Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How Do You Face Loneliness?

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

Perhaps you noticed (or maybe you didn’t notice) that I did not write a devotion last week.  I was in moose hunting camp from Thursday, September 3 until Saturday, September 12.  So, with no computer, and a cell signal that was spotty at best, I skipped writing my devotion for a week.

 

I did not shoot a moose, even though I came home anyway.  I saw quite a few moose.  I even saw 2 bulls, but at a long distance.  And, I had drawn a coveted “any bull permit.”  The cows were responding to my calls, and I think that if I had stayed I would have finally had a chance to harvest an animal and provide much meat for my family and for others.  We do like moose meat.

 

So, why did I return home if I didn’t have a moose?  Well, for one thing, the weather was ugly.  I think the only day I was in camp when it did not rain this year was on Saturday, September 5.  Also, the wind blew many days, and I’m told moose don’t move much during the wind because it is difficult for them to hear predators in the wind.  One day I woke up to especially strong winds.  I arose at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of popping and banging, and worked to protect our tarp garage until about 1:30 in the afternoon.  Another group of hunters told me that they lost 2 tents in the wind, and had to tie down their airplane to four 4-wheelers, even crawling into the plane, so that the plane did not blow over.  That was quite a wind storm!  The weather did not make hunting as pleasant as it often is.  Ten days in the wind and the rain was wearing.

 

But, there was perhaps another reason I decided to return home.  I guess you could say I got lonely.  My hunting partner for 28 seasons has been Gerry Zellar.  But Gerry was ill with symptoms of vertigo and spent only 2 nights in camp.  Pastor Tony Schultz did come out two nights to hunt with me.  He even commented that we had “solved all the problems in the world – if only others would listen.”  So, I spent about as many nights in camp alone as I spent there with others.  I came to realize that, as much as I enjoy the hunt, I enjoy spending time with others in camp as much or even more. We talk about the world around us.  We share family joys and concerns.  We read God’s Word together and pray together.  My personal experience of moose camp has been a time of camaraderie and Christian friendship.  That has been as important as the hunting.

 

At the same time I also missed my family.  My wife, Kathy, was at home alone.  My children and grandkids were living their lives in these crazy times.  But, I was in camp alone, missing my friends and also missing my family. So, I decided 10 days was enough.

 

Did you know that loneliness may be the first problem addressed in Scripture?  In Genesis 2:18, as God was creating our world, we are told, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’"  God intends for people to live in relationship with other people.  These relationships, including marriage, provide the opposite of loneliness.  Healthy relationships provide companionship, friendship, even love. 

 

But, God does not just provide us opportunities for relationships with other people.  God tells us HE is with us.  For example, consider when God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  The conversation following Moses’ call is instructive.  “11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" 12 He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you,” (Exodus. 3:11-12).  Then, when Joshua replaced Moses as leader of Israel, Joshua experienced doubts. The Lord encouraged Joshua.  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Jos. 1:9)  Our Lord is with us through the joys and trials of life.

 

We hear God’s same promise in the New Testament.  As Jesus instructed His disciples concerning forgiveness he promised, 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20)  And, as Jesus leaves this world and sends His disciples out to bring others to His saving love, He promises, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)  Not only does God give us relationships with other people to keep us from loneliness, He is with us Himself, providing grace, forgiveness, and salvation.  In fact, one of the names given Jesus’ in a prophecy in Isaiah 7 is “Immanuel” which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

 

When the wind and rain of life blow in our lives we don’t have to face these storms on our own.  God gives us family and friends who care for us, who listen to us, and who walk beside us.  When the storms of life rage GOD is with us, especially in Jesus who came to this world to love us, to forgive us, and to save us.

 

Can you personally remember a time of loneliness?  One of our Lord’s intentions for His Church is that we encourage and support one another.  God helps us to be there for one another because, in Jesus, He is “God With Us.”  With good friends and family we can face anything.  With the Lord by our side we will not be overcome by anything.  I personally thank the Lord for His presence through the storms of life.  I thank God for family and for friends, especially for Christian friends. 

 

How do you face times of loneliness?

