Pastor’s Corner

Blessed New Year

“Behold, I am making all things new!” This statement made from the throne in heaven in Revelation 21:7, has always been a source of hope for me. To me, this is a promise that what I am going through right now, or what the world is going through now is not how it will always be. Eventually this challenging season in life or season of conflict in the world will end and a new season will begin. A soft winter snow, a sunrise, a wedding, a baptism, a new year; each of these are seasons of great joy because the old way of things is over and a new way is starting fresh.

Immediately after this statement of newness from the throne in Revelation comes another phrase that shows God is as excited about these new things as we are. “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” I hear these words in a tone of excitement and certainly from God. I imagine John in heaven in a predicament where he is torn between not wanting to miss a single detail and looking down to write down what he sees. Picture him remaining intensely focused on what is happening, recording every detail and sight in his mind similar to a beautiful view or any other experience. He is sitting down, mouth agape, overwhelmed by it all, when the voice from the throne essentially says “Write this down, you won’t want to forget it!”

It is easy to forget when you are in the heat of the moment or a season of struggle that it won’t last forever. Some circumstances last longer and are more difficult than others, but none of them last forever. What a great message as we begin the New Year 2023. This year comes with a promise from God of a new season with new opportunities and new blessings.

Maybe you are bringing baggage from last year forward with you; unresolved health issues, relationship strife or financial hardships. These things have a way of weighing us down if we let them. While your season of struggle may continue in 2023, this promise of a fresh start and new hope is for you. In fact, God’s promise to make things new isn’t limited to Revelation or even a calendar year. In fact, God says His mercies are new every morning! Every morning is a new season, every sunrise a new beginning, every breath a new opportunity to let God’s mercy and peace be with us.

While we all look forward to the bad stuff ending and the start of something new and better. Until that happens, we still have a tremendous opportunity. Each day God makes US new! He gives us new power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We receive a fresh strength and perspective to endure and overcome that which is challenging us.

May this power and presence be yours as we enter 2023. And, I pray, that as new struggles come your way in 2023, and they inevitably will, you will receive a new measure of God’s mercy to face those challenges every day. God’s richest blessings be upon each of us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

In Christ

Rev. Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, January 1, 2023
Numbers 6:22-27, Luke 2:21-24

Pastor’s Corner

Be Born In Us Today

Merry Christmas! I pray you are warm and safe if you are reading this during the predicted “Bomb Cyclone” Blizzard. If it is anything like most of these winter storms the results typically underperform the hype but, there is nothing bad about being prepared.

Christmas in America focuses on craving happiness, calm and silence. This is no surprise that these ideals are highlighted as an escape from our busy and over committed culture. We constantly move from one task to the next and if we don’t or can’t we feel useless. If someone asks how we are doing, we love to say “busy”. The chaos of shopping for Christmas presents causes us to crave the tranquility of silence. Family gatherings also tend to bring both joy and the desire for a calm night.

The first Christmas was also a lesson on two opposing ideas. Jesus, the Light of the World was born and announced at night, in the darkness. The classic Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness story, literally as old as time. (that’s a biblical joke about creation in case my humorous tone isn’t coming through the screen.)

The account of Jesus’ birth is truly an endless stream of challenges or evil conquered by good. We start with Mary, a virgin betrothed for marriage who finds herself pregnant. The accusations in Joseph’s mind finally assuaged as the angel tells him to have faith that Mary is telling the truth. That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. The once sin-centered scenario gives way to joy, singing, praising God and a blessed marriage.

These accounts eventually transition to the night Jesus was born. A dark night, likely darker than any night you have ever seen. Before the invention of light bulbs, candles and similar items would have been all the light pollution there was. A star breaks through the darkness and captures the attention of the sky gazers. The glory of the angels shone bright upon the shepherds. The birth of a Savior punctures the shroud of evil darkness.

Why is there so much symbolism in the account of our Savior’s birth? The Devil does not take a night off; not a silent night, not even a holy night. The Devil is constantly prowling and seeking to destroy. Darkness is all around us. But the Light of God breaks through. The glory of God shone on that first night and it shines today, amid our personal darkness.

God’s light broke through the darkness at creation, at Jesus’ Birth, and it will ultimately breakthrough on the last day as we join together in heaven. But, God’s light is breaking through your darkness TODAY! It is the nature of God to bring light and holiness to darkness and doubt. He knows no other way. This is why Jesus tells us we are the temple of God and a light to the world. The Light of God cannot be hidden, even in the darkest of nights (and most evil of days) Jesus’ light shines bright into our lives. That same light shines through us into the lives of those we meet each day.

May God fill you with a light to overwhelm all darkness and a peace that does not demand tranquility but, rather, a peace that overcomes chaos with His presence. Then, your Christmas will be merry no matter the circumstance.

In His service and yours,

Rev. Erik Gauss

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:9-10)

Scripture Readings for Saturday, December 24
Genesis 15:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Luke 2:1-7

Pastor’s Corner

What part of the Christmas story speaks life into you this season?

It doesn’t matter how many times I read the Christmas story; if my heart and mind are open and attentive, God shows me something new each Christmas season.

God’s word never changes, but I do. Each year I celebrate Christmas it is a new and different season in my life. Sometimes those seasons have been highlighted by personal changes like a move or marriage or graduation. Sometimes the season is highlighted by someone around me, a child’s achievement or death of a loved one. Whatever the case, because of the circumstances in my life, God’s word and the season of Christmas hit me differently.

The Bible says that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. Timothy 3 says that all scripture is God-breathed. The breath of God is the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder then that the Word of God speaks into my life and fills me with the breath of God when I need it the most; when the day-to-day grind has me suffocating.

As you pause from your Christmas Chaos, what part of the Christmas story speaks life into you this season?

The faithfulness of Joseph when he was up against the odds. Joseph was faced with the reality that his world was crashing down. Amidst the excitement of his marriage to his virgin bride, the preparation that had been going into the marriage ceremony and their life together, Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant. If he divorces her, it is a disgrace. If he marries her, they are both adulterers. His life went from best case scenario to worst case scenario in moments. But God shows up and encourages Joseph to remain faithful. That message really speaks to me when the life of faith seems tiring.

How about Mary and her joy in being used by God in an impossible way? No one will believer her, her husband will likely leave her, no self-respecting man would want her. A life turned upside down, by a blessing from God. None of those worldly concerns seemed to phase her for long as she celebrated with her cousin Elizabeth in Luke 1. The Magnificat of Mary is a song that brings much joy when my blessings from God tend to turn my plans upside-down.

The Shepherds who would have been a working class in the city. They were witnesses to the Angel’s message of the birth of Jesus. No one was going to believe them, yet they couldn’t stop telling people about the angels they had seen and the news they had been told. They left their jobs, traveled to Bethlehem to see this baby face to face. The bold faithfulness of the shepherds is always an inspiration to live my faith boldly, especially in a world that will question my beliefs or even think I’m crazy.

These are some of the inspirations God has given me over the years. I wonder how He has inspired you? This Christmas I invite you into a challenge. Don’t just listen to the story and imagine the same way you always have. This year, listen to the story and imagine it anew. The vibrancy of the story and the season you are in life will allow the Christmas story to come alive again, like a child hearing it for the first time. Your faith will be renewed and the power of the Holy Spirit will be upon you.

Immanuel, God with us. The presence of God in this world and our life changes and redirects us, if we are open to it. Mary and Joseph’s life didn’t turn out anything like they imagined it, but as they were faithful to follow God, He did immeasurably more than they ever imagined. He does the same for us at Christmas, and every day.

May the peace, power and presence of God Be with you TODAY and every day.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, December 18
Exodus 15:1-18, Galatians 4:3-7, Luke 3:15-17

Pastor’s Corner

The Advent Of Our God

Advent is classic word that doesn’t get used too often in our everyday language. Advent is from a Latin word that means “coming” or “arrival”. In my life it is best articulated as the feeling of anticipation and anxiousness as we watch our friends and family travel towards us for the Holidays. Yes, I mean watch as the dot on Life360 or Find Friends or even Snapchat travels toward you, makes stops along the highway and finally arrives in the driveway. The Advent of our holiday celebration.

Like so many experiences today, they were the same but different in Jesus’ time. Before the birth of Jesus people were constantly watching the scriptures, the politics, nations and even the stars in the sky for the arrival of the Messiah–much like many today point to current events and declare the end of the world or that the second arrival of Jesus is coming.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) This familiar declaration of the arrival of Jesus was actually declared 700 years prior to His actual birth. The anticipation was intense!

Every day the faithful people of God would look forward to the Messiah’s arrival to deliver them from sin and tyranny. That Messiah is here and deliverance is ours. Except, instead of standing in that deliverance and living as people who have the indwelling of God, we too often forfeit those blessings and instead long for and look forward to another deliverance. Our heavenly home.

In this Advent series, we are reminded that Christ is born in us spiritually TODAY! and every day. He enters into us daily to strengthen and support us, save us and renew us. We are changed by His presence within us as we become more and more like Him in the living of our lives.

Week 1 • Be Born in Us Today Bringing Blessing (Genesis 12:2): God promises Abraham that an offspring from his line would bring blessing to all. When Jesus was born, that promise came true with an abundance.

Week 2 • Be Born in Us Today Bringing Renewal (Isaiah 40:31): The prophet Isaiah declared that a Holy One from God would be born into this world to bring renewal to all the faint and weary. Christ’s birth restores our strength that we might serve him.

Week 3 • Be Born in Us Today Bringing Guidance (Psalm 31:3): The children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, often doubting God’s plan for them. With the arrival of Jesus on the scene, we have a clear path to the promised land of heaven through him who is the Way.

Week 4 • Be Born in Us Today Bringing Power (Exodus 15:6): John the Baptist pointed to the power of God present in Jesus Christ. As we prepare for the birth of baby Jesus, we point others to the power at work in our lives through our Emmanuel, God with us.

Join us for the Be Born in Us Today special services for Advent on both Sundays and Wednesdays. In these services, we remember that Jesus is born and that birth is a blessing for TODAY! This week we will look at how the prophet Isaiah declared that a Holy One from God would be born into this world to bring renewal to all the faint and weary. That Holy One was Jesus. And he is born in us TODAY!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, December 4
Isaiah 40:21-31, Ephesians 1:7-10, Matthew 1:18-25