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Christmas Day Message

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What do you think of Christmas – BIG presents? FLASHING lights?  Think again.  Our Savior came into this world in a manner that was neither big nor flashy. His mother was a humble commoner in a no-name village.  His birthplace was in a manger where they kept the animals.  No, Christmas isn’t about flash and dazzle or about pomp and circumstance.  Rather, it’s about our Lord’s willingness to embrace the despised and lowly things of this world and to work in ways that may be hidden to us, but that truly glorify Him!  Click Here for the Audio of this Christmas Day Message.

 

Sin and Judgment

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ScriptureWhen he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:  in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; (John 16:8-9)

Observation:  Sometimes people read a verse like “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done” from Revelation 20:13, and they focus in on these words: “each person was judged according to what he had done.”  And it can appear as though verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast,” or Romans 6:23 “the gift of God is eternal life”,  or even John 3:16 which speak of God’s unmerited grace are in contradiction with the judgment by works that Revelation 20 seems to indicate (and perhaps even James’ discourse on faith and deeds in James 2).  But then along comes a verse like John 16:8-9 that gives us a lens through which we can hold together all of these seemingly contradictory verses.  In John 16, Jesus makes plain that if there is any judgment according to sin, there is only one sin that we are judged against – and that is the sin of not believing in Christ.

Application: It is so natural within our human mind and ego to want to be at the center of things.  If God is happy, we think we must have done something to deserve it, and if God judges we believe we must have done something to deserve that.  The problem is that this goes against Scripture’s repeated promise that God’s gift of eternal life comes to us simply by grace for Jesus’ sake, and that God’s punishment, while deserved (our works DO earn us something – God’s wrath) is exacted not on us, but on His Son.  It is with joy and peace that I know that someday I will be held accountable, that is true, but the only thing my eternity depends upon is my relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, secured by the waters of baptism in and through which I am inextricably bound to Christ! No one or no thing can take me from the Lord’s grasp! (Rom. 8:39, John 10:28-29)

PrayerLord, help me TRUST in you for all things! And may I not shun good deeds simply because my salvation does not depend on them – for through them you reach the lost and bless your people.  Amen.

Q&A – Responding to Sandy Hook

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In response to the recent tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary, one of our members posed the following observation and question. After that is my response…

Q: “The people’s hearts have been broken. Their minds are open for change. Is this an opportunity for God to make a comeback ? … What can we DO?”

A: What you have said is so true. Our society does need God… everyone does! However, one of my professors at the seminary said it well – “The Lord allows His gifts to be rejected.” He allowed JESUS to be rejected. He allows his forgiveness and SALVATION to be rejected. And so He allows His blessings and PEACE to be rejected as well. This is actually a function of the GOSPEL… That we have freedom. (If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed… John 8:36)

How do we get our nation to actually desire God again? There’s no simple answer to that question, but I fear that it will need to get worse before it gets better.

I could go on and on…. but I’ll just end with a simple reminder that we are to be “salt and light” Jesus says (Matt. 5:13-16). His Kingdom does not come by sight, nor by force. We sow the seeds of the Gospel and leave the results to the Holy Spirit. In the mean time, we do not let Satan rob our peace, joy and security! Those can never be taken from us.

This is a very brief response to a deep and significant problem.  The battle is fought on the battlefield of prayer. (Ephesians 6:18)

Leadership Lessons from ASU

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My son is a student at Arizona State University (ASU).   Having been residents of Arizona for 10 years, we have watched ASU go from having a “questionable” reputation to being a well respected, nationally ranked university.  How did this happen through a decade of downturn and uncertainty?  In this video, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow talks about his innovative approach that directed the turn-around of this University – which is now the largest in America.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but note what I saw as several relevant connections to the Church in America today.  See if these sentiments seem applicable to today’s Church leadership to you:

To have institutions that are static means then that at some point that our dynamism will be greatly reduced.

We became self satisfied at our achievement of success (of being highly selective on who we admit)

We needed to be excellent and grow at the same time.

How do we become deeply committed to the community?

We want to be driven by the desire to serve.

Most universities have become implementers of traditions that they can’t even explain why they exist.

We’ve decided to take innovation and adaptation and make that equal to or more important than tradition.  Not eliminating the traditions but just not making them the driver.

Bring these disciplines together because we know that if we can bring these together we can solve problems in ways that hadn’t previously even been able to think of them.

We will not be separate from society. We’re not interested in separation.  We’re interested in service.

You can’t be of service if you are separated. (no more ivory tower).

Can be innovative and adaptive

How can we make our impact greater?

The question and challenge for us church leaders is are we willing to admit that the church as an “institution” is facing many similar “pressure”s as ASU faced – changing economics, changing demographics, changing priorities among the constituents we serve and hope to reach?

Are we willing to make changes to reach people? In ASU’s case, they wanted to reach new students, but they had to change their approach to faculty and admission to do so.  In the church, can we think through how we design our institution so that it can reach new people?  Perhaps we need to change our approach to who we exist for?  What would be the parallel to faculty and admission in the church? How can we embrace “traditions” in the church but not allow them to become the driver in our mission?

Have we become self-satisfied at our current achievements? Do we in the Church tend to think “ivory tower” and separate ourselves from society?   Could we be so bold as to make the firm statement that we “will not be separate from society?”    And are we always asking the question “How can we make our impact greater?”

Food for thought!  May God guide our churches in ways of reaching more and increasing the harvest for Christ’s Kingdom!

Growing and Bearing Fruit

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“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). 

“Growing and bearing fruit” is a great phrase to describe what we are to be doing as disciples of the Lord, together in ministry at Redeemer by the Sea.  We have adopted the concept of WORSHIP – GROW – SERVE as a summary of our ministry activities.  That short expression provides a succinct answer to the question, “what is expected of the members at our church?”  Driven by Worship and devotion to our Lord, we expect our members to Grow in love for their Lord and neighbors as demonstrated by heartfelt actions of Service.   This is the fruit of our faith, and shows us to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus says.

As you look through the pages of this report, you will see WORSHIP – GROW – SERVE in action, and the fruit of much of our labors.  Of course much fruit is invisible to our eyes, and can only be seen by the Lord.  Still, we continue in faith to Grow in our Service to God and His Church, bearing much fruit for Him and expanding the Lord’s Harvest, so that more may come to know and worship Jesus!

2012 will be my first full year in ministry at Redeemer, and full it has been!  Over this last year we’ve seen this “fruit” emerge:

  • By God’s grace our mortgage restructure has allowed us to go from a negative cash flow to a positive one.
  • We have seen a steady pattern of increasing worship attendance and offerings
  • Our preschool and kindergarten have had full enrollment.
  • More lay people are involved in the worship service as greeters and readers – actually, more people are involved in active ministry now than ever before.
  • We started new Sunday morning Bible Studies and expanded our Growth Groups.
  • We began our new “Discovery Track” series of membership classes.
  • We have new Sunday School and Church brochures to use for Sunday guests and outreach.
  • We revamped our Children’s ministry to have a large group gathering with puppets and skits, as well as age appropriate small groups.
  • The Lower Level classrooms were decorated with an “Under the Sea” Sunday School theme
  • We celebrated “Big Days” on Easter and Veterans Day as well as in September with the beginning of the School year.
  • We responded generously to the need of the Free Wheelchair Mission, donating more than 140 wheelchairs for distribution.
  • We supported the ministry of Gideons International and Jews for Jesus as well as the outreach of our own Pacific Southwest District.
  • We reached out to the more than 80 families that visited our church for the first time this year with welcome cards and gifts.
  • We grew our building fund to remodel the room 4 Youth Room and “Lounge.”
  • We undertook the project of creating an updated pictorial directory.
  • Our elder board has grown and is doing more member care and even held our first prayer and healing service.
  • And in the challenges of life – where many of us faced significant illness, financial stress and loss, God has used our ministry to be a source of comfort and encouragement.

What a joy to see the Lord growing us so that we bear much fruit to His glory!  Hear what some of our members ­– and non-members – have said about our ministry:

“We praise Jesus for the gift of a wonderful Easter and we are so thankful for the church family in creating such a warm environment to invite friends.”

“NO words to thank you (for) all my boy  learned at this camp (VBS)…He is praising God everyday… and that melts my heart…  We have sooo much peace and Love in our Family …GOD Bless you All.”

“This has been a trying year to say the least but with the love and support of friends and family I have been able to push through.”

“(We) can’t thank you all enough for helping us to feel so welcome and loved at Redeemer By the Sea.  Over the last few years, Redeemer has fulfilled our lives in so many ways and we feel so blessed that we found such a special church family to be a part of.”

Building on the work that has been done this year, we look forward to 2013 with Joy and Hope!  Only God knows the future, but whatever may come, we fully expect God to be present in our midst and to do great things for His Kingdom through Redeemer by the Sea and its members!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie