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


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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . a life-living process.

In order to better equip you for a lifestyle of evangelism, I want to give you a few tips to better your living efforts. This week I want to set the ground work by clarifying some of the terms I will be using.

(1) someone with the gift of evangelism, that is the ability and urge to profess boldly and verbally the good news of Christ. (2) the good news of Jesus (His birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and protection of us).

(1) (noun) anyone who sees an event. We are all witnesses, by faith, of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. (2) (verb) one who professes what Christ and her/his faith means to her/him, good or bad, by thoughts, words and actions.

Lifestyle Evangelism:
living one’s life with a consciousness that what one thinks, says, and does is a witness of what s/he believes.

One tip is prayer:
Few things can be accomplished without prayer. If there is someone in your family or circle of influence who is not a Christian, begin praying for that person. Pray for that person by name and for specific concerns they may have. Ask the Lord to help you in your efforts, that He may work through you and that praise and glory may be given to His Holy Name.
1 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

He must Be Killed - August 28, 2011 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) - Text: Matthew 16:21-28

I hope you noticed that our Gospel reading for this morning comes right after our Gospel reading for last week. Last week we were with Jesus and His disciples as Jesus questioned His disciples concerning who others thought He was and who they thought He was. You might remember that Peter’s confession and the disciples confession was that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus then went on to give His disciples the keys to the Kingdom of heaven and to state that His Church, the Holy Christian Church, the body of believers is built on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Our “What does this mean?” of last week was that by faith in Jesus, that is, as we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, we too are a part of the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints and we too have the keys to the Kingdom of heaven which gives us the authority to tell others about Jesus as well as to announce forgiveness earned by Jesus to others.

Our text for this morning continues from last week by saying, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (v. 21). Now remember, Peter and the disciples had just confessed that they believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I am sure that Jesus is thinking that the disciples understand His mission and so He begins laying out the master plan in more detail.

The reason Jesus came to earth was to be our substitute, to suffer the punishment for our sins, the eternal spiritual death penalty, to give His life for ours. He did not come to invest Himself in this world. He did not come to write a book nor to earn a wage in order to build a financial empire. He came humbly. He was born in a stable. He lived perfectly for us, in our place, because we cannot. He obeyed all of God’s laws perfectly. He fulfilled all of God’s promises, all His prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, perfectly. He took all our sins upon Himself and the sins of all people so that we might be given forgiveness through the payment of the price for sin which was His death. These details are what He is now laying out for His disciples. He wants to make sure that they understand what it means that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (v. 22). Peter does not like what Jesus is saying. He does not like all this talk about suffering and death. This suffering and death talk does not fit into Peter’s idea of what it means that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This should not surprise us, because we do not like to talk about death either, and as you may have noticed, neither do the TV preachers and so called “evangelicals” of today. Certainly we do not like to talk about the death of someone who is very close to us, a loved one perhaps and especially, a young loved one. And certainly that would not fit into our understanding of messiahship either. If we take a close look at the “Messiahs” that have come and gone in this world, we notice that they are not the Messiah as presented in Holy Scriptures. I believe that one of the reasons Peter, TV evangelists, evangelicls, and we do not like this death and dying talk, especially when it comes from Jesus, is the implication of such talk. The implication of such death and dying talk is that we are sinners who are, left in our sins, destined to eternal spiritual death, and unless the price, the price of life, is paid, we have no hope, thus, to recognize that Jesus had to suffer and die for us is to recognize and to confess the gravity of our true sinful nature. And we do not like that, it is not good for our self-esteem.

And so Jesus rebukes Peter, “But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (v. 23). Jesus knew the reason He came to earth. He knew the task that was ahead of Him. He had already been tempted by the devil himself to try a different way of “saving” the people. Now, here, one of His own disciples was tempting Him to try a different way. It is only Jesus’ death that will save all people. His death for our death. His life for our life. Thus, Jesus’ death would go contrary to the devils plan and so the devil will use whatever means necessary, even working through one of Jesus’ own disciples to stop Jesus’ plans to save the world. And so, Jesus calls Peter, Satan.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (vs. 24-26).

The question that comes out of Jesus’ words to His disciples is the rhetorical question of, “What is discipleship?” “What does it mean to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus?” Jesus answers that question by saying that a follower of Jesus is one who denies him or herself. A follower of Jesus is one who takes up his or her cross. And I do not believe that He is talking about the crosses we put on ourselves. When we put ourselves in the position to be tempted to sin, that is not a cross which is put on us because of our faith. That is a self inflicted cross. In other words, and you have seen this scenario in movies and commercials on television and in real life, when someone has an addiction of one kind or another and still puts themselves in the position to be tempted with the excuse, “I can handle it.” That is a self inflicted cross. We would all probably relate the most to this self inflicted temptation when we go to an all you can eat smorgasbord and think that we will not over do it. Yes, we often forget that gluttony is a sin, just as stealing, killing and the like. Anyway, these things are not the crosses and self-denial of which Jesus is speaking.

When Jesus says to deny ourselves and take up our cross, He is speaking about living our faith even if it means being made fun of at work or leisure. He is speaking about not joining in, but walking away from the group that is telling the “off color” joke at the office coffee pot or around the office water cooler. He is speaking about walking away and not joining in the group that is “bashing” the boss or the new employee, or the person everyone loves to “hate,” or even a member of our own congregation. He is speaking about living your life in such a way that others notice that you are different, really different, not different like everyone else.

Jesus tells us that we are to lose our life in this world in order to save our life in heaven. It is a matter of investment. Do we invest all our time and energies in this world, or do we invest them in the world to come? Do we live as if we have plenty of time (like the rich man who built bigger and better barns and said to himself, “today, I will eat, drink and be merry and tomorrow I will worry about my soul” and that very night his soul was required of him), or do we live as if today might be our last day on this earth? If you knew that today would be your last day on earth, would you do anything different? Would you live any different? And if you would, then why are you not? After all you do not know when you will die. Your birth certificate does not have an expiration date on it. There are so many things vying for our attention in this world, important things no less, but the question we need to ask is this, “What is more important? Our 50, 60, 80 or 100 years in this world, or our forever eternity in heaven?”

You know, the devil is a smart guy. He does not tempt you to do something he knows you will not do. Not too long ago, the things of this world were scheduled around church activities. Today church activities are discounted to being just one of many options of which to be a part. Sunday morning rolls around and, to use the language of our world today, we have the “choice” of going to the beach, after all it is a beautiful day. Or we can go on a picnic. Or we can take our child to the school sponsored athletic event. Or we can sleep in. Or we can go shopping. Or we can go hunting, or golfing. Or, we can first go to church and worship the Lord, go to Bible Study and be in discussion and fellowship with other Christians, and then do these other things. What we choose to do we choose according to what is most important to us, our true priorities, our life in this world, or our life in the world to come. What we choose we choose according to the leading of the Holy Spirit or according to the leading of the devil. And yes, we acknowledge that we are all here this morning, but we have this struggle going on every week.

How do we lose our life in this world? We lose our life in this world by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Jesus. And yes, this is a hard thing. Jesus did not say it would be easy. Denying oneself is never an easy thing. The question we might ask, instead of “Is this easy?” is “What is the result?” The result, according to Jesus, is life, even eternal life! Remember, the very reason Jesus came to earth was to deny Himself, take up His cross, suffer and die so that we might have forgiveness. With Jesus, even when we put other things in this world ahead of Him, there is still forgiveness, because that is what He came to earn for us.

We might boil our text down to this question, “What is the worth of a soul?” or “How much does life cost?” To Jesus, the worth of a soul is His own life. We are constantly reminded, as we should be, that the wages of sin is death, eternal spiritual death. Our sins have earned and continue to earn the eternal spiritual death penalty for us. And yet, that is not what we are given. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, we are given forgiveness and life, eternal life.

“What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” What is the value of our soul? We answer that question with the way we live our lives. Self-denial is not an easy thing. It does not come naturally. It is the difference between valuing the things of this world or the things of heaven. I am told that the way to catch a monkey is to find a hole in a tree. To drive nails into the hole so that you can put your hand in the hole, but if you make a fist you cannot pull it out because it will be caught by the nails. If you then place something shiny in the hole, a monkey will put in its hand, grab the shiny thing and will be caught. The monkey could easily escape if he would let go of the shiny thing and pull out his hand. But the monkey will not let go. Too often it would appear that we are like the monkey. We see the shiny things of this world. We take hold of them and we refuse to let them go. Whereas, if we would just let them go, we would be free. We tend to grab hold of the things of this world thinking that these things will give us freedom and happiness, but all the while they only bring us pain and suffering like the nails in the hole. When, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we let go of the things of this world we have true freedom and happiness.

Our “What does this mean?” of our text for today is that Jesus came for us. He came to live for us, perfectly because we cannot be perfect. He came to obey all God’s laws perfectly for us because we cannot. He came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning Himself as the Messiah. He came to take all our sins upon Himself. He came to give His life for ours. Jesus’ suffering and death earned forgiveness for us. God gives us all His good gifts and blessings by His grace, through faith in His Son, which He gives to us as well. And He stirs in us to live our lives in such a way, that with His help, they say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stewardship is . . . For Your Information.

The following is given for your information. You can look at these figures and see where you are in respect to other members of the Lutheran Church, but more importantly to see where you are in your walk with the Lord.

For the year 2000, the churches of the Texas District gave $101,201,636 for work in their own church and for work at large. That total ranked first among all the districts, with an average communicant membership giving $952.81. Giving for work in our own churches totaled $90,898,657 and that again ranked first among all the districts. Giving for work at large totaled $10,302,979 which ranked third among all the districts. And the average giving per communicate member in the LCMS for the same year was $635.56.

Now, for some commentary on these numbers and we will use the figures for the Texas District. With an average giving of $952.81 that would total an average Sunday giving (not counting extra offerings of Advent, Lent, Christmas, Easter, etc) of $18.31. If we took first fruits giving and tithing seriously, that would mean that the average Christian church goer in Texas makes $183.10 per week, or $9,528.10 per year. What would happen if the Lord truly blessed us according to how we return to Him? As you contemplate these number perhaps you can reflect on where you are in your giving.

If you have been reading these “Stewardship is...” articles you can see that they have been very Gospeling. If you are troubled it is because the Lord is working on you. If you are giving as the Lord has blessed you then you should be looking at these figures and rejoicing that the Lord has so blessed you.

Are you rejoicing in the Lord, or are you angry because He demands too much from you? Thankfully our Lord gives, most often in spite of our lack of giving. He gives first, and He gives continually. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory.
52 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Giving Out of Wealth.

Paul writes about the Macedonians to the Corinthians, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (1 Cor. 8:2-4).

Would, or could Paul write those same words about us today? Does our “poverty well up in rich generosity,” or does our wealth well up in extreme selfishness? Do we give what we are able and even beyond, or do we distrust that God will provide for all our wants so that we must continually save more and more to satisfy our wants (notice, not our needs, but our wants)? Do we “plead for the privilege of sharing,” or do we get angry when we are told our giving shows our selfishness?

It is a sad truth, but a truth none the less, that if all Missouri Synod Lutherans went on welfare and tithed, the giving in our church body would go up (Source: Lutheran Witness).

Our Lord gave first. He gave His all. He gave the gift of the life of His one and only Son. He gave His Son over to the cruellest of deaths for us in our place. He gave, He continues to give, and He will give even more.

We are the wealthiest of people. We have faith, forgiveness, life and eternal salvation. We have all our needs supplied. And we have many of our wants supplied. May our prayer be that the Lord would stir in us so that we too will plead for the privilege of sharing our riches (including our riches of faith) with others. To God be the glory.
51 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stewardship is . . . New Thinking.

“Dad, where do we get bread?” the young child asked.

“Our daily bread comes from God,” answered his father.

“No, Dad! How does God provide it?” he asked a little more persistently.

The following is an answer to the young child’s persistent question.

The farmer sows the seed. God provides the rain and the sun to make the seed grow. God provides the farmer with the equipment, purchased or borrowed, from other sources to plant and harvest the wheat crop. The farmer harvests the ripe wheat and sells it to be ground into flour. The flour is purchased by the baker who, along with the flour, purchases all the other ingredients in order to make the bread. Of course, all the other ingredients follow a similar process in getting to the baker.

The baker mixes the ingredients, bakes the bread, slices it, bags it and sells it to the grocery store. The grocery store prices and stocks the bread, along with many other foods we eat.

We go to the grocery store, in an automobile that runs on gas and uses oil and water to run. These things all have their sources of supply.

God gives us the ability to work, to earn money to buy bread. He gives us a job to work to earn money to buy bread.

All along the way God’s directing hand is in the process of the making, buying and selling of the bread.

Where do we get bread? God gives us our daily bread. God gives us all the things we need to support our daily lives. God gave us everything we needed for yesterday. He gives us everything we need for today. Why would we think that He would stop giving to us tomorrow? God gives to us first out of His abundance. He gives us everything that we need. Being good stewards of all His good gifts and blessings means that we give back to Him first, our first fruits. To God be the glory.
50 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Is the Son of Man? - August 21, 2011 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Matthew 16:13-20

Last Sunday we were confronted with the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus to request healing for her demon possessed daughter. At the same time we were reminded that this event took place between the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. The feeding of the five thousand with the twelve baskets of leftovers has as its underlining message that Jesus came to “feed,” or to provide for the twelve tribes of Israel. The feeding of the four thousand with the seven baskets of leftovers has as its underlining message that Jesus came to “feed,” or to provide for the nations of the Gentiles. Our “What does this mean?” last week was that Jesus is our Savior. Jesus came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike. By faith in Him, He is your Savior and mine. Our text for this morning follows the request of the Pharisees and the Sadducees that Jesus give them “a sign from heaven” to show that He was the promised Messiah. Ironically they missed all the signs and wonders Jesus was already performing and so Jesus declines their request. In our text for this morning Jesus finally has a little time for Himself and His disciples and He uses this time to find out how His mission is progressing and to strengthen the faith of His disciples.