 

A Child of God, Facing Times of Loneliness with Companionship Provided by God Himself,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Here are some pictures from moose camp.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/S5N6as1rrdLpiGJYA

 

P.P.S.  The day before I went hunting I happened to go fishing again.  There had been a lot of rain.  The water was high and fast.  I caught no fish that day, but did see a beautiful rainbow.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/wpG42pAgcUo3fNbN9

 

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving these messages.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net

 

 

 

 

  

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

How Does God Answer Prayer?

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

How does God answer prayer?  I have heard that question many times before from folks who are praying hard and not seeing what they consider to be an answer.  There is a somewhat “canned” answer which I’ve heard many times in response to this question.  I’ve been told that God may say “Yes,” or say “No,” or say . . . “Wait.”  There is truth in this response.  But, I too have asked how God answers prayer.  I’m not sure that explanation is very comforting.

 

Recently I wrote about sharing with others that I had been praying for them, or for their loved ones.  Jesus promises, and I trust His words, that God always hears and does answer our prayers.  “7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8)  I also believe Jesus’ words that when our heavenly Father answers our prayers He always responds with what is good for us.  “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! “  (Matthew 7:11)  This teaching of Jesus doesn’t promise that God gives us what we want, but that He gives what is goodMy experience is that our Lord answers different prayers in different ways, perhaps because what is good for our eternity might differ from request to request.

 

So, let me share with you two different experiences which I believe are God’s recent answers to prayer.  First, I have been praying for a young woman for over two years.  She has been very ill and her prognosis has not been good.  I have prayed for this woman daily asking that God would perform a miracle and heal her, knowing that God has the ultimate wisdom.  However, I have also prayed that God would act in such a way that she and her family might see our Lord’s love in her life, and that they might recognize that love, even in the midst of her illness.  I saw this young lady recently for the first time in a long time.  The last time I saw her she was experiencing visible symptoms of her illness and I feared for her life.  But, when I saw her this time, after over 2 years of prayer, she looked healthy and strong and happy.  Her illness is still there, but I saw her improvement as God’s grace in her life.  I continue to pray that she and her family may see and recognize that love of God.  I will also continue to pray for miraculous healing.

 

However, I don’t just pray for others, I also pray for myself and for my life as a child of God.  I pray for my faith, for wisdom, humility, for strength to live a holy and righteous life.  I pray for health, and, for about a year now, I have prayed that God might lead me to use my retirement as a ministry.  I put stars in my prayer list by those requests I want to pray for every day. The young lady I mentioned above has a star by her name on my prayer list.  When I pray for myself, I have stars beside my personal prayer for faith, and by my petition to use my retirement as a ministry. 

 

On July 26, I was sitting in Bible Class at St. John.  Jim Summers has been teaching this summer on gospel hymns and the scripture verses behind them.  On this particular Sunday we were looking at a Fanny Crosby hymn, and the verse which inspired the hymn, Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  There was something about this verse and the class that struck me that day.  I was led to ask myself if I was living the Christ-life of faith and service.  Am I carrying my cross?  I have really enjoyed my retirement and been able to do a lot of fishing and golfing.  I asked myself, “Am I really using my retirement as service to God and a blessing to others?

 

The next day as I was completing my morning devotions I was also praying for St. John.  Since my retirement, St. John is in the “call process,” preparing for a new pastor and shepherd.  On my prayer list for St. John I have 2 items with stars by them, “The Call process,” and “COVID-19.”  The coronavirus has created havoc in most sectors of our lives, including the church.  This illness was not even on the horizon when I retired.  But, with this new challenge, I wondered if there wasn’t some way I should be helping to deal with this issue.  I prayed God would allow me to do so.  That was in the morning of July 27.

 

Later that day I was sitting in a parking lot outside a UPS store waiting for my wife to go through fingerprinting for work purposes.  She was in there for a looong time.  While I sat in the vehicle waiting, I received a phone call from St. John head Elder, Ann Marie Svedin.  “Pastor Rockey, the call committee thinks that trying to call a new pastor during the pandemic is not necessarily wise.  We asked Pastor Schultz to extend his service for another 2 years until September 2022.  He indicated that he had worked very hard this last year, with no vacation, and indicated that, if he extended, he needed help.  He asked us to ask you to return ¼ time to help him.  He especially wants to reach those who may have fallen through the cracks in this pandemic.  Would you consider returning to serve ¼ time?”  I was truly surprised.  I didn’t ask about finances, but did ask if I would still be able to travel and see family in Florida.  I asked what I would be doing.  I was told that this is all flexible as long as Pastor Schultz and I might work it out.  I also thought about my prayers that morning concerning my retirement, and concerning the coronavirus.

 

When Kathy came out of the UPS store I told her about the phone call.  I told her about my prayers that morning.  We discussed the request together.  I also sought counsel from others.  We prayed about the offer.  When I asked Kathy about a week later what she thought, she said, “Well, I wanted at least six months with you, and it has been over 10 months.  I was afraid I made you retire when you didn’t want to do so.  I think this is about as perfect an opportunity as could be to continue to have time together and for you to do what you are good at.”  In an August 9 meeting I told the Church Council that I would accept their offer.  Beginning September 15 I will help Pastor Schultz while he serves as interim, and then step down when the new pastor comes.  The congregation was informed in worship on August 23.

 

We should not be surprised that God does answer our prayers.  After all, consider God’s word in Romans.  “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  (Romans 8:32)  God sent His SON for us!  He not only cares about our eternity, He cares about our lives today. 

 

How does God answer prayer?  I try to be careful not to replace God’s answers to prayer with my desires.  But, for now I am hearing God’s answers to my prayers in these recent events.  Have you seen any recent answers from our Lord in answer to your prayers?

 

A Child of God, Still Surprised by God’s Answers to Prayer,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  When I took my grandchildren fishing on August 17, only 8 year old Henry did not reel in a fish.  He tried diligently to catch a silver, not a pink, but only his older sister, Emma, caught one.  On Friday, August 28, I took Henry fishing to right that wrong.  The limit had increased to two fish.  Bait was now allowed.  Henry did WELL!  He even had two fish on the same line!  But, I was only able to net one!  L  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Zoc7r1sohfLxwNsK8

 

P.P.S.  I also did some other fishing this past week.  On Wednesday, August 26, I took my friend Paul Scott and his wife, Carolyn Purser, fishing.  They had also bought a trip about a year ago at a Kiwanis Auction.  However, this I the first time we could actually get out.  It also was a good day! https://photos.app.goo.gl/bqitZj4zUk8NcQct8

 

P.P.S.  I had planned to leave for moose hunting on Monday, August 31, but delayed a few days.  I have an “any-bull permit” and will be gone with Gerry Zellar until we find a moose to shoot.

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving these messages.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net

 

 

 

 

  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blessed or Crazy - It's Called Love

 

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

I get to laugh as I share this week’s devotion.  On Sunday, August 16, Andy’s son, Jackson, asked me to take him fishing the next day.  School didn’t start till Wednesday, so I figured this might be a last chance this summer for fishing with a grandchild.  After making arrangements with Jackson I contacted Josh and Erin to see if any of their kids also wanted to go fishing with me.  Emma, Henry, and Annie were all excited to go.  So, “Poppy” and 4 grandchildren 11 to 8 set out around 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning, August 17.  That was a lot of grandkids for one grandpa.

 

I later posted on Facebook that I talked to a couple of guys who drifted by us in a boat that day.  Our lines were snagged and I told them.  “We’re snagged.  I’ve got 4 of my grandkids with me.  I’m not sure if I’m blessed . . . or crazy.”  I knew my situation included some of both.  Actually, that snag was one of probably 10 or 15 snags that day.  I also untangled about 25 or 35 tangles in the line.  And, I worked hard to maneuver the boat, while herding the grandkids and my dog.  There were some times of chaos and frustration. 

 

I pray there was also some lasting memories for my grandchildren.  I know that I heard some memorable lines from their mouths.  Jackson “reeled in” the first fish.  We had anchored in the river and were casting at some silver salmon under some trees along the shore.  But there was another temptation.  Multiple schools of pink salmon were swimming in plain view.  I told the kids we didn’t want these ugly fish with their humped backs and mouths that had turned into beaks.  But, then I watched as Jackson reeled his line back from the shore where the silver salmon were swimming and seemed to let his line go right through the pinks.  Chaos erupted as he snagged one of these ugly fish in the back.  We netted the fish and released it.  However, I believe that Jackson’s excitement inspired some of the others.

 

Later, at another fishing hole with lots of silver salmon, I tried to get Jackson to fish from a location where he could cast the lure toward where the silvers were swimming.  Jackson’s reply was, “I just want to catch one more pink, Poppy.”  O well.  He thought he knew better than me.

 

But, 8 year old Annie was the one really mesmerized by these ugly fish swimming at her feet.  There was a school of about 10-12 pink salmon swimming just off shore from where she stood.  She couldn’t resist.  I told her, “Annie, If you cast the line right out there, you’ll find salmon we want to keep.”  My 8 year old granddaughter looked at me with an expression that told me she knew better than I did.  “You fish your way, Poppy, and I’ll fish mine.”  She snagged and dragged in 3 pink salmon.  Sigh.

 

That night our whole family of 13 ate a silver salmon Emma had caught.  While eating I shared some stories, including Annie’s words.    Everyone laughed.  Kathy said, “You need to write a devotion about that.”  I thought about it. (The grandkids had their stories about Poppy too.)  A couple of nights later as we were going to bed a version of Annie’s words came up again.  “You do it your way, Poppy, I’ll do it mine.”  Kathy said, “That’s the way we speak to God sometimes.  We think we know what we’re doing, but it doesn’t work very well.”

 

There has always been something inside humans which causes us to think that we know best, even when our thoughts and desires are different than God’ guidance.  Adam and Eve listened to Satan, thinking they knew better than God about the forbidden fruit.  The people of Israel had God as their leader and judges and prophets as His spokesmen.  But, the Israelites wanted to be like other countries.  They wanted a king.  They thought they knew better than God.  Later Jesus told his disciples about how He would fulfill His heavenly Father’s plan to save the people of a sinful and rebellious world, 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  But, Peter and the other disciples did not like the sound of Jesus’ words, nor what this would seem to mean for their friend and leader.  You know Peter’s response.  ‘And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’" (Matthew 16:21-22)  Peter’s ideas were different from those of the Lord concerning the saving work of the promised Messiah.  Peter was wrong.  Then, in my devotions this past Monday I read 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.  In that Scripture reading I found this verse.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”   (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)  The cross seems foolishness to our world, but it is God’s wisdom and power.

 

I know that there are also times when I personally question God and His wisdom.  “Lord, why are you allowing this to happen?”  And, in the world around me I hear many who think that God and His word are out of touch, irrelevant, or even harmful.  However, I have learned, first, that I do not have all wisdom.  More importantly, I have learned that God’s wisdom is higher and greater than mine.  In His wisdom our heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus, for us.  In the wisdom of our Lord, Jesus came as a sacrifice, who would be crucified, and die, . . . and RISE.  It was hard for the Peter and the disciples to understand God’s plan.  But, imagine if Jesus had listened to Peter and His words and had not been crucified.  There would be no forgiveness, no salvation.  Wisdom teaches us to listen to and believe in our Lord.

 

One of my grandkids did listen really well.  As I said, Emma caught a nice silver salmon.  Emma cast where the silver salmon were located.  She even listened about keeping her line tight when she had a fish on her line.  When the fish was scooped into the net, the hook dropped out of the fish’s mouth right away.  We ate fish that night because Emma listened.

 

I had asked the question, “Am I blessed or crazy?”  My brother Stephen replied, “Blessed or crazy - it’s called love!  I pray my grandkids have some memories of love from that day of fishing with Poppy.  And maybe we also learned that listening and following directions is wise.  We especially want to listen to and follow our Lord.

 

A Child of God, Blessed or Crazy – It’s Called Love,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Here are pictures again from that grandkid fishing trip on the Little Susitna, Monday, August 17.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ginLUNZV81PH5RZS7

 

P.P.S.  This was another good fishing week. 

·       Last Wednesday, August 19, Gerry Zellar and I went fishing on the Little Su.  The limit was only one fish a person. But we had our fish in about a half an hour of fishing time.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/jKiwK6TwhRJko7yH6

 

·       On Saturday, August 22, I took some of the Scoresby men fishing.  These family friends had bought a trip at a Kiwanis function.  Bryan took his brother and two of his sons-in-law.  The five of us reeled in 5 silvers. https://photos.app.goo.gl/t1PrEQ9xATAHF5SA9

 

·       On Monday, August 24, I took Kym Miller and Kitty Kasper fishing.  Actually, Kitty had also bought a trip about a year ago at the St. John Youth Auction.  However, her dates available were few and we went out in mid-July before the fish actually started coming in.  We caught and released 5 silvers and one chum salmon.  We finally kept 3 silvers, one each.  The fish caught by Kym weighed 10 lb 4 oz on my digital scale.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/A8kjY42RDWtYMjqu8

 

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving these messages.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

907-841-4066 – cell

907-746-5131 – home

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Surprised Again By The Beauty of God’s Love in our Dark World

 

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

When I attended college over 40 years ago I chose many literature courses for my elective classes.  My belief was that good literature gave a window into the human mind and heart.  So, in addition to courses on Scripture and theology, I studied, Shakespeare, American Literature, Greek Literature, Poetry, and other courses which helped me look into the human condition.

 

One poem I remember reading, and with which I was quite a bit overwhelmed, was “The Waste Land,” by T.S. Elliot.  My professor, Dr. Erhard Essig, taught us that this poem showed how modern society has become a wasteland, a place where life shrivels and dies.  That view of our world is pretty depressing, but the sin and the corruption we live with leads me to often agree with Elliot’s assessment.

 

You know that some who live in the lower 48 see Alaska as a “wasteland.”  When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 it was called “Seward’s Folly,” and Seward’s Ice Box.”  And there are many who still see our far north state as a wilderness of ice and snow, and as a place they would not want to go.  I have had two pastors tell me they would not consider a call to serve a congregation in Alaska because their wives would not go.

 

Yet, in this supposed wilderness, the beauty of God’s creative hand shines forth.  Sometimes we gaze in awe at the majesty of the mountains.  Sometimes the alpenglow takes our breath.  And sometimes the beauty of God’s hand surprises us.   

 

This summer Kathy and I were delighted and surprised at the splendor of God by a beautiful “volunteer” in our garden.  Over the years many plants have sprung up in the garden, even though we didn’t plant them.  For example, I have picked much spinach which I did not plant, but grew from the seed of previous year’s crop.  Right now I have a strawberry growing in my lettuce.  And raspberries often spread and grow, even where they are not wanted.  But, in my lettuce row I had an unexpected plant grow tall this year.  At first I thought it might be a sunflower.  But then an attractive pink flower bloomed halfway up the stalk.  Next, more blooms showed themselves.  I didn’t know what this plant was.  Eva Cohnen Brown told me it was a Hollyhock.  Kathy and I have really enjoyed this beautiful, unexpected flower growing in what some call “Seward’s Icebox.”

 

Scripture teaches us about growth and beauty in unexpected places.  Isaiah prophesies, 1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. . .”  (Isaiah 35:1-6)

 

What causes this beauty in the wilderness of life which Isaiah proclaims?  God says in Isaiah 35:2 “they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.”  God’s presence changes the trials of life.  He loves us when we feel unlovable, for good reason.  He forgives our sins, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)   The Lord gives life in a world of death.  God gives these surprising gifts through His Son Jesus, who says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

 

Alaska is not a wasteland.  The beauty of God shines forth in our state.  Our hollyhock surprised Kathy and me with the creative beauty of our Lord in our world. But, even in this place of God’s splendor, life can be dark and depressing.  Therefore God has sent His son, Jesus.  In Him we “see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.”  May our Lord’s unexpected love, His undeserved forgiveness, and God’s gift of life in a world of death, which we receive in Jesus, bring surprising joy, and peace, and hope into your life.

 

A Child of God, Surprised Again By The Beauty of God’s Love in our Dark World,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Here are some pictures of the hollyhock in our garden.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/8xVXahRJESFNWchq8

 

P.P.S.  Monday night, August 17, our whole family got together for supper, to eat a silver salmon which granddaughter, Emma, had caught.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/z2NXnGhm5RPRZJ4u6

 

P.P.P.S.  This was quite a week for fishing.  Since my last article I fished for red salmon on the Kenai and Silver Salmon on the Little Susitna.

·       Fishing on the Kenai, Friday, August 14.  I caught 2 reds.  This is one of them.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/eLKxNSao5e9kRyXy8

 

·       Fishing on the Kenai, Saturday, August 15.  I caught 4 reds.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/8sYrxjTSkJvpu1h18

 

·       Fishing with grandchildren on the Little Susitna, Monday, August 17.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ginLUNZV81PH5RZS7

 

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving these messages.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Looking to See God's Purpose and Opportunities in Life's Struggles

 

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

What about your life is troubling you right now?  If you could change where you are, or what you are facing, or the people you encounter, how would you make life better?  However, did you ever think how God might be using your struggles for His purposes, for your growth, and even to help others?

 

My devotions on Saturday, August 8, including reading from Acts 21:17 through Acts 23.  In this section of Scripture we see Paul suffering for the Gospel.  He is accused, incorrectly and unjustly of bringing a Gentile into the temple where only Jewish people were allowed.  Paul was then beaten and arrested.  He faced charges before a tribunal, defending himself against his accusers.  Paul then appeared before the Roman governor, Felix.  In the end of this reading, Paul remains in prison, even though the governor realizes Paul has done nothing deserving such punishment.

 

However, God had a plan to spread abroad the good news that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  Our Lord intended for Paul to go to Rome to continue spreading the gospel. (Acts 23:11)   God was using the unjust suffering of Paul for the good of the world.  The Lord worked through Paul’s plight, calling people to life changing faith, to saving faith in Jesus.

 

Actually, although I have read these verses many times before, and even as I remembered this history of Paul and the early church, the impact of God working through Paul’s suffering did not hit home until I read the devotion at the end of the Bible reading for that day.  Jane L. Fryar wrote these devotions over 20 years ago, and I continue to use them to help me in my walk through the trials of this life.  Let me share with you the devotion at the end of the reading from last Saturday.

 

“It was a miscarriage of justice.  Anyone today jailed and held as Paul was would no-doubt accuse the authorities of false arrest-rightly so!  And yet, Paul saw all of it not as an interruption in his service for the Lord, but as an open door of witness, a divine appointment, as it were.  Paul was the tool chosen by the Lord to carry the Gospel to many, even to the Gentiles and their kings (Acts 7:15).  From heaven’s perspective, Paul was exactly where he needed to be.

Perhaps today you find yourself cruising life’s highway.  But maybe instead you lie bogged down in what appears to be a senseless detour.  Job loss, Money problems.  Chronic Illness.  Relationship challenges.  Depression or anxiety.  Maybe, like Paul, you did nothing to cause your difficulties.  Or perhaps you did, and now guilt feelings pile themselves on your stack of burdens too.

In any case, let the Savior that Paul proclaimed comfort and encourage you.  You do not struggle alone.  The God who forgives for Jesus’ sake also strengthens.  Secure in that truth you can with confidence look for doors of witness your Savior may open.”  (Today’s Light Bible, page 1520)

 

Over twenty five years ago I was visiting a man paralyzed in an accident.  Glen had been a Lutheran Christian and we visited monthly.  According to the doctors, Glen’s paralysis was not going to change.  And, he remained paralyzed until his death.  One day when Glen was asking “why” this happened, I asked Glen, “How might God use your new situation for His good?”  He was now living in a group home in Palmer instead of working as a halibut fishing guide.  I watched as Glen’s attitude changed.  He entered some of his art in the state fair.  He became more positive.  In many ways Glen was a blessing in a place where there were many people with life problems.  Glen did not want the accident, nor its affects on his life.  But, somehow God used his accident to work His purpose.  I also believe that God used Glen’s accident to bring him back to faith in Jesus.

