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

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Spiritual Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Eric Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Building Campaign Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Follow Me

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

But, wait, there’s more.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is God leading me today?

How am I going to respond to HIS leadership today?

In Christ, 

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Happy New Year! ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

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

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Blessed Christmas 2020

God is with us!  The story of 2020 seems to be one event after another causing us to ask the age old question “God, where are you?”   Well, Christmas is finally here to remind us of the eternal answer — “I am with you!”  The child born in the manger is a gift from God; He is God!   He is God who came to save us from the heartache and brokenness of the world.  

Christmas isn’t a day to hide the bad with good.  Pretending everything is “ok” for a day doesn’t solve the problem; in fact it usually makes it worse.  According to the Chicago Tribune, divorce rates skyrocketed 200% – 300% after the first of the year.  Legacy.com reveals that more deaths happen in January than any other month of the year.  Unfortunately, it appears, pretending to cover over our own heartache doesn’t fix anything, it only delays it.

How in the world can this horrible news be titled Christmas blessings?  Please read on!

God sees our heartache and did something about it! He left His throne and came to dwell, live and experience this earthly world in the same way we have.  He didn’t come to earth for its beautiful seasons and happy people.  In other words, He came to save us, not be like us.  He only became one of us because it was necessary to accomplish His gift of salvation.

A few years ago, I went to Guatemala for a mission trip.  I learned a saying there from the missionaries “Fixing things doesn’t change things.”  It is a normal human desire to see something that is “unjust” or “inequitable” and want to fix it immediately.  This immediate solution usually makes the issue worse because it only changes the circumstance, not the sin issue that is behind it.  We can make the same mistake with our Christmas celebration.

Christmas celebrations often try to pretend everything is fixed, if even for a day.  Divided families pretend to get along and we plan to gather like there is no pandemic.  No holiday or amount of pretending will fix any of this.  BUT, God can and did bring about the power to change that which is necessary.  In Christ, we have the power to cope with and even overcome the heartache that comes from broken families and pandemic.  In Christ, we have the ability to feed the hungry and heal unjust circumstances. 

This is best expressed in the reality that, even though Jesus came to save us, many of the troubles we endure didn’t disappear.   We still experience death, temptation, illness, heartache and sorrow.  If God saved us why do we still endure these things?  Because removing these issues wouldn’t change the problem; the problem is systemic sin.  Our nature is sinful and selfish, we spend lots of energy defending ourselves and protecting those we love.   This instinct to defend and protect end up causing hurt in the world.  Only when we lay it all down and trust in God to provide; only when we truly believe He has provided it already in His Son our Savior, in the manger; will we be free and our world be changed. 

This is what happened at Christmas.   Jesus lay down His rights to the throne, His power to destroy selfish people (all of us) and became one of us, except without sin.  He came to save us by being one of us and it worked!  Everything is changed.  When we live in that truth and trust our Heavenly Father with our own lives it changes us too!  When we know He would die for us before letting us get hurt we, too, have the power to bring that same change to the world around us. 

At Christmas, God came to earth to remind us, “I am with you!” Christ laid down His life for us and we are saved; this is the Gospel.  Believing in Him allows us to lay down our lives for one another; this is the fruit of the Gospel and is made possible only by the change that occurs in us through the Holy Spirit. What a blessed gift to you and to me. 

Merry Christmas and may your full life in Christ be renewed again in Him; may your heart and mind be transformed by the Gospel and fill you with His peace.  “And when the Shepherds saw Jesus, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Luke 2

In Christ,

Erik Gauss