Pastor’s Corner

Don’t Lose Your Marbles

When it’s hot enough to fry your breakfast on the sidewalk, you’re not sure if today is STREAM camp or a softball game, and you’re staring down a mountain of laundry that needs to be either packed for or unpacked from your fun, old-fashioned family vacation, my advice to you is, “Don’t lose your marbles.”  While that may sound like a platitude from a woman who is only required to keep herself and some plants alive, it’s not quite the sentiment you may think.

I often use an illustration called a marble jar.  From the moment children are born to the time they turn 18, you have 936 weeks with them.  936 weeks to nurture them, to mold them, to love them more than life itself (even when you’re losing your marbles!).  936 weeks.  Coincidentally, this number of marbles fills a gallon pickle jar pretty neatly.  I use the marble jar to illustrate for parents how much time they have with their kiddos.

Here is another jar with a third of the marbles missing.  This is six.  The end of kindergarten.  Already one-third of the marbles have passed you by.  Okay, that’s still depressing.  Sorry.  I don’t say this to make you feel guilty or to put you into some sort of parenting panic.  I tell you this because so often, when we count how much time we have left, we make that time count.  Think about your vacation countdowns or your Advent calendars.  We know how much time we have, and we make sure to use it wisely.  I tell you these things because I want you to make every week count.

There’s a particular week you may be missing this year:  VBS (Vacation Bible School).  I know that many people have been wondering why Cross isn’t hosting VBS this year, and it’s not because that week didn’t count.  However, Children’s Ministry is shifting focus so that we can help parents make the most of the marbles we have left.  The truth of the matter is that if you took the marbles that represent how much time church has with your kids, even if they attend two hours a week and a week in the summer, it doesn’t even cover the bottom of the jar.

I took an informal survey of everyone I could find in the building one day and asked them, “Who or what had the biggest influence on your faith growing up?”  Here’s a list of the answers:

  • My grandma who brought me to church every Sunday.
  • My grandmother who lived her faith out loud.
  • My dad who brought me to worship every week and prayed with me.
  • My dad who read his Bible and instilled biblical values in us.
  • The people of faith in my life.
  • My parents.
  • Serving at church with my family (earlier in life) and friends who didn’t just invite me to church but picked me up and sat with me in worship (later in life).
  • Being in church with my family.
  • The people.
  • Regular church attendance and worship habits at home (prayer before meals and bedtime).
  • My grandmother.
  • Friends.
  • Camp counselor.

You see, the biggest factor in a child’s faith isn’t how amazing our programs are or the latest and greatest curriculum; it’s about the relationships we have with people of faith.  Research (not just my informal poll) shows that the biggest influence on a child’s faith is the faith modeled by Mom and Dad at home.  The second is a non-parent role model.  That’s why we’re focusing more on equipping you as a family to have faith conversations and to build relationships with other believers.  Together, we can work to nurture faith and make every marble count.

Here are a few opportunities we’ll have this summer to equip families to share faith together:

  • June 26 – Outdoor Worship at 10 AM, followed by family games and fellowship
    • Bring your chairs for outdoor worship with a children’s message and activities fitting the theme of the day.
    • Join us afterwards for a game of gaga, some nine square, bags, a pick-up game of kickball or just some fun on the playground.  We’ll have hot dogs, chips and water available, so you won’t have to worry about those after church munchies.
  • July 24 – Summer Splash Party (after 10 AM Church)
    • You’d be surprised how many Bible stories involve water.  Join us for some stations that help us learn more about the Bible and will keep us cool in the summer heat.
  • August 21 – Summer Jam (10:30 AM in the large gym)
    • This awesome event gets families worshiping together and learning more about how we can incorporate God’s Word into our everyday lives.  It’s a celebration big enough for the whole family with fun, games and music.

I look forward to seeing you this summer!  Let’s make these marbles count!

Miss Kayla

(Kayla Olson, Coordinator of Children and New Family Ministries)

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 26

Galatians 5:1, 13–25

Luke 9:51–62

Pastor’s Corner

Rest Assured

It is difficult to trust God with our “whole heart”.  For a believer this isn’t because we don’t love God.  The opposite might even be true – that we love God so much we want to be a part of what He is doing.  A phrase that echoes in my soul comes from Matthew 26:41:  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus speaks these words to His most beloved disciples in His time of greatest angst.  Today we would describe it as anxiety or worry.  It isn’t a worry for Jesus; His soul is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”.  The disciples, seeing and experiencing all that is happening, desperately want to help their Leader, but all He does is ask them to watch and pray.

Peter, just a few moments earlier, stated he would die for Jesus, but “watch and pray” proved to be asking too much.  I can relate to this feeling.  How can I help?  Pray!  OK, but if you need me to do anything, just ask.  Pray!  Great, but I’d like to be able to DO something… Watch and pray!

Our spirit is willing to watch and pray, but our flesh is weak.  If we aren’t physically active, we feel we aren’t doing enough.  This is difficult for all of us.  It is difficult for your leadership staff at Cross; it is difficult for me.  To just watch and pray often feels like I am not doing my job as the spiritual leader.  What I have come to learn is that it is my job to model how to watch and pray. 

Jesus retreated to a solitary place after major ministry moments.  He did it to be with His Father and to recharge.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes people followed Him (Luke 4:42), but Jesus always modeled how to rest, watch and pray.  

I have been contemplating this for the last several years now.  (I am a stubborn learner sometimes.)  Even before the pandemic I realized that I did not rest well.  I would only truly rest when I hit a wall and got sick.  Early in our marriage I was sick almost every time I took time off, so much so that my family still is amazed when I am not sick when I take time off work.  They brace for it to still happen!

What I have come to realize in myself is that when I rest it actually grows my faith.  I constantly battle the reality that my flesh says, “I am the one that needs to do this” while my spirit is constantly reminding me, “God has this; watch and pray.”  This is not easy, but it is necessary.  Allowing God to lead is what makes someone a great spiritual leader.

I am taking some time to rest, watch and pray this month.  Some time will be spent with family.  We will celebrate my parents’ 80th birthdays by getting all their descendants into one cabin in Tennessee.  I will also be taking some time in solitude.  I will take some time to attend freshman college orientation with my daughter.  (This is still strange!)  I will take time to trust God has Cross’ ministries in His mighty hands.  

We have a great team and a great family at Cross.  There is still so much to DO as we all recover from the pandemic and as we look forward to the plan and path God has for us.  None of it matters.  We could be willing to die for the mission.  If we won’t watch and pray, the flesh wins out over the spirit. 

So please, pray with me, pray for me, pray for the team at Cross.  Pray for our families and for our faith.  I assure you:  It is the most impactful thing you could ever do as we battle together against the devil, share the Good News of Jesus and together fulfill our purpose to Mature as Disciples of Jesus who Walk with God in Worship, Grow in Faith Together, and Love Our Neighbors.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 19

Galatians 3:23—4:7

Luke 8:26–39

Pastor’s Corner

Trinity Sunday 

For a lifelong Christian the word “Trinity” can seem like just another word for God.  For a new believer it can be a source of great confusion.  For all of us the questions can come up, “What difference does it really make? I believe in Jesus, the God of the Bible, so why does it matter if I talk about Him as Trinity?” For a believer, this simple conversation about God can start to get real complicated real fast once someone asks why we use a word like Trinity or Triune to talk about God when God doesn’t even use that word in the Bible. 

Our purpose at Cross is to “Mature as a Disciple of Jesus” and that means eventually having spiritual conversations that make more Disciples. I am hopeful this article will give you words and ideas to use in your own faith life, as well as confidence to carry out these conversations with others.  

While the word “Trinity” or “Triune” never appears in the Bible, these words help us to describe in shorthand the way God describes Himself in the Bible.  People have human nature; God has Divine Nature.  Trinity describes the Divine Nature of God as one God who is also three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Divine Nature of God is unlike anything else in all of creation.  This means we didn’t have a word we were already using that would make sense to describe God.  This also makes it difficult to teach because, in all honesty, there is nothing else like God in all of creation for us to use as an illustration.  

Trinity is also about the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God is NOT three parts that make a whole NOR is He three separate Gods that work as one.  I find it best to think of Trinity as a miraculous union of three Persons united as one Person.  Each has their own unique attributes, and at the same time, these attributes are inseparable.  

The word “Trinity” is important because it helps defend against false teachings. Throughout history many people have taught many different things about God.  Christ followers have always used the Bible to determine which teachings are true and which are false. (These false teachings are called heresies.) Over time the Christians created a word to describe “everything the Bible teaches about God’s Divine Nature.”  The word “Trinity” or “Triune” came to be that easy-to-use term.  If you want a longer description of Trinity, you can read any of the three Christian Creeds (I Believe statements).  The three creeds, Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian, were written to summarize what the Bible says about God and defend the true Christian beliefs from false teachings.  

My favorite illustration about the word “Trinity” doesn’t try to define it (which really is impossible if you think about it) but instead teaches why we use the word.  I remember a time when the Internet did not functionally exist.  In order to describe it we would say something like, “Go to your computer, get connected to your online provider, and search for another computer or server that has what you are looking for.  Get approved by that computer or server, and then you can download the information you need.” Now we just say, “Internet” to describe it all.  Trinity is the word we say instead of saying, “Try to describe everything the Bible says about God.” 

The word “Trinity” also helps us understand God’s plan. God wants us all to be one just as He is one. “The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one…” John 17:22. God’s plan is that we would recognize that all followers of Jesus are one Body. When one of us succeeds, we all rejoice, and when one struggles, we all struggle.  We are not completely independent nor are our actions autonomous from one another.   

Finally, the word “Trinity” shows God’s indescribable power. God is the Creator in Heaven, Jesus walked the Earth, and the Holy Spirit lives in each believer – all at the same time!  God is dead in the grave and yet able to raise Himself back to life – at the same time!  The Holy Spirit, that is God dwelling in each believer, grants the power of God to each of us in every circumstance.   

I pray this week, by the power of our Triune God, we would be more united than ever in doing God’s work here on earth and being His presence to one another. 

His servant and yours, 

Pastor Erik Gauss 

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 12

Acts 2:14a, 22–36

John 8:48–59

Pastor’s Corner

50 Days Have Passed! 

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! We first greeted one another with those words 50 days ago.  For the past seven weeks we pondered the meaning of the resurrection for the Church, for the believers.  Christ’s victory over death and the grave is our victory over death and the grave. For this, we have unending joy and praise.   

Now, as the school year transitions to summer, graduates transition to their next step; closets transition from winter clothes to summer clothes.  We too transition from looking inward at Easter to looking outward at Pentecost.   

On June 5th the Church will enter the season of Pentecost.  This is a season when we celebrate and participate with the first Disciples at the arrival of the long-awaited Holy Spirit.  Until Pentecost the celebration and proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection was largely contained within the followers of Jesus.  The Disciples were still afraid for their lives, still afraid they would be accused of hiding the body of Jesus.   

Pentecost marked the worldwide celebration of God’s provision.  Pentecost was one of the Jewish festival days, and literally everyone from everywhere would come to the temple in Jerusalem.  It was here the Holy Spirit came to the Disciples and gave them the power to speak the languages of all those gathered from every nation and every tongue.  

Jesus’ last commandment, His final Words to His followers: “Go! Make Disciples of all nations…” The command was to take the message to the nations.  This good news was no longer just for the Disciples; it is for the Disciples to take to the world.  

How are you doing with this?  Oftentimes we think we are sharing the good news of Jesus with the world because our lives as Jesus followers is so encapsulated by the world of faith.  But I want to challenge you this Pentecost to take an inventory of who you know and who you talk with about Jesus on a regular basis.  If they are almost all believers already, you are an awesome Easter Christian, and this Pentecost message is for you.  Go!  Make Disciples of people who aren’t already Disciples of Jesus! 

This summer try to make some time that is unscheduled or maybe even plan a time to be together with people you get along with or know already who have a “weaker” or non-existent faith.  Give this time to the Lord and see what He will do with it.  Remember, you may need to wait for Him.  Your neighbors may be too busy to connect; you may even get sad you don’t have something planned.  But then, the Holy Spirit will show up and connect you to a neighbor or a family member or give you the time to do something you’ve dreamed of but never “had the time for.”  You may even realize this is the best summer yet because you let the Lord lead you instead of you telling Him what to do and where to go. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t be with your believing friends, far from it.  Worship is the place to gather and praise with your believing friends.  You may be able to invite believers and unbelievers to the same event at your home.  Or maybe, by planning unscheduled time, you realize you have more time with friends than you ever did rushing around all summer.   

The Disciples had to wait, and often so do we.  The time of waiting can be just as valuable as the time of “doing” if we let God do what God does.  Keep close to Him this summer and remember His command to you and me: Go, make Disciples. You will be amazed at everything He is doing and everything He is doing through you!  “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh… And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17,21) 

In Christ,   

Rev. Erik Gauss 

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 5

Revelation 3:14-22

Acts 2:1-21

John 14:23-31