Pastor’s Corner

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Guatemala!

Have you thought about serving on an international mission trip?  This October 7-14, Cross will be going back to Guatemala City to serve and show God’s love.  I had the privilege of serving last year, and it was an absolutely remarkable trip.  I was challenged to see the world through another lens, and I was encouraged that the love of Christ shines through in any language.

This trip is excellent for a first time mission trip or for a seasoned missionary.  Our partner organization, Groundwork Guatemala, shares many of the same values as we do at Cross.  Both Cross and Groundwork Guatemala emphasize discipleship formation through the life transforming Word of God.  The best (and most difficult) part about this perspective is there is no “one size fits all” answer.  Bible study, worship and prayer are all important, but if we don’t have love, all these efforts are a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1.  Feed the hungry, heal the sick, find the lost; these things are critical, but without the Word of God, they are temporary.

Are you wondering if you should go this year?  If you have read so far, that would be a good indicator.  Are you qualified?  The answer to that is simple but not easy.  God isn’t looking for people who don’t need Him.  God is looking for underqualified people who are willing to give it over to God and let Him do amazing things through you.  So, if you think God might be calling you to serve, then it is likely He is.

Is this the right time or place? Come to an information meeting or talk to someone who went last year to ask the questions you need to ask to help you decide.  Pray to God to reveal His will to you.  Ultimately trust in the Lord to guide you and protect you.  The time and place often matter to us more than they do to God.  He is calling you to serve every day, in every way.

The most amazing thing I have seen since going to Guatemala last year is in those who went. The entire team came back more equipped and willing to serve back here at home.  We are all able to see things a little bit differently, and all of it is for the better.  I have been praying for you since I came back last year, praying for those who might go this year, 2017, to be able to hear God’s call and then have the faith to follow.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

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Life Emerges from Sorrow

Jesus’ preaching ministry didn’t occur until He had endured His most difficult trial.  Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days!  Then, when He was at His weakest and most vulnerable, the devil came to tempt Him.  Most Bible scholars believe Jesus was around thirty years old when He called His first disciples to follow Him.

The season of spring is a similar story of new life emerging from the cold, lifeless season of winter. Sure, the snow is beautiful and the winter sports can be a blast, but there is something miraculous about the plants, dormant all winter, coming back to life.  The most life giving season of the year comes immediately after the most lifeless months.

The same is to be said about many famous events in history. The unity of our nation became its strongest after the division of North and South.  The space program soared to new heights after several failures and Russian success.  Our nation grew to great strength after the Great Depression and a war!  Martin Luther discovered the true meaning of the Christian faith after a season of immense spiritual torment over His faith.  It is amazing how things turn around, but more powerful, how new life emerges from certain death.

What can be said in your life? Do you embrace trials and hardships?  Do you face them head on, knowing that through our suffering, God is able to work amazing transformation and faith?  Don’t feel bad if you don’t; it is almost as if we need to give up all hope before we are ready to allow God to do His work.  But through this hopelessness, God accomplishes miraculous outcomes.

During and after great trial in the wilderness, Jesus leaned on the Word of God and emerged faithful in ministry. During and after a time of imprisonment, Paul’s faith was refined, and he published amazing testimonies (books of the Bible) we still read today.  If you are going through a season of despair, or if someone you know is wanting to give up, don’t.  Lean on the Word of God; it will fill you and sustain you.  The Word of God will help quench your thirst and strengthen your frailty.  But more than that, this season of refinement can lead to amazing things you never thought possible.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

 

Pastor’s Corner

Lutheran Schools Week - smallThe Lutheran Church has long considered education a critical part of faith formation. Whether the motivation was teaching a new immigrant population in their native tongue, increasing education quality in a poor community, or giving children a Christ centered nurturing environment while their parents are at work, our Lutheran school system has helped families for centuries.

 The Lutheran school system, unlike some Christian schools, is not solely for the promotion of our church doctrine. Our colleges and universities have been on the forefront of education and leadership so that students who attend will be an assist to any career they choose. In recent decades, our colleges and universities have created graduate school programs in areas like law and pharmacy to fill voids in education. Students that attend these programs get a Christian environment and are challenged to consider the role faith has in every area of life.

At Cross, like many churches, we have a long legacy of church and school working together to help families grow in faith and knowledge. When faith and knowledge come together around God’s Truth, a wisdom is produced that makes a powerful impact. This week we lift up in prayer the many families, workers and sacrifices that are made to provide not only a loving Christian environment, but also excellence in education.

Our graduates go on to be top scholars and athletes at the high schools and colleges they choose. Some continue on in church work and in faithfulness over their own families. One of the greatest accomplishments I see is that our students are often times instant leaders in their new schools because of the support and development they have received from the body of Christ working together.

 Please take sometime this week to thank God for leaders of the faith you have had on your own life. Ask the Lord to continue to provide that to the next generation through you and through the entire Christian faith. And this week, especially, for those Christian Schools that humbly serve with excellence for the sake of the Gospel.

 

 

 

Pastor’s Corner

spiritual-renewalSpiritual Renewal

As Lent arrives, I would like to sincerely challenge you to embrace this season of spiritual refinement and renewal. Lent is a season where the church traditionally “slows down” to focus on the 40 days of temptation Jesus endured in the wilderness.  

I used to get upset that Jesus wasn’t protected from the devil’s schemes and lies in the desert. It didn’t seem right that God himself was subject to Satan’s lies.  But, I have come to realize the beauty of Jesus trial in the desert.  He has proven to be a God who understands my everyday life.

So many man made religions teach a faith that is dependent on your ability to overcome this world and be a better person. In these false religions your value is proven by you ability to protect yourself from sin and evil.  In the true Christian faith it is taught that no one is “safe” from the devil’s schemes.  In fact, God himself was subject to the lies of the devil—angels in heaven have fallen because of them and the entire creation is cursed as a result of falling for the devil’s promises.

In this season of Lent, we are encouraged to remember the devil is around every corner and behind every temptation. We are called to be aware and on guard, for his deceptions are subtle and wear us down.  During these 40 days, it would be good for us to remember that feeling an absence of spiritual warfare is probably the most dangerous place to be.  For none of us are exempt from these types of attacks, not even Jesus.

What do we do? The same thing Jesus did in that desert.  He armed Himself with the truth so He could identify the lies.  During these next 40 days at Cross, we will be reading through the life and teachings of Jesus. Our walk through His Story continues with the New Testament and what the arrival, work and promises of God through Jesus, mean for us today.

This journey can not be completed alone—we must join together to overcome and help one another recognize the lies, to encourage one another to focus on the truth and to proclaim to one another the blessings that God gives to us but that are so easily forgotten in the rush of life.

This Lent please try out one of our Community Groups—groups of people gathering together around God’s word and sharing life together in the good times and in the trials. These groups help us all to make time to hear God though the Bible and through one another.  Making time for God, His word, and His believers also means we squeeze out time for the devils lies and schemes.  I think that is called a win / win! 

Look on line, call the church office, search the app or text “group” to 630-592-4886. Any of these will get you started on a new path that will prove to be a source of connection to God and His family in a world where every one of us desperately needs it.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Pastor’s Corner

Jesus: A New Kingdom

jesus-new-kingdom-title-smallWe finally made it! We are in the New Testament in our journey through His Story, God’s Story. Our start to the New Testament coincides almost exactly with Lent. Throughout this next 6 weeks, until Easter, we will learn about the life and ministry of Jesus; His time on Earth, His teachings and preparation for the all important work of salvation on Easter.

We invite you to do the same and join us in rediscovering the story of Jesus’ Life and ministry that led Him to the Cross and the empty tomb. What this work means for us and How Jesus’ teaching still leads us today! We are calling this focus on Jesus’ life and ministry “Jesus: A New Kingdom”. We will discover how Jesus points the leaders of the church away from their false understanding on the supremacy of the Jews and reminds them of the promise God first made with Abraham. Namely, that “all nations” would be blessed through Israel.

Jesus came to save the Jews but He also came to save all people; to build a “new kingdom” of every tribe, nation and tongue. A Kingdom that would not come and go under the power of man but an eternal kingdom that last forever. This new kingdom would be led by the one true King, Jesus Christ a descendant of David and who reigns on the throne of heaven that never falls.

 Each week there are a few readings to help you prepare and to guide your thoughts to God each day. The weekly messages will be reflections and teachings off those weekly readings. IN addition, Community Group study materials have been custom made by the pastors to help guide your community group and/or family study time together. This all makes for a simple yet powerful focus on how God is working in the world through His Story of old and His New Kingdom of ALL believers still today!

Many new Community Groups will be forming throughout this season. Look on the Church website www.hiscross.org or on the “HisCross” app in your mobile app store and register for a community group today! A simple yet intentional focus on God’s word builds up His Kingdom today will prove beneficial for all eternity.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9.

Pastor’s Corner

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Spiritual Awakening

Every spring in Illinois the earth awakens from its winter slumber. This year the timing seems a little off but nonetheless, the days are getting longer, bulbs are peeking through the soil and the first hints of spring are upon us.  The same opportunities are there every morning for our spiritual life, but the rhythm of the seasons allows for a deeper renewal and revitalization that can’t happen every day.

Easter is the spring awakening as we remember again the most pivotal moment in all of history–the day a dead messiah came back to life to finish what He started, Eternal life and salvation for all who would believe. This new life for Jesus is also our new life every day and yet the worries of every day try to drown it out. We all go through these seasons where God seems distant or we seem distant. Easter is a wonderful time to get back the proper perspective that has been stolen from us and to fix our eyes on Jesus instead of whatever else seems to have our attention.

Lent is a season designed to do just that, to help us reflect on the reality that there are dark seasons, bitter cold “winters” that come for no other reason than this world is broken and cursed. We can’t escape these spiritual trials but we can defeat them and conquer them with the power of God. The same power of the same Holy Spirit that rose Christ to life on Easter is ours, if we are willing to acknowledge we need.

Throughout these 40 days of Lent, (Ash Wednesday through Easter) we are encouraged to engage in a spiritual awakening as we emerge from the trials and challenges the devil has put in front of us. To consider the reality that this world is not and cannot be perfect and neither are we. But, we have been credited the life of someone who is. If we have been credited with Christ’s righteousness, than we have new life again, no lies of the devil or coldness of our own heart can keep us from this great blessing.

Traditionally, people have cut something out of their life, a bad habit, a sin, or a “guilty pleasure” in order to remember the suffering Jesus endured on the Cross in our place. But this so often simply leaves a whole that is filled back in after Easter. Instead of, or in addition to cutting something out, consider adding a spiritual discipline this Lent, something that will help you keep your eyes on Jesus and help fight off those cold winters and brutal lies that are certain to come in this life. The Bible teaches that if we put on the full Armor of God that nothing can conquer us and that we can defeat the Devil and ALL his works and ALL his ways.

The gift of focusing on Jesus is not a chore to be done or a task to accomplish; it is a treasure to unlock as a strong relationship with God brings peace, joy, stability, hope and clarity to every day.

Join us this season of Lent. Join Jesus in this season of renewal and reflection. Join with the whole body of Christ as we focus on Jesus and defeat the lies of the devil. This victory is already won, we just need to wake up and remember. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-11.

 

Pastor’s Corner

daniel_prayerWe are finally turning the corner. So far we have seen a lot of hope turn into disappointment and judgment as the people fail to follow God’s instructions. People in great prosperity and favor over and over again credit themselves for their success instead of God and His mercy. Over and over again God lets the people reap the reward of their efforts without God’s favor. This path only ever leads to destruction. I can’t tell you how many people have asked when do we finally get past all the bad stuff and get to the good stuff? The answer is now!

But, first, we must deal with the reality of God’s faithful people who are scattered all over the known world and are being persecuted in a land of unfaithfulness. How will God rebuild and reunite His people? How will He restore them to their positions of power? What do they do until all this happens?

I believe Daniel is a great book for Christians trying to succeed and thrive in today’s America. Daniel is not only surrounded by unbelievers, but he also is in a land that has made laws saying his faith is illegal. While only a few such laws have passed so far in our country and most of them have been litigated to give a religious exemption of some type, the truth around us still remains. We live in a country that increasingly turns away from and rejects the truth of God and all those that adhere to His teachings.

Daniel remains faithful and obedient. In a time where many would rather “fight back” or “return shots over the bow” Daniel remains faithful to God and lets God determine His success. What does that look like for us? What does it look like to remain faithful to God and still be loving towards others? How can we believe wholly in the truth of God and still not be “closed minded” or “bigoted”? Believe it or not, it is possible and I think Daniel shows the way.

Better yet, Daniel shows us that when we remain faithful and trust in God alone He will fight our battles for us. And, when we win battles because He fights for us, it makes a far greater impact than when we fight them alone. By ourselves we can accomplish great things, but only as much as any man. In Him, all things are possible. Through Daniels faithfulness and God’s power a whole kingdom returned to God’s favor overnight! Daniel and all God’s followers were able to prosper!

God continues to work in and through His faithful followers today. If and when we pursue Him and trust in His ways He fights our battles for us and delivers nations into His hands. May God give you and me humility to trust in Him above ourselves and faithfulness to endure all things until that day.