Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Reboot

Every once in a while, at completely unpredictable moments, our clothes dryer will refuse to turn on.  There is no rhyme or reason to it; it has been happening for years.  I’ve researched it and the best I can determine is it will either do this forever or one day it will die completely.  No one seems to know.  It can be very frustrating when technology refuses to work, especially for no good reason. 

I imagine you are wondering why we still have the dryer.  As completely frustrating as it is when it chooses not to work, the solution is relatively simple; unplug it, and plug it back in.  Sure it is a hassle, but this simple solution works for many electronic devices.  A simple reboot of the system, a fresh start if you will, is all that is needed to get things back on track. 

You may be able to relate to this.  This last year, a lot of things have been turned off in our life and right now we are trying to get them all started again.  In fact, the biggest temptation in front of most of us is to try to make up for lost time.  We are eager to quickly fill our schedules to overflowing.  We are tired of being locked up and we have a whole year of life to try to make up.

We have each been given an opportunity to refill our lives with the things that matter most.  Have you seen the famous illustration about how to fill a jar with all different sizes of rocks and sand?  If you start with the big rocks and finish with the sand, you can fit significantly more into your jar.  If you start with the sand, you will never fit in the big rocks.

As we come out of COVID we would all be wise to ask ourselves what are the big rocks in our life?  If we identify those and fill in around them our life will be filled with both peace and joy.  If we start filling it in with sand, it will be fun for a while, but we will once again find ourselves in distress.

Over the next six weeks, we will be looking at how the disciples relaunched their lives after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Their intentional focus on Jesus’ teaching, as well as trusting the power of the Holy Spirit, gave them a powerful and deep sense of purpose and unity among the believers.  Their faith “reboot” was an inspiration to the world around them and led to a global transformation.  It wasn’t easy, but the eternal impact made it all worthwhile.

What does it look like for us to do the same?  How can we reboot our lives and find that same deep sense of meaning and purpose?  It will be a challenge to overcome the temptation to fill the void of the last year with earthy pleasures.   It will be rewarding both now and eternally to refill our lives with the things that truly matter most.  Let’s focus on God’s will and word and then put it into practice.  You might just be filled with both peace and joy.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”  Acts 2:42-43

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – A Celebration of Love

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

The Book of John in the New Testament, also called the Gospel (Good News) of John, is known for its talk about love. Arguably, the most famous Bible passage in the world comes from this book and talks about love.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.   John writes in another of his books that God himself is best defined by that same simple word, “God is Love.” 1 John 4:8 

The word love is translated 39 times in the book of John.  Second place in the New Testament is another book by the same author called 1(first) John; it uses the word love 26 times.  Third place is the book of Romans with only 16 mentions.   The Old Testament book of love, also known as Song of Solomon, known for its racy and erotic story of lovers, only uses the word love 37 times! 

The Book of John was written by Jesus’ disciple of the same name for the purpose of sharing Jesus’ life and ministry with non-Jews—outsiders.  In other words, John leans heavy into the Love of God to encourage people far from God that He cares about them.  John believes it is this radical, and often times controversial, word that would transform hearts and minds from unbelief to belief.  

The other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) only use the word love 27 times as they rely more on the work of Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy.   These three Gospels were written primarily to Jews and people who already knew God.  The goal was to prove how Jesus was, in fact, the one God had sent to save the world.  But, John wrote many decades later and realized the world needed healing that only God could provide.

I have often thought about the church today and our interactions with the world.  We often think we are a “Christian nation” and that leads us to interact with other people who we think already know Jesus/God loves them.  I don’t believe we have been a truly Christian nation for several generations now.  When I say this, I believe the best way to describe it is to say we are not a nation that loves God with all our heart because He first loved us. 

I love Easter because it reminds us what love truly is.  Love isn’t giving something to someone we love.  Love isn’t doing something kind to someone we like.  Love isn’t finding mutual benefit in one another.  Love is sacrificing what is good for me for the sake of someone else experiencing what is good for them.  Jesus didn’t die because it was mutually beneficial.  Jesus died because we needed Him to.  He died on a cross and experienced public shame because, without it, we are all damned to Hell. 

God is Love.  He laid down His life for us, while we still hated Him.  Even knowing we would continue regularly accuses God of not doing His job.  He knew that is how we would respond and still chose to die.  God didn’t want us to die an eternal death.  God did not want our physical death to be the end so He did what He is.  God is love and love is laying down your life for another; for a friend (John 15:13) and for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). 

I firmly believe that what our hurting world needs now isn’t an explanation of who Jesus is, but a real life example.  I believe the world needs to be shown by the church, the body of Christ on earth, that we are love.   This doesn’t happen at an organizational level (usually).  Rather, it happens (mostly) on an individual level.  It happens with how we treat every person we come in contact with.  It doesn’t happen when we give someone everything they want, but it does happen when we sacrifice what we want for the sake of what God wants for another person.

This Easter I pray that you know God’s love again; His reckless, indescribable, unconditional, practically-unbelievable love.  And, knowing that love encourages and inspires you to see the world, especially those far from God, with the same heart our God sees them.  That we might be the children of God who live out our identity and be His reckless, indescribable, unconditional, practically-unbelievable love to the world.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Great Expectations

In the Charles Dickens classic, Pip has tremendous dreams for his life.  Like us, and the Israelites of Jesus’ day, these expectations are focused on eliminating adversity and creating a life that is better than it is today.  The journey of Pip is one we can all relate to as our expectations are shattered, or at least appear to be.  But, as we persevere, we realize our expectations aren’t shattered, they are unwrapped.

This weekend is Palm Sunday and few other days in history are more filled with expectations.  Jesus enters Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, riding a donkey.  This is the historic way that a new king would enter the city on the common working-class mount and ultimately conclude his journey on the royal throne of the King. 

The Israelites’ expectations had been growing as they heard the whispers of Jesus’s miracles and teachings around Israel.  Now the miracle messiah was entering the city walls to claim the throne of David, Solomon and all their descendants.  Except, instead of a throne, Jesus’ journey ended on the Cross. 

Life is filled with hopes and dreams.  As people we have desires and expectations for our life.  Then, reality sets in and we often lay aside those dreams in the midst of difficult times.   Jesus’ death caused the disciples to scatter, hide and give up on their plans for a king to lead Israel out of Roman oppression.   Their expectations were shattered, but the story wasn’t over. 

Jesus’ resurrection did two unexpected things.  First, His resurrection restored hope for all who would trust in Him.  Second, it fulfilled all expectations by transforming our perspective, not in the way we expected. 

As humans our expectations are inherently self-centered or “I-focused.”  We want a life with few or no trials for ourselves and our loved ones.  We want privileges and blessings; we want to be free from hardships and trials so we can have a blessed life.  Our expectations are shattered when we get what we have been promised, a world filled with trouble.  But, our Savior still does what He did that first Easter.   He transforms our shattered expectations into a fulfillment that is greater than we could have ever imagined.  

If Jesus was just a great earthly king, eventually his reign would have ended and someone else would have conquered His kingdom.  But, when He ascended the Cross and wore His crown of thorns He established a throne that can never be conquered.  God’s kingdom and the blessing for His people were extended beyond any life or era.  To this day, all Jesus’ followers remain undefeated against our enemies and certain that all our expectations have been met.  

The issue that stands between us and a life of joy with fulfilled expectations is really a matter or selfishness.  When we lay down our pride and rise again as a child of God, we see that we are not controlled by our fears, or the world or politics or the fact that our life didn’t go exactly as we had planned.  Instead, when we embrace our heavenly Father and His abundant blessing, we are free in Christ Jesus and literally nothing can take that away.  

This Palm Sunday and Holy Week we endure a journey of shattered dreams.  As we travel that journey, we already know how it resolves.  The same is true right now and for each and every day of our life.  No matter what trial or disappointment you are enduring, Jesus has already died and rose again in order to transform that brokenness into abundant blessing.  May your expectations be rooted in God’s promises for your life and your expectations will always be perfectly fulfilled.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Zechariah 9:9

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – On Equality

The so-called Equality Act is at the forefront of our nation’s conscience this Spring.  Like many other headlines and soundbites in recent history have attempted to do, the “Equality Act” attempts to make people who disagree with its contents feel unamerican or worse, unchristian.  

As Christians, and as Americans, we should be at the forefront of defending freedom and equality for ALL people.  When we get accused of, or falsely depicted as being unloving it hurts and, as a result, our Godly nature desires to change that perception and attempt to be more “loving and accepting.”  This is a false dichotomy.

The false dichotomy is that because we believe God created Male and Female that this belief and our efforts to support it is somehow discriminating to those who don’t.  There could be nothing further from the truth.  As God’s people, we are fully capable of loving ALL people and, at the same time, standing up for what is true.  

Let’s start where we always need to start, repentance.  We must first start with our own failures to “Love our Neighbor as ourselves.”  We have all looked down on someone or lacked compassion.  We have all gotten defensive when our “rights” have been threatened and we have overreacted with fear instead of love.  We have also failed to truly love others by enabling people in their sin and failed to lovingly call them to repentance. 

Part of repentance and love is not saying “I’m sorry” when it isn’t warranted.  Apologizing where sin doesn’t exist can be as hurtful and harmful as the sin itself. When we feel guilt and try to apologize for someone else’s sin, we enable the sinner in their ways and deny them the necessary honest reflection of God’s truth in their life that may lead them to repentance.  When we are led to feel guilty because of the blessings or privileges we have received, we rob God of the thanks and praise He deserves from us because of the blessings He has honored us with.  We also are more likely to use those blessings in a way that dishonors the one who blessed us in an effort to lessen our guilt instead of stewarding or managing the gift.

From this perspective of true repentance and forgiveness, and only from this perspective, are we able to have true compassion for other’s perspectives and lovingly share ours.  We have an amazing God who loves us and blesses us abundantly.  He blesses us so greatly that we are able to and called to sacrifice those blessings in order to truly bless others.  The only true blessing is when we are lovingly shown truth and shown compassion as we wrestle with our own sin. 

With regards to the so-called Equality Act, in its current form, it isn’t about equality.  In its current form it is written to undermine the ability of Christ-followers to live out Christian truths. It specifically exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993.  Why does it do this if it isn’t attempting to discriminate against people of faith?  People who are saying this law won’t discriminate against faith-based organizations are flat out lying, or at best, uninformed.  

We have already seen this happen in Illinois.  The Christian faith has historically led the way for adoption and foster care.  In the state of Illinois, Christian adoption foster care leaders have either closed or been forced to abandon our Christian belief that a child is best cared for when placed into a married Christian household (to be clear, a Christian marriage is one man and one woman who repent and forgive).  This truth is not a discrimination nor is it hateful.   It also isn’t a statement that other homes can’t raise a child.  It is our current cultural and political climate that demands us to pick a side.  As human beings, we can simultaneously believe the biblical truth and the mountains of research that show a child in a two-parent household is more successful and better adjusted than in other environments and, at the same, time lovingly support ALL households.  To demand approval and placement in households that don’t meet the standards of faith and research these long-standing organizations have established is to demand contradictory standards.  To be clear, there are other organizations that can accommodate those desires; why force the church out of Christian adoption and care for families in crisis?

Also, at Cross, we are much more limited in our ability to provide Christian support for new marriages.  Historically, marriage is a time where people who have drifted away from God look to reconnect with Him and His church.  Cross frequently has people approach us that reach out in such a desire to be married at Cross.  Under current state law we must be very careful when dealing with people who are currently part of the “public” and not currently “members.”   If we are “open to the public” for heterosexual marriages we must also be open to state-recognized, same-sex marriages.  Again, there are organizations that can provide those services.  To require the Church to endorse other people’s beliefs, that directly contradict what God teaches us to be true, is faith-based discrimination.  There are many more realities, but these two are the simplest to explain.

So how do we move forward? We must be open, honest and loving.  We cannot fall into the trap of false guilt which leads to us giving up, or lash out defensively, which causes us to reinforce the false stereotypes.  When we first confess our sin and accept God’s forgiveness, we can then effectively help others trapped in their sins.  God gives us wisdom and insight we never thought possible.  Please stay informed, contact your state, local and national officials, and at the same, time remain in the presence of Christ in this world.  Christ loves us all; each of us, right where we are, in the midst of our sin and at the same time, calls us to repentance and to live a life transformed in Him!  The Devil is constantly attacking; we don’t need to get angry, but we do need to fight against sin, death and the Devil with the grace and mercy that Christ alone can provide in His Gospel truth.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Come Alive Again

If you have listened to or read any medium anywhere this week, you know it has been one year since our COVID lockdown.  This makes it even more exciting to announce our reopening plan at Cross!  It has been a long cold year.  But, now the vaccine is here and we have had a strong roll out in Kendall County for our most vulnerable community members.  

The days are getting warmer and longer while the grass and trees begin to grow with new life.  This all leads to Easter, the ultimate new life in Christ.  This year is especially meaningful as we come awake again from our quarantines and lockdowns and re-emerge into our daily lives. 

On Easter, in addition to our 5 mask-required services in the sanctuary, Cross will be offering two mask-optional worship times in our Large Gym.  We will host “traditional” at 9:00 AM and “contemporary” service at 10:30 AM.  These will be simulcast services where individuals and families can attend worship together and feel free to take off their masks during worship.  We do still ask you to wear your mask upon entering the facility and while walking through the hallways.

We are also hosting a special, family-centered, outdoor worship on Saturday April 3rd at 10:00 AM.  This will be another mask free opportunity to gather safely outdoors and to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. 

After Easter, we will continue offering our mask-optional simulcast in the large gym at both 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM throughout April.  In May, we plan to begin outdoor services on communion Sundays (1st and 3rd) as long as the weather permits. 

Once we are able to have a team of volunteers who are willing and able to lead and serve on a regular basis, we will open up a mask-optional worship time in the Sanctuary on Sunday mornings.  Please be patient as there are a lot of factors that go into holding a worship service and the greatest need is volunteer support.  If you’d like to see any of this happen more quickly, you can probably help to make it happen by regularly volunteering your time to serve at Sunday Morning worship.

We aren’t completely out of the woods yet, but it is time to wake up, stretch and re-emerge from this year of social distance and isolation.  What better time to do that, then on Easter morning?  Come awake and celebrate with your family of faith, together at Cross.  There are multiple times and multiple options—we can’t wait to see you all again!

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Mind (and Spirit!) Over Matter

Now that spring has sprung, I have been trying to get outside more.  It isn’t that I don’t like snow or winter, I just don’t like the cold as much as I enjoy the sun and warmth.  I’ve learned to embrace this character flaw.  Regardless, getting back outside and starting to run again has reminded me of a strange phenomenon I can’t quite get my head around.  

I live in a hilly neighborhood and, no matter what distance I run, I deal with a significant change of elevation.  The strange phenomenon is that the most difficult part of a hilly run happens immediately after you complete a hill.  You read that right—the hardest part of a hilly run isn’t the hill itself, but immediately after the hill.

This is true of many things in life.  Severe injuries are frequently less painful when they happen than they are shortly after that when the adrenaline wears off.  The pains of grief are worse, after typically the initial 4-8 months after the loss, when the body lets down its guard.  As people, we have a unique ability to be strong in the face of adversity to overcome the immediate challenge.  Then, after the challenge has passed, we deal with the physical pain and heartache that we experienced during the trial.

Currently, we, as a culture, can see the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the pandemic coming to an end.  But in reality, we should be prepared to experience the most difficult leg of the journey.  Different people will struggle with different challenges just like we have throughout this journey.  We should be on guard for the way our mind and body will start to give us conflicting messages.  

Some of us will need patience as we eagerly await the end which can’t get here fast enough.  Some of us will need perseverance as our mind and body tells us we can’t take this any longer; when the truth is the worst is behind us already!  Kindness will be in short supply as we will be tempted to take out our frustrations with the pandemic on one another.  Joy is a fantastic antidote to the sorrow and anger we will no doubt feel as we grieve the weight of what we have all gone through.  

There are many more emotions and challenges that we may face, but the good news is that each challenge has an antidote in the Holy Spirit.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  In these waning days of the pandemic, which will likely last well into the Fall, we will need the Holy Spirit as much or more than last year.  Our thoughts and emotions we have put on the back burner in order to cope with this pandemic will likely rise to the surface as the pandemic fades. 

While this is an interesting and no doubt frustrating phenomenon, it isn’t new.  Paul identifies these truths as he encourages the people in Corinth to run the race with endurance and discipline so they will finish well and not lose in the last moments (1 Corinthians 9).  In Hebrews 12 Paul again reminds us to run the race of life and faith with endurance, just as Jesus endured the Cross and claimed the victory for us!

Finally, I want to remind each of us that through these challenges and hardships, God is STILL working and transforming these challenging and suffering times into positives in our life.  Paul repeatedly reminds us of how God does this amazing miraculous work in Romans which brings up an excellent reminder for all of us.  The best way to have our mind and soul overcome whatever is in front of us, including the lagging issues that surface, after the trial has ended, is to remain in God’s word!  Nothing heals the soul and keeps us focused on the truth than that encouraging and inspiring word of our loving heavenly Father.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Lent for All Nations!

I don’t want to bury the lead, so I’ll use it here as a teaser so maybe you will keep reading!  Cross Lutheran is headed to Acuña, Mexico in June to build a house, and you are invited!  More details below.

