I believe in God, the Father almighty

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26

Our Heavenly Father

There are hundreds of names for God in the Bible. Each teaches us a little something about who God is and how he acts. In some places God is called “Almighty.” Other places God is called “The beginning and end.” He even has some unique names that describe him as the “Root of David” or “launderer’s soap.”

However, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he chooses the name “Our Father.”

That name “Father” has a special meaning. Whether we had a good earthly father or not, we know what fathers are supposed to do. Fathers love and care for their children. They want the best for them and strive to teach them all they need to know.

You can’t expect these kinds of things from a stranger. When you need something, you can count on your father.

This is what God wants for you. He is your Heavenly Father who loves you so much that there is nothing he wouldn’t do for you. He cares for you so much that he promises to guide all the steps of your life. He wants the best for you so that you may spend all eternity with him. He strives to teach you all the things you need for this life and the next.

How is this most special relationship with God established? It is only “in Christ Jesus.”

It is because Christ Jesus was willing to give his very life for you on the cross and to defeat death for you by rising from the grave that you can now be called sons and daughters of God. He is your dear Father and in Christ you are his dear child. Through faith these gifts become yours.

Treasure this as you confess in the Apostles Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.”

I believe in God…maker of heaven and earth

Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 124:8

The Almighty God is Our Helper

The world is such a crazy place. Few days pass before we hear about another shooting or bombing or attack of some kind. Crazy!

How is your world? Is your world as crazy as the big world around us? Perhaps sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes we simply say, “I need help!”

And we have it. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that we believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. The verse from Psalm 124 reminds us that the “Maker of heaven and earth” is also the One in whom our help is found. Think about what that means for your life. The One who was powerful enough to say, “Let there be light” and light appeared, the One who was powerful enough to put the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, that One is also your helper! And he’s a faithful helper. He’ll not leave your side, ever.

Yes, this world may be crazy. Yes, your world may feel crazy at times. But we have the ultimate helper, the God who made the heavens and the earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, [God the Father’s] only Son, our Lord

“But what about you?” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:15-16

The Real Jesus

Many people try to find the “real” Jesus. Who is this man who commands so much interest and attention? Who is this man who has had such a large impact on humanity?

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples gave a number of complimentary responses comparing him to great religious teachers and very moral men.

However, none of those answers were good enough. Wanting his disciple’s answer, he asks them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter boldly responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This is the real Jesus.

More than just an ordinary man, he is the very Son of God sent for our salvation.

Is there any gift more precious? Any gift more valuable? Jesus is God’s own Son to right our wrongs and save us from our sins. No one else will do.

Jesus is God’s Son; he is true God. There was no sacrifice that would be sufficient to pay for our sins other than God’s very Son who is God himself. There was no one who could meet the perfect requirements that God demands other than his only Son, our Lord.

If you want to see the proof that God loves you and that he wants to draw you to himself, look no further than this most precious gift, God’s own Son. If you want to know if this Jesus is powerful enough to really help you, look no further than the one who has skin and bones like you and me but is nothing less than God.

This is the real Jesus.

I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

Crazy

When God first made the promise, to human ears it must have sounded crazy: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son…” (Isaiah 7:14). The virgin will conceive? That just doesn’t happen!

But it did happen. It happened to Mary, as the Holy Spirit miraculously caused her to become pregnant with Jesus. And so we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” It sounds crazy, but God made it happen.

And so God the Holy Spirit has the power to make all sorts of other crazy-sounding promises come true too. He promises that in Baptism he will wash your sins away; he does it. He promises that the gospel is God’s power for salvation; it is. He promises that in the Lord’s Supper he gives us Jesus’ true body and blood; he does. He promises to make all things work for your good; he has, and he’ll continue to do so. He promises that by faith in Jesus he’ll take you to heaven someday; he will.

For, you see, ultimately it doesn’t matter how “crazy” God’s promises may sound to our ears. What matters is the power behind those promises. And just who is the power behind those promises? The power behind those promises is the Almighty Holy Spirit! So, just as God’s “crazy” promise that a virgin would conceive came true, so God the Holy Spirit will fulfill all his promises. That’s crazy all right–crazy good!

I believe in Jesus Christ…born of the virgin Mary

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
– Matthew 1:22-23

What an Entrance

Now that was an entrance! If you’ve ever seen the Disney movie Aladdin, you know the scene . . . Aladdin had just used one of his three wishes to become a prince so that he would qualify to marry Princess Jasmine. He’s dressed marvelously as his new persona, Prince Ali Ababwa. And he doesn’t come alone. On the back of an elephant, with a full scale orchestra and what looks like a zoo accompanying him down the main street, Prince Ali enters the palace. It wasn’t true, but he wanted everyone to believe that he was a prince. I think the genie put on a pretty convincing show!

It is true that Jesus is the Prince of heaven, yet he didn’t come in an elaborate show. Can you get any less elaborate than a virgin’s womb, in lowly Bethlehem, in a barn? He was the long foretold Prince of Peace, yet he arrives, not in pomp and circumstance, but in humility. He would convince people of his royalty, not in dress or with an orchestra or exotic pets. He would convince people of his royalty with his love. The world heard the news that the angels sang; they’ve heard the message that the shepherds (and evangelists after them) proclaimed. The Holy Spirit used that gospel to plant faith in hearts, faith that would enable believers to see the grandiose love of God wrapped in flesh and laid in a manger. Our humble Savior showed his love when he set us free from sin and death.

His appearance wasn’t amazing, but the grace that he gives sure is! His entrance wasn’t awe-inspiring, unless faith enables you to see in him the heart of God that bleeds for you! See the virgin birth through which God was born to be with people like us. The Divine was born to die, so that death-bound sinners, like us, could live. The fact that God would leave heaven and set foot on earth to rescue sinners is an amazing feat of love. Yet humility was and always has been his theme.

By faith, we see what really happened in Bethlehem that night: the grand entrance of God born in flesh, God born to save us from sin and to win us for his glory.

I believe in Jesus Christ…suffered under Pontius Pilate

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. – Mark 15:15

It’s Not Fair

“It’s not fair!” the five-year-old child pleads as his mother takes away his toy truck.

“It’s not fair!” the teenager protests when her father grounds her for two weeks.

We all want life to be fair. Or so we claim. One of my professors in college had formerly served as the vice-principal of a high school. As such, he was responsible for disciplining students. He told us how often students would insist, “That’s not fair!” after he announced their punishment. He always responded the same way, “You don’t want it to be fair. You want it to be UNfair to your advantage.”

This is truer for most of us than we would like to admit. As the police officer approaches your car after pulling you over and you KNOW you were going much faster than the posted speed, you are not hoping he will be fair. You are hoping he will be UNfair to your advantage and let you go without giving you a ticket.

In the history of this world there has never been an event less fair than the sentencing of Jesus Christ to die on a cross. He had broken no law. He was, in every sense, completely innocent. He was not just innocent of crimes against the government, he was completely innocent before God. Yet, the Roman Governor, Pilate, sentenced Jesus to death and freed a known murderer named Barabbas. It was not fair.

We can thank God that it was not fair. You see, it was not just Barabbas who was set free on that Friday in Jerusalem. We were set free as well. Our sins against God deserved his eternal anger and punishment. But Jesus was punished instead. He went to the cross. We were set free. By faith in him, we are free from our sins, free from guilt, free from fear, free from punishment.

What Jesus endured was not fair. But he was willing to endure it because of his great love for us. When it comes to our salvation, thank God it’s not fair!

I believe in Jesus Christ…crucified, died, and was buried.

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:6-8

Equals

Tim and Tom were equals. If you asked them they’d agree and anyone else would have the same conclusion. They were hired on at the company the same day, they’d made an equal number of sales and had made the same amount of money for the company as the other. They were equals.

Which is what made it puzzling when Tim was promoted and Tom wasn’t. Tom felt underappreciated, undervalued. They were equals but they were not treated that way.

We tend to be OK when people more skilled than us move up in their particular field. That’s the way it’s supposed to work! The better musician sits in the first chair, the better athlete makes the team or the starting lineup. But when it’s our equal that gets the special treatment, that’s when the “unfair” alarms in our head start to go off. We think we deserve fair treatment and when we sense treatment that is less than fair, we get upset and feel abused.

It’s really our sinful nature that demands that we receive equal treatment. We puff ourselves up with pride and can’t imagine anyone seeing anything in us that is less than the best. We bloat with pride and arrogance and think that everyone else is inferior. And often that pride impacts the way we look at God and the way that we think God should look at us. We feel better than others and think that God should feel the same way.

But the sad reality is that we are all sinful. There is no one better than anyone else–we are all equal–equally sinful, equally deserving of death and hell.

But God sent one who was not our equal. Jesus was far better than us in every way. He was better than everyone and equal to God the Father, yet he set that rightful equality aside and became like us. He became like a servant and placed himself under us, under our laws, under our temptations. He gave up heaven to come to our earth and suffer our hell in our place. He lived a perfectly holy life, and yet wasn’t filled with pride about his accomplishments. Though he was the one who could rightfully boast about what he had done, he didn’t. Instead he quietly went about the work of being the world’s Savior. He humbled himself even to the cross for our sins, even to death to save us. And he did it to show his love.

For the times when we are prideful, we have a humble Savior. For the times that we are full of ourselves, we have a God who emptied himself for us. For the times when we are weak, we have a Savior who is strong—strong to save.

I believe in Jesus Christ…He descended into hell.

Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. – 1 Peter 3:18-20

A Most Important Victory Parade

The year was 1997. I was serving as a pastoral intern in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was a great time and place to be a Packer fan. Brett Favre and Reggie White led the Packers to their first Super Bowl victory in thirty years. To say that the city of Green Bay was excited would be an understatement of monumental proportions.

The day after winning the championship, the Packers rode through the city in a victory parade. In spite of a severe snowstorm, thousands of people lined the streets to cheer for their team. Fortunately for me, the parade passed right by our church and I could see the whole thing through my office window.

A victory parade is not unique to Green Bay, of course. Whenever a championship is won, there is a victory parade in the team’s hometown.

But what would you say if I told you that Jesus once had a victory parade? And what if I told you that he paraded, not through his hometown, but through hell? It’s true. But you don’t need to take my word for it. We have the words of the apostle Peter. Peter tells us that after Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose from the grave he went to hell and announced his victory. He had done it! He had defeated sin and death and the devil! And because he did, his victory is also YOUR victory through faith in him. Your sins can no longer condemn you. Your death cannot hold you. The devil has no power over you.

Christians have confessed this comforting truth for hundreds of years. The Apostles’ Creed states that Jesus descended into hell. The next time you confess this creed, take comfort that he did. And let your life be a celebration of his victory!

I believe in Jesus Christ…The third day he rose again from the dead.

 “…God raised him [Jesus] from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” – Acts 10:40-42

Jesus is Lord of All

Cornelius the centurion knew Jesus. The Lord’s fame had spread far and wide and touched everyone—including the Roman legion stationed at Caesarea.

But this centurion knew more. He knew that the Old Testament taught: “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Cornelius knew that Jesus had preached in Judea and Galilee. He knew Jesus had power over both disease and the devil. He knew that God was with Jesus! He knew the sad story of Jesus’ death as he hung on a cross—mocked by Romans, despised by Jews, cursed by God.

Now God had arranged a meeting between Cornelius and the apostle Peter. Peter told him, “I want you to know the rest of the story. I want you to know what we saw. We saw Jesus alive. I am an eye-witness of his resurrection from the dead.

Vivid, accurate eye-witness testimony rules in court. It trumps the opinions of those who were not there, the speculation of those who did not see. “God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. We saw Jesus alive in the flesh, and we believe it. But we want you to believe it too!”

Peter had received his own revelation, which he shared with Cornelius. He called Jesus “the Lord of all,” and testified to this centurion, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right’” (Acts 10:34-35).

We believe that Jesus died for all, and we believe that Jesus rose for all. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection anchors our faith that Jesus is Lord of people from every nation, tribe and language, and it inspires our outreach to the whole world.

I believe in Jesus Christ…He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

“Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – Romans 8:34-35, 37

Here, There, and Everywhere

From last night’s dinner conversation: “So, where did you go, today?” “Oh, here, there, and everywhere!”

Though understood, the idiom is an obvious exaggeration by you and me, but not by Jesus. The Apostles’ Creed confesses: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” This Bible-revealed truth is not an exaggeration. Forty days after Easter Jesus visibly ascended heavenward before his astonished disciples. More astonishing to our reason is that the risen Christ took up full use of his divine powers. He now took his place as King of kings. Yet, he had promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

If Jesus were visibly present at your dinner table (You invited him, if you say the common table prayer), you may ask, “So, where did you go, today, Lord?” “Here, there, and everywhere!”

“Here!” “I am with you every day and I am with you, tonight, as well.”

“There!” “I am at the right hand of the heavenly Father, ruling over all things for the good of the whole Christian Church on earth. I also intercede for you: ‘Father, this is a member of my flock. Forgive and bless them for my sake. I paid for all their sins, satisfying your holy justice.’”

“Everywhere!” “‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24).

The Bible truths of the Lord’s presence everywhere and his divine rule over all are seen only with the eyes of faith. Whatever we face in this sin-filled world, including “trouble or hardship or persecution…, we are more than conquerors.” As the Bible assures us, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17).