Empowered to ACT

Title SlideHave you ever muttered those famous last words, “This should only take a minute,” only to have the exact opposite occur?   I can only imagine that is how the disciples must have felt after Easter.  Regardless of whether they were anticipating the destruction of Rome while Jesus was alive or His funeral service after His death, their mindset would have been anticipating the completion of these ACTs in their lifetime.  Even after Jesus’ resurrection, their language and actions indicated they anticipated Christ’s return at any moment.  Now, 2000 years later we can safely say the job was a bit larger than they anticipated!

On other occasions we don’t ACT at all because we are afraid it will become a bigger task than it needs to be. I remember the joke about people not wanting to serve on a church committee because once you were on you could never get off! (Or maybe that wasn’t a joke).

During the season after Easter we will be walking through the book of ACTS to see how the disciples responded to their tasks, to the calling God had for them, to be disciples that made more disciples. We will consider their ACTions that continue to bring results even today, 2000 years later.  We will explore that what those first disciples did still inspires and models for us a proper response to God’s call to ACT.

Don’t have time? Too much to do?  Too scared of the results?  Fear not, for God is with you just as He was with them!  Afraid the job will become bigger than you can handle?  Perfect!  It is only when the Job becomes too big for you that you realize you aren’t ACTing alone but rather, God is with you.  When I say God, I mean the Almighty God, the all-powerful, always present, all knowing, holy, righteous, perfect, unchanging, eternal, merciful, good, loving God!  This same God who could be anywhere and do anything chooses to dwell within believers and guard our heart and minds.  He chooses to ACT through us to make His love known to the world.  Don’t think you are worthy?  That is exactly why God chose you and gives you His power.  He makes you worthy through the saving ACT of Jesus Christ on the cross.

While we walk through the book of ACTS we will explore what and how this all worked during the time of the first disciples. We will see how and when God fulfils His promises then, so we can be empowered in our own faith and actions now!  We will do it all by the power and for the glory of our Risen Lord and King! “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:39.

His Service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

New Life in Christ

tree sunrise“Christ the life of all the living, Christ the death of death our foe.” This classic hymn, traditionally sung in the season of Lent, declares a very important Easter truth.  Our God, the only true God, the Triune God, is a God of life.  He is not the god of killers like sickness and death, despair and depression, hardship and punishment.  He brings life and immortality to light!  He is death to death itself and life to all living things.

Easter is celebrated in the spring as we see flower greens peeking through the previously frozen ground. New life where there once was death.  We see buds popping out of dormant trees and, unfortunately, baby rabbits eating the garden!  It isn’t just plant life and animal life, God brings once broken and dead souls back to life too, by breathing His Holy Spirit into them.

Our souls die when we disconnect from God, when we are far from His plan and following our own path. It is often slow and hardly noticed at first, and then suddenly we hit the bottom.  The devil tries to deceive us and tell us God has abandoned us, doesn’t care about us or is disappointed in us; shame and anger attempt to enslave us to our desperation.  It is then, in the suffocating weaknesses of the flesh and spirit that the quiet voice of God whispers, “It is finished, I love you!”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?!? He is not here; He has risen just as He said” (Luke 24:5-6)! The powerful proclamations that Christ is alive and well reminds us, that we are too!  In His dying and rising we too die and rise!  We no longer fear the death of our flesh or spirit; for if Christ, the death of death is for us, who or what could we possibly fear?  He breathes life back into our spirit through His Holy Spirit.  That which once enslaved us now seems foolish.  That which once controlled us now is deemed powerless.  We stand with New Life in Christ and declare; “Alleluia, Christ is Risen… And so am I!”

“This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. 2 Timothy 1:9b-10

Have a Blessed Easter and know you too are alive!

His service and yours,

Erik Gauss

Palm Sunday

palm_sunday_2What is your favorite Holiday; Christmas, Easter, 4th of July?  I’m not good at picking favorites, but one that is near the top for me is Palm Sunday.  Our Director of Worship would say it is because I like the “Parade” and excitement of the waving palms and the chanting crowds.  He is partially correct.

I do love recreating and imagining what that processional might have been like in Jesus’ day. The crowds lining the streets were the ones who believed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah (anointed one).  They were a people that had waited their whole lives and for generations before, to be free from persecution under a hostile government.  The celebration would have been quite special.  The Blackhawks or Bulls first championship parade?  The Soviet Union tearing down the wall?  The aftermath after Saddam Hussain was ousted?  The capture of Osama Bin Laden after searching for more than a decade?  These might give you an idea.

The celebration happens; the ceremony of the Passover Feast begins. After nearly 1400 years, this was possibly the last Passover ever because the Messiah had arrived!  Think about the talk around the dinner table as they anticipate what Jesus will do and how much better life will be.  The faithful go to asleep that night and wake up to the Messiah on the Cross.  Is that like winning the Powerball lottery and watching your ticket blow out the window and land in a fire pit?  The joy and then the sorrow, the highs and the lows.  The power struggle of the government and the church.  The tension between faith and flesh.

I love it when life is good. Most people do.  But, even when life is always good we find things to complain about; slow internet, dirty clothes, not enough yogurt varieties, heated seats in the car aren’t warm enough.  Palm Sunday gives me perspective and re-focuses me on what truly matters; the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.  If Satan’s plans had been successful we might still be waiting for the Messiah.  But nothing can stop God’s plans; not even a dramatic scheme to undermine Jesus disciples and kill the Savior.  No, not even death can stop God from blessing His people.

Palm Sunday is an amazing day to remember how bad it could have been. To remind us life today is not as bad as it seems.  To remind us that nothing can stop God from blessing us.  To remind us that left to our own ideas we would turn against God and each other.  To remind us that the Messiah has come, we have Jesus.  To remember our sins are forgiven and we are free to live in faith.  To celebrate and shout even in the midst of our hurts; “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pray Always

prayer-handsPrayer, like politics, is very controversial. It comes with all sorts of emotions and opinions.  It can cause a great deal of anxiety and frustration, but it is also very important for everyone to participate.  In educated theological terms you might say it like this:  “Prayer does stuff!!!” “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  James 5:6

So we’ve eloquently established the “Why?” of prayer; on to the “When?” “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always (continuously, unceasingly, at all times, forever) pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1.  Yes, God went there.  Prayer is to be made at all times.  There is never a time when God says it is OK to not pray.  The opposite is true, that there is never a valid reason to stop praying.

If we are to pray always and forever, then the “What?” of prayer must be addressed. The simple complexity of prayer has been an ongoing discussion of believers from the beginning of time.  The Old Testament has no less than four different words that translate as prayer.  These words also translate in other passages to beg, intercede, entreat, beseech, barter, mediate, judge and intervene.  Prayer is nothing more and nothing less than communicating to God that He would remain present in all your moments.  Need a green light, parking spot, a solution to an issue, an ear to bend, weather to cooperate, a friend to celebrate with, help finding something, more time in the day, clear mind, more energy, relationship advice, financial wisdom…  Are we getting the “Always?”

“How?” we should pray brings to mind proper content, phrasing, posture, location and the like. If we kneel or stand, fold our hands or hold them high, go to a private spot or are on a crowded commuter train, your Heavenly Father wants you to pray to Him.  As for the words to say, God provides those words, too:  “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” Luke 12:11.  “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” Romans 8:26.

In our study, Joining Jesus on His Mission, we are encouraged to minister to each other through prayer.  Prayer is the simplest way to tap into the power of the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who deeply cares for you, personally.  Pray for yourself, intercede for others, listen for God’s response and READ God’s response in His Holy Word, the Bible.

Do not be bogged down and paralyzed with details; rather, trust that when you speak, God listens, and when God listens, He answers, and when He answers, it is for our good and His glory… always.

For His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Grace Alone

The Devil is the father of all lies. He leaves no stone unturned when it comes to causing doubt and division among believers.   “How do I know I am saved?”  “Have I done enough?” “What am I doing wrong that I need to fix?”  There are so many answers we are looking for when, in reality, we already know the answer.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

If it is a gift, then we don’t need to doubt it; we don’t need to worry about earning it. If it was earned, paid for by Christ, then we don’t need to worry about how we will afford it.  And, if it is by GRACE, then we don’t need to “fix” anything!

I was blessed as a child to have a good relationship with my grandparents growing up. At birthdays, or Christmas and even at other times they would give me presents or take me places or just spend time with me.  I never once considered what I needed to do to make sure my grandparents loved me, or would want to spend time with me, or what I had to do to fix myself in hopes of them giving me a present again next year.   Rather, I would try to think of ways to tell them thank you, to let them know I loved them in return, and to encourage my cousins to have a similar relationship with our shared grandparents.

It never occurred to me as a youth that my scribbled cards or handmade gifts couldn’t ever match the type of gifts they gave me. I never once considered that I didn‘t have much knowledge to offer them when they taught me so much.  Maybe most importantly, I was never made to feel inadequate because I was a child and they were mature adults.  All that mattered was we loved each other and we could celebrate that together.

So it is with our Heavenly Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit. It is the lies of Satan that make us feel inadequate, indebted, or broken.  God’s love is given to us because we need it, not because we can offer anything back.  This is called GRACE. May this Lenten season be a time of recognizing our need and fully receiving this amazing gift.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5.

In His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss