Blessing of Baptism

Baptism…saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21

“Want a tough stain out?” That’s how the old commercial began. It ended by claiming a product that could get the job done. There are lots of sprays, foams, and cleaners that companies promise are the answer to our coffee, wine, and pet stain problems. But can any of those products deliver? If there actually was a stain remover guaranteed to deliver results as promised and was free…would you be interested?

God has one for you. He has provided a special “product” that has his faithful promise and almighty power behind it, and it is completely free. It’s not for coffee, wine, or pet stains, but for something far worse. It’s for guilt!

Guilt is what is left behind when we sin, and like an ugly stain it sticks in our hearts and minds. We want to get rid of it, but how? We can’t shout it out, even though guilt can make us angry and do lots of shouting. We can’t scrub it out, even if we try our hardest to clean up the messes we have made. So, what can get the tough stain of guilt out?


Baptism in a word that means to wash with water. God’s word together with water makes baptism a cleanser that God promises will bring results: “…not the removal of dirt…but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” A guilty conscience comes from sin, and sin makes us unacceptable before our holy, sinless God. Baptism takes away our guilt because in baptism God connects us to Jesus and his work of salvation. In baptism God gives us the great gift of forgiveness through Jesus. His death was the payment for sin, and his resurrection is the guarantee that the stain of our sin has been removed. By our baptism God frees us from guilt. We are saved from the consequences of sin—death and damnation!

Think about your house with every single stain removed from your carpet and couch, and from your shirt and blouse. Even the toughest stains are eliminated. Baptism is a blessing of God that is much greater! Baptism is God’s amazing life-saving “product” to take out the stain of sin’s guilt from your heart. Jesus guarantees it.

Christian Confidence

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

I have a vivid memory from the first grade. I was an awkward, chubby kid. Each day, my only hope was to get through class, and get through recess, so that I could get home without anything too embarrassing happening. But unfortunately, time stopped the moment I had to read out loud in front of my classmates. I knew the words on the page, but my mind raced passed them, leaving no time for them to come out of my mouth. I must have sounded like an old CD player that just keeps skipping. Finally, my first grade teacher had had enough and she blurted out, “What’s wrong with you? Do you have a bone for a brain?”

After that, I would shut down when I was asked to read. That is, until my fourth grade teacher treated me differently. She gave me special reading assignments to do on my own. Then we met together, and she treated me as if I didn’t have a reading problem. In fact, she treated me as if I were a good reader who had good insights. And you know what? I actually became one. I got my confidence back because one teacher looked at me differently.

That is essentially what Jesus has done for us. We have stuttered our way through life, giving into our sinful desires. God has every right to call us what we are: spiritual screw-ups who deserve to be separated from him. But like my fourth grade teacher, God looks at us as if we were good people who do the right thing. He sees us this way because we are covered with Jesus’ love and forgiveness. As our substitute, Jesus was treated like a sinner on the cross, so now we are treated like a saint. The more we realize that God looks at us as good people through Jesus, the more we will start acting like it.

Relying on the Lord Jesus, we gain the confidence to face the circumstances and challenges of life. God patiently teaches us in his word, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Faithfully supported by God who loves us dearly, we can face the events of life, no matter how demeaning or difficult they may be.

Confession of Faith

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved.
– Romans 10:9

Did you ever wonder what made the early Christians willing to confess their faith in Jesus even when it brought persecution and death? Some Christians in the first century were stoned to death. Others were crucified. Still others were thrown to the lions. Yet they died praising Jesus, confessing him as their Lord and Savior.

In the centuries that followed, believers in Jesus continued preaching and teaching about him even at the threat of physical harm. One such man was Martin Luther who lived in Germany back in the 1500’s. Luther boldly preached and taught about Jesus and became one of the most prolific writers about the Christian faith who has ever lived. When the authorities pressured him to take back what he had written, Luther firmly replied, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen!” As a result, he was labeled an outlaw and it was open season for anyone who wanted to take his life.

How could Luther and many other Christians confess their faith so boldly even at the threat of physical harm and death? Because they knew that something much better was waiting for them after this life. They knew that Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection meant that God accepted his sacrifice for their sins and they too would rise to live forever in heaven.

Christians still have this hope today. We know this life is temporary. Nothing in this life is going to last. It will all eventually decay and perish. But those who trust in Jesus and confess him as their Lord and Savior will enjoy a perfect life with him that will never end. This changes the perspective and priorities of believers in Jesus. Confident in their eternal salvation through Jesus, Christians confess their faith in the Lord Jesus even to the point of death.

Forgiveness through Jesus

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
– 2 Corinthians 5:19

The month of February holds the day that often makes or breaks relationships: Valentine’s Day! It’s a day of engagement rings, flowers, dinners, and the hope for returned affections. For all the happiness of Valentine’s Day, it’s also bittersweet. For every happy or newly engaged or blissfully married couple, you can find someone who is sadly alone, someone who longs to be loved, someone going through a devastating break-up. No wonder the game is, “He loves me…He loves me not.”

Imagine if the pressure of Valentine’s Day was off. Imagine there was no doubt about how that special someone felt about you. Imagine that person did what the Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

We have to imagine, because our experience is that human love is conditional. It is usually based on how people look, or what they have, or how they treat us. As a result, we are led to think that God is the same. We think that he loves us if we’re lovable. We assume that he loves us if we show our love to him. The truth is that God loves us not because of who we are or what we do. The Bible clearly describes God’s amazing love by what he has done for us: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”

Honestly, we have to admit that there are all kinds of sins on our record before God. Our attempts at love throughout life—failures, breakups, lies, adulteries, divorces—all are an astonishing record of wrong. God ought to oppose us. But in amazing love, God doesn’t count our sins against us. That means that he doesn’t keep a record of all our actions, thoughts and words that violate his holy will.

God doesn’t keep a record of our sins because of Jesus. God took all our sins, the sins of everyone, and charged them to his Son. In our place Jesus willingly and lovingly suffered the punishment of death that we and all people deserved. This is the great love that God has for us…for you! Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with God is restored and by faith in Jesus we will enjoy the blessing of his love forever.

In our relationship with God, it’s not “He loves me…He loves me not.” In Christ, it is always, “He loves me…He loves me…He loves me.”

Holy Communion

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Often we have a hard time believing that we are loved. Men and women who have a keen awareness of their flaws will wonder if anyone can really love them. So we have a need to not only hear that we are loved, but also to receive tangible assurance of that love.

If we need that assurance from our fellow human beings, how much more do we need that assurance in our relationship to God?

God knows us so well. He knows how we feel. He knows what we need. Not only does he tell us in his Word that he loves us, he also gives us personal assurance of that love.

How does he do that? He does so in what Christians call Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper. In this special meal Jesus gives us bread that isn’t just bread. He tells us, “This is my body.” He also gives us wine to drink that isn’t just wine. He says, “This is my blood.”

Now before anyone gets grossed out, this isn’t some kind of weird cannibalism. It’s bread and wine that looks, smells, and tastes like bread and wine. Yet, in a way that we can’t perceive or comprehend, Jesus tells us that with the bread and wine, his body and blood are really present in this Supper.

Here’s why this is such a great gift. You may think, “I know that Jesus forgives all those other people out there, but I’m not really sure that he can forgive me.” In Holy Communion, Jesus comes to you personally and says, “I love you. Your sins are all forgiven. You want proof? Here’s the price I paid for you on the cross. This is my body which was sacrificed for you. This is my blood which I shed for you.”

Whenever we receive the Lord’s Supper, we remember Jesus’ saving, self-sacrificing love for us, and we personally receive not only assurance of that love, but we also receive his forgiveness.

Know the Truth

“Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

Human beings have never stopped desiring to search for the truth. And who can blame us?

As we swim our way through life, so often we find ourselves in deep water over our heads, water that has a muddy bottom which is sometimes slimy and threatens to trap our feet. What could feel better than to finally touch a smooth, solid, rock bottom where we can plant our feet and rest, keep our heads above water, catch our breath?

God’s word is rock-solid truth. That’s how Jesus described it. He was speaking to his heavenly Father in prayer when he said, “Your word is truth.” Though such a simple statement, it is a profound reality. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, testifies that the word of God the heavenly Father is truth!

It’s hard sometimes to hear the truth. It can cause us to hang our head in shame and even cringe with fear. Truth that God tells us is every bit as difficult to hear. He tells us the truth that we are sinful. The sin that swirls around in our heads and floods our hearts is devastating. Sin brings death—every kind of isolating, slimy, feet-trapping death, including the eternal kind.

God tells us the truth about sin so that we are willing to listen to a more important truth. The truth that his Son, Jesus Christ, came and lived the perfect life required of those who want God to care about them in this life and save them for the life to come. The truth that he died the perfect death on the cross that completely paid for sin. The truth that he rose again to prove he had done everything that is necessary for our salvation. The truth that he did this for every sinful human being. He did it to give us a firm foundation for life—a blessed life with God now and forever.

And do you know how God gives us everything Jesus earned for us by his life, death, and resurrection? Through his rock-solid word.

And that’s the truth!

Living with Real Purpose

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
– Ephesians 2:10

Your life matters. You are living for a reason. Your life has purpose. Without purpose, life is boring and meaningless; there is little sense of life’s significance and value. Having a life filled with purpose is not just for the super-successful and highly important. God doesn’t just look after famous people who have accomplished great feats or individuals who have been placed in high positions of leadership. He cares for everyone. From the macro to the micro level, he declared his love for the world. There is no doubt, he loves you and gives your life real purpose. He does all this, not because you are deserving, but purely by his grace.

God demonstrated his grace when he saved you through your Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ perfect life counts for you. He suffered and died as your substitute. His rising from the grave means that you will also rise from the dead. And since he has saved you for all eternity—the greater thing—does he not also have great purpose for you in this life, the lesser thing? Yes! What is more, God says that he has created you to do what he has already planned for you. With every task and responsibility God has given your life purpose.

There is purpose in the mother who cares for her newborn and the father who teaches his son to double-knot his shoelaces. There is purpose in children who obey, just as there is purpose for the soldier who follows orders, the citizen who respects leaders, and the employee who goes to work.

Even your average day has purpose, for God has equipped and called you for each task of life. He does not intend life to be mundane mediocrity. Life is not meant to be compartmentalized into significant and insignificant pieces. Instead, God wants you to see his purpose for you as the fiber seamlessly woven through fabric of every facet of your life.

You have important purpose in life. Primarily, it is to know God’s love for you through Jesus. Motivated by his grace, you can willingly follow his lead through life and lovingly serve the people he brings into your life. That’s living with real purpose!

Purpose of the Bible

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4

Every book has a purpose. Whether it’s a cookbook, music book, history book, novel, science book, biography, or even a comic book, every book has a reason. So what is the purpose of the best-selling book in the world, the Bible?

The Bible imparts wisdom, and has been used in many lands during various ages as a key educational textbook. While this is useful, it is not the real purpose of the Bible.

The Bible proclaims the Creator’s natural law for his creatures. Guided by its directives, people can live productive and happy lives, caring about others. While this is very beneficial, it is not the real purpose of the Bible.

Many claim the Bible teaches us how to live according to God’s commands so we can gain his favor. This common misunderstanding is certainly not the purpose of the Bible. Rather, the Bible clearly proclaims and demonstrates that we cannot keep God’s commands to gain his favor for salvation.

God’s answer to this dilemma is the REAL purpose of the Bible. According to his eternal plan God sent his own perfect Son, Jesus, to live in obedience to all of God’s commands, and to suffer the punishment for our wrongs against God’s commands by his death on the cross. Jesus gained God’s favor for all of us!

The apostle Paul wrote, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Just before this verse, Paul quoted from what was written in the past, about a thousand years before Jesus was born: “The insults of those who insult you fall on me” (Psalm 69:9). Paul described how that Psalm verse speaks of Jesus Christ, who did not come to please himself, but came to do the Father’s will. In his suffering and death Jesus voluntarily bore all people’s hostility toward God.

This is the amazing purpose of the Bible. It points to Jesus Christ and describes in detail his work of salvation. It is God’s word. It is his eternal plan of salvation for sinners. This is what truly teaches us, encourages us, grants us endurance and hope! This is THE purpose of the Bible—to show sinners their salvation in Jesus Christ alone. So great is God’s love for us!

Power of God in the Gospel

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of
everyone who believes.
– Romans 1:16

Crucifixion was a most shameful way to die. The condemned individual was stripped of both clothing and dignity, nailed to a wooden cross, and left there to die slowly over the course of hours or days. It was an execution reserved for only the very worst of criminals.

With all this in mind, you might expect the early Christians to have been ashamed or even embarrassed about what had happened to Jesus. Instead, from the very beginning, the message of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross has been at the heart and core of Christianity.

As he addresses a group of Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul even calls Jesus’ suffering and death “the gospel,” which means “good news!” He writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

How could Paul and other Christians be so positive about the shameful death of Jesus? The answer is that by Jesus’ death, God was accomplishing something wonderful for all people.

The prophet Isaiah put it like this: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The reason Jesus died that shameful death on the cross was to take away all our sins—our lust, pride, selfishness and greed…every cruel word we have said to hurt other people…every wicked action for which we are ashamed and wish we could take back. All these sins, for which we deserve to be punished, were placed on Jesus and he took the punishment in our place.

Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross means that we are saved from God’s punishment for our sins. It means that relying on Jesus as our Savior we can look forward to eternal life in heaven that our Savior has prepared for us.

Thank God for the message of the gospel, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Powerful enough to wash away our sins. Powerful enough to bring us home to heaven one day. Powerful enough, and important enough, for us to rely on Jesus alone for salvation.

Saved by Grace through Jesus

When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of
righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
– Titus 3:4-5

What can happen if you forgot to close the gate in your back yard and you let the dog out? You were 99% sure you closed it. What might happen if you are 99% sure you turned the stove off before you left the house? We don’t like to be less than 100% sure of something; it makes us uncomfortable that something bad can happen.

That’s why we really like the word GRACE. For the past 500 years the Lutheran church has focused on the fact that the Bible tells us very plainly that we are saved by grace. God tells us that he has done everything for our salvation and he gives eternal life to us as a free gift—there is nothing we have to do for it. This is an amazing message of good news!

However, the proclamation of God’s Word wasn’t always clear. For many years the message of the Bible was not made available to everyone. People went to church, they confessed their sins, they heard the priest tell them to go and do certain things and then maybe, hopefully they might make it into heaven. How would people ever know if they did enough, or if they were good enough? They were led to believe that Jesus’ life and death were not enough; they still had to contribute in some way for their salvation. Even after they died, someone still might need to do something to help them finally reach heaven. Imagine the doubt.

The Word of God removes all doubt about our salvation. The Bible teaches us: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Salvation does not depend on what we do, but entirely on what Jesus Christ came to do for us.

Jesus had great mercy on us. In his love he died the death we deserved and rescued us from our sins. By faith in him as our Savior, we have complete confidence of eternal life in heaven.

This is the main message of the Bible that we preach and teach in the Lutheran church. We are saved by grace through Jesus. Please come and hear it for yourself.