Tag Archive: Christianity


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

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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 3: How Do I Live?

Fishing Boats on the Beach

I take great comfort in Peter’s life.  In fact, I think I would be good friends with him because he was as passionate as he was flawed.

He was a fisherman with no worldly credentials or achievements.

He was impetuous—ask the servant whose right ear was cut off.

He was double-minded—he acknowledged that Jesus “was the Christ “ (Mark 8:29) and then near the end of Jesus’ ministry told the woman “I do not know Him.” (Luke 22:57)

He was argumentative and unbelieving—he brushed aside Jesus’s command to “let down his nets” by stating “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”  (Luke 5:5)

His propensity to put his “foot in his mouth” on more than one occasion was amazing: “You shall never wash my feet.”(John 13:8)

However what I really love about Peter is how Jesus interacted with him. He renamed Peter the “rock” when in actuality; Jesus could have called him a “speck of dust.” He gave this flawed, ordinary man some incredible marching orders–be a fisher of men, feed His sheep and follow Him.

Personally, I believe the hardest marching orders of all was the command to “follow  Me.”  This would require Peter to die to his own lovely self, to deny himself–his ambition, his pride, his personality, his weaknesses along with his strengths. And then to take up the cross and follow Him.  (Luke 16:24-25)

Ouch! Those words hit home. It’s easy for me to dwell on my shortcomings, my abundant faux pas, with an occasional accomplishment thrown in, but in the end, my lovely self needs to be crucified as well. And to be honest, some habits and thought patterns are so ingrained that it is going to require a major renovation of the soul.

Self versus Jesus. Hmmmm. It is at this point that Peter and I could have reached best friend’s status.

How about you? What qualities of Peter’s can you relate to? How do you struggle with Jesus’ command to die to yourself? And what practical things do you do to make sure that you are following Him? Please post your thoughts!

karen A little bit about Karen: I was raised Jewish but in my late twenties, I came to know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  And what a turnaround it was! Soon afterwards, I met and married my best friend, Clayton and had two children. I homeschooled them for awhile, before returning to Grand View University where I received a degree in Graphic Journalism, merging two loves of mine, writing and art. After a fun turn of events, I began designing and writing at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, where I currently serve as the Director of Publicity and Promotion.

In recent years, God has birthed a burning passion for lending a helping hand to those  in poverty, especially south of our border. He has also created avenues to provide physical help to some wonderful refugees who live in Des Moines. Besides spending lots of time with my husband and children, I love photography, art, running and am a huge fan of Christian authors, such as Max Lucado, Timothy Keller, Alan Hirsch, and Michael Frost. I would also be remiss not to mention another love of mine—donuts—especially the buttermilk ones at Donut Hut on Douglas Ave in Des Moines.

Week 2: You are a leader

During the “Come Follow Me”  message series, we have asked staff and church members to submit their thoughts concerning the upcoming message. Our thinking is that their thoughts might spur something within you. Plus, we hope that you will get a glimpse into their lives and enjoy them as much as we do. So sit back, grab a warm cup of coffee and enjoy!

You are a leader

by Laura Rath

Ducks

This week in our “Come Follow Me” message series, we are talking about the first part of our mission mandate “Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.”

Leading means to go before or with someone to show the way, to guide in direction, course, or action.

Jesus led his disciples, showing and teaching them in everything He did. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples became the leaders, equipped through the Holy Spirit, and yet, they were still being led because they continued to follow Jesus.

We are called to follow Jesus…and we are called to lead others to Jesus. Like the disciples, we are led and leading others, equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a leader. I didn’t used to. Years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler. Everyday. All day long. I didn’t feel like I was leading anyone anywhere, but looking back, I know now that I was leading my young daughter by example.

I recently read this by author Lysa TerKeurst…

If you are influencing people, you are a leader. You may not stand before crowds or be the next Kay Arthur, but in some way, God will use you to lead others through your influence in their life.” – Author Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith

Think about who you influence. It might be your children, grandchildren, co-workers, peers, friends, parents, and even the person you encounter in the grocery store. Can others see what Jesus means to you? Can they see how He’s changed your life?

Leading is teaching, but it’s also influencing others by being an example in how we act, react, and live our lives.

Do you think of yourself as a leader?

If you struggle with the idea of leading others to Christ, think about your day-to-day interactions and relationships…in what ways are you influencing others without even realizing it?

When you think about being equipped through the Holy Spirit, does it encourage you to think of yourself as a leader?

How does that confidence change your actions and the way you live?

A little bit about Laura:

IMG_0218Hi, I’m Laura Rath. I’m the Assistant to the Senior Pastor at Gloria Dei, a position that allows me to be involved in many ministry areas of the church. Outside of the church, I’m a writer, blogging at Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith, a monthly contributor for 5 Minutes for Faith, and a regular contributor for both the Gloria Dei blog and Next Level Mama. I’m passionate about sharing my faith in Christ and encouraging others to pursue a personal relationship with Him.

I enjoy learning more about God and His great love for us, spending time with my husband and daughter, reading, writing, and hosting online Bible studies for women several times a year.

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

rose

I have never tried to graft a rose. Although I have roses in my garden, and it looks like a challenge I would take on just to see if I could do it, it looks tedious.

Grafting is a process that takes continued nurturing to make sure the bud cut from one rose fuses to the stem of the plant you want it to grow from. If the bud is cut wrong, it will wilt and die. If the stem of the main plant is cut too deep, the bud won’t get the nutrients it needs to grow. If the bud is not attached correctly, the two will not fuse.

Everything has to be just right for the tiny little bud to attach and become part of the main plant.

We, as Gentiles, have been adopted into God’s family—grafted to Him—the source of life.

Everything had to be just right for this to happen, and God is the Only One who could—and would—do it.

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

God is the gardener—with more love and patience than I can ever imagine—tenderly nurturing every branch of the vine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

After a while, a gardener knows if the rose bud will grow or die. Just like it will not grow if it does not get the nutrients from the main stem, our faith will not grow if it is not nourished through the source of life.

So, how do we make sure our faith continues to grow? By abiding in Jesus. He holds us close, but He won’t force us to stay attached to the vine.

We must make that effort…

…to be in His Word

…to listen for His voice

…to worship with others

…to pray daily, talking to Him and including Him in our day

…to follow His lead, even when we’d rather go our own way.

This effort may not be easy, but it will always be worth it.

How do you make sure you remain in Jesus—the true vine?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Photo credit: Stock photo: ROSE

Small Steps to Big Growth

Last week, we talked about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between. This transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?

Incremental growth starts with…

Praying for those who hurt us instead of trying to get back at them.

Practicing forgiveness when we’d rather stay angry.

Trusting God with a situation instead of trying to make it happen on our own.

Trusting God with our finances…being good stewards with what God has blessed us with, and stepping out in faith when giving back to God.

Resisting the urge to complain, choosing to praise and thank God instead.

Choosing God’s path instead of what looks and feels good at the moment.

Acknowledging when we see God at work, giving Him the credit and glory, even when tempted to take the credit ourselves.

Being in God’s Word, starting with a schedule, if necessary, and sticking with it until spending time with God feels natural.

Learning Scripture…equipping ourselves with His Word to strengthen and nourish us.

As we take small steps toward growth, we see God moving in our lives and we learn to trust Him more and more. This incremental growth not only keeps us moving forward, but produces in us the desire to keep going.

Step-by-step, God is bringing us to a place of complete trust in Him. We’ve seen Him work in our lives, and we know He will continue, because despite what we see at the moment, we know God sees the big picture—He knows the plans He has for us.

We find that our willingness to let God make changes in us has led to transformational growth. Growth we didn’t realize was happening until we stood on the other side of the Land Between—stronger in our faith, and with a deeper trust in God.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

The Other Side

License: Public Domain

The Land Between is a time of uncertainty—what used to be normal has changed, and what the future will be is unknown. But eventually, whether it’s sooner or later, we reach the other side of the Land Between. Life has settled down and feels stable again, and we can look back at what we’ve gone through.

Now, consider this…

When you look back from the other side of the Land Between, what do you see?

Is your relationship with God stronger than it was before? Maybe you look back and see where He was walking along side you the entire time. Despite the grief and emotional pain, you know without a doubt God never left you.

Or, maybe you realize that somewhere along the way, you stopped turning to God. You remember only the negative experience and are still grumbling about it.

The Land Between is a perfect time for transformational growth to occur, and one of two things will happen—we move toward God or away from Him.

How we respond to difficult circumstances gives us a visual of which way we’re moving.

When life gets hard (illness, death, unemployment, financial setbacks, separation and divorce, unexplained depression, or something else), we cry out to God, knowing won’t leave us. We look for Him at every twist and turn, and let Him walk us through this time.

This reaction enables us to grow closer to God, experiencing His presence and provision in ways we’ve never seen before.

But sometimes, we put up a wall, withdrawing from family and friends…and God. Although He never leaves us, we choose to turn away from Him, refusing to let Him in. Worse yet, we might blame God for the trial we’re going through.

Reacting this way puts everything on our own shoulders and isolates us from the very One who can support and help us.

What do you see when you look back from the edge of the other side? Now, look to the future.

From your experience in the Land Between, what to you see ahead of you?

If you’ve grown closer to God, you’ve seen Him like you’ve never seen Him before. Your faith and trust in Him are stronger than ever, and you know when the next storm in life starts to brew He’ll be right there beside you, guiding you through it.

If you’ve pulled away from God, you might look to the future and dread knowing another trial will come your way. You might feel like the only one you can depend on is yourself…and that didn’t go so well the last time.

If you find yourself on the path leading away from God, know that it’s never too late to turn back to Him. There is growth in realizing where you strayed, and knowing you don’t want it to happen again when the next struggle comes.

As you look back on your journey in the Land Between, what do you see? And how does it help you as you move into the future?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Looking Back at God’s Provision

Photo credit: Greenfleet Forester, May 2013

Have you ever noticed it’s sometimes difficult to see God’s provision until after the fact?

After we walk through the valley or make it to the other side of the land between, that’s when it’s easier to look back and see where God was at work. But while we’re in the exhausting day-to-day of the land between, it can be harder to see the ways God provides for us.

We know what we’re looking for. We already have in mind what we need or want God to do, and when we don’t see it, it’s easy to assume He’s not doing anything.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. In that time, God supplied everything they needed. The obvious was food and water. They were looking for it, and they saw God provide it.

But I wonder if during those years anyone said, “Hey, have you noticed how long these sandals have lasted? And our clothes—seems like they should be worn out by now.”

God provided what they needed, whether they noticed it at the time or not. But as Moses prepared to die, he looked back over those years…

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 29:2-6

The Israelites weren’t getting it—all that time God took care of them. He wanted them to trust Him for everything and know that He would continue to provide.

Are we any different?

We get bogged down and miss seeing God’s ways, but when we look back, our vision of God’s provision is clearer. We’re able to see that God knew just what we needed, even when we didn’t.

The perfectly-timed phone call from a friend that turned a bad day around.

The utility bill we dreaded receiving, but turned out to be less than expected.

A good night’s sleep that enabled us to deal with the events of the next day.

The direction we needed and found in His Word.

It’s so important to look back at how God has provided because it allows us to see the full picture; where before we could only see one piece at a time.

Looking back strengthens our trust. We see how God provided then…and our trust that He will continue to take care of all of our needs grows stronger.

And the more we experience and know we can depend on Him, the more confident we are that God will provide…even when it’s not in the ways we’re looking for.

When you look back, is there a time in your life when you didn’t recognize God’s provision, but you see it now?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Emotional Meltdowns

The Land Between…life has been interrupted. What was normal is gone, and the future is unclear. Even in our grief, we must adjust to a time of transition and uncertainty.

We grieve over death, but we also experience sorrow and regret when there is a loss of a relationship (breakup or divorce), an unwanted change in lifestyle (loss of finances or home), or a change in family structure (child grows up and moves away).

Even when we know the change is coming, we grieve for the past. But there can also be regret over what might never be.

We may feel sadness or anger when what we hoped for in life doesn’t appear to be in God’s plans, and our dreams go unfulfilled…especially if we thought the dream was God’s plan.

Frustrated, discouraged, maybe even feeling lost in life, we have complaints and questions for God.

God, I thought this was Your plan for my life. Now what?!?

Really, God? One more thing?!? I can’t take any it more!

I’m barely staying afloat here, God. Where are You?!?

I miss ______. Why did You have to take ______ (him/her/it) away?

After a while, we are emotionally drained with nothing left to give.

Emotional meltdowns are not new to God. He knows there is only so much we can deal with—especially if we’re trying to cope all on our own.

Moses had reached his limit with leading the Israelites and listening to them complain against God over the manna He had provided.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

With nothing of himself left to give, Moses cried out to God.

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:11-15

Don’t miss the difference in their complaints. The Israelites complained against God, discontent over what He had provided for them. While Moses, in distress, bared his heart and complained to God, in need of His comfort and help.

There is also a big difference in how God responded. The Israelites continued to make God angry with their complaints. But, for Moses, God responded by helping him.

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. Numbers 11:16-17

God knew what Moses was capable of and how much he could handle. He didn’t get angry because Moses was worn out and emotionally exhausted. He had mercy on Moses and lifted a share of the burden.

He wants to do this for us, as well. He invites us to let the walls down and come to Him—with open, honest hearts and emotional meltdowns—where He will lift us up and give us rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The invitation has been extended. How will you respond?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 
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