we see Jesus, who we know is truly God, reveal Himself to us as also being truly human, showing us His need to spend time in prayer. Jesus, true man, needs to spend time in prayer so that He might be comforted and strengthened in His own earthly life. If Jesus needs time for prayer, how much more do we, sinful human beings, also need time for prayer?

Yet, His time for prayer did not last very long. We pick up at verse fourteen of our text, “14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14). Here we see that Jesus always had time, took time, and made time, for those in need. Even as He had a need to be in communion with His Father in heaven, even as He had a need to be spiritually strengthened, and even though He had His own needs, the needs of the people were always before Him and He was always ready, willing and able to meet their needs. Who is Jesus? He is a compassionate human person.

But Jesus is more than just a compassionate human person. Our text picks up at verse fifteen, “15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves’” (v. 15). When the crowds had found Jesus and began to flock around Him, He responded by preaching and teaching and by healing those who had need. And He did this all day long. As the day drew to a close, Jesus, again, had compassion on the people. These people had been with Him all day with nothing to eat. Jesus knew their need for physical nourishment, if nothing else, so they would be able to make the walk home. His disciples understood this as well, yet their suggestion is to send the people away so they can fend for themselves.

Jesus has a different answer. We read verse sixteen, “16But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” (v. 16). Jesus tells His disciples that they are to give the people something to eat. The disciple are to feed these people, these over five thousand men, along with the women and children, as we find out a little later. One commentator suggested the crowd may have been as large as 15, 000 people.

We read at verse seventeen, “17They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (v. 17-19). After a quick survey of the crowd, and the physical resources or food that was available, five loaves and two fish are found and brought to Jesus. Jesus offers prayers for the meal and then the food is distributed to the crowd.

Picking up at verse twenty, “20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (v. 20-21). Not only does Jesus feed the crowd, He feeds them with as much as they want until they are satisfied. His is the best buffet, the best smorgasbord, the best all you can eat dinner. And then, after the meal was complete, after everyone had enough to eat, He also provides twelve basketfuls of leftovers, perhaps a sign to each one of His skeptical disciples, one basketful for each. There are several things we learn from this miracle, one of which is, what I think is the obvious but most missed point and that is that not only is Jesus human, He is also divine, that is He is God. We see that He is God because who else could bless a meal of five loaves and two fish and multiply it to feed over five thousand, perhaps even 15, 000 people? Here we see Jesus as God Himself and the crowd sees Jesus as a miracle worker. We also see the fact that Jesus came to provide for His people, namely for the children of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, perhaps as noted with the twelve baskets of left overs. Who is this Jesus? Previously we have said that He is a compassionate human being. Now we would say that He is also a compassionate and loving God who provides for the needs of His people. Might I remind you that the very reason God created us is to love us?

So, let us review. Who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly human. He is tired and He needs rest, that is why He went off to be by Himself. He is hungry and He understands the hunger and the needs of the crowd. He is in need of spiritual, emotional, and physical rest, comfort and consolation. He is a man of compassion, that is a deep seated affection for others. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely human.

Who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly God. He is able to preach and teach for extended periods of time without need for human nourishment, although He does let us know that He, too, gets hungry. He is always ready, willing and able to provide healing for those who are sick or in any need. He has power over the things of this world, power over the food in order to make it multiply to feed the crowds. Other times He has shown His power over nature in His ability to calm a storm, raise from the dead, change water into wine and the like. We see His powers over the spiritual world as we see Him cast out demons and give faith to unbelievers. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely divine, that is that He is truly God.

So what? So what if Jesus is truly human and truly divine? What does that have to do with me? That almost sounds like a line from that one song on the radio that keeps asking the question, “What about me?” But, that is how we are as sinful human beings, is it not? Do we not tend to always ask the questions, “What about me?” “What is in it for me?” Our concern is for ourselves. So, what about us? We may not want to admit it, because we might think that it makes us less of a person, less worthy or whatever, but are we not, at times, tired, lonely, hungry, and the like? Do we not have doubts? Do we not sin? And here I will not just say, “Do we,” but how often do we find ourselves in need. We have the need to be in prayer. We have the need to be in communication with our heavenly Father.

Also, very often we need healing. Sometimes we need physical healing. We need healing from bumps, scrapes, bruises and the like, and worse. Other times we need emotional healing. We need healing from emotional hurts and heart aches, from spats with family and friends. We need healing from the pain of the loss of a loved one. We sometimes need physical and emotional healing, but we always need spiritual healing. We need healing from the fact that we are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much adding to our weight and burden of sin and the guilt associated with that sin. Forgiveness is our greatest need, because without forgiveness we would be left to pay the price for our sins ourselves and let me remind you that the price for sin is death, eternal spiritual death, hell in other words. Unfortunately, we do not always readily give up our sin and even when we ask for forgiveness, there are many times when we reject complete forgiveness as we cling to our guilt which tells us that we have not rid ourselves of our sin and have rejected God’s forgiveness. Yes, we are always in need of spiritual healing which only comes from the forgiveness of sins.

Thanks be to God that we have Jesus. Jesus provides for all our needs, guaranteed. He provides for all our physical needs. He provides us with food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home and all that we need for the support of our bodily needs. Not only that, Jesus also provides for all our emotional and spiritual needs. Through His means of grace, that is, through the Word and the sacraments, through our making regular and diligent use of His means of grace, reading our Bible, coming to divine service to hear the Word of God, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, remembering our Baptism, and coming to the Lord’s Supper, our Lord provides for us gifts of faith, and strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, that is, life in this world and life in the world to come, even eternal salvation.

