Come to the WELS for new life in the living word.
(Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
|Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
What do you think of when you hear the words “Welcome home”? For me home is a reminder of a place where I can relax and be myself – a place where I feel comfortable and loved. It is a place of security, warmth and safety.
I grew up in a loving, Christian family. My family was never rich so to speak, but I never went without the basic comforts of life. I always had a warm bed to sleep in and clean clothes to wear. I never went without a coat, hat, mittens or boots in the winter. There was always good and nourishing food on the table at mealtime. I never had to come home to a lonely and empty house where I was expected to take care of myself.
Rather, I was fortunate enough to be able to come home from school each day and know that I was coming to a place where I could relax and be myself. I knew that I was loved in spite of the fact that I may have been unlovable at times, and in spite of my many faults. At home I didn’t have to be pretty or smart or popular in order to be loved or even liked.
When I married, my husband and I established a warm and loving home for ourselves and our children also. The Lord has blessed us with more than we need to live. We were always able to provide the basic necessities and more for our children. They always had clothing, shoes, hats, mittens and coats. They always had a warm house to come home to in the winter. They never went without a meal. They each had their own comfy bed to sleep in at the end of the day and they never had to be afraid of what tomorrow would bring.
I now realize that many children as well as adults are not as blessed as I have been over the years. Are you one of the people to whom the word “home” means something totally different than what I just described? Maybe your home was the complete opposite. Did you fail to feel the security and love of a good home? Maybe you didn’t always have peaceful sleep, nourishing food and clean clothes to wear. Did you ever have to fear coming home after school because the adults in your life were angry and uncaring? Did you ever have to fear being left alone? Did you come home from school hungry, knowing there would be no dinner prepared for you that day?
If you are one of the unfortunate people who do not have good memories of home, it is more important than ever for you to find a good “Church Home”. You need to know that there is a place where you belong and where people love you. Most importantly you need to know that God loves you as if you were his only child. You are important to him! Your life does matter! He has work for you to do!
A church home is not just a place where you go to meet people or a place where your physical comforts are met. It is not just a place you identify with because it is the church in your neighborhood. It is not just a place which offers that neighborhood breakfast each Sunday morning and/or helps the homeless with food and clothing. All of these things may be a part of a good church home, but first and foremost, what is really important in a church home is that the word of God is taught in its truth and purity. What is really important in a church home is that your spiritual needs are met in a way that is pleasing to God and according to His word.
Your church home is as important, if not more important than your personal home. Your church home needs to be a place where you can feel at one with God and His word and know that what is being taught is the truth from Scriptures. It should represent the warmth of God’s love and comfort from His word, and it should be a place where you can praise God through fellowship with others who believe the same as you do. If the church you attend leaves doubts in your mind, or poses issues that tell you something is not quite right, then it is not a good church home for you.
So if you were not raised in a church setting and you are looking for a church home, how do you know that the teachings of the church you are visiting are in line with the teachings of Scripture? The first step of course is to read God’s word (The Bible) for yourself, but if you have never been taught in a Biblical or church setting, there may be things in God’s word that are difficult for you to understand or comprehend. Through the written word, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand all that you need to know for your salvation, but studying the word with fellow Christians is uplifting and supportive and God encourages it. He tells us in Hebrews 10: 24,25; And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…
I have listed below a few very important things you should be aware of as you search for the right church home:
- The first place to begin is with Scripture itself. You need to read and study God’s word. Through the written word the Holy Spirit will plant the seed faith in your heart and keep it deeply rooted so that the devil does not get a foothold on your soul.
- In your search for a church home you will more than likely visit several different churches. If any church you visit does not profess belief in the Trinity, that being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the one and only God and the Creator of our universe, you do not want to be connected to it. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… (Genesis1:1, 26) God here tells us that He created our universe and He includes all three persons of the trinity by using the plural “us” and “our”.
- If the church you are visiting does not believe that Jesus is God, but only a great teacher or a prophet, do not be in fellowship with it. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1,2) The Word the apostle John is referring to here is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. This verse tells us that He (Jesus) was present at the Creation of the world and that He is part of the Godhead.
- If the church you are visiting does not teach that the Bible in its entirety is the true and inspired word of God, you do not want to be in fellowship with it. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21) The Holy Spirit put into the hearts and minds of the writers of the Old and New Testament what He wanted all people to know and what we need to know for our salvation. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe from God’s word. We either believe it all as it is written, or none of it. This is difficult for people at times. They want to say they love God, but they don’t want to change their lifestyle to conform to His word.
- If you are visiting a church which professes that any lifestyle is okay even when it goes against what God teaches us in His word, you do not want to be a part of it. God does love all people. Jesus died for all people. Forgiveness is a free gift offered to all people, but when we willfully keep on sinning with disregard for God’s word and for the sacrifice Jesus gave for our sins, His sacrifice is useless to us. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26) Through faith God will give us the strength to resist temptation and lead a life that is pleasing to Him. When we trust in Him and do His will, He will bless us beyond measure. Only then will we be able to be truly happy. What we lose here on earth for Jesus sake we will gain for eternity. He tells us; And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:29,30)
- Any church which teaches that you must do something for God in order to gain heaven, you do not want to be in fellowship with. The only way to heaven is by Grace alone through Faith alone. For it is by grace you have been save through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.God teaches us law and gospel in His word. The law is a guide for our lives. It is like a mirror that shows us our sin. It tells us how to live and what God expects of us. The Gospel is the good news of how Jesus lived a perfect life for us and paid the debt we owe to God for our sin by suffering and dying on the cross. Eternal Death is punishment for sin. Jesus took the punishment we deserve our sins upon Himself and gave us His holiness. Through faith in Jesus God no longer holds us accountable. We are washed clean in His blood and are holy in God’s eyes. He conquered death and the devil by rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. Because of God’s Grace (His undeserved love) and through faith in His one and only Son Jesus we now have the promise of eternity in heaven. Jesus tells us in John 14:6; I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- Among the many church denominations in existence today, there seems to be much controversy regarding Baptism – what it means and what it does for us, and who should be baptized.
What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is water used by God’s command and connected with God’s Word…For without God’s Word the water is just plain water and not Baptism. But with this Word it is Baptism that is a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit (Luther’s Catechism pg. 9)
What does Baptism do for us? – It offers for us forgiveness of sins – And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4), makes us members of God’s family – having been buried with him in Baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12), and offers salvation – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Who should be baptized? Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…(Matthew 28:19) Many denominations believe and teach that babies and little children should not be baptized until they are old enough to understand what it means. The thing to remember about baptism is that it is a gift from God to us, and not something we do for God. The benefits we receive from baptism do not depend on our understanding of it. Therefore infants and small children also receive forgiveness of sins, faith from the Holy Spirit, and salvation through Baptism. In Baptism they are connected to Christ and become a part of God’s family of believers. Baptism is the only way tiny infants are able to come to faith. They are too little to understand any other way. Baptism is a huge comfort to parents who have lost infants in death.
My prayer for all of you who are searching for a church to call home is that God will lead your heart and guide your mind to find Him – first in His Holy Word, and to then find fellowship in a church which believes and teaches that word in truth and purity. You will be truly blessed for time here on earth and eternally in heaven.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
If you are interested in finding out more about the WELS as your church home please visit our website at www.wels.net