Pastor’s Corner

God’s Covenant (Promise)

gods-covenant-smallCovenant language is the type of language God uses when telling us about His commitment to bless us. It might be similar to saying a lawyer speaks “legalese” or how unbelievers say Christians use “church language”. Covenant language can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with it, but it proves to be very useful when you look a little closer.

One type of covenant, a parity treaty, is between equals. This type of treaty is similar to when we buy something at the store. We have money, the store has goods and so we exchange. A farmer might rent land for crops or grazing for livestock. Maybe you clean a sibling’s room and they do your laundry.

A second type of covenant, a suzerain-vassal treaty, is between a king (suzerain) and his subjects (vassals). In this second type of treaty the vassals have nothing to offer the suzerain except their loyalty and good will. The king does not need to be kind or offer blessings because he is king and could simply demand it demand it under penalty.

In both the Old and New Covenant (Testament) God makes a treaty with His people and in both instances it mimics the suzerain-vassal treaty. Why does this matter? It matters greatly because it flies directly in the face of many current Christians teachings of God’s covenant. Many spiritual advisors will tell you that if you do your part God will be faithful , as if He is bound be a covenant to bless you if you are good. This perception is one of parity, not lordship.

God promises to be faithful because He is our good and gracious King! We have nothing to offer Him, nor can we earn His favor. He gives us His favor to show us His goodness. But, if we refuse to acknowledge His goodness or challenge His Lordship then He can remove His favor and blessing. He removes Hs favor and blessing for one reason, to remind us He is worthy of our loyalty, worship, and praise.

Over and over God makes a covenant and reminds us of His covenant to us. Over and over we decide we can do it better without Him. Over and over He forgives us restores us and renews us. He is able to do this because He is a good and powerful God with or without our praise. God is not “benefitted” by our praise except that He receives what He desires and deserves. Love from His children from His creation, and seeing them share that love with one another.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has raised up a horn of salvation for us  in the house of his servant David, that we should be saved from our enemies;  to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,  the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”   Luke 1:68ff

Pastor’s Corner


God’s Messengers

One of the most common questions I receive is about angels and other unseen beings. There is a lot of spiritual curiosity in our world, even as the number of people who profess the Christian faith in America continues to decline.  This weekend we will look at some of God’s messengers:  the prophets and the angels.

Literally, prophet means speaker and angel means messenger.  Both of these important roles bring information to us from God.  Primarily, the difference is that a prophet is a human being that brings true instruction from the Lord.  An angel is typically a spiritual being that comes to bring a specific message and then returns to the presence of God.

These messengers from God bring us the truth of God. It might be tempting to think “If I knew the right thing to do, I’d do it,” but so often when God’s messengers come and speak God’s truth, our human flesh curls in rebellion.  Angels frequently introduce themselves by saying “Do not be afraid.”  Prophets seldom stay in one place for long as their messages are commonly unwelcome.  John the Baptist was typically known to be found in the same area, but he stayed in the wilderness because he didn’t fit in.

One thing that seems common is that God’s messengers challenge us as people to be more like God and less like the world. They call us to have faith and trust in the goodness of God even if it looks or feels far different.  Prophets and angels might call us to repent (turn) from our sin and turn toward Christ and His truth.  It is difficult to live a life devoted to God’s teachings in a world that despises the authority and power of God.

But angels and prophets don’t just tell us we are wrong; in fact, what they tell us is that God wants us back. God is jealous because we have started loving other things more than Him.  We are reminded that the heartache we endure is of our poor decisions, not of God’s will.  We are cautioned that a lack of change may bring even more hardship than we are currently experiencing.  God is waiting with open arms to “gather us like a hen gathering its chicks under its wings.”

Today we see angels and prophets less, not because they don’t exist but because things are different since the crucifixion. We have the Word of God written and passed down.  We have access to those prophets of old and new revelation is ceased until Christs returns.  A modern day “prophet” will only be able to accurately apply the Word of God as already revealed to a current circumstance, not predict a future reality as a new word from God.  “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” Revelation 22:18-19.

Angels have always been a rare and special event; that is why their appearances are recorded in Scripture. The frequency of “angel sightings” in the Bible seems high only because we tend to forget it is written over several thousands of years.  Even then the appearances are concentrated around monumental moments.

Nonetheless, we have just as much connection to God as people in any era, maybe even more. The gift of Baptism cleanses us from sin and imparts the Holy Spirit.  We have seen God in the flesh and receive that same Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  His Words are written down for all of us, not just the scholars, so we can each hear from God’s mouth personally.  Prayer for each believer allows us to have the ear of God Himself as He cares for us; before only those deemed pure through temple rights would dare to communicate directly to God.  Most would only do so through a temple priest or a prophet.  Finally, the Holy Spirit Himself takes up residence in each believer.  The issue isn’t we don’t hear from God anymore; the issue is we fail to listen and trust His answers.  Sound familiar?

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

His Story: The Kingdom’s Fall

Christmas break is over and we will continue our Journey through God’s Story, the Holy Bible. As we get more familiar with His Story it helps us better understand our story, the journey of faith and life.  From the beginning until now we have heard God’s promise to make Israel a “great and mighty” nation and saw the promise (eventually) fulfilled under the leadership of King David and King Solomon.  But, things are about to go horribly wrong.

When things go wrong, questions start to come fast and furious. What did I do? What do I do now?  Why did this happen?  Where is/was God?   All these questions and more get asked in this next section of Scripture.

Mighty King Solomon starts to believe all the amazing things people are saying about him and starts to turn away from God. In the following generations, there are only 8 kings out of 46 listed that follow God.  The rest of the kings follow the ways of man and worship other Gods.  Not only that, but the once prosperous nation is split in two then ultimately conquered.

It might be tempting to be angry that God would go back on His promises. But, God ALWAYS keeps His promises.  He never removes his love and blessing from Israel and yet He doesn’t force them to love Him back.  In His divine love we are allowed to choose to follow our own misguided thoughts and suffer the consequences of those thoughts.   He won’t force us to love Him, but He is always there, ready to rescue us.  It is like the further we try to run from Him the closer He gets to us so He can catch us when we fall.

Come join us at Cross this month as we explore the overwhelming and almost indescribable Love that God has for us. Especially when we are at our worst and certainly when we feel like He has forgotten all about us.  God promised to never leave or forsake any of His children, any of us baptized into His name, and He keeps that promise especially when times are at their worst.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6

Pastor’s Corner

Epiphany is here! We commemorate the arrival of the Magi (or wise men) at Epiphany. The Magi were learned scholars from the East—biblical era scientists you might say. They observed the sky for important signs and indicators of what the future holds, they were not followers of the true God. On one particular night they saw a sign so important they had to follow it to see it with their own eyes and the result, worshiping the newborn King!

This story has been told over and over in many different settings. People of little to no faith see a sign or wonder so inspiring, so unique that they need to look into it further. It is the scientist who finally realizes that this world could not be made by chance. It is the skeptic won over by sincere love. It is the ill-informed exposed to biblical truth. It happens many times and many ways, after years of unbelief or doubt finally a “light” goes on and they see God.

Epiphanies aren’t just for unbelievers. As we study the Bible and learn more about God’s teachings we can realize we have misconceptions about God or about God’s teachings. If we are willing to listen to God we often find He has a different way for us to respond to a situation or a circumstance, one that leads to healing instead of conflict. One that brings hope or peace instead of conflict or worry.

Ultimately, Epiphany is about Jesus being revealed as the savior of the world. He didn’t come to save a select few or to save everyone who acts a certain way or says a certain thing. He came to save the lost, the lonely, the sinner and the forgotten of humanity. He came to us to break down the barriers and restore relationships. The only problem is people prefer the dark. We would rather hide in the dark than come into the light and be changed. But, there is still tremendous hope.

For those hiding in the dark, hiding from God, He sends in His army of angels and people. He calls us His Church. His purpose is to be present when people who need Him the most, expect it the least. God sends us who have seen the light of Christ to go and be the light of God in the darkness. And someday, in fact everyday, someone living in darkness sees the light and professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Seek God, be open to His light in your life and you might just be amazed at the work He does in and through you. What I find helpful about this truth is that it didn’t require anything special. The Magi just did what they do and God found them. But, they also didn’t run away when it got difficult. The Magi followed that star for a very long time until they arrived in Bethlehem. Where is God leading you to be a light? Are you willing to go?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16