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Celebrating the Church!

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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

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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!

Perhaps My Favorite Bible Verse!

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“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  – 1 John 5:11-13

Here’s why …

Not only does this verse make clear that eternal life is a real thing … and that it comes only through Jesus, the Son of God … but it makes it abundantly clear that it is a gracious gift of God given to us freely through faith. The words “that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” remove all doubt that our salvation might be contingent on how well we did in life. “That you may KNOW” means that the person who believes in Jesus as Savior need not respond “I *hope* so” when asked, “will you be in heaven when you die?” … but must respond “I *KNOW* so” – since that is what Scripture clearly teaches – in this verse and many others! My prayer today is that anyone reading this post relinquishes any trust that they have misplaced in themselves or in false gods, and places that trust in the Name of the only One who saves – Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Amen!

Same-Sex Marriages and a Christian’s Response

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I just recently returned from our Pacific Southwest district convention.  This year’s convention theme was “Chosen for this Moment” based on Jesus’ words in John 15:16 …

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last”

We have been chosen by God to be bearers of His grace to our world!  This is such a critical task at a time when our news is filled with stories of wickedness, such as the racially motivated murders of our brothers and sisters in Christ at the AME Church in Charleston.  We mourn and grieve that loss, and we ask our Lord for forgiveness, mercy and healing for those families and our nation in the wake of that tragedy.  May He break and hinder every plan of the devil who desires to steal and kill and destroy.

It is also critical for us to be bearers of grace in the aftermath of the recent decision of our US Supreme Court that legalizes same-sex marriages.  This is an issue that has polarized our nation long before this court case. How we respond, however, says much about what we believe; not so much what we believe about the issue of human sexuality, but what we believe about love, truth, hope and security.

Quite simply, we are not surprised that our culture does not align itself with the teachings and beliefs of Christianity.  Nor do we take our cues from the culture.  We neither look to it for support, nor for Truth.  Also, we are not at “war” with our culture.  Rather, God has placed us IN the culture – to bless it! … “Chosen for this Moment.”    Our marching orders from God do not change – at all – because of this ruling.  We are still called to be salt and light to the world – to bring the message of peace, truth and love that God provides.  His is the only True and lasting peace and love that there is to be found… that which we find in Jesus Christ.

So you and I can take heart and be of good cheer!  In a sense, nothing has changed.  Our Lord is constant and unchanging.  Though this world seems built on a foundation of shifting sand, the Lord remains on His throne far above any earthly courts or kingdoms.  And the world NEEDS HIM as much today as ever!  So thankfully, He has chosen us for this moment – to be bearers of grace, Truth, and light to a lost and hurting world.  May it be so among us.

Joyfully Sharing Jesus,

Pastor Augie

– If you would like to read more on this subject here are some links for your reference:

LCMS President, Rev. Matthew Harrison

LCMS President, Rev. Matthew Harrison

Letter to the Church from Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries

Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries

So Gay Marriage Is Here. What Now? – Blog post by Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries.

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!

The Upper Story, the Lower Story and Your Story!

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Finding Your Story in God’s Story … 

The Bible contains an Upper Story and a Lower Story. The Upper Story tells the big picture, the grand narrative of God seeking to be in relationship with mankind as it unfolds throughout history. The Lower Story contains the details of particular people, the episodes we’ve become familiar with: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the flood, etc. The Lower Story helps us better understand the Upper Story which becomes for us a framework around which we approach and apply the Bible to Our Story. It unifies God’s whole message to us and helps guide us through the hard times in life by doing two things:

  1. a) reminding us of God’s eternal, long-range plan and,
  2. b) putting our experiences into a divine context formed by a perfect Creator.

For example, without the “Upper Story,” a lost job could be seen as an event without hope. But put into the context of the larger chronicle of our lives, and God’s perfect design, that lost job can be seen in a very different light, perhaps as an opportunity for God to reveal something better.

So, by putting all we read into the larger picture, we can make modern-day application from the Bible that takes into account the grand, mysterious ways of God, and guards us from misapplications that can result from an isolated “what this verse says to me” approach. In other words, the Upper Story creates the context for the Lower Story.

At our church we want to use The Story to help everyone gain a better understanding of the big picture of the Bible and to better understand God’s redemptive plan for us today. As we journey together through The Story we will take note of both the temporal events and characters (Lower Story), as well as the eternal purpose of God: to restore and build a relationship with His creation (Upper Story).  Through this, we hope you’ll begin to see with amazing clarity what God wants to do in your life (Your Story).

