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The Nicene Creed – Part III

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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

Stock photo. Pyrmids . Proverbs 3.3

This week, we look at Miriam (Moses’ sister)  in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series. Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotion, shares her thoughts…

In Exodus, Miriam was first introduced—not by name, but by the description of “his sister.” As she watched her baby brother, Moses, float down the Nile, we gain glimpses into this courageous, resourceful and smart young girl.

Pretty impactful, first impressions, don’t you think?

In retrospect, we understand Miriam’s monumental role in God’s upper story because of whom she rescued. But there is a lot more to her life than this one-time deed. As I piece together the few references concerning this woman, I see a beautiful and quiet faithfulness emerge.

Faithfulness is more than a one-time action.  It is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day, year-by-year commitment to being loyal to a person or a cause.  It takes stamina, guts, and faith to remain faithful when every circumstance cries out, “Forget this person; time to pitch your tent somewhere else!”

I don’t see Miriam forsaking her brother.

For forty years, Moses lived in the palace while she lived in slave quarters.

For another forty years, Moses lived free in Midian while she suffered as a slave in Egypt.

Eighty years. Eighty years is a long time to build a case against this “fine” brother named Moses.

But it doesn’t appear Miriam harbored those thoughts because she quickly rallied behind Moses as he spoke God’s commands to Pharaoh for six months. When the unforgettable night came for Israel to leave Egypt amid the mourning cries of the Egyptians, Miriam was there. She was also there when they reached the impassable barrier of the Red Sea, walked on dry ground across the sea and saw walls of water swallow up the Egyptians.

Miriam, Moses’ sister, then became known as a “prophetess,” who led a group of women to direct their praise to the Lord.

“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:20-21

In those eighty years, she remained faithful. Personally, I know I would not have passed this 80-year test. In fact, sometimes I don’t pass the 80-second test. Hardships, temptations, resentments, you name it; I tend to turn to the left and to the right before I finally (and I mean finally) center on the One who faithfully opens His arms to me at every turn.

He is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4b

He is faithful. And I need to be faithful as well. It is a requirement.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

How about you? Are you at an 80-second faithfulness level? 80-minutes? 80-days? Or are you on track for Miriam’s record? No matter where you are, would you please share some practical steps that help you stay faithful?

Photo credit: Stock photo: Pyramids

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This week, we look at Abigail in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series. Youth Director Tim Kightlinger shares his thoughts…

 

They are all over the place…Salvation Army collection cans, scan away hunger cards, up your bill so the change can be used to help others, buy this or that so we can go to camp, save the children, save the dogs, save the whales, save the _________ (you fill in the blank). We are bombarded with ways in which we can help others. Is it no wonder that we can become callous to the needs of others? Our hearts can become hardened to their cry.

We think to ourselves, “I can’t help everyone, I can’t give to everything, heck, I don’t even like whales!” We feel overwhelmed and we decide to do nothing. We choose not to help anyone. After all, it is my hard earned money. It is my stuff. Or is it?

In the story from 1 Samuel 25:1-44, we find the story of Nabal and Abigail. David is out in the wilderness protecting Nabal and his household. David sends a message to Nabal that they are in need of some food. Nabal has a choice to make. Do I help David and his people or not? Nabal decides to not help David. He chooses this because of his selfish need to keep his own stuff for himself. He didn’t care about the needs of David or his people. He even throws a party for himself that would be fit for a king! On the other hand, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, hears about the request and has a choice to make as well. She decides that she needs to help David and his people, so she sends enough food for the entire group to enjoy. By providing for David’s group she ends up saving the lives of all her people.

As we are called to be stewards of what God has given us, we need to be reminded that all we have is God’s in the first place. What we have been entrusted with is a gift from God—some with much, some with a little. No matter how much you have or possess, we are called to help. But again, we can’t do everything and we can’t help everyone. So, how do we know whom we should help?

#1 Pray that God gives you a heart to help others, and to know His will.

#2 Let God direct you to whom you should help. He will give you a sense of peace when you give. You will know, if you are seeking His will, on whom to help.

#3 Give because it brings joy to you and your family. Giving shouldn’t feel like an obligation, you’re using God’s gifts to help others.

#4 Then…do it! Give! Share with others, so they can know God’s love and provision. Just as God sent his Son, Jesus, to this earth to show us the love that God has for us—His ultimate love (John 3:16)!

We need to have our hearts and eyes opened to seeing where God is leading us to give and care—where we can share His love with others. Together we can make a difference in the world, if not for many, then in the world of the one we helped!

God’s blessings,

Tim “TK” Kightlinger

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: basket of bread and rolls

Boaz, an Unsung Hero

This week in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series, we’re looking at Boaz from the Book of Ruth. Boaz is a man who lived out his faith and obedience to God. He stepped into responsibility as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer by marrying her and buying the land of her mother-in-law Naomi.

Together, Boaz and Ruth are listed in the lineage of Jesus—their son Obed, was Jesse’s father, and David’s grandfather. Boaz redeemed Ruth and Naomi….but we are redeemed by God’s own Son—Jesus Christ.

On this Father’s Day weekend, Vicar Dan Petrak shares his thoughts on Boaz…

Dead Sea w.ScriptureThis week in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series, we look at Barnabas—a man we don’t meet until chapter four in Acts. Barnabas was not only an important companion of Paul—Barnabas is the one who introduced the apostles to Paul. After Saul’s conversion on his way to Damascus, he began preaching in the name of Jesus. He tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were afraid of him, not believing he was a changed man. It wasn’t until after Barnabas took Saul (Paul) to the apostles and vouched for him that he was allowed to stay with the apostles and preach boldly in Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26-28)

Think of how many people heard the Good News of Jesus and came to faith through that introduction. Barnabas was the mediator between Saul and the disciples…and we have One mediator between us and God—Jesus Christ.

Pastor Tim Phillips shares his thoughts on Barnabas below…

The story of Barnabas is an interesting one. His real name was Joseph and he was a Jew from the Island of Cyprus. The name Barnabas is a nick name which means Son of Encouragement. We first read about Barnabas in Acts chapter 4 when he is an example of someone who for the sake of the Gospel sells his property and gives the money to the Apostles. This personal sacrifice reflects the heart and character of the man we call Barnabas. Generous, quick to act, and very trusting—these are ways we can describe him. Luke, the author of Acts, describes him this way, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” The pattern that emerges from Barnabas’ life is that God used him repeatedly to bridge relational gaps. He was a connector, a peace maker and a networker.

The bottom line about Barnabas is that he was known by his actions. He lived his faith and many people were blessed as a result. As we think of that, it is good to challenge ourselves to make a similar impact. Are we known by our actions? How would others describe us? What impact are we making on those around us? What do others know about Jesus by watching us?

Photo credit: Stock Photo: Dead Sea

Enduring Faith

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Have you ever felt like the thing you don’t want to do is the thing God is drawing you to? For me, that was the Book of Job.

Years ago when I first started to read Job, I didn’t get very far. To be specific, I didn’t get past the beginning when God tells Satan he can test Job. I didn’t like that part. At all. So, I stopped reading.

And then over the years, there were times I felt drawn to Job. I underlined a verse or two, read a chapter here and there…and I started to see Job’s enduring faith in the midst of the unrelenting storm.

I saw his strength and faithfulness to God when his wife urged Job to curse God for all that was happening to him. Job refused.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9-10 NIV

Not only was Job losing everything, but Satan was wearing him down, using his own wife to convince him to blame God.

I often wonder if I could stand up under the pressure like Job did.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to find out…

This past year has tested me in various ways. Exhausting I-can’t-do-this-anymore ways. And sometimes I want to tell God I quit. I quit trying to keep up with everything in life. I quit trying to love others when that’s the last thing I feel at the time. I quit trying to stay faithful to Him.

But when God leads us somewhere, it’s for a reason. One night I realized why, despite my protests and digging in my heels, He led me to Job.

Because I was being worn down…to the point of thinking that if I quit being faithful to God, the enemy would let up.

But God intervened, as He often does. At the moment I was thinking of quitting, I remembered Job and how he was tested—and how he didn’t quit.

I imagine Job felt frustrated and angry, maybe worn-out tired. He complained, he cried out to God, and he questioned his suffering.

And then God showed up. Not to condemn Job, but to remind him of His omnipotence.

Job learned that suffering is indeed a part of life…but God was there with him.

Just like He was there with me that night.

Life is hard. But God is with us through the good days—and the bad—giving us strength when we have none…cheering us on when we’re worn down and the enemy is prowling…refining us for His purpose.

Through it all, Job endured. So will I. And so will you.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

[This post can also be read in its entirety at Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith / Photo credit: Stock Photo: Worship at Sunset]

Week 11: Do I Know Joy In Christ?

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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?

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