The Journey


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

The dictionary defines “journey” as “a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time.” Faith is defined as “confidence or trust in a person or thing; belief that is not based on proof; belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of Christianity.” I believe my journey of faith began when I was born. The journey continued until, in the summer of 1972, it took a turn and became defined by faith, the gift of God, which enabled me to trust in Him as my Savior and Lord. Thereafter, my journey enabled me to associate myself with many expressions of the Christian faith. Each one has left a lasting mark upon my soul, all of which I am thankful to God for the time and experiences.

Let me tell you my story, the story of my journey of faith.

I became a born again Christian through the prayers and ministry of my father and the pastor of an independent Baptist Church in June of 1972.  Shortly thereafter, I received baptism.  From that day, I was 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 speaking on that day, I felt His Spirit upon me, and God calling me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

From that day forth, I began deep study of God’s Word, and began a program of mentorship under very mature men of God, pastors, and leaders within the Church.  In 1973, I began an active duty career in the United States Army Chaplains Corps as a Chaplains Assistant.  In my career, these Chaplains 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 that would teach me the deeper spiritual things of God.  I continued to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God.  I received my license to preach from South Gardens Baptist Church, in Savannah, GA.  The pastor (Bro. Chambliss) was a man on fire for God, a true soul winner and preacher of the Gospel.

Since that time, I have served the Lord in a variety of capacities.  From ministering to the soldiers of the United States Army, to the saints in local churches, I preached and taught the Word of God to many.  I have served as the Pentecostal Fellowship Pastor sponsored by the Church of God, Cleveland, TN ministry to the military.  I have served as worship leader and evangelist for an Assemblies of God church in Arkansas.   I have planted and served several churches across the country.

There came a time in my Christian life, where I was concerned about how the some churches viewed the Lord’s Supper.  After much prayer, study, and thought, I discovered for the first time in my spirit, the reality of the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine served at Holy Communion.  In 1995, I was ordained a priest in the Evangelical Episcopal Church (now the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches).  I planted and served an Episcopal parish in the State of Georgia.  In 1996, while still searching and seeking God, I discovered the Eastern Orthodox Church.  At that time, I believed I had discovered the full true expression of the Christian faith in Holy Orthodoxy.  I sought out a local priest and after dialogue with his bishop; in 1998 I was received into the Orthodox Church and ordained as an Orthodox Christian priest.  I have since served as a local parish priest and assisted local Orthodox bishops in their divine services, and on November 15, 2012 was consecrated Bishop for the Orthodox diocese of Minneapolis and all of North Dakota.

Since the summer of 2008, when my wife of 21 years passed away having lost her battle with breast cancer, I decided to re-look at my call to ministry, to determine exactly where God wanted me, and to take inventory of my Christian life.  I discovered that I needed to be free of the mindset I understood as Christian exclusiveness, a thought process that excluded other true branches of the Christian Church from one another.  I could not accept that the traditions of men overruled the Word of God, the Bible as the final authority for faith and practice. The tradition of the Church is wonderful, just so long as it maintains its integrity with what Jesus taught the Apostles. True church tradition is what the Apostles of Jesus Christ taught. I also discovered that I must take what I have learned from the Eastern Orthodox Church and weave that into what I learned many, many years before.  God has brought me back to my first love, the true preaching, and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom of God. I am a student of the Word of God, and I am learning more and more each day.

The most interesting event during my Christian life and ministry was the discovery of the truths of the teaching that came out of the Reformation of the 16th century. Over four years ago, my journey and the process of learning as a Christian were aided 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. During this time, I studied the Book of Concord, Lutheran doctrine, and really dove into what Martin Luther discovered. God opened this door for me to come to the knowledge of the truths of the Reformation. After that, I dove into the writings of John Calvin, and other famous Reformed theologians and scholars. The doctrines of Reformation were being opened to me, piece by piece. Some I had understood earlier in my Christian life, and then there were those things that were new to me. I had to change my thinking on some things too! The Holy Spirit led me to read the Canon’s of the Synod of Dort. God’s light shown that day, when reading the canons, and from there I have been assimilating Reformation teaching. Also, while reading the Lutheran Confessions, I discovered more and more, the richness of the teaching of Martin Luther. What a glorious time of revelation it has been for me and my wife, Sue. 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 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 that God called me to care for the poor, the naked, and the homeless.  I believe God called me to preach the whole counsel of God, the true Apostolic teaching once delivered unto the saints.  That Gospel is completely understandable by what the Apostles themselves received from Jesus Christ and handed down to the churches.  It is the succession of this apostolic teaching that is what I have been entrusted to uphold and guard.  We measure not this full Gospel by what man has done or will do, but measure it by preaching the Gospel in the power and might of the Holy Spirit of God.  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 by how God gives gifts to the Body of Christ for edification and revelation.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I am a follower of Christ, 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 God has bestowed upon the Church.

The following is my statement of faith. 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. Delineated in the midst of a life-and-death controversy, I believe 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 personally believe, keeping my faith on track.

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

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