Pastor’s Corner

How do we measure life?

Everybody wants to have a “Good Life”.  OK, this risks being an overstatement with an absolute word such as “every”, but I have never heard anybody say “I hope to have a bad life”.  I have never seen a book entitled “Your Worst Life, Now” or “Meaninglessly Driven Life” top the New York Times Best Seller list.  So while I know I am at risk here, I am rather confident that we ALL want a “Good Life”. 

Jesus wants that for us, too!  In John 10, Jesus declares His purpose for leaving Heaven and entering the world as a human.  Jesus says He is subjecting Himself to the struggles of this world so that each and every one of us can live life to the full; another translation says have an abundant life.  It is the Devil who seeks to “steal, kill and destroy”.

What does it mean to live a “Good Life”?  And no, this isn’t a trick question.  Take a few minutes right now to stop and think about specific, measurable ways you can know you’ve had a “Good Life” … I mean it … Measurable means you can be 100% certain it happened or it didn’t happen or you can measure how much it happened.

Have you thought of any?  This is not an easy exercise, and if you were able to do it, you are way ahead of the game.  Most people say we want a “good life”, but what makes a good life remains completely undefined.  For example, happiness would be a common way people measure a good life.  Well, happiness is also largely immeasurable.  Some people use possessions or achievements to measure if they have had a good life, only to find out they aren’t satisfied if they do achieve it or need to reevaluate their whole life if they don’t achieve it.  Is a “Good Life” really measured by a bank statement or the number of followers you have on social media?

If we never find a measurable, tangible way to define for ourselves if our life is “good”, we will never truly know if we lived a “good” life.  In the book of Amos, God tells Amos, the prophet, that a “plumb line” is what will be used to judge the people of Israel.  A plumb line is a tool that is used to accurately create a wall that is straight up and down.  Without a plumb line you end up with the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or worse).

What is your plumb line?  What can you look at and definitively know that you are living a good life?  For me, I look at my relationship with God and the promises He has for me.  My relationship with God is immoveable.  I know this because it isn’t dependent on me or my actions.  God is faithful and, in my Baptism, has promised to never leave me no matter what.  This is about as good as life gets from my perspective.  Not only this, but I have a plumb line to measure my life choices against to know if I am building a house with sturdy walls or a house with slanted walls that will lean and fall over. 

I don’t share this with you to make you feel guilty or uncertain.  This isn’t a “pastor answer” and every other answer is wrong.  But, it is an answer that I have come to over years of putting my hope for a “good life” in many different things:  my accomplishments, my experiences, my family, my plans for a future.  All of these other things bring happiness for a moment, but the feeling soon leaves for one reason or another.  But, no matter what, I can always come back to the firm foundation, the solid rock, the plumb line named Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.  He is ALWAYS good and that is certain.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

How the Hot Dogs Are Made

This silly expression about hot dogs reveals a lot about our human nature.  We respond well to things that are prepared and come to us in nice packages.  We also sometimes struggle when we gain “behind the scenes” knowledge or experiences.  This can happen at church when we take a step from Membership to Discipleship.  When we shift from simply attending a ministry to volunteering to help make the ministry happen, we can become discouraged.

This same thing can happen in marriage.  There can be shock when someone and their personal daily habits aren’t what you imagined them to be.  On the other hand, more marriages struggle because the intimacy necessary to be able to unconditionally love and yet still disagree with your spouse is simply too much to handle.

We are not alone in these challenges.  Jesus also struggled with those to whom He was closest.  In Mark Chapter 6 we read about how Jesus went to His hometown to do ministry.  Verse 5 declares that Jesus could not do any miracles there.  This is a challenging and interesting verse to discuss about how Jesus lived His life as a true human even though He had the full power and authority of God. 

Think about that for a minute.  Jesus, who rose Himself from the dead, could not do miracles in His hometown.  It isn’t that Jesus wasn’t capable; it was that those He came to minister to did not want His help.  Verse 4 is Jesus’ own words when He says that He is not honored by His relatives, in His own house and in His hometown.

Parents, have peace knowing that your teenagers will likely lose respect for you or at least your opinion; they will want to “figure it out myself”.  Eventually, they will come to respect and appreciate your love and opinion.

Disciples of Jesus, do not lose heart when the world doesn’t respect us.  We are in good company.  Eventually Jesus’ family, and even His hometown, came to worship and revere their Savior.  Sometimes it takes a long time to overcome our sinful nature.  Sometimes Satan leverages our personal weaknesses to cause distrust and disharmony.  But, “the gift is greater than the trespass” and the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus can win over even the hardest of hearts, not by human strength, but when the power of God is made known.

If you are struggling with this, if you are constantly frustrated by someone you really need to respect, pray that God would work on and in your heart to work confession, forgiveness and reconciliation for everyone involved.  Our flesh may be weak, but the power of God is made strong in our weakness. 

Romans 5:17:  “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one Man, Jesus Christ!”

In His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

A Good Night’s Sleep

I don’t usually sleep well on Saturday nights.  It could be nerves about what I need to say on Sunday morning.  It could be all the thoughts and prayers for all the people I am going to be seeing (or not seeing) at the services.  But, if I’m being truly honest, I don’t sleep well on Saturday nights because my biggest fear in life is to sleep through my alarm on Sunday morning. 

I know it is a bit irrational.  There are many other things in life that could be much more tragic, heartbreaking and life altering, but the fear that keeps me up at night is the embarrassment of the congregation gathered for worship at Cross, and now online worldwide, and me sound asleep at “Saint Mattress Lutheran Church”.

We call irrational fears like that phobias.  Maybe my tossing and turning and checking the clock every hour or so doesn’t reach the level of a true phobia, but it certainly alters my life.  Although it does make that Sunday afternoon nap seem really nice when I can take one!

In Mark 4:41 the Disciples have a phobia, too.  Only, it seems their phobia is even more irrational than mine.  Mark writes that the phobia the Disciples have is Jesus.  Jesus had been sleeping in the lower part of the boat as it was crossing the Sea of Galilee.  At once, a storm arose and started to crash waves over the side of the boat, causing it to fill with water.  The Disciples woke Jesus and accused Him of not caring about them because He was sleeping while their lives were threatened by this storm.  (Talk about irrational; it’s as if they thought everyone’s life on the boat was in danger except Jesus’).

Anyway, the storm isn’t the phobia.  Death isn’t the phobia.  The phobia isn’t mentioned until Jesus rebukes the wind and the rain, and the storm stops.  The Disciples don’t celebrate that they are safe.  They aren’t grateful that Jesus completely dominated the fight for their lives and won!  No, they shudder in great fear (phobia) of Jesus.

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  Mark 4:41

We spend a lot of time in church talking about how much God loves us and what an amazing Father He is to us.  We imagine Jesus carrying a helpless sheep over His shoulder and even slouched on a cross, having breathed His last.  All of these images lessen our fear of God, and that isn’t a bad thing.  But what is a bad thing is when our image of God is so approachable that we forget He is The Almighty. 

We sometimes lose our awe and fear and subsequently we doubt God’s ability to conquer what’s before us.  I am sometimes jealous of what it would feel like to have been there.  Did Jesus yell at the storm?  Did He speak calmly and raise His hand?  Whatever it was, the Disciples shuddered with fear.  They wondered what He might do to them if they got on His bad side.  Then, they rejoiced that they were working alongside a Man, God, who has unlimited power.

That is how I get back to sleep.  I pray and thank God that even if I don’t wake up on time, He will give me the courage to face my fear of all the teasing and disappointment that will deservedly come my way.  Oh yeah, I also pray like crazy that He will make sure I hear the alarm!

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Refreshed and Restarting

It has been a long COVID haul for all of us.  I realized this again recently when my family spent 10 days in Florida and a couple of those at Disney.  I was bummed, but not surprised, that even the magical staff at Disney was lagging and tired.  A recent survey from the online job site discovered that 95% of employees in the U.S. are thinking about quitting and 92% of them are considering a change of career fields!  It has been a difficult season for many, many people.

Your church team is no different.  We love serving and find great strength from the Lord, but we, too, are tired.  The “end” of COVID is the beginning of recovery.  This is the primary reason we have not gotten “back to normal” with all our ministries at Cross.  Our volunteers, staff and even those of you who attend the ministries are all taking some time to heal and recover.  I am so thankful for your patience in all of this and I pray God is giving you strength and rest. 

We are also very excited to relaunch our ministry season this August!   Believe it or not, teachers at Cross report back to school in just over a month!  As school ramps up, so do our ministries here at Cross.  Below you will find our plan to re-launch our ministry season. Even for a season of rest, there sure are a lot of opportunities to reconnect with one another and find strength in the family of Faith at Cross.  We encourage you to continue to find rest and healing in the Lord, to re-engage with your neighborhood, co-workers and family of faith here at Cross!

  • Sunday, July 18th – Outdoor Worship
  • Friday, July 24th – Cross Campout
  • Sunday, August 15th – Outdoor Worship, Teacher re-dedication, Backpack Blessing
  • Friday, September 3rd – Hometown Days Concert
  • Wednesday, September 8th – Wednesday night worship and ministries relaunch
  • Sunday, September 12th – Children’s Ministry begins on Sundays!  Sunday services will be at 8:00 AM (Traditional), 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM (Contemporary)

One big shift you should note is an increased emphasis on our Wednesday night Discipling.  We are calling on God’s disciples of all ages to come together to encourage and equip one another to have a Living and Active faith.  Wednesdays will be a place where we intentionally Grow in Faith Together and wrestle with the challenges of living for Jesus in our world today.  

These energy and effort needs must come from somewhere.  So as excited as I am about Wednesdays, I am equally as sad that we will not be relaunching Saturday night worship services for the foreseeable future.  This is not an easy decision, but one that has come through many prayers over many years.  It is difficult to live out our faith in our secular communities as the Christian church is shrinking in America.  Wednesdays will be about helping us better share the love of God with a world that doesn’t already love God. 

Please pray for successful ministries on Wednesdays, but also pray How God is calling you to live out your faith in your circle of influence.  Maybe you who are feeling reenergized can reach out to someone near you who could use support in this season of healing.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus, quoted in Matthew 11:28

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Failing Faithfully

Faith is not typically associated with failure.  In fact, the most common abuse of faith is a “Theology of Glory” or a “Prosperity Gospel”.   These two false teachings are similar in that they teach that if you are faithful enough, God will bless you with your desired earthly outcomes.  It could be wealth or health or family; it doesn’t matter the blessing, as long as you are faithful, it will be good.

This is considered a false teaching because the scriptures are clear and consistent that believers will always be blessed, but those blessings may often look and feel very different than what the world says is a blessing.   Without a doubt, God certainly blesses with health and wealth, but equally as certain is the reality that God often blesses through what the world, and many Christians, would consider failure. 

Scripture often turns worldly thinking upside-down.  In order for the apostle Paul to put his faith in God and not in himself, God gives Paul a “thorn in his flesh.”  Paul describes this thorn as a weakness that assures Paul remains humble about his earthly success.  A weakness caused by limitations of the flesh is the exact definition of human failure.  

We are not limited by failure.  Failure of the flesh is where our abilities end and our faith in God begins.  When we fail, we can and should certainly work to improve our abilities in the flesh, but when those limits are reached, we can still increase our success; success not necessarily of earthly gain, but in Kingdom expansion and our witness of God. 

If we re-define success out of an earthly perspective and into a Biblical perspective, we will always be successful.  When we realize the goal of life is not to get everything we desire, but to desire the increase of God’s glory, earthly failure becomes an opportunity for God to shine. 

In the biblical account of Job, he is tested by the devil because the devil is convinced Job only has faith in God because of all the earthly success he has accomplished.  It is “easy” to praise God when things are going well, to feel loved by God when you get what you want.  It takes a deep faith to praise God in the storms of life and in the midst of our greatest hurts and deepest failures.

When things are the most difficult, Paul is reminded that God sacrificed His Son for the world.  If that is the case, God isn’t going to let the world and His beloved children “fail.”  Yes, we may fall victim to the curse of the evil one, we may reach the end of our earthly abilities, but we will not fail.  God won’t let that happen.  We will be tested in order for our boasting to decrease and our testimony and faith to increase. 

The next time you feel like giving up, or worse you feel God has given up on you, remember—God wouldn’t let Jesus die to save you and then leave you alone to fail.  No!  God is with you.  Your failure is exactly where you need to be for your faith to be strengthened.  We don’t love God and have faith in Him because of our earthly success.  We praise Him and have faith in Him because He rescued us from failure through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Talk about earthly failure!  Dying on a tree has never been considered successful by human standards… that is, until now.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss