Home

One Foot in Front of the Other

Leave a comment

I was recently officiating a funeral, when one young man who had just lost his grandfather, was recounting losing his father at a very young age.  He said that he got through those tough days by simply “putting one foot in front of the other.”

Then shortly after that, one gentleman in our morning prayer group was sharing a story about his friend, a WWII veteran, who was one of only a few people to survive the Bataan Death March … How did he do it?  He said that he would look at a point on the path just a little bit farther than they were at the moment, and he would say to himself, “I can go that far.”  Then when he got there, and he would do that again – and again -and again.

That’s not entirely unlike what Nik Wallenda did back in 2012 in my hometown – Niagara Falls, NY.  Take a look at these pictures …

Walenda-1
Walenda-2
Talk about putting one foot in front of the other!

There are times and circumstances in your life, where you could become paralyzed by fear and the difficulty of the situation…  OR… you can choose to go on by putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving on faith.   Let me suggest that you do the latter.  And when you do … it’s amazing what God will bring you through… and where God will bring you to.

Walking with Jesus, day by day,

Pastor Augie

Godly Wisdom in the Worldly World

Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Do you realize that as God’s baptized people, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us? (Romans 8:11)  At times, I’ve had people resist and even deny this clearly Scriptural concept, and yet it is true – we are meant to be “God containers” within this world!  Humbling, isn’t it?  Sadly, I have been guilty – with more frequency than I care to admit – of ignoring the Spirit that is within me, and forging ahead with my own fleshly desires.  These may be outright sins, or they may even be “good” intentions of serving God, but they really have no basis in God’s Spirit.  Rather they are more about my own pride and fears. Ouch.  So what’s the solution?  Simple – say “no” to the wisdom and pace of the world, and spend time with God in His Word and Sacraments, where your soul, and the Spirit within you is nourished and fed.  It is only then that we can hope to bring Jesus into our family, church, community and world – not by our will, but by the Holy Spirit at work within us.

Blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Augie

Bless This Home

Leave a comment

With Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day coming up in June this is a good time to turn our thoughts toward home and family. In particular, the Christian home.

Bless_this_Home_Series_-_Banner_Graphic_3
Our new Sunday messages series is called “Bless This Home” and will be looking at what it means to be a Christian family …  not merely one who identifies Christianity as their faith (though that is important) but one who seeks to be a Christ-centered home.

May 8    – “Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness”
May 15  – “Pure in Heart”
May 22  – “Peacemakers”
May 29  – “Persecuted”

In order to consider what it means to have Christ at the center of our home, we will be looking at some of the Beatitudes. “The Beatitudes,” as they are called, begin what is known as The Sermon on the Mount – one of Jesus’ first recorded sermons (Matthew Chapters 5-7).

sermon on the mount
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. … and he began to teach them.” – Matthew 5:1-2

They are a series of eight to ten blessings that describes for Jesus followers how life is different in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in the world. The word Beatitude itself come from a Latin word meaning “happiness.” In fact, what is often translated in our Bibles as “blessed” is really a word that could just as easily be translated as “happy.” However, in an effort to distinguish Christ-centered Joy from fleeting human happiness, the word blessed remains the preferable translation. But, we cannot deny that our search for a happy home, will only be fulfilled in the blessings and joy that come from our Father through Jesus Christ.

In week 1, “Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness,” we will consider how our families today, while surrounded with so many amenities, so much food and so many opportunities for recreation, are still hungry at their core. What are they hungry for? And how will that hunger be satisfied? We know as Christ followers that everyone is hungry for a relationship with Jesus. May our homes be a place where we hunger and thirst for that.

In week 2, “Pure in Heart,” we will talk about creating a culture of purity in our homes. Christ centered purity means having a heart that seeks with our whole heart and seeks to love our neighbor as ourselves. In so doing we not only desire not to harm our neighbor, but to lookout for their well-being. Our goal is to have our hearts and minds set on the things of God rather than the things of the world. In home, workplace and community we seek to live our lives with the highest degree of Integrity.

In week 3, “Peacemakers,” we will consider that a Christ-centered home is not one where we merely “keep the peace” but strive to make peace. That means that we often have to run toward conflict rather than run away from it. That means that we need to speak the truth in love even when it hurts. And that means that we need to give and receive forgiveness readily and completely.

And finally in week 4, “Persecuted,” we will recognize that as a Christ-centered family not only will we not be spared persecution, we can in fact expect it! Why? Because as Jesus told us, anyone that seeks to do His will, will also suffer persecution for His name.  We learn from Jesus not to run from persecution but to endure it and even embrace it.  Indeed, in that suffering we become like Christ Himself who endured the ultimate persecution for our sake and the sake of the whole world.

At Redeemer by the Sea we have been talking more and more about being a lighthouse to our community by not staying within the confines of our congregation, but rather joining Christ in His mission to seek and save the lost in our community. If we are to do that well, we will need the foundation of a strong Christian home. We will not simply be able to claim that we are Christians, we will truly need to be Christ-centered disciples – seeking Him in our daily quiet time, humbling ourselves, enduring persecution, and seeking to bring the Peace of Christ into the turmoil of our world.  In all this we are driven by a hunger and thirst for Righteousness!  This is what compels us as Christians, and what will ultimately bring us the most Joy in our lives.  What better purpose could there be?  What better source of happiness could there be, than to be blessed by God as we live out our faith in our homes, our church and in our community.

Blessed to be a blessing!

Pastor Augie

Mission? Or Mission-Like?

Leave a comment

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus understood the temptation of people to mistake the gift for the giver … to spend their time and energy going after the fruit, rather than seeking to be grounded in God and rooted in Christ.  As He spoke the above words during His “Sermon on the Mount,” He was redirecting His hearers to what was the right focus for their time, attention and efforts.  He understood that if they had their heart set on God and His righteousness – seeking to glorify Him, rather than self – then God would grant them the other things that they mistakenly thought were the main thing.

I believe that the same redirection is valuable for the Church.  Congregations can become so focused on achieving things that represent the fruit of a healthy ministry, but miss what it is that actually creates that fruit in a church.  It is true that a healthy church grows in attendance and giving – but focusing efforts on attendance and giving is not what increases those things. Rather, a church that has a heart set on God’s Kingdom and His righteousness is one that in fact God is pleased to grant growth and resources to.  It’s all about what you’re aiming at.

And so in 2016, Redeemer has determined to be a “church family joining Christ in our community.”  This is a noble vision, and will certainly require us to be on mission in our neighborhoods.  It is good for a congregation to desire to join Jesus on His mission.  However, there is a danger; we can become content with doing things that are “mission-like” without actually being “missional.” I would like to share with you three questions that I recently came across[i]. They are great questions for us to ask of our activities as a congregation and as an individual. These are questions that distinguish being authentically missional from being mission-like.

  1. Is the center on God or on the church? We can often ask questions and engage in actions that are church-centered, rather than God-centered. For example, the questions are “institution” focused and have more to do with what the church is doing rather than what God is doing.  This may seem like semantics, but it is more than that.  We run the risk of just being “mission-like” if we are thinking more about the church and what the church is doing for others.  We end up having the “shape” of mission rather than actually doing Christ’s mission.  To be truly missional, we should be focusing on God and what God is doing in the world around us.  When we encounter people are we trying to get them to look at US (or our church) or to look to God for their deepest needs?
  2. Is the focus on activities or identity? If our focus is church-centered we will see our attention and discussion being about programs, events, trips and other activities on the church calendar – they are things that we can do with the good intention of mission … but end up only being mission-like. The danger with having a mission-like focus is that we can simply add new “programs” without actually affecting our lifestyle. To be missional means that we must embrace a whole new focus to our lifestyle… one that is centered on our identity as children of God, seeking to welcome others into a relationship with God – not just attend activities.
  3. Is the connection to neighbors transactional or relational? How do we interact with our neighbors? If we see ourselves as an organization coming to our neighbors and doing something TO them, and providing a service or resources FOR them in order to meet needs, then our interactions are “transactional.”  The church is remaining in control, deciding who is in need and what is needed and how the need will be met.  Without realizing it, we can actually build a wall, of sorts, between us and the very people we seek to reach.  We subtly believe, and convey to them, that there is an us-them barrier.  They come to us for a good or service and then return to their world, while we remain in ours after the transaction is complete.  This is mission-like.  A better way to join Jesus on His mission is to see that God is already at work in the lives of the real people around us, and they have much to offer.  Being “relational” means that we seek mutually transformative relationships of partnership and reciprocity.

What these questions really ask us is whether we are seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness … or if we are seeking “all these things” in other ways.  They ask us to consider whether we have God’s Kingdom at heart or self-glorification (or self-preservation).   It is easy for you and me to want to get busy with activity that helps us feel like we are making a difference, and seeing ourselves as a kind of “hero” coming to rescue and serving the needs of others.  But if we are not careful, then we are making everything about us, and what we do for others than about God.  It can be easier to be mission-like, than to be truly on mission.

May others encounter the heart of God in all that we think, say and do!

Joining Jesus on His mission with you,

Pastor Augie.

[i] http://joineiro.com/blog/2015/9/28/5-questions-to-determine-if-you-are-missional-or-mission-ish?fb_action_ids=1101778946500803&fb_action_types=og.likes

Sola . . .

Leave a comment

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a sort of “rallying cry” for Lutheran churches, and really for all evangelical churches since the Reformation in the 16th century.  In short, this is because Christianity had fallen into a works-righteousness mentality – the idea that people are saved and given eternal life because of things they do (works), rather than because of what Christ has done for us (grace).  The Reformation sought to return the Church to an understanding that our eternal salvation is not earned by our works, but rather is a gift of God, given to us freely through the merits of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.

Our first message series of the year is going to look at the four “Solas” of the Reformation, which are four phrases that summarize the basic theological principles underlying our faith.  These phrases were originally expressed in Latin (“sola” is a Latin word meaning “alone”) but take heart, we will be studying them in English! J

  • Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone.
  • Sola Gratia, Grace alone.
  • Solus Christus, Christ alone.
  • Sola Fide, Faith alone.

Each of these are treasures in and of themselves and could serve as the basis of its own message series.  To whet your appetite, here is what we’ll be discussing in brief:

Scripture Alone: Most Christian denominations (and some Christian-like churches) say that they are using the Bible in their teaching – and even that the Bible is a source of Truth.  Our understanding, however, is that the Bible is our sole source and norm for our teaching and doctrine.  That means that we understand the Bible to be God’s inspired and inerrant Holy Word, and as such, we believe that the Bible is God’s means for revealing to us Truth.  We may use our intellect, reason and senses, but they are subservient to Scripture.  Scripture Alone tells us where we find The Truth.

Grace Alone:  Left to our own devices, humankind would be lost in sin and depravity; to suggest that we can somehow save ourselves by our own efforts, not only elevates our goodness and merits far beyond our abilities, but it far diminishes the completed work of Christ on the cross.  The understanding of Grace Alone makes clear that we are not saved because of any merit or worthiness in ourselves, but only by the divine goodness of God.  God has done all that is necessary for our salvation and He gives it to us as a free gift.  This gift comes from the gracious heart of God to us.  Grace Alone tells us how our salvation is given.

Christ Alone: There are many churches that use the name Christ, but when you get down to it, the followers of that belief system ultimately put their hope in something else.  There are varieties of things that one might put their hope in – reason, senses, science and self are a few. We believe, however, that the ultimate source of our hope is in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross – nothing else.  Christ did all that was necessary for our salvation, and is our living and reigning Lord.  Our faith is based on Him alone, and not on any other actions, values or name.  Christ Alone tells us the source of our salvation and the object of our faith.

Faith Alone: How does a sinner receive God’s gracious gift of salvation?  How is a person “made right” with God (justification)? How one answers those questions reveals much about their faith.  We believe that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us any more and nothing that we can do to make God love us any less.  He loves us because He loves us, and He forgives us because of Christ. We cannot add anything to that equation.  We simply receive it by faith.  Faith Alone tells us the means by which we receive God’s free gift of salvation.

It is my hope that this series will instill you with confidence in your faith, and perhaps give you some tools to use when discussing eternal matters with your friends and family.

Serving Christ with you,

Pastor Augie.

Celebrating the Church!

Leave a comment

This month, Redeemer by the Sea celebrates 25 years of being God’s Church in Carlsbad! And what a wonderful experience it has been.  It has been a joy for me to see so many different ministry leaders and teams stepping up to the task, and working together to make this a celebration to remember.  Here’s just some of what we’re doing to celebrate…

  • 15,000 postcards were mailed to homes within two miles of the church.
  • A “Family Fun Fest” was created to welcome the community to our church, with food, games, live entertainment, crafts, candy and free give-aways!
  • We chose “Kathy’s Legacy” to be the beneficiary of a number of fund-raising efforts including a silent auction of donated gift baskets.
  • Our Sunday morning worship services highlighted our choir and praise band in a combined presentation, as well as celebrating the First Communion of several young folks.
  • Dr. Loren Kramer was invited to be our guest preacher. He was the Pacific Southwest District President when Redeemer chartered as a congregation, and he was present at the dedication of our current sanctuary building.
  • Special food was prepared to be shared at our morning services and special afternoon celebration.
  • Festive decorations recognizing both the Fall season, as well as the silver and black of our 25th Anniversary, were displayed all weekend long.
  • Commemorative gifts were prepared for all worshipers and children, with special handmade gifts for our charter members and pastors who have served our congregation.
  • A history of the congregation was prepared both in writing, and in a large 3-dimensional display to allow folks to walk down “memory lane.”
  • A special “Remember and Rededicate” service was planned to recognize charter members and hear Redeemer’s founding pastor speak, as well as enjoy a video presentation and the music of the Concordia Concert Handbells.

God has richly blessed us!  Praise the Lord for His faithfulness.

In fact, it’s interesting to note, that our Anniversary celebration is happening at the same time as we conclude The Story message series.  Why?  Because in the last chapters of our study, the Bible readings are focused on the birth and growth of God’s Church in the book of Acts and the Epistles.  To me, this serves as a clear reminder that we are but a part of God’s “Construction Project” that He began almost 2,000 years ago.

God has always had in mind to use His Church to call His lost children back home to Himself.  He has created The Church to be a beacon of light and hope into a world that is in desperate need of what we offer … a way back to the Father.  Even as Rachelle and I were able in October to travel to the Holy Land and trace some of the steps of the early Church, we got a strong sense that God’s Hand has been constant through it all.

As we Remember where we’ve come as the congregation of Redeemer by the Sea Lutheran Church, may we see ourselves as part of the bigger “Story” of God making a way for the lost and the hurting to find healing and hope.  May Jesus’ words ring true among us: “… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Joining Christ in mission with you,

Pastor Augie.

The Only Question That Really Matters

Leave a comment

Life is full of questions, isn’t it?  I always thought the big questions were pretty well set … “where did people come from?” … “what’s the meaning of life?” … “what happens when I die?”  But it turns out that people have a LOT more questions than that!  Google, the world’s most popular internet search engine, has an “auto-predictive” feature that begins to guess what you might be asking based on what other people are asking.  So if you begin to type in “why can’t” … it currently is suggesting the rest of your question might be, “why can’t I sleep?”  This feature can be helpful and annoying at the same time.  But a simple analysis will show that there are thousands upon thousands of questions that people come up with every day.  Some more meaningful than others.

I’d like to propose to you that there is only one question that really matters.  Pastor Rick Warren says in his book, Purpose Driven Life, that it will be the first question that God asks when you get to heaven: “What have you done with my Son Jesus Christ?” … In other words, have you received Him, or have you rejected Him?  All of life’s meaning and effect, as well as all of eternity hangs on this question.  So, to get after it, we will be turning in The Story* (our 31 week message series at Redeemer) from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and asking the question: Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Himself asks His disciples this question: “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). Oh, at first He asked them what others were saying about Him. The answers came back in rapid fire: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  But Jesus was more concerned with their answer to His question, so he asked, “Who do you say I am?”  They all looked at this homeless carpenter and thought about that question. Then Peter replied, “You are the Christ.”

Who do you say he is? Have you given it much thought? Some say He was crazy, claiming to be God but just a man. Some say He was just another liar, and that He knew exactly what He was saying but was deviously misleading those around him.  Many, sadly, aren’t even asking the question.  When you type “Who is J” into the Google search box, it auto-predicts one of the most popular next string of words, “Justin Bieber dating?”

But there are those who are asking, and who have answered, along with Peter, that Jesus is the Christ; the Messiah. He is God in the flesh. He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  He is the answer to God’s promises. He is the King. He is the Savior.  Your answer to that question will be the greatest one you will ever give.   We are setting out to answer that question over the next weeks at Redeemer, as we continue The Story.  Join us!

Pastor Augie.

* If you have not gotten The Story, books are still available.  Pick up your copy today!

Older Entries