Friday Followings with Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Approaching God’s throne of Grace with Boldness

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I recently had a friend remind me that as Christians, we can approach the throne of God with boldness. That’s a scary proposition. How can we, as mere human beings, fallible, broken, sinful in so many ways, approach God who is righteous in every way?
 
The writer to the Hebrews answers that question in a profound way. Listen to this:
“Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:14-16
 
God’s Son has been tested just like us. God’s Son knows exactly what you and I go through, both the good and the challenging. God’s Son sympathizes with our shortcomings, our struggles, and our questions. And because God’s Son is our great high priest, we can go to God with Christ right by our side. And instead of finding a God of anger, judgement and punishment, we find a God of grace.
 
Let me remind you today, as my friend did for me, that God’s throne is one of grace and love. And that you can approach God with anything and everything, and you will be met with love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and grace.
 
Be bold as you approach the very throne of God.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: World Religions: Understanding and Loving One Another

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Even though Sioux Falls is largely a Christian city, we all have friends or family members, co-workers or acquaintances, who adhere to one of the many other world religions. Or if we don’t, we read about things going on in the world, both good and bad, involving people who believe differently than we do. Even within the Christian faith, there is a broad range of emphases and practices.
 
I’m excited to launch into a short, three-week sermon series, which will take a look at the three world religions that trace their roots back to the Old Testament person, Abraham. These are often referred to as the Abrahamic faiths. They are Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
 
This weekend (and this coming Wednesday) we’ll focus on the oldest of these three, Judaism. The sermons will hardly be able to scratch the surface of what could be a yearlong educational offering on each one of the religions. We will, however, spend 15 to 20 minutes in the sermon each week giving a quick overview. Therefore, the sermons will be more of a teaching time than normal.
 
The purpose for this is not only to educate, but also to gain a better understanding so as to love and respect others in a more rich and meaningful way. With both Judaism and Islam, we will discover some similarities with our own Christian faith. And, of course, we will see some vast differences as well.
 
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Last night in our Thursday Bible Study we looked at the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable Jesus teaches that just as God loves us without limits, so too we are called and empowered to love without limits, even to those different than us.
 
May God bless you in your life and in your faith journey. God is good… All the time.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Receiving and Giving

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Stop for a minute and breathe in a deep breath. Hold it for a second or two, and then breathe it out. Taking in, and releasing out. This helps us calm down and be healthy in life.
 
The same is true for our spiritual lives. We receive gift upon gift from God. Think of the ways you have been blessed. Think of all for which you are thankful.
 
In church, as we recite the Apostles’ Creed, I’m grateful for God the Father who has created us and all that exists. I’m thankful for God the Son, who have given his life for us that we might have a full and everlasting life. And I’m thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit. God with us even now, creating and sustaining faith itself. Yes, we are the recipients of many gifts.
 
Just as we breathe in and out, so too, to be spiritually healthy, we receive and give. From the great storehouse of our blessings, we are called to naturally give of ourselves for the sake of God and other people. The giving comes in many forms. Often we say in “Time, Talent, and Treasure”.
 
In worship this weekend we are continuing our “Fit for Life: Strengthening our Core” series, focusing in on the word GIVE. Just as you thought of the ways you are blessed, now think of the ways in which you give of yourself for God and others. Receiving and Giving are both necessary for spiritual health.
 
The most famous of bible verses says it well. “For God so loved the world that he Gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.”
 
Later in the same gospel of John, Jesus follows up these words with “Just as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.”
 
God gives life to us through Christ. We then, get to be a blessing to others. How cool is that?
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Spirit Alive 2018

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Alright, today I’m giving you some homework. It’s easy homework, but nonetheless, it is homework.  Here it is: Memorize our Gloria Dei Mission & Vision Statement. It goes like this: “Freed by Christ, We Gather, Grow, Give and Go, all to the Glory of God.”
 
I may just give you a quiz in worship this weekend to see if you know it.
 
Within worship we are starting a four week preaching series in which we’ll use four words from our mission statement: Gather, Grow, Give, and Go. The series in called “Fit for Life: Strengthening Your Core.” Just as it’s good to be physically fit, so too, it’s important to remain spiritually fit. This week we’ll focus on the word Gather and the importance of us gathering together regularly to worship and praise God. Worship keeps us spiritually fit.
 
I’m excited for this weekend as we kick-off the fall schedule with our “Spirit Alive” emphasis. It includes a Ministry Fair, with booths and tables set up as we see a good sampling of what is available for us during the coming year at Gloria Dei.
 
