From the moment that God created the universe, He knew the plan of salvation he had in mind for us. He spoke, and through His Word, the world was brought into existence. His Spirit hovered over the waters and when it was done, God declared it all to be good.
Even today, the one God, made up of Creator, Word, and Spirit (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), still speaks to His creation and seeks a relationship with us. In fact, we were created for that very purpose. Unfortunately, through the sin of those first two people, God’s creation was corrupted and our relationship with Him was broken. People often talk of seeking God, and how humanity has nearly always done so. But the story of history is not so much one of us seeking Him, but rather Him bringing about his plan to restore that broken relationship and reconcile the world to Himself. Please see especially: Gen. 1-3, John 1:1-18, Rom. 3:10-11, 2 Cor 5:18-19
God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. In order to have a relationship you need to know each other and communicate. Being God, He already knows everything about us, but we don’t automatically know everything about Him. So, He gave us His Word, which we call, the Bible. In the Bible, God speaks to us and reveals Himself to us so that we can know about Him and our relationship with Him.
The Bible does not just contain God’s Word. It is God’s Word. God moved in people to write what He wanted written and then caused those writings to be brought together. Therefore, we can trust that the Bible is entirely true and we can look to it to tell us who God is, what He thinks of us, and how we can know we have a good relationship with Him. Please see especially: 2 Pet.1:21, Heb. 1:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:16-17
When we experience pain, suffering, and loss, we are experiencing the taint on existence that is the power of sin. It doesn’t help matters that we so often are the source of our own problems. It seems like we know the right thing to do, but are incapable of doing it. We can all point to bad decisions we make, sometimes repeatedly, that negatively affect our lives.
The worst effect these bad decisions have is when they hurt our relationships with those around us. We see the effects immediately, through the loss of friendships, marriages and family closeness. What may not be so easy to see, however, is how our sin harms our relationship with God. It draws us away from His love and mercy, and the comfort we receive from Him. Please see especially: Jam. 4:17, 1 Jn. 1:8, Rom. 3:23, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 6:23
God refuses to give up on us despite our sin. Instead of simply condemning us, He created a way that we can have our relationship with Him restored, and be set free from that negative influence in our life which is sin. That way is Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God that was present at the creation of the world, and He came to earth, born as one of us, in order to save us. He taught a new way of living which, though based on the things God had already taught His people, was different from the way people had come to understand them. His teachings remain the same today as they were then. They challenge us to live a life of love and forgiveness, where we seek the good of others before the good of ourselves.
His ultimate purpose was to sacrifice Himself in order to pay the divine price for the sin that entered the world and to pay the price for our own sins. But it didn’t end there on that cross, because Jesus, the Son of God, rose from the dead. In so doing He freed us to have a relationship with Him, and through Him, with God the Father. Based on a relationship with God that has been restored, we can find hope and healing in all our relationships, and within ourselves. Please see especially: Jn. 1:1-18, Heb. 13:8, Mk. 10:42-45, Jn. 3:16-17, Acts 2:23-24, Mk. 15-16
God gives us everything we need for our salvation and to be able to have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. And He does this without our first having done anything to deserve it. That’s grace! Rather than creating a problem for us, realizing that God is ultimately the one responsible for saving us is a relief. As we live our life we frequently find ourselves falling short of the things we want to do and should be doing. Because God is responsible for giving us the gift of faith and Jesus is responsible for doing the work of saving us, we never have to worry that because we are still imperfect, that we might somehow mess up God’s plan for us. Please see especially: 2 Pet. 1:3, Eph 2:8-9
Following Jesus is all about relationship. Living in relationship with a person that you cannot see is not always easy. One of the compelling things about Jesus is how consistently he takes the initiative with us. One way Jesus takes the initiative with us in baptism.
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. What’s so special about a handful of simple water? Nothing, until God connects His Word to it! In Baptism, that is exactly what God is doing. He combines His life-creating and life-giving Word with the waters of Holy Baptism, and thereby we are born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:5)
A pastor during the first century once wrote that Jesus loved us before we were able to love him. That is how we understand baptism, Jesus taking the initiative: loving us before we are able to love him. Using water we baptize people of all ages in God’s name just as he told us realizing that it is always Jesus who takes the initiative to establish the relationship.
What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). In and through Baptism, God cleanses us from all of our sins, snatches us from the power of Satan, and gives us everlasting life. It is all God’s doing as He gives us His blessing. It is His promise. In Baptism, our Triune God imparts to each of us, personally, the gifts the Lord Jesus Christ won for the world through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Please see especially: Gal.3:27; Col.1:13–14; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5–7 and 1 Cor.6:11
At the final meal before Jesus’ death, He did something that would change the Jewish Passover forever. The Passover was a time the Israelites celebrated being brought out of slavery in Egypt, being made God’s people, and being delivered to the Promised Land. At a traditional Passover, Jesus told his followers that the wine was his blood and the bread his body. It sounds crazy on the surface, but they believed it because they knew him and knew that if He said it, it was true.
His followers have continued the practice of that meal up to today. Following Jesus is not easy, it never has been, but when we share that meal we call communion we are tied to Jesus and one another in a way unlike any other. Through his body and blood, we receive forgiveness and strength to persevere. It may seem odd to us that simple bread and wine could do all that, but as the water of baptism, it is God’s Word which makes the difference. Jesus said it is His body and blood which brings forgiveness and life and we believe it because we know him. Please see especially: Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Having our relationship with God restored, we continue to live in that relationship. Through the work of God’s Spirit in our lives, we gradually learn to live as the people of God. We grow closer to Him and begin to live the way He has called us to live. Sin remains in our life, as we continue to make mistakes and sometimes fail to do the right thing, but we know that God continues to love us and walk with us. Ultimately, love is what this is all about. God loves us and we love others. Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. Please see especially: Gal. 5:16-26, Matt. 28:20, 1 Cor. 13, 1 Jn. 4:7-21
Many people, especially in the United States, have had some experience with a church or at least have an idea of what church is. Whether you are one of them or not, it is important to realize what the church is. It’s not all about buildings or denominations; the church is simply people following Jesus. We gather together to discover God’s teachings and encourage one another because it is hard to follow Jesus, especially alone. God never intended Christians to do it alone. We all have different personalities, gifts, and abilities which work together to serve, help each other, and serve others. Committed to the same things and asking similar questions we share our lives with one another. We do that not only because it makes life easier, but also because it’s who Jesus was. He lived in a team, and we try to as well. It may not be perfect, but it’s who we are: committed to Jesus, our communities, and one another. Please see especially: Rom. 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Heb. 10:25
We do not serve to earn God’s love, which we already have. Neither do we serve to earn the thanks of our fellow man. We serve through our time, talents and treasure because God has first graciously given to us. We serve because we love those around us and want to help them, the way we have been helped. Please see especially: 1 Pet. 4:10-11, Acts 20:35, Gal. 5:13-14, Mat. 20:28, Phil 2:1-11, Mat 5:44
Faith Lutheran Church, Wesley Chapel is a part of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS is a Lutheran denomination that dates back to the 1860s and was begun by a group of German Immigrants. While we work with this larger group to train our pastors and teachers and send missionaries overseas, we are still completely autonomous. We choose our own pastors and own our own land and buildings (when we purchase land) and any authority that the Synod has is advisory to the congregation. Joining with the other 6000+ congregations that make up the Synod gives us the opportunities of a much larger group, while our own congregation and its members retain the close family atmosphere that allows us to care for each other.
In Christ’s Service,