Pastor’s Corner

Blessed to Bless

“I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  I think it is in the core of most of humanity to want to feel blessed and be able to be a blessing to others!  This positive outlook encourages us to be a better version of our self.  

This particular blessing is actually the family blessing that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12.  This was a very particular blessing that was coveted by each generation and tracked throughout history.  This blessing ultimately came to fruition through Jesus Christ.  He was born in the line of descendants from Abraham who received this blessing one generation after the other. 

While this blessing was very particular to the line of descendants from which the Savior/Messiah would come, it is also a blessing for all who believe.  God promises to bless ALL His children so abundantly that our “cup overflows”.  He promises to bless us not just with stuff, but with relationship, forgiveness and salvation.  We are filled with hope and faith, joy and His grace which is sufficient for our every need and our abundance to bless others. 

It doesn’t always feel that way but it remains true, even to this day.  When God pours into our cup, the human, doubting side of us goes to find a bigger cup.  We don’t always do this because we are greedy; sometimes we do this because we doubt the blessings will continue to come.  Sometimes we do this because our perception of what a blessing is is skewed by what we think we see in other people’s lives.  

All around us we are encouraged to doubt truth, search for conspiracies and have faith only in ourselves.  This leads to a very frustrating and distrusting lifestyle.  What would happen if we were to take a step in faith that God has, is and will continue to bless us?  What would happen if we allowed ourselves to feel content and satisfied with the blessings we have and instead of increasing our cup, allowed it to overflow?

In Ephesians 8 we are reminded again that we are saved by God’s grace and designed to do work God Himself has designed for us.  Blessed to be a blessing!  If we fail to acknowledge those blessings, we will never do the work God has designed for us; we will not feel the peace and joy God is giving us.  We will feel as if something is missing.  Sound familiar?

Our current sermon series, For Such a Time as Now, is designed to encourage, inspire, invite and challenge us to hear the beloved and beautiful voice of our Savior – to acknowledge and find joy in the many abundant blessings we have already received and trust that we have enough already to pour out His blessings on those around us. 

This tremendous act of faith and faithfulness fills our souls.  It fills our souls because we are embracing what God, our Creator, has designed and equipped us to do.  At the same time we are rejecting the lies of the Devil, our flesh, and the world around us that God’s abundant grace is somehow insufficient for our needs. 

Let’s embrace God’s blessings and faithfully trust that we will continue to be blessed for generations.  Let’s allow the cup of God’s blessings to overflow and pour out into the lives of those around us.  What better time to embrace God’s blessings and be a blessing to others than NOW! 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

In His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Such a Time as Now!

“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”  This is a famous chorus from the long-sung Christian hymn, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”.  When I talk with people and look around the world, the consensus seems to be that there is a lot of sinking sand all around us these days.

Beginning this weekend and for the next 8 weeks, our weekend sermon series will be dealing with the opportunity that God has been placing in front of us as a congregation.  We are in unprecedented times and to be honest all the shifting sand around us makes it difficult to find our footing.  Our human instinct is to wrestle with the world and those around us to create a stable foothold.  God’s plan for His church is different.

When everything around us is sinking and shifting and people are scrambling for a foothold; the Children of God are called to put our foot on the Rock of Salvation.  We know the word of God, but we must put that word into practice in order to find the peace that only He provides.  As the world gets swept up in the shifting sand of unbelief; the opportunity for the people of God to show God’s love increases.  This is why our relaunch of the Capital campaign is highlighted with the words, “Such a Time as Now”.

Now, in the midst of uncertainty.  Now, in the confusion of society.  Now, in the era of mistrust and disbelief.  Now is the time for the light of Christ to shine Bright!

We are re-launching our building campaign.  We will be highlighting how God is at work around us and will encourage one another to focus our attention not on the shifting sands, but on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.  Christ has come to bring hope and salvation to all, but He chooses to do it through you and me.  

As followers of Jesus, WE are the ones who are called to stand on the rock and extend the hand of hope to all who are sinking.  WE, who have been blessed with much, are called to sacrifice so that others may have the same blessings we have.  WE are called to lay aside our individual rights for the sake of something bigger than ourselves; for the sake of the Gospel being shared to all people.

As we deal with change and we work through the emotions of anger and frustration, God reminds us that we are people of hope.  In fact, in Christ we ALWAYS have hope.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, we are reminded that even in death we do not grieve like the unbelievers because they have “no hope”.  In other words, even in death we still have hope, and this isn’t death.

The temptation for a follower of Jesus is to become frustrated that things are not how they should be.  This is a very real feeling and perception.  But, we are not without hope.  In the midst of shifting and sinking sand, Christ the solid rock still stands!

It is important that each of us face the grief and the sadness of things that are changing.  We must grieve the loss of our perceived certainties that once were.  The grieving process is critical for us to go through in order to find hope and healing for our hurts.  Then, from a position of strength in Christ, we are blessed to be a blessing to others. 

Join us at Cross for these next 8 weeks.  We will help one another focus on the hope we have in Jesus and the calling we have at Cross to bring hope to all people.  The time is NOW!

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Government Mandates

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

As we wrestle with this from a Biblical perspective, it is important to remember with whom and what we are wrestling.  It isn’t the governor or the president and certainly not each other.  From a Biblical perspective we are wrestling against the spiritual forces at work in this world.

Before we continue I need you to leave your political, constitutional, humanitarian and concerned parent/citizen hats on the closet shelf.  This article would be very different if I am talking about how I would lead the world through a pandemic.  If we are going to be able to view this through a Biblical worldview, we need to put our other thoughts aside and let the Bible lead the way. 

God’s Word is silent on masks, vaccines, constitutional authority, government systems, and the jurisdictions of the Health Department and the State Board of Education.  I think you see where I am going.  The Bible is concerned with how we as Christians best proclaim the saving hope we have in Jesus to a corrupt and dying world.

To the contrary, God’s Word tells us in multiple places that we are to obey ALL government because ALL government is a gift from God.  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  Romans 13:1-2  This is from Paul who was under a Godless, corrupt Roman government.  Jesus Himself had this to say before a corrupt government leader named Pontius Pilate:  “So Pilate said to Him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?’”  Jesus answered him, You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above…”  John 19:10

WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

When dealing with disagreements with earthly authority, Jesus teaches us that our first and best step is obedience, that through obedience we will gain favor and influence for change.  This is how Joseph was able to save his father, Israel, and his eleven brothers from famine.  Joseph obeyed Pharaoh and other Godless leaders that were over him and found himself in a position of influence and power.  This is also in the instructions to slaves.  Not that slavery was good, but as the government allowed it, Christian slaves showed their faith not by running away but by being great servants.  The book of Philemon is written for just this purpose; it is only one chapter, so check it out.

WHEN DOES IT END?

When should we as Christians stop being obedient to government?  Here is a trustworthy saying:  “Christians are to be obedient to our government rulers unless the government forbids us to do something that the Bible commands or commands us to do something the Bible forbids.”  This included Jesus dying obediently on the cross.  He wasn’t defying the government; He was subjecting Himself to it.

DON’T BE DECEIVED!

As a human being and as a citizen of the United States, my heart is heavy for how our country and its leadership have handled this situation.  As a pastor my heart is heavy because churches and believers are fighting amongst themselves.  This is what Satan wants.  The devil wants to distract, deceive and destroy.  Distract us from the real battle that is raging against Scriptural Truth.  Deceive us into waging war against one another.  Destroy us by wearing us down so we aren’t prepared for the battle ahead.

While we are battling mandates about public health, many school districts and our own state are passing laws and curriculums that teach there is no objective truth outside of your own opinion; teaching that there is no male and female; teaching that people who hold that there is a Truth outside ourselves that we are all accountable to is oppressive and hateful; that parents who don’t agree with sex reassignment surgery for their minors have a phobia. 

The list goes on and on, and it shows no sign of stopping.  I will continue to work hard here at Cross in the best interest of our students and families in our school and church.  I believe we need to first work with the government on these health issues to be obedient to God and hopefully gain a voice.  I also believe we need to be mindful and active in keeping our eyes on the real issues at hand – not the interest of government leaders and not our own interests but the evil forces at work in the world.  We are to battle against them not on our own, but with the power of Christ with our focus on His life transforming Gospel.  If we are living and sharing the Gospel, the victory is already ours.

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

I AM

Who are you?  Who am I?  We answer this question all the time.  We answer when we introduce ourselves for the first time:  “I am a mechanic, pastor, nurse, teacher…”  We answer this question when we look in the mirror:  “I am ugly, beautiful, fat, tall…”  We answer this question when we look at our accomplishments:  “I am amazing, a failure, improving, struggling…”

Society has tried to tell us we are what we do; this has long been the case in our culture where we introduce and evaluate our life based on the tasks we address during the work week.  But, times are changing.  Children and young adults are being taught by our society to identify themselves with their inner feelings, to discover their identity by what they like and feel instead of a task they accomplish. 

This is intrinsically a healthy shift.  Unfortunately, at the same time, our country is shifting away from God.  In an effort to get away from unhealthy external identifications, people are turning toward unhealthy internal identifications. 

The problem with identifying ourselves with our feelings and perceptions of the world is two-fold.  First, our feelings are swayed dramatically by our environment, influences and mental health conditions of the moment.  Second, God tells us our identity comes from Him and Him alone.

It is not always easy to find our identity in Christ.  The influences are all around us and bombard our senses every moment of every day.  It is “natural” for us to identify with things we can taste, smell, see, and otherwise experience.  Our interaction with God, on the other hand, is often limited to a few hours a week or less.  This isn’t a fair fight.

God is able to overcome these odds, but He asks for our participation.  He calls us to turn away from the temptations of the material, physical world and see there is something bigger unfolding.  He invites us to be in a more frequent relationship with Him through reading the Word, prayer and in Christian community.  God gives us His Holy Law so we are able to recognize temptation and turn from it.  If we are not utilizing these amazing gifts, is it really any wonder why we begin to identify and turn toward the world’s misconceptions?

It is heartbreaking when people we love, and especially our children/grandchildren, get enticed by the ways of the world.  It shouldn’t, however, be surprising or hopeless.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls, gathers and enlightens His people.  He won’t turn His back on us.  He continues to invite us into a full identity in Him. 

When our loved ones turn away from God and turn toward the world, it is often because they don’t “feel” God’s presence in their lives.  We can’t control how people feel, but we can fulfill our identity in Christ.  Our identity as believers is to be IN Christ, and in so doing, BE Christ to one another.  If we can spend less time telling others how to do what God wants and spend more time being who God made us to be, the impact will be undeniable and people will be drawn to our Father in Heaven.  

Jesus was typically more compassionate with an unbeliever than He was with the believers (the Church at the time).  This doesn’t always seem fair, but it isn’t intended to be.  As believers we have the greatest gift anyone could ever receive:  a relationship with the Almighty Creator and eternal life in Christ!  With these amazing gifts comes both blessing and responsibility.  We are called to love others as we have first been loved in Christ:  sacrificial, overcoming, truth-living love.  This is our identity.  It is who we are. 

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Unwashed Hands

Now, when the Pharisees gathered to Him (Jesus)… they saw that some of His disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.”  Mark 7:1-2

I hoped the title might gain your attention.  In this season of pandemic hand washing the idea that someone might touch their face and then not wash while once again singing “Sweet Caroline” is repulsive.  Can you imagine how the Jewish community felt when Jesus’ disciples sat down to dinner with “unwashed” hands?!?!?! 

Full disclosure:  The washing the disciples didn’t participate in was not a cleansing of dirt but rather a ritual cleansing where they made themselves presentable to God and each other.  This distinction makes a difference to us, but it did not to the Jewish community.  In fact, it was probably more acceptable in Jesus’ day to have dirt on your hands when you ate than it was to opt-out of the ritual cleansing. 

The Jewish community was constantly ritualistically cleansing all sorts of things; they called this baptism.  They would baptize dishes, rooms, and yes, even their bodies.  The ritualistic cleansing was commanded by their religious leaders to remind them of their need to be made presentable to God.  It isn’t good enough for God that we are physically clean on the outside; He wants us to be pure, inside and out. 

When Jesus’ disciples didn’t participate in the ritualistic cleansing commanded by their leaders, it was seen as defiance toward God.  This lack of ritualistic cleansing also ran the risk of making the other Jews unclean as well (in their eyes).  When the Jews eating with Jesus expressed their frustration with these actions, Jesus called them to an important consideration.  Jesus asked if they were cleansing themselves for God or for man.  God baptizes once, and we are made pure and clean forever.

This is not an easy question to ask, and sometimes it is even more difficult to answer.  But, it is important that we ask this question of ourselves and one another regularly.  The Jews would have told anyone who asked them that what they were doing was to honor God, but in fact it wasn’t something God asked them to do. 

I imagine there are many things you are doing right now that you think are for God, but if you think and pray, you might see things differently.  One area that this happens a lot for me is with my children.  I want to protect them, provide for them, etc., but God wants to refine them through their trials and have them come to Him when they need provision.  If I protect them from every struggle, God can’t pick them up and heal them; if I provide for their every desire, they don’t realize they need God.

With my finances I want to manage them for my family.  But God wants me to manage them for His Kingdom (of which my family is certainly part).  The list goes on and on, and the distinction is subtle. 

The purpose of refinement isn’t to increase restrictions or burden; it is to increase freedom.  When we are working WITH our Almighty God, rather than struggling AGAINST Him, life and peace begin to take root.  It is a long journey to peace sometimes, especially when we want something different than what God seems to be providing. 

Remember, He is refining ALL of us to be in relationship with Him.  He loves us and is working good in all things for our sake.  Jesus died for our sins and ensures salvation for everyone who believes in this gift.  He doesn’t need us to make ourselves presentable.  He desires us to present ourselves to Him who made us.

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

School Time!

This weekend we will celebrate the beginning of our 140th school year with our Blessing of the Backpacks and re-dedication of our school staff!  In addition, our Sunday 10 AM service will be OUTSIDE!!!  As I look at the weather prediction now, it is shaping up to be a glorious day.  We have been praying for this for some time, and I invite you to join us in prayer for this exciting launch to a milestone year.

This year is shaping up to be another tremendous year.  While we were able to have students in person last year, this year will look and feel a lot more like the school and church ministries to which we are accustomed.  It doesn’t mean the year won’t have its challenges.  In fact, every year has its challenges. 

1 Peter 5:8 reads, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  That is right; the Devil is actively prowling for someone to devour.  Rest assured:  he isn’t looking to attack the unbelievers and the ungodly; he is looking to attack the followers of Christ.  The Devil is looking to deceive, distract and destroy the children of God away from the will of God.

Jesus reminds us that we are never fighting our enemy, the Devil, alone.  God is with us.  The power of the Holy Spirit is within us and at our full disposal.  Jesus Himself has already declared the victory for all who believe.  

What this means is that there are many challenges in the world, most of them brought on by sin, selfishness and the Devil.  These challenges are frequently an attempt to take our focus away from the thing that matters most.  What matters most is that the saving Good News, the Gospel of Jesus, be shared and lived out for all people… ALL people.

I am continuously humbled by how this church and school rally together around the Mission of Jesus.  We have a long way to go, but there is still a lot to be celebrated.  The light of Christ shines into the community around us and has for 140 years.  This one could be one of the most challenging in recent memory.  Our desire to be “done” with the pandemic is being tested by the lingering questions of that worldwide pandemic.  This is only a distraction of the evil one.  Masks or no masks, COVID or no COVID, the world still needs a Savior; I still need a Savior.  

Thanks be to God He gave us that Savior.  Praise be to Jesus that He is that Savior.  Blessings to you and all of God’s children that nothing would distract us from being and sharing the Light of Christ to the world and one another… no matter what!

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.  And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”  Romans 8:11

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Let’s Celebrate!

This Sunday, August 8, we will hold our annual congregational meeting and launch our 140th year in ministry!  We will gather in the sanctuary at 11 AM and celebrate how God worked through you, the people of Cross, to let His light shine, even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic!

After we celebrate the previous year, we will look forward to the upcoming year, our 140th together!  We will seek to call Adele Totsky as an additional kindergarten teacher.  We will pray over and elect our new congregational leadership.  We will receive updates on our Building Campaign and share some upcoming ways to celebrate our 140th anniversary.

This year will require tremendous resolve.  While many of us desire the restrictions of the pandemic to remain in the past, the most recent variant is keeping COVID in our daily thoughts.  Our government leaders continue to make broad stroke mandates.  We continue to follow Christ’s command to make disciples. 

God has given us our government leaders, even when we disagree with them.  God has given us wisdom to use to honor all our leaders, even when we disagree.  Thankfully, through prayerful discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to seek and find unity – unity of mission and unity of resolutions to solve even during the most challenging of circumstances. 

We are so privileged to have Christ be our leader for 140 years here at Cross.  We ought to all have great confidence He will continue to lead us forward and also give us the faith to follow where He guides. 

I look forward to seeing you all, in person, at our congregational meeting and working together as the Body of Christ during this 140th anniversary year!

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

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