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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Speaking the Truth in Love.

Many people remember Jack Nicholson’s line from A Few Good Men, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” Too often we think that of others in our world today cannot handle the truth. No one can handle the truth anymore. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we have moved not to know what the truth is in our world today.

As Christians, we know the truth. Jesus is the truth. As Christians, we can and must speak the truth, God’s Word. However, we must speak the truth in love. As Christians we are to build each other up in the body of Christ (1 Thess. 5:11). We are to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Yet, we are not to do these tasks while compromising the truth.

And the truth is that there is sin, and there is forgiveness. There is sin in the world because we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen to good people because of sin. Good things happen to sinful people because our Lord is gracious, compassionate and merciful. There is forgiveness, but not without repentance. There is forgiveness, but not without a cost. Certainly the cost for sin has been paid. The cost for sin is death, eternal death and that price has been paid by Jesus’ death on the cross.

The eternal punishment (price) for sin has been paid, and much of the temporal punishment (consequences) has been paid as well. However, there may be times when we will have to suffer some of the temporal punishment for our sin. And there may be times that we as Christians may need to explain this reality to our unchurched family members and friends who have a hard time understanding how we may speak of a loving God who they believe, has brought suffering upon them instead of admitting that they bring suffering on themselves by sin.

When we speak of, about, and even for God, we must always do so truthfully, and at the same time, lovingly. Doing so may be difficult, but, as always, at the right time, God will give you the words you will need to give an answer for the hope that you have in Jesus as your Savior.
14 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Prayerful Evangelism.

With the lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.
(Lutheran Worship, Hymn #483)

This song serves well to remind us of the importance of prayer in living a Lifestyle of Evangelism.

Prayer is one of the most important parts of our own lives and should be the beginning of our giving witness of the evangel (good news). When we pray, we are often reminded always to pray, “Thy will be done.” The fascinating part about praying for God to bring to faith an unchurched family member or friend is that this is God’s will. Thus, when it comes to praying for someone to be brought to faith, we do not need to ask if it is God’s will because it has always been.

When we pray, we are setting the foundation for our being able to have an opportunity to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ our Savior. When we pray for our unchurched family members and friends, we pray that God would show Himself to them through the signs He gives of Himself in the world, through their conscience, and through His Word. We also pray that the Lord would give us the opportunity as well as the words to speak (when He gives us that opportunity) to give an answer for the hope that we have.

Until the time that we have such an opportunity to share our hope, we continue to pray for God’s protection of and blessings upon those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. We also pray for our witness, that our words and actions might give a good, positive witness for Christ’s sake.
13 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Doing the Father’s Will - September 25, 2011 - Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) - Text: Matthew 21:23-27 (28-32)

Last week we were reminded by Jesus Himself that He came to save all people of all places and especially at all times, even up to the point of death. What follows our reading from the Gospel last week and the events that come before our reading this week is this: Jesus again predicts His suffering and death and immediately after Salome, the mother of James and John, requests that her sons be allowed to sit at Jesus left and right in His kingdom, in other words, she is seeking places of honor for her sons. Jesus then heals two blind men on his way Jerusalem. Continuing on His way to Jerusalem, at Bethphage, Jesus arranges for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and after His triumphal entry He cleanses the temple, throwing out the money changers. Now, in the first part of our text for this morning we have Jesus’ authority being questioned and His response that He will reveal from where He gets His authority if the Pharisees and teacher of the Law will tell from whom they believe John the Baptist got his authority. I know that is a long way to go to get to the second part of our text for this morning and the part on which I would like to focus our attention, but I believe these events are not random events, but that they fit together to help us get a better understanding of what is happening.

All during His time of public ministry Jesus has had to deal with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The second half of our text, where I want to focus our attention this morning is the parable of the two sons, and Jesus tells this parable right after His authority is questioned. I believe it is significant that this parable comes at this point because of the fact that the Pharisees would not answer Jesus’ question concerning John’s authority, because they did not want to admit that Jesus’ authority might be from the same place as John’s authority that is from God. If John and Jesus had the same authority, if their authority came from the same place, from God, then that would mean that they would be left without authority and that did not fit their paradigm of life.

The parable is this, Jesus begins by asking the question of the Sanhedrin, picking up at verse twenty-eight, “28‘What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29And he answered, “I will not,” but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, “I go, sir,” but did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him’” (v. 28-32).

Jesus begins by asking their objective opinion. What do they think? He gives two different scenarios. In the first scenario we have the father asking his son to go and work and his son rudely answers that he will not go, but later he repents and does go. Is this son doing what his father asked? In the second scenario we have the father asking his other son to go and work and his other son kindly answers that he will, but you does not go. Is this son doing what his father asked?

Again, the question Jesus asked is this, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” Notice that the father wanted the same thing of both his sons. He wanted both of his sons to go out and work in his vineyard. Which son did what his father wanted? The answer given by the Sanhedrin is that the first one did what his father asked. Now, before we go on to Jesus explanation, I would ask you to think about this, which son are we?

Jesus’ answer to the Sanhedrin is this, “‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him’”

The objective answer is that the first son, even though he refused at first to go and work, did do what his father asked, because he repented and went out to work. The subjective application of this parable is this, those who are considered to be the outcasts of the Jewish society, mostly by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, and those who repent will be included in the kingdom of heaven. They are the ones who appear to refuse at first and yet repent and believe in the end. Those who refuse to repent, because they believe they are doing the “father’s” will and are not, namely the Pharisees and teachers of the law will miss out. A mere head and mouth Christianity is really no Christianity at all. To confess Christ with your lips and yet to refuse Him with your heart is actually denying Christ.

God the Father’s will is that we all believe and respond living lives of faith. His will is that we say what we mean and we mean what we say. We come across this constantly in our world today. When I speak with someone who has decided to absent themselves from divine service, at times I get the “right” answer. “Yes, pastor, I know I have not been in church lately. I have every good intention to go. I promise I will be there next week.” And then they fail to show up. How often do we volunteer to help serve on a board or a committee, or to serve in some other way and then fail to do what we have said we will do. Unfortunately, if we do this often enough then people will begin to know us as a person who does not keep our word. I believe there is a saying that goes something like, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

God calls all people to Himself. His will is that all people are saved. He keeps His Word. He kept His word in that He sent His only Son Jesus to give His life for all people. He kept His Word because His Son gave His life for ours, so that we might have forgiveness of sin, so that we might have eternal life. There are some who do not have a part in God’s kingdom and it is not because it is someone else’s fault or even God’s fault, rather it is because they refuse and reject the gifts God gives, only paying lip service to Him. Have you ever thought about how your excuse for missing divine service sounds before God?

“Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” And just because someone goes to church does not necessarily mean they will go to heaven. Being religious does not save a person. It does matter, not only that you have faith, but in whom you have faith. The object of faith is important. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were a very religious bunch. They did a lot of religious things. They said, “yes, father we will work in your vineyard,” and yet, their hearts were far from the Lord. They did not go and work instead they did their own thing. Their faith really was a faith in themselves, not in God. They had become their own gods.

The “tax collectors and prostitutes,” on the other hand were not very religious. Why should they be religious? They were chased out of the temple as being unworthy. They felt and believed themselves to be shunned and looked down upon, even judged by the likes of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They said, “no, father we will not go and work in your vineyard.” Yet, they repented for their sins. They believed in Jesus. He was the object of their faith and the reason for their repentance and Jesus says, they will enter the kingdom of heaven ahead of the religious leaders.

Jesus continues to remind these religious leaders that they had a chance. They saw John the Baptist, the one about whom they were not sure of from where he received authority and yet they did not believe and repent.

Again, the question, “who are we in the parable?” Are we the son who says that we will go and work? Do we say that church is a priority, that our faith in Jesus is the number one priority in our lives and yet, live otherwise, letting the things of this world get in the way of our regular divine service and Bible Class attendance? Do we wear the name Christian, and act like a Christian, yet have our hearts far from the Lord? Do we tell others we are members of a church, but fail to attend? Do we make excuses and blame others for our lack of attendance? Do we say “Yes Lord,” with our lips, but live “No Lord,” with our actions?

Or are we the son who, at first seems rather rebellious, saying “no” we will not go and work and then repent and do what is asked? Do we quietly live our faith and show through our lives, our actions and our words that our faith in Jesus is what is most important to us? Do we strive, with God’s help, to live lives of faith, attending divine service and Bible Class as often as we can, not making a big deal about it, but simply living our faith?

The Old Testament reading for this morning reminds us that we will be held accountable for ourselves, if we do not repent or if we do repent and God’s desire is that we do repent. In the Epistle reading Paul reminds us of from where our forgiveness comes, it comes from Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Forgiveness is ours. Jesus came to pay the price for sin, for all sin, for your sin and my sin, for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. Jesus even paid the price for those sins we have yet to commit, those sins we will commit as soon as we walk out those doors. Yes, Jesus forgives our sins even when we act like the second son, even when we fail to live according to our faith. All sin, all our sins, the price for all our sins has already been completely paid, not that this fact gives us a license to sin, but that gives us the motivation to repent. Our only option is that we might refuse and reject the forgiveness He has earned and paid for and we do that, we reject forgiveness when we fail to repent and confess our sins, when we refuse and reject the gifts He gives through the means of grace He gives especially in divine service. To fail to repent is to reject Jesus’ forgiveness, which has already been paid for and given to us. Yet, as the Holy Spirit works in us and comes to us through the very means He has given to come to us, namely as we have been given this morning, through our remembrance of our baptism, through confession and absolution, through His Holy Word, and in a little bit through His body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine in His Holy Supper, through these very means the Holy Spirit works in us to be given all the gifts and blessings our Lord has purchase and won for us, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Last week Jesus reminded us that salvation is a free gift, neither earned, nor deserved, but certainly a gift we might refuse by thinking we have somehow earned or deserved it, or are somehow entitled to it. This week Jesus continues to remind us that salvation is a heart issue which shows forth in our lives through our thoughts, words and actions. Thus, we are once again pointed to Jesus, just Jesus. Jesus has earned forgiveness and through the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace He gives forgiveness, faith and eternal life. Our only response to the gifts God gives is gift refusal, or rejoicing in the gifts He gives. My prayer is that as the Lord calls, He will stir in our hearts to answer, “here am I, send me, send me,” and then also stir in our hearts to do the work that He gives us to do. Finally, may the Lord also stir in our hearts to do His work to the praise and glory of His holy name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Truthful (Part 4).

Because we live in a society where truth has become relative (for some), we have had to devise ways to get others to believe us and even to trust us. As children, to our explanation of truth, we added, “I promise,” or “Cross my heart and hope to die (and we may even add, ‘stick a needle in my eye’).” As adults we get a bit more sophisticated and say something like, “Well, to be honest with you,” or “To be totally honest with you.” Our hope is that, by adding these words, we will emphasize our honesty and make others believe the words we are saying. Yet, “To be honest with you,” when I hear such explanations to what one has to say, I think to myself, “Has this person not been honest with me before?”

Speaking to the crowds during the sermon on the mountain, Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). As is often the case, Jesus’ Words come crashing down on our own words and lives even accusing and convicting us.

The point is that our Lifestyle Evangelism shows itself in letting our “Yes” be “Yes,” and our “No,” “No,” and not giving any further explanation except to live our “Yes” and “No” so that it shows forth in our lives. As we let our “Yes” be “Yes,” and our “No,” “No,” others will see and understand what it means to be a Christian, what it means to live lives of truthfulness and honesty. Ultimately, we may be able to point them back to the One who is the Truth, Jesus Himself, as we will have opportunity to give an answer which states that, because of our faith in Jesus, we must speak with truthfulness. Thus, there is no doubt that, when we speak (without adding any explanation concerning the truthfulness or honesty of which we are about to speak), the one hearing and listening can know for certain that our words are true because our Lord and Savior is Truth, and He expects nothing less from each one of us, His dear children.
12 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Truthful (Part 3).

When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, He said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 19:37b). Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 19:38). As we discuss truth in our society today, it is important to go back to the Truth. Earlier, during His earthly walk, Jesus, speaking to Thomas and His disciples said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6a) (emphasis added). If we ever wonder what happened to truth, the fact of the matter is that, apart from Jesus, there is and can be no truth.

Truth, Jesus Himself, was standing before Pilate, and Pilate did not recognize Him. Jesus is Truth (the Truth). Apart from Jesus, we cannot recognize truth. Truth has become relative (for some) in our society; yet, if you see who it is who is having trouble with truth, you may recognize that those who are having trouble with truth are those who have set themselves apart from the truth. Thus, if one does not know or believe in Jesus, then s/he will not know nor believe in truth; thus, truth, for that person, will be relative. Truth will be what they “feel” it to be.

Even earlier in the Gospel of John, when speaking to the Jews, 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 8:31b-32) (emphasis added). Here again we see the importance of faith in Jesus, especially when it comes to knowing, understanding and believing the truth. Apart from Jesus, there is no truth, only relativity. But, if we hold to His teachings, we are His disciples, and we do know the truth, and that truth frees us from uncertainty.

The freedom of the truth is freedom from sin and its eternal judgement. The freedom of the truth is freedom to trust and believe. The freedom of the truth is a peace which passes all understanding. Yes, we know the truth because we know Jesus. What a joy and privilege to be able to give an answer of that truth to others who do not know Jesus, the Truth.
11 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Truthful (Part 2).

Although we might lament the fact that we do not base our beliefs on empirical data, this lack may not completely be a bad thing. Our difficulty with science is that science is not always correct. As Christians, we have the same empirical data as science has, and yet we may come up with completely different conclusions.

The theory of evolution is one such example. The theory of evolution is an unproven theory which states, among other things, that human beings have evolved from lesser beings. Now, if you follow science, you may have noticed that this theory has changed from time to time, from textbook to textbook. As new research disproves parts of the theory, new parts are added. The one question to ask someone who understands and believes this theory would be, “Were you there?” If not, then how can you know?

As Christians, we have the Bible. Now, the Bible is not a science book, but it is God’s Word to us. God was there at creation. He had all the events recorded for us. His version of creation has never changed. All the rest of His writings are true and the facts and data of science fit very easily and well into this explanation of the beginning of the world.

As we understand that the Bible is true and is God’s Word, then we understand why things are the way they are in our world today. We live in a sin-filled world. Sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden. Because of sin, there is death and dying. But God immediately stepped in and promised to send a Savior, a Messiah.

When we get to the New Testament, we can believe it as well because, just as God was faithful in telling us the truth in the Old Testament, He continues to be faithful and to tell us the truth in the New Testament. The only other option would be that God is a liar, we are still in our sin, and we are doomed to eternal death.

Thanks be to God that He has given us faith through and in His Word (and through the waters of Holy Baptism) and that He continues to keep us and strengthen us in His Word.
10 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Generosity - September 18, 2011 - Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20) - Text: Matthew 20:1-16

We pick up our Gospel reading from Matthew a few verses after last weeks’ reading. In our text, Jesus ends his previous words, from chapter nineteen, with the statement: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” His words come in connection with His discussion of salvation and in particular with His words with the rich young man. The rich young man had asked the question, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus’ answer to him was to keep the commandments, which he believed he had done. Jesus then suggested to him that he sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow Him. After which we are told, “when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possession.” The disciples then became concerned for their own eternal life and after reassuring His disciples Jesus ends His words with the statement: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” At the same time with these words He continues His discussion of salvation and moves us into the next parable which is today’s text.

The parable in our text is often called the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and, although this parable convicted the Pharisees and teachers of the law in their thinking, it also, very often convicts us in our thinking even today.

The parable begins at the first hour of the day, probably between six and seven in the morning. The landowner went out into the marketplace and hired some workers. Now, right off at the start, there is something different about the hiring of this first bunch of workers and the hiring of the rest of the workers through the day. Verse two of our text says, “After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” There was an agreed upon contract for these hired first. It was a verbal contract, but it was a contract nonetheless. The agreement was that the workers would work for a set wage, a denarius for the day.

The parable continues at the third hour of the day, about nine in the morning. The landowner went back to the market place and found some others standing around not hired. These also he hired to go and work in his vineyard. This time, notice what is their agreement. They agree to work for “whatever is right.” Their contract is open ended as far as how much they would be paid.

The parable continues at the sixth hour of the day, that is about noon and again at the ninth hour of the day, that is about three in the afternoon. Both times the landowner finds those who have not yet been hired and again, notice the contract, the verbal agreement which he makes with these later workers. They agree to work for “whatever is right.” Their contract is a verbal agreement based on an unspecified amount of payment.

The parable tells us that even up to the eleventh hour, about five in the afternoon, about an hour before quitting time, more were hired for “whatever is right.” Now, so we get the picture of what is going on, remember that the very first ones hired were hired for a specific amount, an agreed upon contract of one denarius for the day, that is for their work from between six and seven in the morning until six in the evening, about a twelve hour day. And remember, even though theirs was a verbal contract, it was still a contract. The rest of the group, those hired from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon, those who worked anywhere from nine hours to one hour, were hired for an unspecified amount, namely, “whatever is right.” Their’s too was a verbal contract which was a contract.

The work is done, the day is over. The second part of the parable is the part of making compensation, that is the part of paying the workers. The paying part begins at evening, about six o’clock. Rather than pay those who were hired first, the landowner instructs that those who were hired last be paid first. Interestingly enough, if those who were hired first would have been paid first and had gone on their way they may never have seen that those hired last received the same pay. It almost seems like a slap in the face the way they had to watch as the others were paid as much as they were paid and for a lot less work. But let us look at the parable.

Those who were hired last were paid first and they received a denarius for their one hour of work. In other words, they received a day’s wage for their one hour of work and I am sure that they were quite pleased with their pay. Would we not like to be paid a days wage for working only one hour. Those hired second to last received a denarius for their three hours work and down the line the paying goes. Here again, if we were one of the ones hired later in the day we would appreciate the wage of “whatever is right,” because that would mean we would be getting more per hour than those hired before us. And even for those being paid a little less per hour than the ones hired last, those paid first, they had no beef, no hard feeling toward those being paid a little more per hour. As a matter of fact, everyone hired, except those hired first, were very pleased at their pay, no matter how much per hour it was.

But, those who were hired first, those who were hired and contracted with the agreement to be paid a specified amount, a denarius for the days work, when they were given only a denarius, they expected more. And why should they not expect more? They worked the longest and in the heat of the day. The ones who worked less hours were given a denarius. If we were one of those hired first we would certainly expect more, but they received the same as everyone else, a denarius. They grumble because they believed that they were being treated unfairly.

The question of those hired first is a question of fairness, at least it was a question of fairness in their own eyes. Yet, the answer they get is one of generosity and inclusion. According to the account of the events of this parable, they do not realize that they are not included in the grace and generosity of the landowner. As a matter of fact, they exclude themselves from the grace and generosity of the landowner because they believe that they are entitled to what the have earned. And they believe the others should not have been given that to which they were not entitled. Here is where we see that this is a parable of grace and generosity. The others are included by the grace and generosity of the landowner. Those who were hired first for an agreed upon contract are not included but are really the outsiders.

The last statement at verse sixteen brings us back to these words, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (v. 16). The question I will now ask is this, “where do you and I fit in this parable?” Are we a part of those who were hired first, second, third, or last? To help you decide, I want to introduce you to several people.

Grandma Schmidt has been a member of the same Lutheran Church for all of her life. She has been a Sunday School teacher for many of those years. She has been a member of the LWML and served in various positions of the LWML. She has always been available to help and serve in any and almost every way possible. According to our calculations, if anyone deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded, she is greatly deserving.

Harry has been a Christian only for about ten years. He has served on a couple of boards and committees. He helps out around the church as much as he can. Sometimes he is unable to be a part of what is going on, but again, if anyone deserves some recognition, everyone would agree that it would be Harry.

Mr. Evashephski is sixty and he became a Christian just last year. He likes to attend divine service and some of the social functions as well as carry in dinners, but he feels he is not sure of himself enough to serve on any board or committee. Everyone agrees that he is a nice person. Certainly everyone agrees that he is a deserving person.

Carla became a Christian on her deathbed. She came from what some describe as a pretty well to do family, but no one ever told her about Jesus or her need for forgiveness. Last fall, when she was taken into the hospital she met a pastor while he was visiting one of his members there. The pastor visited Carla and after a while she asked if she could be baptized. Not too much later she died. While not everyone agreed that she should have a church funeral, the pastor assured everyone of her faith and of God’s gift of eternal life for her.

Now, what do these people have to do with our parable, everything. In His parable Jesus reminds us that just as the landowner went out to hire workers for the vineyard and especially as he went out several times in the day and even up to the last hour of the day, so it is that God calls all people at all places and at all times to be a part of His kingdom. Yes, there are some who feel that they have contracted with God to be a part of His kingdom, that they have earned their spot, but they are unaware of the fact that they are the ones who have excluded themselves because of their refusal of God’s free grace and favor. God’s gifts are free and are freely given. To believe that one is entitled to what God is giving, that is to expect to earn what God is giving is to refuse His gifts.

Most important of all is the fact that God has given His Son for all. Jesus came. He humbled Himself. He put Himself last so that others might be first. He gave His life for ours. He gave His life so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life, eternal life. God is the great gift giver. He gives and we are given to. He calls all people to Himself and as we said, at any time in life and at any place in life. His call has nothing to do with our being deserving or undeserving. As a matter of fact, we are the ones who are undeserving and yet He calls us anyway.

The difficulty in the parable is the question I asked earlier, where are we in the parable? Are we those hired first and think we are deserving of heaven, is this something to which we believe we are entitled, or are we those hired after those hired first and appreciate God’s grace? Do we begrudge anyone who comes into the church at a later time in life thinking that they are not as deserving of God’s gifts as we are, or do we rejoice, as the angels in heaven, when anyone is brought to faith? My prayer is that we are the second, that is that we rejoice in those who are brought to faith at anytime in life. My prayer continues with the prayer that we are also the ones who are out and about sharing the Word of God with others so that they too might be a part of His kingdom.

Although God might allow us to be witnesses of all His good gifts and blessings, we are in no way entitled to nor deserving of any of them. It is only by His grace, through faith, which He has given to us, that we have forgiveness and have a part in His Kingdom. He is the one who earned everything for us, through His life, suffering, death and resurrection and He is the one who freely gives everything to us.

God is gracious and giving of all His good gifts and blessings and we are thankful for all He does and gives. When the landowner comes to give us what is actually Jesus’ reward I pray that we might all together stand and rejoice as He counts us worthy, by His grace, through faith in His Son, to be given a share in His kingdom and that we might respond and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Truthful (Part 1).

What may be true for you may not be true for me and what may be true for me may not be true for you. However, how do you and I know what is true? We know what is true because we feel something is right for us. What I feel must be true for me and what you feel must be true for you; after all, feelings are not wrong, are they?

Many people think this way in our world today. Gone are the days of thinking and knowing. Gone are the days of empirical data. Today our feelings validate our reality. Then, how does one share the truth of evangel, that is the good news, in such an environment?

Sometimes, and probably more and more today, in order to share the good news of the Bible with someone, we will need to take the time to understand his/her definitions and understanding of what certain words mean. The second step will be to set some ground work, especially in the area of how we understand the Bible, that is that it is God’s Word. Even more, we may need to go back and explain how the Bible has its foundation in Genesis 1-11, that these chapters are important and how they must be true in order to understand what sin is, why God needed to send a Savior, and how that Savior saved us from sin.

We may need to take the time to explain how God does not contradict Himself. If He has made a certain pronouncement (even promise) in His Word, we know that His Word is true. If we have a feeling that is contrary to His Word, then it is not His Word which is false, but it is our feeling which is wrong because it is not in alignment with God’s Word. Thus, we see that it is imperative that, when we believe we have been given some message from God, that we test the spirits to see if the message is from God or not. And we will know, because God does not contradict Himself, that if the message we think we have has been given from God is contradictory to the rest of God’s Word, then the message is not from God. And how do we test the spirits? We check them against the rest of God’s Word and we might even ask them to reveal themselves to us.
9 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Being Friendly.

There are basically two extremes in evangelism. The one extreme is to isolate yourself from society so that you never have contact with anyone, especially with anyone who is not a Christian. Leaning near this extreme would be to seek to isolate yourself so that your only friends are those who are fellow Christians, thus defending yourself from any contact with non-Christians or unbelievers so that you do not have to “deal” with “those sort of people.”

A second extreme in evangelism would be the confrontational extreme. This extreme looks at sharing the evangel, that is the good news, with others whether they want to hear it or not. This extreme is one which prides itself on confrontation, argumentation and winning theological arguments at all costs.

Certainly there must be a better way. The better way is to develop friendships and relationships with all sorts and kinds of people, to realize that God calls all people to faith and to look for opportunities to issue God’s call to others.

Because no one can be argued into faith and because no one can be convinced to believe, it is best to cultivate friendships and let it be known that you are a Christian as you live as a Christian. Let your speech and actions show for the faith that is in your heart and then be ready to give the reason you believe the way you do.

And the opportunity to give an answer will come. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the opportunity will usually come during a time of crisis, either for you or for your friend. As you friend sees how you handle any given crisis situation, s/he will recognize a Christian response to such a crisis. When s/he is confronted with a crisis situation, s/he may call on you to give an answer as to how you responded to such a crisis situation, at which time you will have the opportunity to give an answer for the hope that you have, especially in your Savior, Jesus Christ.
8 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Relational.

Not too many years ago, a report stated that most automobile accidents happen within ten miles of one’s home. At first, that statistic sounds startling. However, as you take the time to think about that statistic, you might begin to realize that, of course most accidents happen within ten miles of one’s home, because, logically, you are within ten miles of your home whenever you drive away from you home; thus, you spend more time driving close to home than you do driving farther from home.

With that said, I want to make a second “startling” observation. Most of the people with whom you have contact are your family and friends. As you have read these “Lifestyle Evangelism” tips, you may have noticed that I use the term “circle of influence.” I use this term in reference to your family and friends because, if there is anyone over whom you might have any influence, it will be those family and friends who know you and who respect your opinions and judgement.

Because your family and friends are closest too you, it is reasonable and logical that these people are the ones with whom you will be able give a first witness of your faith through your words and actions. This witness is non-confrontational and non-threatening because it amounts to living your faith in such a way that they ask what is your hope; then, you are able and happy to give an answer for the hope you have to the people you care about most.

Thus, Lifestyle Evangelism is relational. Our relationships with family and friends is important and even more important are our relationships with our unchurched family and friends. These relationships are important because, as we are able, it is through our relationships with unchurched family and friends that we have opportunity to show our faith naturally as we are always ready to give an answer for the hope of eternal life that we have in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
7 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forgiveness - September 11, 2011 - Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19) - Text: Matthew 18:21-35

Today we remember the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America on September 11, 2001. This morning I want to begin by asking you as the country singer Alan Jackson asks in his song “Where were you (when the world stopped spinning)?” Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on this day ten years ago? I specifically remember many of the events of that day because that day was eleven days after my son, Joshua was born and we had to take him to the doctor’s office that morning because he had been on a heart monitor for the previous twenty-four hours. I remember turning on the television as we prepared to go to the doctors office and hearing the report of the first airplane crashing into the north face of the north tower of the world trade center at 8:45 am (EDT), which was 7:45 am our time. I remember continuing to watch as the second plane hit the south face of the south tower at 9:02 am. I remember these events because we had planned for our vacation to travel from where we were living in Corpus Christi, to Houston and then to San Antonio, in order for our families to see our new born son. We were pretty much glued to the television and listening to the radio all morning and all day as we traveled.

I want to begin this morning by clarifying some misconceptions about God and His involvement in the events of that day and then tie this anniversary in with out text for today which talks about forgiveness. First, some questions and misconceptions concerning the events of that morning.

There is usually the question of “Why did this happen?” or “Why did God allow this to happen?” and the answer that is sometimes given is that this was God’s way of punishing America. The problem with this question and answer is that it fails to understand God and Christianity. And, interestingly enough, we have been discussing God and punishment in Bible Class lately. First we need to understand that there are basically two types of punishment, eternal spiritual punishment or hell, and temporal punishment, or consequences of actions. As for the first type of punishment, eternal spiritual punishment, that is why Jesus was born, lived, suffered and died, to pay the price, the wage of sin, the eternal spiritual death penalty for us in our place so we do not have to. So, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, faith given to us, we, as Christians will never suffer this punishment, eternal spiritual death or hell. As for the second type of punishment, temporal punishment, or consequences of our actions, we may at times suffer some such punishment. An example would be that if we steal we may be put in jail. If we do drugs we may get sick and die a physical death. As for the attacks on September 11, these attacks were not so much a punishment of America as they are a continuing sign of the curse that was placed on our world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world. Remember, death was never a part of God’s original plan.

Moving on; a second question often asked is “Where was God and why did He allow this to happen?” Interestingly enough, if we look at the details, what we see, time and again is that God was there protecting as many people as possible. I have heard story after story of how people missed their ride, missed the bus, were running late and how many people were actually saved from the impending doom that lay ahead in the twin towers. God was there protecting as many people as possible.

One sentiment and statement that drives me crazy is the idea that all those who died in the terrorist attack went to heaven. I am sorry, but that goes against what God tells us in His Word. It is not the way in which you die that determines your eternal destiny, it is faith or no faith. Jesus rightly tells us that He is the only way, the only truth and the only life and that apart from Him there is no eternal life. This fact does not mean that God is not loving, He is loving that is why He sent Jesus to suffer the eternal punishment for our sins for us. This fact does mean that He is just and right and truthful, and He means what He says in His Word. Think about it this way, if there were many ways to heaven, if it did not matter what or in whom you believed, then we should feel sorry for Jesus, because He is a lunatic for His suffering and dying. Why bother suffering and dying if there are many ways to heaven? I am sorry to bear this sad news, but only those who died in faith were and are saved, reminding us of the importance of minding our own faith and sharing our faith with others.

For many people, this event was a sign of the end times, and I would agree, but probably not the way in which they intend to mean. The fact of the matter is that we are and we have been living in the end times since Jesus came and ushered in the end times. And Jesus continually reminded us that the signs of the end times are wars and rumors of wars, famine, earth quakes, “natural disasters” and the like. Actually, just about every generation has thought theirs is the worst and we must be close to the end.

So, why did these events happen? Simply stated, these events happened because we live in a sin filled world. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and with their disobedience the perfect world of all that was good and very good now was broken. The once perfect world is now filled with sin and as God Himself tells us, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). And as Jesus tells us, “[20And he said,] ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’” (Mark 7:20-23). As King David reminds us, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Sin is our nature and the nature of humanity, we are conceived and born wicked and sinful.

Interestingly enough, following the events of September 11, most everyone noticed that there was a bit of a change in the behavior of many Americans. People became a bit more helpful, a bit more courteous, and there was even an increase in church attendance and people’s “spirituality.” But, unfortunately, as time moved forward, those changes went back to “normal.” This change and reverse change remind us that unless there is a true change of one’s heart, the change of one’s behavior is only temporary. It is only as the heart is changed that one’s true behavior will be changed.

So, what is our response and answer to these events? And what is our Gospel tie in? Our response, first and foremost is to forgive, and also to be vigilant. This morning Jesus teaches us about forgiveness. You might remember that Jesus’ teaching was prompted by Peter’s question of “How often should I forgive my brother?” And Peter thought he was being generous if he were to forgive his brother seven times. In order to help us to understand true repentance, Jesus tells the parable of the servant that owed the king and the other servant that owed his fellow servant The point of Jesus’ parable was to help His disciples and us to understand the difference in what each owed and the greatness of His forgiveness.

The comparison in Jesus parable is that the king is God and we are the servants in the parable. What we owe each other is truly nothing compared to what we owe to God. And if you do not think you are a sinner, or that big of a sinner, let me remind you that if you only sin three times a day, when actually I believe the number is perhaps more than thirty times a day, but let us just say we are really good people and we only sin three times a day, only breaking three of the ten commandments, when we multiply three times 365, the number of days in a year, that is over a thousand sins in just one year, and if we count it as 30 sins a day, that would be over 10,000 sins in a year. So, now we have to multiply that number times how old we are and we get the idea, we are pretty sinful people. And the price for sin, the wages of sin, is death, eternal spiritual death or hell. That is what we owe to God.

Interestingly enough, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we understand that this is not a deal we are making with God, but that our response to God’s forgiving us is that we willingly forgive those who have sinned and sinned much less against us.

Too often when discussing sin and forgiveness we hear a fallacious encouragement of pointing to oneself, in other words, I could point you to yourself and suggest that you need to do something, you need to change or change yourself, you need to be a better person, you need to be the person God’s wants you to be and I might even suggest that you can be the person God wants you to be, but I would be lying to you, because the whole problem of pointing you to yourself is that you cannot do it yourself. Remember the passages I just cited? You cannot be the person God wants you to be by yourself. For me to tell you to do it yourself would be like telling a drowning person to save themself.

When it comes to sin and forgiveness, the truth and the freedom of the Gospel is that it all depends only on Jesus. The very reason Jesus gave up the glory that was His in heaven and took on human flesh and blood, being born as a human child, was so that He might live perfectly for us in our place, because we cannot live perfectly as God would have us to live. Jesus lived perfectly, even fulfilling all God’s commands and promises, all His prophecies concerning the Messiah, for us. After living in perfection, Jesus, who was without sin, took our sins upon Himself and then He suffered and died, paying the price, the complete price for our sins. To suggest that there is anything else we need to do to earn our forgiveness or to deny Jesus complete work of paying for our sins is to deny the message of the Gospel. The fulness of the Gospel is not simply that Jesus died for our sins, but that He actually lived for us. It all depends on Jesus, that is why I will always point you to Jesus. Jesus forgives us and He moves us to forgive others. He moves in us a change of heart. As always, it begins, continues and ends with Jesus, just Jesus.

Let me encourage you, although the world will continue on in chaos because it has been cursed by God, remember God’s promise is to be with us always. That fact does not mean life will be easy, nor that you will never have to suffer.

Even so, we do forgive those terrorist who attacked us, as we have been forgiven and only because we have been forgiven. At the same time we continue to be vigilant, keeping watch and even seeking ways to share the good news of Jesus with those who would continue to persecute us and attempt to terrorize us.

As a reminder to always look to Jesus, I will leave you with Paul’s words from our Epistle lesson for this morning,“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Foundational.

The foundation of Lifestyle Evangelism begins in Genesis Chapter One. There, we are introduced to our God and Creator. He lays out for us His creation of the world and the order in which He created the world and all things. As the Lord completed each part of His creation on each day, He declared, “It is good.” And ultimately, after His creation of humans, He declared His creation to be “very good!” Unfortunately, just a few verses later, what God had created as very good suffered from the human fall into sin, which brought death, and, in turn, brought God’s “very good” creation into chaos once more. It is not as if God did not expect these events to happen; He is, after all, all knowing. Therefore, God immediately stepped in and promised that He would send a Savior, someone who would “fix” what was broken, the relationship between His creation and Him.

We begin with Genesis Chapter One because, if God’s Word from the very beginning is not true, we cannot trust the rest of His Word. If God’s Word is not true, we cannot trust Jesus as our Savior, and we have no assurance of our own eternal salvation. If God’s Word is not true from the very beginning, why in the world would Jesus submit Himself to suffering and dying on a cross for us? Unless Genesis Chapter One is true, nothing else is true as well.

Thus, we begin Lifestyle Evangelism at the beginning of the Word of the Lord which He has given to us. Because Genesis Chapter One is true, we can be sure that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are also true. We can believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. We can believe that Jesus is God in flesh (incarnate), that He took on human flesh and blood and became one of us, one with us, one like us, except without sin. We can believe that, because of His great love for us, He took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died the eternal death, and suffered the penalty of hell for us, in our place. And we can believe that death and the grave had no hold over Him, but that He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. We can give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus our Savior.
6 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Witnessing from a Full Cup.

The fact of the matter is that, as Christians filled with the gifts of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but overflow and share our faith with others. But we must first be filled in order to be able to overflow.

The best illustration I like to use is the one with a cup and a pitcher (and remember, please do not overdo this illustration, or you will destroy it). God is like a never-emptying pitcher. We are like empty cups. Every time we make use of the means of grace, hearing the Word read and proclaimed, reading the Word on our own, remembering our Baptism, participating in the Lord’s Supper, confessing our sins and being given absolution-whenever we do these things, the Lord fills us, our cups, from His never-emptying pitcher.

We could come and be filled and then go away and not return to be given any more gifts, but just as a cup of water will eventually become dry as the water evaporates, we could eventually lose any gifts we have been given. We could return time and again, yet with a larger cup each time so that we are never filled with our Lord’s gifts. Or we could make regular and diligent (every Sunday and every day) use of the means of grace and be filled and filled some more until we are overflowing and the gifts God gives to us spill out from us onto others. In other words, our faith overflows as we share it with others. This devolvement is also a response of faith, that is, doing the good works which God has for us to do (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14).

Thus, we see the importance of our own participation in the means of grace as a witness to others of what is important in our own lives and as a means through which our Lord comes to fill us, to give us His good gifts and blessings. Through such grace (God’s grace), then, we are strengthened and kept in faith and are better able to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus our Savior.
5 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Spontaneous.

You no doubt know about reflexes. When the doctor strikes you on the knee it kicks forward. For (very ticklish) people, just to talk about tickling them makes them laugh and wiggle. When someone startles you, you jump in surprise.

Some reflexes come naturally; others are learned. It is a natural reflex to kick your leg when your knee is hit. It is natural to jump when you are startled. Some reflexes do not come naturally and actually have to be learned. When you were a child your parents taught you to say “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma’am,” and “Yes sir,” and “No sir.” They had to teach you to say, “Please,” when you wanted something and to say, “Thank you,” when you received something. These words do not come naturally, but are taught. Yet, at some point they are almost natural, that is, after we have used them for many years.

Much the same way is our spontaneous Christian witness. The reason we call it Lifestyle Evangelism is because our witness of the good news (evangel) may take a while to learn. It may even take years of practice. Yet, the goal is that, at some point, it will be almost natural.

At this time in your life it might be more difficult to speak of your faith and even to give an answer for the hope you have in Jesus. But with patience and practice, putting your mind to it, it will become easier and easier until it becomes a natural part of your thinking, speaking and doing. Thus, when the opportunity presents itself, as God gives the opportunity, your Lifestyle Evangelism reflexes will “kick in,” and you will be able to give a natural answer for the hope you have. This natural witness will not seem fake or forced, but natural because it will, by this time, be a natural part of who you are and how you live.

What an awesome gift God gives, and what an awesome privilege to be a part of His giving His gifts to others as He works in and through us to give the reason we have hope in Him. To Him be the glory.
4 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Steps of Action - September 4, 2011 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18) - Text: Matthew 18:1-20

Last week we sat in and listened as Jesus laid out for His disciples what it meant that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In other words, Jesus began to explain to His disciples that being the Messiah, the Savior of the world meant being mocked, ridiculed, persecuted, even suffering and dying on the cross, however, the cross and the grave would have no hold over Him, because on the third day He would rise again. This morning we skip a few verses to where Jesus speaks to us concerning how we are to treat each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, that is in the Holy Christian Church.

We live in a world which likes to quote or rather misquote the Bible. How often do we hear someone say something like, “My god is not like that,” and then they go on to describe, not the God of the Bible, which is what they are implying that they are describing, but they go on to describe, what I call their own, “god in a box,” which they have created. But, let us go back in time a little. I have to begin in the sixties, because that is where my memories begin, some of you can remember further back and I think you may have similar memories. Anyway, I remember the so called sexual revolution of the sixties and the outcry that came when anyone suggested that what was happening was not right. The outcry was a misquote of the Bible, something like, “Well, the Bible says you are not supposed to judge other people.” The meaning of that misquote was to suggest that anyone can do anything they want, and it was often added, “as long as they are not hurting anyone else,” and we should approve, otherwise we are judging. Today the outcry is one of, “Well, we should be tolerant of other people,” and with that phrase we imply, once again, that we should not say anything bad about anyone or anything they do, and again, “as long as they are not hurting anyone else,” only approve, otherwise we are intolerant. And let me take that one step further. If you listen carefully, you will notice that the world is to be tolerant of everyone except those of us who have a different view of the world, or to be more blunt, the world is to be tolerant to everyone except true Christians who understand that there is a right and a wrong, a good and a bad.

But, what does the Bible really say? The Bible really does say to not judge other people, but it also says we are our brothers keeper, we are to recognize sin, and the Bible even gives us ways to recognize sin, such as the ten commandments. The problem is that in an attempt to get by with “doing as we please” in the name of the Bible, we have put up a false definition of “judging” and “being tolerant.” To judge someone according to the Bible is to say that they are “damned to hell.” That is what we are not to do, but we are to recognize sin and call it what it is, sin. Think about it this way. Is it more loving to let someone go on sinning and doing something that is not good for them, such as abusing alcohol, drugs, or others or themselves, or is it more loving to confront them with their destructive behavior? Is it judging a person to call into question their self-destructive behavior? The Bible says “no.” The Bible also says that we are to be tolerant of others, but not at the expense of breaking the loving commandments which are given to us by God. When we sin, God is not tolerant of us, so when others sin, we are not to be tolerant of them. So, how do we go about, not judging, but calling one to account for their actions? That is what Jesus lays out for us today.

Step one, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”(Matthew 18:15). The first thing you do is not go tell everyone else, but go to your brother, or sister, who has sinned against you, or against whom you have sinned, or just to the one to whom you have seen sin, just the two of you. This is not a time to judge, “you are going to hell if you do not repent and mend your ways,” rather this is a time to simply share your love and concern for that person and help them to see what they have done or are doing wrong according to what God tells us. If your brother or sister repents, you have won them over. You rejoice and pray a prayer of thanks. You do not tell anyone else of the incident, it is over.

If your brother or sister does not repent, keep trying. Interestingly enough, most of the time when we hear this passage of the Bible we hear something like, “do step one and if that does not work, move on to step two.” Actually, what we are to do is to do step one and continue to do step one until we are totally convinced that step one is not working and is not going to work. In other words, do step one and if it does not work the first time, do it again. The goal is to get our brother or sister to see their sin, not to advertize their sin, not to judge, but to gently get them to see their sin. Before we move to step two we are to exhaust step one.

Step two, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses’”(Matthew 18:16). Step two is to take a witness, another friend. This is still not to make this a public spectacle, but to show your friend and help your friend to understand your sincerity and the severity of their sin. Again, your brother or sister is to be approached in love, gently and with kind words, in other words, we go and speak to them recognizing our own sin and imperfection as well. And again, if he or she repents, it all stops, no one else needs to know, the matter is dropped.

And again, if he or she does not repent, you do not go directly to step three, instead you do step two over again. You continue to do step two, over and over again, you and your friend, until either your friend repents, or you believe you have exhausted the whole situation.

Step three, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). At step three, and only at step three do you take it to the church. But even here, this is not something which becomes a smear campaign. This is shared only with the church, the members of the congregation and this is done in the utmost of confidence with the best construction put on everything, as much as possible. If you win the brother or sister over, if they acknowledge and repent, then there is forgiveness and the matter is dropped.

And again this is not something which is done once, but this process is repeated until either the person repents, or there is no resolve. If, and only if, there is no resolve, then you move on to the final step which is excommunication. And again, the whole point in this exercise is to win the brother or sister over to repentance and forgiveness.

After He outlines these steps, Jesus again reiterates the giving of the office of the keys, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

The office of the keys is judging, so that whatever is not forgiven on earth will not be forgiven in heaven. And, whatever is forgiven on earth will be forgiven in heaven. As a church we have the duty, the privilege, the obligation, and the responsibility to lovingly recognize sin, to call it sin, to confront sin and to seek ways of winning the sinner over to Christ and forgiveness. We have the awesome responsibility to say, “you have sinned and unless you repent, you will remain in sin and your soul is in peril.” Not because that is something we say, but because that is what God says, that is what the Bible says, that is how we are to love others. What we are talking about is not judging and intolerance, rather that is love and care. The other option, which is the option that is truly judging and intolerance, is to let them go on sinning and let them die and go to hell. We could let our drug addict friend go on doing drugs and they will kill themselves. How much greater is our need to confront someone with sin because sin has to do, not so much with physical death, but with spiritual life and death. And yes, God is a just God, lest we forget this fact.

The goal of Christian discipline, of confronting our brother or sister with their sins, is to win the sinner, to get them to repent so that they might hear those most precious words, “Your sins are forgiven.” The most loving thing we can do is to not be tolerant of sin, to not let our family and friends go on doing the things that they want to do, but to confront them so that they might repent. If you had charge of a child who liked to run out into the busy street to play, would the most loving thing be to let your child do as he wished, or to discipline them so that they would not harm themselves? And, just as little children do not like to be disciplined and just as it is difficult as a mother or father or guardian to discipline, because it does not “feel” good to do so, so it is even harder when it comes to doing the things of God.

Jesus’ final words are a reminder of what is the church. The church is “where two or three are gathered together in His name.” We are the church. We have the duty, the responsibility, the privilege to rightly preach the Gospel in all its truth and purity and here I am speaking of the Gospel in its broad meaning, that is proclaiming what is sin and proclaiming what is forgiveness. We have the duty, the responsibility, the privilege to rightly administer the sacraments. And we have the duty, the responsibility to rightly say, “your sins are not forgiven” and unless you repent and change your ways, your sins will remain unforgiven. And we when there is repentance, when there is a change of behavior, when there is faith given through the means of grace, we have the privilege and joy to say, “your sins are forgiven” and go out and sin no more.

Today we are reminded that there is a right and a wrong. We live in a world, even in a country which is so intent on tolerance that it often refuses to make any distinction between right and wrong, or for that matter between religions, whether one is more valid than another. As Christians, as believers in Jesus, as followers of His Word, we are reminded this morning, by our text, by Jesus Himself, that there is a right and a wrong, that there is only one way to eternal life as Jesus Himself tells us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that there is no other way to eternal life than through faith in Him and in His death and resurrection for us. How much more is it important that we first remain true to the Word of God, that is that we ground our faith and our lives in His Word, and I do not mean in our own understanding or misunderstanding of His Word, but in His Word whether we like that word or not, and that we ground our lives in His Word, living our lives according to the way that He would have us to live. Our text for this morning reminds us of the importance of caring for one another, which flows out of the fact that first God cares for us, because, yes, we are our brothers and sisters keepers.

Again I am reminded of the fact that we get it right and we know we get it right when we get our focus right. When our focus is on ourselves, we get it wrong. When our focus is on Jesus and His cross we know we get it right. May the Lord guard, guide and direct us so that we might always focus on Him. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Conscious.

There are some things in life which come naturally and easily. There are other things in life which are not natural and which are not easy. There are some things which we might call “second nature.” Yet, if we think about many of these things which are “second nature,” we will have to admit that it was not always so. Think about learning to walk. When we first learn to walk, we have to think long and hard about what we are doing. After we have grown and learned to walk, it comes naturally to us. Think about typing, playing a musical instrument, riding a bicycle and so forth. These things which are natural and “second nature” were not always so. There was a time when we first learned to type, to play a musical instrument, to ride a bicycle, when it took much mental energy to concentrate in order to accomplish the task.

Much the same may be said of our Lifestyle Evangelism. Living a life conscious of the fact that all we (think), say and do reflects the faith that is in our hearts may be difficult at first. It may take some concentration on our part to remind ourselves of the witness we are making. Many times, Jesus spoke of the fact that it is out of one’s heart that one thinks, speaks and does. Thus, what we think, what we say, what we do does reflect what is in our heart, in faith or not in faith.

One helpful hint in become more conscious of this fact would be to put the Christian symbol of the fish on your car. Then, you will need to remind yourself, as you cut-off the driver behind you, that you have just made a negative witness of your Christian faith. As you become more conscious of your witness, with the Lord’s help, you will be more courteous in your driving and also in your daily life and routine. Then, you will become mor conscious of making a positive witness which will lead to opportunities to give an answer for the hope you have in Jesus your Savior.
3 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism is . . . Natural.

When you get a new car, purchase a new house, or hear some exciting news, you do not park your new car in a garage so no one can see it, not tell anyone where you live so they will not come and see your new house, and not tell anyone your good news so they cannot rejoice with you. No, instead, when you get a new car, you drive it around, hoping someone will see you in your new car. When you purchase a new house you invite everyone over, perhaps for a housewarming party, so that everyone can see it. When you have some good news you cannot wait to go and tell everyone so that all may rejoice with you.

Such is our Christian faith. Where older, perhaps more mature, Christians, are not as excited about their faith, the new Christian, is excited and cannot wait to tell others the good news of Jesus and his/her faith in Him and his/her assurance of eternal life. The new Christian, in particular, wants to tell his/her friends so that they may have the same sure and certain hope (certainty) of eternal life s/he has and certainly s/he wants his/her friends to be in heaven with him/her.

When you awaken in the morning, you naturally get yourself ready to greet the day. Before you sit down for a meal, you naturally wash your hands. When you sit down at the table for a meal, you naturally give thanks to the Lord in prayer. When you meet someone new, you naturally shake that person’s hand and tell him/her you are glad to meet him/her. There are many things in life which are natural or which come naturally. Such is our Christian faith and the witness we make. When others see us, who wear the name Christian, they naturally come to the conclusion that we are a typical Christian. When others ask us about the hope that we have as Christians, we naturally give an answer for the hope we have Jesus is our Savior, because we cannot help but do so. It is just the natural thing to do.
2 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs