Welcome

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

Disclaimer

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Creation)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About the Holy Spirit)

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Simply stated we believe that the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, undivided in the Holy Trinity. We ascribe to the Holy Spirit the work of sanctification which is that work of giving faith, strengthening faith, and keeping in faith. Also included in sanctification is the work of making us holy as it is described and that is done by reminding us of our sins and Jesus’ forgiveness. Thus, He points to Jesus. He gives faith through the means of the Gospel and Holy Baptism. He enlightens and strengthens faith, also through the means of grace stated in particular; the remembrance of one’s baptism, the Word, the Lord’s Supper and forgiveness through Confession and Absolution. He gives, strengthens and keeps in faith the whole Christian church on earth.
As we grow in our faith we do not become more and more holy so as to mentor others, rather we become more and more conscious of our sins and our need to repent so that as Dr. Luther said, we realize that we are beggars before God. As we confess so we are forgiven and with forgiveness is life and salvation. Thus, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
43 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Good Works)

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Giving An Answer - About Martin Luther)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 4, 2018

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

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