A Lutheran church is a congregation or an organization of congregations (sometimes called a denomination) that identifies itself with the Lutheran (some times called "evangelical") witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes. Even within a certain association of congregations, one will encounter much diversity in thought and expression. The largest association of Lutheran congregations in the U.S.A. is called the "Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" (ELCA) with about five million members in, roughly, ten thousand congregations. Other associations of Lutheran congregations (denominations) are, for example, "The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod" (LCMS), and the "Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod" (WELS). Most Lutheran churches around the world (including the ELCA) belong to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), an association of Lutheran denominations worldwide. St. John Church is an LCMS church.
The Bible is the only source of knowledge about God and his forgiveness. We can discover things about God by observing the beauty of creation or the orderly nature of the human body.
The Bible's God is this creator God, and the Bible also tells us much more about him. Only in the Bible do we learn that while God is a just God who punishes sin; he is also a merciful God who forgives our sin at no cost to us.
It is through the Bible that God speaks to us today, giving us the role and norm for all we do and say. Since it was written by men as they were directed by God's Holy Spirit, the Bible is true and without error.
There is only one true God. Contrary to public opinion, only one spiritual path leads to heaven. And that path passes through the God of the Bible, who has revealed himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God the Father is the Creator and sustainer of the universe. When God first made the universe, he was pleased with everything he created. And when he created mankind — Adam and Eve — the Bible tells us that God said they were "very good!" By giving them each a soul, God's desire was that they would reflect his image, live in fellowship with him, and care for his creation. But Adam and Eve doubted that God would provide and care for them in the best way possible. So they rebelled against God. Once they broke that relationship, their natures became selfish and self-centered.
Jesus Christ is God the Son. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh — he was 100% human and 100% God, all in one. As such, he experienced all the pain, suffering, and temptation that we do. But because he was God, he dealt with it in perfect, sinless ways. He did what none of us can do: He never sinned.
After three years of publicly teaching and demonstrating that he was God, he allowed himself to be nailed to a cross, paying the price for the sin of the world. Through his crucifixion, the debt we owe for our sin has been paid. Jesus' resurrection from the dead testifies to this fact.
God the Holy Spirit gives us this new relationship with Jesus. It's a relationship built on faith, a simple word that speaks more about heart-knowledge than about head-knowledge. "To have faith in Jesus" means that "Jesus has saved and forgiven me… and I trust in that fact."
It's that Holy Spirit who gives us that relationship. That same Spirit constantly reminds us of what Jesus has done, encouraging and empowering us to mature in this relationship with God.
Every human being is born with a self-centered (i.e. sinful) nature, and a tendency for evil that violates God's will and desire. Attempts to change human nature or to please God with our own good are doomed to failure, for God demands perfection. No matter how hard we try, we are not and can never be perfect. Therefore, all of us are in the same boat: We need to be forgiven. That total and real forgiveness can only be found in Jesus.
The Church is the fellowship of everyone God has brought into faith. The Church is more than one congregation or denomination. It consists of everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. God has given his Church two great gifts to continue its growth: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
In Baptism, God establishes a relationship with us, marking us as members of his family and promising to always be our God. While baptism is a simple act of washing with water in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, its power lies in God's Word as he gives us a new name — his.
The power of the Lord's Supper is also found in the Word of God when when Jesus promises that "this (bread) is my body… this (wine) is my blood." While the Supper is a simple act consisting of bread and wine and involving all our senses, the Word of God ensures that Jesus' body and blood are also present, in and with the bread and wine, for the strengthening of our relationship with him.
A Christian is a member of the Church not because of what she has done or who he is, but because God has brought him or her into a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It's a very one-sided thing: God has forgiven our sins because of Jesus' death on the cross; now his Spirit brings us into God's family so that what Jesus did, he did for us personally. So even though our imperfections remain with us while here on earth, thanks to Jesus we are already perfect in God's eyes.
Christians are called to live for Jesus, seeking to serve and honor him in all facets of life. Life cannot be divided into compartments, some where Jesus is present and others where he is not, for Jesus is the author and Lord of all life.
The Ten Commandments are God's guide for how we are to live our lives.
The first three commandments address our relationship with God: He wants and deserves to be first in our lives; we are to treat him and his name with respect; and worship of him must be a regular part of our lives.
The last seven commandments address our relationships with people. This group of rules forms the basis for an orderly society: Authority is to be respected, beginning with the parent/child relationship; life should be protected, not intentionally taken; sexual intimacy is a gift to be shared only between husband and wife; and a person's property, name, and relationships must be treated with respect.
Jesus condensed these commandments into two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all soul, and with all your mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The tension in the Christian walk is that we are called to love people deeply and obey God fully. Thankfully, God forgives us when we fail and gives us his forgiveness and love to share with others!