There are two parts to our text this morning. The first part of our text is the question of Jesus’ identity and the second part is the giving of the Keys to the kingdom of heaven. As for the first part, Jesus gathered His disciples together and He asked them this question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” His disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

If you will remember, John the Baptist had been beheaded. It was Herod’s fear that Jesus might be John brought back to life. So some thought Jesus might be John. Others thought Jesus might be Elijah. Again, you may remember that before the Messiah was to come, Elijah was expected to prepare His way. Every year when the Passover was celebrated an empty chair was always made available just in case Elijah might return. Of course, we are looking back and can clearly see that Elijah did return in the spirit of John the Baptist (as Jesus Himself tells us) and he was preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah. Still others thought that Jesus was either Jeremiah or one of the prophets, namely Moses having come back to life. I guess if you want to pull some bit of good out of these possibilities, at least all the people thought highly of Jesus, enough to think that He was one of the great people in their history.

If the question of “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” was poised today, I would offer that some people would say He was a good man. Some people would say He was a good teacher. And still others would say He was a good example. But just as almost no one recognized Him as the Messiah when He first came to earth, so, not everyone recognizes Jesus as the Messiah still today. As a matter of fact, just as His presence caused division when He came to earth, so His name still causes division today.

Anyway, having obtained these wrong answers of who He is, Jesus moves past any comments and asks His disciples directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Immediately, Peter speaks for himself and for the disciples and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” As usual, Peter speaks without thinking and in this instance this is not a bad thing, for Peter was not speaking from within himself, but he was speaking as he was moved by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus’ Father in heaven. As Jesus tells him, “. . . For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” The disciples’ time with Jesus was not wasted time. They knew who Jesus was and is and they confessed the same.

But what about us, today? What is our confession of Jesus? Do we say the same thing as Peter? Do we confess with our lips, with our hearts, with our lives, with our thoughts, words and actions that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? And if we do confess as such, do we realize that our confession is not our own, but is given to us by the Father in heaven as well.

In the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” If we confess faith in Jesus it is not because “I chose Jesus as my personal Savior,” rather it is because He has called us and given us faith and a confession of that faith. And He calls us to faith, in particular through the means of Grace, the Word of God. He enlightens us and strengthens us with His gifts, confession and absolution as well as Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He keeps us in the true faith. Notice that this is not from within, this does not come from inside of us, but this comes from outside of us, from the Holy Spirit working in us.

Of course, we understand that in our text Jesus is speaking to His disciples who we see already have faith. The third article is speaking to us to remind us of how we are brought to, given and kept in faith. Our text presumes we understand our nature and our need for a Savior. Our text presumes that we understand that we are conceived and born in sin, that we daily sin much and add to our sinfulness, that we are destined, on our own, to eternal spiritual death, that we understand that the cost, the price, the wage of sin is eternal spiritual death, that is that blood must be shed so there might be forgiveness. And our text presumes that we understand that as we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God that we realize that this confession recognizes that we have complete faith and trust in Jesus as our substitute, that He is the one who paid the price, who shed His blood for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins.

Which brings us to the second part of our text, the giving of the Church and the Keys of the Church. Unfortunately there has been some misunderstanding in this text and the question of on who or on what is the church built. After Peter’s confession, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, . . .” One understanding of this text, or I should say, one misunderstanding of this text, is that the church is built on Peter. However, a closer look at the words of this text will reveal that the church is built, not on Peter, but on Peter’s confession.

Jesus is making a pun. The name Peter is a masculine name and basically means a pebble. Jesus tells Peter that his flesh and blood confession is important and would be a confession proclaimed in a church building built by flesh and blood people. But, Jesus goes on to say, on this rock, which is petra, the feminine form of the word petros, or the feminine form of the word Peter, which means a solid rock or a foundation stone, on this solid foundation, which is Peter’s confession, He will build His Church, the Holy Christian Church, the invisible Church. In other words, our church building is built by human hands but our Church body of believers is built on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, that is on the Word of God, not on a human person.

We know about keys. Keys are those things which we need to give us access to the buildings and to the various rooms in the buildings. Keys are those things which are used to open doors and to lock doors. It does not surprise us, then, when Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The keys of the kingdom are for opening and locking the kingdom of heaven. They are for the preaching of the Gospel, the administering of the Sacraments, and the forgiving and retaining of the forgiveness of sins.

Of course, we understand that with keys comes duty, responsibility and privilege. We have the duty, the responsibility and the privilege to proclaim the Word of God in all its truth and purity, to rightly administer the Sacraments, the privilege of forgiving sins and the toughest responsibility of retaining sins when there is no confession or change in behavior to reflect repentance.

We can forgive sins. We can say, “Your sins are forgiven.” This privilege, above all others, is our because Jesus came to give His life for ours. He earned forgiveness for us on the cross. He gives us the privilege of sharing this forgiveness with others, but only as we confess with Peter, with the disciples and with all the saints, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that He is true God and true man, that He is the Savior of the world.

