For the four weeks leading up to Christmas we will try to immerse ourselves in what it might have been like at the time Jesus was born. A time when the prophets had been silent for 400 years but the world was active. The evil Roman Empire had taken over the Holy Land. Hope had been nearly lost for the descendants of Abraham and for the world when a lone voice reminds us that all the stories about what happened, are true.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’’” Matthew 3:1-2
John the Baptist announces to the world that the long awaited Messiah had been born in Bethlehem and was ready to fulfill the prophecy of salvation for all people. The arrival of Jesus in the manger and His ministry restores great hope in the children of God and awakens that hope in the entire world. We are reminded that the blessing God first gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is that the whole world would be blessed through them.
Advent is a special season in the church when we prepare for the celebration of Christmas and what Jesus brings to the world. Hope, faith, joy and love are among those. This year we will use some of the stories from Star Wars to help illustrate how God’s story infiltrates all of humanity, even those who don’t believe.
For the four Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas we will explore the way God prepared the world for the arrival of Jesus. We will also consider how we can prepare to receive Him again who comes to us as God incarnate. In faith we will ask God to help our faith be renewed and awakened by receiving Him who comes to us in Body and Blood.
In His service and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss
Last days before Christmas? Not yet, but close! Last days for this amazingly great sale? Maybe… but it will probably come around again. Last days for the entire world as we know it? YES!!!!! Really?!?!
It isn’t often we think about the end of the world. In fact, most of us will think about dying (and not very often) before we would think about Jesus coming again. As uncomfortable as it is, God calls us to think about the last days regularly. In fact, everything God has done he has done with the end in mind. The entirety of the bible is written for this one purpose. Faith exists to address one moment and yet we so seldom talk about it.
This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year. A Sunday typically dedicated to remembering what God says about the last days. The problem is He says a lot more than we can fit into one weekend. In fact, almost every book of the bible says something about the end times and what it will be like or what our perspective should be about it. So what are the highlights?
- Everything Jesus did, He did so we could have peace about the end. Whether the end is our last breath or the arrival of Armageddon, we know how it plays out for believers.
- We must be ready today! Now! There is an urgency in Jesus’ day and there should still be an urgency for us today. There is much to be done and little time.
- The timing is God’s not ours. There is nothing we can do to speed up or slow down the arrival of the last day. It is perfectly accounted for in God’s will.
- It is ours today – For believer’s we have eternity today. We are part of the company of believers when we worship, serve, and endure suffering for Christ’s sake today! The full power of God is ours now and forever.
- Every “sign” of the end times is not the end inching closer, but serves as a reminder that any moment could be our last. Any moment the heavens burst forth and the King of creation returns.
- It is good! While thinking about the end may be unsettling, The Last Day is really the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no evil, death or destruction.
- We’re on mission – until that day we are called to share the Good News of Jesus paying for our sins and earning for each repentant sinner a place in heaven forever.
War, chaos, greed, famine, disasters and many other things mark the labor pains of this creation. These pains will continue up until that last day, each one a reminder that we need a savior. But, also serve as a reminder that we have a Savior who has delivered us from this present evil age and brought us to everlasting life. This deliverance has already occurred in part as we focus on the things of God more and more but, one day, will occur in full. Until then we pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
This weekend we are finishing up our four week series on generosity. How do we take this knowledge and apply it into our everyday life? How do the ideas get put into action? The temptation is to try to make sweeping changes all at once which become overwhelming and impossible to sustain. Another temptation is to add it to a list and never get around to it. The best way is to move toward action in little decisions every day. “He who is faithful with little will be faithful with much.” Luke 16:10
Little decisions every day add up to big changes over time. A one degree shift in direction for an airplane will mean the difference between a safe landing and a crash landing. One degree difference in the plumb of a wall will allow the door to work properly or not open at all. These small things make a big difference.
One of the biggest small differences we can make is to not stretch ourselves so thin. When our attention is focused on our schedules, our activities and our finances, we have less time to focus on God, His Word and His plan. A simple yet difficult step in spiritual growth and generosity is leaving room for God. We only have so much time each day, week, month and how much is set aside for God, or even available for God to work.
Can’t find time? How about redeeming time? In your down time between events, talk with God and ask Him how you can be open to His plan. Find time to read His Word between meetings, in the parking lot or on a break. Pray multiple times throughout the day for just a moment at a time and ask God to guide you. Making room for God, even a little bit, will multiply your effectiveness and your joy.
This Thanksgiving season take a moment to recognize the gift God gives to us in our time and thank the Giver by centering our time around His purposes. This Christmas plan to give some of that time to someone else; it is the greatest gift you can give. God’s time is literally unlimited, and He gives you every moment “never leaving, never forsaking.” What a great gift to treasure and a great treasure to gift.
His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss
This weekend we will celebrate All Saints’ Day at Cross. We will spend some time reflecting on the 134 years of saints that have gone before us, their influence and our blessings. We will also consider our role as the current saints at Cross, our influence on the next generation of saints and the blessings we will leave behind.
Do you have trouble thinking of yourself as a current saint? Don’t worry; most of us do. In fact one of the devil’s most effective strategies is to convince everyday sinners like you and me that we are just that – sinners. If we see ourselves only as sinners, then we will usually avoid trying to influence the world around us. What do I know? What good am I? Who am I to judge? I make mistakes, too! All of these and more are excuses we come up with because we see ourselves only as sinners. We invalidate our influence and our identity by remaining silent.
But God says we are more than mere sinners; we are saints, too! The blood of the Lamb has washed us clean from our sin. The baptismal waters have flooded us with the Holy Spirit. The same Power that rose Christ from the dead and spoke the universe into being now dwells in you and me. How can we let a lack of faith contain that great strength?!?!
All Saints’ Day is a great opportunity to remember that we are numbered with the believers. We are numbered with God’s children. Our past, our present and our future are in God’s hands and His hands are working for our best interest. Join the saints of God as we live for Him, work for Him, love for Him! I will also be talking some more on the building plans that have been completed and the vision for implementing these plans for the sake of God’s kingdom work!
You are forgiven, redeemed, adopted, restored and filled with the Spirit. May His light shine in you and through you to impact those around you and those who will come after you. To Him alone be the glory! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss