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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

Advancing the Mission

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“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

The phrase “Joining Jesus in our Community” is sounding more and more familiar around Redeemer, isn’t it?  This is what we believe God wants us to be doing as we fulfill our mission to make disciples.  But there is one question that still needs to be tackled – What will that look like when we are doing it?  And so, on Saturday January 28th, we began a planning process that will lead us to greater clarity and unity around this question.

We believe that for us to advance our mission and ministry together, we must have unity and clarity around not just vision, but around values and behaviors. In fact, the single greatest hindrance to mission advancement is what our consultant, Bill Walker, referred to as “Nodding Heads & Folded Arms.”  That’s where well-meaning church members “nod” when they hear the vision (who doesn’t want to join Jesus in His mission?) but then “fold their arms” while they wait for someone else to figure out what needs to be done.  In other words, we not only need vision clarity, but we need substantial clarity – clarity that affects what we value and what we do.

Churches can suffer from “churn” (where people visit, but don’t connect to the church), “competition” (where ministries within the church vie for attention, resources, and volunteers), and “burnout” (what happens when everything is equally important).  This happens when there are just too many game-plans in play.  Think of any sport you like – got one in mind?  I bet that game has rules and boundaries; and those teams that excel at that sport have a game-plan that they’re all working toward, together.

What this means for the church is that we don’t have to try and find the “right” way of doing church.  In fact, there is probably no single right way to do church.  But we do need to do church one way – together.  Consider a boat full of people with oars.  Everyone can be paddling their hardest … but if they aren’t paddling in the same direction they’ll make a big splash, but will go nowhere fast.

As such, we are setting major milestones for this planning effort.  They are:

  1. Clarity – We are forming a “Mission Advancement Team” that will put a clarifying & compelling case for unity before the Church Council. If the Council approves, Redeemer will adopt that approach.
  2. Movement – The mindset of the leadership, staff and volunteers shifts from “doing whatever is right in my eyes” to “how does my area of ministry support and increase the efforts we are all working toward?” In this stage, we will see grassroots changes begin to take place.
  3. Alignment – At this point, meetings and activities are organized around how to do what is absolutely essential and eliminating distractions, redundancy and sideways effort.

We will not arrive at all of these milestones at once, but these are the indicators we will look for before moving on to the next phase or milestone.

See, God wants unity in His Church.  Why?  Because it reflects His being … God is internally and perfectly united in the Trinity.  The world longs for unity, and therefore seeing unity of mind and purpose within the Church of God is perhaps our most attractive outreach!  The Old and New Testaments agree on God’s desire for this among His people:

  • “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1
  • “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Jesus even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “… May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:21.  In other words, the more united we are – with each other, and with God – the more the world will see Jesus in us, and put their faith in Him!

It’s a tall order, and it means that we all need to be in prayer – asking God to give us that burden to do what it takes to reach people with the Gospel and to Join Jesus in His Mission to seek and save the lost in our community.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!  … May the Name of Jesus be lifted high among us, and may the world be drawn to Him through our words and deeds.

Joining Jesus in His mission with you,

Pastor Augie

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

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

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.

Remember, Renew & Rededicate

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This weekend is Redeemer by the Sea’s 25th Anniversary!  Please join us in thanking God for His wonderful grace and mercy, and the goodness that He has shown to our congregation.   Throughout this weekend’s celebration we want to “Remember, Renew & Rededicate” ourselves to the mission purpose for which God has placed us here at this time and place!

REMEMBER

We look back with fondness on our history.  We remember where we started and where we’ve come.  We celebrate the hard work and faithfulness of the many men and women who took bold steps of faith in building the facilities and community that we now enjoy.  We recognize that it’s not just the work of human hands that has brought us to this point, but the love and faithfulness of our God.

RENEW

We know and understand that the same Lord is still at work and calling us today.  We renew our acceptance of His call on our life and ministry.  We renew the passion and zeal with which we began this undertaking, and we renew our prayerful determination to see the Name of Christ lifted high in our community.

REDEDICATE

We acknowledge that there is still much work to be done in our corner of God’s harvest field.  We rededicate ourselves to the work that our Lord has given us to do. There are many who desperately need to know the love of Christ.  We willingly commit ourselves to reaching out with the gospel of Jesus – one soul at a time.  We offer ourselves as living sacrifices to be used by God in His Kingdom.  To Him be the glory!

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Augie

 

 

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