 

In Romans 8:28 God promises, 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. . . 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 35-39)

 

God’s love for us in Jesus’ life and death and resurrection cannot be taken from us!  Even in the gravest trials of life God is with us.  Even in death, the love of God is victorious, as by faith in Jesus God gives eternal life.  Through Jesus and His saving life “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” 

 

What are your struggles right now?  Have you thought how God might be using those struggles to strengthen your faith in His love, and to share Jesus with others? 

           

A Child of God, Looking to See God’s Purpose and Opportunities in Life’s Struggles,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  I helped organize the Palmer Kiwanis Golf Tournament on August 7.  Here is a picture of the Rockey golfers.  J  https://photos.app.goo.gl/V6gos34u62RexDdg7

 

P.P.S.  Here is a picture of some harvest from our garden on Saturday, August 8.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/MUwMzYL2j4ATbHfb7

 

P.P.P.S.  Pastor Craig Schultz of St. John and I were blessed to bring God’s grace through baptism to Isadora K Remele, daughter of Brett and Hadley Remele, at their home on Monday, August 10.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/da4GCRgbunA8XDSz8

 

P.P.P.P.S.  I got to do quite a bit of fishing this past week.  We went fishing for silvers.  They didn’t seem to arrive until Monday.

·       Fishing on Wednesday, August 5, with daughter, Mary, and friend Patrick Garley.  We caught 3 pinks and one chum.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/gEGhM1djNP4CRUqw7

 

·       Fishing on Sunday, August 9, with Jim Stanley and son, James Stanley.  We caught 3 pinks.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/2HhB2K88hrkzPyY7A

 

·       Fishing on Monday, August 10, with Sara Guhl, grandson, Gaelen, and DCE Ethan Mirly.  We caught 4 silvers and many pinks.    https://photos.app.goo.gl/AxUTGUjB4TPVko1G7

 

·       Kathy and I smoked some of last year’s fish as this year’s fish starts coming in.  We canned 40 pints of smoked salmon.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/jaY9Wb6fzCoEfReu5

 

 

 

 

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired from serving as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving these messages.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

907-841-4066 – cell

907-746-5131 – home

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Amazed at the Mystery That Jesus is the FIRST FRUITS of Those Who Are Asleep!

Dear Fellow Children of God,

 

On Wednesday morning, while cleaning up the kitchen, I took out our leftover veggies to put in our compost pile.  We till this compost of grass, leaves, and kitchen garbage into the garden each year to enrich the soil.  While I was out at the garden I took the opportunity to pick some early raspberries.  The berries I picked were dark red, and juicy, and sweet!  I really like a good helping of raspberries.  How about you?  However, these are just the so-called “first fruits.”  The majority of berries are still green and will need to ripen as the season progresses.  I expect to have a bumper crop of berries this year because of all the sun and the rain.  Thank you, Lord!

 

As I was munching on the berries, I thought back to a conversation I had with Temple Christiansen after worship on Sunday, August 2.  She asked me about a Bible verse in 1 Corinthians where Jesus is called, “The first fruits.”

 

The teaching on first fruits is a complicated teaching, with different layers of meaning.  The most common usage in the Bible has to do with offerings.  One of the first places this idea is taught is in Exodus 23.  God tells the Israelites at Sinai, 16 "Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; . . .  19 "You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.”  The “first fruits” offering was one which required AND which taught faith in God’s providing.  The Israelites were to take the best of their first harvest and give it to the Lord and to His workers.  The first harvest was often the best, so this offering was a real sacrifice.  Also, what if there was bad weather and the rest of the crop did not come in?  Those first fruits which had been given to God would be even more vital.  This took faith in the Lord to give this sacrificial gift, and it taught faith in His providing.

 

Actually, God calls on us to give our offerings in the same way.  He doesn’t call us to give what is “left over.”  He doesn’t want us to give our excess, or what we don’t need.  When we give off the top, when we give our “first fruits,” we are showing love and faith in God.  When we give first fruits, God teaches us that He does provide, and not just in material things.

 

But, Temple was asking me about 1 Corinthians 15 where God inspires Paul to write, “20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,”  

 

At first, this title for Jesus can seem a mystery.  What does it mean that Jesus is “the first fruits?”  Yet, when we think that first fruits have to do with gifts and offerings, we see that Jesus is God’s GIFT to the people of this world.  God did not wait for us to get it together.  Actually, for people born in sin, we will never totally get it together in this world.  We need a Savior.  So, before we respond in love and faith, God gives Jesus, “the first fruits of those who are asleep.”  When we deserve punishment and death because of our sin, God acts in grace by sending His Son to die and rise for us.  Then our Lord waits for us to respond in faith and in love.

 

The fact that “Christ has been raised from the dead” is good news.  This is THE Gospel!  God loves His creation, even when and if we do not respond.  Because Jesus is “the first fruits,” our response is not a “have to.”  When we “have to” do something to earn God’s love, that action becomes law, not Gospel.  But, when we see the amazing grace and love of God, that He gives His only Son as “the first fruits of those who are asleep,” when we begin to understand the depth of God’s sacrifice and His love for us, then we WANT TO trust in Jesus and to follow Him.  Imagine, this IS an amazing mystery and the best news we will ever hear.  Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”

 

My garden is doing well.  The raspberries are coming in.  In fact, with all the fruits and vegetables, and with all the fish, it is easy to see how God provides.  At least it is easy to see the overflowing of our Lord’s love at this point in the summer.  However, imagine that, through Jesus, God also provides for our eternity.  Doesn’t your heart burn within you in a desire to trust and follow Jesus, the first fruits of those who are asleep?

 

A Child of God, Amazed at the Mystery that Jesus is “The First Fruits of Those Who Are Asleep!”

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Here is a picture of one row of our raspberries.  J  https://photos.app.goo.gl/xsFjNKEj4e7AET2q8

 

 

P.P.S.  I did spend time on the Kenai Peninsula last week visiting with friends and fishing.  The two best days were halibut fishing on Thursday with friend, Fred Vasilie, and Pastors Tony Schultz and Bill Hillgendorf, and then on Friday, Pastor Tony Schultz and I dip netted on the Kenai with friend, Wayne Mize.  We thought we had 21 reds and 1 pink.  We actually had 18 reds and 4 pinks which we meant to throw back. 

In addition, my daughter Mary and I fished on Monday on the Deshka River.  Anyway, here are the pictures.

·       Halibut fishing on July 30.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/4nkc7v9pgGVxm4Ua9

·       Preparation for bank fishing for red salmon.  This is Pastor Tony Schultz.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/GUqHVAHFtyNboTxq9

·       Dip Netting on the Kenai River on the last legal day to dip, Friday, July 31.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/k5VnGaWo4ZhFCFfP6

·       Silver salmon fishing on the Deshka River with my daughter, Mary.  J  https://photos.app.goo.gl/qhmvzkFvQRZqXoVU8

 

*****

 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTION - I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  My weekly devotion was previously titled, "Thoughts from the Pastor."  However, with life's changes I now call the devotion "Journeys Through Life as a Child of God."  I am only sending this message to those who have asked to receive it.  If you know someone else who desires to receive this message, have them e-mail me at jonrock53@mtaonline.net.  I will include them on my distribution list. You can also view this message on my Facebook page.

            A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME WHY THEY ARE NO LONGER RECEIVING MY DEVOTIONS.  Since I’m only sending these e-mails to people who ask for them, many are no longer receiving them.  BUT, if you read this on Facebook and like to receive these devotions by e-mail, or if you know someone who would like to receive these devotions, send me an e-mail at jonrock53@mtaonline.net, and I will add you to my distribution list.

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Pastor Emeritus, St. John Lutheran Church

E-Mail: jonrock53@mtaonline.net