A Changeless GOD in a Changing World

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“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Hebrews 13:8 was the theme verse for this year’s Pastors conference with the Pacific Southwest District. I was blessed to be able to attend this year’s conference (my 16th year in our district!) along with Rachelle and learn a number of things about how our God remains changeless even in a rapidly changing world.

It seems that with all the news about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dominating the media (and our conversations) it is clear that we are living in a changing world. Our older members see this when they consider how the culture of our society has changed in a handful of decades. Our younger members see this when they witness new technology emerging day after day, week after week, and year after year. It does seem as though the rate of change is speeding up not slowing down, doesn’t it?

And so how does a Christian respond in these changing times? As we have been learning from the Apostle James in our “Faith That Works” message series, let me suggest that we put our faith into action, and let our thoughts and emotions be guided by our changeless God, rather than by the changing circumstances around us.   How does God direct us …

… In a changing WORLD? One trend that we must recognize globally is that the “West” (meaning Europe and North America) is no longer the epicenter of Christianity. One conference speaker said that in the 1800’s approximately 90% of Christians worldwide lived in Europe and North America.  In the 1990s 60% of Christians were living in Africa, South America Asia and the Pacific – and that trend is increasing.  This means that as Christians, we need to respond in humility, not seeing ourselves as “rescuers” of Christians around the world, but partnering with them as together we serve the same God – diverse in cultures, but united in His Spirit.  It also means that we must be careful that all of our ministry remains rooted in the Cross of Christ.  Anything else won’t transcend cultures, and ultimately won’t matter.

… In a changing NATION?  Trends in the business world have informed some church practices over the last several decades.  Interestingly, what we are learning now is that the business world has begun moving toward “values-driven” leadership. What this means is that today’s generation is more interested in what a company stands for than just the products they sell. This is a good thing for the Church because it means that this generation is interested in the deeper issues that drive our ministry rather than just the externals of our presentation. But truthfully, this raises the bar for us. Today’s younger worshippers are not attracted to simply a “slick presentation,” but are more concerned with what is really driving our faith underneath. They want to see the changeless God shining through us. They want to join a church where people are deeply transformed by their relationship with God and are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. They want to belong to a church where the friendships are deep, marriages are strong, and the people are full of joy and love. Unfortunately, when they look at the Church, they don’t see patterns of spiritual and relational health that are much different than the world. Quite simply we cannot have a faith that is divorced from our life. This generation is not interested in our knowledge.  They need someone to show them Jesus.  Let’s show them the unchanging God who is “making his appeal through us.”  (2 Corinthians 5:19)

… In a changing COMMUNITY? At Redeemer we want to “Join Jesus in our Community.”   This means that we actually need to get out into our community.  You will be seeing more opportunities at Redeemer to get the message of the Gospel out to our neighbors and friends.  But at the same time, you need to begin to expand your “invite list.” Ask God to reveal to you: Who are the people in the circles that you travel? Where is God already at work in their life? Where can you shine the light of Jesus into both their joys and their struggles? Who is God leading you to invite with you along your journey of loving and serving the Lord and His people?

… In a changing HOME? Unfortunately, the landscape of our homes has also changed in recent decades. Sadly, many children experience homes where faith is not evident. Perhaps even more sadly, though, many children grow up in Christian homes where the faith that is professed on Sunday somehow does not make it to the home on Monday. Too often our homes have “outsourced” the faith education of their children.  The message of the Church needs to be bolstered in our families as we continue to expose our children at all ages and stages of life to the unchanging God who is there for them, reaches down to them, loves them, saves them, and who calls them to Himself!

At Redeemer, we share a Changeless God in a Changing World – with people groups who don’t look like us – with a nation that desperately needs to see the faith of Christians expressed with authenticity and integrity – with a community that needs us as much as we need them – and with homes that are rich in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)!

Sharing the message and mission of Christ,

Pastor Augie

A Light to the Lost

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We’ve been studying the Gospel of John at Redeemer for the last several weeks, each week seeing a different facet of Jesus’ life and ministry.  In John Ch. 9 we see Jesus as the Light of the world.  In fact, John opens his Gospel with the words, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  In the Nicene Creed, we profess Jesus as “Light of Light.” Quite simply, we recognize that Jesus is the very source of all light – even when God said “Let there be light!” in the third verse of Genesis, Jesus was its source. Likewise, Jesus is our source of light.  When we baptize someone at Redeemer we give them a lit candle.  This is to signify that Christ is the light that came into the world, and now that they have received that light in baptism, they are to become light-bearers, and bring that light into a dark world.

At Redeemer by the Sea, our mission is to be a “lighthouse to our community and the world.” Even our building has a design that resembles a lighthouse, which is fitting since our church is on top of a hill not far from the ocean.  Clearly we have the light of Christ in our midst, but how are we doing at shining that light into a world of people that seem to be increasingly walking in the dark?  The news reveals to us the kind of darkness that surrounds us, and recent trends in the Church indicate that more and more of this generation are finding themselves wandering away from the church, into a world which spurns the light of Christ.

In the book You Lost Me (2011) author David Kinnaman laments the fact that young adults in increasing numbers do not consider the churches they were raised in as “safe and hospitable places” and that many of those will leave the church and even the faith.  Clearly there are cultural forces at work, he notes, but it’s also clear that the Church cannot just dismiss this problem as a sign of the times and then hunker down in our holy-huddles (my words, but his sentiment).  In fact, he challenges churches to recognize that we are “not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.”

What all this means to me is simple.  It means that the Church, and especially we at Redeemer – with our mission to be a “light-house” – must intentionally find ways to bring the light of Christ to the lost and searching in the world.  We have the Light which brightens our way and directs our steps out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light! It’s a Light that this generation desperately needs as they search in the dark.  It’s a light that we can’t just keep in our “house” but that we must carry to “our community and to the world.”  Join me in praying that God will make our light shine brightly so that more will see and know Him! And that He will move us to live our calling of being light-bearers.  … Hide it under a bushel? No!

… Illumine us, Lord Jesus.  Amen!