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Week 11: Do I Know Joy In Christ?

music sheet

by DeAnn McCue, Director of Children’s Ministry

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

Jesus tells us in John 15:11 that we are not to have just any joy, we are to have His joy. What is the joy of Jesus?

It is abounding joy. He says, “…that your joy might be full.” Joy in Christ is not half-hearted joy, but joy that is abounding and supernatural.

It is abiding joy. Jesus says, “…that My joy might remain in you….” It’s not joy that comes and goes. It is joy in the good times, the bad times, the nighttime, the daytime, the rainy day, and sunny day. We’re to rejoice in the Lord always. And Jesus didn’t say these words lightly. He was facing a dark time when He instructed us to have His joy.

The joy of Jesus is given when you depend upon the Lord. John 15:5b says, “…without Me you can do nothing.”

There is a joy in seeking Christ. Jesus is the source of joy.

And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

O Lord, fill me with joy today—the joy of knowing my sins are forgiven, the joy of knowing I have been credited with the righteousness of Christ, the joy of knowing all this is mine through the gift of faith and not by works. Amen.

When the woes of life o’er-take me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy.
Never shall the cross forsake me;
Lo, it glows with peace and joy.
In The Cross of Christ I Glory, #427 LSB

O sacred Head, now wounded
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, #449 LSB

 

Week 10: Do I Seek God’s Truth?

 

pathway in park

Do I seek God’s truth? Even after pondering this week’s readings from John 3:1-15, 4:1-26, I struggle to define God’s truth.  I have participated in enough Bible studies to know that the stock answer to “What is God’s truth?” is the Bible. Whatever I am struggling with, whenever I am trying to discern what God’s Will is for me, I know that my best chance for an answer is to pray and to dive into God’s Word. And when the answer doesn’t come quickly, I am slowly learning to trust in God’s timing.

Sometimes, however we don’t want to hear the truth, even when it makes sense – when it’s staring us in the face. The Samaritan woman in this week’s reading tried to avoid the truth of how she was living her life, yet Jesus saw right through that and lovingly called her on it. She was face to face with her Lord, yet her parting comment was, “could this be the Christ?”

In the other reading, Nicodemus, a supposedly learned religious leader, was seeking the truth. He was smart enough to seek that truth through Jesus, yet he continued to question. Three times, Jesus told him, “very truly, I tell you.” How many times does God have to repeat Himself to me, yet I still question?

In my heart, I can get caught up in worldly truth. If something is deemed to be true, it must be scientifically factual or experientially observed. Or related to us by someone we trust. In this fallen world where we live, however, what we held as true can be bent into an unrecognizable shape.

How comforting it is to know that God’s truth does not bend or change. When we hear the truth, are we ready to accept it? The truth is available to us if we can just open our hearts to receive it. When we trust God’s truth, it comes with a responsibility to then share that truth with others. My study Bible says that Jesus doesn’t turn on the light–He IS the light. (Oh, if only His truth could always be so obvious!) I pray I will always recognize God’s truth, and be so overjoyed with that truth that I can’t help but share it with everyone around me.

IMG_0881A little bit about Beth: Beth is an administrative assistant in the church office part-time, which eats into the time she spends on her obsession with knitting. She and her husband, Chuck, have attended Gloria Dei for 14 years and are parents of two college students, Rachel and Calvin. You may recognize Beth from the worship team if you attend a contemporary worship service. In whatever spare time is left after family, work and knitting, she likes to read, sew, camp, fish, go for walks, and figure out ways to knit while doing the aforementioned activities. Did I mention she likes to knit?

Week 9: Do I Invest Myself?

Young boy jumping into lake

Come On In, The Water Is Fine!

Have you ever noticed what swimmers do when they take the first late spring/early summer swim at a lake? Some swimmers slowly wade into the water, first up to the ankles, then to the knees, and then to the waist. At this point the moment of truth is reached when the decision is made. Do they plunge in or do they turn around and head back to the beach? Other swimmers walk to the end of the dock, take a big breath, and dive in not worried about the cold water or their body’s reaction to it.
In Luke 10: Jesus sent the 72 disciples, two by two, into the towns and villages. In verse three, Jesus commanded: “Go!” “I am sending you out like lambs among the wolves.” He certainly did not tell the 72 to wade in, go slowly, get used to the water and then go. He told them to go to the end of the dock and dive.
Most of us will never have to experience physical risk or persecution for following Christ, but we may have to examine our comfort zones concerning our beliefs. Are we willing to stand and witness for Him or will we shy away from the risk of “What will people think” about us. Are we willing to take our resources, our time and our talents and return them to Him and put our trust in Him to provide for us? Are we willing to let go of our desire to be in control of our lives and turn that control over to Him?
Luke 10:17 say the 72 disciples returned with joy. What is keeping you and me from diving in and experiencing the joy that only Christ can bring?

A little bit about Bill: Bill Jesse is currently serving as the Executive Director of Gloria Dei. Bill and his wife, Sue, joined Gloria Dei in 2008. Bill retired from public education after 33 years as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent of schools. Bill and Sue’s family live in the Des Moines metro area in Polk City and Granger. Bill and Sue have been blessed with two sons, Dan and Dave, two daughter in laws, Lisa and Angie and five grandchildren.

Week 8: Do I recognize God?

baddesley clinton

A few years ago I was talking with my nephew. I asked him where he was at with his relationship to God.  He said, “I still believe in God but sometimes I just wonder where He is.”

For me it is easy to see God. I look at the beautiful blue sky and the birds flying back and forth and I see God. I look at my wife and daughters and I see God. I look at the home I live in and the food on my table and I see God.  I think about how God brought me to Gloria Dei and all the events that made that possible. I think of how blessed I am in every way and I can’t help but see God.  The reason I see Him everywhere is because I am always thinking of Him. He has created faith in my heart and that faith leads me to see every day and every thing as a gift from him.

Why didn’t my nephew recognize God in his life? I think in the struggle of life he has wandered and become disconnected from Jesus. When our choices don’t include God or our routines don’t have a time with God our faith weakens, our ability to see Him everywhere diminishes.

To recognize God we have to search for Him where He has promised to be—in His Word and Sacraments. When we gather with our family of faith for worship we find strength, comfort and encouragement. When we spend time one on one with God He speaks to our souls and gives us His peace.

Faith is a gift also.  With faith we trust and believe. With faith we grow closer to God. With faith we begin to see things as He sees them—see people as He sees them and find comfort in all the places we see Him.

A little bit about Pastor Phillips. Pastor Tim Phillips is the Director of Congregational Care at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church where he has served for ten years. He and his wife Kim are passionate about connecting people to Jesus and helping people find their way in life.

Week 7: When Will I Know Joy?

 Thai girl sleep on the ground,emancipate,free,liberate

What really is joy anyway? Webster’s dictionary defines joy as “the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight.”

How do I know I have joy? Do I get joy from buying a new pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes? I felt certain pleasant emotions just trying them on, and that description is in the definition above. Do I get joy from purchasing those new curtains? They successfully blocked the sunlight that was obstructing the view of half of the television screen. Isn’t that also in the definition of joy? I think joy sometimes gets confused with happiness; and purchasing stuff is just a temporary happiness that will soon fade when I get the credit card bill in the mail. Shoes and curtains are earthly, and they will soon be worn and faded, even replaced. I probably won’t be sad when the shoes and curtains are gone because I will just replace them with new ones, sparking another short-term happiness episode.

When do I experience joy? When I hear the word joy, what immediately comes to mind is my wedding day and the birth of my three children. John 16:21 tell us we have joy when a human being is born. Thinking further though, my husband and children come as a gift from God. So when I am feeling those emotions related to my family, I can really see where that joy is coming from, Christ.

So then, when will I know joy? Only by living a life through Christ can true joy be experienced. In 1 John 1:1-4 we find that our joy is not complete without the Father and his Son, Jesus. When Jesus knew He was leaving this world, in John 17: 1-19, His prayer to God was that the people would become one with Him. John 17:13 says “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” While we can have some joy with a marriage or the birth of children, we cannot truly know joy fully without Christ.

You may be asking how do you now go about finding joy?  Since joy is found in Christ, living an extraordinary life through Christ is the way. Spend time with Jesus; pray, worship, get to know Him. Paul says it well in Romans 15: 13 “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

At one time I dated my spouse, spent time with him, got to know him. So how did I know he was the one? I just knew. When will you know joy? You will just know.

A little bit about Shari: “I have been the Accounting Manager at Gloria Dei for five years now. I am married to Army Major (Ret) Doug Smith, and we have three children, Heather, Scott and Sarah.  The US Army brought our family to Iowa in 2007, and it is the closest we have been to our hometown of Missoula, Montana in many years. This past six months has been a huge transition for our family with the retirement of my husband. I enjoy reading, games, crocheting, and cooking. My husband and I go to all Marvel comic movies (over and over….and over again), plays, concerts, and sporting events…most of all the Barnstormers! Now that I have a set of cowbells to ring at all the games, I feel at home here in Iowa.”

Two University Students Laughing

How can I engage with others?

Matthew 8:1-17 New International Version (NIV)

 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
 and bore our diseases.”

John 9:1-7 (NIV)

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

 By Steve Kowbel, Director of Worship Ministry

As I read through these gospel passages several things leap out at me about Jesus and his ability to engage with others.

In Matthew, it’s quite clear that Jesus was not taking time to persuade or convert people from their belief system to change them to believe what He had to say. All of the people He engaged with were coming to Him believing that He had to offer something greater than themselves or the situations that they were in.

I love seeing that the prophecy spoken by Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” was fulfilled through engaging action. Engaging with others is an active awareness of those who are around you and the ability to assess what their real needs are.

Look at the action phrases found that describe what Jesus did in both of these passages:

He saw

He reached out

He said

I will go

He touched

He sent

Jesus challenged accepted assumptions, took time for meaningful conversations and pursued direct contact with people who were on his path in life. I believe engaging with others can be as simple as having an awareness of the people who are around us, and being willing to pursue meaningful conversations with those who are open. Let’s not get distracted with convincing people who are militantly against the cross and Jesus Christ about what we believe.

How many people do we pass by daily who are open to the truth that Jesus has to offer, open to something greater than themselves and the situation that they are in. Do we need to be right or engaging?

Exploring God’s Word

Jer. 29.13

When I was a kid, I remember receiving a new Bible in Sunday school class. We promptly put paper dust covers on them for protection and learned how to look up a verse. I never, ever wrote in my Bible—I’m pretty sure that was a rule—a rule that was deeply ingrained in me. I know this because it was painful when a few years ago I decided it was time to start making notes and underlining verses in my Bible.

What’s taught to us is hard to overcome because I had to restrain myself when I watched my daughter highlight a page in her brand new Bible. I may have quietly hyperventilated, but I wasn’t going to squash her excitement. She was in her Bible, highlighting as she read—and she was reading more than a few verses. She read one book after another and told me why she chose each one, and which one was next.                                                                                                

She was exploring God’s word and sharing with me the verses that captured her attention. My heart swelled, and at the same time…I wish I had been like that at her age.

I wish I had been encouraged to read and ask questions, but I think times are different now.

There are more translations of the Bible, each speaking just a little differently to give new understanding of God’s word. More people are asking questions instead of taking a back seat in their faith. And there are good conversations happening, with people discussing what faith means in their lives. In these conversations, I feel better prepared and more eager to be involved when I’m focused on making my faith part of my everyday life.

I don’t want to stop at someone telling me what I should know. I want to see it for myself and go deeper. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe my pastors or doubt everything explained to me—it means I want more.

I need to know how God’s word is relevant in my life today, and having someone tell me that it is isn’t enough. I have to make that connection myself because that’s when it becomes real. And that’s what I can share with others—God’s work in my life.

I’m speaking for myself here, and not trying to say what you do or don’t do is wrong. This is me and my desire for more of Him.

But, I will encourage you…

If you want to ask questions—don’t be afraid to ask.

If you want to know more—keep looking.

If you want to go deeper into God’s word—keep reading. I’m constantly amazed at how He will give new meaning to verses I’ve heard all my life, but never quite understood what they meant for me.

And there is always more to explore…because we can never fully understand the depth of His love for us.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Bible

 

 

Week 5: I’ve Got Questions

unanswered-questions-300x210

I found this little graphic on a teaching website. “Questions are guaranteed in life; Answers aren’t.” I don’t know about you, but I am filled with questions. Questions about life, work, people, God, universe, and the list goes on and on. I’m naturally an inquisitive person and I love to think. But does every question have to have an answer? Even if I know the answer should I spoil the pursuit of knowledge for someone else?

I believe the institutional church has always tried to be the answer people. Think about 20 years ago, if someone had a question even vaguely associated to a spiritual issue they would go to the Pastor or other trained professional to get the question answered. Most of the time the question would be answered easily and then move along with the day. If the question couldn’t be answered, then the Pastor, Priest or whatever would usually say, “We have to take that one by faith.”

I know that God is mysterious and his depths cannot be completely discovered. There are many things that happen in the world today that can’t be explained by simple logic or explanation. But whenever anyone would answer me by saying, “We take that one by faith,” I interpreted that as, “I don’t have the answer and quit asking me questions about it.”

If you ask and ask and ask and every time get turned away with no discussion or thought put into it, you’ll stop asking those people. This is exactly what has happened with the church today. For the most part, no one comes asking questions anymore. Does that mean that questions are all answered? No! It just means that no one is asking those questions within the church context. Some people think the church doesn’t want questions or can’t answer questions or if I ask a question about faith you might think I lost mine. Does any of that sound familiar?

If you have questions know this, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

We need to create a culture of questions. A place that people feel open and free to ask and enter into discussion. What better place to discuss big issues of life than with the people of God.

When we start talking about questions, it raises the question of doubt. Is doubt sin? Is doubt bad? Tim Keller (The Reason for God) says this about doubt.

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it.”

In other words doubt will always be present in the life of believers. The real question is, what do we do with doubt?

Keller continues by saying,

“People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

When doubt is kept to yourself and allowed to build up within you, it can become very easy for your faith to topple over and even die.

So what can you do about this?

Be a person who questions. When doubt is lurking in your soul, don’t allow it to hide in the dark, shine the light of the Gospel on it. It will not stay in the dark very long. People of the church should be open to questions, not so that they can be answer people, but to explore with others their questions and to really hear and understand them. Don’t feel like you have to jump in all the time and answer, but allow them to come to the place where they can see it for themselves. Most importantly we need to be honest when we don’t know. This shows people we don’t have all the answers but we constantly try to pursue them and that we are real people that don’t have everything figured out. This is completely acceptable!

Let’s be a people of Question and Discussion not just a Question and Answer crowd. Not all questions have answers but they can lead to discussion and discussion can lead to relationship and relationship is the new currency.

How have you dealt with big questions in the past? How have you dealt with doubt?

Pastor Phil Robarge

Philip

One-on-One With God

2 Chron. 15.2

I love working in a church environment. There are obvious perks – I don’t have to be concerned with rules about keeping work and faith separate. I can take a few minutes in the Sanctuary when it’s empty. And a Bible on my desk doesn’t look out-of-place.

But, there is also a hazard—thinking I’ve spent time with God, when I haven’t. Let me explain.

There are days of sermon theme planning, which involves spending time in God’s word, future vision planning for the sake of the Kingdom, and meetings about spiritual growth in the congregation. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been immersed in God’s work.

And then I realize I haven’t actually spent any time with Him. I’ve been in Scripture, but it wasn’t personal. I spent my day working for Him, but didn’t include Him.

And it makes a difference—in my attitude, my emotions, and even how fatigued I feel.

I didn’t spend time with God personally. One-on-one. Just me and Him. And I miss it.

So, I have to make a conscious effort to make sure I’m talking to Him, starting my day with Him, asking for guidance, and at times, just resting with Him.

I have to experience Him in my everyday. If I get caught up in busyness and work (even at church), I can’t hear when He whispers to my heart.

I also remember my days of working in the corporate world—meetings, working late, and no time for God. And days of being a stay-at-home mom—tantrums, laundry, talking to a toddler, and not knowing how to fit in quiet time with Him.

So, for me, wherever I am in life, I have to be intentional about making sure God doesn’t get the last little bits of my time, or worse yet, none at all.

I have to listen for Him. Sometimes, He’s loud and clear, and sometimes it’s a quiet reminder that He’s with me.

I have to be in Scripture, reading, pondering, and relating His word to my life.

I have to remember to start my day with Him and talk to Him throughout the day, not in formal prayer, but in conversation.

And I have to look for Him—His work in my life, the beauty He creates around me, and the way He answers prayer.

When I forget or don’t make time, I miss out. And it makes a difference. A big difference.

How about you – can you tell a difference when you’ve spent time with God and when you haven’t? Is it time to get intentional about listening and looking for Him?
 
In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Empty Bench

 

Week 4: How Can I Connect to God?

Plug In

How can I connect with God?

One thing I really don’t like… when I’m vacuuming the floor and the plug dislodges from the outlet.  What once was a beautiful humming machine, cleaning my house, has now become quiet and very useless (unless you consider hauling around a heavy object that doesn’t do what it’s suppose to do useful).  I get frustrated when I have to follow the cord back to the outlet and then find another outlet to plug it into.  But once I do… no longer useless.  I can go about my business and vacuum the floor.

Connecting…what is your power source?  What energizes you to go out and make a difference in this world?  What do you connect to in order to perform the way God created you to perform?  It’s easy for us to find things in this world to connect to:  sports, music, job, friends, and family.  The list can go on for a long time.  Yet, in the end, those things don’t supply us with enough power to truly live the life that God has planned for us.

God has set up a never-ending supply of power for us.  It’s called the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).  This spirit that lives in you is God himself.  You have this source every single day, hour, minute and second of your Christian life.  God invites you every single day to be connected to Him and to be aware that He is with you.  Giving you power to live for Him.

Just like any battery, it runs down and needs to be replaced or recharged.  Our faith life is the same.  The weight of this world and the demands of life cause us to wear down.  Sometimes even to the point of giving up.  God has a promise and invitation for you.  In Psalm 34, verses 4-9, God’s word tells us to seek Him, look to Him, call out to Him, taste and see that He is good!  In order for us to stay strong in our faith, we must seek, look, call out and come to Jesus for our faith battery to be charged.  When our faith is charged up, there is nothing that can stand in our way.

Every weekend we have an opportunity to worship our God!  Every week we have an opportunity to gather together to study his word!  Every day we are invited to spend some time with him in devotion and prayer!  Every moment of our lives are connected to the powerful, loving God of the universe! How are you connecting to Him today?

IMG_0241A little bit about TK: Tim Kightlinger is a 47 year old man (48 at the end of February) and loves his wife, his four kids (and two son-in-laws), his two awesome grandkids (#3 on the way), God and sports.  Being in youth ministry for over 20 years has taught him that a life that God changes can do great things.  He just bowled his first 300 game (and is still shaking from the adrenaline).  One of his goals to land a 360 off a tabletop while snowboarding.  And just another random thing about Tim: he really dislikes the spray that come off the car tires that hit his windshield after all the snow melts.

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