Our most basic need, the thing we need the most is the forgiveness of sins and our Lord provides that for us first and foremost. As we hear the message of Jesus having compassion on the people; as we hear the message of Jesus preaching to and teaching the people; as we watch Jesus cast out demons and heal people of every kind of illness; as we watch Jesus provide food for the nourishment of the people, that is, as we watch Jesus provide for all the needs of the people in our text, we can know for certain that He daily and richly provides for all our needs as well. Who is Jesus? He is God in flesh who came to give His all, especially, first and foremost, to give His life, to suffer and die, to pay the price, the cost for our sins, which is the shedding of blood, which is eternal spiritual death and He did this, gladly and willingly for each one of us, for you and for me, because of His great love for us.

With that said, I want to conclude with Paul’s words of reassurance from our Epistle lesson from last Sunday. Paul tells us, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Yes, Jesus demonstrates who He is and what He does for us so that we might give Him thanks and praise saying, “To Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God Supplies Seed.

A farmer knows that a part of his crop must be saved for seed for the following year, otherwise he will not be able to plant the next year. God reminds us that not only does He supply us with all that we need, He will also supply us with the seed we need to sow a new crop. Paul puts it this way, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Paul’s words to the Corinthians are God’s Words to us today. God provides us with everything. He gives us all we need. He supplies us with seed to sow, or in today’s language, with gifts, talents and abilities to work to make a living. He also supplies us with food to eat, again, in today’s language, He supplies us with the abilities to make a living, to earn money to buy food to eat.

But God does so much more. God also supplies and increases our store of gifts, talents and abilities to work so much so that we are amazed at what He does for us. And God enlarges our harvest of righteousness. Working through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, the Lord brings us to faith, strengthens us in our faith, gives us forgiveness of sins, life, eternal life and salvation, and keeps us in faith. God gives us these gifts so much that we cannot help but live lives of righteousness. As we live lives of righteousness others see how we are living, they see our witness and they too, are brought to faith in the Lord.

Stewardship, then, becomes more than just an offering in the collection plate, it becomes a way of life, a way of life to the glory of God. And all this is done because it begins with our great God who is the supplier of all our needs. To God be the glory.
40 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stewardship is . . . A Cheer Giving.

Paul spends most of Second Corinthians chapter nine talking about stewardship. He reminds us that stewardship and giving in general should be something that we want to do and that we do cheerfully. Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). To give in a begrudging way is to give reluctantly and really is not giving.

We give cheerfully because we know what joy there is in giving. (And really, a person cannot know that joy until they have experienced it.) We give, not expecting in return but, because we know we are first given to. We give, not expecting in return but, knowing that God will continue to provide for us and for all our needs.

The Concordia Self-Study Bible attaches a footnote to this verse which points us to the following verse, where Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). We give, because we have first been given to. We give and know that as we give the Lord will continue to give back to us, according to what we have given. (That sounds a lot like the passage from 2 Corinthians 9:6 about sowing sparingly and reaping sparingly, sowing generously and reaping generously.)

Maybe we need to take stock of our own lives. What has God given to us? After we have discovered that God has given everything to us, then we need to carefully decide what we want to give back to God. What we decide to give back to God we will want to give back cheerfully. We give back cheerfully and in so doing we are giving praise and glory to the Lord for all His benefits to us. To God be the glory.
39 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Sowing Generously.

Planting seeds and watching them grow is fun. If you have ever planted a garden you know that sometimes some of the seeds do not germinate and sprout. In order to make sure that enough plants grow, you plant several seeds. Farmers understand this same principle and thus they plant generously to make sure they have an abundant crop.

It should not surprise us that this concept of planting generously is not new. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

When Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians he was not speaking of planting crops, rather, he was speaking of the stewardship habits of the Corinthians. Remembering the truth that we cannot out give God, it makes sense then that if we give only a little, then we will be given only a little. When we give a lot, generously, then the Lord blesses that giving and we reap generously.

Interestingly enough, Paul wrote these words to a group of people who were eager to give. As a matter of fact, their enthusiasm to give and their generosity stirred others around them into action. “For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action” (2 Corinthians 9:2).

Our Lord gives to us all His good gifts and blessings. The Holy Spirit working through the means of grace stirs in us to see His giving and to respond to His giving by our own giving. We pray that our giving may stir still others into action. To God be the glory.
38 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven - July 24, 2011 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Matthew 13:44-52

For the past two weeks we have been hearing Jesus speak parables about a farmer who goes out and sows seed in the field. Both times Jesus explains these parables with the explanation that He is the one who sows the seed and the seed He sows is His Word. And so we were reminded that even today the seed of the Word of God is still being sown in our church and in our world. The seed of the Word of God is sown on the path, on rocky soil, among the thorns and weeds and, at times, weeds are sown with the seed of the Word of God when the cares and concerns, when the false religions, cults and sects of the world, when people outright refuse and reject God’s good gifts and blessings, namely when people refuse salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross alone. The seed of the Word of God is sown in good soil when it is taught in its truth and purity and when we believe and live lives according to it. This week, Jesus continues in telling parables, but in order to help us better understand, as any good teacher does, Jesus changes the parables from parables of sowing seed, to parables of treasure and fishing.

Jesus tells the first parable, 44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Here we must understand that in Jesus’ day the people did not have banks in which to put their money, nor did they have the stock market in which to invest, nor mutual funds, insurance and the like. When someone had a lot of valuables, a lot of money they would divide their treasure into three parts. One part they would keep handy for doing business, a second part they would convert into precious stones for a quick get away and the third part they would bury in a safe place. Thus, when someone was digging, perhaps to bury a loved one, they might find this buried, hidden treasure.

In our own lives, it is God who guides us to the hidden treasure and the hidden treasure is what we are given as we make use of the means of grace, that is, as we are brought into the Lord’s Kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism, as we are given, strengthened and kept in faith through His Word, as we are given forgiveness of sins through Holy Absolution, as we are given strengthening and forgiveness through His Holy Meal, through these means we are given the treasure of Christ’s death and resurrection, even eternal life.

Notice that it is the field, not the treasure, that is bought. The treasure has no owner to be found, thus the field is bought and whatever is in the field becomes the possession of the new owner. The field in which we find this great treasure is the Word of God. God gives us His Word and He gives us His treasure. Because Jesus has already given His life by the shedding His blood, the cost, the price for the treasure for us is nothing. Yet, we give up ourselves in order to be given the gifts we are given by God

Jesus immediately goes on to tell the second parable, 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” This merchant is one who knows his pearls. He has searched and when he has found the most precious and the most valuable pearl, he sells everything in order to buy it.

The pearl, like the hidden treasure, is the reward of Christ’s death and resurrection, even forgiveness and eternal life. This pearl is not found by accident, but by the leading of God.

Here again, in the same way as the one who sells all to purchase land, so this one sells all in order to purchase the pearl. Time and again Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two master, time and again Jesus reminds us that we cannot have life in this world and life in the world to come, we may have only one or the other. In order to purchase the land with the hidden treasure, in order to purchase the most precious pearl, in order to be given God’s good gifts and blessings, we give up everything.

And Jesus tells the third parable,47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In this last parable, Jesus uses similar imagery of the sowing of the seeds and the sowing of the weeds. In this parable, the sea is the world. The world if filled with all kinds of people. One might believe that Jesus is talking about ethnic diversity, religious diversity, racial diversity and the like and maybe He is, but as we look at the context of this text, what Jesus has in mind is those who believe, true Christians, and those who do not believe, unbelievers, those destined for eternal spiritual death.

The net is the coming of the Lord on the Last Day, on Judgement day, and again like the reaping of the weeds and the wheat in last weeks parable, once the catch of fish is brought to shore, the catch is sorted. The bad fish, the unbelievers, are cast into the fiery furnace, where they receive eternal spiritual death in hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Finally, Jesus asks His disciples a question, 51“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Interesting, the disciples believe that they have understood all that Jesus was telling them. Of course, this is after He explained everything to them.

Today, God continues to commission to us to hear the Word and keep it, that is to live it. How would we answer Jesus’ question to us, “Have we understood all these things?” I suppose we would answer, “Yes,” as did the disciples, but do we really? Did they really? Do we really understand what a great treasure, what a great pearl the Word of God is?

How do you know what is of great value? How do you know in your own life what is of great value? Well, I will give you a hint, and it is not always and not necessarily what we might say or what we might think. First, let me ask you to think about what you like to do. Do you like to golf? Do you like to hunt? Do you like to fish? Do you like to shop? Do you like to garden? Do you like to build things in your shop? Do you like to cook, especially since you always get so many compliments on your baking? Do you like to read? Do you like to play sports? Do you like to play music or sing? Do you like to act? What is it that you really like to do? What is it that you would give up an afternoon of something in order to do? If you are like me, you will get up extra early in order to go fishing, because I like to fish. Whatever it is that you would go out of your way or give up other things for, that is what is of value to you?

Now, let me turn the question and ask it in a different way. Would you get up early to go to church? What would you give up in order to be in Bible class? If you had the choice of doing whatever it is you like to do or go to church, what would you choose? Now, I know that all of you here this morning, obviously, chose to be here in divine service, whether you are here for the sake of pure motives or because someone made you come, does not matter the fact is that you are here. Yet, how often, perhaps even every Sunday, the temptation is always before us, to choose something else. Do we really understand the great value of what God has to give?

I think that most of us understand the value of financial independence. We understand the value of diamonds and jewels. More and more lately we are understanding the value of good investments, especially in the stock market, IRAs, mutual funds and the like. But, do we understand that these investments literally mean nothing compared to God’s investment in our eternal salvation. Our lives on this earth may last 80, 90 or even 100 years, but there is no guaranty. If you read the obituaries, you will notice that people die at any and every age. From the moment of conception on, we are destined to die, at least to die a physical death. Yet, compared to our few years of hardship on this earth, is eternity which is millions of billions of years of forever. Are we willing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to give up our lives in this world in order to have the most precious possession, eternal life in heaven?

The parables, which Jesus is telling today, are parables which question our priorities. Not only that, they are parables which assume that we understand the value of the gift that He is giving. Maybe it would do us some good to review that gift. The gift that Jesus gives is nothing less than His all, His life for ours. He is the one who gave up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to become one of us, one with us, one like us, except without sin. He is the one who lived perfectly for us in our place and then, He who was without sin, took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died, paying the price for our sin, the price of eternal spiritual death, for us in our place. He is the one who gives us His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments as well as Holy Absolution through which He continues to come to us to give us all His good gifts and blessings.

If we had our own way, we would constantly and always refuse and reject Him. If we had our way, we would always choose the wrong thing. Yet, we have a God who loves us so much that He is the one who gives us a great treasure, which He reveals to us through His Holy Word. He is the one who brings us to His treasure, who gives us the treasure and who gives us the ability to give up ourselves for the greatest treasure of eternal life. Notice how our God is not a God who is a far off, who expects us to rise up to Him, to try to be better and better in order to approach Him and His presence, rather our God is a God who comes down to us, who enters our world, who takes on our flesh and blood, who does all for us. So, again we see that it all begins and ends with Jesus, just Jesus.

Seeds that are sown are all signs of the fact that God gives us His Word through which He gives us all His good gifts and blessings. A treasure, a pearl of great price, and a net are all signs of the Kingdom of God. Do we get it? The Kingdom of Heaven is more precious than anything we might think or imagine. By God’s grace, it is ours. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Reciprocal Giving.

The wonderful thing about first fruits giving and tithing is that you always know when to give and how much to give. First fruits giving means the first check goes to the Lord. Tithing means the first ten percent (or whatever percent you want to give according to percentage giving) goes to the Lord. (The percentage can be before or after taxes, you decide. Do not let that be your excuse for not participating in percentage giving.)

To help us understand this better, let us look at it backwards. Let us say that God gives to us (second) according to how we give to Him. How would that idea affect our giving. Let us say, our pay check has always been $100 per week. We have always given $10 per week for offering. Now, normally, we would get a raise, say to $200 per week. Accordingly, then, we would raise our offering to $20 per week. But let us suppose we decided, after our paycheck has gone up to $500 per week that we could not afford to give $50 per week, but that we cut back to $30 per week. How would it be if God, then, blessed us so that our offering would remain at 10% of our paycheck by cutting back our pay to $300 per week. That is the part about which we do not like to think, but that is the beauty of first fruits giving and tithing. If we do have a smaller paycheck, then our offering will be smaller. If we have a bigger paycheck, our offering will be bigger. We give as God blesses us. God gives first, we reciprocate back to Him.

Pray that the Lord would give us the faith to give to Him as He has given to us. I know we will be amazed at the results. Remember, we cannot out give God, because He gives to us first. To God be the glory.
37 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Testing.

From early on in Scripture we are warned that we are not to test the Lord. “Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16). Even in the New Testament we are warned against testing the Lord, “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.” (1 Corinthians 10:9). We are to trust the Lord and allow for Him to test us.

There is one place in Scripture, however, where we are allowed, even encouraged to test the Lord. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10).

When it comes to stewardship, we are to test the Lord. Give Him your first fruits. Give Him the tithe. Give Him as He has first given to you. Give to Him and see if He does not give even more back to you.

Certainly you have heard testimonials of people who have given out of their poverty to the Lord and how the Lord has blessed them. If you are like me, a skeptic, you probably do not believe these people. God know us. He knows we are skeptics and do not believe. That is why He tells us to test Him in these things. Test the Lord, and see if the testimonials are true.

Remember, the Lord gives to us first. We return to Him only as He has given to us. The more we return, the more He gives back. And remember, you cannot out give God. Try it, test the Lord and see if He does not open the floodgates of heaven. To God be the glory.
36 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Reflective Love.

The moon is really beautiful, especially when it is a full moon. It glows so bright and blue way up in the sky. It is truly a reminder of God’s great love for us and of His Almighty Creation.

Did you ever stop to think, the moon has no light of its own. It shines brightly in the sky because it reflects the light of the Sun. If the Sun did not shine on the moon, the moon would be just a dark ball in the sky.

The Sun and the Moon are vivid images of how we are compared to God. We have no light, no love of our own. We merely reflect the love that is shown on us. If God would not shine His love on us, we would not reflect that love to others. As John tells us, we love because God first loved us. Because of our sinful human nature (original sin) we cannot love. Praise the Lord that He does love us and that He stirs in us to reflect that love to others.

Our stewardship is the same way. We would not and we could not give except that God gives to us first. And, unfortunately, we are poor mirrors when it comes to our stewardship practices. We so dimly reflect back to others what God has first given us. We so dimly act as stewards of God’s many good gifts and blessings; gifts and blessings too numerous to count.

Being a good steward begins with admitting that our mirrors need polishing. Pray that the Lord would help you to better reflect His love by being a better steward of your whole life. And the Lord will answer your prayer so that you will be a better steward to the glory of His Holy name.
35 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weeding the Garden - July 17, 2011 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost 5 (Proper 11) - Text: Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)

Last week we heard Jesus tell the parable of the Farmer who sowed his seed on the path, on the rocks, among the thorns and weeds and on good soil. We were also told by Jesus that the meaning of that parable was that He was the one who sows the seed and He still sows the seed today through the proclamation of His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of Grace. Those people who reject the Word of God, either outright or because of the cares and concerns of this world, those people who reject the message of salvation, that Jesus alone is the way to be saved are like the seed sown on the path, on the rocks and among the weeds and thorns. Those people who hear the Word of God, those people who hear the message and are given faith in Jesus alone for salvation are those seeds sown on good soil that produces a crop, a hundred, sixty and thirty times what is sown. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” This week we continue listening to the parables of Jesus as He continues to use the imagery of the sowing of seeds.

Our text begins with Jesus telling the parable, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13:24-30).

Our text for this morning then takes the liberty to skip past the parable of the mustard seed in which Jesus reminds us that, although the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, the plant that grows from it is so big that the birds of the air can build a nest in it, reminding us that although our faith may begin small, it can grow as we grow and mature in our faith. Also, the parable of the leaven is skipped. This parable reminds us that a little leaven leavens the whole loaf, that is that a little sin causes a great amount of trouble and a little forgiveness also goes a long way. Finally, what our text skips is the fact that Jesus spoke in parables for a purpose, in order that the message of salvation is not wasted on those who refuse and reject it.

Finally, after we have skipped these parts, Jesus tells the meaning of the parable. We pick up at verse thirty-six: “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (36-43).

So, just like the parable from last week, Jesus is the one who sows the good seed. Jesus is not the author of evil, nor does He condone it. Jesus gives good gifts and blessings. Jesus comes to give faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Jesus came to save us through the giving of His life for ours. He sows the seeds of His Word and as we were reminded in the Old Testament lesson from last week, that Word which He sows is a Word with power. His Word is a Word which does what it says. As His Word is sown, it will not return void or empty, because it is His Word.

On the other hand, the one who sows bad seed is the devil. This one is the one who often times takes the Word of God and twists it to make it sound like God’s Word, but instead it is a word of deception and lies, coming from the devil, the father of lies. The devil would have us believe that there are many ways to the same eternal enlightenment, that all religions are valid. The word of the devil is a word with power as well, not the power to save, but the power to condemn.

The end result is that on judgement day the good seed will be separated from the bad seed. The good seed will gain eternal life in heaven. The bad seed will reap destruction, eternal death in hell with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The people to whom Jesus spoke this parable understood what Jesus was saying. And yet, this parable was not spoken only to the people of His day, Jesus speaks this parable to us today. Today God continues to sow good seed through the means of Grace. This parable reminds us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. This parable reminds us of the importance of coming to divine service and Bible class. This parable reminds us of the importance of reading God’s Word on our own and having personal and family devotions. This parable reminds us of the importance of remembering our Baptism and in coming to the Lord’s Supper to be given His good gifts and blessings.

Today we live in a pluralistic society. We live in what is called a tolerant society, even though we know it is intolerant of Christians. We live in a world where there are many religions, cults and sects, where there are many weeds. There are many religions, cults and sects vying for our time and attention. There are many “opportunities” for doing many things, many things except doing the one thing needful as Jesus so pointed to busy Martha. There are many weeds in our world which try to choke our faith in Jesus alone.

And, as Jesus told His disciples, so He reminds us, we will live this way until the end. Life will not get any easier. As a matter of fact, if you have been watching the way things have been going in our world, you may have noticed that it is getting harder and harder to be a Christian. It is getting harder because a Christian is one who believes what Jesus says in His Word and that is, that there is no other name, given among men, whereby we must be saved, in other words, there is only one way to eternal life and that is by God’s Grace, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross alone. Yes, we Christians are intolerant. Think about it like this, if there were any other way to eternal life, why in the world would Jesus go through the pain of suffering and dying for our sins? As we noted in Bible class many times, all the religions of the world, all the cults and sects, can be divided into two categories, those who believe in self for salvation, that is, those who believe that one must do something, live a certain way, that their character is what saves them and we, those who believe that we are saved by God’s Grace alone because of something outside of us, namely, because of Jesus suffering and death for our sins.

Thus, we realize that our work until the end of the world is to share the good news of Jesus with others. No this is not implicitly stated in our text, but it is there nonetheless. It is only at the end, it is only at Judgement day that we will see the results of faith and unbelief. And rest assured, we will see the results.

So, what? Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Yes, there were those in Jesus’ day and there are still those in our world today who hear the Word of God and yet refuse and reject His good gifts and blessings. There are many in our world today who would just as soon go along with the philosophies and ideologies of this world, there are those who would just as soon go along with the ideas of cultural tolerance and pluralism rather than make waves, rather than stand up for what Jesus says, because it is a lot easier. It is very difficult and it is getting even harder for us in our world today to take a stand and to proclaim the difficult truth of what Jesus tells us in His Word, that is that there is only one way and that way is only through faith in Him. And yet, that is what we are to do.

So, we are continually reminded of our need to hear the Word of God. We are continually reminded of our need to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, to read our Bible everyday, to daily remember our Baptism, to come to divine service every Sunday, as well as to come to Bible class and to come to the Lord’s Supper as often as we can so that we might be strengthened in our faith so that we might be able to face the struggles and accusations of this world.

“He who has ears, let him hear.” “We hear,” when the Word of God is proclaimed in its truth and purity and when we believe that Word of God. But faith is not simply something in our mind, it is what we do. We hear when we act, that is when we live lives of faith. We hear when we believe and trust in Jesus alone for our forgiveness and our salvation and when we live our lives in such a way that we are not apathetic, but are boldly proclaiming our faith in Jesus alone, no matter what the cost, for to do otherwise would be to break the commandments.

You know, it is fascinating that even though we are hearing Jesus’ Words some 2000 years after He first spoke them, the world has not changed very much. Jesus’ Word is still being sown as the Word of God, it is rightly proclaimed and taught in its truth and purity and the devil, the enemy is still sowing weeds as the Word of God is mis-proclaimed, twisted and outright thrown out, and as other weeds of other religions, cults and sects are sown. And we will go on living this way until the end, until the day of Judgement, when God will sort out the wheat from the chaff, when the chaff, when those who believe in something or someone other than Jesus alone for salvation will be cast into the fires of eternal death and that will happen.

For us, Christians, the good news, the greatest news is that when we, those of us who believe in Jesus alone are gathered before the Lord’s throne, we will be robed with Jesus’ robes of righteousness. It all begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the one who created us to love us. Jesus is the one who loved us so much that He gave up the glory of heaven in order to take on flesh and blood. Jesus is the one who lived for us, perfectly. Jesus is the one who fulfilled all the law and prophecies of the Old Testament, for us. Jesus is the one who paid the price for our sins, suffering eternal spiritual death on the cross for us. Jesus died for us. Jesus rose for us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give us faith. At our Baptism Jesus gives us faith. Through our hearing God’s Word, through our confession and absolution, through our participation in the Lord’s Supper we are given faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Jesus works in us to do the good works He has for us to do. Jesus does it all and in the end, He will gather us with all the saints we will give praise and glory to Jesus alone. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Choice Recognition.

People are big on choice in our world today. Everything is up for our choosing. Choose “A” or choose “B,” the choice is up to you. Choose “good” or choose “bad,” the choice is up to you.

When it comes to choosing God, we as Lutheran Christians understand that “[we] cannot by [our] own reason or strengthen believe in Jesus Christ [our] Lord or come to Him.” That is why the “Holy Ghost has called [us] by the Gospel, enlightened [us] with His gifts,” the means of Grace (Word and Sacrament), “sanctified and kept [us] in the one true faith.”

Jesus, speaking to His disciples reminded them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

Paul reminds us, in His letter to the Romans, that if the choice were left up to us, we would naturally, because of our sinful state of birth, choose the wrong thing. Thus, in the area of stewardship, if we were to choose and to act according to our own choice, we would not be good stewards, instead, we would be bad stewards. That translates into our putting ourselves and our own interests first. Bluntly, that means that our first fruits check is not given to the Lord, but is given to some other personal favorite interest.

Stewardship, then, begins with realizing that it is God who chooses us and, as Jesus says, He chooses “to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Being chosen by God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the Word and the Sacraments, He moves in us to be good stewards, to practice first fruits giving. And we give according to what He first gives to us. To that we say, to God be the glory.
34 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Owner Recognition.

Some people express stewardship as God owns and we owe. I think a better expression would be to say that we are caretakers of all that is God’s and the fact is, all is God’s.

All is God’s; let me illustrate it this way. A child is taken care of by its parents. We speak of a child owning things. It is the child’s room. They are the child’s clothes. They are the child’s toys. But do they really belong to the child? When the child’s room needs painting, who paints it? When the child needs new clothes, who buys them? When the child breaks a toy or needs a new toy, who fixes or buys them? And when the child is old enough, who gives the child his/her allowance? Yes, these “things” are the child’s yet they are also the parents’. The parents supply the child with all his/her needs.

It is the same with us. We would like to think that we own things. We would like to think that we earn a living to buy our house, to buy our car, to buy food, to buy clothes, etc. But, in the same way that what a child has does not originate with the child, so the things that we have do not originate with us. Everything we have can in one way or another be traced back to God.

God gives us the ability to work to make a living. God gives us a job. God gives us the materials needed to build a house, to build a car. God gives us the sun and the rain to raise crops as food to eat. Everything we have can in one way or another be traced back to God. God is the owner; we are the caretakers.

Another way to think about it is this, whatever we are born with and whatever we take with us when we die is truly ours. May the Lord forgive us when we have the attitude that we are the ones who own and that we own because we are deserving in any way. Rather, we praise the Lord as we realize that He owns and that He gives to us generously from His bounty. We praise the Lord that, as He moves in us to respond to His giving by giving in return, He blesses us even more. To God be the glory.
33 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stewardship is . . . right priorities.

Let’s go ahead and admit that we have had some financial struggles in the past few years. We should also admit that many churches have these same struggles. We are not alone. But what is the cause of these struggles? Maybe we should admit that the cause is wrong priorities. Instead of spending so much time, and frustration, on how to raise contributions, maybe we should spend our time on strengthening the faith of our people.

Why do we spend so much time measuring the success of the church by the number of dollars in the treasury? “If you doubt this, ask yourself when a church gets real panicky. It is not when they have only 40% to 50% of their people at worship, only 20% or less in Bible study, and 5% to 10% witnessing, but they panic when the budget is not met. That is a real tip-off related to priorities and the confusion of ends and means.”

“Congregations experience greater loss than money—loss of people to whom they should be ministering. If the members focus on ministry, they will be strengthened for giving—by first overcoming spiritual weaknesses that are the cause of money shortages. People’s life-style should be as great a concern as support for the church.” (Quotes taken from Supply-Side Stewardship, Waldo J. Werning)

We all like to think that our Christian faith is the top priority in our lives, but is it? God cannot give if we continue to refuse the gifts He has to give. Gift refusal is staying away from where God gives His gifts, the means of grace, Word and Sacrament.

God would have us concentrate, not on our finances, but on His ministry. God’s promises are clear, as we are doing His work He will provide us with the wherewithal. Our prayer then becomes a prayer that the Lord would stir in us the desire as well as the carrying out of that desire to be in worship and Bible class regularly and to have regular home and personal Bible study and reading of God’s Word. And through His Word the Lord will strengthen us to have right priorities. To God be the glory.
32 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Listening and Hearing - July 10, 2011 - Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

That same day, the day in which Jesus told the crowds that His mother and brothers were “whoever does the will of [His] Father in heaven,” that same day, Jesus went out of the house where He had been preaching and teaching and he went out and sat by the lake. As he sat by the lake the crowds gathered again. And so it was with Jesus. All during His life, wherever He went crowds gathered in order to see Him, to hear Him, to be touched by Him. And Jesus tells them a parable. Jesus spoke many times in parables. A parable we are taught is an “earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Using parables, Jesus is able to connect to us using ordinary, every day things of which we might easily relate. But, not only does Jesus tell the parable, but, because of our ineptness and the ineptness of His disciples, He also explains the parable to make sure we understand.

Jesus, sitting in the boat spoke to the people. He said that “a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (v. 3b-4). These seeds are those people who hear the Word of God and ignore it. Day in and day out we come into contact with God and His good gifts and blessings. The world itself, our conscience, and the Word of God all tell us that there is a God. However, too many people simply want to ignore this fact, because the God of Holy Scripture is not the god they want to worship.

Others, on whom the seed of the Word of God is scattered, are those who join cults, sects and other religions. These people are those who hear the Word of God and then change it to be whatever they want it to be. These people are those who hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it because the evil one snatches it away from them. I have said it before, “if you do not like what God’s Word says, rewrite it,” but of course, then it is not His Word. Those people who fall into this category of having the seed scattered and having the birds come and eat it up are the people who refuse and reject the Word of God.

And yet, the farmer continues on in scattering the seed. “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (v. 5,6). These people are the people who hear the Word of God, perhaps they “make a decision for Jesus” and the rally ends. These people are the ones who have an emotional experience with the Word of God, but when they go back out into what we call the “real world,” they go back out into the world, and the same old sin and temptations are there, and when the frustrations of the world are still there, they wonder where is this “cure-all” God they thought they had found and so they just as easily give Him up.

There are those people who believe they can worship God in nature or worship God through some “moving” experience. They think they can worship God apart from others, watching the evangelist on TV and so forth. Their “faith” is a shallow faith, or faith with no roots. Perhaps these people are the ones who believe that there is something they can do to save themselves or that there is something they must do in order to be saved and because they are unable to fulfill whatever it is that they think they need to do they get discouraged and fall away. These people are the ones who hear the Word of God and make a shallow or an emotional decision and yet just as easily are moved to refuse and reject the Word.

And still, the farmer continues to scatter the seed. “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (v. 7). These people are the ones who not only make a decision for Jesus, but also make a commitment for Jesus. On their own they commit their lives to Jesus, they make a promise to keep Him first, and then they go back out into the world, the cold, cruel world and the pain and struggles of this world are too much. It has been suggested by some that if you are not suffering from temptation in your life, then you need to be concerned. You see, the devil does not waste his time or energy on those he already has, but on those he does not yet have. So, when a person has come to faith, has been brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through the means of Grace, the devil will work even harder in their lives to turn them back away from Christ and His Church. And the devil knows when and where to attack. He attacks at our weakest points. He attacks with thorns, weeds and vines that try to choke our faith in Jesus. He attacks with the trials and tribulations of this world. Here again, these people are the ones who believe that they must live a certain way, according to certain rules and regulations in order to be worthy of this commitment they have made to God, so that when they are unable, when they fall, they “feel” even more unworthy and fall, perhaps even further away.

Yes, there are those people who hear the Word of God and try to go it on their own. They believe they are strong enough on their own, they believe they can live up to their own standards, standards, rules and regulations which they have set for themselves, not living and resting assured on the promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here the devil is stronger and can turn them from faith. The devil tempts them so that they are unable to live the way they expect themselves to live. These people are the ones who hear the Word of God, make a self commitment and allow the cares and concerns of this world to turn their faith into no faith.

Still not discouraged in his scattering seed, the faithful farmer continues. “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (v. 8). By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, there are those people who hear the Word of God and receive it with great joy. There are those people who are given faith, who are strengthened in their faith, who are given forgiveness, life and salvation. There are those people who are gladly given to and rejoice and give thanks for the Lord’s good gifts and blessings.

The farmer understands the importance of sowing the seed, watering the seed and reaping the harvest. Paul talked about the fact that one may sow, another may water and a third may reap the harvest. In other words, one person may hear the Word of God several times before being brought to faith. That same person may need that faith watered many times over. And finally, there is the reaping of faith, there is the faith which blooms and blossoms and bears fruit as that person shares their faith with others.

There are those people who are given and recognize God as the gift giver and give Him thanks. Not only that, these people are the ones who also respond with the help of the Holy Spirit, living their lives in such a way that they witness the faith that God has given to them. The ultimate faith of the Christian is that which Paul expresses in his letter to the Romans, that is that we “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words, that we rejoice and give thanks to God that we are able to suffer for Him and for His name sake. Certainly this is against our nature. Our nature is to gripe and complain about any and everything in life. Our nature is to be the one who right off rejects God’s good gifts and blessings. Our nature is to “make a decision for Jesus” until things get too rough and our faith is put to the test. Our nature is to think we can do it on our own. The ultimate faith of the Christian is to rejoice and give thanks for the hardships, for the persecution, for the bad as well as the good understanding the temporariness of this life and this world and looking to the world to come, even eternal life in heaven.

The ultimate sowing of the seed is this fact that it produces a crop. Certainly we could break out the old cliche’s, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The fact is, as the Lord gives us faith, His desire is that we respond by bearing fruits of that faith. His desire is that we respond by sharing that faith, His Word with others. In our Old Testament Lesson for today, we have the promise of the efficacy of God’s Word, God’s promise that it will not return empty or void, but will do what He intended it to do, that is, give faith, give forgiveness, give life and salvation.

Again, Paul reminds us that the whole world has been infected and affected by Adam and Eve’s sin. The whole world is waiting patiently for God’s recreation. By faith in Jesus, we wait as well, but while we wait, we do not simply sit idly by, we go out and do the work which He has for us to do, the work of continuing to scatter the seed of the Word of God through which others might come to know Jesus as well.

Our text for today is a gentle word of encouragement for us here at St. Matthew. We might ask, what type of soil are we? Where are we in our own spiritual life? And we understand that we are all at different places in our own spiritual life. God continues to work in each one of us as we make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace. God continues to sow the seeds of His Word in our hearts and lives. God continues to water those seeds in order that we might grow up and mature in our faith in order that we might bear fruit, that we might do the good works which He has for us to do, good works which are a response to the greatest gifts which He gives to us, especially the gift of the life of His Son, Jesus for us, for our forgiveness and eternal salvation. Yes, our Lord knows us, He knows that the devil is still out there tempting us. He knows that we will backslide and that is why He is always there waiting for us, ready to forgive us, ready to give us a second chance. Thus we are encouraged with the words we often hear, “may the Lord who began this good work in you bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” My pray continues to be that Jesus will continue to strengthen and keep you in faith until He comes again to take us from this world to be with Himself in heaven where we will stand before the Lord’s throne with all the saints who have gone on before us and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a Lifestyle.

