Pastor’s Corner

Words Have Power

Pastor’s Corner – Build and Destroy

I love it when I learn something, especially when I’ve been thinking about it wrong all along.  Okay, don’t get too carried away by this admission of confusion;  I wasn’t ENTIRELY wrong.  When I speak (or think) about the scripture and what it says about the tongue, I often talk about how the tongue is dangerous– like a double edged sword.  MY thought is the tongue is both good and bad, like a double edged sword.  This is not what scripture says… sort of.

The double edged sword imagery is from Hebrew where the author says the tongue is sharper than a double edged sword.  Think of the point on a double edged sword where both edges come together, able to slice in virtually every direction.  The tongue can do this, too.  The tongue can pierce right through someone, cut to the chase  and slice the heart and soul.  This image may sound bad, but it is the intention and usage of such a tool that matter.  A surgeon can use that sharp blade to save a life where a criminal will harm their victim turning the powerful tool into a weapon.

That is where the book of James comes into play.  James 3 talks about how the tongue can be used for both good and evil–building up others or destroying them with your words.  “But they are just words,” you might say; we shouldn’t let them impact us.  They do.  James likens the tongue to a sailboats rudder.  The power comes from the wind, but the impact of the wind is guided through the rudder.  James uses fire to illustrate the tongue as well.  Like a coal starts the fire, soon everything is ablaze.

Why do words impact us so?  Why can’t we stop them from hurting us? Words are the foundation of our humanity, literally.  The Word of God formed the heavens and the earth, the sun and stars, the birds and fish.  The Word of God became flesh and payed the full price of our sins.  The Word of God (the Bible) is how we know the heart of our Father, and our words (prayers) are how He knows ours.

Like many things in this world, God gives us a powerful gift and we use it for our own gain and selfish purposes rather than the intention of the one who gave us that gift.  James 3 reminds us of one of the most powerful gifts we have been given.  Words build up the body and soul of a person.  Words can encourage and inspire for good.  The words of the Good News of Jesus Christ can bring eternal life.  Or, we can destroy one another and tear one another down.  We can try to discredit others so we feel better about ourselves or momentarily gain favor in the opinions of man.

Don’t think words have true power? Look into someone’s eyes when you give them a compliment, or ask someone what the meanest thing anyone has ever said to them.  I bet they remember.   You have a gift from God that can literally change the world and ALL eternity; it is sharp and powerful and it can be used for building up or tearing down.  God gives you the choice and the opportunity to use His gifts for good.

                “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”  James 3:10

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

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Pastor’s Corner

1 John 3.1

A Few Good Things

God doesn’t ask us for much.  The world keeps asking for more.

Perspective is a powerful thing and when it comes to navigating life, can alter your reality.  If you can change your perspective, you can change your life.  A majority of the people I encounter regularly have a Law-based perspective of God.  That is, a majority of people see God and His Church as trying to control your behavior and to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

For some people God seems like a detective trying to examine your life and find out all your guilt.  This Law-based perspective will cause people to behave for fear of punishment, but the long term impact is negative.  I believe that this is where our country is after years of Law-based instruction; people now are daring God to stop them from doing what they want.

The problems with this Law-based view are countless.  For example, God is not trying to control you; He is trying to help you remain safe and healthy.  Imagine someone telling you to stay away from certain dangerous parts of Chicago.  Are they trying to control your choices or help you make an informed decision?  If we go there just to prove we can, we put ourselves at risk.

God knows far more than we do; He sees the future and knows it already.  God designed and created us; He formed us in our mother’s womb and knows our every thought.  If God wanted to control us, He could.  Our perspective of God should not be Law-based but rather Gospel-based.  A Gospel-based perspective begins with knowing God is for you and wants you to have your best life now and forever.

God is the author and perfecter of our faith and is qualified to give us wisdom and insight into our decisions.  God knows the long term and short term impact of our decisions and gives us great advice for long term joy and happiness.  Most importantly God knows that the world never stops asking for more.

When we worship the world and its material nature, we are never satisfied.  When we worship the world and the things that it offers, we will never be content.  There is always something bigger, better, shinier; there are newer, fancier and things with more accessories.  When we measure ourselves by the world, we always see someone who has it better and we never have enough.

God knows we reap what we sow and receive the rewards we pursue.  If we pursue the world, we are never satisfied and are filled with regret.  When we pursue God and His Gospel-based perspective, we realize we are forgiven.  We trust we have all we need and are filled with contentment.  We recognize that God loves us and gives everything we could need as well as leading us in love for others.

Love God, who already loves you, and love your neighbor as yourself.  This is all God asks.  That doesn’t sound like the request of an enemy, but it certainly doesn’t give us freedom to do whatever we want.  I guess the question is who or what will receive your attention and influence your purpose and satisfaction in life?  I guess it depends on your perspective.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”  1 John 3:1 

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Disciple Maker.jpg

Lead by Following

“I am not a leader, I’m a follower!”  “I’m more of a worker bee.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, but don’t ask me to lead anything.”  I hear these comments, and more, when we invite people to take more of a leadership role at Cross.   These responses don’t bother me; I completely understand that most people don’t “feel” like a Leader.  The challenge I see is that God tells us something different.

Life isn’t directed by how we feel.  Ok, that isn’t true for most people; most of us do make many decisions by how we feel about a product to purchase or what activities we enjoy.  But, God calls us to use our feelings for truth, not be controlled by them.  Leadership is a great example of this reality.  It doesn’t matter if I feel like a Leader, God tells us that as a Christian we ARE Leaders.  The question isn’t if we are Leaders or not; the question is how do we grow in courage and skill to embrace our leadership roles.

There are many places in life we don’t feel like we are living up to our status.  It could be you don’t feel like a good friend or family member.  Maybe you think you are a bad parent or spouse.  God reminds us that our feelings often deceive us and we need to measure those feelings against God’s Holy Word.  Matthew 28:  Go and make disciples (followers).  How can we do this if we aren’t Leaders?  Matthew 5:  Love your neighbors and your enemies!  Love is defined by being the first to forgive and the first to sacrifice for the benefit of others.  There is no denying it that we, followers of Jesus, are in fact Leaders in this world.

The sermon series that begins at the Fall Kick-Off on September 8-9 will attempt to address this reality.  The reality that each and every follower of Jesus, is in fact, a Leader and our greatest leadership skill we can develop is following where our Lord leads.

God does not need an army of independent, self-directed Leaders, Christ needs an army of people who will point others to Him and lead others in the path of righteousness and faithfulness.  The greatest leadership we can offer is to set an example in truth and love.  This type of leadership is not a cop out, instead it is the most powerful and influential type of leadership there is–teaching others by doing, leading through loving and leading by following.

Join us this Fall to embrace our identity, role and calling as followers of Jesus and Leaders of others.  Join together as we spur one another on in love and good deeds for the Glory of God and in the process, be encouraged in your own journey of faith!  Don’t forget to get connected in Christ in a community this Fall by stopping by the kiosk on Sunday or checking things out online or on our app!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Fall Kick Off Weekend

Pastor’s Corner – Fall Kick-Off!

Football season and the start of Fall are linked forever in my mind.   As a player in Junior High, a member of the marching band in High School or a Student season ticket holder in College, the first Kick-off for the first game was always exciting.

Now as a Pastor, the Fall season is also marked by the kick-off of our Ministry Season.   First comes Back-to-School, then shortly after, the congregation ministries kick into high gear.  This Fall, our 137th season,  is no different with the Ministry Kick-Off planned for the weekend of September 9th.

What does the fall kick-off mean for you?  Why am I writing this?  This Fall, I and the staff are praying for each of  you to jumpstart your faith walk.  The seasons come and go, each with a different emphasis and the Fall season is about personal growth.   School, work and faith all have a rhythm of new beginnings in the Fall.  Will you have a new start?  Will you have a personal kick-off to launch you to new places in your spiritual journey?  Maybe this Fall will be a return to normalcy and the chaotic, sporadic schedule of the summer will give way to constancy this Fall?

Whatever it may be, we want to encourage you to join together with the family of faith at Cross as we join together as one body and live our life for Christ.   As Disciples, no season is perfect and every season brings its challenges, but we cannot give up meeting together.  Instead, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

This Fall will also have a special opportunity as we join together to Build on Our Past and Be Faithful for the Future.  This is the name of our Capital Campaign and the pledge season will conclude the same September 9th with our commitments.  We have been inviting you to join us and pray for God’s good and gracious will for our congregation.  This campaign is seeking to raise $3.5 million dollars while we seek God’s strength for healing and unity.  It has been a long winding road, but God has truly been at work

Take a small step of faith this Fall as we kick-off the season together.  Authentic Manhood, Mom2Mom, CrossKids, Community Groups and service opportunities all await!  God is eager to work in you and through you this Fall.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Back to School Are You Ready

Back to School

Back to school is always a big deal, even if you don’t have children or grandchildren.   Everything changes when the masses go back to school; traffic patterns, shopping patterns, lines at grocery stores and coffee shops and displays in the stores.  My oldest just started high school and the left turn lane was nine minutes long! With the Back to School Season comes the new fall line-up of TV shows and sports’ seasons.  Even when you don’t have anyone in school, you still notice things are different.

The same is true at Cross.  We, of course, have a 300 student school as a major component of our ministry.  In addition, the Fall Ministry Season for all of Cross Ministries “Kicks-Off” on September 9th!  On September 9th, our Sunday morning ministry Children’s Ministry (now called Cross Kids!) and all our midweek ministries Kick-Off!  Our Club 56 ministry for 5th and 6th graders also Kicks-Off with Sunday and Wednesday programming.  High School and College Age ministries have been going all year, but ramp up and Kick-Off that week also!