The world today is still confused concerning the identity of Jesus. Some say He was a good man, a good teacher, a good example and yes, He was all those things and more. Others say He was a fictional character. Others say that He is a crutch for weak people to lean on. Still others outright refuse and reject Him and want nothing to do with Him. But what about us? Who do we say He is? We say He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and we say this, not of our own ability. We say this because this has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel, working through the Words of Holy Scripture, working through our Baptism, working through the Lord’s Supper. We say this as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. And because this is our confession, the Holy Spirit, also, continues to stir in our hearts the joy to confess our faith to others through our thoughts, words and actions so that still others might have a part in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So what does this mean? In his letter to the Romans, that is, in our Epistle lesson for today, Paul reminds us of just how “big” God is, that is that He is so much bigger than we might think or imagine. He is so big that He is unsearchable and inscrutable. All things come from Him and through Him. It is important that we know who Jesus is, because it is by faith in Him alone which brings eternal salvation and it is only as we confess His name that we have a part in His kingdom. And as a part of His Kingdom He gives us the right, the duty, the privilege and the responsibility to rightly use the Keys of the Kingdom, which we do only with His help. And He does help. As we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, remembering our Baptism, reading the Bible, having personal and family devotions, spending time in prayer, being in divine service and Bible class, as often as possible and coming to the Lord’s Table to partake of His body and blood. Through these means our Lord shows Himself to us so that we might be strengthened in our faith and so that we may boldly and rightly confess who Jesus is and not be confused in our confession. May the Lord stir in your heart to be diligent in making use of His means of grace so that you might be strengthened in your own faith and confession and so that you might be better prepared to give a witness to the hope that is in you so that still others might join with us in proclaiming, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stewardship is . . . What Jesus Talked.

There are certain things a pastor can preach about, and there are certain things about which we would not like the pastor to preach. The pastor can preach about sin, as long as it is someone else’s sin. The pastor can preach about prayer and its importance in a Christian’s life. But, we do not like to hear the pastor preach about money.

Someone has counted the verses in the Gospels that talk directly about prayer and discovered that Jesus said five times as much about the stewardship of money as He said about prayer. Certainly Jesus understood the temptations of the love of money and the need for a person to beware of the pitfalls of the love of money.

To put it into numbers, of the thirty-eight parables of Jesus, sixteen relate to the stewardship of money. One of every six verses in the four Gospels and one out of every ten verses in the New Testament talk about the same subject. About five hundred verses in the whole Bible are on prayer. Less than five hundred verses in the whole Bible are about faith. More than two thousand verses in the whole Bible talk about money. Maybe we should expect our pastor to preach three out of four Sundays about money.

The following passages are offered for your guidance.

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31,32).

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30).

“‘You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 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 3:9,10).

“. . . then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:10).
49 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stewardship is not . . . And Stewardship is . . .

Stewardship is not:
  • paying off the church mortgage or loan.
  • a collection for the poor or needy.
  • giving to God because He needs something from me.
  • income for the budget.
  • a slogan or a drive.
  • giving of time or talents or treasure (it is not just one, one or the other, but all).
  • a fund raiser.
  • making a profit.
  • a gamble.
  • giving for the sake of a tax write off.
  • a difficult task.

Stewardship is:
  • understanding that all things (everything) comes from God.
  • a reflection of the faith that God puts in my heart.
  • my need to respond to all that God gives to me.
  • a privilege for Christians.
  • a way of life.
  • a giving of myself, motivated by God.
  • an overflowing on to others from what God gives to me.
  • being a caretaker of all that is the Lord’s (everything).
  • something done cheerfully.
  • a joy.
48 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stewardship is . . . not about money.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1,2). What did God use to create the heavens and the earth? Nothing! God created everything out of nothing. God said, God breathed, and it was.

God created a world in which we cannot create or destroy matter. All we can do is change matter. We make out of what God created. God created out of nothing.

God created the world and everything in it. God created human beings, men and women. God gave us this world. God gives us faith, forgiveness of sins, life, eternal life and salvation. God gives us gifts of talents and abilities to work. God makes sure we have a job to work. God gives us the ability to work to make a living, to earn money (our means of barter) to feed, shelter, and cloth our families. God gives, and we are given to.

Now, if God can do all that, what is to keep Him from keeping His church going? If everyone in church stopped giving, do you think the church would cease? If all the “best” givers moved away, do think the church would close? Certainly not! God is the one who keeps the church going. God is the one who makes sure the church stays open and continues to do His work.

Why the giving? Why the First Fruits, Tithes, and Offerings? Because of our need to respond to God’s good and gracious giving. Because of our need to in some small, insignificant way, say, “Thank You Lord!” To God be the glory.
47 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You Have Great Faith - August 14, 2011 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Matthew 15:21-28

Last week Jesus showed Himself to us, again, as truly human and truly divine, that is that He is true man and true God, or another way of saying this fact is that He is God in flesh. We were reminded of the importance of Jesus being God in flesh, that is, that Jesus is truly human so that He might be our substitute and that He is truly God so that He might be born sinless, perfect and holy and so that He might be able to overcome sin, death and the power of the devil. Our text for this week moves us past Jesus’ explanation to His disciples that what makes a person unclean is what is in a person’s heart, not what a person eats. Our text for this morning focuses our attention on the reason Jesus came to earth.

We have all been raised to believe that God answers prayer with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” We have been told that when we pray we are to believe what we pray. And we have been taught by Jesus Himself to be persistent in our prayers. In our Bible reading for this morning it would appear that our learning is still missing one element, that element of, “What do we do when Jesus ignores our prayers and when He even suggests that we are not worthy to be listened to?” Well, that is how this story seems to play out.

Jesus had been discussing what makes a person clean or unclean, that is, spiritually clean or spiritually unclean. It is not what you eat that makes you clean or unclean, because what you eat simply passes through your body. What makes you clean or unclean, in God’s eyes, is what comes out of your heart, either faith or unbelief. Moving on in our text, leaving from that place and that discussion, our text says that Jesus withdrew privately to go to a place near the region of Tyre and Sidon. Here, again, we see Jesus as a human in need of some time alone for rest and relaxation, for reflection and time for strengthening through prayer with His Father in heaven. As He comes near to this place, this Gentile town, He is met by a Canaanite woman. Matthew makes sure that we understand that this is not a Jewish woman, but a Gentile woman, a foreigner, because that fact is an important fact to know, because we know how Jews, good Jews, good practicing Jews, are not allowed to associate or even speak with foreigners. Anyway, this foreigner, and a woman at that, comes crying out, yelling and hollering to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Her’s is not a cry for self pity or for self help. Her’s is a painful cry of a loving mother for her daughter.

We know what it is like when one of our children is sick and we pray and expect God to hear our prayers and to answer them. We do not come to Him expecting Him to turn away or even to turn a deaf ear. What kind of a God would we be worshiping if we believed He would turn away? Yes, Jesus is Jewish and the woman in our story is a Gentile or we might imagine even worse, a Samaritan, but we would certainly think that Jesus, who is God, who is love, who came to save the world, would make an exception and have mercy on her. Certainly, if anyone would listen to her and help her it would be Jesus, at least that is what we think and I believe what she thinks. But . . . “[Jesus] did not answer a word.” Can you believe it? Jesus, loving God, loving Savior, cold heartedly does not answer her, not even a word. It just does not make sense, not to us and not to this Canaanite woman. And it was not just Jesus alone who turned away from her, it was His disciples as well, but we might expect that from His disciples. Remember these are the same disciples who turned children away from Jesus as well. However, this woman would not take “no” for an answer and instead continued to hound Jesus and His disciples. “[So] his disciples came and begged him saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.’” It is really rather embarrassing.

I do not know about you, but I never really looked at this text in this way. It does not look so good for Jesus. We are raised to see Him as kind and loving. We are told that He is our best friend. We are told that He always answers our prayers. We are told that He came to save all people, but here we have it, right here in the pages of the Bible, right here in black and white. Jesus is refusing service, even refusing to speak to this foreigner. Certainly we must be mistaken. Certainly He has to listen and answer her.

And yet, we seem to be confirmed in our suspicions, that Jesus is cold hearted when “He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’”

Well what does that mean? I thought Jesus was sent to save all people of all places of all times. What does He mean, “only”? What does He mean, “lost sheep”? What does He mean, “Israel”? Can things get any worse? Today we would approach Jesus and we might cry out, “But I am an American. I am entitled to Your hearing me.” Or even, “But I am a Lutheran.” “You have to listen to me.”

It is obvious that the woman either did not believe Jesus, that He was cold hearted and uncaring, or she did not believe the words He spoke, or maybe she had a different understanding than we seem to be getting from the reading. We are told that she came and knelt before him. Actually she fell prostrate, that is she fell with her face to the ground, in the dirt, before Him and she said, “Lord, help me!” She recognized her unworthiness, that she was not worthy to have Him listen to her or answer her prayer, yet, she comes to Him anyway. And this time she gets a reaction. This time Jesus turns and speaks to her, but He still seems to be pretty cold hearted. He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Let me say that it is true, Jesus did come only for the lost sheep of Israel. That was His primary purpose, His first reason for coming to earth, to save the lost sheep of Israel. But now it seems worse. Jesus stoops to calling her a dog. She is one who falls into the spiritually unclean group. It is as if everything is against her. Well, maybe we can pull some shred of decency out of this text because the type of dog of which Jesus was speaking was at least a house pet. So the woman has now moved from being ignored to being a house pet.

And just as you and I would not give up when praying for our sick child, so she does not give up. She searches for and finds some bit of hope in Jesus’ words. She clings to that hope and turns His words back to Him. “She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

This word of Scripture falls between Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and His feeding of the four thousand. The feeding of the five thousand with the twelve baskets left over is considered God’s providing for the children of Israel, the twelve tribes. The feeding of the four thousand and the seven baskets of leftovers is considered God’s providing for the Gentiles. This Canaanite woman is not a part of the lost sheep of Israel. She is merely a gentile who happened to be at the right place at the right time, the place where Jesus is, the place where he brings faith and where faith brings life.

Faith is possible among others, even those we might not see or think. We cannot look into the hearts of others, only God can. Faith is not dependent on birth, on ethnic origin, or even on us, but faith is possible only with Christ. Jesus is drawing the faith, which He has given to her, out in this woman. He alone draws faith, which He gives to us, out of us.

Jesus was sent only to save the lost sheep of Israel, that was His main goal and objective. The woman had no right to come begging for help. In a very real way, we are very much like the Gentile woman. We are sinful human beings, conceived and born in sin, daily sinning much, and we have no right coming to Jesus to ask for anything. Martin Luther goes so far as to say that we are sinful worms. Thanks be to God that not only is He a just God who condemns sins, but He is also a merciful God who sent His Son to save the world.

What does this mean? Our Old Testament Lesson reminds us of the Lord’s promise to us foreigners, that by faith in Jesus, we too will have a part in His kingdom. It is not something to which we are entitled, it is a gift from God. Isaiah reminds us that it is “the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel” and He “declares, ‘I will gather yet others [to him] besides those already gathered.” In other words, Jesus did come to save all people, you and I included. What this means is that Jesus did come to save you and me.

In our Epistle lesson Paul shows us the ultimate conclusion of Jesus coming to earth, that is that Jesus, who came only for Israel, was rejected by Israel. Their rejection opened up the kingdom of heaven for all believers. Thus, by faith, the Gentile woman is a part of the lost sheep of Israel. Thus, by faith, we, you and I, are a part of the lost sheep of Israel. So it is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, faith given to us through the means of grace, either at our Baptism as a baby or through the means of the Word of God as an adult, it is by this faith that we have a part in God’s kingdom. Jesus is not the bad guy He seems to be portrayed as in this reading. He did come to seek and to save the lost. He did come to give His life to save all people of all places of all times. He did come to give His life, to suffer the eternal spiritual death penalty, the cost, the wage, the price for our sin, for us. He came to give us faith to believe in Him and to share in His glory in heaven. The Good News of our text is that we have great faith because Jesus gives us that great faith which clings to Him, who gives us life, even eternal life and He stirs in our heart joy to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a Gospel Thing.

“The church only wants my money.” That is what some people, honestly, think about giving. It is unfortunate that they think that way, but sometimes it would appear that it is true that the church only wants our money. How often do we hear or talk about not having enough Bible Studies to go to? Or, not having enough opportunities to share the Gospel with others? Or, of not having enough opportunities for fellowshipping together? More often than not, what we hear is the complaint that everything costs too much. The church is spending too much money. Just like in a marriage where money can be a sticky issue, so in our church. Money seems to be a big topic, especially when there does not appear to be enough to make ends meet. Money, money, money, that is all that gets discussed.

Fortunately for us, God does not want our money. Why would He want it? Who are we to think that our little bit of anything is needed by God, as if He would need anything from us. Maybe we should clear this up and take the giving of First Fruits, Tithes, and Offerings out of the worship service. Maybe we should just put a box in the narthex and let the giving be done there.

What would we do if we did not have the opportunity to give during the worship service? The pastor is often accused of having only the offering on his mind. But what if the pastor forgets to take the offering? Then we get upset as well.

What would happen if, on any given Sunday, we were not given the opportunity to give? Would we take our offering and spend it? Would we bring it back next week (plus our next weeks offering)? What would we do? Maybe not being able to give would help us to understand what a privilege it is to give. God allows us to respond to all that He gives by letting us return some to Him. And He blesses what we return as well. To God be the glory.
46 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Good Use of Leisure.

According to a recent study “the average American spends his or her free time each week: Watching television: 15 hours; Socializing: 6.7; Talking on the phone, conversing with family members: 4.4; Reading: 2.8; Hobbies: 2.7; Adult education: 2.2; Recreation/sports/outdoors: 2.2; Other organization: 1.2; Cultural Events: .9; Religion: .9; Radio/recordings: .4” (From: Corpus Christi Caller-Times - Source: “Time for Life,” John Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey).

This study indicated that Americans have more free time than ever before. The question we might ask is, “why do we all feel so rushed?” This study indicates, what many have been saying for years, that we tend to “cram” so much into our free time that our lives just seem to rush by.

Life is short, a hundred years at the most, especially compared to eternity, millions of billions of years and on . . . Why do we try to “cram” so much into our lives so that they seem to go by even faster? Maybe we need to take some time to stop and smell the roses. Maybe we need to take the time to see where we are spending our time, which will give us an indication of our priorities, and then if we are not spending our time the way we would like we can make some changes.

Did you notice that .9 hours are spent a week on religion on an average. The devil does not tempt you to do away with religion, instead, he fills your life with so many things that there is no time left for religion.

Being good stewards means being good stewards of our time, work, leisure and other. Take some time to reflect on your stewardship. Pray that the Lord will help you in this area of your life as well as in all others. And then take some time off to give glory to God.
45 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stewardship is . . . WWJD.

There was once and continues to be brisk sales for a wrist band and other clothing paraphernalia with letters WWJD on it. The letters WWJD stand for “What Would Jesus Do?” Everyone who wears one of these wrist bands is challenged to think before making any decision. They are to think, what would Jesus do if He were faced to make this decision? And then they are to act accordingly.

The premise to these wrist bands sounds a lot like the plot in the book In His Steps. The characters in the book were challenged, before making any decision, to ask, “what would Jesus do?” And then they were to act accordingly.

To ask, “what would Jesus do?” and then to act accordingly might sound pretty easy, but try it and you will see that in our world today it is not easy and often it may not even seem practical.

Good stewardship involves taking care of God’s good gifts and blessings. Good stewardship is at its best when it is done according to the answer to the question, what would Jesus do?

How much time would Jesus spend reading His Bible? How much time would He spend volunteering at church? How much of His earnings would He return to the Lord? How would He use His talents for the church? What would He do in any given situation, especially in any situation that might require making a decision with social repercussions? How would He spend His time, His talents, His treasures? How would He choose friends? How much time would He spend with work, family, friends, the church, and all the other demands on His life?

How would Jesus? What would Jesus do? To find the answer, go to the source, the Bible. Good stewardship begins with being in God’s Word and answering the question, “what would Jesus do?” May the Lord gives us all the strength to ask that question and to live our lives in answer to that question. To God be the glory.
44 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Freedom from Worry.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:28-24).

Jesus’ words are meant for us today. Children are not the only people who have struggles with peer pressure. Adults suffer from peer pressure just as much. The “Joneses” have a new “this,” we need a new “this.” The “Joneses” have a new “that,” we need a new “that.”

We live in a very competitive, consumeristic society. Everyone wants the biggest, smallest, best, fastest, slowest, tallest, shortest, strongest, softest, hardest, and so on. Unfortunately, we worry so much about the things of this world that we forget that this world is not all there is, even though we live as though it is.

Would we just “die,” if we did not get that new car, bigger house, new “this,” or new “that?” What would happen if we spent less time worrying about the things of this world and more time concentrating on the things of the world to come?

About those who worry, Jesus says, “O you of little faith?” He says “the pagans run after all these things,” things of the world. He also tells us that our “heavenly Father knows” what we need. And He reminds us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Then we will have no need to worry!
43 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Not Bread Alone.

When Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn rocks into stones, after fasting for forty days in the wilderness, “[He] answered, ‘It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” Jesus’ words to the devil were meant to show that He did not come for the quick fix. The devil’s temptation was to show people a miracle, feed them, and you will have them. Jesus knew that it would take His death on the cross to save them and so He dismisses the devil’s idea with words of Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

Life is not a quick fix. So often we think that if only we had a little extra, then life would be so much better. So often we think of life only in terms of “bread.” We think of life only in terms of physical blessings. Life is more than just physical blessings.

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that life is spiritual as well as physical. The Lord’s Prayer consists of three petitions for spiritual blessings, three petitions for turning from evil (also spiritual blessings) and one petition for bodily blessings, “daily bread.” (And even this petition for “daily bread” is a petition for our daily spiritual bread.)

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that daily bread is important, but what is most important is our spiritual well being. Life is not a quick fix. Life is more than our physical needs. Life is a gift from God. New life, spiritual life is also a gift from God. This world will last only so long. Some day we will leave this world. Life in heaven will be for an eternity. Put in that perspective, which is more important, the physical things of this short life, or the spiritual things of the life to come?

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
42 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God’s Indescribable Gift.

At the end of his words on stewardship to the Christians at Corinth, Paul says, “And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:14-15). The beneficiaries of their generosity will pray for them. They will pray for them for the surpassing grace the Lord has given them, grace enough to overflow with gifts to others.

The words, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!,” are words about Jesus, God’s only Son. God is the first giver. He first gives selflessly to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, true God in human flesh. The Concordia Self-Study Bible footnote says, “ . . . and all true Christian giving is our response of gratitude for this gift that is beyond description (cf. 8:9; 1 John 4:9-11).”

God’s gifts are indescribable. The gift of His Son leads us to the question, “would we give our life for someone else’s life?” We would probably answer that question with a “no,” or at best with a qualified “maybe.” God’s love for us is shown in the giving of His one and only Son, the giving of His life for ours in the most horrid of death.

Our giving pales in comparison to God’s giving and our giving is only in response to God’s giving. God gives and then He moves in us through His means of grace to respond to His giving. God is the prime mover. God is the prime giver.

Along with Paul we say, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” To God be the glory.
41 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs