Welcome

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

Disclaimer

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

I Will Send My Messenger - December 9, 2018 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Malachi 3:1-7b

Friendships come and friendships go. If you are a person who moves around from place to place you will understand how true it is that when you leave from some place that is when you find who are your real friends. Do you have friends that live any distance from you? Do you hear from them or do you write or call them regularly? Keeping up friendships with people who are near is hard enough, distant friendships are even more difficult to keep up. Just like many things in life, friendships take time and energy. Having said that, I would suppose social media of today might make it a bit easier with distant friendships, yet, there is still the need to invest in such relationships. Without an investment of the necessary time and energy a friendship will begin to fade. Maybe you know someone who was once a good friend, yet for reasons unexplainable, you are now not the friends you used to be. I do not want to get too carried away with this analogy about friends, but our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is very much the same way. Is Jesus our friend, even our best friend, or is He, or has He become just another acquaintance? If we do not invest our time and energy in our relationship with Jesus, that friendship fades. The difference between our relationship with Jesus and with others is that when our relationship with Jesus fades, it is not because He moved on, but because we moved on. A more important difference is the difference of eternity. We can lose earthly friends, but if we lose our friendship with Jesus, we lose our eternity.
 
This morning we focus our attention on continuing to prepare for our celebration of the birth of the best friend we could ever have, Jesus. The context of our text is one which shows us what happened when the children of Israel moved away from their relationship with the Lord and what could happen to us.
 
Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi was the last prophet to speak to the children of Israel until the birth of John the Baptist some 400 years later. At this point in time, the children of Israel have been waiting for many years for the Messiah and He has not yet come. Added to that is the fact that the priests, the tribe of Levi, has become corrupt. All this makes it appear that God has all but given up on the children of Israel. Again, between the prophet Malachi and John the Baptist, God is, for all intents and purposes, silent to the children of Israel.
 
Our text tells us that the messenger is coming. We begin at verse one, “1Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (v. 1). The Lord will send His messenger. This messenger is John the Baptist. John is the one who is the child announced to Zechariah and Elizabeth six months before the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus. John is the one who was born to prepare the way for the Messiah.
 
About this messenger we are told, “2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (v. 2-3). John is the one who was born to confront the children of Israel and especially to confront the religious leaders of Israel. The message John was to bring was one that reminded the people to look at their relationship with the Lord and see how it had faded. The purpose of John’s life was to call the people to repentance. He is the one who was to call for a baptism of repentance.
 
John called the people of his day and he calls us today to look at our lives and to see if we are living as God would have us to live. We pick up at verse four, “4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. 5Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. 6“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them” (v. 4-7). The purpose of the life of John the Baptist was to point out the sins of the people, to point out our sins so that they, so that we, might see our need for a Savior and then to point them and us to the coming of the Messiah.
 
This Old Testament text is seen being fulfilled in the Gospel reading for today. John is the one who came calling in the desert to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Savior of the world. John is the one calling the people back into a right relationship with Jesus.
 
What more fitting texts can we have for this the second Sunday in Advent than these that call us back into a right relationship with Jesus? Is our relationship with Jesus what it was a few years ago? Is it what it should be? Where are our hearts? Are we prepared to celebrate Jesus first coming? Are we spending all of our time buying presents and working overtime to pay for the presents, or are we spending time on our friendship with Jesus? And I guess the borage of questions could go on, but I think you get the idea.
 
Before I go on, I might also remind you that as we prepare for our celebration of Jesus birth, His first coming, we also continue throughout the year preparing ourselves for Jesus second coming and we could ask the same borage of questions concerning our readiness and our relationship with Jesus about His second coming.
 
Again, the main questions before us this morning are, are we prepared for our celebration of Jesus birth? And how is our relationship with Jesus? And we could ask, how do we know if we are prepared and how do we know what is our relationship with Jesus? We could put it in logical terms. I could ask you to think about your other relationships; your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your mother and father; your relationship with your brothers and sisters; your relationship with your children; your relationship with those with whom you would consider close friends. How are those relationships? How much time, effort, energy, even money do you spend in those relationships? Now, compare that to how much time,  effort, energy, even money you spend with your relationship with Jesus? We see how the law always reminds us that we come up short.
 
Thanks be to God that we do not rely on the law to make sure that we are in a right relationship with Jesus. The law reminds us that we can never do enough to make sure that we have a good relationship with Jesus. That is why we do not rely on what we are doing in our relationship with Jesus, rather we rely on what He has already done for us. Because Jesus knows that we fail in our relationship with Him, He gives His all in His relationship with us. Jesus gave His all, even His life for us.
 
As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we do so by focusing our lives on Jesus and on what He has done for us, and still does for us, instead of focusing on what we have failed to do for Him and instead of focusing on the outward trappings of the season and the things of this world.
 
We focus on Jesus and we spend time with our relationship with Jesus by going to the place where He comes to us, His Word and His Sacraments. If you want to deepen your relationship with a friend, you meet them somewhere where you can talk and share. If you want to deepen your relationship with Jesus you meet Him where you can talk and share, His Word, the Bible and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Meeting Jesus in His Word means spending time reading His Word and praying about what He says to you in His Word. Meeting Jesus means making use of confession and absolution, confessing all our sins, even those we do not know that we have committed, and hearing His great and awesome words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments means remembering your Baptism. Remembering that at your baptism Jesus put His name on you. He put faith in your heart. He made you His own. Each day is a day to praise the Lord for the gift of baptism through which we were given faith, forgiveness and life. Meeting Jesus in the Lord’s Supper means partaking of His body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine, participating in His death and resurrection, and being given forgiveness, strengthening and life.
 
Today we are reminded that on this Second Sunday in Advent, we are to continue to prepare the way for the Lord. We must be prepared for Jesus our Lord is coming. We continue to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus as He continues to come to us through His Word to prepare us. We continue to prepare ourselves for His second coming, or our return to Him through our physical death from this world. This morning I want to end with Paul’s prayer from the Epistle lesson. “9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” Phil. 1:9-11). To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Prophecy Candle - December 5, 2018 - Advent Midweek 1 - Text: Isaiah 9:6-7a

Our text for this evening is from Isaiah chapter nine, 6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore (Isaiah 9:6-7). This is our text.
 
Every year during the season of Advent I invite the children to come forward during the children’s message and we talk about the Advent wreath. Each Sunday we talk about the different candles and the meaning of each one. This year during the Wednesday services we will talk about the Advent wreath and what each candle represents, but we will do so for the rest of us, the adults of the congregation. We will learn to use the Advent Wreath in our own preparation to celebrate the greatest birth and gift to mankind.
 
We begin talking about the advent wreath by recognizing that it has a circular base reminding us that God is Eternal. Just as a circle has no beginning and no endings so our God has no beginning, He was not created and no ending, He is eternal. Indeed, as we know our God does not live in the past nor in the future, but He lives in the eternal present, as His name is I Am, thus we might use the circle to symbolize His eternal existence.
 
The greenery of the advent wreath reminds us that God is alive. As we might look at a lawn that is brown or a tree that has brown leaves and surmise that it is dead, so as we look at a green lawn or a green tree we might surmise that they are alive. So it is with God, the green of the Advent wreath reminds us that we worship, not a dead God, but a living God.
 
The four candles of the advent wreath, along with the middle candle count for the four Sundays of Advent, counting the weeks and days till Christmas. Each week of Advent we light another candle until we reach Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the night and day we light the center candle celebrating the birth of the One Promised, the Savior, Jesus.
 
The first candle that we light is called the Prophecy Candle. I often call this the promise candle because that is what God’s prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, Savior, Christ, is God’s promise to send a Savior. Thus, the first candle points us back to the Garden of Eden and man’s sin. In the beginning God created all things out of nothing and everything that God created was good. On the last day of creation God looked at all that He created and said that it was very good. Indeed, all that God created was perfect.
 
The first candle points us back to God’s first prophecy, His promise of a Savior, for all people. Although all that God created was good, very good and perfect, when we get to Genesis chapter three and the account moves from the history of God’s creating work to the history of human beings we hear how Eve and Adam fall for the lies of the father of lies, Satan himself. They disobey God and sin, eating from the forbidden fruit the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil  in the midst of the Garden. Although God’s command and warning was that they were not to eat of the fruit with the punishment of death, and by death God meant physical, bodily death and apart from Jesus death would also mean eternal spiritual death, or hell. Although God had given them His command and warning they did eat and they brought death into the once perfect world. Thanks be to God that He immediately stepped in and promised a solution, to send a Savior, a Messiah, One who would suffer the punishment for their sin for them, in their place, as their substitute.
 
The first candle also points us to Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Judah, David, and so forth. We are pointed to these men of faith throughout the Old Testament as God reiterated His promise to them that the Savior, the Messiah would be born through their line of descent.
 
The first candle points us to Isaiah and our text. 6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore (Isaiah 9:6-7).
 
The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Savior promised in the Garden of Eden, reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and so on, would be born as a human being and born under the law. In other words, the Savior would be born to be our substitute doing for us what we are unable to do, be perfect. As God’s command in Eden was perfection and because Eve and Adam sinned and brought imperfection, so the Savior would come and live in perfection for us, in our place, as our substitute, thus fulfilling God’s first command.
 
Not only would the Savior be born as a human He would also be born as God. Isaiah points not only to the Savior’s earthly life but also to His heavenly, everlasting rule. The Savior would be truly human to be our substitute, but truly God to be perfect, holy and eternal.
 
The Savior would be of royal blood, yet not in order rule on earth, but to rule in heaven for eternity. The Savior would be born and live under the Law, perfectly obeying the Law, for us in our place. The Savior would bring, establish and uphold justice and righteousness which He would do by shedding His blood for the sins of the world. Remember, the price for sin was set at death, thus the Savior would have to suffer death in order to reconcile us for the price for our sins.
 
Finally, ultimately the Savior will rule in heaven for eternity. The promised Savior would be born of the earthly line of King David and King Solomon, indeed born of royal blood. Yet His was not to be an earthly kingdom. He was not born as a social/political Savior, but a Savior from sin, a spiritual/eternal life Savior. His birth was never for earthly rule, but always for heavenly rule.
 
Advent is the season and the time for getting ready. We are getting ready for a great and grand celebration. As someone once said, we do not plan to fail but we often fail to plan. When we are having a grand celebration we begin by planning and the better we plan the better the celebration. The Advent Wreath helps us in our planning. The Advent Wreath helps us remember the history and reason to celebrate Christmas.
 
The Advent Wreath helps us prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate. The Prophecy Candle, or as I like to call it, the Promise Candle and I like to call it the Promise Candle because not everyone knows or understands what prophecy is, and what it is, is God’s promise of future event, anyway the Prophecy Candle reminds us of our first parents and their sin. It therefore reminds us of our sin and the reason Jesus had to be born, for us. We are conceived and born in sin. Every intention of our heart are evil all the time. Yet, because of God’s great love for us He sent a Savior to live for us, to take our sins and to suffer and pay the price for our sins.
 
Preparation and taking time to prepare is important. Just as God took time to prepare to send Jesus so we take the time to prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth. From the time of God’s first promise to send a Savior, God waited some four to six thousand years. God wanted to make sure everything was just right and it was. Jesus was born at just the right time. All history that pointed to Jesus was in just the right place. So, we take the time. We plan. We prepare. Especially we prepare our hearts and minds for our celebration.
 
And finally, we will celebrate. We will celebrate the birth of the One promised so long ago, the One promised immediately after Eve and Adam sinned, the One promised and the promise reiterated throughout Old Testament history. We celebrate the birth of the One who would live for us, a perfect life, perfectly obeying all God’s Laws and Commands. We celebrate the birth of the One who took our sins and suffered the punishment which should have been ours, for us, in our place so that we do not have to suffer. We celebrate the good gifts and blessings He has earned for and given to us; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And what a great and grand celebration it will be a celebration lasting twelve days.
 
As we have lighted the first Advent candle may we be reminded once again of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore (Isaiah 9:6-7). We rejoice and give thanks to our great God for the gift of His Son, our great God and Savior, Christ the Lord. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About the Office of Holy Ministry)

How often have you heard someone say, “I felt God calling me to be a pastor. I felt God calling me to start a church.”? My first reaction would be the same as Hans Luther’s, Martin’s father, when Martin told him God was calling him to the monastery, “How do you know it was God calling you and not the devil?” Now that I have your attention . . .

The Lutheran difference in faith and the calling into the Office of Holy Ministry are not dependent on our feelings. Indeed, if faith were simply a “feeling,” then there are many times we may not “feel” very saved, and we would certainly not think that one is not saved because they do not feel saved. The same is true for any of the ways in which we “feel” God. Just because I had a dream, heard a voice, or felt something even if it were something I felt was from God, how do I know it was from God or not? Perhaps I felt God calling me to do one thing, and you come along and tell me you felt God calling you to do the opposite. Does this mean God is schizophrenic? Certainly not!

The Lutheran difference is our understanding that God speaks most clearly through the means He has given to speak to us, His Holy Word, and we would add His Sacraments as well. We are most sure of God’s speaking in His Word. So, even though I would not deny God speaking to anyone, my first question is to check out what was said versus what God actually says in His Holy Word.

When it comes to the Office of Holy Ministry, I am most sure of my calling as it is confirmed by God through His congregation. In other words, even though as a child and a youth I felt the inclining to become a Pastor, and even though I went to the Seminary and was educated, graduated and received a certificate of placement in the Lutheran Church, that call was not validated until God, through a congregation, called me to be their pastor. At that point, when I was ordained and installed, then I knew for certain that God’s call was validated to be His Pastor. In like manner, the congregation calling me as their pastor knows that I did not call or appoint myself as their pastor, but that God through them called me to be their pastor.

Just as one does not call oneself to faith, just as one does not baptize oneself, so one does not call oneself to be a pastor, nor does one ordain himself. The call, as always, comes from outside oneself, and the call comes through the means that God has put into place to call.
45 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Monday, December 3, 2018

How Are They to Hear Without Preaching? - December 2, 2018 - Ordination and Installation of Arturo Mendez - Text: Romans 10:14-17

Brothers and sisters in Christ, invited guests, Rev. Pastor Arturo Mendez. Today is a day you have been waiting on for some time. Today the call of God has been confirmed through this congregation to be a pastor, a shepherd to His sheep. What a great and wonderful day, a day of rejoicing indeed, yet a day of recognizing the gift of God that He is bestowing on you. And along with His gifts He gives you the very means to carry out His calling.
 
For Arturo the journey from unbelief to faith to the desire and now the call to share the Word of God with others has not been an easy journey. Having grown up in a difficult country, one in which he served as a soldier and policeman and seeing much corruption, God stirred him to want to do the right thing. And yet, even that desire to do what was right was not always the God pleasing thing. Indeed, it is as God worked through His Word spoken by others that Arturo heard the Word of God, that the Holy Spirit worked through that Word of God and worked faith in his heart. And as he grew in his faith he knew he wanted to share that faith with others so they too might be a part of God’s kingdom. All this moved him to pursue what is being confirmed on him today.
 
Our Epistle lesson is one which reminds us not only of the importance of God’s Word but also of the importance of one to deliver the Word of God as well as His Holy Sacraments, His means of grace.
 
How important are the means of grace? Paul tells us in our text, “14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (v. 14-17).
 
The means of grace are so important that they are indeed a matter of faith, life and salvation. This question of the importance of the means of grace ties in with the old question about those we think have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, how can they be held accountable for their lack of faith? The fact of the matter is that they have had the opportunity, but somewhere along the line their fathers failed to share the faith and so they are being punished for the sins of the fathers, to the third and fourth generations, as we speak in the close of the commandments. Remember, we all go back to Noah who had the Word. Thanks be to God that He allows for other opportunities to hear the Word so that those whose fathers failed to share the Word may hear it elsewhere and be given faith through that Word, which is what is the desire of Arturo, to share that Word with those whose fathers have neglected to share it with them.
 
In our text Paul asks, “How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” How can one hear unless some one is sent to administer the means of grace? Notice the importance of the means of grace and making use of them? God’s usual way of coming to us is through means, namely through the means of grace, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And notice the importance, again, of making regular, every Sunday, and diligent, everyday, use of these means. When we absent ourselves from these means then we fall into this group about whom Paul is speaking, how can we believe if we do not hear?
 
And Paul speaks of the importance of the Office of Holy Ministry. How can one preach unless one is sent? Notice, a man does not appoint himself for the Office of Holy Ministry. Simply to feel a calling does not validate such a calling. A man’s calling by God is validated when God through a congregation, calls him into the Office of Holy Ministry in order to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, the means of grace.
 
Notice the bottom line in Paul’s words for us this afternoon. The bottom line is the Word of God. And I would add the authority and the promise of the effect of the Word of God, that is that the Word of God is efficacious, it does what it says and it gives the gifts it has to give. I can believe and trust that Word, that it has authority and will give its gifts, or I can attempt through some means of my own to try to “help” it along. Certainly I could stand up here every Sunday and entertain you. I could speak with pious platitudes or show a power point presentation or a video of this that or the other thing to move you. Or I could stand up here and try to motivate you, which usually amounts to preaching law to you because that is what such motivation usually is, telling you what you have to do in order for God to do something for you. I could even use some great Christian sounding words, words your itching ears might want to hear. I could tell you how God wants you to succeed in life. I could tell you that all you have to do is believe hard enough or all you have to do is work hard enough and God will reward you. I could sound like many of the preachers you hear on TV. But, is that what God promises us and is that what God tells us in His Word? Does God promise us great success and happiness in life?
 
Arturo, the temptations are great. Many men get out of seminary, see how “successful” their neighboring church is and desire to be just as successful, in the name of saving souls of course. In an attempt to be as successful they let down their doctrinal filters and buy into all the sociological ways of being about God’s business with the belief that if we just do it one way or the other they will come. Don’t preach too much law, put on a good show, have a certain type of music and they will come. Interestingly enough, God has never promised to make anyone successful through any means. What God has said is that He gives us the authority to speak His Word. He will be with us. He will give us the Words to speak and He will give the harvest, when and where He pleases.
 
In the Old Testament, in Leviticus God gave His people the ceremonial laws which pointed to Jesus. In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled all those laws and now we have a Divine Service which has been around since the day of Jesus and the Apostles, ad since Leviticus given by God. Today we have it in its fulfilled form which continues to point us to Jesus; a Divine Service that transcends time, language, culture, age, ethnicity and the like; a Service that is permeated with the means of grace, the Word of God which is where God promises to be with us and to come to us to give us His gifts.
 
So, what does this mean? And what is important? What is important is the means of grace through which the Holy Spirit gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation and works a response of faith. Oh, we might make it in life without these means. We might be quite successful and we might even believe that God has made us successful. Yet, even more important for our eternal salvation is the forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus. Paul does not even mention success as a part of salvation, but he does mention faith, believing and confessing our faith.
 
Faith and confession of faith is important and so the Office of Holy Ministry is important. God has given us the Office of Holy Ministry and He has called some men into this Office for the administration of the means of grace, preaching the Gospel, administering of confession and absolution and administering the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Today we celebrate that you, Arturo, have been given this call by God.
 
So, what about your part as members of this congregation? Under section three of Luther’s Small Catechism, the Table of Duties, Luther reminds us of “What the Hearers Owe Their Pastor.” from 1 Cor. 9:14, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. ” From Gal. 6:6-7, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” From 1 Tim. 5:17-18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” From 1 Thess. 5:12-13 “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” And finally from Heb. 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So we are reminded that Pastor Mendez did not call himself here to be your pastor, God called him through you, thus we are reminded that the way we treat God’s called worker and ambassador is what we think of how we would treat God Himself. And I would remind you that Pastor Mendez is a worker priest, working a regular job to support himself and his family while serving God as associate pastor here in our midst.
 
Now to wrap this up. The important things Paul tells us are, hearing, believing and confessing. These three work together. We hear the Word of God through the pastor which gives faith. Faith motivates us to confess that we believe. And as we believe, so that becomes our confession. This hearing, believing, and confessing are reflected in our worship. Our worship practice comes out of our confess of faith and our confess of faith comes out of our worship practice. Because we believe the means of grace are the way in which our Lord comes to us, so our worship practice is that our worship is permeated with the means of grace, beginning with the invocation which reminds us of our baptism, to our confession and absolution, to our responsive readings which are our repeating back to God the very words He has given us to say, and to the Lord’s Supper. As we worship this way we understand the importance of the means of grace and we are strengthened and kept in faith.
 
Paul continually reminds us of the importance of the Word, namely, the Gospel, and the Word, Jesus, God in flesh. The Jesus of the Bible is not a Jesus of glory. He is not a Jesus of success, at least not in the terms the world would like to frame Him. As a matter of fact, He is a God who gave up the glory that was His, as God, in heaven, in order to go to the cross, to pay the price for ours sins. The Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of the Word is a Jesus of the cross. And He is a Jesus for all.
 
Paul covers a lot for us this afternoon and clears up some misunderstandings about the importance of the Word. There is only one God and one Lord who calls to and gives faith and he does this through the men He calls into the Office of Holy Ministry to speak His means of grace so that Holy Spirit works through these means, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, so that we might respond by listening, believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is Yahweh. Arturo, this calling is now your calling from God. May He bless you in this calling so that your work may be done in such a way that we all say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Days Are Coming - December 2, 2018 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Happy New Year! And no, I am not crazy, forgetful, nor absentminded. Today is the first Sunday of our New church year and the beginning of Advent. Advent, you might remember, is the season of preparation. Advent is the time of the church year that we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, which we do not do until Christmas morning. Unfortunately, we live in a society that likes to jump the gun and celebrate before the time to celebrate. I would remind you that the twelve days of Christmas begin with Christmas and the celebration lasts for twelve days, until we celebrate Epiphany and the visit of the Magi, but let us get back to today.
 
If you ever attend a movie, or even if you rent a movie you know that before the movie starts you will be inundated with twenty or more minutes of previews, what are known as trailers for movies that will be coming soon. The reason for this pre-movie ritual is to get you interested in what movie is coming out next so you will want to return to the theater, pay more money and see the next movie. And it works. As our interest is peaked, we do plan to see the next movie.
 
In His word, God does not give us a trailer of things to come, but He does give us His Word of promise and prophecy concerning what He has in store for us. Of course, God’s intent is not to draw us in to sell us something, rather His intent is to draw us in so that He might give us the gifts He has to give, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. As we begin this new Church year and as we begin this season of Advent we already know what is going to be happening, because we have been down this road before, we have already celebrated what we are about to celebrate. While already knowing might make it more difficult to rein in our enthusiasm and our desire to jump straight to the celebration, it will serve us well to take the time and use the time of advent for what it is intended, to spend our time getting ready.
 
The context of advent is the fall into sin in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden and the promise of a Savior. Remember, when God created the world, He created all things good and very good, meaning everything was perfect. In chapter three of Genesis, when man begins running the show that is when sin enters, we loose free will, and God has to step back in to fix what man broke. Immediately after Eve and Adam sinned God promise to send a Savior to restore the broken relationship between Himself and His creation. And remember, when God made this promise there was only Adam and Eve, there was not a Jew or Gentile, thus this promise was made for all people of all places of all times.
 
Throughout history, time and again God reiterated the promise of a Savior. At one point in history God narrowed the family line through which the Savior would be born. From all the people of the earth, by His grace, God chose Abram whom He renamed Abraham, to be the family through which the Savior of all would be born. God narrowed that line through Jacob and through Judah and then through Mary and Joseph.
 
As time passed by, some three thousand years or so, the people to whom the promise was made became apathetic in waiting. By the time Jesus was born, many of the religious leaders had reinterpreted the promise to be a social/political promise of deliverance from their enemies. Thus, too many missed Jesus’ birth. After Jesus accomplished His work of salvation, He promised He would return on the last day. To date we have waited some two thousand years and as in Jesus’ day, so today, too many have become apathetic in waiting.
 
In our text we hear God’s Word of reiteration concerning His first coming, “14Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness” (v. 14-16).
 
Our Lord tells His people, He tells us, the days are coming, the Savior will be born. These words are spoken almost six hundred years before Jesus’ birth and some twenty- five hundred years after the first promise in the Garden of Eden.
 
At this time, the time of our text, the Lord narrows the promise. He tells us that the Savior will be born of the house of Judah and from the line of David. Interestingly enough, these words gave evidence for those of Jesus’ day and for us today that Jesus is indeed the One promised as He was from the line of Judah and from the line of David.
 
What might have seemed like a long time for God to fulfill His promise to send a Savior and what might appear like a long time for us today to wait for His second coming waiting does not indicate that God is slow or forgetful. Rather, God’s time reminds us of God’s patience and love for us, wanting to give as much time as possible for as many people as possible to come to faith. As we begin this advent season we are encouraged to take to time to prepare ourselves before jumping to our celebration.
 
Thus, as we look at the world of old, we can see many similarities to our own world. As the adage states, “If you do not know your history you are doomed to repeat it,” and so today, it would appear that often times we are repeating history. Just as the children of Israel grew impatient and apathetic towards the first coming of the Messiah, so many in our world today have given up faith in Jesus, in the God of Holy Scriptures and instead have created their own new gods in their own image, idols and aberrations intended to satiated their appetites and desires. We want a god who will be like us, who will think like us, who will answer us according to what we want to hear and who will act according to our own time, that is why it is an idol and the bottom line is our idol is simply that we worship ourselves. We become as the new Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.
 
The people of the world today have a hard time worshiping the God of the Bible, because He is not like the pop culture god of our secular society, thus we see churches and denominations look and act like the culture and believing themselves to be pleasing to God. Yes, it is getting more and more difficult to be a Christian, a true Christian in our world today because the world has traded in the God of the Bible for other gods and idols who are not god. One such example being the desire for a utopia society here on earth, instead of looking forward to perfection in heaven.
 
But, getting back to us, those of us who continue, as many in Jesus’ day, to wait patiently for Jesus’ return. Even we have a tendency today to want to skip the preparation for Christmas. We have a tendency to skip advent and go straight to our Christmas celebration. Again, as I said earlier and as I am sure to repeat many times during this Advent season, Christmas does not begin until Christmas morning or Christmas Eve and then we celebrate for twelve days, the twelve days of Christmas, until Epiphany and our celebration of the visit of the Magi, the first gentiles to see the baby Jesus.
 
And, just as unfortunate as our wanting to skip preparing ourselves for the Lord, for our celebration of His first coming, we tend to fail in our getting ready for His second coming. Our actions show that we truly do not believe our Lord will return, at least not anytime soon, or at least not during our own lifetime. Instead of getting ourselves ready, instead of making time for what is important, we busy ourselves with the things of this world, we find more important things to do than be in divine service and Bible class. We rationalize that since the Lord has not yet returned, perhaps He will tarry even longer and maybe even not return in our own lifetime.
 
Ours might be compared to an attitude of wanting to go straight to opening gifts. We do not want to get ourselves ready, but we think that because we have been baptized, because we have been confirmed, then we are ready. Our attitude might be one of, “Let’s get to the presents,” “Let’s get to the joy of heaven.”
 
Certainly we may not all look forward to our own passing from this world, and in like manner to the Lord’s return, but we do desire to one day be in heaven. We do not want to wait until Christmas, but we do want the presents of Christmas.
 
This morning, as we begin a new Church year, as we begin the season of Advent we need once again to be reminded that advent is a time of preparation. In much the same way as music, sports, and other things worth doing right are worth preparing for, so doing Christmas right, means preparing for it.
 
In the Garden of Eden God promised to send a Savior. Although Eve believed her first son was the fulfillment of God’s promise, God did not fulfill His promise until some three thousand years later. And during that three thousand year wait, God prepared. He prepared the world, both His people and the secular world. God prepared the world so that at just the right time He sent His Son. Yes, even for us, even for our celebrating Jesus’ birth, this celebration is worth preparing for and taking the time to get ready.
 
As we celebrate Jesus first coming, so we also continue to get ourselves ready for Jesus’ second coming. Yes, God has waited two thousand years, but that does not mean He will wait another thousand years. We do not know the day or the hour, but we do know that it will be when He is ready, when we are prepared. Until He returns, we continue getting ready, that is we continue making use of those means He has of getting us ready, His means of grace. And we continue rejoicing in and sharing the gifts He has given to us, faith, forgiveness and life and a right and renewed relationship with Himself purchased by Jesus’ on the cross.
 
The Lord is coming, not to a theater near you, but to you, in your heart, in your mind and in your soul. He has redeemed you a lost and condemned person. He has purchased and won you from sin, death and the devil. He has made you His own and He has so much He wants to give to you, gifts, talents, abilities, faith, forgiveness and life, even eternal life. Now more than ever, as each day and each year passes, we are drawn one more year, even one more day closer to His return so we are ever, constantly preparing ourselves to meet Him on that blessed day. Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Creation)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This statement sums up what we believe about creation. Thus, either human beings get it right, or God gets is right. With that stated, since the fall into sin it is a known fact that human beings get it wrong more often than they get it right but God never gets it wrong. And why would we believe God in the New Testament if we cannot believe Him in the Old Testament? And why would God lie to us?

The fact is that no one has ever proven anything in the Bible to be false. At the same time scientific theories have been proven and disproved for centuries. The theories of molecules to man evolution has changed and proven to be wrong as often as they have been proposed. Because of the lack of proof one finds the “evolution” of this theory in science textbooks, writings and journals over the years. Although there have been many hoaxes put forth and false evidence over the years, there is absolutely no proof of molecules to man evolution.

God was there at the creation of the world and He tells us how it happened. In creation we see the almighty power of the Word of God. God spoke and it was. God created time for us on the very first day. On the fourth day He put the Sun, Moon and Stars in the time framework He created on day one.

God created all living things and crowned His creation with the creation of human beings. Indeed, the earth, our galaxy is the center of the universe and human beings are the center of God’s creation. This fact means that we are important and special to God. He created us to love and care for us and He does, even when we rebel against Him, slander and reject Him, and attempt to make Him nonexistent through fallacious human theories.

We rejoice in God’s creation. We rejoice in God’s love and care in creating us, loving us and providing for us.
44 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Salvation Lasts Forever - November 25, 2018 - Last Sunday in the Church Year (Proper 29) - Text: Isaiah 51:4-6

Today is the last Sunday in this present church year. As we end this church year and are on the verge of beginning a new church year, we are reminded of how fast this year went by and how fast we speed through this life. I am sure you are aware of the fact that the older you get the faster time seems to go by. Here we are reaching the end of another church year and it seems as if we just started it not long ago. I would hypothesize that one of the reasons time seems to go by so fast is because we fill our time with so much, and so many things to do, that it just seems as if the time is hurrying by. We know that time is relative. Think about when you were a child waiting for something, driving to grandma’s house or waiting for Christmas. Unless you had something to occupy your time, it seemed like it took forever and back then we did not have as much to occupy our time as children do today. As we get older we tend to have too many things occupying our time which makes the time seem to rush by even faster. As we reach the end of this church year we need to take some of our already precious time and make sure that the things on which we spend our time are things that are worthy of our time. Remember, the devil does not tell you to stay away from church, from Bible Class, from reading God’s Word, from family devotions and the like, rather he fills your time with all sorts of other “important” or “more important” things so that you do not have time for what is most important, your relationship with the Lord. We can see that this failure to recognize that our relationship with our Lord is what should be the most important part of our lives as we look at what is happening in churches around the world, around our country, and even in our own congregation as we can see that too many of our members, 55-60%, have more important things to do on Sunday morning than to attend divine service. We can also see that it happens with our Sunday School and Bible Class attendance. Unfortunately, it is too often that we do not realize that absenting ourselves from God’s Word amounts to refusing His gifts until it is too late.
 
Our text for today is one that reminds us that our time really is not our time, but is God’s time. Our text also reminds us that in God’s time He promised and fulfilled His promise as He sent a Savior for us. We begin at verse four, “4Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples” (v. 4). In God’s time He promised to send a Savior. Way back in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve fell into sin, God first promised to send a Savior. Before there was a Jew and a Gentile God promised to send a Savior. When there was only Adam and Eve God made His promise. However, His promise was not just to Adam and Eve, but it was to all people, of all places, of all times. Likewise, as God reiterated His promise, in His time, throughout history, especially to the children of Israel, His chosen people, the promise was again, not just for the children of Israel, but was for all people. Yes, He would fulfill His promise through the children of Israel, but His promise always was a promise of a Savior for all people.
 
Our text describes God’s promise as the sending of the law to be a light to the nations. This law was Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill the law perfectly, for us, in our stead, because we are unable to do so. Jesus came as the true Israel. He did what the whole nation of the children of Israel was unable to do. He fulfilled God’s laws perfectly and then He gave His life on the cross. He suffered the eternal punishment which should have been ours, for us, in our place. In this way He became a light to the nations. By faith in Jesus all people have access to eternity.
 
Our text is one which is spoken to the children of Israel before the Savior was born. We pick up at verse five, “5My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait” (v. 5). The children of Israel  had been waiting and continued to wait for the promised Messiah, the Savior. In our text God says that the Savior will come speedily. I do not know about you, but even more than a day of waiting is not speedily to me, let alone hundreds and even a thousand years. Yet, when God says He sends His salvation and it comes speedily, He fulfills His promise in His time and according to His perfect plan. The Lord’s salvation is Christ Jesus. Not only is Jesus the law of the Lord, He is also God’s righteousness. In His perfection He gave His life that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And the islands to which our text refers are the children of Israel who were in exile throughout the world, but they are also all Christians of all places and all times. Again, Jesus did not come just to save only a certain group of people. He came to give His life for all people, for you and me as well.
 
The last verse of our text is one that should make us stop and think. In verse six we read, “6Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed” (v.6). This verse is one that should help us put our priorities in the right order, or at least it should make us think about the ordering of our priorities.
 
As we reach the end of the church year our Bible readings are meant to remind us that the Lord is coming, sooner than we know, sooner than we expect. Because the Lord is coming, we will want to be ready. Verse six reminds us that the heavens and earth will vanish. This earth will be here no longer. But there is more. We are also reminded of the temporariness of all our earthly possessions, all our earthly “stuff.” We might ask ourselves, how much of our lives are we investing in our temporariness and how much are we investing in our eternity?
 
Because, about eternity, our text tells us that God’s salvation will endure forever. God’s salvation is that salvation earned for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. How much of our lives are we investing in our salvation? God gave His all. What do we give? Do we give according to what we think God, or the church deserves? Or do we give according to what God has given to us? Do we give one hour a week? Do we give two hours a week? God gave us His all. He gives us 168 hours in each week. How are we investing our time? In the business world it is said that time is money, so, how are we investing our money? How are we investing the gifts, talents and abilities our Lord has given to us? Are we investing it in the things of God, or are we so busy with the business of this world that we have little or no time for God? And you do not need to speak an answer, for your actions already speak for you. Lack of regular divine service and Bible class attendance, lack of giving of time in service to the Lord, lack of giving of talents and treasures to the Lord shows refusal of God’s gifts.
 
Let me ask you a question. If you knew that the world would end next Sunday, would you live your life any different this week? Would you do anything different? Now, be careful how you answer that question, because if you answer “yes,” then my next question is, then why aren’t you? Because we do not know when the world will end, that is when the Lord will return or perhaps even sooner, when we will pass on and go to Him. As we have been saying over the last several Sundays, it is imperative that we are always ready to meet the Lord.
 
Our text for today is one that once again points us to the cross of Christ. Jesus came to give us His all. He came to live for us in our place. That Jesus came to live for us is the fulness of the Gospel message. Yes, Jesus came to die for us, but He also came to live for us, perfectly, in our place, as our substitute, because we cannot live perfectly as God demands. Jesus gave His all because He knows that we, in and of ourselves have nothing to give. Jesus lived for us so that, by faith in Him, faith He gives to us, when God looks at us He does not see us as sinful human beings, but He sees us in Christ’s perfection.
 
For the children of Israel, they had to look forward in faith to the coming of the Savior. We get to look back in faith to God’s promises fulfilled. We have God’s Word, the Bible through which God gives us all His good gifts and blessings. God gives us His all and He gives us a whole lot more.
 
There are many in our world today who do not know God and His good gifts and blessings. And remember, God’s salvation is for all people of all times of all places. His salvation is for us, but it is not for us to keep to ourselves. His salvation is for us to make know to others. As we reach the end of this church year and as we know that the end of the world cannot be far away, we will want to work with expediency to share God’s word of salvation with others.
 
Are you ready? Are you ready to meet the Lord? That really is what this day and what our lessons for today are asking. Are we ready? If we are not ready then we need to get ready. We get ready by making use of the means that God uses to get us ready, His Word and His Sacraments. We get ready by changing our habits, by reading God’s Word, by remembering our Baptism, by making use of confession and absolution, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, by making church attendance a priority and a regular habit, by attending Bible class, and by having personal and family devotions, by not refusing God’s gifts which we do by responding with our giving, ourselves first and then all other parts of our lives. If we are ready, praise the Lord. If we are ready, we show our readiness by the expediency with which we live our lives. My pray is that the Lord will stir in Your heart, so that if you are not ready, He will make you ready and if you are ready, He will work through your readiness so that others might come to know Him as well. And above all, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Where Are You? - November 21, 2018 - Thanksgiving Eve - Text: Luke 17:11-19

This evening we come to say “thank you,” which is something I pray we do every day. This evening we take the time to come, and with special emphases, we say “thank you,” as we celebrate a national day of giving thanks. “Thank you,” is not naturally in our vocabulary. I remember as a child and now that I have I children I am again reminded of that constant reminder when someone gives you a gift, “what do you say?” “Thank you.” Our text for this evening is the Gospel lesson and the all familiar historical account of the ten lepers, but before you drift off into thinking about who will win the football game, or how much still needs to be done before the guests arrive, when to put the turkey in the oven, or the side dishes, let us keep our ears and minds open to what really happened in the account of the ten lepers.
One day Jesus was on His way from Samaria to Galilee. Somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, as He was going on His way, ten men who had leprosy met Him. At this point in the narrative we are not told of their nationality we are simply told of their disease, leprosy. Like many diseases even today, diseases such as cancer, leprosy was a disease that was no respecter of persons, that is it had no cultural or national boundaries and actually if leprosy did  anything it united those who would have otherwise been divided. A leper was a person who had a skin disease that was so bad and so infectious that they had to live separate from the rest of the community. They had to live outside of town. The person with leprosy was literally rotting to death and for the safety of others they must yell “unclean, unclean,” when anyone came near, in order to warn them to stay away lest they might get this dreaded, fatal disease. Not much was known about the disease, how it was communicated from one person to another so lepers were not allowed contact with the rest of the world. Certainly these lepers lead very lonely, deary lives. Their only companions would be other lepers.
What is evident from the response of the lepers to Jesus coming is that they must have at least heard of Him or heard about Him, even if they did not necessarily believe that He was the Messiah. It is evident that they had heard of His ability to cure and heal so that when He did come into town they cried out to Him for healing. Well, even if one did not believe, the rest did and besides, what could it hurt to try? Notice that their felt need was to be healed. They believed they needed physical healing and that is what they asked, for physical healing from leprosy.
Although their desire was for physical healing their cry was a cry for mercy, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Now notice what Jesus does on His part. He does not wave His hands around or up in the air. He does not put His hand on their head and push them over. He does not say, “Be healed” (said in a deep “faith healing” voice). Instead, He simply asks them to demonstrate their faith. He says, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” Why should they go and show themselves to the priest? They were to show themselves to the priest because he was the one who could announce that they were clean and no longer infected with leprosy. He was the one who could give them back their lives. But they were leprous. Perhaps the question on their mind was, should they go? Did they believe that Jesus healed them?
Now, we may want to pause here in this account and make sure that we understand it was not their own personal faith that healed them. Many times Jesus healed people and although, as here, He alludes to faith making them well, it is not one’s faith in Jesus that brings healing. Certainly that would limit God’s power. Their healing was effected by God. And actually, it was their healing that effected faith in their hearts. In other words, Jesus’ healing the lepers is what confirmed Jesus as God and is what confirmed their faith. Remember, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Jesus is the one who tells them to go and show themselves as being healed, thus speaking faith into their hearts.
Getting back to our narrative, on their way to show themselves to the priest they are healed, all ten of them, but only one man notices. Or at least only one man notices and returns to Jesus to give Him thanks. When he gets to Jesus, he throws himself at Jesus’ feet, a sign of unworthiness and our text adds that “he was a Samaritan,” that is, he was a foreigner. Now we get to this social, national distinction. Again, as a leper this social/national barrier was knocked down, but now that they are healed it comes back into play. Actually, Jesus uses this social/national distinction to strike at His fellow Israelites for their thinking more highly of themselves. Jesus asks (rhetorically) “where are the other nine?” And He tells the man that his faith has saved him, saved him as in healing him and saved him for eternal life. Pointing to Jesus we might suggest that this man had faith, saving faith, that was given to him by Jesus and confirmed in his being healed. The other nine believed more in the healing than in the healer.
Now, that is a nice historic narrative and a nice account for celebrating a national day of Thanksgiving, a nice reminder to us to be thankful. Yes, we know that Thanksgiving is not necessarily a religious holiday, rather it is a secular holiday. Yet, we might compare this secular holiday to the Old Testament festival of Pentecost which was a harvest festival. And as Christians, certainly our desire should be to be on the forefront of thankfulness and demonstrating that thankfulness. But, we might ask, how does it relate to our own lives?
In a very real way we are like the ten lepers. We are sick, spiritually sick. We are full of sin, enemies of God, we are outcasts, leading lonely, dreary lives. We know we are in need of healing, especially in need of spiritual healing.
And we know Jesus. We know even more than the lepers knew about Jesus. We have hind sight. We can look back and know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. We know that He did live perfectly for us, in our place, as our substitute, because we cannot be perfect as God demands. We know that Jesus did take all our sins upon Himself, that He did suffer and die the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell for us in our place, that He did rise and ascend into heaven. We know that He did send His Holy Spirit to be with us to guide and lead us in life. We are continually reminded of all that Jesus did for us; all that He still continues to do for us; and all the He will do for us especially as He comes to us through the means of grace. As we read His Word we meet Him. As we make regular and diligent use of reading our Bibles we meet Him. As we come to Bible class and divine service we meet Him. As we read our Bibles we meet Him. As we remember our Baptism, as we partake of the Lord’s body and blood in His holy supper, as we confess our sins and hear His most beautiful words of absolution He gives us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Jesus comes to us daily and weekly through His means of grace. Daily we are confronted with the question, do we believe? The temptations of the world are to put our trust in the creation rather than the Creator. Do we see Jesus’ hand in all things in life? Do we notice His good gifts and blessings? Each new day, the rain, the ability to work, the gifts, talents and abilities to work, good health to work, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the roof over our heads and so on. Do we believe these are from our good and gracious God or that somehow we may have earned them, even a little?
Are we the one about whom Jesus asks “where are the others to whom I have given life?” Do we forget, or maybe we should ask, how often do we forget to give our Lord the thanks and praise He deserves. Or are we the one who came, throwing ourselves at Jesus’ feet in unworthiness and thanking Him for all His good gifts and blessings? Do we live for the creation or for the Creator? My prayer is that we are all like the foreigner.
Yet, whether we are like the foreigner or one of the nine, the fact remains that even for us, Jesus has given us healing, perfect healing through the forgiveness of sins which He earned for us and which He gives to us through His means of grace. He gives us perfect healing with forgiveness, He gives us faith and we know that we are saved. Thanks be to God.
Thanksgiving is a time to be like the leper who returned to give thanks, but not just at Thanksgiving, but all year long. As God has given to us, we respond, with His help in giving thanks to Him. We respond by speaking and singing words of thanks and praise. We respond by giving of our time, talents and treasure, as we are moved by the Lord to do so. We respond by simply offering ourselves and our lives to the Lord and living our life to His glory. We respond by being in Divine Service where the Lord pours out on us and gives us even more of the gifts He has to give the greatest gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. I thank the Lord that you have come and began your Thanksgiving by coming here first and recognizing and giving thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts and blessings. My pray is that the Lord will continue to work through His means of grace to strengthen and keep you in faith and that He will continue to bless you as you give yourself back to Him. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About the Holy Spirit)

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason our 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. This is most certainly true.
Simply stated we believe that the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, undivided in the Holy Trinity. We ascribe to the Holy Spirit the work of sanctification which is that work of giving faith, strengthening faith, and keeping in faith. Also included in sanctification is the work of making us holy as it is described and that is done by reminding us of our sins and Jesus’ forgiveness. Thus, He points to Jesus. He gives faith through the means of the Gospel and Holy Baptism. He enlightens and strengthens faith, also through the means of grace stated in particular; the remembrance of one’s baptism, the Word, the Lord’s Supper and forgiveness through Confession and Absolution. He gives, strengthens and keeps in faith the whole Christian church on earth.
As we grow in our faith we do not become more and more holy so as to mentor others, rather we become more and more conscious of our sins and our need to repent so that as Dr. Luther said, we realize that we are beggars before God. As we confess so we are forgiven and with forgiveness is life and salvation. Thus, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
43 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Good Works)

So one church says that you are saved by faith and good works and another church says you are saved by faith and making a decision for Jesus. Both of these churches are saying the same thing that is that it is not faith alone that saves a person but faith plus something added. Now we understand that when it comes to the gifts of God He does not do fractions or math. He does not say I will give you some of my gifts now and more later on certain conditions. No, God gives us the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. Nor does God do addition such as faith plus anything will save you. As we learn in math class, zero plus anything is the anything, no longer the zero. So it is with God’s grace, which is gift. Grace, faith, plus anything is no longer grace and faith, but the anything, be that the works or the decision, which is a work.

As God tells us through the Apostle Paul, “8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Our works are a result and sign of faith which God works in and through us, thus not only is our faith a gift from God so are our works. Both faith and works flow from outside of us and point to Jesus. To point to self is to negate the gift God gives. This pointing to self would be like one being given a present and claiming that they had something to do with getting the present that is no gift but earned reward.

Let us not confuse good works in God’s eyes that are not the same as civil righteousness which might be done by anyone but is done for the good of all and normally points to the one doing the good work. Civil good works are good and important but do not flow from faith which is why it is not a good work in God’s eyes. Good works that are truly good works are motivated by God, worked in and through us by God and are done to His glory.

 God gives and we are given to and we rejoice with thanks and praise as He moves us to give thanks and praise. And because our good works flow from faith, very often we are not even aware when we do a good work.
42 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Giving in Faith - November 11, 2018 - Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) - Text: 1 Kings 17:8-16

Today is the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. Today is also what at one time was referred to as the third last Sunday of the Church year, meaning that after today there are only two Sundays left in our current church year. It is at this time of the year, as we move to the end of our church year, that we are often reminded that our time on this earth is short. And certainly, when compared with eternity, our time is very short. We do not know who much time we have on this earth. We do not know when we will die. We do not know when the Lord will return. Thus, we are reminded of the importance of what is important. We are reminded of the importance of making sure we are ready, ready for our last hour, or ready for the Lord’s return. Because, ready or not, He will return, or we will go to Him. And I would suggest that both of those times are sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine.
 
How do we make sure we are ready? As we said last week, we make sure we are ready by making regular and diligent use of those means the Lord has given us to get us ready, His Word and sacraments. Thus, it is not really we who make ourselves ready, but it is the Lord, working through His means of grace, who gets us ready. Our text for this morning gives us an indication of our readiness by helping us to understand how we keep the first commandment, having no other gods before the one true God, by our fear, love and trust in God above all things, even and including trusting in ourselves. So, let us get to our text.
 
Our text is one in which we see how God is God and how He does care for His people, providing for all our needs. Notice, I said needs, not necessarily wants. In our text we see God taking care of His servant Elijah as well as the widow and her son. In the account before our text we read the account of God taking care of Elijah by his being fed by ravens, until the river dried up. In our text we are told that Elijah is instructed by God to go to Zarephath for the Lord to continue caring for him there. So, instead of being fed by the Lord by ravens, he will now be fed by the Lord through the widow of Zarephath.
 
Notice, as God takes care of His servant Elijah, He is also taking care of the widow and her son. As the account goes, there has been a drought on the land and the drought has been so bad that the supply of food has diminished to almost nothing. The widow has no husband to care for her and evidently her son is not old enough to care for her, so she is left to care for herself and for her son. By the time Elijah arrives on the scene the widow has nothing left except enough flour and oil to make one last meal for herself and her son. Her idea is that she will cook this last meal and then she and her son will settle in to starve to death. That is her plan.
 
Before she could carry out her plan, the Lord sent Elijah. He sent Elijah so that He, the Lord, might take care of Elijah and so that He might also take care of the widow and her son. You might remember that Jesus upset the Pharisees when He reminded them that God could have sent Elijah to one of many starving widows in Israel, but because of their lack of faith, because of their faithlessness, He sent Elijah to the believing widow in the foreign town of Zarephath.
 
As Elijah approached the widow, who was about to make her last meal and die, Elijah asked her to give him some water. Evidently water was not as scarce as food, so she went to get him some water. As she was going to get the water, he asked her to bring him something to eat. At this point she reveals to him her intentions, to bake her last meal and die. Elijah instructs her with words from the Lord, that is that she should first tend to his need, that she should first give him something to eat, and he gives God’s promise that if she does give him to eat first, that she and her son will not have to worry about food until after the drought is over and there is food in the land. As a matter of fact God’s promise is that the jar of flour and the jar of oil will not run out until the day the Lord sends rain. This is a test of faith for the widow, to not believe Elijah and God, and eat her last meal, or to believe and give up her last meal. The widow believed Elijah and God and gave first to the Lord and His servant Elijah.
 
This was indeed a testing of her faith. She, shall we say, passed the test and God’s promise came about, her flour and oil did not run out. As we are continually reminded, God’s Word does what it says.
 
Interestingly enough our Old Testament Lesson ties in very well to our Gospel Lesson for today. In our Gospel lesson we are pointed to a widow, very much like the widow of Zarephath. We are told by Jesus that this widow was also at the end of her physical provisions. She had only two small copper coins and we are not told if she had any expectation of gaining any more money to purchase food to eat.
 
Jesus points out this widow who had nothing in contrast to those who had everything but were living in spiritual poverty. This widow understood and believed that all things begin with and are first given by God. Remember a couple weeks ago when we were reminded that we enter this world with nothing and we leave this world with nothing, so nothing is truly ours. Everything we amass in this world is simply on loan to us from God. Very often there is the discussion concerning how much we should return to God from what He has first given to us. Should we return ten percent, and is that before or after taxes. Perhaps instead of asking how much we should return or give back to God, maybe the question we might ask ourselves is how much should we keep for ourselves. This widow, in faith and trust, knowing and believing that what she had was first given to her by God and knowing and believing that He would continue to take care of her, she gave first to the Lord and she gave everything she had. She kept nothing for herself.
 
Again, this widow knew that all that she had came from the Lord who has promised to take care of all our needs. She had all her needs taken care of, given to her by the Lord. So, she gave the rest back to Him. Talk about faith.
 
But, what about us? Do we recognize that all that we have, all our gifts, talents, abilities to work, a job to work, are all gifts from God? Or do we believe we have done it ourselves? Certainly we talk about our house and our car, our this and our that, as if these things are ours. But are they truly ours, or is everything we have merely on loan while we live in this world. Remember, what we are born with and what we take with us when we die, that is what is truly ours. Everything else in this world is God’s, created by God, sustained and preserved by God, and loaned to us to use while we are here on His earth.
 
So, when we give, do we give as an offering to the poor? Do we give as for a collection for those we believe have less? Do we give because we think God needs something from us? Do we give out of a sense of guilt? Do we give because we think we have to? Do we give from our poverty, all that we have left, or do we begrudgingly give from our wealth? I am sure you have all heard the old encouragement, “give until it hurts.” Might I suggest that for some, it always hurts to give. Instead of giving until it hurts, I would suggest giving until it feels good. And please, do not give begrudgingly, remember as Paul tells us, God loves a cheerful giver.
 
Do we truly believe that all that we have is a gift from God? Do we believe God has provided and will continue to provide for all our needs, and is this faith more than merely lip service? In other words are we like the person who was afraid to give of their first fruits because perhaps next week might not be as good a week so we better keep some back just in case. If we truly believe that God has provided for all our needs to this point why is it so difficult to believe that He will continue to do so?
 
As we look at this world in which we live, a world that has been tainted by sin since the Garden of Eden, as we look at this world we can see that God does provide. God does give. God gives to the just and to the unjust. When it rains it does not simply rain on the just, but it rains on the just and the unjust. When people succeed, according to man’s definition of success, it is not only the just who succeed, but the unjust as well. God provides for the needs of all regardless of whether they know and believe in Him or not.
 
God gives us all that we need. His first and greatest gift is forgiveness. As you have heard me say time and again, our greatest need is forgiveness of sins, because without forgiveness we remain in our sins and if we remain in our sins then we would be eternally condemned, but with forgiveness if life and salvation. Our greatest need is forgiveness and we see this demonstrated time and again in the Gospels when the first thing Jesus gives to those who approach Him for any number of reasons, the first thing Jesus gives is forgiveness of sins.
 
Not only does God give us forgiveness, He also promises to always provide all we need. Here in America, because we are so blessed, perhaps we have a hard time distinguishing between needs and want. Do we need for everyone in this country to have a phone? Does everyone need six, seven, ten or more pairs of shoes, pairs of pants, shirts, and so forth? Do we all really need a computer and TV in every room of the house? Do we really need the latest and greatest technological gadget? And believe me, I am right there with the rest of the world, I like to be on the cutting edge, but is this something I need, or is it just a want. We are getting close to Christmas and I am sure we will be hearing more and more in the days to come, especially from our children. “Mom, Dad, I need the latest and greatest toy, computer game, video game, etc.”
 
God provides us with all that we truly need, beginning with forgiveness of sins. God provides for us gifts, talents and abilities as well as a job to work to earn a living to put food on our table, a roof over our heads, shoes on our feet and clothes on our backs. God provides for all our needs and here in America I know that He gives us all that we need and even more, so much so that He gives us many of our wants and more than we should want.
 
Not only does God provide for all our needs, He also stirs in us a response of faith. We give thanks, we return a portion, not because we are innately good and because this responses comes natural, but because He moves and stirs in us to respond. Much like a parent urging his child, so our Lords moves and stirs in us, “What do you say?” “Thank you.” Our Lord stirs our response of faith so that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace and so that we return a portion to Him knowing and trusting that we cannot out give Him, that He gives or rather loans to us in the first place and that He will continue to pour out on us all that we need and even more than we might imagine.
 
As usual, here again we are remind that it all begins with God. God does and gives and we are done to and given to. What a great God we have. What a gift giving God we have.
 
As we approach the end of this current church year I would encourage you to make sure you are ready. And to know that you know you are ready as the Lord has His way with you, as the Lord makes and keeps you ready. God loves you very much and this is seen in the fact that He has, does and will always provide for all your needs and in the fact that He gave the life of His Son for you for your forgiveness and guarantee of eternal life with Him in heaven. What more is there to do except give Him praise and glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Martin Luther)

Born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, Martin Luther began his education in law and liberal arts. Being raised a good Roman Catholic he had a fear of God and death believing that God hated him and that he would have to spend time in purgatory after he died in order to work his way to heaven. Because of his fear of death and fear of God, following a lightening storm incident he vowed to become a monk. He entered the Augustinian order with the thought that if he could isolate himself from the world he could be a better person and earn God’s favor.

As an Augustinian Luther studied and became a priest and later earned his Doctorate Degree. As he continued to study the Bible, he learned that God was a loving and forgiving God whose desire was to love and forgive him.

At this time the Pope was seeking to raise funds to build St. Peter’s Basilica and to do so he issued the decree for the selling of indulgences. An indulgence was a way that for a price one could have their sins paid for. Martin Luther knew that this was not right and so he wrote ninety-five statements for debate and petitioned the Pope to look into this matter. Unfortunately, he did not realize that the Pope was behind this matter.

Two important points came from Luther. One was the understanding that we get our theology, our faith right when we point to Jesus. And the second was his fight for the authority of the Word of God, over against the fallible word of man.

Luther’s desire to reform his church, never to leave it, touched many other aspects of life, including finance, education, government as well as theology. Luther had no desire to leave the church, nor have a church body named after him, which as is usually the case what was done as an insult.

Today we honor Martin Luther for his work of fighting for the authority of the Word of God and for his work of pointing us to Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith, for reminding us that we are saved because Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose for us and because He gives us faith.
41 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Lutheran Difference - Creeds, Prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer

“We do not believe in creeds,” is a lousy creed. “Deeds, not creeds,” is another pretty lousy creed. These statements and statements like them, unfortunately spoken by some Christian churches, show the ineptitude of those who do not understand what creeds are and their purpose. A creed is, simply stated, a statement of faith. Most creeds were written in order to correct a heresy, a false or misleading tenet of faith, so that what the Christian church truly believes is rightly stated. Interestingly enough, those who reject creeds, more often than not, do not have a problem signing a statement of faith which many people are now asked to sign when joining some Christian or quasi-Christian organizations. As Lutheran Christians, our statement of faith is the Book of Concord which contains the creedal statements of our Church body, the three Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed), Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, the Smacald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope and the Formula of Concord. All point to what we believe in Scripture and ultimately pointing to Jesus and Jesus alone. As Lutheran Christians, we believe that we are in true doctrinal fellowship when we agree on most all articles of faith, not simply agreeing to disagree. Our statement of faith, the Book of Concord, covers all the essential articles of faith and rightly defines who we are, what we believe and why we believe what we believe.

“The only real prayers are prayers that come from the heart.” That statement, unfortunately some Christian churches also say, shows a misunderstanding of what is prayer. Unlike a creed, which, as we said, is a statement of what one believes and can be a prayer itself, a prayer is simply a heart-to-heart talk with God, anytime and anywhere. As Lutheran Christians we rejoice that we can pray spontaneous prayers, as well as, previously written prayers especially the greatest prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. Indeed, those who believe that real prayers are only those made up at the time, (spontaneous prayers), very often fail to accept the Lord’s Prayer as a true prayer and thus miss out on the greatest prayer ever prayed and taught to the Apostles and to us. What makes a prayer is not its spontaneity but the thoughts of those praying. The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest and best prayer because it is the pray that Jesus used to teach us how to pray. And just as we worship best when we say back to God the very words He has given us to say as we do in our liturgy every Sunday, so we pray best when we pray back to God the very prayer He has given us to pray. The Lord rejoices to hear us pray His Word back to Him.

Again, what makes a prayer a prayer is the thought of the one praying. Certainly, any memorized prayer simply spoken with no thought is not a true prayer. And much like a musician, an athlete, an artist of any kind will practice and practice to get better, so we memorize and pray the same prayer over and over, not as a pious repetition of words, but in a thoughtful manner so that what we pray becomes a part of what we live and believe. There is the Latin adage, “lex orandi, lex credendi” which loosely translated means “the law of praying [is] the law of believing” meaning prayer leads to belief. And the opposite is also true, as one believes so one prays (we pray as we believe), the two go hand in hand like doctrine (what one believes) and practice (how one does what one believes). So, as we memorize Bible passages, as we memorize the liturgy in Divine Service, so we memorize prayers so they become a part of us so that we are able to concentrate on and think about the very words we are speaking in prayer. Which also means that we may pray our Creed as a prayer, speaking such words of faith back to God who has given us such faith.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb - November 4, 2018 - All Saints’ Day (Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost) - Text: Revelation 7:(2-8) 9-17

Although today is the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, because All Saints Day was Thursday, this morning we take the time to celebrate All Saints Day. Please understand that when we celebrate all saints day, we are not worshiping, nor are we praising all the saints who have gone on before us, instead we are placing their lives before us as examples of how we are to live our lives, that is that we are to live lives of faith so that others see our faith and give praise to God for our faith as well. Remember, as Lutherans we understand that we are at the same time sinners and saints. By faith in Jesus Christ, faith given to us at our Baptism or faith given to us through the Word of God, we are redeemed, we have been purchased, we are saved, yes, we are saints. At the same time, while we remain on this earth we continue to sin and so we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Thus we understand, we believe, teach and confess that we are at the same time sinner saints.
 
Our text for this morning is from the book of Revelation, and notice this is not a book of revelations, plural, but is one revelation. Revelation is a look into heaven and a look into what our last days on earth and our first days in heaven will be like. As we look into heaven we see the enumerable number of people in heaven. We see them wearing white robes and holding palm branches. We hear them speak. We see how, even John, is unable to answer the question from God concerning what he is seeing, so he refers the question back to God answering, “Sir, you know.” John’s answer reminds us that we do not need to know all the answers to all the questions about the Bible, rather we need to realize that God is so much bigger than we are and He does know all the answers. Which in turn encourages us to continue steadfast in the Apostles’ Doctrine to learn more about Him and be strengthened in our faith.
 
Our text begins with John telling us that he sees “a great multitude that no one could number.” These words remind us that the reference to 144,000 which is the number Revelation speaks about being the number in heaven, this number is not an actual counting figure, not an actual number one can count, but it is a symbolic figure. In this instance the 144,000 means the Old Testament believers from the twelve tribes of Israel times (X) twelve, (v. 8-10) or 12,000 x 12, the number 144,000. When we understand that the true Israel, the true Children of Abraham, Children of God includes all believers in Jesus then we might better understand that this 144,000 includes all the Old Testament believers from the twelve tribes of Israel times (X) the New Testament believers from the twelve apostles times (X) the number of completion, ten, cubed (v.9-10). In other words, 12 x 12 x 1000, the number 144,000 is what John is seeing, but even more, suggesting that this number is not an actual counting number but that this is a great multitude, all believers who ever lived, from Old and New Testament times. Indeed, everyone who believes in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is included in the great multitude, and in the 144,000. We, you and I, are included in that 144,000.
 
Their words, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (V. 10b) reminds us that salvation is given by God to those who believe. Notice who is doing what? Salvation is not something we get. It is not something we earn. It is not something we claim for ourselves. Salvation belongs to God. Our salvation was earned by Him and it is given out by Him. It is given to us by Him through His means of grace through faith in Jesus. God is the one doing the doing and we are the ones being done to.
 
The words of the great multitude is followed by a word by the angels, elders and four living creatures, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (v. 12). We are told that “they fell down on their faces before the throne.” They fell down in fear, in awe and in respect. They fell down in worship. In the Old Testament we are often told of people falling prostrate before the Lord, or a king or whoever. To fall prostrate means to fall on your face, completely flat, face down on the ground. This is a posture of complete submission. Thus, even the angels, elders and four living creatures recognize Jesus as Lord and fall down in complete submission to Him.
 
They worshiped and said “Amen!” They spoke the word which reminds us that God is faithful. In His faithfulness He remembered His promise to send a Savior, Christ the Lord. In His faithfulness Jesus was born as a baby, a human being, as one of us. In His faithfulness Jesus lived a perfect life. He obeyed all God’s laws perfectly. He fulfilled all God’s commands, perfectly. In His faithfulness He lived His life for us, as our substitute. In His faithfulness Jesus took all our sins upon Himself. In His faithfulness Jesus gave His life for ours on the cross, suffering the price for our sins. In His faithfulness Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith, to give us faith, and to keep us in faith until He comes again.
 
They speak a sevenfold word of praise. This sevenfold word of praise is very similar to their previous sevenfold chorus of praise and it is a word of complete praise.
 
John is then questioned by one of the elders. The elder asks, “These in the white robes—who are they, and where did they come from”(v. 12-17)? John rightly answers, “Sir, you know.” John does not know and so he turns the question back to the man who asked so that he might get an answer. The answer is that they are those who have suffered for their faith. The word that is used for tribulation is the same word that Jesus used when He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we are to take heart, because He has overcome the world. This trouble, this tribulation that we suffer is what we have suffered since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. To be a Christian means that you inevitably suffer trials and tribulations.
 
You might think of it this way, the devil does not spend time working on those he already has. He spends his time working on those he does not have. Which means that if you are not having troubles in this world, if you are not having tribulation, if you are not suffering from the trials and tribulations of the devil you might want to take a hard look at yourself to make sure that he does not have you already [smile :)]. And this does not mean the troubles, the trials and tribulations we bring on ourselves, which we do because of our sinful nature.
 
The elder continues by saying that these are they who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” It is faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, the shedding of His blood that brings the white robes of righteousness. By faith in Jesus, we stand before God in His perfection, washed in His blood, robed in His white robes of righteousness.
 
“Therefore,” the elder says, meaning, as a result of Jesus’ redeeming work, because Jesus shed His blood on the cross, by faith in Him, faith given by God, therefore, salvation comes to those who believe. The perfect bliss of the redeemed people of God is described in the next series of ten statements. Remember too, that the number ten is the number of completeness and so we are reminded by these ten statements that there is complete release from all evil and complete fullness of joy which is ours, given to us by God.
 
The first three lines describe the blessedness of the redeemed who stand in the presence of God spending their days and nights in service to Him. Their service is a worship service, a time spent in praise and adoration to Jesus. While we are on earth it is most important and necessary that we come to the Lord’s House, to divine service first and foremost to be given to by God. It is only as we are given to by God that we can respond with lives of faith. In heaven we will be perfected and so we will be able to offer a service of worship, worthy of our Creator God.
 
The next four lines speak about the freedom we Christians will have in heaven from the effects of sin. The curse which was placed on all creation in the Garden of Eden is now broken. In heaven there is no hunger, no thirst, no being beaten down by the sun. In heaven there is no sorrow or sadness, only joy and rejoicing. In heaven we will eat eternal manna and drink of the river of pleasure forever.
 
The final three lines describe heaven in positive terms. We are reminded first that Jesus is the Good Shepherd as John reminds us in His Gospel. Jesus compares us to His sheep and He is our Shepherd. He leads us beside the quiet waters as we read in the Psalms. Jesus is the living water. We are Baptized into faith through water. We need water to live. Jesus is that living water for us. And with God there will be no suffering, no more tears. Heaven is a place of complete and unending joy.
 
This morning as we get another glimpse of heaven. We are reminded that heaven is a gift, given by God, earned by Jesus’ death on the cross and the shedding of His blood. We are reminded that heaven is a place of forever joy. And we are reminded that heaven is a place of forever worship.
 
The question we might ask ourselves this week is “are we ready?” If you ask young people “are you ready to go to heaven?” Many times you will get the answer, “Yes, I am ready, but I would rather grow up before I go.” How often do we find ourselves answering in like manner. “I think I am ready for Jesus to come again, but I would rather get done doing the things I think I need to do here on earth.” I think that answer begs the question even more. Are we ready? Are we ready if we believe that there is more for us to do on this earth than to get ourselves ready for Jesus’ to come? Or to get ourselves ready for our going to Him, which might be sooner than His coming to us. And maybe we need to spend time getting others ready as well. I wonder if we are ready as we continue to keep our focus on the things of this world instead of on things heavenward.
 
How do we get ourselves ready? We get ourselves ready by making regular and diligent use of those means through which our Lord gives to us and uses to get us ready, His means of grace. In other words, it is not so much we who get ourselves ready, but it is the Lord who gets us ready. He gets us ready by our remembering our Baptism. He gets us ready by our confessing our sins and hearing His most beautify words of forgiveness. He gets us ready by our hearing and reading His Word, by our having personal and family devotions, by our being in divine service and Bible Class. He gets us ready as we come to His table, where He is the host and the meal, where He offers and gives to us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins and for strengthening of faith.
 
When I was attending the Seminary, one of my classes followed chapel. Every morning we had chapel at 9 a.m. It was a short service in which we heard the Word of God and sang some hymns. Our professor noticed that some of the men from our class were not making it to chapel, but were missing for some reason. He chastened us one morning by using the following words, “Gentlemen, receive the gifts.” So, too, I come to you and as I come to you I ask you to share these words with those who are not here. Ladies and gentlemen, receive the gifts. Because it is only through the gifts God gives, the gifts of His Word and Sacraments that He can prepare us for Jesus’ coming and/or our going to Him. And now more than ever is the time to be prepared. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.