Wednesday, August 29, 2012

“The Prayers We Offer” Basics of the Christian Faith--Aug. 26th, ‘12

1.                   Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  In the message from God’s Word today we’re going to look at what our Lord says about prayer.  How do we pray as Christians?  Our Lord Jesus has taught us to pray with the Lord’s Prayer as our model.  But, what does all this mean?  We’ll answer these questions today.  The message is entitled, “The Prayers We Offer,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2.                   A frustrated young man tells of his mother who, though near blind, won’t admit it.  One day as the son walked with her from the car to the door, he said, “Mom, the door’s straight ahead.”  His mother turned to the right and smacked head on into the wall of the house.  Again the young man said, “Mom, the door’s straight ahead.”  Again the woman walked smack into the wall to the right of the door.  There was a pause.  Then came the question, “Son, where’s the door?”  Again and again, all of us want to go our own way.  Often only after we’ve smacked into failure time after time do we turn to our Heavenly Father for help.
3.                   Even when we do turn to God in prayer we may not know for sure what we can expect.  Does prayer “really work?”  Can we depend on prayer when we find ourselves slamming into life’s hard realities?  As we begin to think about prayer, we need to realize first of all that we don’t depend on prayer.  Rather, we depend on the one true God who’s promised to hear and answer our prayers.  To pray, we need to know what God is like, and we need to understand by what right we approach Him.  Psalm 24:3-5 says, 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”  Those are some tough requirements!  Clean hands and a pure heart.  An absence of idolatry in our lives.  Truthfulness in what we say.  Who among us can “ascend the hill of the Lord” to speak to our heavenly King?
4.                   No one here.  No one alive today and no one who’s ever lived--except for one thing:  the cross of Jesus Christ.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago, all those who believe in Him have clean hands and a pure heart that God requires of those who seek Him.  Because of the cross of Christ, you now, “receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God our Savior.”  Now we dare to approach the holy and majestic God in prayer, confident that “we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16).
5.                   How thankful we can be that we rely not on our own worthiness to earn for us the right to present our needs to God in prayer.  How thankful we can be that we rely on God’s wisdom as we pray.  Our sinful nature often blinds us to our real needs.  Often we confuse what we want with what we need.  We sometimes try to force our will on God.  We try to substitute our selfish desires for God’s infallible, omniscient, gracious purposes for our lives.  We need God’s wisdom to align our will with God’s.  We need wisdom to ask for those blessings with which our Heavenly Father wants to flood our lives and wisdom to recognize those blessings when they come.
6.                   But, how can we know God’s will in any particular set of circumstances?  We look first to His Word and what He’s revealed there about His will for us.  We can pray for those things He’s promised without conditions, knowing He’ll do what He’s promised.  And when we pray for those things He’s not promised, we ask that He would grant our petitions in the way and at the time best for us.  God has promised in Phil 4:19, “to meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  We can ask Him to fulfill that promise and expect Him to do so.  But, His way of doing it may differ from our expectations.  He may see to it that we get Job X instead of Job Y.  Our income may remain lower than we would like, but maybe our car needs fewer repairs or, for whatever reason, the utility bill goes down.  We don’t speak to God the timing or method of His answer to our prayers.  But, we can rest in His love toward us, remember the Apostle Paul’s powerful questions of faith in Romans 8:31-32, “31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 
7.                   In light of our limitations, how wonderful to remember two promises of Romans 8 in verses 26 & 34, 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…  34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  Did you catch that?  God, the Holy Spirit, prays for us.  Our brother, the Son of God in human flesh, the Lord Jesus, prays for us.  How can we possibly fail to obtain our Heavenly Father’s good and gracious will, His best gifts, those things that will help us the very most regardless of how big our needs may seem?
8.                   Certainly we’re “to take everything to the Lord in prayer,” but we’re misguided when we use prayer only to update God about the events and needs of our lives.  A pastor once prayed, “O Lord, the situation in this congregation is bad.  We haven’t met our budget.  We can’t get enough volunteers.”  On and on he prayed, listing problems.  After the service, a member came to him and asked, “What’s the matter Pastor? Don’t you think the Lord reads our church’s newsletter?”  We can spend a lot of energy in prayer in an attempt to inform God, not only about things as they are, but as we think or wish them to be.  Instead of informing Him, we need to let Him be transforming us--as we meditate on His love for us in Christ, as we remember His promises to us in His Word, as we allow Him to align our wishes with those He’s revealed to us in the Bible.  Then our prayers won’t attempt to seize His power to further our own desires, but we’ll instead pray as our Lord has taught us, “Hallowed be Thy name.  They kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
9.                   The myth that prayer involves simply informing God of our needs is bad in another way, too.  It completely misses other reasons for which God’s people pray.  Prayer includes confession of sins.  It involves praise.  It involves thanksgiving.  When we pray we confess our sins, just as our Lord Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.”  When we pray we praise God for who He is.  When we pray we thank God for all He’s done, especially what He’s done for us in Christ Jesus and His cross and empty tomb.  And as we pray, we intercede for others.  A balanced prayer life involves all these elements.
10.   We do ask God for what we need in prayer, and we do rely on Him to hear and answer us.  But, we can’t use prayer to excuse us from sitting back and letting God act in His own time.   God tells us to pray for our daily bread, but He doesn’t just drop it into our laps.  He provides the seed, sun, soil and rain.  But, our hands must be on the plow.  The Bible records many instances in which God disciplines His children for praying without taking action.  In one instance, God spoke to Joshua after the defeat of the Israelites at the village of Ai.  Because of this, Joshua tore his clothes and fell to his face on the ground dismayed.  God told him to get up, to investigate the theft that had caused the problem, and then to go in to possess the land that the Lord had promised His people.  Joshua sprawled on His face when He should’ve been standing on his feet!  God doesn’t encourage laziness.  Prayers are practiced as well as spoken.
11.   Sometimes, as with Joshua, before God changes “things,” He must first change us, the ones who pray.  Listen to Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Think of the promise here!  God will give us “the desires of our hearts.”  Some have taken this to mean that God will give us anything our hearts desire.  But the promise means something far more than that.  As we meditate on the Word of our Lord, on His grace, on His promises to us, and on His revealed will, our desires will become more and more His desires.  We will see ourselves and our world in the light of eternity.  By God’s grace, we will pray more passionately, “Hallowed be Thy name!” And “Thy kingdom come!”  The Holy Spirit will use His Word to align our will with His own.  Then we can truly pray rightly.  Then we will see our Lord fulfill the promise He makes in 1 John 5:14-15, 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”          
12.   God the Holy Spirit changes us, and then He uses us, His changed children, to change things.  The Scriptures clearly teach this power of prayer, and they go further still in explaining the power that’s unleashed when God’s people pray.  In urging us to pray for the sick, the Apostle James gives the example of God’s powerful response to the prayers of the prophet Elijah in James 5:16-18, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”  James makes it clear, “Elijah was a man just like us.”  God didn’t answer Elijah on account of his personal “pull” in heaven’s throne room.  No.  Elijah was a person just like us.  God’s person.  God’s partner in prayer.  Prayer doesn’t change things, but the God who promises to hear and answer prayer does change things!  Remember what Jesus promised in Matthew 7:7-11, 7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
13.   Who could believe it?  God doesn’t need our prayers to accomplish His will here on earth.  But, He’s chosen to involve you, to use your prayers.  Prayer isn’t some kind of psychological trick we play on ourselves to help ourselves adjust to the inevitable.  When we pray, we have the ear of our Heavenly Father, the Maker of heaven and earth, the one who “gives good gifts to those who ask Him” in the name of Jesus our Savior.  Amen.        

Clinton Bremer’s Funeral Sermon Aug. 29th, ’12

“Enduring in Jesus to the End” (Matthew 24:13; Isaiah 46:3-4; Matthew 11:28-30)
Clinton Bremer’s Funeral Sermon Aug. 29th, ’12
 Rev. John M. Taggatz (St. John Lutheran Church Baldwin, IL)

1.            May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.  Dear family and friends of Clinton, today we grieve with you over his death.  Clinton will be deeply missed, but we know that this day isn’t the end for him, but just the beginning of a new life that he now shares with his Savior Jesus in heaven!  For this reason we’ll be looking at Clinton’s confirmation verse he received on April 3rd, 1938 here at St. John Baldwin, which is Matthew 24:13.  The message is entitled, “Enduring in Jesus to the End,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2.            I myself will miss Clinton.  He was a soft spoken man, but someone who had lived a long and full life.  The Lord had blessed him with a loving family and he himself was very family oriented, being a devoted husband, father, uncle, brother, and grandfather.  He was a very talented man too.  I noticed that when he was serving in the Navy during WWII that he was working on compasses while he was stationed at a laboratory in New Orleans for several months.  Clinton was a “jack of all trades” being an electrician, handyman, carpenter, a devoted farmer, a mechanic, and avid gardener.  He was a quiet helper always being willing to lend a hand, but humble while doing it.  And, that’s not all.  He was also a wonderful public servant— a member of our church here at St. John, the Baldwin American Legion, the Randolph County Farm Bureau, and he gave of his time to his family and friends.
3.            But, Clinton knew that he was a sinner in need of a Savior, and that’s why he confessed his faith in Jesus.  He received this faith in Jesus as his Savior when he was baptized at the St. John Evangelical Church in New Athens, IL.  He was then led to confess with his lips the faith that he’d received through water and the Word of God on April 3rd, 1938 here at St. John Lutheran Church in Baldwin.  Whenever I made my visits to see Clinton,  whether at his home, the hospital, or recently at the nursing home he would always have a smile on his face.  He knew that he would receive the preaching of God’s Word and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from me his pastor for the forgiveness of his sins and that these gifts of God promised him the wonderful gift of eternal life through Jesus his Lord.  In my visits with Clinton I could tell that he knew what it meant that Jesus had died on the cross for his sins, but he also knew of the hope that we have in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we too shall rise to live with God for all eternity in heaven with both our body and our soul when the Lord returns at the final judgment.  This was the faith that Clinton endured in all 91 years of his life, which is why his confirmation verse from Matthew 24:13 is so fitting.
4.            Jesus says in Matthew 24:9–13--9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
5.            Here in Matthew 24 we see that Jesus made some specific predictions about the future.  He reminds us that the future will bring a time of great distress before He returns on Judgment Day to judge the living and the dead, the believer from the unbeliever.  The deceitful presumptions of Darwinian evolutionary theory have convinced us that our world is on an upward climb, not a downward spiral into chaos as Jesus describes here.  But, while our standards of living, life expectancy, and new scientific discoveries may be improving life around the world, the spiritual condition of mankind isn’t improving.  Here in Matthew 24 Jesus gives us a sobering reminder that in the Last Days many will turn away from the faith.  
6.            Clinton knew of the distress and calamities that the Lord Jesus predicted here in Matthew 24 and also of the sinfulness and wickedness of mankind.  He served during WWII when so many people lost their lives.  He lived through the Cold War, through many terrorist attacks, and had witnessed the love of many growing cold.  He’d seen in his 91 years of life the downfall of the family here in America with so many families ending in divorce, the rise of secularism in this nation, and the decline of the Christian church.  Friends, sin is what causes us human beings to kill, hurt, steal, and gossip about one another.  Sin causes us to desire those things that don’t belong to us.  Sin leads us to curse God and not want anything to do with Him, even rejecting the many gifts He gives to us.  But, most importantly Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin is death.”  Sin ultimately leads to death and Clinton knew of his own mortality, that’s why he clung to the Gospel truth that Jesus lived the perfect life as our substitute, paid the punishment for our sins through his death on the cross, and rose victoriously from the dead to conquer sin, death, and the power of the devil for us.  Clinton believed most importantly in the second part of what Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   
7.            Jesus says in Matthew 24 that the result of such Christian persecution will be that some will fall away from the faith.  Many will renounce Christianity, rather than bear their crosses.   And yet, we saw that in the face of Clinton’s suffering and loss of his physical strength while he was on hospice care that he was drawn closer to His Lord and Savior Jesus.  He was a witness to all of us that in the midst of “bearing his own cross and burdens” Christ was making his faith stronger and using him to be a witness to the Gospel.  He showed to us how the child of God departs this life enduring in Jesus to the end.  That my friends, is a true testament to what we as Christians are called to do.  To endure in the faith Christ has given to us and to think of others before ourselves, as our Lord and Savior Jesus did for us through His death on the cross.  Clinton trusted in the promise of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
8.            Clinton’s long 91 years of life the Lord blessed him with reminds me of what God the Father said in Isaiah 46:3-4 ,3Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; 4even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”  A quick review of the history of the people of Israel recalls all that God had done for them—the exodus from Egypt, the water and manna in the wilderness, the victories of the judges and the kings, and most the miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian forces at the very gate of Jerusalem as Isaiah tells us in chapters 36 & 37. God had carried his people Israel in spite of their rebellious & sinful ways. He’d made them what they were.
9.            God wasn’t finished with them. The Lord promised to carry them long into their old age, just as he did for Clinton helping him to endure in Jesus to the end. God wouldn’t change; he would remain the same Lord of grace. He promised to persist in his loving care of his people.  As we read the words addressed to the “house of Jacob,” we find courage to face our own trials in  life. As Christians we too are of the house of Jacob by faith in Jacob’s great descendant, Jesus. We may not have to witness the destruction of our nation and an exile to a foreign country as these ancient Jews did, but we do face our own trials and difficulties, especially the trial of the death of our loved one, Clinton. The apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians saying, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). In the midst of whatever hardships we face, God’s promise applies to us too. No matter what we’ve experienced in life, God has carried us and upheld us. He promises us no less than He promised the believers of Isaiah’s day, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.”  We thank the Lord that by His grace He sustained Clinton to the end of his life and helped him to endure in his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil, and we pray that by God’s grace in Christ he would enable us to endure to the end of our lives as well that we too along with Clinton may receive the crown of everlasting life!  Amen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

True Church Discipline

True Church Discipline

Bloomberg_CraigDr. Blomberg is a professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary (Colorado).
"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt. 18:15-17 NIV)
Growing up in a mainline Protestant church, I had no idea there was anything such as church discipline in the modern world.  Matthew 18:15-17 was never discussed, much less implemented, even when church leaders gratuitously divorced their spouses after beginning affairs with other individuals.
In the evangelical churches I have participated in during my adult life, there has always been a policy regarding church discipline, attempting to be true to the teaching of Jesus in this text.  But a number of exegetical observations are often overlooked:
First, nothing in this passage limits the sin to certain kinds of offenses deemed particularly serious.  Matthew 5:23-24 could suggest that any individual’s priority is to deal with ways in which others in the congregation believe he or she has sinned against them.  But for most small offenses, people should be able to deal with things privately, precisely the first step in the process.  A willingness to freely apologize, even when one feels perhaps only partially responsible for an offense, can go a long way toward peacemaking, a task Jesus calls blessed (5:9)
Second, a lot of minor offenses can easily just be overlooked, for the sake of keeping that same peace.  Only when there is a pattern of repeated, sinful behavior is it usually necessary for there to be intervention.  Part of the process Jesus depicts, starting from complete privacy, is also to limit the number of people who know.  The worst thing to do, but often the most common thing we do, is to complain about others to everyone but the persons themselves.  Sometimes they don’t even know we’ve been hurt!  This must be avoided at all costs.
Third, the different meanings of “witnesses” in English cause unnecessary confusion.  I have often had people ask me, “How can I bring one or two witnesses if no one witnessed the offense?”  This question confuses the concept of “eyewitness” (Greekautoptēs) with “one who testifies” (martus, the word used here).  The point is not that the people must have prior knowledge of the offense, much less have actually seen it, but that they can testify after the meeting between the offender and offended as to what was said, how people reacted, and so on, so that it doesn’t come down to a case of “he said, she said.”
Fourth, there really isn’t any way to make “tell it to the church” mean “tell it to the pastor” or “tell it to the elders” or some other subgroup of the church.  Perhaps involving a body of church leaders as an intermediate step between the meeting with one or two witnesses and telling things to the church is a wise idea, especially in all but the smallest of churches.  If there is any chance that reconciliation can occur—repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration of relationship—then the fewer people who know the better.  There is wisdom in the principle of involving no more than those people who already know about a problem.  But the “church” is the entire gathered assembly.  Telling something to the church is the last step before disfellowshipping, and if there is the possibility that such a dramatic step must be taken then the entire body of believers must be informed and must be informed at least of the basic issue at stake.  In today’s hyperlitigious society with confidentiality laws run amuck, churches who actually intend to implement church discipline need to have language in their by-laws and in agreements that members sign, approved by legal counsel, waiving the right to sue the church in such instances.
Finally, treating someone like “a pagan or a tax collector” means treating them like a non-Christian.  Jesus was actually remarkably solicitous toward the immoral outsiders of his day, but he did call them to repentance.  The only purpose for church discipline anywhere in the New Testament is always remedial, even if in extreme cases, the rehabilitation comes only after death!  In this context, however, Jesus is not contemplating anything that extreme, not even full-fledged excommunication or disfellowshipping, but merely the exclusion of people from offices or gatherings that are limited to believers.  If and when they repent, and demonstrate the genuineness of that repentance (which by definition is a change of action, requiring a period of time to show that the behavior truly has changed), then they may be reinstated, both to church membership and to leadership.  In our fractured modern societies, in which full excommunication typically leads to a person merely going to another church that asks no questions or becoming embittered against the church, and possibly God, altogether, a much more effective approach is to declare the congregation’s love for an offender right from the beginning and offer a process of restoration and accountability that even before reinstatement does not require them to stop attending services (assuming those services are open to non-Christians) but certainly to refrain from the Lord’s Table and any gatherings open only to believers.

The Disappearance of Church Discipline–How Can We Recover? Part One

The Disappearance of Church Discipline–How Can We Recover? Part One

mohler_4Dr. Mohler is the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville Kentucky
What is pure is corrupted much more quickly than what is corrupt is purified. –John Cassian (AD 360-435)
The decline of church discipline is perhaps the most visible failure of the contemporary church. No longer concerned with maintaining purity of confession or lifestyle, the contemporary church sees itself as a voluntary association of autonomous members, with minimal moral accountability to God, much less to each other.
The absence of church discipline is no longer remarkable–it is generally not even noticed. Regulative and restorative church discipline is, to many church members, no longer a meaningful category, or even a memory. The present generation of both ministers and church members is virtually without experience of biblical church discipline.
As a matter of fact, most Christians introduced to the biblical teaching concerning church discipline–the third mark of the church–confront the issue of church discipline as an idea they have never before encountered. At first hearing, the issue seems as antiquarian and foreign as the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch trials. Their only acquaintance with the disciplinary ministry of the church is often a literary invention such as The Scarlet Letter.
And yet, without a recovery of functional church discipline–firmly established upon the principles revealed in the Bible–the church will continue its slide into moral dissolution and relativism. Evangelicals have long recognized discipline as the “third mark” of the authentic church. Authentic biblical discipline is not an elective, but a necessary and integral mark of authentic Christianity.
How did this happen? How could the church so quickly and pervasively abandon one of its most essential functions and responsibilities? The answer is found in developments both internal and external to the church.
Put simply, the abandonment of church discipline is linked to American Christianity’s creeping accommodation to American culture. As the twentieth century began, this accommodation became increasingly evident as the church acquiesced to a culture of moral individualism.
Though the nineteenth century was not a golden era for American evangelicals, the century did see the consolidation of evangelical theology and church patterns. Manuals of church discipline and congregational records indicate that discipline was regularly applied. Protestant congregations exercised discipline as a necessary and natural ministry to the members of the church, and as a means of protecting the doctrinal and moral integrity of the congregation.
As ardent congregationalists, the Baptists left a particularly instructive record of nineteenth century discipline. Historian Gregory A. Wills aptly commented, “To an antebellum Baptist, a church without discipline would hardly have counted as a church.” Churches held regular “Days of Discipline” when the congregation would gather to heal breaches of fellowship, admonish wayward members, rebuke the obstinate, and, if necessary, excommunicate those who resisted discipline. In so doing, congregations understood themselves to be following a biblical pattern laid down by Christ and the apostles for the protection and correction of disciples.
No sphere of life was considered outside the congregation’s accountability. Members were to conduct their lives and witness in harmony with the Bible and with established moral principles. Depending on the denominational polity, discipline was codified in church covenants, books of discipline, congregational manuals, and confessions of faith. Disciple covered both doctrine and conduct. Members were disciplined for behavior which violated biblical principles or congregational covenants, but also for violations of doctrine and belief. Members were considered to be under the authority of the congregation and accountable to each other.
By the turn of the century, however, church discipline was already on the decline. In the wake of the Enlightenment, criticism of the Bible and the doctrines of evangelical orthodoxy was widespread. Even the most conservative denominations began to show evidence of decreased attention to theological orthodoxy. At the same time, the larger culture moved toward the adoption of autonomous moral individualism. The result of these internal and external developments was the abandonment of church discipline as ever larger portions of the church member’s life were considered off-limits to the congregation.
This great shift in church life followed the tremendous cultural transformations of the early twentieth century–an era of “progressive” thought and moral liberalization. By the 1960s, only a minority of churches even pretended to practice regulative church discipline. Significantly, confessional accountability and moral discipline were generally abandoned together.
The theological category of sin has been replaced, in many circles, with the psychological concept of therapy. As Philip Reiff has argued, the ‘Triumph of the Therapeutic’ is now a fixture of modern American culture. Church members may make poor choices, fail to live up to the expectations of an oppressive culture, or be inadequately self-actualized–but they no longer sin.
Individuals now claim an enormous zone of personal privacy and moral autonomy. The congregation–redefined as a mere voluntary association–has no right to intrude into this space. Many congregations have forfeited any responsibility to confront even the most public sins of their members. Consumed with pragmatic methods of church growth and congregational engineering, most churches leave moral matters to the domain of the individual conscience.
As Thomas Oden notes, the confession of sin is now passe and hopelessly outdated to many minds. “Naturalistic reductionism has invited us to reduce alleged individual sins to social influences for which individuals are not responsible. Narcissistic hedonism has demeaned any talk of sin or confession as ungratifying and dysfunctional. Autonomous individualism has divorced sin from a caring community. Absolute relativism has regarded moral values as so ambiguous that there is no measuring rod against which to assess anything as sin. Thus modernity, which is characterized by the confluence of these four ideological streams, has presumed to do away with confession, and has in fact made confession an embarrassment to the accommodating church of modernity.”
The very notion of shame has been discarded by a generation for which shame is an unnecessary and repressive hindrance to personal fulfillment. Even secular observers have noted the shamelessness of modern culture. As James Twitchell comments, “we have in the last generation tried to push shame aside. The human-potential and recovered-memory movements in psychology; the moral relativism of audience-driven Christianity; the penalty-free, all-ideas-are-equally-good transformation in higher education; the rise of no-fault behavior before the law; the often outrageous distortions in the telling of history so that certain groups can feel better about themselves; and the ‘I’m shame-free, but you should be ashamed of yourself’ tone of political discourse are just some of the instances wherein this can be seen.”
Twitchell sees the Christian church aiding and abetting this moral transformation and abandonment of shame–which is, after all, a natural product of sinful behavior. “Looking at the Christian Church today, you can only see a dim pentimento of what was once painted in the boldest of colors. Christianity has simply lost it. It no longer articulates the ideal. Sex is on the loose. Shame days are over. The Devil has absconded with sin.” As Twitchell laments, “Go and sin no more” has been replaced with “Judge not lest you be judged.”
Demonstration of this moral abandonment is seen in mainline Protestantism’s surrender to an ethic of sexual “liberation.” Liberal Protestantism has lost any moral credibility in the sexual sphere. Homosexuality is not condemned, even though it is clearly condemned in the Bible. To the contrary, homosexuals get a special caucus at the denominational assembly and their own publications and special rights.
Evangelicals, though still claiming adherence to biblical standards of morality, have overwhelmingly capitulated to the divorce culture. Where are the evangelical congregations that hold married couples accountable for maintaining their marriage vows? To a great extent, evangelicals are just slightly behind liberal Protestantism in accommodating to the divorce culture, and accepting what amounts to ’serial monogamy’–faithfulness to one marital partner at a time. This, too, has been noted by secular observers. David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values remarked that “over the past three decades, many religious leaders . . . have largely abandoned marriage as a vital area of religious attention, essentially handing the entire matter over to opinion leaders and divorce lawyers in the secular society. Some members of the clergy seem to have lost interest in defending and strengthening marriage. Others report that they worry about offending members of their congregations who are divorced or unmarried.”
Tied to this worry about offending church members is the rise of the “rights culture” which understands society only in terms of individual rights rather than moral responsibility. Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard Law School documents the substitution of ‘rights talk’ for moral discourse. Unable or unwilling to deal with moral categories, modern men and women resort to the only moral language they know and understand–the unembarrassed claim to “rights” which society has no authority to limit or deny. This ‘rights talk’ is not limited to secular society, however. Church members are so committed to their own version of “rights talk” that some congregations accept almost any behavior, belief, or “lifestyle” as acceptable, or at least off-limits to congregational sanction.
The result of this is the loss of the biblical pattern for the church, and the impending collapse of authentic Christianity in this generation. As Carl Laney laments, “The church today is suffering from an infection which has been allowed to fester. . . . As an infection weakens the body by destroying its defense mechanisms, so the church has been weakened by this ugly sore. The church has lost its power and effectiveness in serving as a vehicle for social, moral, and spiritual change. This illness is due, at least in part, to a neglect of church discipline.”
The mandate of the church is to maintain true gospel doctrine and order. A church lacking these essential qualities is, biblically defined, not a true church. That is a hard word, for it clearly indicts thousands of American congregations who long ago abandoned this essential mark, and have accommodated themselves to the spirit of the age. Fearing lawsuits and lacking courage, these churches allow sin to go unconfronted, and heresy to grow unchecked.
John Leadley Dagg, the author of a well-known and influential church manual of the nineteenth century, noted, “It has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” If so, and I fear it must be so, Christ has abandoned many churches who are blissfully unaware of his departure.
Cultural_Shift_by_MohlerFirst published May 13, 2005 on the website.  Reprint according to policy.
The Worldview Church staff recommends Mohler’s book “Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth”.  Purchases through the Colson Book Store help financial support this ministry.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When a Member Says: “I Haven’t Got Time” to Go to Church for Worship on Sunday

                I remember a busy farmer, who had barns full of dairy cows and acres of crops to care for, telling me, "Pastor, I'd like to come to your religion class because I know how much my wife gets from her church, but I really haven't got time!" Here was a man who was probably speaking his honest conviction, but he was a man with bad priorities.
                I responded, "Howard, I spent 18 years of my life on the farm and there's one thing I learned. There are some things of which I never said, ‘I haven't got time. Have you ever once said, ‘Tonight I haven’t got time to milk the cows? How did you get them milked?’ Howard’s answer was simple. ‘I took time.’ Again I asked, “Have you ever once planted and watched a field of wheat mature till it was dead ripe and then said, “Sorry, I haven't got time to harvest it”? How did you find time? Again his answer was simple, "I took time."
I continued, "Howard, one of these days you will quit harvesting wheat and milking cows and then you will wish you had taken time to get ready for eternity!" Howard decided he would take time, and to this day he is taking time to spend with His Lord and to nourish his faith with the bread of eternal life.
                You see, it's not really true that we don't have time; we all have exactly the same amount of time. We have 24 hours in every day. We have 168 hours in every week. Time is precious. It's the one commodity we can't store up; we either use it or lose it.
                So we do well to set proper priorities. Every week can be divided into three categories of 56 hours each - 56 hours for God, family and recreation; 56 hours for work and occupation; and 56 hours for rest. And there is ample time for each category. I know a lot of devout Christians who are a living proof of this. The man who takes time to spend with his God will never regret giving priority to learning to live and learning to die with our gracious God who provides all necessities for both (Reborn to Multiply, pp. 50-51, by Dr. Paul J Foust).

“The Absolution We Treasure” Sermon for Aug. 19, 2012 Basics of the Christian Faith Series

1.                         Please pray with me.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.  Amen.  Martin Luther said that he wouldn’t exchange private confession “for all the wealth of the world.”  In the message from God’s Word today, we consider this treasure of private confession and absolution, which our Lutheran Confessions call a Sacrament.  The message is entitled, “The Absolution We Treasure,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2.                         In an episode of “Columbo,” Peter Falk visits a woman who has been sleeping with one of her husband’s staff.  The detective quietly asks her how some of her husband’s crystal goblets got into her lover’s apartment.  Her husband is a four star general, and the glasses have four stars on them.  She protests that they were a gift to the man.  Columbo stands silent, just looking at her.  She becomes insulted.  She won’t listen to such accusations.  She begins to leave the room.  She glares at Columbo as she says, “You know the way out.”  The detective shuffles and says, “Oh, there’s just one more question.”  He draws a small toothbrush out of the pocket of his raincoat.  It’s shaped like a lipstick holder, and Columbo has found it in her lover’s medicine cabinet.  Instantly, the woman’s shoulders sag.  She sighs.  The charade is over.  Guilt.  Getting caught.  You know the feeling.  We all do.
3.                         Some people today believe that “going to confession,” is more a Roman Catholic practice than a Lutheran one.  Actually, for many years the practice of private confession and absolution was used in Lutheran congregations.  People burdened with guilt found peace and comfort by confessing to their pastor those sins that weighed on their consciences and by receiving from him the personal assurance that God had indeed forgiven them in Christ.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “What I have forgiven…I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake.” (2 Cor. 2:10).  Then, a few hundred years after Martin Luther, the Enlightenment spread across Europe (1700-1825).  This movement emphasized the natural goodness of human beings and held that with the right environment and education people could almost be perfect.  It believed that human beings have the ability to turn this world into a paradise.  Who needs a God with this view of humanity that man is naturally good?  Who needs a Savior when a person thinks this way?
4.                         A large number of pastors joined in on this, even Lutheran pastors.  They minimized the human need for God.  Many even ridiculed the doctrines of sin, repentance and divine forgiveness.  By the early 1800’s these ideas had spread and been so widely accepted that they began to change the piety of the church.  Even the practice of private confession and absolution began to fall out of disuse in the church.  So, until 200 years ago, the practice of private confession and absolution was widely used in Lutheran congregations.  Lutherans considered it an important part of their walk with Jesus.  Many regard it as a sacrament; it fits our Lutheran definition of a sacrament in every way but one--there are no visible elements.  One of our Lutheran Confessions, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. XIII says, “The genuine sacraments, therefore are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament. 
5.                         If we think of confession and absolution as admitting our sins to God and to those who we’ve offended and seeking forgiveness for our wrongs, we must acknowledge that confession and absolution aren’t optional.  They’ve never been.  Our entire life as God’s people revolves around the fact that we’re sinners in need of forgiveness from God and from one another.  The New Testament urges God’s people again and again to admit our faults to one another and to forgive one another.  James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
6.                         God forgives our sins on account of the shed blood of Jesus, not because we confess or reach a certain depth of sorrow over our sins.  We’re forgiven by God’s grace in Jesus alone.  And in private confession and absolution the pastor in the person of Christ (2 Cor. 2:10) assures us that it’s Christ’s forgiveness we received.  It’s nothing of our own doing.  How can this be?  Because our Lord Jesus has promised it.  Remember His words to His disciples after His resurrection in John 20, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  Private confession and absolution are far more than counseling with a prayer and a few spiritual words.  We face Christ Himself and from Him full forgiveness for our sins and the peace that accompanies that forgiveness. 
7.                         The contrast between may and must spells out the critical difference between a relationship with God based on His grace and one based on our own anemic efforts.  When specific sins bother us, our Lord invites and commands us to confess them to Him.  For the comfort of our souls we may also confess our sins to our pastor and hear from God, through the pastor, the words of absolution.  What a privilege our Lord offers us!  And what a tragedy if we turn it into a new command, a “religious work” by which we think we can manipulate our Heavenly Father into loving us a “little more.”  How bad do our sins have to be before we can “bother the pastor” with them?  In God’s eyes, no sin is “less” or “greater” than the other.  Anytime we find ourselves troubled by a guilty conscience, we can make use of the means of grace our Lord has made available to us for resolving guilt--private confession and absolution.  No sin is “too big.”  No sin is “too petty.”
8.                         God wants each individual one of His children to know that His love for us is unconditional.  None of our sins stands between us and Him.  None of our sins can separate us from Him.  No number of sins can take away His love that cause Him to bring us into His family.  Our Heavenly Father paid the highest price possible to redeem us, to buy us back from sin and Satan, hell and death--with the life blood of His one and only Son Jesus.  He wants you to cling with complete confidence to that gift of redemption you have received by His grace through faith in Jesus.  When your heart longs for the assurance of His love, know that your God longs even more to give it to you.  And one way He has chosen to do this is in absolution.
9.                         The assurance of forgiveness comes to us in various ways.  As we remember our Baptism each day, as we come to the Lord’s Supper, as we read God’s Word and hear it taught and preached.  God comes to touch us with His grace through all these different means of grace because our need is so great.  We thank Him for all of them, and we humbly receive His love through all of them.  Sometimes people think of self-examination before Communion is a substitute for private confession and absolution.  But, the practice of private confession and absolution is really a separate and unique act in in its own right, not necessarily connected with the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
10.         Certainly someone who receives God’s absolution from the pastor will want to commune the next time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.  But just as we don’t pit Baptism against Holy Communion, neither do we see self-examination before Communion as competing with private confession and absolution.  All believers need a continual flow of God’s grace into their hearts and lives and our God meets this need in a variety of ways.  God’s people aren’t to be coerced to practice private confession any more than they are to be browbeaten to go to Communion.  But, when we see what comfort God offers to us in His absolution, we gladly receive these blessings from Him.
11.         Luther once wrote, “I will let no one take away private confession and would not exchange it for all the wealth of the world, for I know what strength and comfort it has given me.”  Our feelings, especially if we’ve never practiced private confession and absolution, can’t be an accurate barometer of our need for it.  Few babies relish the vitamins their Mom offers them.  Few teens welcome the limits Dad imposes when he sets a curfew.  Few students beg their professor for more tests or for longer term papers.  But, when most babies begin to eat solid food, they crave bananas, apple slices, or honey graham crackers filled with vitamins.  Often teens come to value the discipline of a curfew and find creative ways to use “Dad’s rule” to resist the pressure their friends put on them to get involved in all kinds of sinful activities.  University students can find themselves fascinated with the subject matter presented by their professor to the point that they exert more effort and energy than the course they’re taking actually requires.  In the same way, you may never have felt a need for personal absolution.  You may never have thought about going to your pastor to confess your sins to be assured of God forgiveness.  Maybe, if you’ve thought about confession and absolution at all, you’ve viewed it as “too Catholic,” or even as a little weird.
12.         If so, pray about your Lord’s will for you.  Examine your heart and be honest with God about anything that stands between you and the gifts He wants to give you through His personal assurance of forgiveness.  Pray about the strength that God makes available to His people through His Word of absolution.  Meditate on the help He wants to give you in your struggle with temptation, with sin, with Satan.  As Luther once said to those willing to throw out private confession, “I know the devil well.  If you had known him as well as I, your would not have thrown private confession so quickly to the wind.”   
13.         Columbo always corners the criminal.  Our sins always catch up with us, too.  As Moses once told God’s people in Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”  Guilt.  Getting caught. You’ve all been there.  What a relief then to know that when our own charade ends, when our shoulders sag, when we sigh in shame, our God holds us close to Himself in Christ.  What a relief to hear His word, “Take heart, my son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven!”  What a relief to hear His word, “Receive the forgiveness Christ won for you by His passion, death, and resurrection.  By the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I, a called and ordained servant of the Word, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Lutheran Worship, p. 311).  Amen.

September '12 Newsletter...

St. John Ev. Lutheran Church, LCMS Newsletter                       P.O. Box 162, Baldwin, Illinois 62217-0162 (618) 785-2344              
        Pastor John M. Taggatz,          Jenna Otten, Secretary
September, 2012                                 Lela Rehmer, Custodian          Kevin Kahle, Groundskeeper      
                                                                                                        Church E-mail:;
                                                                                                        Church Web Site:

Text Box:


Serving on the Altar Guild for September are
Text Box:

Ushers for the Month of September are: 


(618) 785-2344    (or)
(618) 785-2602

-When a member of your family is admitted to the hospital, so a visit can be made by Pastor Taggatz.
- When your group plans to hold a meeting, so it can be cleared and placed on the church calendar.
-When your home or business phone number or address is changed, so church records can be corrected.
- When you are planning to move either out of town or locally.
- When you know you are pregnant so that we will be able to assist you in any way we can with prayers, encouragement and support.
- When a new baby arrives in your family or in the family of another church member.
- When you are planning a wedding or baptism.

Church Information—
Pastor Taggatz on Twitter:  @jtaggatz
Pastor Taggatz’s 

Senseless Killings?

                Satan does his best work when he pretends to be our friend. The Bible says that he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He tempted Adam and Eve to commit spiritual suicide not by direct physical assault, but by persuading them that he was looking out for their best interests far more than God.
                But so great is Satan’s hatred for God’s human creatures that, when provoked, he blows his cover and lets us see what he really thinks of us. When his demons take over a person’s body, Satan drives that person to harm. Demons drove a man from Gadara to rip his own clothes off and live like an animal in the tombs (Luke 8); demons caused seizures in a little boy and threw him into fire or water (Matthew 17).
                Satan let you see what he thinks of the human race in places like Columbine High School, a theater in Aurora, CO and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI. People are desperate to know what drives the shooters to such despicable acts. They are desperate to come up with a plan that will guarantee that such carnage could never happen again.
                Well, they will happen again. Public massacres are nothing new. A farmer named Andrew Kehoe blew up a schoolhouse in Bath, Michigan, in 1927 after first beating his wife to death. Thirty-eight children were killed. Not only are we as human beings not evolving into kinder people, we’re getting worse. Our Lord Jesus warned his disciples that over time the love of most would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). It’s our assignment to witness the destruction that morally cold people can wreak on others.
                You could say that these killings aren’t really senseless—they make sense to Satan and the people working for him who carefully plan their killing. Obsessed with their perceived injuries and grievances, they pretend to be normal while designing their revenge. Columbine shooter Eric Harris bragged that he deserved an Oscar for duping his parents. People like him don’t see other people as beings with worth and dignity, but as props in their death ritual. People for them have no more value than the clay pigeons skeet shooters blow to smithereens. Harris’ desire was a command performance to show us how powerful he really was: “I have a goal to destroy as much as possible,” he wrote in his journal. “I want to burn the world… . KILL MANKIND. No one should survive.”

                The Sikh temple shooter in Wisconsin is dead, and so his motivations may never be fully known, but he left enough Internet posts to assume that he was a white supremacist who didn’t consider nonwhites fully human. He didn’t think his killings were senseless—he planned his attack for a long time.
                These horrible events are painful reminders of how corrupt the human race really is. We ALL need saving. They are also grim reminders that today, right now, is the right time to believe in Jesus Christ, receive his forgiveness, and receive the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3).  Hebrews 3:7-12 says, 7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice,  8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,  9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.  10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'  11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"  12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”  And again in Hebrews 10:25-27, 25 Let us not give up meeting together (for worship), as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”   Finally the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:15-16,  “15 Be very careful, then, how you live-- not as unwise but as wise,  16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
                Today, right now, is the right time to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth. Today, right now, is the right time to express our love for our families and to let the Holy Spirit clean out our hearts of all old grudges and resentments through the power of His Holy Word and Sacraments.  Does that make sense to you?

See You in Church!


Pastor Taggatz
It’s that time of the year again that our congregation is asked by our Southern IL District Office to send in the number of people who would like to subscribe to the Lutheran Witness Magazine, our LC-MS church body’s flagship news source.  If you would like to continue to receive a copy of the Lutheran Witness as it’s paid for by our congregation please call the church office at:  785-2344 or sign your name in the back of the church to continue to receive the subscription for next year in 2013.  If we don’t hear from you by:  you will NOT be able to get a subscription paid for by our church, but will have to contact Concordia Publishing House to continue to get your subscription.  There is an envelope in your church offering box that you received at the beginning of the year for the Lutheran Witness if you would like to make a donation toward your subscription to offset the cost that the church pays for these magazines for members of our congregation.  Thank you for your response in this matter. 

LYF UPDATE—Our first meeting will be on Sunday Oct 7th.  On that day there will be an LYF gathering at around 11:30 a.m. after church.  We will have a short activity, Bible study, and discussion about upcoming activities and fundraisers for our Youth Group.  Come join us and bring your friends.

Come join us for our LYF Chicken & Dumpling Dinner Sunday Sept. 16th after our worship service!!!-- LYF will be holding their Chicken & Dumpling Dinner to raise funds for our LCMS National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, TX in 2013 and for other special LYF activities.  Thank you so much for your support!!!

If you have any questions email Fleta Junge:  /call 282-4642 or 618-444-2764.

Congratulations to Meghan Steibel upon the birth of her new son, Brayden, born on July 19th last month.  God’s blessings to Meghan and her family on this wonderful gift of new life!  Brayden will be getting baptized on Sunday Aug. 26th in our church. 
LWML Sunday will be on September 30th.  The Ladies Aid is going to be having a door offering on that Sunday to support the SIGHT Ministry center, which puts together large print Christian devotional materials (books of the Bible, hymns etc…) for those who are visually impaired.  Thank you for your support!!! 

SPECIAL FAMILY NIGHT!  The next special family night at our church will be on the fourth Friday of the month (Sept. 28th) from 6-8:30pm.  These family nights will be informal with opportunities for the children to play and for families to fellowship with one another while doing a variety of activities and having a few treats as well.

Have you Changed your Phone Number or Address?-With the popularity of cell phones, we are finding an increasing number of people are dropping their local lines and switching to using only their cell phones. If your phone number has changed, or you have a new address, please be sure to let the church/school office know so we can change our records. Thank you.

Pastor’s Visits--Pastor makes visits to homebound and nursing home members on a regular basis. If you or someone you know would like to be added to his visitation list, let him know. Any member who would like to talk with him at the Church is welcome to call the office (785-2344) for an appointment.

The Pastor’s Study--The Pastor's Study is a symbol of the calling of the Christian minister to be the shepherd of a flock of God. Here, sermons are prepared to feed the congregation on God's Holy Word. Here the work of the church is planned so that the congregation may grow in Grace and bear fruit in Service, Fellowship, Teaching, and Witnessing. Here you will always find a friend and counselor in time of need. He will not be surprised at your sins, nor will he judge you on them, but he will always invite you to share with him the wisdom and love of God, the knowledge of forgiveness of sins, and the saving Grace of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Rally Day/First Day of Sunday School—will be on Sunday Sept. 9th @ 10am.  On this day we will start Sunday School & Adult Bible Class @ 8:45am and we will also be installing our Sunday School teachers for the 2012-2013 school year.

St.  John's Ruma is selling Old-Fashioned Apple  Dumplings--1order is 4 apples for $10.  Proceeds go to tuition fund, pre-order today to make a yummy desert anytime!  See any parent of school tuition kids from St. John's Ruma
or call:  Sherry Salger 282-4230 or Ellen Schlueter 282-4532.

STWRDSHP“Living Each Day as a Steward”
This Year’s Stewardship Emphasis

C.S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’ ”   As redeemed children of God, of course, we desire to belong to that first category.  We long to live each day as stewards who earnestly pray, “Thy will be done.”  As God’s stewards, we are devoted to using all that we are and have for His purpose.  We are God’s stewards each and every day.

On Sundays October 7th, 14th, & 21st, 2012 the theme of our worship services and our Bible studies will be living each day as a steward.  We will learn how the Holy Spirit, working through Word and Sacrament, transforms us to be more like our Chief Steward, Jesus, Who willingly poured out His life in giving and serving, ultimately sacrificing His very life for our eternal lives.  Just as Jesus faithfully served His Father by serving us, we are to use our lives and gifts in faithful service to Him by serving others.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

As your pastor, I pray that each of you will take advantage of these opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord that you might be strengthened in faith both for eternity and for a fruitful life here on earth. 

The three weekly themes are as follows:

Sunday Oct. 7th-- “The Steward’s Identity”
Sunday Oct. 14th-- “The Steward’s Purpose”
Sunday Oct. 21st-- “The Steward’s Lifestyle” (Commitment Sunday)

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:58,“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”       

During our three-week program, “Living Each Day as a Steward,” both our worship services and our adult Bible classes will focus on the work of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament as He teaches us how to live each day as stewards. 

Commitment Sunday will be Sunday Oct. 21st.  I’m asking that you make a financial commitment to the Lord’s work through our church for the coming year.  Your support enables the work of the Lord gets done day after day through our church.  Please bring the enclosed commitment form to church with you on this Sunday Oct. 21stEnclosed in this newsletter you will find a stewardship commitment form and a talent survey for you and your family to fill out to consider how you can use the time, talents and treasures the Lord has given to you.  Please fill them out and bring it with you to our commitment Sunday.

God’s blessings on your continued faithful stewardship of the blessings He has entrusted to your care.

Pastor Taggatz
We remember in our prayers—[If you would like to add to our prayer list please call the church.]
 “Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

In your prayers this month, pray: For the Church;  For our nation; for those who serve in the armed forces; For families of our church;  For all who travel;  For rain;  For those involved in the recent shootings that have happened in different parts of our        country; For those who are ill, awaiting or        recovering from surgery: especially Carol Jean Orella, Sally Fadler, Mickey Umbdenstock,               Karen Willis, Linda Nagel, Elizabeth Montroy, Lee Hogandobler, Evan Saldana, & Margaret Dixon, the grandmother of Nicki Buch, all who             are battling serious illnesses.  We pray for Hayden Smith, a friend of Christa Poynor, who is currently battling cancer.  For Pastor Taggatz’s Uncle Chris Schlechter, who is currently hospitalized and for Elveera & Russell Mahan that they would be healed in the midst of their illness; for those who are near death.  Lord of life, You have given us sinners life with You on earth and in heaven. Prepare us to live and, when You will, to die faithfully confessing our              Lord Jesus Christ.  Be with Clinton Bremer,   who is on hospice                care and near death.  Lord, remind him of how you made Him a child of God through the waters of Holy             Baptism and sustain him in the faith until the day he falls asleep in His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For all of those who are unemployed or underemployed, that they would be able to find suitable work to support themselves and their families.    
For those who are in nursing homes or homebound.

  Sunday Mornings (8:45 a.m.)  “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.”
Wednesday Mornings (10 a.m.)   “Working For the Man Upstairs - Your Job... Your Calling... Your Life!”
Remember:  Every 3rd Sunday of the month we are praying for people who are in the military.  If you have a relative or friend who is an armed serviceman and woman in our Nation’s military please let the Church know so that we may be able to pray for them on the third Sunday of the month.  Also, please let us know if your family member is no longer serving in our US Military so that we can keep our records up to date.

Are you or a family member…coping with grief and loss… stressed out by financial issues… dealing with family or marital problems? Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois’ professional licensed counselors can help. They provide individual, couple, marital and family counseling to help address these types of situations. Insurance is accepted. Call800-363-LCFS (5237) to schedule a FREE confidential initial consultation.  LUTHERAN CHILD & FAMILY SERVICES IN SPARTA HAS MOVED With the closing of the Nice Twice Thrift Shop, Lutheran Child and Family Services moved its office to 1107 N. Market in Sparta

810 Soldiers Way, Evansville, IL   62242
Phone 618-853-7300       Fax 618-853-7361     
John Christman, Principal

THANK YOU: As Christ Our Savior begins its 14th academic year, we would like to sincerely thank your congregation for its ownership of our Lutheran high school.  We are blessed to offer a Christ-centered, academically excellent education here.  100% of our students from the last three graduating classes have enrolled in college.  More than academics, they are being trained up as 21st century disciples of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for your continued support of our ministry to make this possible.

Zuehla Rowold                        Laverna Luthy
Red Bud Nursing Home        Three Springs N. Home  
350 W. South 1st                             161 Three Springs Rd.    Red Bud, IL 62278                Chester, IL 62233               

Opal Luthy                               Patty Theobald
Red Bud Nursing Home        402 W. 2nd  St.  
350 W. South 1st                               Apt. F.
Red Bud, IL 62278                Sparta, IL 62286

Dorothy Junge                      Mr. & Mrs. Russell Mahan
7555 State Rte. 15              800 Baldwin Rd
Baldwin, IL 62217               New Athens, IL 62264

Church Council Meeting

Aug. 14, 2012
7:30 pm


Vision: Making Known the Love of Christ
Mission: St. John Lutheran Church is dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ within its church and into the community

August 14, 2012

Present:  Pastor Taggatz, Gene Luthy, Gerald Poeniski, Marla Huebner, Susan Piel, Dennis Wegener, Marvin Liefer, Tony Junge, Stan Gegel, Linda Schoenbeck, and Fleta Junge.

The meeting was called to order by President Gene Luthy.

Opening devotions were given by Pastor Taggatz.

Minutes from the previous meeting: Were read and approved.

Financial Secretary’s Report:  Total receipts for July 2012, $15,708.69.

Treasurer’s report:  Ending balance for the general fund for Jul 2012, $9,007.93. Motion was made and second to approve. Motion carried.

Spiritual Ministries/Elder: Membership transfer requested and approved for Erica (Reinhardt) Kisro to St. John Lutheran Church in Chester.  Motion was made and second to grant transfer. Motion carried.
Church Properties:  Cemetery exemption is still under review.
- New eternal flame candle has been installed.
- Water bill seems to be higher than normal so the trustees will be monitoring to see if there could be a possible leak.

Social Ministries:
Christian Education:
Sunday School: 

Lutheran Youth Fellowship:  Great time and good response from working at the Shooting Complex during the ATA Grand America.
- LYF will be holding their Chicken & Dumpling Dinner on September 16th.

Pastor’s Report: 
Pastoral Acts from July11th ‘12 through Aug. 14th, 2012—
-Regular Saturday & Sunday worship responsibilities
                 -4 Bible Study class sessions (Sunday            mornings)
                        -1 Church Membership Consultation
                        -3 Member Visits
                -19 Homebound/Hospice Visits
                -2 Hospital Visits
                -3 Spiritual Care Meetings
                -Red Bud Nursing Home Chapel, Aug. 12
                -R. County Nursing Home Chapel, July 25
                -2 COSLHS Meetings--July 31 & Aug. 9
                -July 15-18--Pastoral Training from the          DOXOLOGY Program in Donaldson, IN

- Baptism for Bentley Higgerson, the son of Ginny & Tim Higgerson will be baptized on Saturday, September 15 at 5:00 pm service.
- Baptism for Brayden, son of Meghan Steibel will be on Sunday, August 26th.
- Christa Poyner plans on having her son, Nathan baptized within the next few weeks.
- Special Family Night will be held Friday, August 24th from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm.
- Pastor Taggatz will be covering for Pastor MacDougall from August 31 through September 5th.
- Pastor Taggatz will be the liturgist for COSLHS opening service at St. Peter Lutheran, Evansville on Sunday, August, 19th.
- A video and brief summary was given by Pastor Taggatz’s on his first DOXOLOGY training session that was held on July 15th thru 18th in Donaldson, IN.
The next DOXOLGY session will be November 16th – 18th and we will need to elect in our next council meeting a lay leader to go with Pastor Taggatz for the next event.  Housing & food is taken care of for this lay leader. Any additional lay leaders who might go to this training, the cost would be $250.00 per person.
- Door Offering for Missions at St. John Baldwin for 2012 will be:
-Rev Tim & Lisa Beckendorf of Lutheran Bible Translators in Botswana, Africa on Sunday, August 26th
-SIGHT Ministry Center in October 2012 for LWML Sunday.
- Giving through Thrivent Choice Program for August 2012 has amounted to $768.00. Total amount our church has received from this program since January ‘12 is $2,452.00.
- Confirmation & Pre-confirmation Instruction: There will be a Parent’s meeting to discuss the schedule for class on Wednesday, August 29th.  Classes will begin on Wednesday, September 5th.  Pre-confirmation students will meet at 6:00 pm and confirmation students at 7:00 pm.
- Sunday Morning Worship Service will be going back to 10:00 a.m. with Adult Bible Class starting at 8:45 a.m.
- Rally Day/Sunday School will resume on Sunday, September 9th.  Sunday School & Adult Bible Class will be at 8:45 a.m. Installation of Sunday School teachers for 2012-2013 will be at 10:00 a.m. service.

Old Business:  St John’s Lutheran School in Red Bud has raised their tuition to $1,900.00 per student. If a family has a second child, there is a 10% reduction on tuition and for a third child; there will be a 20% reduction.
New Business:  LCMS will be holding a Rural Small Town Mission on September 8th.
-A thank you note was received from Wayne Ruhmann for the prayers during his recent illness.
-Earthquake insurance coverage was canceled. 
-Notice was received from CHP that a 9.9% rate increase on Option B of the current health insurance for Pastor Taggatz. Motion was made and second to continue with his current plan with congregation paying his portion and he will continue to pay the premiums for his dependent(s) coverage. Motion carried.
-Lutheran Witness subscription renewal/cost will be further explained to congregational members in the bulletin and newsletter. It is strongly encouraged for members to use Lutheran Witness offering envelopes to offset the cost of subscriptions.

Adjournment:  Motion was made and second to adjourn. Motion carried.

The meeting was closed prayer and with the Lord’s Prayer.

President, Gene Luthy
Secretary, Marla Huebner

Luther_Seal_smWe Believe, Teach and Confess.
Formula of Concord:  Epitome
Article 1--Original Sin
Introductory Note: Is sin part of mankind’s very essence? No, for if it were, God could be accused of creating sin. However, sin is a very deep and thorough corruption of our human nature—a horrible and terrible corruption. No one except Christ Jesus, our Lord, can overcome this corruption for us and save us from it. Because of this sin, spiritually we are utterly and completely dead. But there is hope! As Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, so today He brings us to life again through His Gospel in Word and Sacraments. The biblical position on this issue is explained in Articles I and II. (See also AC II; Ap II; SA III I; FC SD I.) 
AC-Augsburg Confession; SA-Smalcald Articles; FC Ep-Formula of Concord, Epitome; SD-Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration 
Status of the Controversy
1 Is original sin really, without any distinction, a person’s corrupt nature, substance, and essence? Is it the chief and greater part of his essence (i.e., the rational soul itself in its highest state and powers)? Or even after the fall, is there a distinction between original sin and a person’s substance, nature, essence, body, and soul, so that the nature itself is one thing and original sin is another, which belongs to the corrupt nature and corrupts the nature?
Affirmative Statements--
2 1. We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin. This applied not only when he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin [Genesis 1:31], but it also applies to the way we have that nature now after the fall. In other words, we distinguish between the nature itself (which even after the fall is and remains God’s creature) and original sin. This distinction is as great as the distinction between God’s work and the devil’s work.
3 2. We believe, teach, and confess that this distinction should be maintained with the greatest care. For this doctrine (that no distinction is to be made between our corrupt human nature and original sin) conflicts with the chief articles of our Christian faith about creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our body. It cannot stand with them.
4 God created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the fall. But He also created our bodies and souls after the fall. Even though they are corrupt, God still acknowledges them as His work, as it is written in Job 10:8, “Your hands fashioned and made me.” (See also Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 45:9–10; 54:5; 64:8; Acts 17:28; Psalm 100:3; 139:14; Ecclesiastes 12:1.)
5 Furthermore, God’s Son has received this human nature [John 1:14], but without sin. Therefore, He did not receive a foreign nature, but our own flesh in the unity of His person. In this way He has become our true Brother. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things.” Again, “For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, … yet without sin” [2:16; 4:15]. 6 In the same way, Christ redeemed human nature as His work, sanctifies it, raises it from the dead, and gloriously adorns it as His work. But original sin He has not created, received, redeemed, or sanctified. He will not raise it, adorn it, or save it in the elect. In the ‹blessed› resurrection original sin will be entirely destroyed [1 Corinthians 15:51–57].
7 The distinction can easily be discerned between (a) the corrupt nature, (b) the corruption, which infects the nature, and (c) the corruption by which the nature became corrupt.
8 3. On the other hand, we believe, teach, and confess that original sin is not a minor corruption. It is so deep a corruption of human nature that nothing healthy or uncorrupt remains in man’s body or soul, in his inward or outward powers [Romans 3:10–12]. As the Church sings:
Through Adam’s fall is all corrupt, Nature and essence human.
9 This damage cannot be fully described [Psalm 19:12]. It cannot be understood by reason, but only from God’s Word. 10 We affirm that no one but God alone can separate human nature and this corruption of human nature from each other. This will fully come to pass through death, in the ‹blessed› resurrection. At that time our nature, which we now bear, will rise and live eternally without original sin and be separated and divided from it. As it is written in Job 19:26–27, “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold.”

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (474–477). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

THEOLOGY FOR WHITE COLLAR, BLUE COLLAR & CLERICAL COLLAR…Issues, Etc. is a radio talk show produced by Lutheran Public Radio and hosted by LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken.  This week’s topics include: Jesus Heals a Deaf & Mute Man, Apostle Barnabas, Pastor Titus, Old Testament Judge & Prophet Samuel and more.  You can tune in LIVE weekdays from 3-5 p.m. on KFUO, 850 AM in St. Louis.  You can also listen at your convenience at

The deadline for getting articles and reports in to be included in the Newsletter is the 18th of every month.

Church Office Hours have changed to Monday and Tuesday from 10am -1pm starting in May. Please get the announcements no later than 10am on Tuesday. If you can’t get them in by that time, they will still be announced, but will not be in the bulletin.  Thank You!

Don’t forget - Starting on the 2nd of September the Sunday morning worship Service will be going back to 10:00 a.m. with the Adult Bible Class starting at 8:45 a.m.

“The H.H.S. Mandate will Strangle the Church”

                As a church historian, I feel compelled to remind my fellow Christians in America of a dire threat to their religious freedom, which freedom is supposed to be guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That threat is the Health and Human Services Mandate (hereafter H.H.S. Mandate) within the “Affordable Care Act.” This Mandate requires charitable and educational church agencies to offer abortion-causing drugs to their employees or face stiff financial penalties.
                I cannot judge how or why this Mandate was developed. I am a church historian, not a political insider in Washington. What I know as a church historian is that the most effective strategy used by the enemies of the Christian church has been that of “strangulation” through stiff financial penalties and the suppression of its charitable and educational agencies. The H.H.S Mandate imposes stiff financial penalties on the Christian church’s charitable and educational agencies, if they refuse to accept its abortion policies. This is a policy of “strangulation,” whether or not it was intended as such, and it needs to be resisted by all Christian churches in America.
                The policy of “strangulation” was first developed by the Islamic religion in its conquests in the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. “People of the Book” (Arabic: “Ahl al-Kitab”), i.e., Jews and Christians, who have lived in Moslem countries have always had the status of second-class citizens (Arabic: “dhimmi”). Dhimmis are allowed to retain their religion, but are subject to certain legal restrictions mostly in social and economic life. These restrictions and penalties have varied in harshness and the extent to which they are applied. The official levy of dhimmis is the poll “tax” (Arabic: “jizya”), which was often heavy (see Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church [London: Penguin Books, 1964], 97-98). The intent of dhimmi status was to induce Christians and Jews to convert to the Islamic faith, or to leave the country, which policy has proved to be quite effective through the centuries.
                The policy of “strangulation” was developed in a different way by the communists in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1917, the communists in Russia executed over 12,000 priests, as well as uncounted numbers of laypeople for their steadfast Christian witness (see Ware, 156-157). What is generally not known about the communist policy is that many church buildings were allowed to remain open for worship services. The Church could worship in the Soviet Union, but it could not maintain charitable or social work. It could train a certain number of candidates for the priesthood, but it was otherwise forbidden to engage in educational activities (see Ware, 152-154, 166-169, 170). In other countries that were under communist control after World War II, the same policy of prohibiting the church’s educational and charitable work was followed, with the hope that this would “strangle” the church in a generation or two (see Ware, 174).
                The H.H.S Mandate makes it a crime, punishable by law and heavy “tax” penalties, for a church agency to refuse to comply with the Mandate’s abortion policies. Christian churches that are worthy of the name “Christian” cannot, in good conscience, concur with abortion-on-demand. Until the 20th century, the Christian churches have always opposed abortion-on-demand and have done so on biblical bases. Even the traditional physician’s Oath of Hippocrates (460-357 B.C.) included a promise not to perform an abortion; although abortion was common among pagans by the first century A.D. (see Michael J. Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church[Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982). Now in 2012, Christian church agencies in the United States will be heavily fined with “tax” penalties, if they do not offer abortion-causing-drugs to their employees.
                What can you do? Representatives of the majority of American Christian churches, and their agencies, have signed a fine letter in opposition to the H.H.S. Mandate titled “Free Exercise of Religion.” All of the American Catholic bishops have spoken against the Mandate and their official conference is taking many steps to oppose it. President Matthew Harrison has spoken against the Mandate and his office offers many resources for Lutherans concerned about it (see
All this “official” church action won’t do a whole lot of good, if the people of the church and their friends don’t take this issue to their elected representatives through letters and through other legal and appropriate means. The Christian churches, and all those concerned about religious liberty, want all candidates for office in November to make clear their position on the H.H.S Mandate, because it will indicate whether they are in favor of “strangling” the Church or not.
Life Network Pregnancy Center is celebrating their 8th 5K/Life Walk on September 15 at the Waterloo Courthouse.  This event is a fundraiser in support of the Pro-Life movement. The proceeds help financially support the ministry in offering pregnancy resources free to the community.  Here are the details:  Life Network's Annual 5K/Life WalkProceeds financially support the pregnancy center programs.  Registration starts at 7:30 am, race/walk starts at 9 am.  This fundraising event offers fun for the whole family: face painting, butterfly release, 5K for runners, 1.8 miles for walkers, prayer time, music and lunch.  If you are unable to participate in the Life Walk, consider making a monetary donation to support the Pro-Life movement.  For registration forms or more information, call 939-4224 or visit
When a Member Says: “I Haven’t Got Time” to Go to Church for Worship on Sunday
                I remember a busy farmer, who had barns full of dairy cows and acres of crops to care for, telling me, "Pastor, I'd like to come to your religion class because I know how much my wife gets from her church, but I really haven't got time!" Here was a man who was probably speaking his honest conviction, but he was a man with bad priorities.
                I responded, "Howard, I spent 18 years of my life on the farm and there's one thing I learned. There are some things of which I never said, ‘I haven't got time. Have you ever once said, ‘Tonight I haven’t got time to milk the cows? How did you get them milked?’ Howard’s answer was simple. ‘I took time.’ Again I asked, “Have you ever once planted and watched a field of wheat mature till it was dead ripe and then said, “Sorry, I haven't got time to harvest it”? How did you find time? Again his answer was simple, "I took time."
I continued, "Howard, one of these days you will quit harvesting wheat and milking cows and then you will wish you had taken time to get ready for eternity!" Howard decided he would take time, and to this day he is taking time to spend with His Lord and to nourish his faith with the bread of eternal life.
                You see, it's not really true that we don't have time; we all have exactly the same amount of time. We have 24 hours in every day. We have 168 hours in every week. Time is precious. It's the one commodity we can't store up; we either use it or lose it.
                So we do well to set proper priorities. Every week can be divided into three categories of 56 hours each - 56 hours for God, family and recreation; 56 hours for work and occupation; and 56 hours for rest. And there is ample time for each category. I know a lot of devout Christians who are a living proof of this. The man who takes time to spend with his God will never regret giving priority to learning to live and learning to die with our gracious God who provides all necessities for both (Reborn to Multiply, pp. 50-51, by Dr. Paul J Foust).

Non-Profit Org.
Permit No. 1
Baldwin, IL 62217
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church
P. O. Box 162
Baldwin, IL 62217-0162