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Ascension Thursday

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Painting of Jesus Ascending into Heaven

Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775

On this Ascension Day, we celebrate that Jesus is not dead. It’s not just that He was once raised from the dead … but that He was resurrected, appeared to His disciples and many others, then was visibly taken up into heaven where He still resides today! Acts chapter 1 records for us:

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”(Acts 1:9)

What a marvel it would have been to behold!  You can understand the disciples’ jaw-dropping awe as they stared up long after He was out of their sight.  (As an aside, we use the word “awesome” in so many lesser ways, don’t we?  This would have truly been an awe-inspiring moment!)  It’s no wonder that the men/angels/messengers looked at them and said:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? …” (Acts 1:11a)

But here’s the part that not only inspires awe in us, but creates HOPE … the men continue:

“… This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b)

Because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected and ascended into heaven and is still living and reigning on His throne, at the right hand of the Father … and because He promised to return again, we have hope.  It’s as if we are living in the blink of eternity between Christ’s ascension and His return – which will be like a “reverse ascension” … He will return in the same way, visibly in the clouds.  Speaking of this event, Jesus himself said:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 1:26)

And the Apostle John’s records his vision of this event in the book of Revelation this way:

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Which is why we Christians are so adamant about telling people about Jesus – He lives. He reigns.  He will return!

As some have said, “it was Christ’s last command, so it ought to be our first concern.”  The very last words of Matthew’s gospel are what have been called the Great Commission – Jesus sending us into the world to make disciples:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And ending where we began, Jesus last words to His disciples just before He ascended were:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So this Ascension Day is all about witnessing and hope.  We have hope that Jesus is still alive!  And we have hope that Jesus will one day return to make all things right, and new.  And because of this, we witness to others what His life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return mean to everyone. We want this same hope for others … and so we tell of this great news – Jesus is not dead, He is alive and reigning on His throne in heaven!

When He returns will you welcome Him?

Laying a Foundation

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foundations

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12

Living in Arizona and Southern California, we’ve seen a lot of new construction over the last couple decades.  One thing you notice as you go by a construction site day after day is the amount of time that is spent on the property before you ever see a wall go up.  Then once the walls go up, it seems like it isn’t long before the occupants are moving in.  There is extensive sitework – grading, utilities and concrete – that goes into every project.  Laying a foundation is so important, that This Old House has an article on their website entitled, “A foundation is forever – how to do it right.”

We have a foundation to our faith.  It’s the bedrock on which our faith is built.  The cornerstone of that foundation is Christ.  This means that the foundation of our life as the people of God is built upon Him.   In the months of January and February, we will be looking at the teachings of Scripture that illuminate the foundation of our faith and we will see how they center on Christ and shape our everyday lives.

Here’s a brief look at the upcoming messages:

  • Jan 8 – The Story. The story of the Bible moves from God’s Creation to Our Fall to Christ’s Redemption to the Final Restoration. In the introduction to this series, we look at how Christ undoes the curse of our Fall into sin by becoming cursed on a cross.
  • Jan 15 – The Word. Jesus gives us words in His teaching and He is the Word made flesh. Thus, it is vital that we hear and practice His Word. In this message we talk about the nature and character of Jesus’ words – how they are perfect – and how they call us both to faith and to action.
  • Jan 29 – The Gathering. Worship is the natural and inevitable response of people who have faith in God to a good God. In this message, we look at the nature of worship, the location of worship, and the focus of worship in the Christian life.
  • Feb 5 – The Water. In the last chapter of Matthew, Jesus calls us to make disciples in two ways: by teaching His Word and by baptizing in His name (Matthew 28:19-20). The Ethiopian eunuch becomes a disciple by baptism. Jesus still makes disciples in baptism today!
  • Feb 12 – The Meal. When Jesus celebrates the Passover with His disciples the night before He dies, it becomes more than a Passover. It becomes a promise of His presence. For in, with, and under simple forms of bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ. In this message, we look at the Passover and how Jesus’ death on a cross leads God not to merely pass-over our sins, but to forgive them!
  • Feb 19 – The Mission. The call of every Christian is to live beyond themselves. We are to share the hope that we have with the world. When some lepers stumble into an Aramean camp that has been emptied by God, and when they find all sorts of treasure there, they cannot help but share the good news of the treasure with their neighbors. How can we do anything less than share the good news of the gospel with our neighbors?

I am praying that this series will engage believers by teaching the foundations of what we believe and why we believe it.  I am also hopeful that through it we will gain a deeper Biblical understanding of our faith and how to apply it to our daily lives.  In other words, we will ask the questions “What does this mean?” and “What does this look like lived out in our lives?”

For those who are new to the Christian faith, these teachings will provide a firm foundation on which to build a lifetime of discipleship!  Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24.  Note: There are free Growth Group videos and printed study guides available for this series.  Consider using them in your Growth Group or starting a new group that follows this message series.

2017 promises to be a year of great progress for our congregation.  Beginning at the end of the month we will embark on a vision clarification process (mark your calendars for January 28th 9 to 11am) – the foundation of which must be Jesus Christ and His mission in our community.  I look forward to this next year with you …

Laying our foundation on Christ,

Pastor Augie

The Return of Jesus Christ

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“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  –  Matthew 24:44

One of the highlights of this study on the book of Revelation for me will remain last Sunday’s Children’s Message at the 8:30 service, when I asked the children the question, “What can you do to get ready for Jesus to come back to earth?”  I expected the kids to say things like “pray.” “go to church.” “read the Bible.” “be good.” … or to just be confused and not know what to do to be ready.  That’s when little Maggie (who just turned 5!) raised her hand. After hemming and hawing a bit, she cautiously offered this response, “we could have a party?”

And I immediately thought, “what a great response!” So often we are encouraged to look for that day when Jesus returns with either fear or at least delay.  One time when I was a child, a preacher asked the congregation, “who wants Jesus to return?” And everybody’s hand went up! … Then he asked, “who wants Him to return tomorrow?” … and almost nobody raised their hand.  Why?  If we know that Jesus is going to come to bring us home with Him.  If we realize that once Jesus returns there will be no more sadness, evil, pain or brokenness.  If we realize that when Jesus returns we will spend forever content in the new heavens and new earth.  And if we realize that we are made ready for the coming judgment, not by how good we have been, but because God declares us righteous through our baptisms and our faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross … then why would we want to delay that reply?  Why wouldn’t we do just what Maggie suggested, and throw a party?

I hope and pray that in your heart, you are looking forward to Jesus return with the joy and anticipation you would look forward to a party.  And I hope and pray that when Jesus returns, He will feel received by us as the guest of honor at a party just for Him!  May it be so, for the sake of Christ!

Ready for Christ’s return with you,

Pastor Augie

REVELATION Discussion!

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Folks at our church are reading the following book …

Revelation Book image

If you are in our area, come join with others who are reading the book “REVELATION: What the Last Book of the Bible Really Meanson Sunday Morning at Redeemer by the Sea during the Enrichment Time from 9:45am to 10:30am. Bring your book, (you can purchase the Kindle version of the book by clicking on the book image above, or for a limited time, you can pickup a hardcopy of the book (for a reduced rate) at Redeemer) or just bring your Bible! This group will look at Revelation chapter 1 on the first Sunday, August 24th, then 3 chapters per week throughout the duration of the REVELATION Sermon Series. The study will meet in the lower level of the church.

Bible Study reading plan:

  • 8/24     Chapter 1
  • 8/31     Chapters 2-4
  • 9/7       Chapters 5-7
  • 9/14     Chapters 8-10
  • 9/21     Chapters 11-13
  • 9/28     Chapters 14-16
  • 10/5     Chapters 17-19
  • 10/12   Chapters 20-22

May God fill you with HOPE through the reading of His Word!

Pastor Augie

P.S.  For those of you, like myself, who are not able to attend the study on Sunday morning – please use the comments section on this blog article (below) to post your thoughts/questions about the book of Revelation as you read along with us!

REVELATION: A Message of Hope

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“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7, ESV)

New Sermon Series at Redeemer!

New Sermon Series at Redeemer

This month at Redeemer, we begin a new sermon series entitled “REVELATION: Hope for God’s People.” In this 8 week sermon series we will delve into the message of this last book of the Bible and will answer questions like: To whom is it written? What are we to take from it? And more importantly – what are we to do with what we learn? Is this book intended to spark fear or bring encouragement? Does it actually say anything intelligible, or is it a mish-mash of symbolism?

What is it about the book of Revelation? It draws people to it with its mysterious intrigue – and yet people are often fearful of wading into the depths of its content. It is my hope that through this series you will come away with a better understanding of this well known, yet often avoided, book of the Bible … and that you will come away encouraged. For all its talk of judgment and destruction, the book of Revelation is ultimately a message of hope for its hearers – the people of God within the Church of Christ.

But how are we to approach this book? Here are a couple ways NOT to view this book:

  1. A “Diagram” to be deciphered or “Code” to crack. LCMS Pastor and author, Michael W. Newman writes: “If you’re approaching the book of Revelation like an engineer poring over a schematic diagram of God’s eternal plan, I want to urge you to reconsider your position. The book of Revelation … is more comparable to a painting, a mural, than it is to a set of technical drawings.” (p. 23)
  2. A depressing book of “Destruction.” Michael Newman writes: “Let me remind you again, if you think the book of Revelation is all about the nuclear destruction of the earth that takes place under a despotic, demon-filled world leader, you haven’t paid attention to how it begins. This is a personal message to the broken, suffering, and straying. This is a family intervention. This is love in action.” (p. 27)

The excerpts above were taken from (Newman, Michael W. Revelation: What the Last Book of the Bible Really Means. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009.) This book will be used as a resource and a reference throughout this message series. It also contains a study guide with questions for individual and group discussion for each of the 22 chapters of Revelation.   These books are available at Redeemer by the Sea now for a reduced rate, thanks to the generosity of the author. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it throughout this message series and perhaps even use it with your small group to extend the learning and discussion.

I pray that as we move through this great book we will see it as a “revelation,” not a mystery. Whereas mystery implies something that needs to be solved … revelation describes something that was formerly hidden, but is now made visible. What the book of Revelation makes known about God may surprise some, and may offend others, but it will leave no doubt as to what the future holds – the triumphal return of Christ! May you be blessed as you discover what Jesus reveals through this book. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

Following Christ with you,

Pastor Augie

Human Limitations

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foggy morning in Carlsbad

foggy morning in Carlsbad

This morning’s fog illustrates a truth about the human mind, one we don’t like to admit – we can only see so far! We can build telescopes and we can build microscopes, but they both reveal the same thing – we can only see so far. Luckily I was made aware that this road stopped at the ravine, otherwise I might not have known. Thankfully we have God’s Word, the Bible, to reveal to us lurking dangers of which we are unaware. Have a Bible? Read, and learn the things that God knows which you and I would at best only be able to guess at!

Thanks for the warning!

Thanks for the warning!

“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’— the things God has prepared for those who love him—”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The Word Became Flesh …

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

What a mystery!  We are trying to comprehend the PRE-EXISTENT WORD of God … the “Logos” which was present when God “spoke” (i.e. “Word”) the universe into being!  How does one understand something that exists before and outside of time and space, when all we know and observe is bound by time and space?!

Then further try to comprehend how that pre-existent, eternal, immortal and all-powerful Word allowed himself to be born in the flesh – born of a woman – then raised, taught to eat, walk and speak! How can one explain that?  We can’t.  It is simply incomprehensible!

And yet, that is how the Bible describes Jesus – The Word made flesh.  When we look at Jesus, we literally behold the Father’s grace, glory and truth!  How thankful are we that God has chosen to reveal himself to us in Jesus – the Word of God!  Praise the Lord, Amen!

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