My Journey


In The Hands of the Refiner is the personal online communication arm of Rev. Gary DeSha, Founder/Director of Symphony Ministries, and Pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Duluth Minnesota.

I came to faith in Jesus Christ and was born again through the prayers and ministry of my father and a Baptist Pastor, Gene Keith, in June of 1972.  Shortly thereafter, I received baptism.  I was also discipled in the Christian faith through regular church attendance, teaching, prayer, and Bible study.

In January of 1973 while attending a worship service, I read the Holy Scripture from Joshua 1:8-9 which says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” From this verse of Holy Scripture and what the pastor was preaching that day, I felt the Holy Spirit upon me as God called me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

From that day on, I began a deeper study of God’s Word and started a program of mentorship under mature men of God, the pastor and leaders within our church.  Later in 1973, I began an active duty career in the United States Army Chaplains Corps as a Chaplains Assistant.  In my military career, many of the Chaplains I served and protected were a great help to me in my spiritual growth.

In 1975 while listening to a radio broadcast by the Rev. R. W. Schambach, I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time.  After this wonderful experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, I sought out a Pentecostal church to learn more about the Holy Spirit and His gifts.  I continued to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and received my license to preach from South Gardens Baptist Church in Savannah, GA.  The pastor, Brother Chambliss, was a man on fire for God, a true soul winner, and preacher of the Gospel.

I began serving the Lord in a variety of capacities.  I ministered to soldiers of the United States Army, to the saints in local churches; I preached and taught the Word of God to many.  I served as a Pentecostal Fellowship Pastor sponsored by the Church of God, Cleveland, TN Ministry to the Military and as a worship leader and evangelist for an Assemblies of God congregation in Arkansas.

In the early 90’s I started questioning how some churches view and administer the Lord’s Supper. It seemed like something was missing. After much prayer and study, I discovered the spiritual reality of the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine served at Holy Communion. This experience led me to the Evangelical Episcopal Church (now the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches) in 1995.  I was ordained as a priest and planted a new parish in the State of Georgia, but I was still restless and searching. Through a parishioner, I learned about the Eastern Orthodox Church for the first time.  I was convinced that I had found the original and faithful expression of the Christian faith in Holy Orthodoxy.  I sought out a local priest and after dialogue with his bishop was received into the Orthodox Church and ordained as an Orthodox Christian priest. For fifteen years I served as a local parish priest or assisted local Orthodox bishops in their divine services in the Phoenix area.

In the summer of 2008, my wife of 21 years passed away after losing her battle with breast cancer. It was time to reevaluate my call to ministry, to take inventory of my Christian life, and determine exactly where God wanted me. The Holy Spirit began showing me that error and unbelief had crept in. I had embraced the lie of Orthodox exclusivity, the belief that Orthodoxy was superior to other parts of the Church. I started to recognize how the traditions of men had overruled the Bible as the final authority of faith and practice. God reminded me that true church tradition is what the Apostles of Jesus Christ taught and lived. He was disciplining me and bringing me back to my first call, the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Then began the most challenging, but fruitful season of my Christian life and ministry as I discovered the truths of the Reformation. In 2010, not long after I moved to Minnesota and remarried, my journey of faith was transformed by serving as associate pastor at a Lutheran Church in my local area. I served as preaching pastor for a new plant and youth pastor for the parent congregation. I began studying the Book of Concord, Lutheran doctrine, and the life and influence of Martin Luther. I can now look back now and see so clearly how God opened a door so I could be reformed. I devoured the writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin and other Reformed theologians and scholars. The Doctrines of Grace were being opened to me and my love for God and His Word was being restored. I was forced to humble myself and change my thinking! The final step the Holy Spirit took was for me to read and understand the Canon’s of the Synod of Dort. God’s light shown upon me that day as I read the canons, and I received peace and confidence. My soul found its resting place in God’s grace. What a glorious time of revelation and restoration it has been for my wife and me. God has truly blessed us!

After all this time, I still believe God called me to preach the Gospel.  I believe God called me to preach freedom to those who are captive.  I believe God called me to bring the healing power of God to those who are sick and infirm.  I believe God called me to preach the whole counsel of God, the true Apostolic teaching once delivered unto the saints.  The Gospel that the Apostles themselves received from Jesus Christ is the Good News.  This is the true apostolic succession, the apostolic teaching that I have been entrusted with to uphold and guard.  We measure not this full Gospel by what man has done or will do, but by preaching it in the power and might of the Holy Spirit.  We experience the full Gospel by how God uses his gifted people: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers to equip and build up the Body of Christ.  We experience the Gospel when the Holy Spirit gives gifts to the Body of Christ for salvation, healing, and deliverance.

I rest now in my relationship with Christ as a true Lutheran, a Christian who believes in the truths of the Reformation, and in the continuation of Pentecost with all the biblical gifts and anointed treasures the Holy Spirit has poured out on the Church.

I believe that the most important statement of faith in the Christian Church is the Nicene Creed, the product of two Ecumenical Councils in the fourth century. Emerging from life-and-death controversy, it contains the essence of the full apostolic Gospel teaching about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Virgin birth, the Church, and the sacraments, guarding that life-giving truth against those who would change the very nature of God and reduce Jesus Christ to a created being, rather than God in the flesh. The Nicene Creed gives me a sure interpretation of the Scriptures against those who would distort them to support their own religious schemes. Called the “symbol of faith” and confessed in many of the services of the Christian Church, the Nicene Creed constantly reminds me of what I believe and hold most dear.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), 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 and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; from He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets.

In one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

May God bless and keep you in His love and grace. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



  1. Michael says:

    I am not sure what it is meant in the creed concerning “one baptism for the remission of sins”… Baptism into what? Water or into Christ’s Baptism i.e. the baptism into death ? (Romans 6), also the creed speaks of “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”, is it meant as the Holy Roman Catholic Church or the church universal.

    • gdesha says:

      “One baptism for the remission of sins” means water baptism with a view to having received remission of sins upon faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and publicly stating that when you are baptized. The way the Greek speaks in Acts 2:38, from which this is used, the phrase means “on the basis or ground of” the remission of sins received by grace through faith. Therefore, in reference to the remission or removal of sins: baptism is pointing out the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and it is in reference to that purification that it is administered, and should in consideration never be separated from it. For baptism itself doesn’t purify the conscience; it only points out the grace by which this is to be done.

      The Creed means “universal” when it says “catholic” – the word “katholikos” is Greek for universal. In 381, there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church. The RC church really began as a result of the great schism of the 11th century.

      Thanks for the comment, Michael!

      • Michael says:

        You’re welcome and thank you for explaining the creed. Just wanted those who read understand its meaning. By the way great explaination on Baptism! ~Michael

  2. Keith says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey into Eastern Orthodoxy and back out. As a pastor having conversations with those who are being drawn in to EO, what would be your advice for where to start or focus those conversations? Sola Scriptura? Some particular error? A powerful syllogism? Other? Thanks for any counsel or resources you care to share.

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