Cross is committed to spiritual formation and leadership multiplication as we mature together as Disciples of Christ at Cross.  I want to invite you, this Fall, to be an active part of this process–to help you mature but also to lead others as they mature.   Whether we admit it or not, each of us is seen as leaders by the outside world.  They look at us to see what Christian living is all about.  What difference does faith make in a person’s life?  Why trust in Jesus instead of crystals or some other myth?  Instead of pretending we aren’t leaders that no one pays attention to, I want to invite you to embrace this reality!

Students, teachers and support staff as well as parents, volunteers and business owners all have influence in the lives of others.  The question this Fall is not if you will have an impact, but what type of impact will you make?  This Fall, I want to invite you to join together as a family of faith that makes an impact for Christ and is a blessing to all we encounter!

This weekend is “Blessing of the Backpacks” as we get back to School.  September 9th is Fall Kick-Off and Capital Campaign Commitment Sunday.  Let’s “Mature as Disciples of Christ who Walk with God, Grow in Faith Together and Love our Neighbors!” this year and make a difference that lasts forever.

Pastor’s Corner

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Ministry Fall Roll-Out

Last year we tried something new. In an effort to get the fall ministry season off to a great start, we introduced a Fall Roll-out. The Fall Roll-out is a time in late summer where we introduce our fall ministry line-up and ask people to pray about renewing their commitment to spiritual formation for the next year.

At the Fall Roll-out we will have practical things like pre-registering for Children and Youth Ministry. We will have sign-ups for adult Community Groups and other ministry opportunities into the community. The Fall Roll-out is also a great opportunity to hear your new ideas that God has placed on your heart. Sharing them now will allow us to start organizing so we can have a great fall season this year!

Last year your response was tremendous. We had our best fall in years at Cross with increased participation in almost all of our ministry areas. We hope to build on what God has been doing and will have another Fall Roll-out the weekend of August 11th-12th. This should be an exciting time as we build toward our Fall Kick-off September 8th-9th.

At the Fall Kick-off September 8th-9th we will launch our fall ministry season. We hope to have all of our ministry leaders and servants in place, have the Community Groups off and running, and culminate the Commitment phase of the Building on the Past; Faithful for the Future Campaign.

Please be in prayer over how God is moving, stretching and calling you into discipleship. Ask God to open your eyes to see the need and to work within you a willing spirit. Be bold to invite someone to join you in that journey that they too might Mature as a Disciple of Christ Who Walks with God, Grows in Faith Together and Loves Our Neighbors.

Please mark these dates on your calendar: August 11-12 for the Fall Roll-out and September 8-9 for the Fall Kick-off. These will be two great weekends of God moving through you, the Disciples of Christ at Cross. Until those dates, please be in prayer and increased awareness of how God is on the move in and through our community at Cross and the community around you. Ask Him how He wants you to join Him!

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

 

 

Pastor’s Corner

God's Exceeding Love

Made Whole

Have you ever felt like something is missing? Maybe you’ve felt like you need some vegetables after too many days of graduation parties.   Have you felt like you needed some time with friends after working or schooling for too long without a break?  Maybe you just need more sleep.  There are many times in my life where I have needed to make room for something that was lacking.

In the readings for this weekend, Ephesians 3:14-21, we hear God acknowledging the reality that we are lacking. In this world, we will yearn to fill in the gaps that we feel.   Sometimes, they are as simple as rearranging the schedule, but other times it is deeper and more confusing.

 Sometimes, we feel unloved or unimportant.  Sometimes, we feel discouraged or incompetent.  These feelings of lacking can be difficult to fill.  People turn to all sorts of things to try to fill in the gap.  Some turn to volunteering or service while others turn to alcohol or drugs.  We often look for the quicker, easier answer that only covers the hole, but never fills it in.  The problem with covering a hole is that we have made a trap that will capture us when we least expect it.

In Ephesians, God speaks through the author, Paul, and tells us that God is big enough, powerful enough and loving enough to be what fills in whatever is missing. God doesn’t just cover our hurts and emptiness; He fills it in and is the solution to our troubles.  Our feelings of inadequacy or being unloved are filled because in Him we can do all things and are loved more than we could ever comprehend.

In God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are made whole. Our hurts are healed, our broken cracks filled and healed in full, forever.  There is no earthly answer than can make us whole for more than a short while, but our God makes us whole, permanently.

This reality is important to remember because the devil will work overtime to cause us doubt. There is nothing to doubt for it rests on God and His promises and not our skill or contributions.  It is an intrinsic reality of our identity in God, not measured by external means.  Any feelings of brokenness that persist are feelings contrary to truth and can, therefore, be understood as lies from the father of all lies.

God’s love is high, wide, deep and long. God’s love blesses us in ways that are immeasurable and which we never thought to imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  Do not let the Devil or your mind overshadow your God who declares you to be whole, perfect and healed to be a blessing.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss