Easter – Living the Victory!

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Easter Victory

Of all the things in life, one is number one. Of all the teachings in the Bible, one is primary. Of all the things in the world, one is prime. The apostle Paul names what this is in His letter to the Corinthians. He calls it “of first importance” when he says: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). The Gospel of Jesus, our Savior, is what is of first importance. This Easter, we celebrate that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is of first importance.  Knowledge of this one thing changes our perspective on everything else.  What could be more important to know?

May you live in victory – with Christ!

Generous Living!

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In 1998, our church body in convention approved the adoption of 8 “Biblical Stewardship Principles” based on this definition: “Christian stewardship is the free and joyous activity of the child of God and God’s family, the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes.”

We want to understand how we, as Christian stewards can live generously … for we represent and serve the Lord, who Himself is supremely generous. In Acts 2, we see that believers in the early church were generous as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Even those who were poor were spurred on by Christ’s sacrifice to generously share with those who had need:

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44–45, ESV)

Is it possible for us, in 21st century America, to express the same spirit of generosity? The answer is yes … but … The 21st century Church must recognize some fundamental truths.   Larry Ulrich, writing on the topic of Encouraging Generous Stewards suggests these factors:

A Generous Culture Cultivates Generous Stewards. Congregations need to model a generous attitude to their members. If a congregation has a culture of “scarcity” members can tend to adopt this attitude, and be to stingy with their resources. Rather, congregations and members need to recognize that with God all things are possible, and to share generously recognizing that God supplies in abundance! (see Luke 6:38).

Generous Leaders Cultivate Generous Stewards.   In the Bible, we see the leaders making their gifts first:

“Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.” (1 Chron. 29:6)

In generous churches, leaders are modeling generosity. The greatest impact is experienced when members are shown how acts of generosity result in changed lives.

Embrace the Ministry of Asking.   This is best done when we first learn what our members are passionate about. However, when a ministry does ask for money, it is important that the perspective is always what God wants for the giver, now what the ministry wants or needs from the giver. Our Giving to His Glory program should be seen as an opportunity to stir up each other toward love and good works! (see Hebrews 10:24).

Generosity is Contagious. This is seen in the Bible in a number of places, but especially when it came time to build the Old Testament tabernacle (see Exodus 35 and 36). The generosity of the people continued to grow and grow until those who were in charge of the building of the tabernacle came to Moses and said, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses told the people to stop bringing gifts! It is so important to notice that the people were not commanded to bring these contributions; they were bringing gifts from their generous hearts. The command was not to give, but to stop giving… Imagine that!

Measuring Generosity. It has been said that “what’s important gets measured, and what gets measured is important.” Churches need to measure the giving of their members… and this measurement needs to go beyond just the aggregate giving numbers. If giving is a measure of a member’s spiritual health, then neglecting to monitor someone’s giving is failing to properly care for their spiritual well-being.

Celebrate Generosity.   We regularly celebrate important milestones in the life of our members – Baptism, Confirmation, Weddings, Installations, etc. Yet, we can struggle at celebrating generosity. It is important to celebrate when someone gives for the first time. And it is also important to celebrate the impact that generosity allows in and through our congregation.

So how are we doing at Redeemer by the Sea? Have you seen our culture of generosity in the way we provide gifts and free resources for our members? Do you sense that our congregational leaders are generous givers? Have we helped you experience with transparency – both our struggles and joys in the areas of generosity? Are you spurred on to give to the work of the Lord, encouraged by the generosity of other congregation members? Do you feel as though you are receiving appropriate monitoring and feedback on your giving? And are you able to celebrate the impact that your offerings and the offerings of the others in our congregation are making – not just to support our beautiful sanctuary and dedicated ministry staff… but to reach beyond our walls with the gospel and love of Jesus? I would love to hear from you on this! Please drop me an email: pastor@redeemerbythesea.org and share what you see as strengths and/or areas for improvement!

Blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Augie

Giving a Reason for Our Hope

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“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”  – 1 Peter 3:15

In church, we talked about sharing our faith in winsome and effective ways.  A quick review:

When witnessing, we should always keep in mind …

  1. Our Attitude – we should be reaching out to them in love, as the father does in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  We also need to realize that sometimes people are antagonistic to Christians because they have some underlying pain. We need compassion.
  2. Share the Truth, not clever arguments – it’s the Word of God that convicts and converts souls, not our legalism, philosophy, or debate skills.  We are in a spiritual battle, not a battle of wits.
  3. Be Humble – Not only does God oppose the proud (1 Peter 5:5), but puffed up arrogance gets us nowhere.  If we can remember that we are just as in need of God’s grace and mercy as they are, that will help
  4. Be Winsome – there is a spiritual “harvest” that is ready (Matthew 9:37), but every soul is not ready for the harvest.  Some need more time.  We must recognize different stages of spiritual growth, and guide people along to take the next step.
  5. Intercede for Them – if you don’t pray for them, who will?  And remember … before you talk to that person about God, talk to God about that person.

These are great things to keep in mind as we prepare to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ!

I am praying for you as you share your faith!  May God make you bold, and open the hearts and minds of the people you are praying for, and reaching out to.  May it be for HIS Glory!

– Pastor Augie.

Acting in Fear …

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  – 1 John 4:18, ESV

The longer I live, and the more I mature in my faith, the more that I realize how many things people do (and *I* do) are motivated out of FEAR.  Take note some time… Not only are there the obvious things like not flying in airplanes, or not eating new foods, but there are even more subtle things that people do out of fear – even church people.  For example, when people argue about music styles, or building changes, or budget, or … etc … aren’t they really just voicing something that they are afraid of?  They are afraid of losing control.  They are afraid of losing significance.  Or they are afraid they will look bad.  Or …

I could go on, but I will just say that in all of this, I have learned that fear is a terrible thing on which to base our actions.  Fear might be a good indicator that you or I need to search our underlying assumptions and even our motives.  But when all is said and done, we should not be acting based on fear.  Rather, when we feel that fear is operating in us, we should expose our fears to the light of Scripture, and to the light of God’s Love.  It is only then that we can truly see our fears in perspective, and see them for what they really are – human based fears.  We are afraid of what others might do, and we are afraid of what we can and can’t protect.  But all of these are just that – fears.

Once we realize, however, what God has to say about the thing that is causing us fear, and about us when we are facing that fear, then we then gain power to act not out of our fear, but rather out of His Love!  Truly, His love has the power to cast out our fears.  For if we know who we are and whose we are in God’s Love through Christ, then we know that whatever it is that we fear has no power over us, since Christ has conquered it.  So instead we lean on God’s power, and He gives us the strength that we need to stand up in the face of our fears – and to act out of Love rather than in response to fear.  In truth, if we are in Christ, what then is there to fear?

May God give you strength and peace in the face of anything that is causing you fear.  May His Love overpower your fears and cause you to be filled with inexpressible hope.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Augie

The ABC’s of Salvation

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You can find the “ABC’s of Salvation” in a variety of forms on the internet.  What’s below is how I preached them at the end of my message on Easter Sunday, 2014.  I’ve tried to present these in a way that acknowledges some of our Lutheran distinctives.

A. Admit that you need God.

Some of you are just trying to do life without God.  You think you’ve “got this” all by yourself.  How’s that working for ya?  If you haven’t already, you will encounter something in life that is going to break you and bring you to your knees and show you that you need someone stronger.  And more that that, you need someone better than you.  The Bible says …

No one is good—except God alone (Luke 18:19, NIV).

We know that’s true, because the Bible tells us …

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, NIV).

In other words, none of us is good enough to please God or earn eternal life on our own merit. We may not be as bad as the next guy, but the next guy’s not your standard.  God’s perfection is.  And you need to admit, that if it depends on you alone, you come up empty handed.  You need God.

B. Believe in him.

Jesus said …

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV).

You say, “that’s too easy!”  But why is it that we think that for something powerful to happen, it has to be all magical? – thank you Harry Potter.  We think we have to have the right skills, the right spell, the right supplies, before something dramatic can occur.  But we see a man in the OT cured of leprosy just because he believed enough to get off his horse and wash in the Jordan. (see 2 Kings 5, particular attention to v. 13)  So when Jesus tells Martha, “anyone who believes in me will live” … it’s so simple a child can do it, it’s so accessible that it’s available to everyone – yet it’s so powerful it saves lives.  Believe!

C. Be Cleansed/Claimed in the waters of Baptism.  

Jesus says plainly,

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”  (Mark 16:16, NIV).

But baptism is more than a ritual.  It’s not about something you do, but about something God is doing TO you… It’s about Him placing His Name on you and claiming you as His child, and cleansing you of your sin.

How can a little water do such powerful things?  There’s that faith-thing again.  But the One who told us to be baptized, is also the One who rose from the grave, and is also the One who says – give me your hard heart, and I will give you a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), and make you a new creation!  The old has gone the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Name of God, the forgiveness of sins, a fresh start and a new heart that is restored to God… all of that is yours in Baptism!

So what are you waiting for?  Do you still have questions?  I’d love to hear your comments and questions – just click “comment” on this blog, or send me an email.  And if you’re ready to be baptized – that’s great!  Come to Redeemer by the Sea, or find a Bible-believing church, where the Word is preached in its purity and Truth, and the Sacraments are rightly administered, and ask about baptism.  Let me know how I can help you in your spiritual journey.  May you respond to the Lord’s invitation… Come!

In The Name of Jesus!

– Pastor Augie.

Were You There …

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our sins have died with Christ ...

our sins have died with Christ … Good Friday at Redeemer’s “Crosses of Calvary” display

At last night’s Good Friday service, we all “laid our sins” on the cross of Jesus Christ.  There they were put to death with Him!

His blood became your blood as He died to take the punishment you deserved … and I deserved … and the whole world deserved.  Why? … Because He loves you.  How? … Because He is the Son of God.  Only His Blood has this power – to do what no other blood could ever do.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Now as we wait for Easter Sunday, we wait patiently with hope – because we know the end of the story!  Jesus does not stay dead …

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime” – Martin Luther

… and neither will you and I!  Look around you – flowers are coming to bloom.  Seeds are sprouting to life.  They were lying dormant in the ground, only to burst forth in beauty and splendor!

It is so fitting that Easter is in Spring.  What a great reminder that Christ’s death … and our death too! … only looks like it’s the end.

May you be filled with hope as you await the Resurrection!

Only by God’s grace,

Pastor Augie.

A Switch and a Dimmer

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Switch and Dimmer image

Illustration of Justification and Sanctification

A while back an image formed in my mind that I thought would be helpful in illustrating an important theological concept.  The image is that of an electrical circuit; one containing both a switch and a variable resistor.  The theological concept that it illustrates is that of the distinction between “justification” and “sanctification.”

People, even theologians, often confuse the two.  This can be frustrating at best, or at worst it can obscure God’s gift of salvation.  This simple electrical concept makes a good analogy because you’ve likely seen it at work already in your own home.  A variable resistor is known in more common terms as a “dimmer switch.”  Whereas a simple switch only allows you to turn a light on or off, a dimmer allows you to make your lights bright or dim to your liking.   How can this example from electronics help illustrate the theological concepts of justification and sanctification?  To understand, let’s turn to the Bible …

  1. The act of God forgiving a person who has sinned, by their faith in the righteous life, suffering and death of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) on their behalf is called “justification.” Read Romans 3:22-24. It clearly states that we all fall into this category, but it is God’s grace alone through the work of Jesus Christ that entitles us to be saved-or as the NIV text reads, “justified.” Romans 4:5 and Ephesians 2:8-9 further clarify that this justification is not based on any worthiness or merit of our own (see also Romans 3:28, Galatians 3:3). How the electrical circuit analogy helps us better understand this concept of justification is this: just as a simple switch is either on or off, so a person is either saved or condemned (Mark 16:16). There is no middle ground. Just as a woman cannot be only “somewhat pregnant,” we cannot only be “partially saved.”  This means, that their is nothing for us to add to our salvation, nor can we weaken it by our sins.
  2. It is important to note that the act of justification is not to be confused with the process of “sanctification.” Whereas justification (also referred to as salvation or conversion) is a one-time completed action, sanctification is an ongoing process. The Apostle Paul, as sanctified as he was, acknowledged that he had not attained perfection (Philippians 3:12); none of us ever will during this life. We can, however, strive to become more Christ-like in our actions (Philippians 3:10). This process is called sanctification. Sanctification can be stated in simple terms as “the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life” (Titus 3:5). Or, put another way, “my demonstration of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’” (Galatians 5:22-23). While our justification is not dependent upon us (Acts 16:31), mankind is entirely capable of embracing or resisting the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 14:15). It is our “resistance” to the Holy Spirit’s work that is represented by the dimmer!  You can think of it this way: the “light” of the Holy Spirit in your life is on because of your justification.   How brightly it shows in your life, however, is determined by how much you welcome or resist the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).  In electrical terms, a bright light meets with little resistance from the dimmer switch, whereas a dim light encounters a high measure of resistance.

Now what does this mean for you? It means that because your salvation (justification) is dependent only upon the completed work of Jesus Christ, you need never fear that your earthly life and deeds are not good enough to get you into heaven!  John 3:16 says nothing about our works. Furthermore, you have the assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). You are secure.  And your ability to profess (and believe) “Jesus is Lord,” shows that you have the Holy Spirit in you (1 Corinthians 12:3).  This gift of salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then creates a life change in you that compels you to live according to God’s commands (Psalm 119:41-48).

It is great news that the Lord loves you just as you are (Romans 5:8)!  … But He loves you too much to leave you just as you are.  The Father justifies the sinner through His Son, and sanctifies the spiritually re-born “saint” (one made holy in Christ) through His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit in you will continually work to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus until that day He calls you home!

If you want to better understand justification, sanctification, or the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, send me an email, give me a call, or stop by on Sunday!

In His Holy Name,

Pastor Augie

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