Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – For All the Saints!

This weekend, we will celebrate All Saints’ Day at Cross.  We will spend some time reflecting on the 139 years of saints that have gone before us, their influence and our blessings.  We will also consider our role as the current saints at Cross; our influence on the next generation of saints, and the blessings we will leave behind.

Do you have trouble thinking of yourself as a current saint?  Don’t worry, most of us do.  In fact, one of the devil’s most effective strategies is to convince everyday sinners like you and me that we are just that—sinners.  If we see ourselves only as sinners then we will usually avoid trying to influence the world around us.  If we only see the sin in ourselves, we doubt our ability to influence others and our mind is filled with inward focused questions. “What do I know?  What good am I? Who am I to judge? I make mistakes, too!” All of these and more are excuses we come up with because we see ourselves only as flawed people and leave God’s “Holy work” to someone else.  We invalidate our influence and our identity by remaining silent.

But, God says we are more than mere sinners, we are saints, too!  The blood of the Lamb has washed us clean from our sin. Our sin has been removed from us “as far as the east is from the west.”  Our baptismal waters have flooded us with his grace and made “your body a temple of the Holy Spirit.”  The same power that rose Christ from the dead and spoke the universe into being now dwells in you and me.  How can we let a lack of faith or questions of doubt contain that great strength?!?! 

Being a Saint is synonymous with being a disciple.  A Disciple is one who asks “What is God saying to me?” and “What am I going to do about it?” If we are asking those two questions instead of the questions of self-doubt the Devil and our flesh put in our mind, we will fulfill the Will of God.  A Disciple and a Saint do one thing; they dwell in Christ and let Him dwell in them.  This abiding in Christ gives your life meaning, power and direction.  This abiding ensures your sin does not define you; instead your sin allows you to put the full power of God on display as you confess your sin and receive His holiness and righteousness.

All Saint’s Day is a great opportunity to remember that we are numbered with the believers.  We are numbered with God’s children.  Our past, our present and our future are in God’s hands and His hands are working for our best interest.  Join the saints of God as we live for Him, work for Him, love for Him! 

You are forgiven, redeemed, adopted, restored and filled with the Spirit.  May His light shine in you and through you to impact those around you and those who will come after you.  To Him alone be the Glory.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Reformation

Happy Reformation! While the actual commemoration isn’t until October 31, we are celebrating this weekend, the last Sunday in October.  Halloween is short for All Hallows’ Eve or the night before All Saints’ Day.  It is this day that Martin Luther chose to nail the 95 theses; 95 points of contention with the way the organized church was carrying out its calling to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.  This act would come to signify the movement known as the Reformation.

This weekend, we will be remembering/celebrating this day which was monumental in maintaining the truth about Christ – the truth that He completed the work of salvation for all who would believe in Him. This truth has never changed and yet we need to be reminded of it continuously lest we try to save ourselves.  It is not our nature to trust in God; it is an act of faith – faith gifted to us through the Holy Spirit given in the water and the Word!

Martin Luther realized that he was spending a large portion of his life trying to avoid God’s wrath.  Luther would pray, read the bible and do good deeds in an effort to please God and earn His favor.  As this continued, Luther realized a couple things.  One is that the wrath of God was satisfied in Jesus Christ.  This is good because no matter how hard Luther tried, he always fell short of living perfectly for God. 

The Second is that we are not supposed to spend our life effort trying to please God.  Rather, we are to spend our life effort living for God and bringing His Kingdom to earth through our daily life of worship.  Luther called this living out of our calling in our daily lives, vocation.  Vocation is realizing who you are and what you do on a daily basis.  As a Christian, we are to bring God’s presence to those situations. 

Martin Luther led great change in the church which caused many to doubt and fear. The change caused many to leave the church or pick sides about who was right and wrong.  But ultimately, Luther’s leadership wasn’t a change at all but a return to the things that matter most.  Since 1881, Cross has gone through a lot of change and addressed changes in the world.   One thing that has always been constant is the Gospel of Jesus Christ being proclaimed to all who would listen; proclaiming it in many ways, styles, languages, locations, settings and situations through the people of God into the community. 

Through it all, God remains faithful and draws us nearer to Him.  Come celebrate with the family of faith this weekend as we remember the faithfulness of God, celebrate the generosity of generations before us and look forward to how God will keep us faithfully proclaiming the Good News of Jesus until He returns.

“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

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Riding the Waves   

Of all the things to come across my newsfeed in 2020, I was recently captivated by the headline of a Guinness World Record being set.  In the first half of September it was verified that earlier in the year Maya Gabeira had officially surfed the largest wave by a woman ever recorded.  The wave was officially 73.5 ft high.  I can’t surf a tiny wave near the shore, much less one that is 7 stories tall!  Surfers live for the waves; rough waters in life.  In fact, the biggest and best waves come on the front end of a storm.  I recently met a man who said he loves living on the Gulf coast because he regularly gets to surf on hurricane waves. 

One of the most inspirational accounts in the bible is the time where Jesus walked on water.  In Matthew 14, we read that the disciples had started to cross the Sea of Galilee in their boat while Jesus stayed behind to pray.  They weren’t getting very far because the wind was against them and the waves were crashing against their boat.  Here it is again; waves are bad.  They make life difficult and prevent us from accomplishing our goals. 

Jesus (after giving the disciples a head start) begins walking to them across the choppy waters.  The disciples become afraid when they first see Jesus; that is until they recognize him.  At the moment they recognize Jesus, Peter demands to have Jesus tell him to walk on water, too! I have always admired the faith Peter shows in asking this of Jesus.  I am encouraged that Jesus approves of such bold and audacious requests and I completely understand that Peter sank when he tried. 

See, Jesus calls Peter out unto the water when the waves are still crashing.  The waves were certainly nothing near 73.5 feet high, but they were intimidating enough that Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.  What happens next will amaze you!  

Jesus does NOT calm the storm or smooth the waves.  Jesus grabs Peter by the hand and teaches him to surf!  Peter, holding firmly to Jesus, comes back to the surface of the water and gets back into the boat.  The scripture says very clearly that the wind and, therefore, the waves only stop once Jesus and Peter are officially back in the boat.   

I am not good at surfing in real life and I would never try to walk on water unless I could physically see Jesus.  But, using this illustration and applying it to my life, what I do attempt to accomplish is to ride life’s ups and downs with my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.  As I cling to Him, I am able to have a firm foundation in the midst of life’s storms and, at times, even enjoy the ride. 

Occasionally, I wipe out; I sink and nobody enjoys those times.  But, like Peter, Jesus lifts me up, too, and grows my faith as well as refines my whole life.  I find it deeply poetic that in this crazy 2020 year, the largest waves are able to be surfed.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Let’s hang ten, carve up some surf and cling to Christ.  He might just use you to do something miraculous!

“And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  Matthew 14: 32,33

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – A Personal Thought

This Sunday (October 11th), is a pretty special day in the Gauss House.  Our oldest daughter has decided to confirm her faith.  This is such a special moment because, for the first time publicly, she will declare her faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior.  She will declare that the faith that was gifted to her in her baptism is now hers, not her parents or any other person in her life. This public confirmation will not be the first time she has admitted it publicly, but rather, the first time she will proclaim it in a public setting, rather than a private conversation.  During the past 17 years, her faith has been tested through the world’s challenges and refined in the fires of life’s trials and now it is deeply rooted.

Confirmation has long been a tradition of the Christian church as a child enters adulthood.  In the early days, confirmation would happen at age 13, as a child became an adult in that cultural context, completed school, entered the workforce and would frequently be married (at least the young women).  Society has changed a lot since then, but confirmation has continued on for many churches as a rite of passage for all 8th graders. 

The idea that all 8th graders are ready for an adult profession of faith is a bit misleading.  Thirteen year old’s, in today’s culture, are now just entering maturity and have many years of school and living at home in their future.  According to modern brain research, these cultural shifts have delayed brain maturity as well.  Many brains don’t become adult until their mid to late 20’s!  It is amazing how our bodies adjust to the demands (or lack thereof) of the world around us. 

Here at Cross, we do not set an age for confirmation.  We encourage each person to continue growing in faith with their peers and their parents and we strongly recommend participation in Wednesday and Sunday ministry opportunities to engage with God’s word together.  As they do, their faith will be tested, encouraged and ultimately grow.  Eventually, this will lead to the child realizing that faith is no longer something they do; it has become who they are.  I no longer “go to church”; I now “worship Christ with my family of faith.”

The Bible never requires “confirmation” in order for us to be considered Christians. In fact, most of the people recorded in the scripture came to faith as adults and, therefore, confirmed their faith publicly through the Rite of Baptism.  The idea of confirmation came about with the second generation of believers.  When a child was baptized as part of a “household” of faith and then grew into an adult—only then was there a need to identify the new adult as their own household of faith. 

The Bible teaches us to baptize our children, to remove their sin and to identify them as a child of God.  The Bible also says that we should publicly declare our faith.  In Matthew 10, Jesus says when we confess our faith in Jesus, He confesses our faith to our Heavenly Father.  In Roman 10, we are instructed to confess our faith with our mouth and we will be saved!

The public proclaiming of faith is a significant step in our spiritual journey and should be encouraged and celebrated. It is the first “adult” act of faith and a moment we never forget.  Regardless of age or reason, the proclamation of Jesus as Lord is an inspiration for anyone who witnesses it.  I pray it will be an inspiration to you to proclaim your faith, either publicly in a worship service or privately in your daily life.  I will continue to pray for my daughter and all the children of faith that we will grow and produce much fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.   1 Corinthians 13:11

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – From The Mission Field

This is a short note, as I am currently on the road from Acuña, Mexico. Last year, I signed up with Casas por Cristo to attend a Legacy Build. For nearly thirty years, Casas por Cristo has been building houses in Mexico as a way to help local pastors reach their community with the Gospel of Jesus.

A house is a pretty dramatic gift and over the years Casas has built over 6000 homes in 5 different cities.  These homes are about 16’ x 20’ feet and are divided into three rooms.  The houses are not extravagant and yet, for the people receiving them, they are a tremendous blessing. 

The best part of the whole thing is that the house is a ministry tool to share the Gospel of Jesus. Casas partners with local pastors on an ongoing basis. These pastors are able to nominate people from their congregation or community to receive a home.   Recipients are expected to meet certain criteria, but the pastor is given a great deal of discretion with regard to how these homes will bless their outreach ministry.

As I said at the beginning, I was part of a Legacy Build this week.  A Legacy Build is where once a year, leaders from the United States are I voted to come experience building a home and to consider how this ministry might be a blessing for the spiritual growth of our congregations in the US. 

Will LeBeau and I decided to take the trip down to see how this might be a fit for Cross ministries in the near future.  This was not an easy decision in light of all the COVID conditions that we find ourselves in and yet, it seemed God pleasing. 

The family we served was amazingly grateful to God and for us that they now have a dry place to live. Pray for us and the Cerna family in Mexico. Pray for Casas por Cristo and the ministry they do.  Pray for Cross and let me know if you are interested in hearing more about this possible ministry partnership.

For Him,

Erik Gauss