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What Are You Reading? (October 2014)

What are you reading?

That’s the question we’ll be asking Gloria Dei staff each month and highlighting a few of those books here on the blog.

We’re asking you too…what are you reading? Share with others in the comments by telling us what’s on your reading list.

 

Jo Lynn Yeutsy, Director of Tiny Treasures

Left NeglectedLeft Neglected by Lisa Genova

“I just joined a book club, and this is the book that was chosen for this month because I hear it’s a good one to discuss. I’ve just started it, but it’s grabbed my attention so far!” ~ Jo Lynn

From Amazon:

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

 

Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotion

Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham LotzWounded By God's People

“In a passing conversation, a friend mentioned this book, and it caught my attention. I loved the book’s detailed study of Abraham, Sarah, and especially Hagar. I had never considered Hagar’s plight, her emotional and spiritual darts came from every direction. In many regards, she was a product of a lot hurtful choices from others as well as from her own bad choices. But for me, the incredible part of her story is God did not leave her alone and actively pursued her. I finished reading the book with a fresh understanding that there is absolutely no person or situation that God does not want to redeem.” ~ Karen 

From Amazon:

Tucked into Abraham’s biography is the story of Hagar, a young Egyptian slave with whom Abraham had a son named Ishmael.  Hagar stood out because she was wounded—not physically, but in ways that were as emotionally and spiritually painful as any injury to a body would be. Some wounds were provoked by her own bad behavior, but others were inflicted by those who considered themselves God’s people.

Anne Graham Lotz too has been wounded by God’s people. Some wounds have been deeper than others, some have come out of nowhere, and still others have been provoked by her own behavior, but all of the wounds have been deeply painful. They seemed to hurt even more when the wounders wrapped their behavior in a semblance of religion or piety.

As Hagar’s story unfolds, you will discover that wounded people often become wounders themselves. While Anne identifies with the wounded, the unpleasant reality is that she also identifies with the wounders, because she has been one, too.  She knows from experience that wounding is a cycle that needs to be broken.  And by God’s grace, it can be.

Many have had similar experiences. And perhaps you are among those who have been so deeply hurt that you have confused God’s imperfect people with God. Maybe you have even run away from God as a result.  Or perhaps you have been a wounder to the extent that you are living in a self-imposed exile, believing you are unworthy to be restored to a warm, loving relationship with God or with God’s people. Whatever your hurts may be, Wounded by God’s People helps you to begin a healing journey—one that enables you to reclaim the joy of God’s presence and all the blessings God has for you.

God loves the wounded. And the wounders.

 

Laura Rath, Assistant to the Senior Pastor

Gluten FreedomGluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano

Is it gluten free? has become a frequent question in our world now. For some, eating gluten free is a choice. For many others, it’s a necessity, due to celiac disease and other gluten intolerances. For my family, celiac disease is a reality and eating gluten free is an absolute must. I’ve just started reading it, but I think it’s going to be a good resource.” ~ Laura

From Amazon:

World-renowned gluten-related disorders expert Dr. Alessio Fasano presents the groundbreaking roadmap to a gluten-free lifestyle, and how millions can live better by going gluten free.

For centuries, bread has been known as the “staff of life.” But for millions of Americans affected by gluten-related disorders, consuming gluten, the complex protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, can be hazardous to their health. In a recent poll presented by Scientific American, over 30% of Americans reported wanting to cut down or eliminate gluten from their diets; the gluten-free market is a $6.3 billion industry and continues to expand.

Now, in Gluten Freedom, Alessio Fasano, MD, world-renowned expert and founder of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Celiac Research, reveals the latest developments in scientific research and treatment, and the answers they provide for this rapidly expanding audience. This groundbreaking, authoritative guide is an invaluable roadmap for the newly diagnosed, for those already dealing with gluten-related issues, and for anyone who thinks they may have an issue with gluten.

Distinguishing scientific fact from myth, Gluten Freedom explains the latest research, diagnostic procedures, and treatment/diet recommendations, helping consumers make the best choices for themselves and their families. Gluten Freedom also discusses important nutritional implications for behavior-related diagnoses such as autism and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and “foggy mind.” Other highlights include:

  • The differences between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy
  • Current best practices for gluten-related disorders at any age
  • Practical information on setting up a gluten-free kitchen, reading labels, and staying safe and healthy in a world filled with hidden sources of gluten
  • The psychological impact of a diagnosis and its effect on a family
  • Groundbreaking research for prevention and therapy
  • Reliable and accurate resources for patients, parents, and physicians
  • And even recipes for an authentic gluten-free Italian dinner from Dr. Fasano’s home kitchen

Now it’s your turn…what are you reading?

When Our Best Efforts Are Not Good Enough

God's grace

As a wife and mother, I really don’t like the times I have to admit that my best isn’t good enough. In fact, I wonder how often I really do admit it because as I think about it, it seems like I keep trying an awful lot. That’s our reality though, isn’t it? Don’t quit. Keep trying. Work harder.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not for giving up after one half-hearted attempt. I believe that we can’t succeed if we don’t bother to try. And we definitely learn a lot from the mistakes we make.

But sometimes…our best efforts are simply not good enough.

We can live in guilt and regret over this fact, or we can accept it. I accept it for others without smothering them with a guilt trip. I suspect you do to. We extend grace.

But grace for ourselves seems to be so much harder. So, we keep trying. We work harder. We keep beating ourselves up.

And yet, our best efforts still will not be good enough.

It sounds depressing, but it’s not—it’s freeing.

Because God extends to us His grace—His free and unearned favor proffered to us.

Where we are not enough, He is more than enough. Always.

Our determination, strength, energy, and hard work will never be enough to restore our relationship with God—but we don’t have to—because God already has. (<==Click to tweet.)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

God offered the sacrifice we could never offer. He did the work we cannot possibly do.

He gives us grace.

And through God’s grace, we are able to extend grace to others—and ourselves.

Grace is freedom. (<==Click to tweet.)

Freedom to no longer live in guilt and shame.

Freedom to accept that while our efforts are not enough, God’s grace is more than enough.

Freedom to stop trying to do—and live in what’s already been done.

Freedom to breathe a sigh of thankful relief and live in His grace.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

[Photo credit: Stock photo: Alone by lake]

 

This weekend, we begin a new sermon series at Gloria Dei called Half-Hearted Zealot. We’ll be exploring what it means to be either a fan or follower of Christ. Click here to follow the series: Half-Hearted Zealot.

Jesus shows the wayDo you follow Jesus?

It sounds like I’m asking if you follow someone on Twitter, doesn’t it? In fact, wouldn’t that be an easy way to be a follower of Jesus?

Follow Jesus. Check.

Like Him on Facebook. Check.

That’s our culture now. We follow and like from afar. We don’t really have to do anything, but once we click the button, we feel like we’re in. Except that we’re not.

Our online world is more of a fandom, I think, than true followers.

According to Dictionary.com…

A fan is an ardent admirer of a pop star, film actor, football team, etc.; an aficionado or enthusiast.

A follower is a person who imitates, copies, or takes as a model or ideal; an attendant or servant.

Both definitions are nouns, but don’t miss the difference.

A fan is someone who is something. A follower is someone who does something.

The difference is subtle, but huge.

So, the better question is…

Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

Fans know about Jesus. They believe in Him, but are concerned with how they look as a Christian. They want others to see their actions, but they want their actions to be acceptable in the eyes of others. They want to be and look like a follower, but may not be willing to actually do anything as a follower.

Followers know about Jesus, but they also get to know Jesus personally. They believe in Him, but even more, they believe Him. They believe what Jesus says is true, and they are willing to act on it, regardless of what others might think.

Followers have an inner passion for who they are following. They know it won’t be easy to follow Him. In fact, everyday may be a struggle to put self aside and put Jesus first. But, they know it will be worth it.

As fans, we tend to rely on ourselves, thinking, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’d keep failing.

As followers, we realize it’s not about us. We think, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’ll keep failing—but I know God will keep extending grace and forgiveness.

God didn’t ask us to do it on our own. As followers, we have Someone to rely on—Jesus shows us the way…and God gives us what we need to follow. (<==Click to tweet.)

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

 
In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: flight of stone stairs

Loving Your Neighbor

be-the-church-1

Pastor Robarge encouraged us to be the church in this week’s message. Here are some thoughts by Karen Kennedy wrestling with some of the details of being the church. Enjoy!

Recently, I have been reading (actually re-reading and re-re-reading) “Generous Justice,” a book by Timothy Keller.

Keller takes on the subject of justice by searching the Old Testament accounts, and how Israel was set up to make provisions for those most vulnerable, which included widows, orphans, refugees and the poor. He then shows Jesus’ heart to this “quadrant ” as Jesus fitly calls “the least of these.”

Personally, the book is making me feel very uncomfortable. I wish I could say that there was some fundamental problems with his logic or something theological wrong with his conclusions, but there is not. I think he is correct on his assessment on what followers of Jesus ought to be doing. The problem is that I am not doing it.

Not that I am not doing some of it–I am. The problem is that following Jesus demands more than what I have been giving.

Let me expose more of my quandary through a biblical and then a real-life example:

When an expert of the law asked Jesus the famous question, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t give an exact answer; instead he tells a story about a man who was beaten and left dead at the side of the road. The two who figuratively represented God, the priest and the Levite, ignored the man, continuing with their lives as normal. A Samaritan, who was considered the dirt of society, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him throughout the night. His care continued the next day when he made arrangements with the inn keeper to look after the wounded man.

Jesus asks “who do you think was a neighbor to this man?”

What? The question was who is my neighbor? Not who was neighborly? Maybe the expert of the law really wanted to know who was his neighbor? And if he was to love that neighbor, maybe he thought he ought to know whom he should love. Maybe the expert was a list person, like me.

Unfortunately, I do not see a to-do “neighbor” list in this account. What I do see is a traveler who saw one person in need and immediately became committed into helping that person through his troubles. And this neighborly thing cost the traveler time and money, as well as a detour in his traveling plans.

And Jesus says this example shows that loving your neighbors involves mercy, and, at times, inconvenience, risk, money and sometimes danger.

A few weeks ago, in Des Moines, there was a fight that broke out with about 50 young teens. A lot of the details of what happened are still unclear according to the news. However, it was reported that a passerby in a SUV saw one of the teens lying at the side of the road, stopped and pulled the teen into her SUV.

What! I have a million questions to ask: “What were you thinking? Why didn’t you call the police? Don’t you know that you could have been sued by taking an underage child in your car without his parents’ permission? And was he bleeding? And if he was bleeding, weren’t you afraid of getting blood on your hands, and in your car?”

I think I am starting to sound like the possible scenarios (minus the SUV, of course) that the priest and the Levites could have entertained when they saw the injured man at the side of the road. Perhaps their minds filled up with logical reasons why they shouldn’t get involved, but the woman in the SUV, made a quick decision to get involved.

And Jesus tells us to “Go and do likewise.”

To me, that brings God’s second commandment of loving your neighbor to a whole new level. Not sure about you, but if the entire law and prophets now hinge upon loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, I need to do more than think about it. I need to stop being so convenience-driven and ask God to enlarge my heart, so that my actions line up with His heart of love. I need to stop with all the reasons why not to become involved and “go and do likewise.”

What are the things that you wrestle with concerning being the church? And what should  change so that you can show the world Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

Helping the needyLet’s Look at Stephen Ministry

by Kory Schramm, Stephen Minister

Last week Pastor Phillips shared on God’s strength and comfort. Below is an article that illustrates Stephen Ministry.

As Milo* sifted through his mounting pile of insurance forms there came a knock on the door. Glancing at the clock, he realized it was his first visit from a Stephen Minister. After many inquiries from pastor, he had reluctantly agreed to meet with an individual assigned to him. And even though he felt he really didn’t need anyone to talk to, Milo answered the door – figuring it would be a short conversation and both parties would agree that there were others in the congregation and community that needed “cared for” more.

That was a year ago. Today, Milo anxiously awaits the arrival of his Stephen Minister each week. He’s formed a tremendous bond, rooted in Christ, with his caregiver. After all, his Stephen Minister has confidentially been beside him for his journey – the doctor visits, the test results, the emotional highs and lows that come with a cancer diagnosis. His “friend” has listened, lent an arm of support when needed, provided advice when asked, and nudged when required. Most importantly, he’s had the Holy Spirit work through him in ways Milo can only look back and marvel at.

“Every time we met, my Stephen Minister would ask how I was doing that week physically, emotionally and spiritually,” mentions Milo. “I often was running low in one of those areas and our conversations always picked me back up. Not necessarily by what insight was given to me, as sometimes I did all the talking, but I knew the person at the table across from me was put there by God to be a sounding board.”

Based on his experiences, Milo is happy to talk about Stephen Ministry to anyone who will listen. In fact, since a network of Stephen Ministers is at work all over the world, Milo hasn’t hesitated to encourage his long-distance pals from getting online and finding a care giver nearest them. And with his cancer in remission, Milo is having conversations with his wife about taking this fall’s training course so he can hopefully help someone else in the same way he’s been blessed.

“I have a quote I look at each day that reminds me of the path Christ has put me on as it relates to Stephen Ministry,” states Milo. “It reads – The difference between an obstacle and an opportunity is our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has difficulty, and every difficulty has opportunity. (* Since Stephen Ministry is completely confidential, Milo is a fictitious reference but does reflect a common experience.)

What is Stephen Ministry?
It’s an organized group of lay caregivers that provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care and support to people experiencing grief, divorce, health problems, job loss, loneliness, disability, relocation or other life difficulties. Churches of various denominations are involved and use this one on one caregiving to help people with long and short term problems and concerns. Stephen Ministers volunteer to serve through the church and receive intensive group training and prayerful guidance from other Stephen Ministers. A Stephen Minister is matched by the pastor to someone of the same sex who needs help getting through a life-changing experience, and together the caregiver and care receiver agree to details on meeting.

Watch a video on Stephen Ministry

Want more information, check out Gloria Dei’s Web site.

Need help? Need help now? 

Don’t go through life alone! Contact Pastor Tim Phillips at tphillips@gloriadeionline.com today!

God’s Righteousness and Justice

 

Isaiah-58c

 This weekend we talked about justice. Here is an excerpt from one of our publications concerning a woman who has a deep passion for justice.

Clementine Karl, a professed “not your typical prototype” Lutheran, grew up in the Catholic Church talks about a deep restlessness that gnawed within her heart.

As a teenager at Johnston High School, she wanted to see Christians passionately making a difference in the world. “Shouldn’t it be part of Christianity to want the hungry to eat?” she says.

With her purple Mohawk hair, she started searching other churches, only to find out that she was “too rebellious, not okay, too passionate and just way too weird.”

At that time, she gave up on God.

But the deep yearning to do something more, kept springing up, so she pursued studies in psychology/philosophy and women’s studies from Drake University. In her junior year, she traveled to Guatemala and Honduras for an international study on law, politics and society. There she found a ministry of Christians who were literally walking around the countryside looking for widows to help.

Since social justice is a great passion of Clementine’s and one of the reasons she came to faith, Clementine soon became enthralled with these Christians because they were the only game in town helping these families and calling out the injustices occurring from the government and the large-coffee plantations.

“It was an amazing mission to see,” says Clementine. “It changed my mind about Christians.”

Out of admiration for their mission of “pulling thousands out of poverty,” Clementine started to attend their worship services and began to discover God through a different lens.

In recent months, she has led an online study on “Generous Justice,” by Timothy Keller. If you are interested in studying this with her in the fall, please contact her at clementinekarl@gmail.com.

Not a familiar topic

Justice? The church’s responsibility toward those inequities in life is something we don’t talk about much. But should we? And if so, what is our responsibility to the poor, to the hungry, to the homeless. And what should be our motivation? There’s some answers to these question in this video.*

We believe that the church has a responsiblity as well as the privilege to help “the least of these.” So, as a church, we are searching for opportunities where we can collectively become involved. Here is what we have so far:

  •  Dorothy’s House
    There is a house that is being renovated to help restore healing to these girls. They need people who will help with construction.
  • Joppa Outreach (118 S.E. 4th Street, Suite 120, Des Moines, IA 50309 | 288-5699)
    Gloria Dei is adopting every fifth Sunday of the year (four times a year). We will visit the homeless, listen to their stories, give out meals, laugh (and cry) with them. We will have our first church-wide Joppa outreach on Sunday, August 31 from 12:30-4 p.m.  Joppa Outreach

  • Meals from the Heartland on August 27-30
    Meals from the Heartland (http://mealsfromtheheartland.org)  It is not too late to sign up to be on a two-hour team: Gloria Dei is organizing teams to help package food August 27-30. Our goal is to provide 120 volunteers.

  • Human Trafficking
    Attend a meeting on Saturday, August 23 from 9-10:30 a.m. WestKirk Presbyterian Church, 2700 Colby Woods Drive, Urbandale, Iowa 50322
    Learn from others who are helping the victims of sex trafficking.
  •  Prayer Nights
    We want to immerse ourselves in prayer for all the victims, the perpetrators, as well as all the efforts to combat this wickedness.
  •  Adopt a Truck Stop (http://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.orgPlan to attend this training on Tuesday, Sept. 9 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 8301 Aurora Ave., Urbandale, IA. We will use the materials from an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking. At the end of the presentation, you will have the opportunity to select a truck stop and submit a short application to this organization. They  will then send you the needed material to proceed with partnering with a truck stop.

Want to join us? Sign up at the display in the Narthex or the FLC or contact probarge@gloriadeionline.com.

*(If the video does not appear, check out https://gloriadeionline.com/message/his-hand-our-feet/his-hand-righteousness-and-justice)

 

his-hand-our-feet-final

This week we are learning about God’s hand of blessing and provision. When you take an inventory, we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we?

What are we to do with all of these provisions? Isaiah 58 answers that question:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? 
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
 Is that what you call a fast,
 a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
 and untie the cords of the yoke,
 to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
 and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

God wants us to loose the chains of injustice.

God wants us to set the oppressed free.

God wants us to share food with the hungry.

God wants us to provide the wanderer with shelter and clothes.

Big marching orders for the church as Matthew 25:35-40 reinforces:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

It seems like a daunting task because there is so much need in the world.

However, if all we do our part by partnering with God to help “the least of these; ”—we can at least help “some of these.”

So, in the next few weeks, we will bring awareness to some of the needs in this world. Please take some time, pray for the individuals who are in need, and then jump in to be Jesus’ feet and hands in this world.

This week’s focus will be hunger.

The Need

  • 1 billion people worldwide live in chronic hunger. That’s equivalent to the populations of North America and Europe combined.
  • Hunger and malnutrition is the number one risk to health worldwide—greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
  • 129 million children under 5 years old in the developing world are underweight–nearly 1 in 4.
  • Ten percent of children in the developing world are severely underweight.
  • 1 in 6 people are malnourished.

Poor nutrition plays a role in 3.8 million child deaths each year.

What we can do immediately:

Meals from the Heartland (http://mealsfromtheheartland.org)

Sign up to be on a two-hour team:

Gloria Dei is organizing teams to help package food August 27-30. Our goal is to provide 120 volunteers. So sign up individually or as a group at the display in the Narthex and Family Life Center.

If you are reading this blog, and do not attend our church, no problem; we would love for you to join one of our teams. Contact our church office at office@gloriadeionline.com or sign up at http://mealsfromtheheartland.org.

Support financially:

Give by placing a financial donation in the offering plate (write Meals from the Heartland in the memo line) or by giving online at http://www.gloriadeionline.com.

Since MFTH only purchases ingredients based on available cash funds, cash donations are needed. One meal costs only 20 cents, so a gift of $20 will provide meals for 100 children or a gift of $50 will provide meals for 250 children.

Resources to help educate and mobilize the Church:

http://www.live58.org

http://www.blessmanministries.org

http://www.worldvision.org

http://www.compassion.com

http://www.samaritanspurse.org

http://eventsforchange.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-starfish-story-one-step-towards-changing-the-world/

If you have any other resources, please share and then get involved somewhere for someone!

 

The Nicene Creed – Part III

old iron background

This week, we complete a 3-week series on the Nicene Creed. Thank you to Vicar Dan Petrak for his help with this series. Click here for the first two posts: The Nicene Creed – Part I and The Nicene Creed – Part II.

In this final post, we explore the third article of the Nicene Creed…

 

The Nicene Creed is themed around the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with the third article about the Holy Spirit. For those of us in the Lutheran tradition, this is probably the least mentioned and understood person of the Trinity.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Think of the Holy Spirit as the animator and the doer of God’s will. He was active in creation, He spoke to the prophets, and lives inside all followers of Jesus. God’s spirit is everywhere (omnipresent), all knowing (omniscient) and has all the attributes of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word, and enables us to believe in our salvation given by Jesus on the cross.

Martin Luther explained our need for the Holy Spirit this way…

“By nature I am spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, as the Scriptures teach; therefore, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.’” (1 Cor. 2:14, 12:3, Eph. 2:1, Rom. 8:7, Eph. 2:8-9)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop working when we come to faith, but lives in us. It’s through God’s Spirit residing in us that we can live our lives for Christ.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

Without God working in us—through His own power—anything we do is by our own human efforts. Through our own attempts, we will come up short…every time. But through God’s Spirit, we are able. Not because of ourselves, but through and because of Him.

Those who reject the Word of God and resist the Holy Spirit remain in unbelief, and therefore are not saved. But through the Holy Spirit, all believers make up the church…not individual denominations, but the one church of Christ.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV

The Nicene Creed – Part II

old iron background

Last week, we began a 3-week series exploring the Nicene Creed. Click here for last week’s blog post: The Nicene Creed: Part I.

This week, Vicar Dan Petrak explores the second article of the Nicene Creed…

 

The second article of the Nicene Creed is about Jesus Christ. Using Scripture, the Creed was written to disprove false teachings about Jesus.

(I believe…)

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten Son of God,

begotten of His Father before all worlds,

God of God, Light of Light,

very God of very God,

begotten, not made,

being of one substance with the Father,

by whom all things were made;

who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary

and was made man;

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried.

And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of the Father.

And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,

whose kingdom will have no end.

Some theologians in the early church, in their human thinking, thought Jesus was a god but not part of the Trinity. Logically, it did not make sense to them that God was all man and all God at the same time. It didn’t seem dignified that God would humble Himself and come to this world as a human to die. So, in trying to protect God’s image, these theologians separated the second person from the Trinity, minimizing Jesus as Savior.

Taking Jesus out of the Triune God erases our salvation. So, the second article was written to directly correct this false teaching, stating that God did come down from heaven and live among God’s creation as a human—fully man and fully God. Jesus was crucified and died in our place. He was buried and conquered death when, on the third day, He rose from the grave. With Scripture fulfilled, He ascended into heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father.

During Jesus’ life on Earth, His followers saw glimpses of His divine nature through His miracles and authoritative teachings, but it is through Jesus’ resurrection and glorious place at the right hand of God where we see Jesus’ full power and majesty. Now, we anxiously await His triumphant return on the Last Day when He will judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.

 

Dan Petrak, Vicar
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

The Nicene Creed – Part I

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Last weekend, we began a 3-week sermon series on the Nicene Creed. To go with the sermon series, we asked Vicar Dan Petrak to help us better understand each of the three articles of the Creed. Below you’ll find Dan’s thoughts and teaching on the first article…

 

Why do we have creeds or confessions? Why did these words get written down by the church, and are they regarded at the same level as Scripture?

As I have been finding out through my seminary training, many of the writings and teachings of the church from the three Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian) to the Augsburg Confession were written out of a response to false teachings.  In this 3-week blog series, I will take a look specifically at the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed was written to help Christians better understand and confess the second person of the Trinity—Jesus Christ. There were controversies about the Person and two natures of Christ (divine and human).  As a result, the divinity of Christ was in question, and so also, the work of Christ on the cross. The first version of the Nicene Creed was written at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and then revised at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD.

Let’s take a look at the first article of the Nicene Creed…

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

The first article is short, but is says a lot in one sentence. It points toward the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods.” and is further explained in Luther’s Small Catechism as “We should fear and love and trust in God above all things.” On this one article and command is where everything else resides, but just like the 10 commandments, we know we can’t humanly follow them completely. If we could, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

This first article also reminds us that God is the God of everything. There is nothing hidden or beyond Him. God spoke everything into existence and God’s Word is active. This first article only names the first Person of the Trinity, but this follows the same order in which God revealed himself to his creation.  We will never know everything about God, but He has revealed himself enough in His Word to know Him and to receive salvation. Honestly, even this is more than we can grasp.

The creeds are not equal to Scripture, but they serve a great purpose in teaching us who God is. And as we read Scripture and study God’s Word, we also learn who we are. God defines us—His children who were set apart from the rest of creation to be in a relationship with Him, now and for eternity. This love for his children is why He went to reckless lengths to regain this lost relationship, and we will look at how God did this through his Son in the next post.

 

Dan Petrak, Vicar
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
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