1410 Foothill Drive, Vista
Pastor: Ramon Zarate (senior pastor: Steven Awbrey)
Born: Manzanillo, Mexico
Formation: MiraCosta College, Oceanside; Pacifica Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Ramon Zarate: As a Lutheran, I like the theme of being saved by grace. It was important at one point in my life — and now, of course, but when it made sense for the first time, it opened my eyes to be able to see God’s love. I refer to the core Bible scripture that we refer to when we talk about grace, Ephesians 2:8 [“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”] Even for Martin Luther, when he discovered that passage, it was eye-opening for him as well. In his understanding he added one more word —faith “alone.” There’s nothing else that gives salvation to us other than the grace and love of God through our faith in Jesus Christ.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PZ: There is a time in your faith when you start figuring it out that God is calling you to do something special; in my case, to be a pastor and serve as Jesus’ disciple. At some point in my life there was a revelation and I came to say, “Oh! This is what God wants me to do!” When I was in college, my major was in business administration, which in my understanding had nothing to do with religion, church, or God. But somehow all that training and preparation I did as a business administrator helped me to do a better job in what I’m doing now. So I went from that to becoming a pastor. At one point in my life I felt in my heart that God was calling me to serve him. When I listen to the voice and let the Holy Spirit guide me, God opened every door that needed to be opened for me to become a pastor.
SDR: Where do we go when we die?
PZ: We go to heaven. According to the Bible, Jesus went to prepare a place for everyone. As far as I understand, there is a place for everyone out there. The gift from God is that we’re saved through our faith in Jesus and go into the presence of God. The Bible says that we go to heaven when we believe in Jesus as our God, and that those who believe will be in paradise. As far as who goes to heaven and who goes to what you call hell — that’s up to God to decide. Do all people go to heaven? Yes! Simply, because we are God’s children. According to the Bible, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go to heaven. But it is a question that is tough. As Lutherans, we don’t preach so much on the theme of hell and who goes there. We preach the love of God and of each other. God sent his son Jesus so no one will perish. Once Jesus comes into our lives and changes our hearts, hell, the devil, and things like that don’t really concern us. If God is with us, no one can be against us.