What We Believe
Q. What is the single most basic teaching of the Bible?
But there is a "most important" common thread which runs throughout the Bible as a central theme. All of the writings in the Old and New Testaments point to this central idea:
People can only be saved from a fatally damaged relationship with God by receiving His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
That is the main message of the Bible, so it is also the main message we continue to proclaim in our worship services, in our Bible studies, and in our lives. Obviously, we remain interested in all of the many sub-themes of the Bible too, such as peace, justice, compassion, prayer, grief and loss, the problem of evil in the world, and etc. But if there would be only one thing we could share with you about God's Word, it would be that you are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
|For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9|
Q. Why is Jesus Christ such a big deal?
A. The Bible explains that the world is in a conundrum. Being alive is very, very good. In fact, we are designed by God for a life that never ends! While many (most?) people often want to be kind, do good deeds, and generally make the world a better place, not even the most "saintly" doer of good deeds can ever become so holy that he can avoid death. In other words, if life was intended to be enjoyed forever (and it is!) then there is nothing you can possibly do that will enable you to activate that reality for yourself. Death is a conundrum for everyone.
In the Bible we are taught that God is perfect in both justice and in mercy. Perfect justice means that anyone found guilty of sin will die. While this seems harsh (and it is, actually) we must remember that God is the author of life. As life's designer, God alone is responsible for determining what it should look like. If God says that theft (for instance) is "sin", then we must understand that true life excludes theft. (For a decent summary of what constitutes "sin", we recommend The Ten Commandments, though this serves as merely a starting point for understanding the concept.)
It doesn't take a reader very long to discern that we all fall short of the holy life God designed us to live. It follows, therefore, that since we have all sinned and fallen short of God's design, we will all die. No amount of extra added-on goodness or kindness can erase that fact.
This is why Jesus Christ is such a big deal.
The Bible also teaches us that Jesus lived his life perfectly according to God's design. Jesus didn't sin. But in order to satisfy God's perfect justice, Jesus "became" dead for us, so that the judgment against our sin fell on Jesus instead of on us! So now, trusting Jesus to provide satisfaction to God on your behalf, you are saved from death! Life, through Jesus, is restored to its original eternal design.
So God remains perfect in justice. And the sacrifice Jesus made shows us that God is also perfect in mercy. Jesus provided that voluntary self-sacrifice out of love. It was God's gift to you. Whether you know it, believe it, understand it, or even like it or not... Jesus died in your place.
What we celebrate on Easter morning (actually, what we celebrate every Sunday morning) is that death did not hold Jesus. When Jesus arose from death, he provided the only way out of our conundrum. By faith in Jesus, we receive God's grace.
So here at Hope Lutheran Church and School, we are thankful to Jesus in such a way that we try to communicate God's love in everything we teach, believe, confess, and do.
Q. OK, that sounds like "Christianity". So what is a "Lutheran"?
A. A Lutheran is a Christian who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized in the Book of Concord.
Q. And what is the Book of Concord?
A. The Book of Concord is an assembly of documents that were written during the time of the Protestant Reformation. Although these documents are almost 500 years old, they did such a great job of summarizing what the Bible teaches that we continue to use them today.
The most well-known section of the Book of Concord is The Small Catechism of Martin Luther. (A "catechism" is simply a fancy name for a religious textbook!) In his catechism, Luther used 6 lessons to summarize the most basic truths of the Holy Bible.
Luther's SIX chief parts are:
The Ten Commandments (where God gives us a picture of what the perfect life should look like)
The Creed (a "creed" is a statement of belief)
The Lord's Prayer (more than "just" a prayer, it teaches us much about the relationship between God and humans)
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism (a "sacrament" is how God gives us grace in some visible way)
Confession/Absolution (where we are taught how to admit our sins to God and hear God's forgiveness)
The Sacrament of Holy Communion (another "means" of God's grace for us)
The work Martin Luther did in summarizing these Biblical truths was so profound that an entire Christian movement grew from reading them and allowing them to guide how the Bible is understood. This movement was eventually called "Lutheranism".
Q. So tell me again what a Lutheran is?
A. A Lutheran is someone who:
- believes in the Bible as it is explained throughout the Small Catechism (as well as the larger collection in the Book of Concord),
- worships God together with others who believe the Bible in the same way,
- and puts his or her faith into action by trying to live according to these Bible truths.
In short, a Lutheran is a follower of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Holy Bible as they have been commonly confessed for hundreds of years by Christians all over the world.
Q. This is fantastic! Where can I learn even more about these writings?
A. Don't worry, it's quite natural for people to get excited when they begin to learn about a clear, careful, and reliable interpretation of the Bible. While there is much mystery in who God is and how God works, there is also much that has been revealed for us. It is a profound joy to be able to confess Godly truth with confidence. Here are some helpful links to learn more:
Q. Do you really believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again?
A. We admit it, this sounds pretty incredible. There is no scientific fact that can support resurrection. There is no physical evidence that Jesus arose from death. The very idea of it is counter to our human experience. So we admit it, resurrection is not "logical".
Yet we believe that Jesus died a very real human death on a Friday afternoon in 33 AD. We believe he was buried in a standard 1st century tomb. We believe he remained dead through Friday night, all day and night Saturday, and that some time early Sunday morning he miraculously returned to life. We believe that this display of power (and authority over death) is sufficient reason to trust whatever he says as truth.
Why would we believe such a thing?
Well, for starters, we acknowledge that our faith in these matters is what it is because God works in our minds, hearts, and lives. So our beliefs are literally a gift from God.
That being said, there are several interesting perspectives that make our beliefs seem pretty credible.
- Most of the New Testament of the Bible was written by a diverse group of writers who saw Jesus before he died, watched him die, saw him buried, then spent time with him after his resurrection. They didn't write what they wrote to benefit themselves, they wrote because the experience of witnessing the resurrection (along with many other miracles) was so moving that they wanted as many to hear about it as possible.
- Historical records from outside of the Bible have shown that the people who witnessed these things were routinely threatened with death unless they would change their testimony. Each one of them was so convinced about Jesus' power over death that they were willing to risk being killed themselves while they continued to spread their eyewitness testimony. Almost all of them eventually were killed because of it. Now let us ask you a question: if you knew that what you were teaching was in fact false, would you be willing to die defending it? These people didn't merely believe in Jesus being raised from death... they were eyewitnesses. They knew Jesus arose from death.
- The Bible has stood the test of time as a reliable source of historical information. Bible prophecies which have been later fulfilled lend credence to the inspired nature of its writings. The Bible is attested to by hundreds of ancient manuscripts which show it to be internally consistent in content. In other words, taken strictly as an historical document, it is at least as reliable as any other ancient source, and in most cases more reliable.
None of these perspectives is sufficient cause to put faith in Jesus Christ. Faith comes when God begins to work it - first by Baptism, then by hearing about Jesus in the Bible, in Bible study, in church worship services, during fun times of fellowship, and quietly as we pray. But we include the above perspectives as a further reminder that our belief in Jesus is grounded in the historical fact that he lived, died, and arose again to life.
Q. Actually, I already believe in all of this. What makes Hope Lutheran Church different from any other Christian Church?
A. Hope Lutheran Church is actually the same as any other Christian Church insofar as we worship Jesus Christ as God's only son who redeems the world by his vicarious atonement for sin. By virtue of our adherence to Christian faith as it is believed according to the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, you will find Hope Lutheran Church to be an excellent Christian "church home".
But there are some distinctives about our ministry here at Hope which we believe God has called us to remain specifically commited to.
- Christian Education
- Because we believe that faith in Jesus is meant to grow, you will find that we incorporate teaching the faith into every aspect of our ministry.
- Our Christian school includes weekly worship, daily prayers and devotions, religion curriculum, and an overall attitude of discipleship. Our teachers take their faith seriously, and teaching faith is part of who they are.
- Our Sunday morning schedule includes teaching/learning opportunities for people of every age and experience level.
- Our Bible studies are offered in great variety. We have womens' groups, mens' groups, teen groups, seniors groups, groups led by pastors, groups led by non-pastors, informal groups, academic groups... in short we offer as wide a variety of learning opportunities as we can to foster life-long Christian education.
- We provide a special class for prospective new church members wherein an experienced church leader discusses the basics of Lutheran Christianity. Education is important to us at our core.
- Missionary Effort
- We support missionaries all around the world by sending a percentage of our yearly operating budget to an LC-MS agency responsible for calling, training, and equipping missionaries.
- We partner with various other missionary agencies including several outside of Lutheran circles.
- In 2013-2014 we are subsidizing the tuition of every single student who attends our school, many of whom do not yet have a church home.
- Our current Pastor Dan Sparling is a trained missionary with experience in urban and suburban missions and church planting. He is active in evangelism just as he is active in training others to profess faith with confidence.
- We continue to see adults and children come to faith in Jesus as they receive Baptism, education, and encouragement.
- Family Ministry
- It is in our "DNA" to think of Hope Lutheran Church as a "family". Even from the very beginnnings of our church, when a school was envisioned as a coordinated ministry, we have expressed ourselves as the faithful family of God.
- We provide child care services at most church functions, enabling entire families to participate in church life.
- We offer parenting classes (Pastor Sparling is an Independent Facilitator of Parenting the Love and Logic Way©) to help families function at their best.
- Hope provides a variety of caring ministries to families in all kinds of need - meals during times of crisis or recovery, transportation assistance for those who desire to worship with us, free marriage and/or family counseling, and etc.
- We believe that God designed our lives to be lived in relationship with others, especially in families, and that ideal is infused in most everything we do here.
- As we routinely survey our ministry, we are always looking for "gaps". It is our desire to maintain Christian activities for entire families at all ages and varieties.
- Christian Responsibility
- God is the giver behind everything we have. As we keep aware of this, our energy as a congregation is aimed at putting everything we have to use to do God's work. In short, we see ourselves as stewards of God's gifts.
- We pass a balanced budget each year and conduct our financial affairs with transparency and accountability.
- Our property on the corner of Haines Road and Mill Creek is God's property, so we make our facilities available to the community for a variety of non-church-related functions because we believe that is how God would desire us to act.