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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

Joining Jesus in Our Community

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Our church’s leaders just gathered for another annual planning meeting.  There were over two dozen leaders from various ministry teams in our congregation present.

Here is the vision that we believe God has given us for our congregation:

Redeemer is a church family joining Christ in our community.

You will notice that this vision statement is brief and memorable.  The idea is for it to be something that we can think about every time we make ministry decisions, mobilize teams, and consider God’s plan for our congregation.  In this vision statement, I see three key concepts at work:

  • “church family” – This is a picture of a congregation that knows and loves the other people in our midst.  It represents the best of what the word “family” means.  We believe that in a largely disconnected society, people spend too much time isolated in their cars, on their cell phones and behind closed doors.  Further, many people are separated from their biological families geographically.  The Church can provide the love, support and connectedness that we all need and are hungry for.  (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • “joining Christ” – This short phrase captures the concept of what in Latin is called the missio dei: the “mission of God.”  We believe that God is on a mission to redeem all people.  In fact, He began this mission long before Redeemer ever became a congregation.  We desire to be a church family that expects Jesus to be at work in the lives of people – the Father drawing them and the Holy Spirit enlightening them.  We seek to keep our eyes and hearts open for opportunities to join Jesus Christ on His mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
  • “community” – We know that God is at work all around the world, but we see ourselves particularly called to reach the people in our immediate community with the Gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God.  This little word signifies to us that we must have a heart for the community.  It means that Redeemer cannot simply have a physical building in our community, but that we must truly be the hands and feet of Christ in our community.  We must constantly seek to see our neighborhoods and city the way that God sees them, and be equipped to engage them, doing the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)

For more reading on this concept of “joining Christ in our Community,” please read the book “Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to be an Everyday Missionary” by Rev. Greg Finke. (There’s a link to it under the “Church Leadership Books” tab on my blog.)

At our meeting we celebrated the success we experienced in working toward our goals for 2015.  Based on the experience and learning from last year, we established more goals for 2016.  Please join with me in praying that this Vision and set of Goals become for our congregation a rallying cry!  That our members, teams and team leaders will all take ownership in helping our congregation be equipped to engage our community with the Gospel of Christ … not for our glory, but for His!

How will YOU be a part of this vision?  Please pray about that.  I invite your comments and discussion.

May God bless us as we serve Him together in 2016,

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.

Humility Much?

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“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” – Luke 14:11

These words of Jesus are very convicting, aren’t they?  It’s easy to say to yourself, “I’ve never pushed my way to the best seat at the banquet,” and feel as though Jesus is talking to someone else.  But just think of all the ways we try to puff ourselves up.  Often by our words or actions we posture ourselves over others.  Sometimes we even directly put them down to make ourselves look good.  We have any number of status symbols: cars, houses, clothes, jewelry, tech-gadgets, job titles, and so on.  We don’t just want to keep up with the Jones’s … we want to out-do the Jones’s!  But beware. Jesus’ warning is similar to that in Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  We may gain status, recognition or possessions in this life-time, but those will be of no value to us before the Lord.  What does the Lord value, if not the status symbols of the world?

“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

May we be humble and contrite in our heart, and allow the Lord to exalt us – in His time, and in His way!

Humbly Yours,

PA

Honor God With Your Wealth

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We often imagine that we’ll be called to show our dedication and trust to the Lord under some pagan or terrorist threat where someone tries to get us to renounce our faith in Jesus or die.  Most likely (and God willing) that won’t ever happen to us.  What DOES happen, however, is a daily opportunity to demonstrate our trust in the Lord by honoring Him with our finances and physical possessions.

Did you notice that this week’s memory verse (Proverbs 3:9-10)
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

comes right after the famous (Proverbs 3:5-6):
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Is it possible that a very significant way that we can trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him … is to honor him with the firstfruits of our wealth?

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