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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Canaanite Style, Hebrew Substance, Facing Israel’s Mission Challenge

(A Parody of David Lueke’s book, Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance based on 1 Kings 12:25-33 and inspired by comments from the Concordia Commentary: 1 Kings 12-22 by Walter A. Maier III) by King Jeroboam (Ronald A. Bogs) ©2019

After King Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam became King of all Israel (and Judah). However, his son Jeroboam, who had been sent to Egypt for protection returned and met with Rehoboam as the representative of Israel to negotiate the continued unity of the kingdom. Jeroboam asked that the demands of Solomon might be relieved and if so, then all Israel would remain loyal to Rehoboam. The historic account shows that Rehoboam took the council of the younger men instead of the older generation, which suggested a relief for the people and instead he demanded more. Thus, Jeroboam and all Israel defected and the kingdom became divided. Of course, we know this was from the hand of God.

Now the Jeroboam was king of Israel, in order to keep the people from crossing over and reuniting with Rehoboam, and because the people were now unable to worship in Jerusalem new worship styles (customs, traditions, practices) would need to be implemented. So Jeroboam decreed as such. He told the people, we will begin initiating our own worship locations. This change of worship location in no way affects our worship of the one true God, Yahweh. Although God commanded that we worship at the temple in Jerusalem, because of the divide in our nation that option is no longer available. We will be opening new (and equal) worship facilities in Bethel and Dan in order to continue worshiping the one True God, Yahweh. Please understand that this change in venue (style, practice) in no way affects our beliefs (substance, doctrine).

On a related note, because the Levites and the priest from the Levites remain in Jerusalem in service to the temple there, we will be selecting and appointing our own priests and Levites from our own people. Again, please understand that this change (in style and practice) in no way will affect our worship (substance and doctrine) of the one true God, Yahweh. Our priest and Levites will conduct worship in the same manner to which we are all accustomed.

We will also be adding an exciting new facet to our worship. In order to reach out to our neighbors (because we are mission minded) we will be inviting our neighbors and friends to join us for worship. We will not close ourselves off to others in the way the worship was practice in Jerusalem. With this openness we hope to attract our neighbors in order to bring them into our fellowship where we continue to worship the one true God, Yahweh.

Please understand that Jeroboam’s intent was not to create or worship any new God, but simply a response to the events that had taken place. Again, because King Rehoboam would not listen to Jeroboam and Israel and lighten the load placed on them by King Solomon, King Jeroboam and Israel split dividing the kingdom into two. With the temple in Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Jeroboam believed he needed to do something in order to assure that those in the Northern Kingdom of Israel would not defect for religious reasons. Thus, Jeroboam, while decidedly speaking of maintaining Hebrew doctrine and worship of the one true God, Yahweh, built worship facilities in the North, although this was contrary to God’s command and purpose. So, Jeroboam built an altar for worship at Bethel and at Dan. “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” he told the people. He made temples and appointed priests among the people. He appointed feasts and offered sacrifices, similar to those to which the people were accustomed during the united kingdom. He did what he did all in the name of simply changing the style in which the people would relate to the one true god, at least according to his own convincing.

Jeroboam truly followed in the footsteps of an earlier famous Israelite who built a golden calf and called it Yahweh so that the people delivered from bondage of slavery in Egypt had a god they could worship, as for Moses they did not know where he went. Indeed, Aaron believed he did nothing wrong. He did not change the substance of the people, calling on the name of Yahweh, simply changing the style, giving the people an object to worship.

So, here, Jeroboam does not seek to change the substance of worship, simply the style, in this case the place of worship. Of course, Jeroboam’s problem was the same as Aaron’s and the same as all those who attempt to separate style and substance, or doctrine and practice. The problem is that the two cannot be separated. You cannot separate what you believe with how you practice what you believe. To change one is to change the other or to change the other is to change the one. For Aaron, the people worshiped the calf and not the God, Yahweh, Aaron worked to represent. For Jeroboam, the change of the practice of worship quickly moved to idolatry and paganism, much like the people who lived around them.

The same is true for time and eternity. Any change in style or practice brings about a change in substance or doctrine. Thus, change for the sake of diversity brings the basics of diversity, that is division. Change of style for the sake of mission changes the doctrine which also brings division not out reach nor unity. As was the case with the Children of Israel, their change in style brought about full blown pagan idolatry. As for the change of style in churches today usually lead to some sort of American Evangelical faith which in its essence is works righteousness that is a pointing to self and self obedience rather than pointing to Jesus and His grace and mercy.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Signs of What Is to Come - August 25, 2019 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Isaiah 66:18-23

The comedian Steven Wright quips, “I know when I am going to die because my birth certificate has an expiration date on it.” Every generation, or so it seems, has believed theirs to be the last generations, at least that is the thinking with each generation. Things have gotten so bad that they believe, this must be the end. From the time of the promise of a Messiah until His actual birth, God waited some 3000 years. Before His ascension, Jesus promised He would return. So far we have waited only 2000 years. Will God wait another thousand years? Will God return during our lifetime? I do not know. What I do know, and what I would encourage you to know is that He tells us to be ready and He gives us examples of those who were not ready; those not ready for the flood, those not ready for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and likewise those who will not be ready for His return on the last day. And what I do know is that we will stand before the Lord to be judged by Him and that day will be, either when He returns, or when we pass on from this world, when we die and go to Him, either way, it will happen, we will see our last day and I believe that last day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. So, it is indeed, truly important, to be ready at all times.
In our text for today, words given by God through Isaiah, especially to the children of Israel, but words to us today as well, we are reminded that the time is coming, the end, the day of Judgement is coming. As the end approaches, Isaiah reminds us that God knows our works and thoughts. We begin at verse eighteen, “18“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory” (v. 18). On the last day, on the day of judgement, the Lord will gather all people, believers and unbelievers alike and we will all stand before Him to be judged and we will be judged, not by any outward appearance, but by the contents of our hearts as the Lord will look into our hearts and know our thoughts.
Continuing on at verse nineteen, Isaiah reminds us that God will gather all nations to be judged, “19and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations” (v. 19). All people from all over the world will stand before the Lord. Isaiah tells us, in slightly different words, what John says in God’s Revelation to him, that on the last day, all nations, all people, believers and yes, even unbelievers, will bow down and acknowledged that Jesus is Lord.
Continuing on at verse twenty, until that day, the day of the Lord’s return on judgement day, the Lord will send out missionaries to call people to faith, “20And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord” (v. 20). Of course, we are reminded that this does not simply mean sending missionaries out to people in far off foreign lands, because today we, you and I are missionaries. Just look at the cultural diversity we have here in our own country even in our own neighborhoods. People from countries where Christianity is illegal, have come here to our country, to us, and as we have opportunity, as we live lives of faith, as we live as priests in the priesthood of all believers, as we live as living sacrifices, and as we are asked, so we are to boldly, with God’s authority and His promise to give us the words and the courage to speak, we are to share the good news of the message of salvation to all those the Lord gives us opportunity to speak to.
Verse twenty-one reiterates this priesthood idea. Those who have been given faith are to serve in their vocation as priests, “21And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.” (v. 21). What a privilege, to be a witness, to be a missionary for our Lord as He gives us the opportunity.
Perhaps we do not think about it enough, but our days on this earth are numbered and are few, especially compared to eternity. It will not be long and our Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth. On the day of judgement the Lord will separate the believers from the unbelievers. Those judged to eternal life will share in His glory, verse twenty-two, “22“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain” (v. 22). Those who have been given faith and who remain in faith will be given eternal life in heaven with the Lord.
And this eternal life in heaven will be eternal, forever, with not end. As for this concept of time, in heaven there will be no time. In heaven time will be the eternal present and complete holiness, picking up at verse twenty-three, “23From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord” (v. 23). Heaven will be an unending place of eternal joy.
So, what does this mean? As we have been reminded the last number of weeks and so as we continually need to be reminded, which is the reason we come to divine service every Sunday, because of our constant need to be reminded, God is the prime mover. God acts first. God gives and we are given to. God gives life, faith, forgiveness and eternal life. And God’s usual way of giving the good gifts and blessings He has to give is through means, namely the means of grace, His Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and His Holy Supper. These are the means God uses to give us faith. As we live lives as priests in our vocations, as we have opportunity, we invite others, especially our unchurched family and friends to “Come and see,” to “Come and hear,” the Word preached and taught, so that the Lord might work through these very means to give faith to those who do not yet know Him.
Not only does God give faith through His means of grace, He also uses these same means to strengthen and keep us in faith. Just as a person who fails to go to the grocery store to purchase food, may run out of food and starve, so it is with those who fail to go to the Lord’s spiritual grocery store, those who fail to be in divine service where the Lord distributes His gifts and blessings. The questions is not, “Do we have to go to church?”, rather the joy is, “When do we get to go to church?” As King David said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalms 122:1). It is as we make regular and diligent use of the Lord’s means of grace that He has His way with us, that He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith because the day will come when the Lord will return, or we will go to Him.
The day will come when God will judge. He will come to judge the living and the dead. He will come as a thief in the night. He will come on a day and at an hour no one will suspect. He will come and all will know that day has arrived.
And when He comes to judge, God knows if we have faith or not. And it is this faith, or no faith that will determine our eternal destiny. There are those in our world who have friends and family members who are not Christians, who do not know the Lord and unfortunately rather than confront their family or friends, because you know how it is, we do not talk about religion or politics, many have simply adjusted their belief to think that God will save all people, no matter what they believe, as long as they are sincere. I am sorry to inform you, but that is not what God says.
God tells us that those who are without faith, will receive their reward of eternal death in hell. Those are not my words and that is not my judgement. Those are the Lord’s Word and His just judgement. God’s just Words reminds us, then, of our need to bear witness of the faith which He has given to us so that others might be saved.
God also tells us that those with faith, will be given their reward of eternal, everlasting life in heaven. It is faith in Jesus Christ alone and His work, His life, His suffering, death and resurrection for us that saves us. God knows what is in our hearts. He knows if we have faith or no faith. And to those He has given faith and to those who have not refused the faith He has given, He gives eternal life in heaven.
Thus, we have Jesus’ encouragement to keep watch and be ready. We do not know the day or the hour. We do not know when we will die or when the Lord will return. We do know that this world means nothing compared to the world to come. We do know that all that we might amass in this world means nothing in the world to come. We do know that the most important thing in this life is having a right relationship with Jesus. And so that is what Jesus encourages us to work on, our relationship with Himself.
This morning we also have God’s encouragement, through Paul, to rejoice in discipline, which helps keep us ready. We talked about this discipline before and the fact that God does discipline those He loves, not because He likes to see us in pain, but because He wants to keep us on the straight and narrow, because He wants to keep us faithful, unto death, so that He might give us the crown of life.
This morning, then, I also encourage you. Keep ready and strive to help others to be ready. Live lives of faith. Make regular and diligent use of the Means of Grace. Be in divine service and Bible Class. Come and be loved by God. Come and be given to by God. Come be filled so that you might go and live and bear witness.
I know none of us has an expiration date on our birth certificate and I am glad. I do not think any of us wants to know the day we will die or the day the Lord will return, that would not help us in the being ready always department. What we do know is that the Lord has promised that He will return or that we will pass on, that we will die and go to Him. We do know that the Lord has acted first in our lives as the prime mover, giving us faith, either through our Baptism or through His Word. We do know that the Lord stirs in us through the means of our remembering our Baptism, through the means of His Word, through the means of our confession and absolution and through the means of His Holy Supper to strengthen and keep us in faith. We do know the Lord loves us and has created us to love us. And we do know that He will be with us, giving us His authority to speak when asked for the hope that we have in Jesus, as we have opportunity as we live lives of faith as priests in the priesthood of all believers. And so our whole lives say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Counted to Him (Us) as Righteousness - August 11, 2019 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Text: Genesis 15:1-6

A couple of reminders are in order as we begin looking at our text for this morning. First, remember that God’s promise to send a Messiah was first given in the Garden of Eden, to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or a Gentile and it was given for all people of all places of all times. And second, here in our text what we have is not a new covenant, but a narrowing of the line of the fulfillment of the covenant that was made in the Garden of Eden. With those reminders said, let us get to our text.
God had appeared to Abram earlier and had spoken to him concerning the promise of a child, a son, an heir, and yet, at this time Abram was still childless and this was a concern for him. We begin in our text at verse one, “1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ 2But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ 3And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir’” (v. 1-3).
So, Abram is still childless and he is getting older. Abram understands the ways of nature, the ways of the world, that things do not get better, but that things go from good to bad. He understands the usual way of his body and for that matter of Sarah’s body, growing older and being past child bearing years. Although Abram had God’s promise, seeing through his sin tainted eyes, he is having a hard time believing that what God promised can come true.
Abram wants to believe God’s promise. He wants God’s promise to be fulfilled and so in his thoughts he gives God an “out,” that is that perhaps God will fulfill His promise through a relative. Now, in his defense, in his day and culture, family was an important thing and so to have the family line continue through a relative was not an unlikely possibility. And with Abram growing old, this possibility for him had great probability.
But God had other plans. God’s plan was to fulfill His promise just the way He gave it, so His response to Abram was, and we pick up at verse four, “4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ 5And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ 6And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (v. 4-6). God assured Abram that his heir would not be from another family member, but would be his own flesh and blood. And then God showed Abram the stars of heaven and promised him that his descendants would be a large nation of people.
God reiterated His promise to Abram that He would keep His promise, in His time and according to His good pleasure and that Abram would have a large family and most importantly for us, that the Savior of the nations, of all people of all places of all times would be born through his descendants.
And we are told that God counted Abram as righteous because of his faith. Certainly we find comfort in these words of God to Abram, because we are counted righteous before God for the very same reason today, because of our faith, faith which He has given to us in the first place, faith given through His means of grace. Abram was not righteous in God’s eyes for something he had done, but because of what God promised He would do. Abram was righteous because God put faith in his heart, faith in his Offspring, namely in the promised Messiah. We are not righteous before God because of what we do, but we are righteous before God because of the faith He has put in our hearts, faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
So, we might ask, “What is faith?” Our Epistle lesson for this morning is known as the great chapter of faith and in it we are shown great people of faith and their example of faith. This morning we especially make note of the faith of Abram and of Sarah. Abram believed the promises of God and moved to a place far away from his family even though he did not know where he was going. And interestingly enough, even though we know that Sarah had doubts, even though she laughed at the possibility of having a child in her old age, which is why her child was named Isaac, or laughter, we are told that it was her faith that gave her the power to conceive. Certainly we can understand that God is the one giving her such power.
In our Gospel lesson we are reminded that we are God’s people, that we too are children of Abraham, that we are children of the covenant. We are children of the covenant because we are children of Adam and Eve. We are children of the covenant because, by faith in Jesus we are children of Abraham. We are reminded that God loves us and takes care of us. And we reminded that our faith shows itself in our actions and specifically in our treasure, in other words, what is important to us. We know what is important to ourselves by looking at where we spend and how we use our treasure.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about love and he concludes with words about hope and faith as well, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Today we define these words, faith, hope and love as follows. Hope is based on the future. We have hope that something will happen. Love is based on today, and faith is looking to the past. We look to the past to see what God has done and how He has fulfilled and kept His promises. As God has fulfilled His promises in the past then we can count on Him fulfilling His promises in the future.
Faith is based on the past and in particular, saving faith, that faith which gains eternal life, is faith that is on Jesus Christ and His work on the cross alone. Not only is faith important, but the object of faith is important as well. Certainly we may believe in a tree, or a rock or an idol, but these objects will not gain eternal salvation in heaven for us. The only true saving faith is faith in Jesus and His life, suffering, death and resurrection, for us in our place. Abram believed that God would send a Savior and so His faith was counted to him as righteousness. We have faith that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah and so our faith is counted as righteous to us. Notice, there are not two covenants, not two types of faith, but one covenant and one faith.
Again, faith is based on the past, but faith is also a gift and an instrument, given by God and used to take hold of all the good gifts and blessings God has to give. I like to say that faith is like a spoon. When someone gives you a bowl of ice cream, they do not simply give you a bowl of ice cream. They give you the spoon with which to eat the ice cream. So it is with faith. When God gives us faith, through the waters of Holy Baptism or through His Word, the faith He gives is like the spoon which moves the ice cream from the bowl to our mouth. The faith God gives moves the gifts He has to give from Himself to us. It is a package deal. Thus faith is a gift and an instrument through which we are given all the good gifts and blessings God has to give.
What does this mean? As we look at, as we read about, as we hear about Abram who’s name was changed to Abraham, we might well see our own lives and our own relationship with the Lord. And here again we are reminded that God is the prime mover, that God acts first, that God gives first and that we are indeed passive. We are done to and we are given to.
God acts first. He has called us to life and He has called us to life through the means of conception. We do not conceive ourselves. We do not call ourselves into being. God is the prime mover. He calls us to life and He calls us to life through the means of conception. At conception we are given life, a body and a soul. Unfortunately, when we are called into being, at conception, because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we are conceived and we are born in sin. Thus, when we are born we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God.
Thanks be to God that He does not leave us in that condition, but He calls us to faith and this call too is through means, in particular through the means of grace, His Word and Holy Baptism. At our Baptism the Lord does an exorcism of sorts, casting Satan out of our hearts and entering in, giving us faith, forgiveness and life. Yet, again, we see God as the prime mover. We do not call ourselves to be baptized. We do not call ourselves to faith. We do not plant faith in our own hearts, rather this calling, this giving of faith, comes from outside of us, this calling and faith comes from God who calls us to and gives us faith.
But, God is not done. Not only does God call us to faith, He also calls us to vocation, that is He calls us to live lives of faith, to live lives as living sacrifices. Notice here again, God is the prime mover. God gives us gifts, talents and abilities. God gives us interests and encouragement and a place to use what He has given. Although God calls only some men to the office of Holy Ministry He calls all people to be His priest in the priesthood of all believers. We call this our vocation. Our vocation or vocations are those things we do as priests in service to the Lord. Remember, a priest offers sacrifices. Our pastor does not offer sacrifices, but as priests, we daily offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, and we do this, offer our lives as living sacrifices as the Lord stirs in us and works this living through us.
Holy Scripture, the life of Abram, our lives, these all point to God giving and doing and our being given to and done to. Just as Abraham was not counted righteous because of anything he did, but only because he acted in faith, according to the faith that God had given him, so it is with us. We are counted righteous before God, not because of anything we do or think we might do for Him, but because of our faith, the faith which He has given to us. We are counted righteous as we live lives of faith, as we live lives as living sacrifices, as the Lord has His way with us, as He works in and through us, as He is the prime mover.
God is the prime mover. God has made us righteous, giving us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation , earned and paid for by Jesus, so that we have been brought back into a right relationship with God Himself. God has done it all. God continues to give to us and we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.