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.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Holy Day to the Lord - January 27, 2019 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

Today is the Third Sunday after the Epiphany and for those of you who like to look ahead and plan ahead, this year there are seven Sundays after the Epiphany. The eighth Sunday after the Epiphany will be Transfiguration Sunday. The Wednesday following Transfiguration Sunday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This year Lent begins on March 3. To me, this is just another reminder of how quickly time moves at us and really, how short our life really is on this earth.
One of the classes we take at the seminary is homiletics, that is a class that teach us about preaching. One of the things we are told is to look at all the lessons and to see if there is a theme which runs through the lessons. Now, and I know I explained this before and even more so in Bible Class, but let me briefly say it again this morning, our readings comprise what is known as a lectionary and the point of the readings is to follow the seasons of the Church year, which follow the life of Jesus and there is an to attempt to having readings that do relate to one another. Yes, as many of you may have noticed, from time to time there really is no relation of one reading to the other two. Anyway, the goal is for all the readings to relate and so as I look at the readings I attempt to find a theme of sorts.
This morning then, as we look at the other lessons, we read in the Gospel the account of Jesus preaching to what amounts to His hometown. Now, remember, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He traveled to Egypt. And He and His parents finally settled in Nazareth which is where He grew up. So, this was His hometown and many of the people in this town knew Him, or at least they thought they knew Him. In our Gospel reading, Jesus is leading the worship service, or at least participating in the service. He reads the lessons and then He proclaims that what He has read is now being fulfilled in their presence. In other words He is claiming to be the Messiah spoken of in the Isaiah reading. Some of the people get it and their response is that they rejected what Jesus is saying. They are rejecting the Word in flesh, Jesus.
In our Epistle lesson for this morning we hear Paul reminding us that we are one body, that is that as a Church, as a Christian congregation we are a part of God’s Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, and we are to live and work together as His people in this place. Of course, because of our sinful nature, we know how difficult this living together is to do, which is why we rejoice that grace abounds.
And in our Old Testament reading we hear the account of the Israelites in exile listening to the reading of the Law of the Lord and being encouraged to rejoice in the Lord’s forgiveness. Now, what theme runs through these three readings? I believe the theme that runs through these three readings is that all three point us to the importance of our divine service. Jesus usual custom was to be in divine service. We are all members of the body of Christ, and we are united in our divine service and in the divine service we hear the word of Law of the Lord and we hear words of our Lord’s forgiveness and encouragement in our Christian lives. The divine service is where we are encouraged, uplifted, forgiven, and strengthened to be God’s people in our vocations for the week.
With that look at all three readings, let us move to our main text from the Old Testament. This morning our text is God’s Word to the exiles and we might understand that this is His Word to us today as well. The Children of Israel were being disciplined by the Lord. They were defeated by other nations and carried off to other places, away from the promised land. Yet, as this same people returned to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple in Jerusalem, they were all willing to gather to listen for over six hours to the Word of the Lord and especially to the Law of the Lord, which pointed out their sin.
The people listened and heard the Word of the Lord and they understood the Word which was read. They knew that this Word was spoken to them. As I say that I am reminded of how many people reject the gifts of God on Sunday morning with the excuse that every time they go to church the pastor is preaching to them, which is what is supposed to happen. For the Children of Israel, they understood how they broke God’s Law, how they sinned and that the discipline that was inflicted on them, their dispersion by other nations to other countries. was due to their own sinfulness. And they repented.
Nehemiah tells us that the people wept for joy. Yes, they wept on account of their sins, but they knew and understood that their sins were forgiven and so they wept for joy for their forgiveness. And at the encouragement of Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor, they celebrated and declared a holy day to the Lord.
So, what about us? Do we gladly hear the word, or do we refuse and reject it? The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God, what we call our vertical relationship. The first commandment reminds us that anything we fear, love or trust in above God is truly our god or we should say our idol and yet, how often, even how often in a day do we go running after other gods and idols. And especially on Sunday morning how often do we put someone or something ahead of our Lord. The second commandment reminds us to respect God’s Holy Name. This commandment reminds us of wrong and right uses of God’s Name, yet how often in a day do we find ourselves misusing God’s Name as we wrongly curse and swear and how we misuse God’s Name by failing to call upon Him. And the third commandment reminds us of the importance of divine service, and as Dr. Luther so well points out, the importance of gladly hearing and obeying God’s Word. Yet, each and every Sunday in churches around the world and in our own congregation we have people absenting themselves from divine service with something more important to do.
The Children of Israel, having been disciplined by the Lord, having been in exile and away from the Word of the Lord, rejoiced at the hearing of His Word. Do we rejoice in our hearing of the Word? Do we rejoice when the pastor points out our sin, or do we get upset or make excuses? Would we rather have a pastor who would preach what our itching ears want to hear? King David set an example for us when he declared, “I was glad when they said, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”
When the Children of Israel heard the Word of the Lord, it had an affect on them. Does the Word of the Lord take root, spring up and bear abundant fruit in our hearts and lives? Or do we simply hear the Word and go home and immediately let it slip from our hearts and lives? Does the Word of the Lord work a change in our hearts?
In my book, Catechetical Helps we are reminded that we do not obey the third commandment by simply going to church, nor by simply going and hearing, nor by simply going and hearing and believing. But, we obey God’s Word by going to church, by hearing the Word, by believing the Word and by doing it, by living according to the Word.
So, let’s put this all together. Personally, I believe that the freedoms we enjoy in this country, especially our freedom of religion, have, at least in the past number of years, only worked to help destroy the Christian Church. From history we can see that it is going through times of persecution that works to strengthen the Christian Church and the Christian Church thrives and grows during times of persecution. In our text we know that the Children of Israel, who were God’s chosen people, who had many freedoms, used their freedom to sin and fall away from the Lord. We know that God used other nations, even heathen nations to discipline the Children of Israel and it was only during these times of discipline that the Children of Israel were brought back into a right relationship with the Lord.
So, we are reminded once again that our salvation does not depend on us, but it all depends on the Lord. Once again, God does it all, He runs the verbs. He chose Israel. He called her to faith. He gave her everything, and when she fell away, He sent discipline and called her back.
And God does the same for us. He chooses us. He calls us to faith. He gives us faith. He strengthens us in faith. He gives us forgiveness of sins. He gives us life and all that He gives He gives through the means of grace.
Perhaps we might need to be reminded that although forgiveness costs us nothing, and although forgiveness is free for us, forgiveness is not free. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden and the price for sins is death, physical death and apart from God and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. It was Jesus who earned forgiveness and it is Jesus who is the prime mover in our being given faith.
And just as it was in the days and in the lives of the Children of Israel, so it is with us. God stirs in us to be given to, so we gladly rejoice and make regular, every Sunday, and diligent, whenever offered, use of the means of grace.
I want to sum up what we have been saying and as I do this, I need to let you know that one of the things I was taught in the classes I took on teaching was that the best way to teach was to teach and reteach, to say over and over what you want to say so that they audience gets it. With that in mind, let me sum this up by reminding you that God’s Word does and gives what it says which encourages us in our joyfully reading, hearing, learning and inwardly digesting His Word so that it works in us and gives to us all the good gifts and blessings God has to give. God’s Word is a Word with power to give what it says and to do what it says including stirring in us the desire more than anything else to be where His Word and gifts are delivered.  We have a tendency to fail to recognize the power of the Word of the Lord, to refuse the Word of the Lord, and to misinterpret the Word of the Lord. Thus we rejoice that God’s Word is a word with power to do and give what it says, that God’s Word gives gifts; faith, forgiveness and life, and that God’s Word interprets itself and stirs in us the desire to be where His word is delivered. God gives us His Word through which He gives us all the gifts and blessings He has to give; faith, forgiveness and life, and it is His Word which motivates us to be where His Word is delivered so that we might be given the gifts He has to give. All we can do, with His help, is to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism


It has been the hope that these articles espousing the practical application of what we believe, teach and confess as Lutherans concerning our vocation and our desire to share the faith with others has been helpful so that in your vocation, when you are asked you will be better able to give an answer for the hope that you have especially in explaining Lutheran Christian teachings.

Just as God calls us to life at conception, so He calls us to faith through Holy Baptism. God calls us to our vocations to serve Him by serving others. God calls us as priests in the priesthood of all believers to live our lives as lives of faith, pointing to Jesus. God gives us His authority to share His Word with others and the promise that He will be with us and give us the words to speak.

God gives us His Divine Service through which He pours out on us all His good gifts and blessings. Through the Divine Service God gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Indeed, the desire of a Christian is always to be when and where the gifts of God are given out, especially the Divine Service. Through the Divine Service as well as through Bible Class, other Bible Studies, personal and family reading of God’s Word, devotions and the like God fills us with the means of His Word, which the Holy Spirit uses to draw on to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus as our Savior.

Because most people are not interested in what you have to say unless you live what you say (practice what you preach) or unless they specifically ask you, our desire is to live a life of faith and be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. And as we give an answer we rejoice in God giving the answer through us, not second guessing ourselves, not believe we should have said more or less, but knowing that God can and does work faith when and where He pleases, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. To God be the glory.
52 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

My Delight Is in Her - January 20, 2019 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 62:1-5

Today is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. Epiphany, you might remember, is the day we celebrate the visit of the Magi, the wise men who were the first Gentiles to visit the Messiah, a reminder that Jesus was born to save all people. Last Sunday we celebrated the baptism of Jesus, which was His identification as one of us, so that He might be our substitute, and His baptism marked the beginning of His earthly ministry. Today in our Gospel reading we have the account of Jesus’ first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding of Cana. This miracle was the beginning of the miracles, the signs and wonders Jesus would perform to demonstrate His divinity, that is that along with being truly human, born of a woman, He was also truly God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. In our Epistle lesson for this morning Paul reminds us that we do not choose Jesus, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit,” rather God chooses us, and He gives us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give including the gifts and abilities to be His people in whatever place we may be. Today is also the Sunday we honor as Life Sunday, the Sunday we take the time to remember the atrocities that have been legally committed in our country for the last thirty plus years and the countless number of unborn children that have been murdered. And we are reminded of how the open door of killing at the beginning of life has begun opening the door to legally killing those at the end of life and those deemed unfit by society to live. I will speak more on this briefly a little later.
Our text for this morning is the Old Testament reading and another reminder of how special and important we are to God, not that we are special or important in and of ourselves, but that we are special and important because He makes us special and important. As we have talked about from time to time, although the Children of Israel were God’s chosen people, they had a tendency to stray from time to time and the Lord would discipline them and bring them back, yet the status, if you will, of the Children of Israel was always that they were God’s people.
Beginning at verse one of our text, Isaiah declares the position of Israel: “1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 2The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give” (v. 1-2). God’s promise was that through this nation of Israel the Savior of the world would be born. Thus, Israel was not to be a separate people, the only nation to be saved, rather they were set to be a beacon of light for all nations so that all people might see the Messiah born of the tribe of Judah who came to give His life for all.
As we move on in our text, Isaiah declares the Lord’s favor on Israel: “3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married” (v. 3-4). These are God’s chosen people, not because of some innate goodness within them, but simply because God chose them. God chose them. He set them apart. And His purpose for choosing them was so that through this nation the Savior of the world would be born.
And in the last verse of our text Isaiah declares the Lord’s relationship with Israel, “5For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (v. 5). God’s promise is that although Israel may be in exile, they will once again be restored to the promised land. And we know that before Jesus was born there were may Israelites who were living in Jerusalem.
So, what does our text mean? God’s desire for Israel was to remind her that she was God’s chosen nation. God chose Abraham and promised that through his seed the Savior of the world would be born. God made Israel a great nation. God brought Israel out of bondage of slavery in Egypt. God disciplined Israel and continually brought her back into a right relationship with Himself.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God is reminding Israel that He made her righteous. Although Israel strayed time and again, God was always the One sending discipline and calling her back into a right relationship with Himself.
And, because God is the prime mover, God is the One doing the doing, Israel was to exemplify what it meant to be God’s people. God’s desire was that Israel would be the people He called them to be.
And who were the people God called Israel to be? They were to be God’s bride. So that as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, God’s desire was to rejoice over His bride, Israel and even today, the Church. Which brings us to today and what our text means to us today.
First our text reminds us of our status as God’s children. God has chosen us, and as we have said, even before the world was created God had us in mind and had already chosen us to be His people and His children. We have not chosen Him. Just as a child does not choose to be born, so we do not choose God, nor do we choose to be born again. God is the prime mover. It all, always begins with the Lord. And what comfort we can find in the fact that it all begins and ends with the Lord. We are wishy washy. We tend to stray and fall for temptation and sin. We tend to reject God and refuse His good gifts and blessings. So we rejoice that we do not depend on ourselves, but we depend on God.
Just as God had favor on the children of Israel, before they completely rejected Him, so He has favor on us and has covered us with His righteousness. He has redeemed us, bought us back. He has purchase and won us, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Our status before God is that we are His people and He is our God.
Because we are God’s people and because He is our God, His desire for us is that we live life accordingly. We are God’s chosen people, He is the prime mover, thus our thoughts, words and actions are to demonstrate this fact. Of course, we know, because we are conceived and born in sin, because every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, in and of ourselves we are not able to be the people God would have us to be, we are not able to live the lives of faith He would have us to live, thus, we cling to Him and His infinite mercy to be given forgiveness of sins, and a renewal of faith and the motivation to be His people.
As we honor life Sunday, we are reminded that life begins at conception. Ask anyone in the medical field, in the field of babies, what is called the neonatal field, and you will find that scientifically speaking life begins at conception. For us Christians we know that it is at conception that God gives us a soul, that before we are conceived God knows us and that in the womb God knits us together so that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. As I said earlier, we do not choose to be born. Our conception, our birth, our life are all gifts from our great Creator God. Thus, we do not choose to die as well. Death was never a part of God’s plan. Death entered the world as a result of sin. And so pain, suffering and dying are a result of sin. Yet, God’s plan was never for us to deem His people as unfit for life, nor has He given us the ultimate authority to determine when a person should die (except in the case of capital punishment). This authority is in His hands. And today we pray God’s forgiveness on us as a society for what we allow to happen to His people, those unborn and those living. At the same time we are also reminded that even though we as a society and even as individuals to often sin against God’s good and gracious will, with our good and gracious Lord there is always forgiveness when we fail.
Life begins at conception and life is a gift from God, that is, physical life. As for our spiritual life, our eternal life, this also is a gift from God. For most of us we were first called by God and given faith through Holy baptism. As Peter reminds us, “Baptism now saves us.” Here again, just as we do not choose to be born, so we do not choose to be baptized. For most of us our parents brought us to be baptized. For others, God called us through His Word to be baptized, as the Ethiopian said when God gave him faith through Philip’s words of explanation of the prophet Isaiah, “Here is water, what is to keep me from being baptized?”
As we grow in our life, in our physical being and as we grow in our faith, in our spiritual being, God continues to lavish us with His gifts through the means of grace. God loves you so much. God has so much He wants to give to you. I am continually shocked and surprised each and every Sunday when so many people have something more important to do, so that they refuse and reject the gifts God has to give on Sunday morning in divine service. I have to tell you, personally, I hurt for Jesus on Sunday mornings when His gifts and blessings are rejected by so many people. Again, God loves you so much and He has so much that He wants to give.
Not only does God give us all His good gifts and blessings, He also stirs in us to be His people, to live lives of faith. This living a life of faith is what we call living out our vocation. God has called us to be His people in the various vocations He gives us, such as a man or a woman, a mother or a father, a grandmother or a grandfather, an aunt or an uncle, a brother or a sister, a teacher or a student, a worker or a foreman, a husband or a wife, a laborer or a hirer. God calls us and works in and through us, no matter what our vocation, to live and work in our vocation as His people so that others might see our good works and give glory to Him.
Finally God moves in us our response of faith. Our good works, our response of faith is not ours alone. We do not do anything good apart from God. Our good works are our response of faith and are good works because they have been motivated by God, worked in and through us by God and done to His glory. Notice, again, and again, and again, it all points to God.
This morning, we are reminded, that just as in the Old Testament God rejoiced over the salvation of His people Israel, so today the Lord rejoices over the salvation of His people, His Church, the Israel of faith, you and me, whom He has redeemed and made righteous, by His grace through faith which He gives through His means of grace. God has given us life. He gives us new life. He gives us grace and every blessings. He pours out on us and lavishes us with all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and He stirs in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Using the Hymnal)

We worship best when we say back to God the words which He has given us to say, thus as we look at the liturgy, with its roots back in the first century of the Church (and this author believes has its roots in the ceremonial laws given in Leviticus, but in a fulfilled form), it is permeated with the Word of God which pastor and congregation speak back to one another and to God. The worship service, which is rightly called the Divine Service, is first and foremost God coming to His people, through the means of grace to pour out on them all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Thus, the Divine Service follows the faith (beliefs, teachings and confession) of the Christian Church, thus we worship as we believe and so we believe as we worship. The service is pedagogical as well as spiritual.

The hymnal is not a German, classical, set in time work, rather, as one looks at the hymnal one will make note that the hymns span many centuries and many ethnicities. Thus, the hymnal transcends time and culture. It is its own genre so that one puts aside their favorite type of music in order to worship God in the way He would have us to worship, being given the gifts He has to give through the means He gives (especially as we are reminded of our Baptism, as we confess and are forgiven, as we hear God’s Word read and expounded and as we are given His body and blood in His Holy Supper).

The hymnal is also a tool for use at home as well. The various devotional services included are designed for family and personal devotions and as opportunities to be given more of the gifts of God. We rejoice in this wonderful resource called the Lutheran Service Book because it teaches us as well as gives to us the gifts of God.
51 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Called by the Lord’s Name - January 13, 2019 - The Baptism of Our Lord/1st Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 43:1-7

I would suppose, yet maybe I would be wrong, but I would suppose that if a grocery store was giving away free food once a week, that people would get in line every week to get the free food. Maybe not. Perhaps some would get enough food one week, or so they would think, to last for several weeks and so would not come back for fresh food each week. And I would suppose there would be those who would refuse the free food because they would believe there were strings attached.
I have said this before and so it should not be a shock, but our life on this earth is short. And when we compare our life on this earth to our life in heaven, there really is no comparison, millions of billions of eons and years compared to sixty, seventy, eighty and maybe a hundred years. And yet, while we live on this earth, it may seem like a long time, even a lifetime. The important thing, however, is that while we live in this world we want to make sure we are prepared for the more important, even most important world to come. And since none of us knows the day or the hour that our Lord will return, or that we will pass on and go to Him, it is imperative that we are ready at all times.
One of the amazing things about God is the fact that He gives us eternal life. He also gives us faith, and forgiveness of sins, which gain eternal life for us. God supplies us with all that we need and especially He provides for all our spiritual needs which He does through His means of grace. And yet, even though all His gifts and blessings are free, with no strings attached, daily and weekly we refuse and reject the gifts He has to give. And sadly, there are those who reject to the point of death, giving up the gift of heaven.
The children of Israel were God’s chosen people, not that they were the only ones to be saved, but that through this people the Savior of the world would be born. Unfortunately, the children of Israel were not always the people God wanted them to be. They were very often like us, or we should rather admit, very often we act like them. From time to time the Lord allowed them to suffer the consequences of their actions, yet, He always reminded them that He had not forgotten them. We begin at verse one of our text, “1But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you” (v. 1-3).
Our text begins with God reminding the children of Israel that He created. He created all things out of nothing. He created the world. He created the children of Israel. In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a Savior for the world, this is indeed the beginning of Christianity. God later chose Abraham and promised that through His seed, through His offspring the Savior of the world, of all people would be born. As the generations of Abraham grew into a great nation, theirs was a nation that, from time to time, strayed.
As we walk through the Old Testament we can see time and again how God redeemed Israel, and brought them back into a right relationship with Himself. This redemption of Israel was very often a mirror and foreshadowing of how He would redeem the world.
God never gave up on Israel, no matter how much they rebelled and gave up on Him. Our text for this morning is another word of reminder of God’s promise to continually protect His people Israel.
Again, no matter how much the children of Israel strayed, God’s promise of restoration followed His disciplinary action. We pick up at verse four, “4Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (v. 4-7).
Our text for this morning reminds us that Israel is precious in God’s eyes. Remember, God created Israel. God chose Abraham and promised that through His seed, through His offspring the world would be saved. God protected, cared for, provided for, chastened and disciplined His people, Israel. Whenever they would stray, God would send discipline, but He would always promise to never forsake them.
In our text we hear God’s word of promise that He will bring the disbursed Israelites from the four corners of the earth. As history unfolded, we know that before the Messiah was born that God’s promise had been fulfilled and there were many Israelites in Jerusalem when Jesus was born.
God’s promise was also that He would restore those who are called by His name, those who are His. God’s call and promise continually to His people, was that He was their God and they were His people and He would continue to be their God and they would be His people until such time as they continually refused and rejected Him, which is what happened to many at the time of Jesus and so those who refused and reject Jesus broke off and became what is today known as Judaism.
This morning I pray that our text is a reminder to us that God has not forgotten us. We may think God has forgotten us, but He has not. We may think God is slow in keeping His promises, after all, He took over four thousand years to keep His first promise to send a Savior, and now He has taken over two thousand years and he has not returned as He promised. But, God is not slow, rather He is patient not wanting anyone to perish.
Interestingly enough, and you have heard me say this before, we are very much like the children of Israel. We may think we are good people. We may think we are Godly and are living as God would have us to live. Yet, one look at the Commandments tell us otherwise. Yes, we tend to stray, daily, and weekly. We tend to be disobedient. We tend to refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give to us.
Like the children of Israel, we may believe ourselves to be special because we have been chosen by God. And we may get to the point that we think we have chosen God and how special He is to have us. And how privileged He is to have us come to His house to worship once in a while. Yes, our attitude toward God and others very often mirrors that of the children of Israel. And as we look at the so called Christian church in America and the world, I believe the deterioration of the so called Christian church is God’s hand of discipline for not being the people He would have us to be and instead for taking on the beliefs and attitudes of the culture around us. Yes, we are very much like the Children of Israel.
This morning, again, I pray that our text is a reminder that, although we may stray, the Lord’s promise to His people, Israel, is His promise to us, the true Israel, the Israel of faith. As I continually remind you, God is the prime mover. It all begins and ends with the Lord. No matter what happens in this world, no matter how the world treats us as Christians, remember, God had you in mind before He created the world. God knew you and He called you by name.
Remember, even before He began creating the world, God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. God knew that their sin would infect and affect the world. God knew that our will would be tainted by sin so that all we can do by ourselves, apart from Him would be to refuse and reject Him. And yet, God had in mind, from the very beginning, to save us.
Remember, Jesus was born to live for us and His living for us included His being baptized like us. The fullness of the Gospel is that Jesus came to live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot. The law demands perfection and we cannot be perfect. Jesus had to be truly God so that He might be born in perfection. Jesus had to be truly human so He might be our substitute. Jesus began His earthly ministry by being baptized and through His baptism He identified with us.
In our Epistle lesson for this morning Paul reminds us that our baptism unites us with Jesus so that His life is our life, His death is our death and His resurrection is our resurrection. Thus, when God looks at us, He does not see our sins, instead He sees Jesus’ perfection. And when He looks at Jesus, He sees our sins, which is why Jesus died, suffering and paying the price for our sins which was placed on Him, or rather, which He freely took upon Himself.
Again, God is the prime mover. He created, He redeemed, He calls and gives faith. God loves us so much and He has so much He wants to give to us. He calls us to faith through Holy Baptism and His Word. As we remember our baptism, as we read and hear His Word He pours out on us all His good gifts and blessings. He gives us forgiveness of sins through confession and absolution. As we realize just how sinful we truly are, then we begin to understand what great love and forgiveness our Lord has for us. Remember, he who has been forgiven little loves little, and really only needs a Savior a little. But, he who has been forgiven much and knows how sinful he is, loves much and knows how great God’s loves is. And the Lord gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through our remembrance of Him, that is through our partaking of His body and blood in His holy meal, the Lord’s Supper. And no matter how much or how often we refuse and reject the gifts the Lord has to give, He constantly keeps them available to us.
Finally, God stirs in us our response of faith, to live lives of faith. Brothers and sisters, I urge you, do not refuse and reject the gifts the Lord has to give. Instead, make regular and diligent use of the gifts. Invite your family and friends, especially your unchurched family and friends to come and see, to come and be given the gifts as well. God love you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you.
I do believe this world is winding down and will be coming to an end, soon. And if not during our lifetime, know this, we will die and go to the Lord. Either way, it will happen, we will stand before the Lord and that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Until that time, I urge you, get yourself ready, keep yourself ready, invite others to get ready. And know that the Lord loves you and has so many gifts and blessings He wants to give to you. So, how else can we respond except to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Using the Book of Concord)

As we stated in an earlier article, “The only book we use is the Bible.” That statement is made with the insinuation that to use any other book other than the Bible would make a church less Christian. That statement is also made by those who, more than likely, do read other materials, devotional materials and the like. That statement also shows a misunderstanding of other books such as our Catechisms (Large and Small) as well as our confessional writings contained in the Book of Concord.

What we call our confessional writings, those writings which detail what we believe, teach and confess according to the Word of God is what they describe, writings that confess what we believe, teach and confess according to the Word of God. Our confessional writings are what we call a systematic approach to understanding the Bible.

The Book of Concord contains the chief doctrines (teachings) of what we believe in the Lutheran Church. It is the unaltered Augsburg Confession in this book of doctrines to which we subscribe or agree. This book of teachings systematically, in a well-ordered way, like our Small Catechism, spells out what we believe, teach and confess according to the Word of God. These writings also tell of those beliefs that we condemn and this negative statement is important as well, because there are times when, in order to fully understand what one believes, it is important to also make note of what one does not believe.

The churches and pastors as well as all church workers in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod must subscribe, agree with these confessional documents in the Book of Concord, otherwise they would not be a member of this Lutheran Church body. Herein we can relate this understanding to the fact that our churches and our pastors are in essence interchangeable so that no matter the church or the pastor we hear the same teachings. If you want to know what we believe as Lutheran Christians, it’s in the Book of Concord.
50 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

He Has Clothed Me - January 6, 2019 - Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 60:1-6

Today we celebrate Epiphany, the Epiphany. Epiphany marks the coming of the Magi, or the wise men to see the child, Jesus. And no, Jesus was not still in the manger in Bethlehem. Jesus was over a year old and the Magi came to a house where Mary and Joseph were living. The reason we celebrate this event, this Epiphany event, is because this is Jesus’ first appearance to anyone other than His own people, the Jews. This is Jesus first appearance to the Gentiles. The word Epiphany literally means “a moment of sudden and great revelation, or appearance.” The Gentile Magi coming to see the baby Jesus reminds us that the gift of the Son of God is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And one other misconception we want to clear up is that we really do not know how many Magi there were. We usually think of three, probably because of the three gifts that they brought. There may have been two, there may have been four, there may have been more. The important facts are that they were gentiles and they came and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Our text begins by telling us what will happen. We begin at verse one, “1Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (v.1-2).
God through the prophet Isaiah calls us to “Arise.” God is the prime mover. God gives us His Word, “arise,” and His Word is a word that does and gives what it says. God says “arise,” and we arise. From what do we arise? We arise from our sleep. We arise from our living in sin. We arise from our lukewarmness of the Gospel. We arise from sitting on our cheap grace.
Why do we arise? We arise because the light has come. The light promised years ago. The light promised and re-promised to the children of Israel time and time again. The Light of the World, yes, Jesus, the Son of God, God in flesh, was born. We arise to go and see the light which has come into the world. Literally, this prophecy finds it fulfillment as we see the Magi arise and follow the star which lead them to the house where the baby Jesus was living.
What is it about this light? This is the light that shined through the darkness of sin and unbelief. This is the light that the darkness has not understood nor overcome as the Gospel writer John tells us. The darkness being sin, death and the devil. The darkness, the devil has not understood nor overcome this light. The devil has not understood this light, because he cannot understand how a Creator God can love a people He has created, yet a people who have so sinned against Him, how can this Creator God love His people so much that He would send His one and only Son to suffer the eternal spiritual punishment for their sins. The devil cannot understand God’s great love nor can the devil over come this light, because the devil will never be able to overcome the power of Jesus.
Our text continues describing what the Lord will do. We continue at verse three, “3And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip” (v.3-4).
Isaiah reminds us that we are drawn to the Light. These words bring rather a startling picture. I hate to say it, but it is almost like bugs being drawn to a light, a moth to a flame if you will, but that is how we are. We do not like the darkness. Oh, we do like the darkness while we are in the midst of our sinning, we like our whispering, our anonymity, because we think it hides our sinning, but it gets kind of scary after a while. We are drawn to the light so we can see. We are drawn to the light as Christ draws all people to Himself.
All people, a great crowd, is drawn. Jesus does not just draw us to Himself, He draws a great crowd, He draws all people to Himself. Here we might be reminded that when God first promised to send a Savior, this promise was first made back in the Garden of Eden. This promise was first made before there was a Jew and a Gentile, when there was only Adam and Eve. Thus, we are reminded that God’s promise to send a Savior has always been, from the very beginning a promise made to all people, so it should not surprise us that God draws all people to Himself.
And notice that it is the Lord who will do it. It is the Lord who will draw, will carry us to Himself. He is the prime mover. He says it in His Word and He does what His Word says. We do not come because of our own initiative we come because He calls us and He moves us to come. The same is true for all people, only those who are drawn are the ones who come.
The Lord through Isaiah goes on to describe what we will do on our part. We pick up at verse five, “5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord” (v. 5-6).
Martin Luther expressed it well in his explanations to the commandments when he started each one with the words, “we should fear and love God.” There are two sides to fear. First there is the fear of being afraid. And we should be afraid. While we are living in sin, while we are in the middle of sinning, while we remember our sins, we should be afraid because our God is a just God who hates sin and who promises to punish all who sin. We should be afraid.
But fear is not just being afraid. Fear is also a sense of awe and respect. When the Lord comes there will be awe, there will be respect. We will fear God. We will love and respect the Lord. We will love and respect Him, we will fear and love Him because of His love for us. We will fear and love Him as we reflect His love back to Him and to each other. We will fear and love God because we will share in the riches of heaven. By grace through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, by His suffering, death and resurrection, by His clothing us in the righteousness He earned, heaven is ours. What else can we do, but fear and love Him.
What does this mean? First and foremost this means that we are saved. We, as Gentile Christians, rejoice because the great light of Jesus has shined in our lives. Jesus came not just for the Jews, He came for all people of all places of all times. Today we are so very thankful for the means of grace, the way the Lord comes to us to gives us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. We are so thankful for the Word and the Sacraments. It is the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word which puts faith in our hearts. It is through the water and the Word of Holy Baptism that God puts His name on us. It is through confession and absolution that God speaks forgiveness into us. It is through the bread and wine connected with the Word of God in the Lord’s Supper that God gives us Himself to eat and drink.
It is God who saves us, but God does not save us for nothing. We like to hear Romans 8:28 which reminds us that in all things, good and bad (which is usually when we are reminded of this verse) that the Lord is with us. We often forget verse twenty-nine and thirty which remind us that God called us to serve Him. And we like to hear Ephesians 2:8 & 9 about being saved by grace through faith in Jesus, but we often forget verse ten which reminds us that we were saved for a purpose, to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do. Our text reminds us that we are to share the good news with other. We have the light that others need.
This morning we are reminded of what we call the third use of the Law. We are reminded by God and His Word that we are to be His people here in this place. This is not our church, not our country club, this is God’s church and we are to be God’s people in this place. We are to be about His business of making disciples. So we are not to sit around in complacency. We do not lament about what we think we do not have, grumbling and complaining against our Lord, and His church, but we are to be about His business, working and stretching, walking in faith, knowing and believing that He is with us always, even to the end of the world as He has promised. Thus we will be bold to ask of the Lord and bold to plan great things, looking to Him for the faith, strength and ability, as well as for the gifts, talents and abilities to do great things in His name in this place. So, instead of saying, “We can’t do that,” we will ask, “How can we do that?” or better, “How will the Lord help us to do that?” Instead of saying, “We’ve never done it that way before,” we will ask, “Is there a better way?” Instead of focusing on seeming obstacles we will look at the possibilities. Instead of sitting by and waiting to be asked to help and serve, we will step forward and ask, “What can I do to help?” And if we do not get an immediate answer, we will keep asking, “What can I do to help?” I believe the Lord has great things in store for us and my prayer is that He will stir in us to do the great things He would have us to do.
This morning we are reminded once again that God’s Word is so very important. God’s Word is not like any other Word. God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word is a Word which does what it says. God’s Word is a Word that gives what it says. Remember creation? God said, He spoke everything into being. God said and it was. God gives us His Word and His Word does what it says and gives what it says.
As Gentile Christians we do celebrate the Epiphany. We celebrate that Jesus is our Savior too. We celebrate that God loves us so much that even while we are in the middle of our sinning, He gives His Son to suffer the eternal consequences for us. And now He gives us His Word and Sacraments to be strengthened in our faith in our forgiveness in our life and salvation. Our God is an awesome God and a great light. He gives and He does and stirs in us to be given to and to be done to. He even stirs in us our response of faith to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Using the Bible)

The Bible is the Word of God and the optative word here is the word “is.” To say or suggest that the Bible merely contains the Word of God would mean that one would have to be a detective to search and find what is and what is not actually God’s Word in the Bible. Because the Bible is the Word of God, we can be sure that it is true and authoritative.

The Bible is the Word of God which is always true. This fact may be compared to the word of any human being which has been tainted by sin and which may or may not be true. Thus, when there is a question as to whether to believe the word of a human, even a smart human over against believing the Word of God, it is best to believe the Word of God and to understand that the human has gotten something wrong.

This distinction between God’s Word and man’s word is especially important in any of the fields of science as well as in understanding, translating and interpreting God’s Word. When science disagrees with the Bible, it is always best to believe that scientist have made an error in their findings. When it is suggested that the Word of God may be interpreted in different ways, or that God contradicts Himself, the problem is not with God’s Word, but with the findings of fallible humans.

The point is that the Word of God is the foundation for all truth, indeed as Jesus tells us, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth as we see in the world which suggests there is no god and there are no absolutes.

The Word of God is also the source of all authority. If God said it then that settles it, whether we understanding it or agree with it. If God says it in His Word, we know it is trustworthy and true and that it is authoritative. Indeed, the Bible is God’s Word and we believe it and live according to it as such.
49 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)