In our world, the lifestyles of the rich and famous are always flaunted and paraded before our eyes, as if we should all strive to be rich and famous. In our world, riches and fame are an end in and of themselves.

While He was in the temple with His disciples, Jesus saw how all the people would make their way over to the alms box. He spoke about how the rich and famous, how the scribes and pharisees, how the many people would make their way over to the alms box and flauntingly put in large amounts of money. They would do this, put in their large amounts of money, making sure that as many people as possible were watching. There was one person, a widow, with only enough finances to barely make it, who came by the alms box and with no fanfare, but rather in a very private way, put in two small coins. Remember Jesus’ comment to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43,44).

Jesus puts forth this woman’s example of lifestyle stewardship. She understood that God had given her everything and that He would continue to provide her with all that she needed. She was not afraid to give God her all because she knew that God would take care of her.

God does not want our money, as if we would have enough money to give God. God wants us. God wants our lives, our hearts, our souls, our love (love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, will all your might). If God has us, He has our lifestyle, He has our all.

God wants to give us His many good gifts and blessings. God has more gifts and blessings for us than we can count, or even imagine. God gives, and we are given to. God gives until we overflow. God gives and He stirs in us to respond by living lives that are pleasing to Him and are reflective of His living in and through us, and that is true lifestyle stewardship. Our prayer is that the Lord would keep us from refusing the gifts He has to give. To God be the glory.
31 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a Justification Thing.

Notice that we did not say that stewardship was a justifying thing. Stewardship is not an attempt to justify our lack of being good stewards. For our Lord knows that we are sinful human beings and that we are as prone to bad stewardship as we are of being sinful people.

Stewardship is not justifying our lack of giving, either of our time, our talents, our treasures, our tissue (being good stewards of our bodies) and of whatever else we might be stewards. Stewardship is the Holy Spirit working in and through us to move us to be good stewards. Just as we cannot, by our own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him, and we cannot do the good that we would like to do, so we cannot be the good stewards that we would like to be, except that the Holy Spirit should move us to do so.

Does that mean that it is the Holy Spirit’s fault if we are not good stewards? No, because sin is always our own fault. Doing good, doing right, that is what we do only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean? This means that we daily repent for our sins. We daily repent for our not being the people God would have us to be. We daily repent for our being not good stewards of what our Lord gives to us. We daily repent and pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to amend our ways and would guide us to being good stewards. We thank the Lord for His forgiveness, won for us by Jesus death on the cross. We thank the Lord as He reminds us that all that we have is a gift from Him. We thank the Lord that He stirs in us to be given the good gifts and blessings that He gives; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And we say, to God be the glory.
30 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, July 4, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a Name Thing.

“(Jesus) is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 8:11-12).

It is a great privilege to name someone. Parents think long and hard before naming their child. Names are very important. Names are who we are and whose we are.

Every once in a while you will hear about a person wanting to change their name, because they do not like it. Sometimes a person will change their name in hope of changing their identity. Some people pay big money to have their name and identity changed. No doubt about it, a name is an important thing.

Throughout the Old Testament, the putting on of a name meant claiming. When God put His name on the children of Israel, He claimed them. He made them His.

In the Bible reading from Acts we come across the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus, we are told, is the only name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

As Christians we can be assured that we do have Jesus’ name put on us, because His name was put on us at our Baptism. At our Baptism Jesus put His name on us, He put faith in our hearts, He gives us forgiveness of sins, and with forgiveness come life and salvation.

Our stewardship, in a very real way, shows who we are and whose we are. Our stewardship reveals if God’s name is on us, or if something, or someone else has claim over us. Our Bible tells us that we cannot serve God and mammon. What does your stewardship reveal about whose name is on you and whose you are?

Rest assured, as Christians we do not always live up to the name that we wear. We sin, daily, and deserve nothing but punishment. Praise the Lord that Jesus died for our forgiveness. Praise the Lord that Jesus’ name is on us. Praise the Lord that He stirs in our hearts to be the good stewards He would have us to be. To God be the glory.
29 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a Trust Thing.

What we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours. The meaning of that statement, simply put, is that nothing is ours. Everything we have comes from God and belongs to God.

God gives and we are given to. God gives us all that we need. Notice, all that we need, not necessarily all that we want. God gives us all that we need, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Jesus reminds us in Luke 12:22-34 that God provides us with all that we need and that we are (will be) content with all that He provides. He also reminds us that we are not to worry about the things of this world, or about what we are to eat or drink or wear; rather we are to keep our minds on spiritual things, knowing that God will provide us with the physical things we need.

The point Jesus is trying to get across is that stewardship is a trust thing. It is one of those things that makes us put our minds in gear and think. God has provided for all my needs to this point in my life. Why would He stop now, unless He would have a good reason (God only knows)? If He has been so gracious so far, what would make Him all of a sudden stop. Thus as we think about being good stewards we think about first fruits giving, not worrying if we will have enough left at the end of the week or month, but trusting that God will provide us with enough to take care of us.

Who are we trusting? God or ourselves. It is when we are trusting ourselves instead of God that we worry about the things of this world. It is when we trust in God that we put the things of this world in His hands knowing that, as He has in the past, He will continue to provide for us in the future.

We have His Word in all this that reminds us to test Him in these things. Test Him by being a first fruits giver and see if He does not more than take care of you. To God be the glory.
28 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs