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


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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Jesus (Divine and Human))

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord” (Explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism).

Jesus Christ is truly God. He was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world. He was seen at times in His pre-incarnate  flesh in the Old Testament. He is the Word about which John talks in his Gospel (“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3)). Jesus is God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, inseparable and equal.

Jesus is also truly human born of the human woman, the virgin Mary. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Thus, Jesus was 100 percent God and 100 percent man.

Because humans bare the imperfect trait of sin from our human parents, Jesus had to be God in order to be born in perfection. Jesus was conceived in His human mother by the Holy Spirit making His conception a perfect conception of God in human flesh.

Jesus had to be born as a human in order to be able to trade, substitute, redeem our life for His. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament merely pointed to the once, for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, human death, thus it was only a human death, the death of God in flesh, the death of the man Jesus that would satisfy the price for man’s sin.

Jesus was and is truly human and divine, God in flesh, perfect and holy who lived for us, took our sins, suffered and died for us. Jesus rose from the dead, defeating sin, death and the devil. And now He lives and reigns at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us, as God in flesh.
35 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - Introduction)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Your God Will Come - September 9, 2018 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18) - Text: Isaiah 35:4-7a

Our text for this morning gives us a pause in the season of Pentecost. We have a pause to look back and see where we have been and to look forward and see what awaits us. At this point we are a little over half way through the non-festival portion of our church year and in particular the Pentecost Season. The non-festival portion of our church year is that part which does not have any big celebrations, like Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ascension. Our text is one of proleptic prophecy, that is, it is a text that points not only to the first coming of the Messiah, but also to His second coming.
Our text begins with the promise of the coming of the Lord. We begin at verse four, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘“Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’”(v. 4).
Just over eight months ago we celebrated Jesus’ first coming. We celebrated the coming of the baby in Bethlehem. We celebrated the birth of God in human flesh, the birth of the Messiah. In a little less than four months we will celebrate Jesus’ birth again. Why do we celebrate each year? Is it because we do not get it right each time and we have to do it until we get it right? No! Do we celebrate each year because we are creatures of habit? Yes, we are creatures of habit, but that is not the reason we celebrate each year. Do we celebrate because we like to get presents? Yes, we do like to get presents, but that is not the reason we celebrate each year. We celebrate each year because we need the constant reminder, lest we forget, that Jesus is true God, born as a true man to give His life for ours. You might imagine that we celebrate each year because we are very much like the children of Israel, we too constantly forget our Lord, all that He has done, all that He continues to do and all that He has promised to do for us. We tend to forget the good gifts and blessings He gives and very often that leads to neglecting His means of grace, the ways in which He gives us His good gifts and blessings. Yes, we celebrate each year, we have the church year calender, we go through the life and times of Jesus continually lest we forget.
Just about five months ago we celebrated, and yes I will use the word celebrate, we celebrated Jesus’ death on the cross. We celebrated that the judgement of sin, the price for sin, which is death, which was our judgement, fell on Jesus. We celebrated that Jesus died the eternal death penalty for us in our place. But, even more so, we rejoiced and celebrated three days later when He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil. We will again celebrate His death and resurrection in the coming year for the same reasons we celebrate His birth, because we need the constant reminder of the fact that it was our sins that put Him on the cross and it was for our sins that He died. And because He died, we now have forgiveness. Let me pause here for a moment. I hope you have been noticing, as I tell you all the time, we get it right when we point, not to ourselves, but to Jesus, just Jesus. Have you noticed how our church year cycle points us away from ourselves, except the part about the fact that it was and is because of us and our sin that Jesus was born, lived, suffered, died and rose for us, that the church year cycle points us to Jesus. It points us to celebrate Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit for us.
We are a little over half way through the Pentecost season. In November we will get to the third, second, and last Sunday’s of this current church year. These Sundays have Scripture readings that especially focus on Jesus’ second coming and Judgement Day. Judgement day is the day that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Those who have faith in Him He will judge to eternal life in heaven and those who are unbelievers will be judge to eternal life in hell.
For the believer, for us Christians, we will be given heaven. Actually, heaven is our now, it is just that we will not move in until that time. For the unbeliever, the judgement of eternal spiritual death will fall on them, because they have refused the Lord’s gift of Jesus’ life for theirs. And notice, Jesus died for all people, of all places of all times. Forgiveness is already there. It is those who refuse and reject Jesus and His forgiveness that inherit eternal spiritual death.
Our text continues with the works the Lord will do. We pick up at verse five, “5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” (v. 5-7a).
Isaiah uses similar imagery to what Jesus uses in the New Testament. Isaiah tells us that there will be spiritual healing for those who are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. This spiritual healing comes by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and is ours beginning at our baptism. This spiritual healing begins with the forgiveness of sins, which is our greatest need.
There will also be physical healing. We know that Jesus came healing and doing miracles. He came doing signs and wonders as proof of His Divinity, that is that He is truly God. He came for those who are blind and deaf and handicapped. Yes, miracles do still happen in our world today. They do not necessarily happen in a spectacular way, but that does not mean that God could not do it that way. Today our Lord works mainly through means. Through the means of doctors and medicines the Lord does healing. I hate to tell you, but not every spectacular healing you see on TV is real. We do continue to believe in miracles today as there are times that the only explanation for a person being healed is a miracle.
At His second coming Jesus will bring spiritual healing, the greatest spiritual healing, complete spiritual healing. He will bring a new heaven and a new earth. The old heaven and earth, full of sin and unbelief will be destroyed and we will be given a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
This spiritual healing will bring physical healing. Paul reminds us that even the earth is waiting for the coming of the Lord. The earth is groaning as it too has been suffering since the fall. The new earth will not have thorns and thistles, weeds and worts. The new earth will not have tornadoes and earthquakes, hurricanes and landslides. The new earth will be a place of complete perfection, joy and happiness, something none of us ever has nor ever will experience while living in this world today. Indeed, this new heaven and earth, this spiritual healing is something we look forward to and even encourage and embrace as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” and “come Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
As I said earlier, today is a day to look at where we have been. We have been to Bethlehem. We have seen Jesus’ birth. We have been to the fields of Bethlehem and witnessed the angels telling the good news to the shepherds. We have been to the house with the magi to see the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given to the baby Jesus, the One who was born to be our prophet, priest and King.
We have seen Jesus’ life, His perfect life. We saw Him at the age of twelve talking with the teachers in His Father’s house, the temple. We heard the Words of God the Father at His baptism when He said, “this is my beloved Son.” We witnessed His defeat of the devil as with His Word He refused to succumb to the temptations of the devil in the wilderness. We were with Him as He chose His disciples and as He appointed the twelve to be Apostles. We were with Him as He struggled in the garden praying, not His will, but the Father’s will be done. We were with Him before Pilate and Herod. We were with Him as He was whipped by the soldiers, as they hit Him, mocked Him, and spit on Him.
And we have been to the cross and seen Jesus’ death. We witnessed the darkness cover the land. We witnessed Him breath His last. We witnessed the curtain in the temple tear in two from top to bottom. We witnessed the centurion confess, “truly this was the Son of God.” We witnessed His burial and we witnessed His rising from the dead on Easter morning.
Now, where we are going? We are looking forward. We are looking forward to see Jesus come again. We are eagerly preparing ourselves as we await His second coming. We prepare ourselves by making use of His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. We prepare ourselves by our own personal reading of God’s Word, by having private and family devotions, by being in Divine Service and in Bible study, and by remembering our Baptism, by confessing our sins and hearing His words of Absolution, that our sins are forgiven, and by partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper.
We eagerly await and look forward to the time when we will see Jesus come to rightly judge the world. We look forward in anticipation because we know that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, faith He has given to us, we are already judged to eternal life with Him in heaven.
Thus we eagerly await Jesus’ second coming when He will come to take us to live with Himself forever in heaven. We eagerly await the time when Jesus will take us to dine with Him at the eternal banqueting table where we will eat eternal manna and drink of the river of pleasure forever.
Today is a good day for review. Do we review to see how smart we are? No! Do we review because God will gives us a test? No! We review because we know how comforting it is to hear the words of the Lord, “your sins are forgiven, go in peace, and sin no more.” Yet, we know that those words did come at a cost. Those words came at the cost of the life of His Son, Jesus on the cross. We review as a reminder of all that our Lord has done, does and continues to do for us. And what is more, He continually stirs in us through the power of the Holy Spirit to respond to all that He does for us and so that we might say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part Six))

What do you need to know about our Divine Service before attending so that you might get the most benefit from the gifts of God? Let’s continue examining the various parts so that we might better understand from where each part comes and how it connects to the next.

Following the prayers for the day and the offerings we turn to the Sacrament of the Altar or the Lord’s Supper. Because we believe the Lords’ Supper is a Sacrament, a means of grace, a way in which the Lord gives us His gifts, we prepare ourselves to come to His Holy Table where He is the Host and the meal. “The way of versicle and response is the heartbeat of the liturgy: diastole, systole; breath in, breath out” (Norman Nagel). Following the proper preface for the Sunday we join the angel hosts singing the Hosanna: “Save now.” We pray the prayer our Lord has given us and the pastor speaks the words of Institution, a conflation of all four biblical accounts of the Last Supper. As we gather at His Table, we are greeted. As the vicar of Christ, the pastor acts as host. We hear, “‘Take and eat,’ Here take is the same word which Jesus said in ordaining his apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22). It is a gifting word, a faith word, and so does not permit an intrusion of our doing.” The primary reference of the word is to something outside ourselves, here to what is given us, that is, the true body and the true blood” (Norman Nagel).

Following the distribution we sing the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, who poured out His blood for us, for the forgiveness of sins. We offer a prayer of thanksgiving. And we conclude the service with the Aaronic Benediction. Thus, as we invited the Lord to be a part of our service, to deliver to us His gifts in His Divine Service, so as we conclude we again have the Lord’s name spoken on us. Indeed, whatever the Lord’s name is put on is the Lord’s. As the Lord’s name is put on us, as we leave His House, so we are His.

We conclude the service singing a hymn of His Word, singing back to Him the Word He has given us to speak. And thus we rejoice in gifts given and gifts received.
32 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Lord Our God Is Near Us - September 2, 2018 - Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) - Text: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Last week we were reminded that it really does not matter what we profess with our lips, God can and does look into our hearts and He knows what is in our hearts, whether He is first place in our hearts or we “draw near with [our] mouths and honor [Him] with [our] lips, while [our] hearts are far from [Him].” We were reminded that other people, too, can look at our lives and know if what we profess with our lips is really what is in our hearts. And we were reminded how disappointed the Lord is, much like the parent of an adult child who does not come to visit, when we refuse and reject the gifts He has to give by absenting ourselves from divine service and His Word. This week we have the account of Moses as we go back and we listen to Moses as he exhorts the people to remain in their covenant with the Lord and to be diligent in caring for their own and their children’s soul, their spiritual well-being. Remember, because he struck the rock with his rod instead of speaking to it, as the Lord told Him, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. As the children of Israel are on the verge of entering the promised land, Moses gathers the people before he is taken from their presence. In the chapter before our text Moses lays before the people what the Lord has done for them.
As we get to our text Moses calls the people to obedience in sanctification. We begin at verse one, “1And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (v.1-2).
Moses tells the people to do two things. He tells them to hear. The word “to hear” brings with it the whole idea of hearing, listening, and doing. Moses and God, probably, had thoughts about the children of Israel like some parents do of their children, “it goes in one ear and out the other.” Moses’ exhortation is to hear and obey. The people are to hear and follow the Laws of the Lord if they are to live in the land the Lord is giving them.
The second thing they are to do is to not add to or take away from the Law of the Lord. They are not to make any burdensome demands that are not there. Maybe God was anticipating the scribes and pharisees. When we get to the time of Jesus, the scribes and pharisees, as we were reminded last week, had so “refined” the Law of the Lord that they had several hundred rules in order to help them keep and not break the commandments. Of course, they would interpret their own rules to their own advantage and ultimately their rules took precedence over the Law of the Lord, in other words, they were more concerned about their own rules and laws and not having them broken, than they were about not breaking the Lord’s commandments.
As we look back we can see the sin of the children of Israel, but can we see our own sin? Can we see how we neglect the Law. Can we see how we change the Law? Can we see how we reinterpret the Law to our own suiting, to justify ourselves and the way we want to live? The examples abound: The first three commandments remind us that our relationship with the Lord should be top priority in our lives, yet we make up plenty excuses as to why it is not and yet we speak with our lips that it is. Remember, our actions do speak louder than our words. The devil is quite crafty. As I reminded you last week, the Devil does not tell you, “do not go to church,” “do not get involved at church.” No, he knows that will not work. Instead he tells you, “say that church is your number one priority,” and then he goes about getting you involved in so many things that you do not have time for church. You know how it is, “well, we would like to be involved, but we have the kids baseball, soccer, football, karate, gymnastics, ballet, swimming, cheerleading, PTA, piano lessons, music lessons, singing lessons, and so on that we just do not have time for church things.” “We have so much going on during the week that Sunday is really our only day to relax.” Again, we say that our number one priority is church and our relationship with the Lord, but our actions betray us and show otherwise. For where your spend your time, there your heart is.
The last seven commandments speak about our relationships with others. We misuse these commandments as well. How about the example of the Gypsies. I have been told, and  I have never seen otherwise, but if two Gypsies want a divorce they stand apart from one another and a dead chicken or other dead animal is passed between them, thus death has parted them. Thus they are not breaking any commandment, because they are married until “death do they part.”
How about the example of our not breaking the commandments because we do not break them literally, in other words, we have never actually killed anyone or stolen anything. We forget that sexual promiscuity and even the look of lust is breaking the sixth commandment. We forget that hurting and even not helping someone in need is breaking the fifth commandment. We forget that even if what we say is true, if we are not explaining everything in the best and kindest way, we are breaking the eighth commandment. How often it is that we try to justify ourselves and our sins!
Getting back to our text. Our text omits verses three, four and five. The verses that are omitted are merely examples of what Moses is telling the people, so we will omit them and go on. You can read them on your own at home.
Continuing on, Moses tells the people to let your light shine. We pick up at verse six, “6Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? 9“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— ” (v.6-9).
Moses goes on to give the people directions as to how they can show their wisdom and understanding to the nations around them; how they can bear witness through their actions of the faith they speak of that is in their hearts. They are to show that their wisdom and understanding come from God. Remember, wisdom is not something that is learned, but is a gift from God. Remember our lesson from Proverbs two weeks ago? Remember how Solomon got to be the wisest man in the world? Because God gave him the gift of wisdom.
Moses tells the children of Israel that they are to show the nations around them that they are special. They are special and  chosen by God. They are special because they have a God who is close to them. They have a God who has set boundaries for them in order that they might have law and order, peace and harmony.
The children of Israel are special because they have a God who loves them so much that He gave them His Laws. God’s Laws were His gifts to the children of Israel. God’s Laws were something that the other nations did not have.
This week we are reminded of the differences between justification and sanctification. Justification means that we are made “just as if we had not sinned,” in God’s eyes. This is something in which we have no part; it is done completely and freely for us. Sanctification is what God helps us to do, with the emphasis on God being the prime mover. What has God done for us? He has done everything for us. He has given His one and only Son, Jesus. Jesus was true God, living in and enjoying all the glory that was His in heaven. He gave up all the glory that was His in heaven for us and took on human flesh. He was born as one of us in order to save us.
Jesus is true God who became true man. The difference between Jesus and us is that Jesus was sinless. Jesus never sinned. Although He was tempted in the same way we are, except that He endured even greater temptations, He never sinned. Thus He lived His life perfectly, not for Himself, but for us, in our place.
And Jesus died. He gave His life for ours. He suffered the eternal punishment which should have been ours to suffer. He suffered for us in our place so that we might have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. All of this is justification, God doing the work of making us right with Him.
On the side of sanctification is the answer to the question of what God would have us to do, with His help of course. God would have us listen to His Word. God would have us taking every opportunity to read and listen to His Word. Because, remember, it is through His Word that He comes to gives us all His good gifts and blessings. God would have us take and make time for personal and family devotions, personal and family reading of His Word, regular divine service and Bible class attendance and the like.
God would have us be given the Word of the Lord as He gives it, that is without changing it to justify ourselves. No more excuses about our living in the 21st century as a way to justify not following His commandments. No more excuses about how God’s Word was meant for another people of another time. We must realize that all these excuses mean that we must also excuse the good news of forgiveness by grace as well.
Finally, God would have us live, letting our lights shine. As Jesus told His disciples, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And I would encourage you as the Lord encouraged Israel, 9“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— ” (v. 9). Be diligent in the care of your soul, your spiritual well-being and in the spiritual well-being of your children, all the days of your life.
Our God is an awesome God. He has done everything to save us. We have been given all His good gifts and blessings. Not everyone has what we have. Too many churches today are out preaching some new form of works righteousness, “you gotta do this” or “you gotta do that” in order to be saved. We have the Gospel, the pure Gospel. God has taken care of and done everything. And He freely gives us all things. God would have us, with His help, live that Gospel message so that others might see that message, come to know Him also, and give praise and glory to His holy name. My prayer is that the Lord would help us to do so. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.