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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Death)

In the beginning God created. God created and death was not a part of God’s plan. God created a perfect world, a perfect man and woman, placed them in a perfect garden and gave them instructions so they might respond to all God’s good gifts and blessings. God’s instructions were to not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God’s command was that in the day they would disobey and eat, dying they would die. They would begin to die a physical death and they would die a spiritual death, hell.

Knowing only good, Eve (and Adam) believed the devil and disobeyed God bringing death into the world. Because God is love and created humanity to love He immediately stepped in and provided a solution to death. God promised a Savior and faith in that Savior brought forgiveness and the cure of death.

At Jesus’ ascension He gave the sacrament of Holy Baptism, which saves by giving faith, thus, if we have two births, our physical birth and our spiritual birth (baptism) then we will have only one death, our physical death.

However, if we have only one birth, our physical birth and refuse baptism, or our fathers fail to get us baptized, then we are liable to have two deaths, both our physical death and eternal spiritual death, hell.

Thus, death, physical death is merely passing on from this world into the world of heaven, a being born out of this world as we were born out of our mother’s womb. Yet, without Holy Baptism and faith, death is also eternal spiritual condemnation, eternity in hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal torment.

God gives life, at conception. God gives new life and eternal life through Holy Baptism, and the faith He gives in Holy Baptism. Man is responsible for death and can only refuse life. Thankfully God gives man life and a lifetime, up to 120 years to be given eternal life, forever in God’s eternal presence life.
40 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Truth and Freedom - October 28, 2018 - Reformation Sunday - Text: John 8:3-36

Happy Reformation Day! As I have said in the past, Reformation Day is one of my favorite holy or holidays and I think it is appropriate that we greet each other in this way, “Happy Reformation Day!” This year, Reformation Day is as it always is on October 31, which this year is on Wednesday. Reformation Day is the day we celebrate the act of one man, the sainted Dr. Martin Luther, after whom our church denomination is named,  who on October 31 in 1517 nailed his 95 statements (theses) for debate on the town bulletin board, which happened to be the church door. It was this act which set off what we now call the Reformation.
Dr. Luther did not suggest that he had found the real church which was lost. He did not suggest that God had given him any new revelation for beginning a new church. He was not trying to form his own new church, rather he was trying to make his old church, the Roman Catholic church of his day, aware of what he knew were false teachings and false doctrines which were being proclaimed, so that the truth of the Gospel might prevail. And if anyone understood these falsehoods, it would be Dr. Luther. Perhaps you have heard his story.
Dr. Luther was born to Hans and Margaretta Luther, November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. He began his college education studying law, but at the age of twenty-two a thunderstorm and the death of a friend moved him to make a vow to enter the quiet life of a monk in monastery wherein he also began his studies to become a priest in the church. Young Luther believed that if he worked hard enough, if he studied hard enough, if he stayed out of the public life and could keep from sinning, then he might be able to earn heaven. This is what was being taught in the church during his life and as we will see, this is also what he wanted to reform. In the language of our text for today, Luther became a slave to works righteousness.
The “truth” that young Martin Luther was taught and believed was that if you were good enough, if you kept from sinning, if you did what was right, then you would be justified, then you could stand before God as a just person, deserving eternal life and heaven. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately for us, the more young Martin Luther tried to justify himself before God, the more he felt unjust and undeserving. More than once young Dr. Luther fasted to the point of almost starving himself to death. He would beat himself in hopes of appeasing, what he believed to be, an angry, vengeful God. And so, Dr. Luther really kept himself in a vicious cycle of trying to appease God, thinking he had to do more and so he tried to beat himself more, fast more, confess more, and that only made him realize he could not do enough to appease God, so he tried even harder.
Young Dr. Luther did not know the truth. He was like many people in our world today. We live in a world where truth has become relative. What may be true for me may not be true for you and what may be true for you may not be true for me, or so the world would have us believe. Today, in our world, truth is validated, not by facts, but by feeling. If I feel it, it must be true, at least for me. Or truth may be validated by one’s perspective, that is from my point of view this or that is truth, but it may not be true from your point of view. I am here to proclaim to you that there are not many truths, that each one of us does not possess our own individual truth, but that there is one and only one truth. There is only one absolute truth. I know that goes against the world and against our culture, but I, and the whole Christian Church for that matter, cannot do otherwise. The very reason we are in the mess we are in, having various truths, is because we do not know the Truth. In answer to the question of “What is truth?” the only answer we can give is the answer of Truth Himself, that is, that Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth. Why do we have such a problem with truth in our world today? Because we live in a truth-less, Jesus-less world.
John tells us, in our Gospel reading, that it is faith in Jesus Christ alone which brings us into all truth and which makes us a part of God’s family. We are not a part of God’s family by physical birth nor DNA. We are not a part of God’s family by who we know. We are not a part of God’s family because we are so good and deserve to be a part. We are only a part of God’s family by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus makes Him our brother and God our Father, then we are a part of the family. When it comes to eternal life in heaven it truly is not what you know, but who you know, or better, who knows you!
Young Dr. Luther’s problem was that he was not a part of the family. Young Dr. Luther’s problem was that he was a slave to everything except Jesus. For young Dr. Luther, the Scripture reading, “The just shall live by faith,” meant that he had to be just, he had to live a just life, he had to do what was right in order to stand before God and be declared righteous. It was only after his eyes were open by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God that Dr. Luther came to understand the truth. The truth is that “the just shall live by faith,” means that we are declared just and right before God, not by our own accord, but by faith in Jesus Christ. We, you and I, can never do enough good things, we could never fast enough, we could never beat ourselves enough, we could never do anything enough in order to pay the price, to work off the cost of what our sins have earned. And believe me, our sins have earned plenty. We are born in sin and daily we add to our sin. And the cost of our sin, the wage of our sin is death, eternal spiritual death, hell. Maybe, before we turn to the Gospel, too quickly, we need to spend some time with young Dr. Luther in the Law. We need to spend more time in the Law, because until we realize that left to ourselves we are deserving of nothing less than eternal life in hell, the Gospel will mean little or nothing to us. To young Dr. Luther the thought of deserving hell was devastating and that is what drove him to do all he could to redeem himself. Perhaps we might need to spend time contemplating our destiny apart from Jesus Christ, because, you see, a part from Jesus Christ, we are, you and I are, deserving of eternal spiritual death in hell. And that ought to be pretty scary for us.
But there is good news. The good news is that hell is what Jesus suffered for us, for you and for me, in our place. Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and paid the price, the wage, the cost for our sin. He suffered eternal spiritual death for us. That is what young Dr. Luther realized when he came to a proper understanding that, “the just shall live by faith,” means that we are made just in God’s eyes by faith. By faith Jesus’ life becomes our life. By faith Jesus’ suffering becomes our suffering, by faith Jesus’ death becomes our death. And by faith Jesus’ resurrection becomes our resurrection. Notice that it is no longer we who are doing anything, but it is Jesus who is doing the doing.
When Dr. Luther understood the Gospel, that Gospel set him free. Dr. Luther understood that no amount of fasting, no amount of beating himself, no amount of anything could pay for his sins. No amount of money could pay for his sins. His sins, the cost, the wage, the price for his sins had been paid, in full, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus. Dr. Luther rejoiced in his new found freedom in the Gospel and from that day forward began boldly to proclaim that same freedom to others who, like him, were devastated by the constraints of the Law.
Which brings us back to our Reformation celebration. You see, as Dr. Luther grew in his faith and understanding of the truth of the Gospel, he began more and more to see the false teachings of the church of his day. You might say that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the selling of indulgences, that is the selling of the forgiveness of sins. The story goes that on one of his walks through town, Dr. Luther stumbled over one of his parishioners who was on the ground drunk as a skunk. When Dr. Luther told him that he would be waiting for him to come to confession later in the week, the man held up a piece of paper and boldly stated that he did not need to come to confession anymore because he had paid good money for his sins to be taken care of. In other words, he had paid money for his sins to be forgiven so he no longer had to worry about sin, instead, he could live life as he wished with no repercussions, or so he thought.
It was this event as well as many other similar events which stirred Dr. Luther to sit down and write his 95 theses or statements for debate. These statements were written in Latin, the language of the educated, because he was looking to debate these concerns with others who were educated in the theology and teachings of the church. His sole intent was to correct and to reform what he knew were some false teachings of the church. He knew that church would be full on All Saints day, November 1, so on the eve of all Saints Day, on All Hallow’s Eve as it is called or as it has been mispronounced today on Halloween, he posted his statements for debate.
You might remember that a man named Gutenberg had invented what is called the printing press at about this time, about 50 years earlier and so Dr. Luther’s statements were quickly translated into the language of the people, printed and distributed for everyone to read and that is what started what we now call the reformation.
I believe there is an adage which reminds us that we need to study and be mindful of our past history lest we are doomed to repeat such history. We live in a world not unlike the world of Dr. Luther’s day. We live in a world where it is believed by many that it is our character, it is our good deeds, it is our sincerity of faith, it is our living as God’s people which will bring us to some sort of eternal existence. Jesus tells us that we are saved by His grace alone, through faith in Him alone. Both faith and the object of faith are important. It is our faith which brings us the truth. It is our faith which makes us members of Jesus’ family. It is our faith which makes us the people we are, little Christ’s or Christians. Here again, as we have been hearing over the past several weeks, we are to have faith as a child, not trusting in anything of our own, being completely helpless, but trusting and clinging to Jesus alone who sets us free.
In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus is dealing with His own people, the Jews, who had similar beliefs to the people of our world today, people who believed they were saved by pointing to themselves. The Jews believed they were saved by their DNA by being born Jewish. Today people believe they are saved by pointing to themselves as well, by their good deeds. Just as Jesus reminded the Jews of His day so He reminds us today, we are not saved when we point to ourselves. Jesus points us to where we are saved, outside ourselves to Him and Him alone. Jesus said it best in our Gospel reading when He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As His disciples, being given faith, through the waters of Holy Baptism, strengthened and kept in faith through His means of grace, the Lord’s Supper, holding on to His teaching, the very Word of God, and being given forgiveness of sins, through Confession and Absolution and knowing that with forgiveness is life and salvation, we rejoice and say, to God be the glory. Thus, we rejoice and celebrate this day we call Reformation Day. We give thanks for the work of Dr. Martin Luther, but even more we give thanks for a clear understanding of our salvation, pointing, not to self but to Jesus and Jesus alone. Indeed we are sons of God, set free by the Son of God so we are free indeed. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Predestination)

Another topic which brings tension and which, when attempting to solve with human logic leads to heresy is the topic of predestination. It is thought that since God’s desire is that all people will be saved and since we know some people are not saved that, logically, God must desire that some people are not saved and so we resolve the tension by proposing a double predestination idea.

The problem and the solution is to only say what God says, to not add nor take way and this is what leads to tension and resolve. Our resolve is that God says He desires that all people are saved and no where does He say He desires nor predestines anyone to not be saved or to be condemned. Thus, we are left in tension, but the tension is what God says.

God’s desire is that all people are saved and those who are saved give glory to God because God saved them. Because some people reject God they are not saved. Thus, it is their own fault that they are not saved.

So here we get to the other issue that brings tension that if we are saved God gets the credit and if we are condemned it is our own fault. This fact is true because all we can do is resist, refuse and reject God. We cannot, of ourselves, come to faith. Just as a drowning person cannot save themself so we cannot put faith in our heart.

The logical human resolve is that if we can reject then we can accept, but no where does God tell us we can accept, make a decision for Jesus, etc. All He tells us is that we can reject Him.

The good news is that He chooses and accepts us even in our sin, calling us to faith through His Word and Holy Baptism. He strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and His Holy Supper. He forgives our sins through these means as well as through confession and absolution.

God’s desire is that all people are saved and all people that are saved give glory to God for Jesus’ saving us.
39 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Enjoying the Gifts of God - October 21, 2018 - Pentecost 22 (Proper 24) - Text: Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

Our text for today is from the book of Ecclesiastes and whenever someone undertakes to read the book of Ecclesiastes I always suggest that you read it to the end, otherwise, if you stop in the middle you might end up being depressed. With that said, let me begin by reading to you the last two verses of this book which, in essence, summarize this book. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14).
The book of Ecclesiastes is a book in which the writer, the preacher or teacher, whom we believe to be King Solomon, the wisest man ever known, sets out to help us to understand the meaning of life. He looks at the futility of chasing after even the good things in life such as wisdom, work, pleasure and wealth. And he realizes that no matter what happens, no matter what we may amass, have or not have, no matter what goes on in this world, it will all end in physical death. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, human beings will pass on from this world. We will one day die and everything we have will be passed on to the next generation. All this reminds us that nothing is permanent, that nothing is truly ours, that we are born with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing, because all things begin with God, are given by Him and will eventually be returned to Him. And I would add Paul’s reminder that the momentary pains of this world will be nothing compared to the glory which is ours in heaven, in other words, compared to our real life, our eternity in heaven, our lives in this world are but a blip, a snap of the fingers and yet we spend how much time and energy on this world? But, let us get to our text for this morning, which is a bit of wisdom from the teacher.
We begin with what might be called the tragedy of gaining quick wealth, verse ten, “10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (v. 10-12). One of the problems of wealth is that it may cause covetousness, that is it may cause us to think that we do not have enough. Certainly we all see this, especially in children when they start to amass a pile of toys. It is never enough. We can see this happening in our world as it seems that some people gain wealth, but their life’s drive is to amass even more because what they have is not enough.
The teacher tells us, and rightly so, that better than amassing much wealth and having a full stomach and not getting any sleep is to work as a good laborer and be able to get good sleep. Those of us that have trouble sleeping because of age, chronic pain and the like, certainly can understand the desire to get a good nights rest. Here the teacher helps us to understand that contentment helps relieve the anxiety of stress which might be one more thing to keep us from getting good rest.
Our text continues with the teacher helping us to understand what we might title, the tragedy of a scheme gone array. We pick up at verse thirteen, “13There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger” (v. 13-17). The teacher helps us to see that those who fail to share their blessings only bring more trouble upon themselves. Here we are reminded that as the Lord blesses us, so we are to be a blessing to others. What God gives to us is not something we have earned or deserved, as we might think, but everything we have is a gift given by God and a gift He expects that we rightly administer as a good steward. Remember, we are to live in our vocations, as priests we are to offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, we are to serve God by serving others.
The teacher also warns against those who scheme to gain wealth. Here again, how often do we see, hear and read about schemes and con games that go on in our world today as people plot and plan to get wealth from someone else. Whole cities are built where these schemes are legally lived out in our country and in our world. And, as the teacher reminds us, all of this is to no avail.
Certainly we would do well to remember the bottom line that is that we were born with nothing and will die with nothing. As the sayings go, “You never see a U-haul trailer behind a hearse.” And, “You can’t take it with you.” Although we might imagine and claim “things” in this world as our own, my house, my car, my possession, nothing is truly ours. Everything belongs to God and is given to us or better said, lent to us until we pass on from this world and then it is lent to someone else for their time on this earth.
Finally, the teacher helps us to understand the proper use of God’s good gifts and blessings. We pick up at verse eighteen, “18Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart” (v. 18-20). Now, we might, at first, think that his advise is not too wise or too Christian, that is that we should eat, drink and find enjoyment in work, because maybe that sounds too much like the fatalistic attitude, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” but that is not what the teacher is saying. The teacher is simply encouraging us to enjoy the good gifts and blessings our Lord gives to us while we are on this earth, but also to be good stewards of those gifts and blessings, returning a portion to the Lord and sharing a portion with others.
The teacher encourages us to work and when we work we are encouraged to work as if we are working for the Lord. God gives each of us gifts, talents and abilities. God gives us a job, a career, work to do. We are to work and live in our vocations, not working for a boss, but working for our Lord. Thus, when we work we do our best because we are working for the Lord. And we find fulfillment because we are working for the Lord.
A result of our work is that through our work the Lord provides for us to earn a living, to earn a way to be able to put a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet and food on our tables. Thus, work and wealth are gifts from God and they are to be used appropriately. We are to be good stewards of all that God gives, returning a portion to Him as well as sharing with those in need. This is not socialism by no means because socialism is a forced government construct, rather this is Christian charity, this responsive action is a response of faith.
In the end, the teacher reminds us that in heaven, compared to eternity, this life will seem as nothing. Thus, the most important thing is this life is not an amassing of wealth, possessions and things, but making sure we have our real life of eternity secure. As I said earlier, our time in this world is but a blip compared to our real life in heaven.
So, what does this mean? What do we take from our text for today? God gives us gifts, talents and abilities as well as a job, a vocation to work to make a living, to provide for ourselves and our families. These are gifts from God given to us, not because we have earned them or deserved them, but because God loves us and because He is gracious and generous. God is the prime mover. God gives and we are given to. Certainly we might even go back and remind ourselves that God is the one who gives us life in the first place. God gives us life at conception. Unfortunately, we are very much like David, “conceived and born in sin.” Unfortunately, we are like all people, after the fall, “every inclination of our heart is evil all the time.”
Thanks be to God, that not only does He give us life at conception, He also given us new life by giving us faith and for most of us that faith was given to us at our Baptism. God gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through the means of grace He has also give to us; His Word, Confession and Absolution, and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God gives us faith and forgiveness earned and paid for by Jesus. The price for sin is eternal spiritual death and temporal death. Unless the Lord should return first, we will all leave this world through the process of temporal death. Yet, by faith in Jesus, faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, we will never suffer eternal spiritual death. The price for sin had to be paid and it was. It was paid for by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, this too is a gift from God, the greatest gift, even forgiveness of sins, because, with forgiveness is life and salvation. As we said, God gives faith and this faith is what helps us discern what is right and wrong concerning how we use the gifts He gives to us such as tithing and proportionate or percentage giving.
The teacher helps us to rightly understand that what we are born with into this world and what we take with us from this world is truly ours, meaning that nothing is truly ours. Instead, God gives us all we need to use while we are on this earth and God gives us more than we need so that we might share from our bounty with others. Thus, we can and we are to use and enjoy what He gives.
Again, repeating what we said at the beginning, the summary of this book is this, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14). So, the best thing we can do is give thanks and enjoy.
Love of wealth never satisfies because material possessions are only useful in this world and our time in this world is short, very short compared to eternity. Honest labor brings peaceful rest. The most advisable approach is to work hard, to work like you are working for the Lord and to enjoy the good gifts and blessings He has to give, which is the fruit of your labor while in this world. May the Lord bless you with all that you need and even more so that you might be a blessing to others. May He also, strengthen and keep you in faith through His means of grace so that you might have the hope, that is the certainty of your eternal inheritance in heaven knowing that with your sins forgiven you have eternal life. And may the Lord stir in you to rejoice and give thanks and praise to the Lord for all His good gifts and blessings. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About God’s Foreknowledge)

We get it right when we say what God says without taking from nor adding to His Word. Thus, sometimes we are left in a human illogical tension. I say human because the logical tension God gives is not necessarily what we like to hear, but that is what we have and so we must leave it as He gives it.

One such struggle we have as humans is understanding God’s foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge is that He knows things even before they happen. God has this foreknowledge because He does not live in time as you and I do. As a matter of fact, God created time for us and He did that on day one. You may have noticed that it was not until the fourth day that He created the Sun, moon and stars and set them in the time frame He created on day one.

God lives in the eternal present meaning that for God there is no yesterday and no tomorrow but only the eternal present. Thus, since God lives in the eternal present all things are happening at the same time and so He knows all things that have and will happen.

That God has such foreknowledge does not mean that God makes things happen in a certain way nor does He necessarily prevent things from happening. To know what is going to happen does not mean determining that it is going to happen. Not the best example, but just because the weatherman can predict (know) what the weather is going to be does not mean he determines what it will be. Likewise with God, just because He know what is going to happen does not mean He determines that it will happen.

God knew Adam and Eve would sin. He knew He would have to take on flesh, life, suffer and die to save humanity and yet in His foreknowledge He decided to create us anyway. His foreknowledge did not cause Adam and Eve to sin. They sinned because of their own free will, which was perfect at the time.

When talking about God’s foreknowledge we would do well not to confuse what God knows with what God determines will happen. Foreknowledge is not predestination as we will discuss next.
38 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Committing Your Life to Jesus)

It is suggested by some that in order to be saved one must make a decision for Jesus or commit their life to Him. This suggestion is contradictory to what God says, as a matter of fact what God says is that we cannot do anything to save ourselves. God is quite clear:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7).

“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” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Just as a drowning person cannot save themself or they would not be drowning, so a sinner can do nothing to save him/herself. Just as one cannot choose to be born into this world so one cannot choose to be saved. Salvation comes from outside of us and must be given to us. Thus, if we are condemned, it is our own fault and if we are saved God gets all the credit.

It is only after the Holy Spirit has given us faith that we can, and we can only with His help, continually, live a life of sanctification, making decisions, and not always the right decisions, that are pleasing to God. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit then are we able to imperfectly “commit” our life to Jesus, while giving Him the credit as is due Him alone.
37 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

One Flesh - October 7, 2018 - Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: Genesis 2:18-25

Our text from the Old Testament and even a portion of our Gospel reading for today sounds like we might be hearing a wedding sermon. I would suggest that our text will help us to see, among other things, God’s beautiful gift of gender, that is His gift of distinction between male and female roles, which will help us to rejoice even more God’s gift of vocation. And we will rejoice in God’s gift of good order, especially in the good order He gives to our marriages and our churches.
Before we get to the Old Testament text I would like to draw your attention to the Gospel lesson for this morning. In the Gospel lesson the Pharisees have come to test Jesus and have asked him the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” They figure that if Jesus answers “yes,” they will then label Him a liberal and turn people against Him and if He answers “no,” then they will label Him a conservative, even a legalist and will turn people against Him that way. They figure they have Him either way. Jesus answers their question by taking them back to our text for today from Genesis and tells them what God expects out of marriage.
Getting to our text, the context of our text is the beginning of the world. In Genesis chapter one we read of God’s action in creating all things out of nothing. We also read that as God completes all of creation He declares everything as “very good.” When we get to Genesis chapter two we have a recounting of creation and man being given permission to eat from every tree in the garden, except one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now remember, we are still on the side of the world before the fall into sin. At this time everything is good and even very good, that is everything is still perfect, and yet, God comes and says that something is not so good. He says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Verse eighteen reads, “18Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (v. 18). How could it be that man was alone? He was in perfect communion and fellowship with God. Besides, only with sin came loneliness. Clearly, God was saying that a woman was an essential, intended part of His creation, both for Him and for man.
Before creating the woman, God brought all the animals before Adam to have him name them. Picking up at verse nineteen, “19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” (v. 19-20). During this process of naming all the animals, the man saw how he was different from all God’s other creatures. He also saw their distinct differences in being male and female. He saw that without the woman, he was incomplete.
Again, as our text tells us, “. . . for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” So, The Lord created the woman. Picking up at verse twenty-one, “21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ 24Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (v. 21-25). The Lord put Adam into a deep sleep. As Adam slept, the Lord took one of his ribs and from that rib He created the woman. He brought the woman to the man and Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”
And God instituted marriage. He says that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Notice in God’s institution of marriage that marriage is one man and one woman for life.
Unfortunately, in the very next chapter of Genesis we come to see the man and the woman break their perfect union with God. The devil comes in the form of a serpent and tempts Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve gives some to Adam and he eats. Disobedience enters the world. Sin separates Adam and Eve and us from God. This is the point of where we are reminded of why we have so many problems with each other in life. Because our relationship with the Lord is broken, so our relationships with each other become strained and broken. Why do we fight with our brothers and sisters? Why do we fight with our parents? Why do we fight with our spouse? Because sin has broken our relationship with the Lord and with each other.
Fortunately for Adam and Eve and for us, immediately after the fall into sin God promises a Savior who will restore our relationship with Himself and with each other. In the New Testament we get to the fulfillment of God’s promise as God sends Jesus to restore the union between God and man. Jesus comes to pay for the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden as well as for the sins of all people of all places of all times. Jesus comes to give His life on the cross for our sins. Jesus restores our relationship with God and with that relationship restored our relationships with each other can begin to be restored. That does not mean that everything, everyone and every relationship is or will be perfect, for we still live in a sin filled world, but with our relationship with the Lord restored, we have a better chance of working on our relationships with each other.
In an implied way, our text speaks of an order of creation. This order of creation is expressed in many New Testament passages that talk about those things our society and culture despise, male headship and female subordination. Our text shows us quite clearly that God is not speaking of superiority and inferiority, but complimentary, distinct and unique roles. In other words, God shows His great love for us in giving us the gift of good order in creation through the giving of the unique roles He gives to men and women.
Getting back to our text, according to our text marriage is that you leave your father and mother, unite with your wife, and become one flesh. Marriage is a leaving of your father and mother. It is a leaving to begin your own distinct family. That does not mean that you have given up your father’s family, rather it means that now you are your own family and that becomes an important part of your life, just as some day your children will leave and start their own family.
Marriage is also what some describe as cleaving and uniting. You will cleave or hold on to each other as husband and wife. You will be united into one flesh. Again, you will unite with each other and form your own family unit.
Marriage fulfills our psychological need for companionship, our physical need for procreation and our moral need for decency. At the very beginning of our service of Holy Matrimony we hear these words, “This is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin. In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His bride, the Church. Our Lord blessed and honored marriage with his presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee. This estate is also commended to us by the apostle Paul as good and honorable. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God. The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.” And marriage is for life, which means that there is work involved.
But what about being single? Does this text imply that there is something wrong with being single? I do not think so. As a matter of fact, when we get to the New Testament, Paul speaks of the high gift of singleness. I believe that our Genesis text is speaking about marriage, but even more than just marriage. Our Genesis text reminds us that God desires that no person live in isolation, but rather that we all live in relation to others. I also believe that our Genesis text reminds us that men and women have been given a blessed complimentary relationship even apart from marriage, as a matter of being different as male and female. In other words, God has created us not as just humans, but as men and women in compliment with one another, serving separate roles from one another to live our lives to the glory of His holy name.
God has created us as male and female. As men and women God gives us each vocations in which we are to serve others and in serving others we serve the Lord. Therefore as men and women we serve the Lord by studying His Word, by encouraging each other, by praying for others, and by sharing God’s Word with others. Our caring for one another is an example to others of how we live our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, that is how we live in vocation as Christians. As Christians we are privileged to care for one another by calling on our members who are ill, or shut-in, or who are not attending and to encouraging them. It is our privilege to encourage those who are here, to build each other up in the fellowship of the Lord.
One more important point in our discussion about marriage is the fact that God often compares the marriage of a man and a woman to the marriage of Christ to His bride, the church. Jesus left all of the glory that was His in heaven in order to come to earth to live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot. He came to take our sins upon Himself and to give His life for ours on the cross. It is Jesus’ death on the cross which brought us back into a right relationship with Himself and with the Father in heaven. It is this restored relationship with the Father that makes it possible for us to restore our relationships with one another. As a man and woman become one in marriage, so Jesus makes us one with Himself for eternity! And it is the Holy Spirit who works through the Word and the Sacraments to stir in our hearts the desire to do works of service, to work at restoring our relationships with each other and to work at bring others to the Lord and to His house for worship.
This morning we celebrate the Lord’s gifts and blessings. We celebrate His giving us life at conception. We celebrate His giving us new life, through the waters of Holy Baptism. We celebrate that He has given us eternal life through His giving us faith and forgiveness, paid for by Jesus on the cross and given to us through His means of grace. And we celebrate that He has given us and calls us to our vocations wherein He works and moves in us to live lives to His glory. We celebrate and praise the Lord for His gift of gender. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Being Saved)

“When did you get saved?” “I got saved when I . . . ” Perhaps we have heard, asked or said such statements and questions. The problem is how can one get something that is not theirs to get or give? One cannot “get” saved. Salvation is a gift given by Jesus, the One who earned it and gives it. To claim any part in “getting” saved is to claim something that is not ours to claim.

So, how do you know you are saved? I know I am saved when I point to Jesus, not to self. It is all a matter of who is running the show, who is running the verbs. Am I running the show or is God running the show?

I got saved when I made a decision for Jesus, when I dedicated my life to Him, when I made Him the Lord of my life, when I felt like I was saved. All these statements point to self and we can never be sure of self. How do I know I made the right decision or that I dedicated my life enough or was sincere enough, and what happens when I do not feel so saved? Uncertainty abounds.

I know I am saved because at my baptism God using the hands of the pastor, put water on my head and using the voice of the pastor spoke, His name on me. I know I am saved because Jesus chose me from before the foundations of the earth were laid. I know I am saved because Jesus lived a perfect, obedient life for me and then took my sins and paid the price for my sins on the cross. I know I am saved because God wrote His name on me at my baptism. I know I am saved because Jesus wrote my name in the book of life. I know I am saved and I am certain because Jesus did and I can always be sure that when Jesus does something it is done.

“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 (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is gift given with nothing on my part. Grace has no conditions, my doing anything. Grace is God gives and I am given to and when God is the one doing the doing, I am most certain that He has done it right. Certainty abounds.
36 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Monday, October 1, 2018


Efficacious -  what a wonderful word! Efficacious means to effect or accomplish. Indeed, a word best used to describe the greatest Word, the Word of God, Holy Scripture, God’s Word. God’s Word is efficacious. It effects, does, accomplishes that of which it speaks.
In Genesis we first hear of the efficaciousness of God’s Word as God spoke all things into being. God said, and it was, all of creation. A little later, following the fall into sin, God spoke again promising a Savior. In his gospel, John speaks of the promised Savior when he writes that the Word became flesh and tented among us. Indeed, Jesus is the Word of God, the Word promised, the Word in flesh in fulfillment, and today the tangible Word in His body and blood in His Holy Supper.
God’s Word is efficacious in our own lives beginning with our Baptism. In Holy Baptism, God, using the hands and the mouth of the pastor, puts water on our heads and speaks His name on us, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And in that moment, with those words God effects in us, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation because what is spoken is not the word of the pastor but the Word of God. Indeed, as we are “conceived and born in sin” (Ps. 51:5), as God’s command is to baptize “all nations” (Matt. 28:19), and as we are citizens of the nation from birth, as we are reminded, “no one is good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12), and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and as James reminds us of our accountability before God, not giving any indication of age limit, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10), so we are reminded of the importance of Holy Baptism especially from the moment of birth. Any parent withholding such a blessing and gift, thinking their child is not a sinner, is not accountable, and might grow up to decide for Jesus, are quite delusional and does not understand the power and efficacy of God’s Word. In Holy Baptism, as God’s Word promises, so it is so, it is accomplished, it is effected. With God’s Word faith is given, His name is put on, forgiveness is given and one’s name is written in the book of life because it is God’s Word.
God’s Word is efficacious in absolution. “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). When we confess our sins and we hear the Word of God through the mouth of His called and ordained servant, the pastor, then we know that His Word is efficacious, it does what it says, it accomplishes, and gives what it says, namely, that our sins are forgiven. This is not because the pastor says so, but because he speaks God’s Word on us. So when we hear the words of absolution, we are standing before God as complete and perfect saints. That is until we turn around and begin our next round of sinning, which is our nature and which we are apt to do. We simply cannot help ourselves. Of course, our inborn nature to sin, to refuse and reject the gifts of God is the very reason we continually confess our sins so that we might hear those most beautiful words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven because with forgiveness is life and salvation.
God’s Word is efficacious in our hearing His Word read and preached. As our Divine Service is permeated with God’s Word, as we hear the appointed Word, Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel Lessons read each Sunday, as we hear the Word preached (and we are to be as the Bereans comparing what is preach with the Word), so the Word effects in us, accomplishes in us, that which it was given to do, give, strengthen and keep us in faith, and gives us forgiveness and life. It is not the pastor who effects this good work in us but God through His Word because it is God’s Word.
God’s Word is efficacious in His Holy Supper. As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are given the bread to eat as we hear the Word spoken by the mouth of the pastor telling us that what he is giving us is the body of Christ. Then we know that what we are partaking is the very body of Christ given for us for the forgiveness of sins, not because the pastor says so, but because God says so (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-21, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Likewise as we are given from the cup of wine to drink and told that it is the very blood of Christ, we know that we are partaking of the very blood of Christ because God says so. Indeed, in this sacred meal we are given Jesus’ very body and blood to eat and drink so that He becomes a very real part of us, that is, His life, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His perfect death becomes our perfect death and His perfect resurrection becomes our perfect resurrection. Without this being Christ’s true body and blood but merely a ceremonial, symbolic act, then Jesus would not truly be a part of us, and so we would not be given the gifts He has to give. Because God’s Word speaks that we are being given Christ true body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine, we can be sure that we are given His body and blood, not because these are the words of the pastor, but because they are God’s Word and God’s Word is efficacious. It effects, it accomplishes, it does what it says.
Efficacious is a great word and truly describes the greatest Word, the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Word which does and gives because it is God’s Word. As Christians, understanding the efficaciousness of God’s Word, our desire even more is to be where and when God’s Word is given so that we might revel in the gifts and blessings God has to give through His great Word.