To assist with finding Your Story in God’s Story, we are recommending that you ask yourself these seven questions continually throughout your reading and discussion of The Story.  You may want to consider writing the answers into your “Life Journal.”*

  • What did you learn about God, yourself or others in this chapter? God has revealed Himself to mankind in the pages of the Bible.  When you and I read the Bible, we begin to see with the eyes of faith, what is invisible to the naked/physical eye.
  • How do the events in this chapter relate to the overall Story of God’s pursuit and redemption? God has revealed His overall plan through the pages of the Bible – from the first chapters of Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation, God’s plan is unfolding. No longer do you have to feel tossed about by the waves of uncertainty.  Nothing in life is without purpose.
  • What do you struggle to understand or embrace from this reading? Some things that God reveals are difficult to understand or accept. That is ok.  We know that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  As you and I wrestle with these challenging verses, God is creating in us a discontent for the things of this world, to ready our hearts for His Kingdom and eternity.
  • Write a one or two sentence summary of this chapter. By summarizing the chapter while it is fresh in your mind, not only do you create a brief synopsis, but you capture the main points that God is trying to convey to you in a larger section of Scripture.  This will help you turn loose and disconnected sections of Scripture into a larger narrative.
  • Write out a prayer to God of appreciation or petition. For me, this is where it “gets real.”  When you turn what you’ve learned or experienced into a prayer, you are asking – even begging! – God to use it to make a difference in your life. This is what turns Bible reading from information, to transformation!
  • How does this chapter point to Jesus, or challenge you to be more like Him? Jesus said that the Scriptures point to Him – even the Old Testament. He is in the whole of God’s Story – not just the New Testament.  Searching for Jesus in the Old Testament is very illuminating, and again shows that God is working His redemptive plan throughout the pages of the Bible.
  • Is there something you learned that needs to be shared with others? We learn and internalize information best by sharing it with another person.  A Growth Group is the best place to do this.  Even if you aren’t in a group studying The Story itself, you’ll have in any group an opportunity to share how God is teaching you and challenging you through your reading of The Story.

We hope that you’ll join us in this unique journey through Scripture!   “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12).  How does God want to inform, shape and transform you through His Word?

Journeying with you!

Pastor Augie.

* If you do not have a Life Journal, take the “Essentials 201” class.  They are provided, free of charge, for attendees of that class.

A Manger Is Not That Comfortable …

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When I am going out of town to a conference, I wonder … will my bed at the hotel be as comfortable as at home? It’s likely, that even with “deluxe” pillows, I won’t sleep as well as in my own bed. Do you find the same to be true for you? … Well, my kids have taught me a saying that may be relevant in this situation … “that’s a first-world problem,” they say. There are so many people in the so-called third world who do not even have a bed to sleep in, and yet we in America (a first world country) worry about thread-count and memory foam. We also have leather seats, surround sound and air conditioning in our vehicles. We are very concerned about comfort.

I wonder what it felt like for the Christ-child to leave His heavenly “bed” and be born in a stable and sleep in a manger – a feed trough for animals! What about HIS comfort? My bet is that a manger is not that comfortable. And yet, that is so much like our Lord – He is willing to sacrifice His comfort for ours!

This Advent, we are in a message series that catches our attention because of the words, “Comfort” and “Joy.” During these troubled and unsettled times, we are really looking for a place where we can find comfort and joy.

Simply turn on the news, and you and I will see images of violence, dishonesty and danger. It can be very unsettling.   Even in the seats of our plush armchairs, we don’t find true comfort.

We can spend our Christmas bonus – and then some – on gifts for ourselves and others; and we can post pictures of our vacations and travels on Facebook, and yet we do not find true joy.

Why? Why is comfort and joy so attractive? And why is it so elusive? The answer is simply because true comfort and joy is not found in any earthy thing, place or person. It can only be found in God.

Each week leading up to Christmas, we will look at sections of Isaiah 40. In them, we will find out about the different kinds of comfort Christ comes to bring, and experience the resulting joy that can be lived out. Here is a preview of each week in the series:

  • Week 1: The Peace of Christ (Isaiah 40:1-2): True peace comes only through Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he brings. He ends warfare without and within. He is the Prince of Peace.
  • Week 2: The Pardon of Christ (Isaiah 40:3-5): We prepare the way of the Lord through repentance, as the forgiveness we receive through Christ makes the rough places of our lives smooth.
  • Week 3: The Presence of Christ (Isaiah 40:6-9): We remember that Christ is present with us now and that he will come again in glory on the Last Day.
  • Week 4: The Power of Christ (Isaiah 40:10-11): God himself came to live among us and be our Savior, but his power was displayed in the weakness and humility of the manger and the cross.

We hope that you’ll join us for some or all of this message series. But mostly, we pray that you will find comfort and joy in the only place it is to be found – in Jesus! He sacrificed His comfort by humbling himself to take on human flesh and by allowing himself to be crucified. He did this though, Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy set before him.”   Jesus found His joy in us … May we find our joy in Him! We pray you are blessed by this season of Advent preparation for the coming Christ Child.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Augie.

P.S. If you’d like to serve others by sacrificing some of your own comfort this Christmas, consider making a year-end donation to our Christmas offering – its purpose is to help those in need.   It beats sleeping in a manger!

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