Pastor’s Corner

The Rise of A Kingdom

rise-of-the-kingdomThis history of God’s people has always been one of difficulty, yet God remained faithful to them even when the people were faithless. Israel cried out for a king, so they could be like the nations all around them.  God warned them that a king would be problematic, but the people persisted – and so God provided a king.

In this next session of His Story, we find Israel living in the Promised Land, with various kings ruling over them. Saul was a man’s man: tall, handsome, kingly and impressive.  He was just the kind of person that Israel wanted as a king.  The problem was that Saul was not God’s man – and he finds himself cut out of the picture.

Next we have David, an unlikely choice in the eyes of the people. But God saw what the people did not.  So David ends up being the king who confronts Giants, lions, and kings – with power and bold faith.  He was a man after God’s own heart.

But David was not without his own problems. He commits adultery with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and in an effort to cover up his own sin, David has Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed.  While David is remembered as Israel’s greatest king – his story is one full of difficult and hardship.  Life was far from perfect for David’s family.

Eventually David’s son Solomon will follow in his father’s footsteps and become king. And David does all he can to prepare the way for Solomon’s task – building a the temple in Jerusalem, a permanent dwelling place for the presence of God.

The story of God’s people living under a king is a story full of sin and the tragic consequences for sin. But woven through His Story is God’s ultimate story of forgiveness and redemption.  No one is righteous on their own.  But God’s promise to David points ahead to a perfect King, a sinless king, the King of Kings and Lord of Lord – Jesus the Christ.  His Story points us to look a head to a kingdom where there is no end of righteousness or peace, and one in which all things are redeemed.

Pastor’s Corner

Giving Thanks, Saying Grace!

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Mathew 26:26

thanksgiving-smBefore eating the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus gave thanks. The word for thanks is Eucharist and is used by many Christians as a name for the Lord’s Supper or Communion.  Jesus tells us to take communion and remember Him, remembering the grace and love He showed to us on the Cross.  Remembering His promise to be with us every day and in every situation and to never leave us or forsake us.

Eucharist, or thanks is based off of the word Charis, which means Grace. It Jesus day, it would have been impossible to give thanks for something without acknowledging what you were thankful for was a result of someone showing you grace.  Thankful for family, friends, cars, jobs, homes, pets, weather?  All of them are gifts to us by God’s grace.  The more we take credit for it the less we are truly thankful. Non- Christians can still feel thankful, but their thankfulness is for themselves, or another person or luck, not for God’s grace.

This thanksgiving and every day, let us be thankful to God for who He is and what He has done. He has shown grace to us in every aspect of our lives; giving us more than we deserve. Grace is the Greek word Charis and is also the root word for Character.  Having good character is about showing grace to others and is rooted in God first showing grace to us.  Another word derived from Charis is Charisma.  When we show God’s grace to people and have a thankful disposition in life people are drawn to that and influenced by it.  Charisma can be defined many ways, but its root and meaning is someone who lives in grace and lives by grace in the world around them.

This Thanksgiving I want to invite you to worship God at Cross and receive the Eucharist, or communion. Let The Grace of God fill you to overflowing so that you may have grace to extend to others.  That we all may be truly thankful and live thank-filled lives with every breath we breath.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6

Pastor’s Corner

Demanding Change

prayer2The people of God were tired of being different than the world. They wanted to fit in and have what the world had.  They wanted a king, they demanded a KING! 1 Samuel 8:19 “But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

The Lord heard their cry and relented. This is a fascinating perspective on God that challenges how we are often taught to view God.  We are usually taught that God is right and we are wrong and that is that.  But, God isn’t a heartless dictator; He listens and gives us what we ask.  Jesus tells the parable of a persistent woman who finally got what she desired and then He tells us to pray the same way toward God!  1 Thessalonians says to pray without ceasing, and in another parable (Luke 11) Jesus tells us that a neighbor helps out in the middle of the night because of the bold request!

God hears our prayers and answers our requests. Even when the requests may not be a blessing. Back in 1 Samuel, God tells the people through the prophet that their request for an earthly king is a rejection of God as their true King (vs. 7).  They wanted to be like everyone else, so God let them be like everyone else.  He didn’t abandon them, but He did allow them to have the same results as everyone else.

Is it any wonder that when we as Christians demand to live like the world we get the same results as the world. Divorce rates, bankruptcy, addiction and the like are barely discernible between believers and non-believers.   BUT… these stats do not hold true for those who put Christ at the center of your life.  Claiming the Christian faith doesn’t change people, following Christ as Lord and worshipping Him with your life does!

Right now in our country the Christian faith is being scrutinized and it is failing miserably. The loudest voices we hear are filled with hurtful words spoken in anger and fear emboldening hatred while Ephesians 4 says “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…”. The Christian faith is a faith that speaks truth in love for the purpose of building up one another into Christ.  Period.  There is no other goal, no other agenda, no fear, anger, or self-propagation.

While the national and global image of the Christian faith is becoming tarnished more each day, we can and should demand change in our own neighborhoods and churches. We must not tolerate angry words, condescending talk, or hatred towards any people or people group.  We must demand the voice of the Christian faith be changed to one of truth spoken in love.  We must pray to our heavenly father that false believers be exposed and that true believers come to repentance.  We must continue to be bold and courageous in loving one another sacrificially while people are STILL lost in sin, just like Jesus did for us.  Then, and only then will our nation reflect our only true leader, Jesus the Christ.

Pastor’s Corner

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Ruth

This weekend we read the powerful story of Naomi and Ruth.  Naomi was a woman in trouble that needed help.  All her support and resources were taken away from her, and her pathway to a joy filled life looked impossible.  Naomi had lost everything, everything that is except her identity.  Naomi was a child of God and still had tremendous value in her identity.  Naomi’s relationship with God didn’t save her from her material distress by itself, but it did grant her a path to salvation and gave her hope.

As a child of God she followed His will obediently which meant she cared well for her daughters-in-law.  One of them didn’t respond in faith; the other did.  Ruth responded in faith and stayed with Naomi as she went back to her homeland.  Through Ruth’s faithfulness Naomi and Ruth were redeemed by another faithful child of God, Boaz.  Boaz is called a “kinsman redeemer,” which is when a family member is able to save you in a way that no one else could.

Remembering Naomi, Ruth and Boaz encourages me to trust God more wholistically.  Naomi had to let go of Ruth in order for Ruth to show her favor.  Naomi could have tried to control Ruth and demand she stay, but the story would have had a different ending.  Naomi and Ruth had to trust God that there were faithful people back home that would redeem them according to God’s will.

In both instances there were other people who appeared faithful but didn’t act on faith.  Both Orpah and “the other redeemer” in chapter 4 declined to follow God because it wasn’t in their best interest.  While other people fail us, God never will.  When we follow God, He will lead us to other like-minded followers to accomplish His will together.  It isn’t easy.

The journey of following Christ leads us down many challenging paths.  Each of these paths gets redeemed when we act in faithfulness to Him.  How is God calling you to be faithful and follow Him?  Is there a “family” member that needs redeemed that God is calling you to serve?  Don’t help out of guilt; you might make it worse!  Rather, listen to God, act in faith, and trust that if God is calling you to it, He will provide the way of redemption.  If you are hitting a wall, if people have let you down, fear not.  God is faithful and is working His good will in your life.  Don’t believe me; take His Word for it:  “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a Redeemer, and may His name be renowned in Israel!”  Ruth 4:14

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

scaleRecently I went on a mission trip to the country of Guatemala—a nation whose history is filled with Mayan cities and worship sites.  On Friday morning, before we served a small community in Guatemala City, our group went to some nearby Mayan ruins.  These ruins were FILLED with people of Mayan decent offering sacrifices, and prayers.  Clergy looking people were saying things that sounded like prayers or blessings over the people around them.  Our tour guides (the local Guatemalan missionaries) said a couple interesting things.  First, that the clergy were saying both blessings and curses over the people.  Second, that as a part of the agreement with the government that allows them to worship there on this now public land, they had to agree to not perform human sacrifices.

“Who am I to Judge?” a famous misquote of the current pope gives us a strong reminder of our current cultural climate. “Christians aren’t supposed to judge!” another false statement often thrown around.   But what about in the case of human sacrifice?  Should we allow that if it is their right to worship? What if the sacrifices are willing to die and sign a waiver?

I hope this is an extreme example, but it clearly shows a valid issue within the world. What is right?  What is wrong?  Who gave you that authority?  Every major issue we have as a nation and society hinges on these questions.  When our country was founded it had a small authoritarian structure and allowed the Judeo/Christian principals of society to govern its own right and wrong.  Since those days we have moved away from the Bible as the norm for moral and ethical truth to now the court system and the skillfulness of a lawyer is the final say of right and wrong.

This isn’t a new issue. As we read the book of Judges this week we see the same story unfold.  A nation led by people who followed and judged right and wrong by biblical truth. Until people turn away from God and the Judges need greater political authority, a king.  The transition from Judges to a King is very similar to the United States transitions in our current legal system.  The bible describes it this way “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

If we don’t “judge” than who will? Who does? And by what standard?  God calls us to judge one another by His standard and by that standard we ALL fail.  So we cannot boast that our way is better, or that we are better.  We cannot put others down.  We cannot be “judgmental” when we judge but rather we must be just and righteous and above reproach.  As we live by His truth and confess our own sins we live a humble life, His Holy Spirit guides us and others see that and are inspired.  May God lead you to a life of forgiveness and courage, to share truth with others, but to share it in love that leads to Godly transformation.

Pastor’s Corner

The Battle for Home

   his-story-part-2  “Are we there yet?” On a long car trip, how many times do your children ask that same question–over and over…and over? As Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years, you have to wonder if Moses and Joshua heard that exact same question from God’s people. “Are we there yet?” A lot can change in 40 years. All the people who were slaves in Egypt had died, except for two: Joshua and Caleb.  Even Moses himself had passed away and did not enter into the Promised Land. And while a lot had changed over those 40 years–God had not. The promise He had made to Abraham over 600 years ago was about to turn into
reality.

     Now Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man, was Israel’s new leader. The wilderness of disobedience and defeat was behind them, and a new generation camped at Canaan’s edge.  The new generation of Israelites had heard the stories of God’s mighty power as He rescued their ancestors from Egypt.  And they too would experience God’s miracle as God parted the Jordan River so they could enter into the Promised Land.

     In this next section of His Story, we are going to walk with a new generation of God’s people. They too will experience God’s miracles and power as God goes before the people and fights for them. When Israel obeyed, God faithfully delivered her enemies into her hands. But when they failed to trust Him, they missed out on the fulfillment of God’s promises.

     After 40 long years, Israel finally has a place to call home. It was to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The people were to be a holy people, set apart from their pagan neighbors. But failing to follow God and do what He asks, Israel finds that their new neighbors become a toxic influence. The people succumb to the pull of a worldly culture.

     Thus begins a destructive and violent pattern of Israel’s history:

  • Israel turned again and again to the worship of pagan gods
  • God brought divine judgment upon His people
  • The people cried out for God’s help and deliverance
  • God raised up a savior to rescue His people.

Unfortunately, this cycle of sin became a pattern of life in Israel for the next 300 years.

      We see that His Story doesn’t always paint God’s people in a favorable light. The story of God’s people is anything but clean and wholesome. It is marked by deep sin, often with dire consequences. God is never bashful about His intention for His people. And He never tolerates sin. But God also never breaks his covenant with His people. Israel my not have fully understood God’s discipline, but over and over again God brings Israel to their knees–all for the purpose of bringing them back to Himself. Let’s walk together through this next section of His Story:  The Battle for Home.

In His Hands,

Pastor Matt Conrad

Pastor’s Corner

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We are Home!

    The mission team from Guatemala returned to the United States late last Saturday.  Before we returned, one of the leaders of Groundwork Guatemala asked us to say what would be different on Monday after we got home—what would we do different, see different because of how God had worked through us on that trip.  This was a wonderful question and helped us all to start thinking about what really mattered.  Our time in Guatemala was not just for those eight days but was in fact a training ground, a beginning to the next chapter in our journey of faith.

    Life happens so fast, with so many expectations and commitments that it isn’t often we get the opportunity to pause and consider how God is leading us.  What is He calling us to, asking us to quit, challenging us to grow, sending us to bless others.  So often our day is pre-scheduled, our month pre-planned, our year dictated by school, sports and work.  The chance to pause and ponder the question “what is God doing here?” or “What does God want me to do with this?” never crosses our mind.

    For those few moments as we sat there and searched for an answer to what Monday would bring I was able to really listen to God.  The answer?  I don’t know.  That is the answer I shared, “I don’t know” I don’t know what it is God wants me to do different except just that very thing.  Stop, ask and listen to Him about where He is leading.  That is what we did all week in Guatemala.  We had a schedule, but the schedule was filled with un hurried time to talk, listen, share and serve others the way God asked us to, not the way we wanted.

    This is what I am bringing home.  This is what I am doing differently.  I am changing some things to make more room for Him to act, to lead, to direct my steps.  Too much of my time is scheduled and too much of it is accomplished out of obligation.  Starting today, less of it is.  Today  I challenged the staff to make more room for God in their day.  Which means less meetings, less structure and more time to listen to God and act on it.  Make a phone call, send an email, write a letter, offer a prayer.  Do what God is asking you to do. 

    This sounds strange at first, and maybe it is the whim of a guy who just got back from a mission trip.  Maybe it is a dream that happened in Guatemala that would never work in the United States.  Or maybe, just maybe doing less and being with and listening to God more is so crazy it just might work. Thank you for you prayers, for your partnership and for listening to God’s promise of hope and life.  Because when the last day comes and everything is revealed, what we will discover is that our relationship with God and our living out our faith with one another is all that ever mattered.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:8-10