The LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me . . . I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you . . . from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.” Jeremiah 15:19-21
Jeremiah had a difficult ministry. For fifty years, he preached a message of repentance to the Jewish people, but his message mostly fell on deaf ears. He was shunned, beaten, and imprisoned. He had few friends. No one sympathized with him.
Can we blame Jeremiah for getting frustrated with God? He had done everything God had asked of him. He was a faithful witness to God’s word. In return, he had received nothing but pain and loneliness. Didn’t he deserve a better life than that? Where was God’s mercy for Jeremiah? Where was God’s deliverance?
Such frustration is understandable but hardly excusable. Jeremiah expected God to change, to give him a break. Instead, God changed Jeremiah. He led the prophet to repent and believe God’s promises about his ministry. God still had work for Jeremiah to do.
When we suffer through difficult times, we also may question God’s faithfulness and demand that he set us free.
However, let’s not forget what God has already done for us. He has been faithful to us. Jesus suffered and died for our sins, and God raised him from the dead as proof that he has dropped all charges of guilt against us. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you are free indeed.
In this world, we will have trouble, but we can rejoice because Jesus has overcome the world. Persecution will always be a part of the Christian’s life. However, God will make us strong enough to stand up under it. God has work for us to do. Like Jeremiah, we are here to bring God’s Word to the world, even if we suffer for it.
Lord, your words are a delight to me and the joy of my heart. If I must suffer for them, give me your strength to be faithful to you so that I may receive the crown of life. Amen.
The apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians draws a stark line of contrast between two opposing approaches to salvation—one by grace, the other by works. He wrote the letter as a response to false teachers who were insisting that what Jesus did was not enough to make us right before God. We must also do our part, by obeying the law in every detail. This is a tempting thought. We naturally feel proud of our accomplishments and want recognition when we’ve done something good. Why shouldn’t I get credit for the times I have helped others? Surely I should be rewarded for the sacrifices I have made! This is the thinking of most people in the world.
But those who want to be rewarded according to their obedience to the moral law will be judged by that same law. And that law quickly exposes our secret sins and reveals the darkness in our hearts that we try to hide from others. We need God’s grace, which was poured out on us when his Son, Jesus Christ, died to pay our debt and rose from the dead to give us life.
At the end of his letter, Paul made it clear which side he was on. He was ready to not get credit for any of the good works he had done in his lifetime, but rather to put his trust entirely on what Jesus had done for him. And Paul understood that taking his stand on Christ alone would separate him from others. “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” A person killed on a cross was not only permanently separated from the community, but he was also publicly shamed and humiliated in the process. Those who stand by faith on the works of Christ alone and those who put their trust in their own self-righteousness are worlds apart from each other.
But the blood of Jesus was spilled for every person on earth. God’s promises of forgiveness are meant for all nations. So boast and brag to everyone you know about the love of God for us sinners!
Jesus, you are my dearest treasure. I will praise your name always. Amen.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:3-5
It was Stewardship Week at St. James Lutheran Church, and Ginny was looking at a sign-up sheet on a table in the church lobby. It said that volunteers were wanted to host small-group Bible studies in their homes. A kindly-looking, older couple approached her—Ginny knew them only as Mr. and Mrs. Kleibert. Gesturing towards the sign-up sheet, Mr. Kleibert held out a pen and said, “You won’t regret it!”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s for me,” Ginny said. “I haven’t been a member here for very long.”
“Where does it say you have to have tenure in the congregation to host one of these groups?” Mr. Kleibert pretended to search the paper for what he knew wasn’t there.
“Besides,” Mrs. Kleibert added, “We’ve noticed how active you’ve been in Sunday morning Bible class. You ask lots of great questions.”
Ginny looked at the two of them. “You’ve noticed?” she asked.
Mr. Kleibert assured her, “I’m one of the elders here at St. James and my wife Janet leads the Altar Guild. We’re always on the lookout for ways to involve new members into the life of the congregation, find ways for them to feel at home, and use the gifts that God has given them. The Holy Spirit makes sure that every Christian has something to offer to the rest of us.”
Ginny was still hesitant. “You’re sure it’s a good idea?”
Mrs. Kleibert said, “My dear husband here will be the one leading the study, and I’ll be there too. You’ll be just fine. Now quick sign your name so I can introduce you to the gals on the Altar Guild too.”
Father, by grace you have united me with Christ and called me into your family. Help me to value the gifts of my fellow believers and encourage them to use those gifts for your glory. Amen.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Ginny looked up from her chai tea and smiled when she saw Nancy approach her at their usual table. The two of them had been meeting Wednesday mornings outside a local coffee shop for conversation and encouragement.
“Hey, friend! How’s your day going?” Nancy asked as she sat down across the table from Ginny.
“Well, I keep thinking about our discussion at the end of Sunday morning Bible class,” Ginny answered. “Pastor explained to us that the ‘true and proper worship’ of Romans 12:1—or ‘spiritual worship’ of some Bible translations—means that we want to please God in everything we do because of his mercy for us. I get that, and I want to do that. I still can’t get over how patient God has been with me, despite all of my wrong turns in life. How Jesus was willing to give his life for me. But I still struggle. There are so many times I just don’t know what the right and ‘God-pleasing’ thing to do is. Remember, I’ve only been coming to church for a little over a year now.”
Nancy sipped her latte and thought for a moment. “Pretty heavy thoughts for a Wednesday morning!” she finally said. “But I know how you feel. Every Christian struggles that way. Even the apostle Paul described his own inner fight between right and wrong in Romans chapter 7.”
“That’s true,” said Ginny.
Nancy continued, “But you are on the right path. You’re coming to church; you’re coming to Bible study, and you’re doing your best to put all that into practice in your life. I’ve learned to trust the Holy Spirit to transform my heart and mind through his Word and sacraments. He started it when we were baptized, and he continues to work in us whenever we’re reading or talking about his Word. Believe me, I know from experience that it’s a life-long process, full of ups and downs. That’s what makes me so grateful for his forgiveness!”
Dear God, you called me to be your child. Keep me from sin and teach me to know and do what is pleasing to you. Amen.
After many months, Sunday morning Bible class was finally meeting again, and Ginny couldn’t wait. Pastor Schroeder wasn’t surprised to see her hand shoot up when he asked if there were any questions.
“Pastor,” she said, though muffled by her mask, “while we were all stuck at home, I watched streamed worship services from a few other churches. It struck me how many different styles and ways of worshiping there are. But it also made me wonder if there is a right way to worship?”
Pastor Schroeder interrupted her, “Well, that might take longer to answer than we have time for this morning.”
Ginny continued anyway, “So I did what you always tell us to do. I looked in the Bible for answers. One verse I found was Romans 12:1 where the apostle Paul talks about ‘your true and proper worship.’ But what does that verse mean?”
“Great catch, Ginny!” said her pastor. “In the first eleven chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes at length about God’s grace for sinners and how we are saved only by what Christ has done for us, not by anything we do. Then, before he gets into describing the way that Christians should live, Paul reminds them of what God has already done. ‘In view of God’s mercy…’ That motivates us to dedicate every part of our lives—body and soul—to serving him. When every moment and every choice in life flows from gratitude to God for his mercy, our bodies are like living sacrifices, made holy and acceptable through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us on the cross.”
Ginny’s eyebrows raised above her mask. “So, ‘true and proper worship’ means not just going through the motions—either in life or in church?”
Pastor Schroeder nodded. “Yes. It means always keeping before our eyes everything that God has done for us and then letting our words and actions flow from that.”
Dear God, thank you for your many blessings to me, though I haven’t deserved them. Let me never forget your love for me. Help me to live in a way that pleases you. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23
Do you struggle with procrastination? Is there something really important that you know you should do, but you have been putting it off? Maybe you delay doing those things that are difficult or where the outcome is uncertain.
Productivity gurus will often tell their clients that motivation is the key to getting things done. Very often the reason we procrastinate on a task is that we lose sight of the project’s purpose. When you find yourself dragging your feet and putting off an important task, a consultant might advise you to ask yourself: What do I hope to accomplish? What will the outcome be if I carry through with my assignment?
God’s Son, Jesus Christ, never needed to attend a productivity seminar. He came into this world fully aware of his priorities and was completely dedicated to accomplishing his goal. The Bible tells us that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). That goal of our salvation was only possible by sacrificing himself. So, Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer, he must die, and he must rise to live again. There was no alternative. This was God’s plan from eternity. This is the way he would cancel the debt of your sins and win the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life for you. Nothing would distract or delay him from accomplishing that blessed goal!
Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me so much that nothing could keep you from going to Jerusalem to save me from my sins. Amen.
Learn About St. John’s Befriended Missionary Paul Nitz
Hello St. John’s Members:
During September, we’d like to introduce you to the 4 WELS missionaries our church supports through the Befriend A Mission program. Everyone wants friends. Everyone can be a friend. Jesus is our ultimate Friend, “who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs 18:24b), and we Christians, no matter our age or circumstance, should take our cues for interacting with others from Him.
A friend shows interest in us & prays for us: We hope you will read about Missionary Paul Nitz and his family. The Nitz Family recently returned to the United States after 27 years in Malawi. Pastor Nitz has accepted a new call stateside to serve as a world mission counselor. An article that appears in the September issue of Forward in Christ is attached. Here’s a prayer to use:
God and Father of All Nations:
Lord, you have called Missionary Paul and Susan Nitz and Family back to service in the United States. After 27 years serving in Malawi, Africa, it makes their homeland almost a foreign country to them. Aid their re-assimilation into the life and culture here in our country. Make Pastor Nitz a blessing as he serves and supports WELS world missions worldwide in his new call as a missionary counselor. Shower the Nitz family with grace in their own lives and the continued privilege and opportunity of seeing how powerful and effective God’s Word is in the lives of people around the world. In Jesus’ name, we ask. Amen.
A friend encourages us: We hope you will take a few minutes this week to write a note, send a card or email, draw a picture (Children can befriend also!) and send it as an encouragement to the Nitz Family: Address:
A friend shares with us: Presently a fall mission offering is being collected at St. John’s by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) to support our WELS home and world missions. Everyone with a heart for missions is invited to share a special gift! A collection container is located in the entrance of church where you pick up your bulletin or contact Linda Wachholz, LWMS Reporter, 608-369-2635.
For St. John’s LWMS,
Reporter Linda Wachholz
St. John’s Lutheran Church Montello & Emmanuel Lutheran Church Mecan
Updated Response to Worship Concerns Created by COVID-19
July 30, 2020
When will we worship? An outdoor Saturday service is being added to help members worship in a safe environment. This service will replace the Wednesday evening service.
Saturdays @ 4:30 pm (Any St. John’s or Emmanuel members)-Beginning Saturday, August 15
Sunday @ 8:00 am Emmanuel (Emmanuel members)
Sunday @ 10:00 am St. John’s (St. John’s members 55 and older)
Online worship services continue found at stjohnsmontello.org
Where will we worship? Groups should be 50 or less indoors. To provide safe worship experiences, the new Saturday worship service will be held outdoors when weather permits.
Saturday @ 4:30 pm will be an outdoor service on the lawn behind the parking lot of St. John’s. In case of inclement weather, we will move to the sanctuary.
Sunday @ 8:00 am at Emmanuel in the sanctuary
Sunday @ 10:00 am at St. John’s in the sanctuary
How will we worship? Providing a safe worship experience is a high priority for the leaders in our congregations. Because the virus continues to spread, and because of the science regarding singing and speaking, the following policies will be continued and new ones enacted immediately:
Please use the hand sanitizer upon arrival at the worship service.
Masks will currently be optional at all services (see below**) Masks will be available.
Designated seating will be provided indoors to provide for social distancing.
Please bring lawn chairs for the outdoor service. Some seating and a canopy may be available.
The congregation is asked to not sing for the time being.
Services will be shortened to a length of approximately 40 minutes.
A soloist will sing the hymns and any liturgical responses.
Continuous communion will be practiced on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. The Saturday before the 2nd and 4th Sundays will also include communion. Family units are encouraged to commune together.
The congregations should exit the sanctuary from the back at the end of the service, taking all belongings including the bulletin along with them.
The sanctuary will be cleaned and sanitized between services.
**We will abide by any state or local mandates that may change any of these policies
As we hold firmly to the truths of scripture, we know that God continues to keep his promises to us. He has promised the wonderful spiritual blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation. He has not, however, promised that things will always remain the same. In the words of our synod president, Mark Schroeder, “we recommit ourselves–as individuals, as congregations, and as a synod–to the mission that God has called us to carry out, trusting that he will bless us in that work.” Let us work together as we move forward as a congregation. Let us help, support, and encourage each other as we gather around God’s Word.
Question or Concerns? Contact your Elders or pastor
Emmanuel Elders: Darrell Buchholz (608) 215-7871, Wayne Stelter (608) 369-1790
St. John’s Elders: Jerre Duerr (608) 697-8706, Jay Eisermann (608) 297-8171, James Wachholz (608) 369-4006 – Pastor Pete Zietlow (608) 408-7830
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:32–5:2
When actors need to imitate someone in a skit or movie, they spend many hours preparing for their role by watching videos of the person they are going to imitate. This ingrains the subject’s mannerisms and speech patterns into the actor’s mind. When show time comes, the actor can then imitate the subject quite naturally.
God wants us to imitate him. It is a tall order, to say the least. It is actually impossible for sinful humans like us. Fortunately, Jesus did what we cannot do. He perfectly imitated God because Jesus is God. His perfect life is why we have been forgiven by God for our sins.
Although we will not be able to do what Jesus did, we still strive to imitate God every day as a way of thanking him for forgiving us. Just like an actor preparing for a part, we imitate God best by watching Jesus. Hour after hour, day after day, we read about Jesus in the Bible. This ingrains God’s mannerisms and ways of speaking into our minds. It leads us to be kind and compassionate, to forgive each other, and to live a life of love. Keep watching Jesus and become a better and better imitator of God.
Thank you Jesus, for doing what I could not do. Help me to do what you have done. Help me to imitate God today. Amen.
“But what about you?” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17
The disciples of Jesus had lived with him for more than two years. They had seen him heal many, feed thousands, and even raise people from the dead. They knew the public opinions about Jesus: that he was a holy man, perhaps even a great prophet. But they had also been listening carefully to their Rabbi and knew who he really was. So when Jesus asked the big question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter was quick to respond with an amazing answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Peter was saying that Jesus was the long-promised Savior, our gracious God’s one and only Son, true God and true man who had lovingly come to rescue this world, which was totally broken, totally lost in guilt and sin and without hope. All history revolves around him. He’s the most important and most amazing person who ever walked on this earth. He brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven. God had revealed that truth to Peter. In the next year, Peter would learn much more about all this when he saw Jesus on the cross and then risen from the dead.
“Who do you say I am?” is also the biggest question we will ever face. Thank God that we have the same source of truth as Peter did in the Bible.
Thank God every day of your life if you can answer, “Jesus, you are my Savior and my hope for heaven!”
Thank you, Jesus, for revealing yourself to me! Thank you, Holy Spirit, for putting faith in my heart! Help me to grow in your grace so that I, too, can boldly confess with Peter that you are my Savior! Amen.