Pastor’s Corner

Give Thanks to the Lord

Pastors Corner – Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Holiday and the Christian faith have had an on again off again relationship.   At times, Thanksgiving is seen as having deep Christian roots since the pilgrims came to this country largely to escape religious persecution.  On the other hand, Thanksgiving is seen as a national holiday with only nominal Christian undertones.

I often find it fascinating that we even attempt to label things as “Christian”.  Jesus frequently condemns the church leaders when they try to make actions define what makes someone a believer or not.  There were many attempts to say that what people ate or what they wore made them a believer or not.  Jesus encourages the believers to look and act “different” than those who don’t believe, but stops short of saying those actions make us a believer.   Similar, the act of celebrating Thanksgiving or even Christmas doesn’t make a person a Christian or not, it is the faith that makes us a believer.

That being said, one could make a very strong case for the presence or absence of thankfulness in our hearts to be a strong indicator of faith.  This goes back to the root word for thanks in biblical times–the word Charis.  Charis means grace–eucharisteo means thanks.  The very word thanks means recognition of grace in our life.  These two words are forever linked in the Christian vocabulary.

I imagine the invention of the word thanks being something like this:  A person hearing about the grace of God in their life feels a mixture of joy, hope, freedom and relief they had never quite experienced before.  None of the existing words expresses the feeling.  A new word is created to express the feeling you have when you experience grace.  The Christian church celebrates communion, which is officially called the eucharist, or the meal of thanks/grace.  In that meal, we receive grace and express thanks to God for all He is and all He has done.

In Romans Chapter 1, Paul is describing the nature of the world.  He writes about how God created the world and how the world fell away from God.  The words he uses to describe this are quite remarkable; he writes in Romans 1:21 that “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Paul literally writes that the issue with creation is not a lack of faith, but a lack of honor and thanksgiving or said another way, a lack of appreciating grace.  He writes that that problem is becoming “futile in their thinking.”  This is a difficult expression to translate, but would literally mean that they took the credit themselves or made themselves to be their own idols.

For Paul, and therefore God through Paul, one could either be thankful or they could make themselves an idol which robbed them of their thankfulness.  If you take credit, you have nothing to thank God for other than making you so good at what you do!  I feel like this simple truth is at the very heart of our culture and frequently my own heart as well.  I can easily be fooled into thinking that I have become wise, learned and skilled at life.  Anytime this happens, I decrease in my thankfulness for His grace in all my life’s endeavors.

This Thanksgiving I pray you are blessed and that you feel blessed.  I pray that your heart and mind would be open to knowing you are blessed!  You have been given God’s grace paid for at Christ’s expense.  May you take in His grace fully, and breathe out thankfulness for all He has done.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Philippians 4-9

Pastor’s Corner – Listen and Follow

Early on Friday mornings I lead a men’s mentoring group.  Our sole purpose is to explore how God is working around us and how we might join Him in His work.  On one hand, this is a very complicated and challenging process.  The devil is as work trying to deceive us, good things get in the way of great things and we have bad habits that lead us in the wrong direction.  But, on the other hand it is very simple.  Every week we only ask two questions:  “What is God saying to you?” and “How will you respond?”

Those two questions are the core of living a life as a disciple of Jesus.  It is exceptionally difficult because there are few clear rules and there are very few boxes to check to show you the work is completed.  Being a disciple of Jesus is very easy because all we need to do is listen first and then respond.  Like many things in life it seems easy on the surface, but it can get a little more difficult as we put it into action.

This weekend we get to hear firsthand from two disciples who listened to God and followed Him.  They followed Him all the way to Africa where they serve the people of Nigeria.  Chuck and Karen serve as missionaries for Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT).  LBT has one purpose–to make God’s Word accessible to those who do not yet have it in the language of their hearts.  Chuck and Nancy have spent most of their lives learning the language and culture of underserved people groups.  After learning the language and culture, they work with the communities to translate the Bible into that language.

I think we all will learn a lot about what it means to hear God’s voice and to respond to His call from Church and Karen.  Following God does not need to be as dramatic as moving to Nigeria, but even when the change is small it still requires great faith.  Hearing from others who have been down that road is a source of encouragement.   Each of us believers have benefitted from someone else hearing God’s voice and responding in faith.  Let’s do the same for the next generation.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9


Pastor’s Corner



“I don’t want to take a nap.  I’m not tired!”  This statement isn’t heard from college students very often.  By then, most young adults have learned the tremendous blessing of a good power nap.  This attitude of gratitude didn’t come easy, however, as most little children fight this blessing.  It is understood; little children are little sponges, taking in every bit of information from their environment for the first time.  They are curious about what is happening and don’t want to “miss out” on anything.  Sometimes it takes decades to realize that most things you miss out on while awake are inferior to the increased energy and alertness that comes after a good nap!

Why all the talk about napping?  This isn’t about naps at all; it is about learning to appreciate rather than despise the things that bless.  God blesses us with a day of rest every week.  How many of us say, “I don’t need to rest; I’m not tired!”?  Instead, we are afraid to miss out on anything so we fill that day with sports activities, chores, shopping, traveling, prep for work or school, and many other activities that our current culture demands of us.  We even learn to crave the things we fill our time with and despise rest; we call it boring or anxiety causing.

Don’t be small minded; rest isn’t all about napping.  Rest is about abiding in the promises of the Lord.  Rest is about desiring the blessings God has planned for us.  Rest is about not “missing out” on God and learning to be OK with missing out or willing to delay gratification in the things this world offers.  Rest is about investing in the most valuable resource we have:  our health.

There are many reasons to neglect rest, but almost all of them are ignoring God’s wisdom and replacing it with our own.  Even when the demands of this world truly do require us to forgo rest, God reminds us rest is still to be a priority.  In Mark 6, Jesus was feeding and healing the crowds that had gathered around Him.  He served them, even missing lunch, but then He and His disciples retreated to a solitary place for rest and prayer.

This perspective applies to all areas of life.  God demands us, through His Word, to prioritize our relationship with Him and His will for our lives.  God gives us instructions on how to accomplish this by being intentional with our time, our finances, our sexual desires, our earthy pursuits, our human interactions, our occupation, and every single aspect of our lives.

It is true there is only so much time in a week and there is so much money we will earn and there are endless thing we desire to do or to have.  We must prioritize our life to be sure we have included the most important things.  We come to expect that God loves us so much that He will bless us abundantly even when we ignore His design and instruction on how to receive those blessings.  We often lose gratitude for God’s blessings and provision and replace it with entitlement.  We then get angry at God and His demands for our life when we don’t get those blessings.

More often than not, we don’t receive those blessings because we neglect the discipline and instructions on how to receive those gifts.  God’s laws are given to us so that we may have an abundant life and live it fully.  Let’s pray for and encourage one another that we might find joy and blessing in the laws of the Lord and that they will revive our soul as we pursue Him above and in place of any worldly accomplishment.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”  Psalm 19:7-8


Pastor’s Corner



This week was a very exciting week for Cross. On Wednesday, something wonderful happened for our congregation, for God’s Kingdom work and for our surrounding community. This is something for which we ought to be grateful. It should also inspire us to sacrifice and work together as those that have gone before us.

What happened this week that is so amazing? The land exchange that we voted on this spring was finally completed! I know many of you thought it happened already, but paperwork and the like happens on its own schedule. The point is that it is completed now and at just the right time that we might show gratitude. I spoke with one of the gifters of the 20 acres we swapped to say thank you. She reminded me that it was a generational gift that required many people to accomplish.

A family, thankful for what God has done for them for generations, led to a sacrificial gift. This wasn’t 20 acres that were useless or in a remote location, this was 20 acres attached to a larger usable parcel, a first fruits offering that was the closest parcel the family had to the current church land.

We are thankful for our neighbors. We have spoken to various neighbors over the years to work out how we might acquire more land around us and the answer was always a respectful “no”. But, at just the right time, God opened hearts and minds to let this exchange happen. Our neighbor who is a fellow believer, but not connected to Cross, split up the field around us, so it could be a blessing to God’s Kingdom work.

Hearts filled with gratitude are moved to willingly sacrifice a personal blessing in order to bless many others. God doesn’t ask us to give because He wants to take away from us, God asks us to give because we are thankful. If we are not willing to give, we are challenged to search our hearts to determine what is preventing us from being grateful.

When it comes to church, it is easy to look at the present to evaluate its worth. Do I like the … fill in the blank. If I don’t like it in the moment, then I have a more critical heart than a thankful one. But what happens when I look at the larger picture? If I have faith, where did it come from and how was it nurtured? Everyone one of us can say the Christian church (school) is where we heard the Good News of Jesus. Every single one of us either heard the Good News in an actual church facility or from a person who “is” the church. Remember, the Church is not a building; the Church is the people of God gathered together.

During this month of gratitude, think about where you would be without your faith, think of where your faith was gifted and nurtured. As you consider how you will financially and voluntarily support God’s ministry through Cross, remember all the people who do not have faith.

I am so thankful for the believers in the past and the present. I work tirelessly and sacrificially that God might use me to inspire the believers of the future. I am grateful for all of you who choose to join me. “So the church throughout all Judaea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And, walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” Acts 9:31

In His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss


Pastor’s Corner



November starts the month of Thanksgiving or gratitude.  We will spend some time as a congregation thinking about, praying and thanking God for His many gifts to us.  We will reflect on how God has blessed us as a congregation and as individuals while we encourage one another to live lives of gratitude every day and in all circumstances.  But first, before we can talk about the series on gratitude, I have to say something else.


That’s right; I need to thank you all for the gratitude you have shown the pastors and teachers during the month of October and beyond.  It is easy to get familiar and start to expect one another to be there.  Taking time to say thank you, for someone who is easy to overlook or take for granted, is truly appreciated.  The devil works on church workers just like he does on the rest of the world, so sincere thanks for sharing words of encouragement with those who work so hard to share that same hope from Christ with each of you.

This is a perfect lead-in as we head into November and expand our gratitude for all things.  The first weekend in November we will celebrate All Saint’s Day as we express gratitude for the people in our lives who are now with the Lord.  It is easy to be sorrowful these people are missing from our day to day lives, but our focus is better served on the legacy of blessings they leave for us!

The next three weekends we will expand on that legacy of blessing God has given to us – everything from giving us night and day, a day of rest, our food, finances, friends, family and faith!  These things may seem simple and close to home, but how often we overlook and take for granted those daily blessings that are close to us.

Gratitude is largely about perspective.  Our flesh and the devil grow a spirit of discontent by causing us to overlook our daily blessings and focus on the things we do not have.  This month our hope is to see again the many blessings God showers upon each of us daily and help us to better utilize these blessings in our lives and to bless others.  We hope to grow true gratitude for the many gifts we have been given, and maybe even rediscover gifts that we forgot we had, all in the name of glorifying the Giver of all great gifts, our God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  … in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 4:10-11