This Lenten season (now until Easter), we are utilizing worship materials titled “Lent for All Nations” during our Sunday morning services.  The premise is to explore the biblical relationship between Israel and surrounding foreign nations.  At the same time, we will explore modern efforts of LCMS churches to reach out to All Nations, near and far.  

When Abraham was called and blessed by God to have his offspring become a mighty nation, he was at the same time called to be a blessing to all nations.  God has never limited salvation to just one people group.  It was always God’s desire to reach all people, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 

Throughout the world’s history it has been difficult for people of different nations and backgrounds to reach across ethnic borders and create true unity.  The selfish human nature in us all fights to preserve what we know and defend our comforts from outsiders.  This Lent we will explore what God can do when we let down our defenses and find unity in the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus. 

God doesn’t ask us to reject our nationalities and backgrounds but instead shows us that these are things that should not divide us.  Our different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, traditions and customs can bring flavor, beauty and depth to the majesty of God’s creative power.  Heaven is frequently described as a place where “every tribe, nation and tongue” praise God in unity.  

Lent is a time to remember that Jesus death was for me.  At the same time remembering it was also for every tribe, nation, tongue and person.  Jesus’ death wasn’t only for the people who were close to God already (Jews), but was for people far from Him, who rejected Him as their God (Gentiles). Jesus’ death and resurrection reminds us He is the creator of each and every one of us and loves us all!

So, this trip to Acuña, Mexico is about building a home for a family who probably isn’t like yours. We will be partnered with a ministry called Casas por Cristo (Houses for Jesus).  Casas is a well-established ministry in Mexico having started first in Juarez and now expanding to Acuña.  You can learn more about them at www.casasporcristo.org.

The trip will depart June 12th and return on June 17th.  We will build and complete a house from ground up during the trip!  No special skill in construction is necessary and the best part is it is open to all ages!  This is a great trip for a family or a parent and child to go on together.  You can contact Pastor Matt for more information and watch our newsletter for details.

Remember God asks those who believe in Him to reach across the divide to bring unity and, by God’s grace, faith to those who do not.  His sacrifice led to our salvation and our sacrifice leads to others having the ability to have this same salvation. 

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”  Acts 13:47

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Lent

The word Lent is a strange word.  The origins of the word speak to a lengthening of days or a spring season.  (I could really use that right about now!).  I always look forward to Lent because it usually means spring is right around the corner.  Typically, by the time Easter is here Spring is here as well.   The countdown to spring begins with this 40-day season of introspection.

Just like Spring leads to an awakening of our land, the idea is that Lent would lead to an awakening of our faith.  Yes, the season of Lent is man-made but it is deeply rooted in biblical truth.  A period of 40 days was frequently a season of time where people would grow in faith and connection with God.  Noah had 40 days of rain on the Ark; Moses had 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.  Joshua spied on the Promised Land for 40 days and God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent through Jonah and, of course, Jesus, himself, was tested for 40 days in the wilderness.     

These 40 days are difficult to endure.  Whether we want the cold to end, the pandemic to be over or Easter to be here, we need to go through the journey and process to arrive at the destination.  I’d like to invite you to consider these next 40 days as a rebirth and a renewal.  Maybe you’ve been cooped up in your home since last March; maybe you are just comfortable worshipping on line; maybe you are angry or depressed about the weather or the election.  You could be grieving the loss of a loved one or a lost celebration in the midst of all that we’ve been through. 

We have 40 more days; 40 days till Easter; 40 days till we can be outside again.  40 days and many of our most high-risk people will be vaccinated.  No, everything won’t be fixed in 40 days but, if for these next 40 days we listen and lean into God, if we listen and hear His voice, if we are faithful and boldly follow where He leads us and trust in Him for comfort and strength–in 40 more days, we will have new life and a new hope.  Our faith will blossom and bloom with the power and majesty of God almighty working in us!

Don’t let these 40 days pass you by.  Instead, dive into God’s word and pray!  Ask God the questions you’ve been meaning to ask Him and try to be faithful and obedient in an area of your life you have been resisting.  Try it for 40 days.  You will be surprised how free you will feel once Easter rolls around.  It isn’t as far away as you think!

(After 40 days in the wilderness) Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:10-11

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Do Not Lose Heart

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”  2 Corinthians 4:1

The winter doldrums, the extreme cold, the pandemic isolation approaching a year, the political unrest, our nation turning away from God’s truth; it might seem easier to throw in the towel than to push forward.  But, our God has conquered death and the grave!  I know my current challenges are not as insurmountable as death so I have tremendous hope.

The secret to not losing hope is to listen to the God of Life, not the lies of the word and our flesh.  Our minds are feeble, our flesh is cursed to fail; our natural mindset is to see the worst in most situations.  If this isn’t you, feel blessed!!!  The ability to have hope in the darkest most hopeless moments is the key to a long and prosperous life.  

Hope gives you a clear head, a new perspective and the ability to overcome failure and adversity.  Hope comes from God, alone.  In Psalm 62, David writes about how others intend to topple him. He says from their mouths they bless but from their hearts they curse.  This two-faced adversary can be exhausting to battle.  David finds hope in the Lord; his soul finds rest in God. 

But, how?  The difficult part isn’t knowing we should have hope and joy.  The question is how do we get it or get it back.  David addresses this issue in Psalm 16: “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…”

To keep our eyes on the Lord is to remain focused.  I have two daughters who are able to drive now.  When they were just learning they had to learn to keep their eyes on the road because when they looked around they would veer toward wherever they were looking.  We need to look toward the Lord and veer toward Him, ALWAYS.   When we take our eyes off Him and put it on something else, we veer away from God and fixate on our worries.  

When we fixate on God, our worries become less and our joy increases for we know the Lord will never forsake us and is capable of Great things.  We know the Lord is working a greater plan than the evil that surrounds us and our heart finds peace in Him. 

Do not lose heart, we have the mercy of God and we get to proclaim the mercy of God to one another.  This is worthy of praise and celebration!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Have You Heard The Good News?

Have you ever had Good News seem bad?  I still remember when I found out a friend and neighbor from elementary school was moving.  We had become great friends because when my sisters babysat for her, I would go, too.  We had a blast, until her dad got a new job with a new house and a pool.  It was great news for them, but sad for me. 

This type of thing happens all the time, even when we think it shouldn’t.  THE Good News of Jesus seems like a no brainer; good news for everybody type of deal.  Then why does Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 call the Good News of Jesus (translated as The Gospel) “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles”?

By listing both Jews and Gentiles, Paul includes every person in the known world except people who already believe.  The Good News is truly GREAT; so great it is hard to believe!  At the same time, this Good News turns our life upside down.  Like a new job that requires a move for the family, the Gospel is accompanied by a move of the heart and mind.  The Bible calls it transformation. 

The Good News is foolishness for an unbeliever (Gentile) because it means putting God at the center of your life when before it would have been anything except God at the center.  To change your belief system usually goes against your family of origin and typically is met with resistance and ridicule.  Think about Saul who murdered Christians and then became one.  Both the Jews and the Christians ridiculed him! 

For a Jew, the Gospel is foolish for the same reason many Christians and Christian churches don’t teach a clear Gospel message even today. The pure Gospel is that Jesus died for your sins and salvation is completely from His grace and requires no action from you.  We get no credit for being saved and receive no judgment (think condemnation, not perception) when our life doesn’t always match our faith.  In fact, scripture goes out of its way over the top to ensure we realize that we are saved by Grace, through faith, not by works, so no one can boast.

Jews at the time, and Christians today, say we believe or understand this but then we get so jealous and discontent when considering someone who doesn’t make “Godly choices” might be saved.  It is “foolish” to think God would be so gracious to forgive someone their sin who doesn’t change like I have!

We become the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable.   While it is true, the Gospel news should in fact change us, and does in fact change us, for many the road of transformation is long.  The path is rocky and rugged as the Devil works diligently to deceive, distract and destroy the new faith that has been planted.  The Good News is that Christ died for us WHILE we were still sinners.  The Gospel causes our action to change because our heart and mind and faith have already changed. 

As Christians in this world, we get worried about things we can measure.  We focus on baptism and Holy living because these are able to be witnessed and perceived.  God measures the heart and soul.  While a transformed Heart, Mind and Soul ultimately leads to transformed living, the Gospel is that forgiveness comes from confession of sin not our ability to avoid it.

When we focus too much on the “What should we be doing” part of the faith we are easily distracted from the “Who should I be hearing” part.  If we focus on doing, we might occasionally get the hearing.  If we focus on the hearing, we will always, EVENTUALLY, get the doing.

The journey of discipleship starts with hearing, “What is God trying to say to me about this?” Then, and only then, we can ask the second question “How am I going to respond?”  These are two simple questions that are anything but simplistic.  Let’s focus on proclaiming the Good News, hearing the Good News and living the Good News.  I pretty sure God is more than capable of sorting out the rest!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss