Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Spiritual Strength

Throughout Epiphany, we are exploring parts of Jesus’ life and ministry that revealed to the world He is the Messiah.  This week, we are looking at His dominance over the spiritual realm.  He has the ability to lead the angels (good spirits) and cast out demons (evil spirits).  Jesus has power and dominion over the entire spiritual realm and, through our baptismal inheritance, so do we.

It is said that human beings are made up of three parts:  body, mind and spirit.  We have a physical nature, a mental component and we are, in fact, spiritual beings. In our everyday lives, we are bombarded with information regarding our physical and mental well-being.  But this week we will be focusing on our spiritual strength.  

Our body, mind and spirit are so tightly related it is very difficult to separate them and yet, for our holistic well-being, it is important that we make this distinction.  It has been scientifically shown that emotions impact our physical health.  It can be stress that leads to a heart attack or depression that leads to overeating.  Our physical health has an impact on our mental health.  Physical exercise is a great way to mitigate depression, anxiety and other mental conditions.

When it comes to living a healthy life, our spiritual well-being needs to lead the way. This isn’t easy to do because in our culture we are encouraged to listen to our physical “needs” of hunger, thirst and sexuality and lately it is our emotional feelings leading the way.  We are currently in an era where our mental condition or how we “feel’ about ourselves is considered true regardless of our physical reality. If I “feel” like a woman (whatever that means to me) then I must be a woman.  

As people of God, we MUST realize what is truly going on around us and inside us.  This is the definition of spiritual warfare.  If we ignore our spiritual component then we, at best, are misled by our mind/body and, at worst, are misled by an impure spirit (real evil).  

Part of our Christian lifestyle is learning to train our mind and body to be submissive to our spirit.  This is not just willpower; God knows our spirit is not strong enough so He has Given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and be our guide.  The Holy Spirit unites with our spirit and cleanses it.  Casts out all impurities/evil and gives us the strength to lead our mind and body.

On one hand, this happens immediately; on the other hand, our mind and body, and the Devil himself, fight against it, especially at first.  But, as we listen more and more to God, as we trust the truth that our mind and body will lie to us or lead us astray, as we cast out our evil thoughts and tempestuous desires, we grow in wisdom, strength and faith.  

When we pray, read scripture and share life with one another we grow our ability to listen and follow the Holy Spirit.  We also learn to recognize and cast out evil spirits.  We have the same power of God in us, that Jesus does.  The problem is we don’t always let the Holy Spirit lead.  We leave a foothold for evil spirits when we doubt, fear or neglect to turn to God for truth.  

I, for one, am thankful God forgives and heals because I fail at this often.  But I am also thankful that God gives me His Holy Spirit so I have a light on my path and the power to resist the Devil and my own self-imposed deceptions every step of the way. 

“What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  Mark 1:27b

In Christ,

Eric Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Building Campaign Update

At this time last year, we were full steam ahead with planning and preparing for Building Expansion that was largely focused on our School and Children’s ministries.   And then…COVID.  SO, has been the story of most of our lives—plans curtailed, slowed or altered due to the restrictions and realities of COVID-19 pandemic.

Between March of 2020 and September of 2020, our school/preschool enrollment dropped from over 330 down to 259.  In addition, our children’s ministry went entirely online and even simple things like meeting with the architect became exceedingly complex.  There were significantly more questions than answers as we approached the end of 2020.

Our Building Committee has kept moving forward.   We had to slow down, but we have never stopped moving forward.   We didn’t know what the future would hold, but we knew we wanted to be prepared for wherever God was leading.  We have been praying for this for a long time and it didn’t seem God was asking us to stop.  

Now that the calendar has turned to 2021, I am so thankful we have been moving forward.  Our school and preschool have added students every month.  We currently have 305 students enrolled with more still applying.  We already have a list of students seeking to enroll from the community for next fall and registration isn’t even open to the public yet.   Our children and youth ministries are once again meeting on Wednesdays with an average of 65 students.  It appears God is showing us people are eager to be closer to God and one another.

To that end, our Governance Board is calling a Special Congregation Meeting on February 7th to seek the congregation’s approval to move forward with the Building Campaign.  This would include accepting the results of the design phase, moving forward with the Construction Documents and re-emphasizing our Building on the Past; Faithful for the Future Capital Campaign. 

Before the Congregation Meeting, we will be offering three fireside chats to go over the details of the design. The floor plans were sent out to every church and school family in early December. If you did not receive them, please contact the church office and we will get them sent to you. The times for the fireside chats are Sundays, January 24th and 31st, at 11:15 AM and Tuesday, February 2nd, at 7 PM. These will be a zoom presentations only, but will be open for unlimited Q&A.

So far, we have raised $2 Million Dollars in gifts/pledges and in-kind donations for the completed project.  This means we are halfway to the current goal that would allow us to build out the first floor of the school addition and lay the infrastructure for the second floor.  We also would be able to make significant improvements to some of our older spaces that we use frequently like our sanctuary, small gym and Thrift Shop.

Please prayerfully consider making a special contribution to this effort. I know it seems like a lot of money to raise, but the first $2 Million came from only 100 donors.  We have over 400 additional families connected to our church and school, not to mention our alumni.  If each of us pray over God’s desire for our families and sincerely encourage one another to work as a family, I am confident we will surpass this goal and maybe even build the second floor at the same time.

The Fall of 2021 kicks off our 140th year in ministry here at Cross.  It is also the 30th anniversary of our current sanctuary.  The end of this pandemic is in sight and I, for one, am thankful for every opportunity and blessing God has given me and my family through this congregation.  I can’t think of a better way to thank God for this ministry than to invest in the current and future families that will be blessed as well.

“we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”  Psalm 78:4

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Follow Me

The words “Follow Me” create powerful emotions and mental images for a Christian.  These two words are filled with mystery and drama as we recollect the calling of the twelve disciples.  The questions rise in our minds about how two simple words could cause young men to leave their families, their occupations and their relationships to follow a complete stranger around Israel.  Then, as people who know how the story ends, to consider the miracles the disciples witnessed and the amazing things God did through them is truly indescribable.  

But, wait, there’s more.  

The same invitation God has given to the original twelve disciples through Jesus, He gives to us through His word.  “Follow Me.”   Jesus calls us to follow Him through the word of God in the Bible, through His word offered through another person and all this through the Holy Spirit.  In a world filled with distractions demanding our time and energy the question is, do we hear and respond to this inviting and challenging call from Jesus to Follow Him? 

Maybe the invitation was a long time ago and it has lost some of its luster.  Life and our human spirit of discontent often overlooks the things we have as it craves the things we don’t.  For a life-long Christian this can bring a sense of boredom or staleness to our faith journey.  In reality, what happens is life brings so many options that the voice of Jesus gets drowned out and the fresh challenges never even get considered.  

What would happen if you created space in your life to hear the voice of Jesus’ invitation to Follow Him?  Sure, COVID has created a lot of space in our life, but somehow the devil has managed to fill it with fear, riots, discontent, anxiety, change and uncertainty.  I am confident that God is still calling each and every one of His children to Follow Him. 

What would happen if you actually did Follow Him?  Assuming you can hear and understand the invitation in the midst of this all, what would happen if you laid down the worldly pursuit in front of you and pursued the voice of God in your life?  This is not to say parents or spouses should abandon their families, but see their families as their calling to make disciples.  That we each heard Jesus reminds us our work and life is not about self-satisfaction, but about Kingdom impact.

Jesus calls us to Follow Him, not to pursue power or wealth or prestige, but to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, then all of these things will be added unto us.  What if we believed him and we worked to change our nation not just at the polls, but every day through Christian Love and Generosity?  What if each believer invested in the life and faith journey of young Christians and unbelievers on their spiritual journeys?

There is nothing stale about the call of Jesus to Follow Him.  In fact, it is probably the hardest thing you will ever do.  But it is also the most powerful thing you will ever do.  Jesus will use mundane, everyday activities to bring His kingdom and power into this world through you.  NO longer will you be enslaved to the pressures of the world, but you will be unleashed with the freedom of an eternal perspective.  

Ask yourself these two questions to follow Jesus every day and you will be surprised how much God will use you to make a present and eternal impact in our world.  

Where is God leading me today?

How am I going to respond to HIS leadership today?

In Christ, 

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Happy New Year! ?

Here we are, eight days into 2021 and it is already an unprecedentedly difficult year.  The events of this week can cause a person to become completely frustrated with all of humanity.  You wouldn’t be alone.  Throughout biblical history, many of God’s greatest leaders have expressed their high level of frustration with humanity and, even specifically, with the chosen people they were sent by God to lead.  

Moses frequently expressed frustration with the Israelite’s rumbling.  Jonah is famous for his objections.  Jesus’ closest twelve completely abandoned him and Jesus even calls one of them Satan.  Yes, humanity is, and always has been, capable of ignorant and horrific acts. 

What do we do when the people we look up to or the people all around us fail us, mislead us or disappoint us? God asks us to remember.  We are encouraged to remember how every single time God’s people and the people of the world failed Him, he never gave up.  God always sent a savior to call the lost people and nations back to himself.  If they would repent and turn back to God, He would show mercy.  If they rejected His prophets, His word, and even His Son God would leave us to the consequences of our own choices and actions.

It is amazing how patient God is.  He blesses us with the gifts of freedom, mercy and love then waits patiently as we destroy, ignore and abuse these great gifts.  Then, just as we realize what we’ve done, He forgives, restores and gifts again.  

The events of this week can cause us to think and feel many things, but the important thing is still how we respond.  Will we respond by trusting God all the more deeply as humanity and its institutions fail us?  Will we continue to proclaim the good news and hope of salvation, the only thing that truly frees anyone? Or, will we rely on the devices and constructs of man as we continue to wage war against ourselves?

Personally, I have continued to pray for God to keep His promise to work good even in the worst of circumstances.  I am praying that the events of this week will cause our leaders to repent from their childish ways and work together for good; that our leaders will model generosity and mercy to one another and set the example for our nation to follow. 

If our leaders repent of their foolishness, I am confident that He will grant favor to this nation.  If our leaders and we ourselves do not repent of our selfishness and instead return to the ways of the Lord I am confident that God’s love and mercy will still be with us as He patiently waits to pour out His blessings once again when we admit we need Him to lead us. 

May the Power and presence of God give you strength and peace this year and every tumultuous year to come.  

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”  Psalm 118:5-9