Be reminded that Church School begins on Sunday, with two options in conjunction with our two worship services.
 
Wednesday worship begins this coming week, September 12 from 6:00 – 6:30 p.m. along with all the regular Wednesday programming, including Church School.
 
Thanks for your partnership in the gospel of Christ and I’ll see you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Belonging to Christ

Hello Gloria Dei,

The title of Christian literally means “one who belongs to Christ”. You and I belong to Christ; we are loved by Christ; we follow Christ. That’s our primary identity. What a fantastic gift!

The gift of belonging to Christ by faith plays itself out in many different ways. This being Labor Day Weekend, we are reminded that our Christian faith is lived out in part by our work. How is it that you spend your days? Are you employed full-time or part-time? Do you spend days taking care of family or children? Do you volunteer your time at church and/or other organizations? No matter our age, young or old, our labor helps give our lives purpose.

My good friend and long-time Gloria Dei pastor, John Degelau, used to say “There is no retiring from the Kingdom of God.” John is right. As those who “belong to Christ”, we are set free by the cross and resurrection to live our lives making an impact for good in the world in Jesus’ name.

This weekend in worship we’ll be completing the series entitled “Ordinary People, Extraordinary God.” I hope you’ve enjoyed focusing on many of the Old Testament people used by God in remarkable ways. We’ll finish with John the Baptist. While John appears in the New Testament, he is often considered to be cast in the mold of an Old Testament prophet.

John is used by God to point to the imminent arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. John knew how to point away from himself, and point people to Jesus. Not a bad lesson for us as we labor for Jesus. In preparation please read Luke 1:57-66 and Luke 3:3-17.

May this be a blessed Labor Day for you. And may God bless your overarching vocation of being one who “Belongs to Christ.”

See You in Worship!

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: It’s a Great Story

Hello Gloria Dei,

In worship this weekend we’ll be telling one of the great stories of the Old Testament: The story of Queen Esther. Esther is a Jewish woman who remains in Persia after most of the Jews returned to the Promised Land after their exile. A woman with humble beginnings, she is chosen to be Queen and God uses her to save her people from destruction. I encourage you to read this great account found in the book of Esther.

Esther is one of only two books in the Bible that don’t directly mention God (the other is Song of Solomon). It’s clear, however, that God is at work behind the scenes, equipping Esther for her task of convincing the king to save the Jewish people still living in that region.

Take note that Esther asks her people to fast and pray for three days prior to her going to see the king. These prayers include fervent petitions to God for deliverance. And so when Esther walks into King Xerxes’ throne room, she is wrapped not just in a beautiful robe but also in the prayers of God’s people. It isn’t just the king in the room with her, God is there too.

As you and I move through the different situations and circumstances that come our way in life, and as we respond to the tasks God calls us to accomplish, we too can have confidence that God is always with us, preparing places, opportunities, and options ahead of us. Like Esther, I implore you to clothe each decision you make with prayer.

Today give thanks and praise to God that you can wake up each morning knowing that God is faithful and will carry you through each day, no matter what you may be facing. Each day look in the mirror and say (or sing) “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.”

Esther is a great story. It brings us God’s promise of love and salvation, a promise we can trust.

See you in worship!

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: It All Comes Down to Love

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a great day and enjoying the love that our God and Lord has for you!  The love of God and the love of humankind for us is what makes our lives complete, whole and healthy.  What Paul says in I Corinthians 13.2 is so true; “If I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”.  In my personal time of devotion lately, as I have been reading the scripture, thinking, praying and reflecting, there has been a thought that comes to me and it is; ‘it all comes down to love’. 

I ran across a story about love that I enjoyed and that spoke to me saying ‘it all comes down to love’.  It is a story about a great Old Testament religion teacher named Hillel. Hillel once took a dare. He claimed he could recite all of the wisdom of the law of Moses while standing on one leg. When challenged, he recited, “All the wisdom of the Torah (the law of Moses) consists in this: “Thou shalt love the Lord with all they heart, and all thy soul, and all they strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.’”

Interestingly, a long time before Hillel’s time Jesus experienced a similar challenge when Jesus was asked by a lawyer to name the great commandment in the law; Jesus like Hillel used the quotes from Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. As Jesus said in Matthew 22.37-40: “Jesus said to the lawyer, ‘”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

So, what is it all about? I have been thinking; ‘it all comes down to love’. Our faith as revealed in scripture can be summed up not only in a single sentence; it can be summed up in the one word “love”.

As we reflect, it is important to remember that ‘love’ is a gift from God demonstrated in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ on the cross for our salvation. It follows then, that we in freedom respond to the love of God for us by loving one another as God, Christ loves us.   

Faith, hope and love abide says Paul in I Corinthians 13, but the greatest of these is love. 

I hope you are having a day full of God’s love! 

In worship this weekend, we continue our summer sermon series, titled:  ‘Ordinary People, Extraordinary God’, focusing on Old Testament characters. This week we focus on Elijah! See you in church!

God’s Blessings Always,

Pastor Dwight Stensgaard



Friday Followings: An Unlikely Marriage

Hello Gloria Dei,

God’s chosen people, Israel, had been unfaithful to God. Despite all that God had done for them, setting them free from slavery in Egypt and leading them to their own Promised Land, they worshiped other gods and other things. God had become an afterthought.

This weekend in worship we’ll focus on one of the prophets, chosen by God to call the people back to faithfulness, and to deliver a powerful message of God’s unfailing love.

That prophet is Hosea. In a striking metaphor for how God’s people had been unfaithful, God calls Hosea to marry a beautiful woman, Gomer, who God knows will be unfaithful to Hosea. Gomer is indeed unfaithful. She sells herself to many men. Hosea is hurt. He begins to know and experience the hurt God feels.

And in an amazing story of unfailing love, Hosea continues to love Gomer and to finally rescue her from her life of prostitution.

God’s unfailing love belongs to you and me as well. Even knowing we’ve received so much from God’s hand, we often let the things of this world blind us to devotion to God. Look around…in many parts of our culture, God has become an afterthought. “Who needs God?” we say. “We’ve got it all under control.”

Even as God grieves, God stays faithful and never, ever abandons us. Like the union of Hosea with Gomer, an unlikely marriage and story of love, God’s love is ever present for us and our world. So much so that God has given his only Son to win us back.

If you can, in preparation for worship, read the Old Testament book of Hosea. It has fourteen chapters. If you have a study bible, it would be good to read the introduction and notes as you go. It is quite a love story.

The prophets of old, like Hosea, and prophetic voices today, are given by God as messengers to lead us into true and meaningful life, worshiping God with all we’ve got, and loving others even as we love ourselves.

If you’ve been struggling with feelings of guilt or unworthiness, remember the vows of love God has given to you. If you’ve been running from God, remember that “there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ.” God is always, always, always ready to welcome us home.

See you in worship!

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: This and That

Hello Gloria Dei,

As we’ve recently turned the calendar to August, a reminder that our full fall programming will begin next month. Spirit Alive Sunday at Gloria Dei is September 9.

I want to let you know, too, that Gloria Dei will be hosting our newly elected mayor, Paul TenHaken, for a continental breakfast meeting and conversation. He will be here Wednesday morning, September 12, at 6:45 a.m.  We’ll have a chance to listen to our mayor and then ask any questions you may have, particularly around how Gloria Dei might partner to help meet ministry needs within the city. All are welcome.

We’ve had a great week with both VBS and Day Camp going on. It’s so great to see a couple hundred kids having fun while learning about Jesus and his love. We’ve had a great crew of adult and youth helpers all week long. Thank you for your support of Gloria Dei and for your prayers; all of this is made possible by you.

Within worship we continue to focus in on our Extraordinary God working through Ordinary people – this week we encounter Daniel. Please read Daniel 2:19-23 and Daniel 6:16-23.

See you in worship!

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: Seeking After God

“You are My God. Earnestly I seek You.” Psalm 63:1

Hello Gloria Dei,

This weekend in worship we’ll be focusing in on the Old Testament character, David. David’s life, like ours, has many twists, turns, and facets. Therefore, it’s impossible to cover every aspect of David’s life. However, as I read through some of David’s triumphs and failures it’s interesting to note that David’s life went best when he was passionately seeking after God.

During his early years, David was extremely devoted to God. Then, when the nation of Israel, and its King, David himself, experienced immense prosperity and comfort, David slacked off of his commitment to God. He thought he had it all under control. Maybe God wasn’t needed as much. That’s when things started to go bad again.

We too, if we’re not careful, can let the comforts and riches of life get us off track. Jesus picks up this theme in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and then all these things shall be added unto you.”

I give David credit. He learned his lesson. We see the rise, the fall, and the rise again of David in the pages of Scripture (Recorded most fully in 1 & 2 Samuel). Ultimately, David worshiped God and put his faith and trust in God. Because of this David is called “A Man after God’s Own Heart.” Many of the Psalms are written by David, including the beloved Psalm 23, which has brought comfort to countless numbers of people through the centuries.

This weekend in worship we’ll be reading Psalm 51 – a psalm of remorse, confession, renewal and restoration. It is a Psalm, written by David, which helped him get his life back on track, fully relying once again upon God and God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.

That same grace, love, and forgiveness is offered and given to each of us through one of David’s descendants, Jesus, the Messiah.

See you in worship!

Just a reminder that we will be thanking Cheryl McGuire within both worship services on Sunday for her faithfulness to Christ, and to this congregation. Cheryl will be officially retiring on July 31. We will have a cake and reception in between services this Sunday to give all of you an opportunity to say thank you to Cheryl.

Blessings!

Pastor Tim

 



Friday Followings: Loyalty and Faithfulness

Hello Gloria Dei,

As we continue our summer preaching series moving through the major characters of the Old Testament, we focus this weekend on Ruth. The short yet powerful book of Ruth is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the entire Bible.

One of the major themes of this book is loyalty. Another word we could use is faithfulness. The book of Ruth tells the story of a particular family and their family relationships. The main characters of this short story are Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. I encourage you to read this short book once, twice, or maybe even three times today and tomorrow, in preparation for this weekend. Pay attention to the ways in which the three characters I’ve named embody faithfulness and loyalty. They are inspirations to all of us as we live out our calling to be faithful and loyal to family, friends, faith and God. At the end of the story of Ruth we are reminded that through this lineage comes King David, and ultimately, Jesus the Messiah. It is the loyalty and faithfulness of Jesus to us which, ultimately, gives us true and meaningful life.
 
Speaking of loyalty and faithfulness, I want to let you know that we will be thanking Cheryl McGuire within both worship services on Sunday, July 29, for her faithfulness to Christ, and to this congregation. Cheryl has served incredibly well, wearing many hats through her 24 years of service to Gloria Dei, primarily overseeing the business/financials and facility. She exudes a servant’s heart, a high trust level, and tremendous faithfulness. Cheryl will be officially retiring on July 31. We will have a cake and reception in between services on July 29th to give all of you an opportunity to say thank you to Cheryl.
 
For this weekend, read the book of Ruth.
 
See you in worship!

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: Glimpses Into the Future

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I’m back in the office today after two weeks of vacation. Lorrie and I spent part of that time in Arizona. While we were there we saw old friends, and we drove around the “old neighborhood” where we raised our kids. As I ponder those days, I recall riding bikes with my daughter up and down the street when she was just learning to ride. I recall shooting baskets in our driveway with my son when he was just learning to shoot.
 
Yesterday evening I played golf with my son. He beat me last night for the first time of which will undoubtedly be many more to come in the future. As I saw him out-driving me, at times by over 100 yards; and as I saw me missing birdie putts and him making them, I smiled to myself. At first I was getting glimpses into the past – not only of riding bikes and shooting baskets with my kids when they were young – but also of me playing golf with my Dad. I remember beating him for the first time when I was about my son’s age.
 
But then I thought, “I’m also getting glimpses into the future.” Knowing how hard I tried to help my Dad fix his slice back in the day, my son will soon be giving me advice on how to fix my swing. And as I remembered me and my Dad as I played golf with my son, I thought of my Dad and my Mom, together in heaven with Jesus. And again I smiled. I was reminded in powerful fashion both how precious life is, and yet how relatively short as well. And I smiled when I thought too, that one day I’ll be there in heaven with my parents, my friends, and all of God’s people. And most of all, with Jesus, who calls and redeems each of us with his death and resurrection, and who will one day usher us into his glorious and everlasting kingdom.
 
Glimpses into the future, into eternity.  –Those moments when the future floods the present with its stunning reality. It’s good they don’t come along all the time, for we couldn’t stand more than a glimpse at a time, yet they are there, and they have a profound way of shaping us in the present.
 
People of Gloria Dei, live each day knowing that it is a gift from God. Love your family. Love your friends. Love strangers. Love God. Jesus has set you free to do no less. And most of all, know that God loves you and has destined you for eternity. None of us knows exactly what the future holds. But we do know that God goes with us and is there in the future. The great promise of Scripture is that there is nothing that can separate you from God’s love – not now and not ever.
 
In the loving embrace of our Savior, you and I have the promise of a great future.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim