Tag Archive: Jesus


Going Deeper with Jesus

Going Deeper small (2)This weekend, we begin a new 9-month sermon series at Gloria Dei, called “Going Deeper.”

Going deeper into God’s Word.
Going deeper in a relationship with Jesus.
Going deeper in our faith.

I was thinking about this idea of going deeper when I read this passage from Luke.

Now as they (Jesus and his disciples) went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39 ESV

A woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

Perhaps before we can even go deeper, we must first invite Jesus to join us where we are. He promises to always be with us, but He’s not pushy. He won’t force his way into someone’s life—or somewhere He’s not welcome.

But to welcome Jesus is to want Him present with us…to want to spend time with Him.

Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

She sat and listened. She wasn’t multi-tasking and listening while doing something else. Her focus was only on Jesus. I can imagine her hanging on every word He said.

And I wonder, do we?

Do we solely focus on Jesus and listen to what He says?

When we open our Bibles to read His Word, does He have our full attention?

If we continue to read in Luke 10, we know that Martha was busy bustling about preparing and serving the meal. While Mary sat and listened. I think we can understand Martha’s frustration with Mary because we learn early in life that being busy is good. Being busy gets us places.

Jesus sees Martha’s busyness, but He doesn’t tell Mary to get up and help her.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 ESV

Martha is stressed out. Can you relate? I can.

Martha wasn’t out of line for wanting to serve Jesus, but she let it become more important than spending time with Him.

How often do we do the same—when obligations, even church obligations, weigh heavier than spending time with Jesus?

Mary had it right. Jesus was in their home and she wanted to spend her time going deeper in her friendship with Him.

We have the same opportunity to go deeper with Him every time we read God’s Word and let it soak in. Every time we worship Him. Every time we hear Him speak to us and we stop to listen.

In getting to know Him better, our faith grows deeper…and as Jesus said, it cannot be taken away from us.

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Merry Christmas!!

GD Merry ChristmasFor to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

 

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

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

old iron background

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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