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The Good Life!

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“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8, NIV

What do you think of when you hear the expression The Good Life?  In this beautiful area of the country that we call home, The Good Life might mean for some enjoying a sunset at the beach … (I would have a hard time arguing with that one!) It might mean having a successful career, beautiful home and two paid off cars in the driveway … It might mean having enough money to take vacations … It might mean having the health to enjoy all those things.  For each of us, this phrase The Good Life conjures up images of things we hope for and expectations we have set for ourselves.  The group of eleven of us from Redeemer who attended the week-long mission trip to San Diego spent time each day considering this phrase personally and then exploring Scripture to see how God would want us to understand The Good Life.

What we learned is that we are created for The Good Life.  Jesus says in John 10:10 “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  God created everything “good” in the Garden of Eden, but mankind and our sin tarnished that beauty and goodness.  God, however, never gives up restoring us to The Good Life.  Through His Son Jesus, He continues to bring us to a full and good life.

We can trust this because we believe that God Himself is good.  (Psalm 106:1 declares, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”) And in His goodness, He wants good things for His people (Psalm 139:5).  But how does one respond when we see so much brokenness and lack of goodness in the world around us?  God may be good, but evil still has power in this world, and it seems that it is bound and determined to thwart whatever good God wants to bless His creation with.

Unfortunately, when faced with pain, suffering and brokenness we humans are often led astray by false imitations of The Good Life that God intends for us.  Have you ever tried to solve your problems with a false imitation?  Didn’t it promise you relief, pleasure and even freedom? But what did it deliver?  The truth is that if you and I are to grasp the only true source of The Good Life that Jesus offers us, we are going to have to let go of cheap imitations – to make room for the goodness that God wants to pour into our lives!

What each of us needs to realize as we journey through life is that The Good Life is found only in Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd who guides us to where the green pastures are.  We do best to follow Him – and to bring others to Him also.  If you have found The Good Life, don’t you think there are others who would like to know where to find it?  The problem is that just like in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it can be so easy to pass along on the other side of the street – having even some very good reasons to do so.

But as we have been learning from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians during our summer “Joy” message series, we should put ourselves on the line for the good of others.  In Philippians 2:4 Paul clearly tells us to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs!  But if we do that, then won’t we sacrifice our own reception of The Good Life?   The answer is no.  To the contrary; what we have received from Jesus is meant to be shared!  When Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet, He gave them instructions to go and do likewise.  (John 13:15)

What Jesus knows is what the Apostle Paul eventually learned and wants us to know and live out as well – and that is that we truly experience joy and enjoy The Good Life, as we serve others.  In fact, this joy is so great that it would be worth letting go of everything we have in this world in order to grasp, Paul says (Philippians 3:8).  All of those cheap imitations offer only a false and partial experience of the surpassing greatness of knowing and serving Christ.

May you and I learn to experience The Good Life, by loving and serving others with what we have received freely from Jesus Christ – for our good and for His glory!

Joyfully sharing Jesus with you,

Pastor Augie

Loved and Sent!

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“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

At this year’s Best Practices for Ministry conference in Phoenix, one of the keynote speakers was pastor Jeff Cloeter from Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in St. Louis, MO.  His session was titled “Loved and Sent.”  These two words really struck a chord with me and I think they represent much of what “Joining Jesus in our Community” means to us.

As Christians we are first loved by God. This is what draws us to Him, and what gives us our foundation.  In essence, being loved by God answers the question – that all of humanity has always asked – “who am I?” It is a question of identity.  All too often, we let the world define who we are.  We let popular media, or the opinions of others set the stage, and establish the playing field.  We buy in and we begin to ask the questions the world asks … Are we pretty enough? Strong enough? Smart enough? Successful enough?  And whether we find the answers we like to those questions, we still feel uncertain about who we are, so we continue to search for our identity in terms of our jobs.  Have you ever done this – you meet someone new and so you ask them, “what do you do?” … as if our jobs are our identity.  But we are human “beings” not human “doings.”  Our identity is established by whom we belong TO – we are a loved child of the Most High God!  Once we understand this, we gain great strength, confidence, and hope.

With the question of identity firmly settled, and in relationship with Jesus, we move on to the question of purpose.  For insight into that, we look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  When we do, we discover His purpose and why He came into the world – to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10). What we further learn, is that He is still seeking and saving the lost through us.  How is that?  He was sent by the Father, and now He sends us to continue His mission.  The Father’s Love compelled Him to sacrifice His one and only Son.  The Son’s love compelled Him to take on flesh and die a brutal death.  And our love for God compels us to go and make disciples.  Love cannot sit still.

And so we as loved people are sent to our community for important work.  We continue the work of our Lord in our homes, offices, neighborhoods, classrooms, stores, restaurants, bars, clubs, auto shops, hair salons, gyms and generally wherever we are.  We do this to bring Christ’s love to a lost and hurting world.  This answers the other great question of humanity – “why am I here?”  If you want purpose in life, there can be no greater purpose than to continue on the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ!

We are more loved than we ever imagined, and sent with more purpose than we ever thought possible!

Loved and Sent,

Pastor Augie

Freedom – Not “From,” But “For”

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“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36

During this month of our national elections, as well as Veterans Day, we Americans often find ourselves taking stock of our freedom. What a wonderful blessing it is to be able to vote for our leadership and to have the freedom to talk about our faith.   We appreciate that this freedom comes at a cost to those who risk their lives and have even offered their lives to protect our freedoms. Even more, as Christians we revel in the freedom from sin, death and condemnation that we enjoy because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who gave His life for our sakes (John 8:36).

November also finds us pausing for a national day of Thanksgiving.  And so it’s fitting that we take time as a congregation to reflect upon what we have been blessed with, how faithful our Lord has been to us, and what it means to be His children.  As we do, we contemplate our gifts and offerings and we consider making a commitment to the Lord’s work through Redeemer by the Sea during our Giving to His Glory stewardship emphasis.

People sometimes ask me, “Do I have to make a pledge?” The simple answer to that is, No. Quite frankly, you don’t have to do anything – you have much freedom.  the Apostle Paul even acknowledges that all things are permissible (1 Cor 10:23a) – but He quickly adds that not all things are beneficial or profitable (1 Cor 10:23b).  The truth is, there is much value to be had in making a pledge – not because of any obligation or guilt, but because of what the pledge signifies. It signifies a recognition on our part of who we are … and whose we are. It shows that we recognize that God is the owner of all things, including our life and our possessions.  The question is what are we going to do with these things He has entrusted us with?

The answer to that question is that we have freedom. But what kind of freedom?  Christian freedom is not the freedom to be my own God and therefore to decide what is good and what is evil. Christian freedom does not mean that all God asks of me is to believe in Jesus, but nothing else. Christian freedom does not mean that I am permitted to do whatever I want even if it conflicts with what God desires for me. I do not have the freedom to abuse my neighbor or Ignore his needs.

No, Christian Freedom means that we have been set free from death (Romans 8:2) we’ve been set free from the consequences of sin (Romans 8:1) we’ve been set free from the debilitating effect of a troubled conscience and we have also been set free from materialism (Mark 8:36) that makes money, and what it can buy, be our God.

So as Christians we have much freedom but for what?  Freedom – not “from,” but “for.”  Christ has set us free to be His people.  To abide in Him.  To continue in His Word.  We’ve been set free to love and serve God and our neighbor.  We’ve been freed to represent God as His ambassadors.  And we’ve been freed to generously share what God has blessed us with – looking not only to our own interest, but looking unselfishly for the interest of others (Philippians 2:4).

This November is a busy month!  We will conclude our study of the Book of James, which has taught us much about being mature disciples of Jesus, and then turn our thoughts toward the celebration of Advent and Christmas with all of its wonder and beauty!  We may even look further toward the coming year and be filled with anticipation and hope.  Whatever we do this November, let us take some time to reflect on all that God has blessed us with, and recognize that without Him we would have no good thing.  May that reflection prompt us to put all of our longings and desires into perspective and humbly and prayerfully consider how God would call us to partner with Him in reaching our community for Christ!  What exciting and significant work, the Lord allows us to join Him in doing.

Joining Jesus in our Community … with you,

Pastor Augie

A Call for Integrity

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I was reading these verses from Deuteronomy chapter 25, and it occurred to me how this is a call for integrity.

Scripture: 13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. (Deuteronomy 25:13-14)

Observation: what this is related to is a practice in earlier days of making a little extra money by weighing out grains or goods using a lighter weight on the balance. This means that instead of selling a pound of cheese for a certain sum of sum of money, you would be selling them .9 pounds and thus making a little more profit.

Application: The life of the believer is to be one without duplicity. Notice that it doesn’t say simply not to cheat or defraud anyone, but not even keep the means of doing so in your possession.   It’s like the alcoholic, who must not just avoid drinking, but must move remove any trace of alcohol from their house – – remove even the temptation.

So for the believer, there must not even be the hint of deception, regardless of whether you conduct the act or not.  If someone were to open your bags and find differing weights, they would know that you would consider cheating them. The point here is that you and I should not even consider deceiving others.

Prayer: dear Lord, help me to operate today at the highest level of integrity.

May the Lord Bless & Keep you,

Pastor Augie

Vision 2015!

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At Redeemer by the Sea, we are BLESSED!  So many positive things are happening right now.  I believe we are positioned very well for the new year that is at hand.  When I look back over the last few years, I see that we have many gifted people on our church council, elders, committees and teams. Perhaps more importantly, we have a congregation that is passionate about God’s Word, and has a desire to love God and serve our neighbor in His Name.  Where I think that puts us at this time is in a spirit of “readiness.”  We are ready for action!

leaders gather to envision God’s future for our church!

At our recent Annual Planning Meeting (January 24th) it was clear among the more than two dozen leaders who were present that we are at a time in our ministry where we can no longer just talk about reaching our community, we must put plans in place to accomplish this.  Further, we are keenly aware that this is not going to happen with just a few of us working toward it.  It will take our whole congregation working together.  So we set out to discuss ways that our whole congregation can be mobilized into meaningful ministry to our community.

To do this, we took a step back – way back – to the Old Testament.  Using the book “The Four Cups: God’s Timeless Promises for a Life of Fulfillment” by Chris Hodges, we looked at this passage from Scripture:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 6:6-7)

We saw there that God made some promises to the people of Israel, that He still makes to us today – His New Testament people.  In fact, we see this pattern regularly in the Bible: Many things in the Old Testament are merely types and shadows of what will only most completely be fulfilled in Jesus. For example, sacrifices in the Old Testament were incomplete.  They served to point to the most complete and significant sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 7:27).  Or consider even the temple itself.  The temple pointed to Jesus Christ. In Him God most completely made His dwelling with mankind.

Likewise with these promises in Exodus…  God made them to Israel, and He honored them in the Exodus, but they are most fully given through Jesus Christ.  So we claim them for ourselves and our ministry even today.  In fact, they become a kind of pattern for ministry, that I believe fits very well with our “WORSHIP-GROW-SERVE” model:

  • WORSHIP: God’s promise to “bring you out” is a promise of Salvation.  In 2015, we have a goal to see our Worship Services be an inviting place where lost people are saved.
  • GROW: God’s promise to “free you” is a promise of Deliverance. When the people of Israel were rescued from slavery, they still needed to learn how to live as free people.  As saved people we need to learn how to live in the freedom of Christ, no longer in bondage to sin.  In 2015, we desire to see our Growth Groups become places where people are restored.  We have a goal to create structures where Groups can more easily form and more effectively function as “hubs” of discipleship and service.
  • DISCOVER: God’s promise to “redeem you” is a promise of Redemption. When you redeem something, you release it for its intended purpose.  Redeemer’s Discovery Track series of classes are designed to help people discover their redemptive potential.  In other words, people discover how God is calling them to WORSHIP, GROW and SERVE, and then they engage.
  • SERVE: God’s promise to “take you as my own people” is a promise of Fulfillment. In 2015, we have a goal to see our congregation complete 1,000 hours of community service. This is not just service for service sake.  We believe that God desires his people to live fulfilled lives in Christ, by serving in a meaningful way.

At the planning meeting, these promises and our plan to achieve them was formulated into this vision statement below.  See if it describes a congregation that you want to be a part of!

Vision: Redeemer is a place that reaches and accepts people from all walks of life and circumstances. Our hubs provide multiple services and venues that meet various needs. We explore God’s hand in all areas of life. We are good stewards of God’s gifts to us. We are an inviting place where people want to be with a connected family of friends and believers.

May Redeemer truly become a place where lost people are saved, saved people are restored, restored people discover their redemptive potential, and live fulfilled lives in Christ!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie.

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!

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

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