Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Overwhelmed that the Lord Who Created All, Knows and Cares for Us!

Dear Fellow Children of God,

Kathy and I are spending time with family in Florida.  While here, we are hosting our friends Pastor Tony and Ronelle Schultz for a visit.  We scheduled some time so they could see some of the local sites.  Tony and I golfed and we fished.  We all went to the beach.  But we also did something which is rather unique to Gainesville.  All of us visited the Butterfly Rainforest at the Natural History Museum of the University of Florida. 

I'm sure such exhibits exist elsewhere, but this is the only place I've been where various species of live butterflies and moths fly around you, and a person gets to observe them more naturally than if they were in a display case, dead.  So Tony and Ronelle and Kathy and I wandered through this exhibit, a screened in area of trees and flowers.  As we walked around we observed the various species that were present.  We saw smaller butterflies and moths, and larger ones.  We saw some of these insects with stripes, and some with spots.  We saw butterflies that were yellow, and some that were red, and others that were blue.  Perhaps my favorite was a large butterfly that was brown on the outer side of its wings, but brilliant blue inside.  I guess, the brown allows for camouflage, and the blue displays the beauty of this species.

As we were looked around, somewhat separately, observing and taking pictures, Kathy and I turned to each other and said almost the same thing.  I told Kathy, "The diversity and beauty of God's creation is really on display."  And, as I was saying that, Kathy simultaneously started to tell me, "How can a person not believe in God when you see all this?  It can't just be an accident!"

Scripture is full of testimony about the glory of God found in the world around us.  Psalm 19:1 teaches us, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands."  Or, said in another way, when we look at the skies we can see God's work. 

Also, my recent daily devotions have been in Isaiah.  Therefore, I recently read in Isaiah 40:12, "Who has measured the water in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountain on the scale and the hill in a balance?"  The creative power of God is beyond anything we can do! 

And, in Job 38-41 the Lord tells Job and his friends of the many wonders of God's creation.   Chapters 39 and 41 especially reveal truth about God's hand in creating the living creatures of the world.   Job has no answer to the Lord's revelation concerning His creative power.

Yet, all of this focus on the wonders of God in the world around us ignores the crown of His creation - people!  Psalm 8 reminds us, "3 When I consider  your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  6  You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:  7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas."  The Psalmist marvels at man's unique place in the Lord's creation.

Not all people come to the same conclusion which Kathy and I reached.  But, I am constantly in awe when I look at the wonders of creation.  Kathy and I were brought to that same conclusion as we came face to face with the beauty and diversity of just the few species of butterflies and moths on display.  The colors, the shapes, the different sizes, captivated our minds, and made us realize there is much that is beyond our human knowledge and ability.

Realizing this, the truth of Psalm 8:4 becomes even more obvious.  4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  Yet, the God who created the universe, who made the various species with all their beauty and diversity, the Lord of all wisdom and power, does care for us.  As Jesus taught Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  (John 3:16)  Imagine that!  God fashioned the incredibly beautiful world around us, and this all-powerful, all-wise God, also cares about each of us!

How about you?  Does the grandeur of our world ever strike you?  Does the beauty found in the colors in the world bring you joy ?  Does the diversity of wildlife ever bring humility to your heart?  And just think, the God who made the world in power and wisdom, by the Word of His mouth, also knows each of us individually!   He cares for us.  And, when we rebelled and sinned, God even sent His own Son to die for us and save us.  How can we not echo the last verse of Psalm 8?  "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"  (Psalm 8:9)

A Child of God, Overwhelmed that the Lord Who Created All, Knows and Cares for Us!
Pastor Jonathan

P.S.  I'm having computer issues again and these links to pictures don't seem to be working.  If you copy them and paste them as a url they seem to work.

P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of our visit to the Butterfly Rainforest.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/NsfKiVNoT1u1WmGy6


P.P.P.S.  Here are other pictures of the visit of the Schultz's.
  • Here is time at the Beach and Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.   https://photos.app.goo.gl/gCXCn7TfsurPqjbW6

  • Here are pictures from our fishing and golf outing.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6QyFTG7CvEsrDLwP9
  • Here are pictures from the rest of our tour in the Natural History Museum.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/G3JxKScET4VZw7UC7


*****

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Who do You Pray for? WHAT do You Pray?


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



Who do you pray for? What do you pray?  These can seem simple questions.  But in many ways these questions are deep matters of faith.  Perhaps the first prayers on my lips each day are for those in trouble, or who are ill.  I pray for the church of God, and these days I pray specifically for St. John Lutheran during its vacancy and search for a new pastor.  I pray for our leaders, civil and spiritual leaders.  I pray for friends, and also for those who might be considered enemies.  I go fervently to God concerning my own life of faith as a child of God.  But, most of all I pray for my family, and loved ones.



When I pray for my children and grandchildren, and for those I love, my primary prayer is for faith in Jesus.  I want them to know that Jesus is their Savior.  I want my children to know that Jesus lived for them, died for them, and rose again.  My desire is that they know God’s grace in and through the joys and the trials of life.  My hope is to live in heaven with my loved ones.



But, when I pray for loved ones to know Jesus, what do these prayers look like?  I was intrigued in recent weeks by a verse from Psalm 119.  This Psalm tells the life story of a Jewish man of faith through the struggles of his journey as a child of God.  As I read this Psalm, the writer makes statements of commitment, promising to serve the Lord faithfully.  But there are also times of struggle.  In the middle of this journey of faith, the Psalmist declares, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”  (Psalm 119:71)  No one ever wants struggles or afflictions.  When we go through trials of health, or struggles in relationships, or when we suffer times of doubt in our faith, we often find ourselves in anguish because of the affliction.  But, as we continue to cry to the Lord, He uses our struggles to strengthen us.  That is what the Psalmist is saying.



I do NOT pray that God brings struggles on those I love.  But, we are sinful people in a world of sin.  We all face failure, pain, and suffering.  We all need forgiveness.  These life struggles point us to our real help, to our Lord and Savior.  Our afflictions point us to the cross of Jesus!  And, God works in our lives through these afflictions to teach us, to guide us, and to strengthen us.



Recently, in one of my morning devotions, as I was thinking about praying for others, I was encouraged to read from 1 Peter 1.  God moved Peter to write to believers in Jesus who had been scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.  These people of faith had faced trials and needed encouragement.  Please read with me, Peter’s opening words.  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.



I do NOT pray that those I love face trials in their lives.  In fact, as Peter writes, by His power God “shields” His people who believe in Jesus.  (1 Peter 1:5)  I DO pray that God shields my children, my grandchildren, my friends and loved ones from the evils of this world.  But then, when griefs and trials come, I pray these struggles act to refine us.  (1 Peter 1:6-7)  Trials can remind us what is really important - our relationship with our Creator and our Savior.  As we walk through the struggles of life, the cares of this world can be burned away, and the love of God can be refined in our hearts, by God’s power. Therefore, I pray that God walks beside my loved ones through the fires of life and refines their faith so that they see His love even in their struggles.  I pray that in life’s difficulties my loved ones are led to see and to believe in the cross of Jesus, so that they finally live in His love in heaven.



I mentioned a month or so back that I am again reading the Mitford books about Father Tim, his wife Cynthia, and those around them.  Through the trials of life these fictional characters are quick to pray, even when all seems hopeless.  They often refer to “Praying the prayer that cannot fail.”  Ultimately that is what I pray. 



In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)  In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches His disciples and also teaches us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 b)  I pray that God’s will is done in the lives of my loved ones, in spite of the trials of life.  Paul does, after all, tell us what the will of God is.  “God . . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Timothy 2:3 b - 4)



I am often in prayer for my wife, for our three sons and our daughter.  I pray regularly for my three grandsons and my three granddaughters.  I pray for my friends and loved ones, for the church of God.  I do pray that God would shield them from the evils of life.  But, more than that, I pray God would see them strengthened in faith through the trials of life.  “Thy will be done.”



A Child of God, Praying for God’s Gracious Will in the Lives of my Loved Ones,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from our visit with Pastor Kalvin Waetzig and family while celebrating his 60th birthday in Tracy, California, last week.  Pastor Tony Schultz and his wife, Ronelle, were also part of the celebration.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/fNvfeH8xsrdE25397







******



ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



******



A couple of other Bible verses to consider . . .



Romans 5:3-5  3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.



2 Corinthians 1:8-10  8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,



1 Peter 4:12-14  12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

In a New Year . . . God is WITH Us!


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



A new calendar year has again forced its way into our lives. There are always celebrations during that short period of time when one year ends, and another begins.  But 2020 has now been with us for over a week.  So, after the first rush of excitement of the calendar changing, what else is new?  Or, is the calendar just a piece of paper which hangs on the wall while we experience the passing of time – another year?  I was telling my wife, Kathy, just the other day about the passing of time for our family in Alaska.  We arrived in Alaska in May of 1991, over 28 and ½ years ago.  But, we have actually lived here for parts of 30 calendar years!  Time has rushed by us quickly.  We are getting older.



However, my wife already reminds me from time to time about my age.  I looked up a text conversation we had on November 6 of last year.  I was golfing in a seniors men’s league.  For the first time I was asked  to hit my golf balls from the senior tees, the shorter tees.  Even though I’ll be 67 my next birthday, I had not yet played from that tee box.  Maybe I’m in denial   During my golf game that day Kathy texted me and asked how the game was going.  My response was, “OK, but in this group I’m hitting from the senior tees.”  Her response was quick.  J You are a senior!”  I’m not sure I wanted, or needed, to hear that!  But, I can tell you that I don’t hit my golf ball anywhere near as far, or as long, as I used to hit it.  Sometimes it takes me two shots to get to where I could hit the ball when I was younger.  I do hit my shots a little straighter, though.



I hear people say, “Getting old is tough.”  Yes, there are a few more aches and pains.  I move a little more slowly.  Maybe I don’t have the same energy that I once did.  But, I do believe I have a little more wisdom from years of life experience.  I confess that my faith in God’s love and provision has also grown.  I have seen Him act in my life so many times over the years to love me and to help me.  Life may be challenging, but I have confidence and hope that the Lord is with me, even as years advance. 



At the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus gave His disciples an overwhelmingly daunting task.  18 . . . "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.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 a) Imagine, eleven men being sent to bring the good news of Jesus’ saving love, and to help grow faith in Jesus, to all the corners of the world.  But . . . BUT, Jesus also made a promise to his beloved followers. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 b)  As they faced the dangers, the challenges, and even the death that lay in front of them, Jesus was with His disciples in His power and His love.  The one who has ALL authority in heaven and on earth was with His friends as they went, as they baptized, and as they taught.  So, the apostles did not remain in the safety of Jerusalem.  These men did go into all the world.  After all, Jesus had promised He was with them, always!



As we face the challenges of life, whether that be the trials that will come in a new year, or the challenges of advancing age, Jesus’ promise is also that He is with us.  In fact, there is another way in which God is with us.  Do you remember the Christmas story from just a few weeks ago?  When Matthew relates how Jesus was born, Joseph is told in a dream to take Mary to be His wife as she gives birth to the Savior of the world, as she gives birth to the child, Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-21)  Joseph is assured by the angel that Jesus’ birth and all of this is God’s doing.  22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us.).” (Matthew 1:22-23)



What a blessing to know that God is by our side through all the trials and challenges, the joys and blessings of life!  He is with us, in Jesus, to love us, to forgive us, to strengthen and to guide us.  God is with us as we grow older, as we face loss, failure, and disappointments.  He is with us even as we ourselves look into the jaws of death.  The One who created us, the One who gave His life to save us, is WITH US! 



Perhaps the excitement of New Year’s Eve has passed, and the difficulties facing us in this coming year are more obvious.  My wife is right.  I AM a senior.  I am older.  Whatever we face, Jesus promises, . . . surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."



A Child of God, THANKFUL for God’s Loving, Forgiving, Helping and Saving Presence,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from a ski trip to Alyeska on Thursday, January 2.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/3qzLxo3ET59AZCFq6





P.P.S.  Here are a couple of pictures from my first fishing trip on Kelly Lake on the Kenai Peninsula on Friday, January 3.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/y8S5Vp4hkggqTT7b6





******



ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



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A couple of other Bible verses to consider . . .

10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  (Psalm 90:10-11)



7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  (Psalm 139:7-15)




Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My New Year's Prayer - "Come, Lord Jesus!"



Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



One of my very favorite pieces of choral Music is the anthem, "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come" written by Dr. Paul Manz, and his wife Ruth.  I first sang this anthem while part of the choir at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin, Texas, as a freshman in the 1971-1972 school year.  However, I have also sung this anthem with choirs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in each of the three congregations where I have served as pastor, and also in the joint choir for the Community Advent Service in Palmer, AK.  So many sing this anthem because the tune is hauntingly beautiful, and because the thoughts and the prayer of this piece of music are always timely.  “Come, Lord Jesus.”



Actually, when I later learned about the situation behind the writing of this beautiful hymn and prayer, the story brought tears to my eyes; this composition became even more one of my all-time favorite anthems.  So, I looked on the internet and found a story written by Pastor Larry Peters of Grace Lutheran Church in Clarksville, TN, who, during the second year of his ministry, heard Paul Manz himself lead a performance of this piece.  Pastor Peters writes, “According to Manz, the piece was written in 1953 when his 3 year old son John was desperately ill in the hospital. Little hope was given to the parents. Paul's wife, Ruth, had worked the words together from Revelation 22 and gave it to Paul to do something with... And so he did. After John had recovered, the sketch was revisited and Paul published it, dedicating the piece ‘To John and all who prayed for him.’"



The deep prayer of this beautiful piece of music came to mind as I have been reading during my daily devotions in the “Song of Solomon.”  This poem about the love between a husband and wife is included in Scripture, not only as a picture of God’s plan for the intimate relationship between a husband and wife, but also because this book depicts the deep love of our Savior, Jesus, for His bride, the Church.  As the husband in this book longs for his wife, our Lord Jesus, loves us.  Christ loves His Church, loves each of us, with an unfathomable, sacrficial love.  The writer of the devotions for my Bible points out how often the bride of this book of Scripture calls for her husband to “come.”  Because of our Lord’s deep love for us, God’s church longs for Jesus to come.



In fact, that is the prayer spoken by the Apostle John on behalf of the church at the end of Scriptures in Revelation 22.  17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. . .  20 He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.  (Revelation 22:17, 20-21)



We have left the calendar year of 2019 behind and have now entered a New Year.  What are you hoping for in 2020?  It is common for many to make resolutions.  People traditionally make promises to themselves hoping for a better future.  Have you made such resolutions?  For a number of years I have resolved the same 3 promises to myself to care for myself spiritually, physically, and in my family.  But first, before I make promises about what I want to do, I have a prayer asking God’s help.  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”



Yes, the day when Jesus comes again as Judge and Savior at the end of this world to take His people home will be a glorious day of deliverance.  Life in heaven for those who believe in Jesus will deliver us from the sin, the pain, and the death of this world, and be a time of great joy!



But, as we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” in The Lord’s Prayer, my prayer is that Jesus will indeed come to us today.  I pray Jesus comes to my family and loved ones, helping them to know His love and to help them to trust Him through good times and bad.



I pray that Jesus comes to Christ’s body, The Christian Church.  I pray Jesus’ coming brings faithful pastors and leaders to His Church, leaders who teach what Scripture says. I pray that Jesus comes and His people are full of zeal so that they seek to live the life to which Jesus calls us.  I pray that I may live faithfully as a child of God.



I pray that Jesus comes to the governments and leaders of our world bringing wisdom, justice, righteousness, and peace to the nations and communities of the world.



I pray that Jesus comes for all who are ill, all who are grieving, and all who are troubled, and that Jesus brings the peace of His saving Love.



Yes, I have plans for how I will live in the coming year.  But, before I make resolutions for how I hope to act, I first have a prayer for God’s help.  I pray as John writes in the book of Revelation, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  Or, as Paul and Ruth Manz wrote in their time of desperation, "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come"



What are your resolutions for 2020?  Perhaps more importantly, what are your prayers for the coming year?  Are you praying for Jesus to come to you?



A Child of God, Praying for Jesus to Come in Our World and in our Lives,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here is a YouTube Recording of the Paul Manz anthem, “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come”, sung by the Choir of St. John, Cambridge.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdWN5DQ77Wk



P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our Rockey Family Christmas 12-28-2019.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/S3UVEepkLrpbia4X7



P.P.P.S.  Here are Ice-Fishing pictures

·       Fishing with Gaelen, Jake, and Paul - 2 church members and the son of a workmate of Kathy.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/dQ8esxLMUbzUVzy19



·       Fishing with son, Josh, and grandchildren Henry, Anna, Jackson, and Kendall, after church on 12-29-2019:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/5qysRprtGn1ipy7H8





******



ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Rejoicing in the First and GREATEST Christmas Gift Ever


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



We were late in putting up Christmas decorations in our home this year because of travels.  But, on Saturday, December 21, some of our “Rockey clan” went to the “Moose Range” for our annual family tradition of cutting a Christmas tree for our home.  We had never harvested our own tree in Florida.  But, in 1991, our first winter in Alaska, we cut our own tree and it has been a family tradition ever since.  Then the following Monday, before a second family Christmas cookie baking party, Kathy and I put up Christmas decorations.  We put out manger scenes (I counted 17 of them when Kaycee Nufer was visiting.)  We also decorated our Christmas tree.



Another of our Rockey family Christmas traditions is that I have given Kathy a dated Christmas ornament every year since we were married.  Most of these ornaments have scenes on them from the Christmas story – more manger scenes.  As we were decorating this year’s tree I looked at the ornaments and saw some we bought our first Christmas we were married in 1977.  I also noticed ornaments from 1980, from 1981, and from 1982.  You can imagine that after 42 years that’s a lot of ornaments!  Each ornament carries it’s own story.  We purchased this year’s dated ornaments in Germany.



Those ornaments from the 1980’s remind us of, among other things, the birth of our first two children, Josh and Andy.  Kathy was 8 months pregnant at Christmas in 1980 when that year’s dated ornament was first placed on our tree.  Christmas 1981 was Josh’s first Christmas.  And, in 1982 Kathy was 8 ½ months pregnant with Andy.  Putting up these ornaments reminds us of earlier Christmas blessings and joys.



So, I was on a ladder and Kathy had her hands full as she approached the tree with a number of these memories of Christmas past.  Unfortunately, I then heard a crash and, “Oh no!”  Kathy dropped the ornament from 1982.  It was partially made of glass, the bottom of which shattered.  She commented with resignation, “Oh well, the ornament is broken, but we’re still here!”  However, even though it was broken you could still see the message of the ornament.  It held it’s shape.  So, we still hung what was left of the ornament on our tree.  After all, 1982 was a good year.  (Sigh!)



The truth is each of us is like that ornament.  We are all broken.  God made us beautiful, individuals created with love and purpose.  But, in our rebellious hearts, in our selfish nature, we have broken the beautiful people God made us to be.  Have you ever hurt another person in a moment of angry words?  Have you ever hurt yourself by giving in to sinful passions?  Have you ever doubted God’s love and missed fulfilling the purpose God has for your life?  Unfortunately it is true; we are all broken. 



So, listen to the words of the angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and helped this righteous man grasp what God was doing that first Christmas.  “18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’"  (Matthew 1:18-21)



That ornament from 1982 will never be the same again.  The broken pieces of glass are in the bottom of our trash can.  But, God sent His son, Jesus, to save His broken children from their sins.  Even though we have broken God’s beloved creation, He still loves us and sent Jesus to forgive us in this life, and to give us eternal life in heaven, totally renewed as His children.  As the angel told Joseph about our greatest Christmas gift, “he will save his people from their sins."  (Matthew 1:21)



We tell each other “Merry Christmas,” but life is not always merry.  Yet, into our world of sin, of pain, of suffering, of death, our Heavenly Father sent His Son.  Jesus came to share our suffering, to take our punishment , ultimately to die and to rise again.    Jesus came to “save his people from their sins."  May the love of God’s ultimate gift bring peace and joy into the struggles of your life.  We may be broken people in a broken world.  But God sent Jesus!



A Child of God, Rejoicing in the First and GREATEST Christmas Gift Ever,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from our Rockey Family Christmas traditions and observance.

·       Rockey Family Christmas Tree Outing - https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q7rVAodWJVTMuV6J9



·       One of many days of Christmas cookie baking - https://photos.app.goo.gl/KgnYKHYExAvwSGXQ6



·       Rockey Christmas Home decorations.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/zNRrGoibgnMc8oyx9



·       Some of our family at Christmas Eve worship at St. John - https://photos.app.goo.gl/vbQH327p4mRiWyWc6



P.P.S.  I did get out fishing on December 20.  Here are a couple of pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6LedsBN9Zr2rERgK8







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ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Touched by the Gift of God's Son, and ESPECIALLY by the Sharing of this Gift of Love with Others!


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



Christmas is upon us.   All the parties and gift giving, all the card sending and receiving, the ornaments and the TV specials, can be overwhelming.  This overwhelming nature of Christmas celebration also often distracts from the reason we celebrate.  Even the extra worship services which point us to the real joy of Christmas, can add to our overloaded schedule.  But, into our overwhelming and troubled world, in a miraculous and wondrous way, God sent His Son.  We were hopelessly lost in a world of death because of our sin.  The examples of loss, of tragedy, of evil and suffering are all around us.  But, “2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. . . 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.    (Isaiah 9:2, 6)



We were hopelessly lost in a world of death because of our sin.  But, “10 . . . the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12)  The meaning of Christmas, the peace and the joy of this celebration, is found in God’s gift to us of His Son. 



There are ways in which we can say that Jesus had “unusual parentage. There are ways in which we can say that Jesus was “homeless in Bethlehem.”  But through the love and power of God we received what we need more than anything.  In the birth of Jesus we receive the forgiveness and love which gives eternal life.  The meaning of Christmas is found in God’s gift to us of His Son.  The peace and joy of Christmas often grows through giving this gift of God’s love to others.



Today I want to share with you a “different” Christmas story, where a child of “different parentage”, who might have been “homeless”, receives love and a home through a family living and rejoicing in the love of God found in Jesus.  St. John member, Dave Neslund, wrote this post on his Facebook page last week.  (Dave was on a TV show about families in Sweden last year.  That is his reference to this TV show.) Please read with me.



“Hi everyone...this is @DavidNeslundAlltForSverige from season 8  :-) I have an amazing story to share with you. If you ever needed a ray of hope, this is a story you may want to read. After season 8 was completed, I was flying home meditating on all that I observed during my time in Sweden ...one thing that kept jumping to the forefront of my mind was how many children were left without parents and were brought into loving homes when none could be found. These thoughts became shuffled into the back of my mind as I landed in Alaska on Fathers Day and embraced my family.



Days later, we were attending a Church Family camp and all the campfire talks were all about Allt for Sverige  (The Swedish TV show) and what this experience is…We decided to go home that night, and as we were leaving we noticed that our good friends were holding a swaddled baby. We didn't know anyone who was expecting, so out of curiosity we pulled over to find out who this baby belonged to. Before we could say anything, our friends handed Kristine a very tiny, very new baby girl and simply said, "this baby needs a home". We were utterly shaken and thrown off balance by this statement--- Who is this child?? This is when we first met Araya Hope.


We soon found out that she had been placed in emergency foster care with the piano player of our church, and she could only care for her for a few days while the State found a long term foster family….she had been born 5 weeks early and only weighed 4 pounds 10 oz...she was so tiny, so precious, and our hearts melted. BUT we were unsure if we were up to this task. We stayed up late talking about "all of this", Kristine and I had already started signing up to be foster parents a few years earlier, but Bjorn came into our lives (he was born at 23 weeks and 1 day) and fostering was no longer in our line of sight - until we met her. We made a phone call, setting the ball in motion.  They visited our home, approved our application, and Araya came to live with us when she was only 11 days old.



It didn't take long for Kristine, myself, Leif and Bjorn to completely fall in love with this tiny, fragile human. Leif, being the big brother of a micro-preemie, already knew all the safety routines and was an instant protector.  When your children come to you, the time is perfect - all you need is “a ray of hope.”



After 18 months of caring, waiting, loving, and hoping.... Wednesday morning (December 4) at 10:15am we officially became a family of 5...the veil has been lifted and we can now share her story. she is officially the newest member of the Neslund family - Nikolina Elaine Araya Hope Neslund.



It's hard to summarize the emotional effort that has gone into this past 18 months, but I can tell you this: family comes in every shape and size imaginable - none are perfect, but if you have love in your heart wonderful things happen.



Faith. Hope. Love. These are the three words that define our Children. LOVE, brought us Lief
FAITH, brought Bjorn through his infancy, and HOPE brought Nikolina home.




Love and peace to you all. Have an amazing Christmas holiday!



Thank you, Dave and Kristine, that you not only have received God’s love in the gift of His Son, Jesus, into your lives.  Thank you for helping us to receive God’s gift of love by showing us one way to share God’s gift of love to us. 



So, . . . how are YOU sharing God’s gift of love in Jesus this Christmas?



A Child of God, Touched by the Gift of God’s Son, and Especially by the Sharing of God’s Love,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from Dave’s Facebook post. https://photos.app.goo.gl/xwXPq9Pmm94h5Vqt9





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ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Seeking to Share with Others The Difference Jesus Makes in our Lives Today


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



We have finally arrived HOME after a long period of traveling.  Since the end of August Kathy and I have been in numerous parts of Alaska.  We have flown to Florida, and driven to St. Louis.  We have vacationed in Austria and Germany, and visited Christmas markets and historic sites.  We have talked with people in different languages and dialects.  Do you know what?  People around the world share many of the same problems and troubles!



We heard about troubles and about hopes in Juneau, and in Vienna.  We actually ran into a protest in Salzburg concerning climate change, and on our last day of our European tour, we encountered a protest in Berlin over governmental housing policies.  We saw people suffering, and celebrating in St. Louis in October, and in Munich in December.  (We left a doggy bag with a man we had seen on the streets of Munich.)  We saw people worshiping the Lord, and we saw examples of depravity all over.  The poster we saw in Wittenberg about an erotic Martin Luther movie just caused me to shake my head in dis-belief.  But, we also read online about murder trials at home in Palmer and Wasilla, Alaska.



In other words, a person cannot travel long miles to get away from the troubles of life.  The troubles and pain of life follow us all.  The reason is that we bring troubles on ourselves.  Everyone has turned at times from our Creator and our Lord.  We suffer from rebellious hearts and selfish personalities.  We have all sinned.  That sin is wherever we are, and wherever people are.



The bottom line is that everyone, each one of us needs a Savior from our sin!!!  We cannot save ourselves.  Thankfully, God has sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from our sin, and also to help us with His love and grace in the midst of the pain and problems of this world.



In preparation for our recent trip I read a lot of what Martin Luther wrote and said about Christmas.  Martin Luther wrote quite a bit concerning God’s messages from the first chapter of John.  John 1:1-4 relates one version of God’s message about Jesus coming into our world as Savior.  1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”



While in Leipzig, in one of our daily devotions on our trip in Germany, we read these words from Martin Luther about how Jesus came as the Light of the World. 

“Doubt nothing.  To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother.  Who is there whom this sight would not comfort?  Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save.”  A Christmas sermon (“For All the Saints”)



Jesus came to a sinful world as our Light, as our Savior.  God’s people can also bring this light into a world needing a Savior.  Our call as Christians, as Children of God, is that we not only receive Jesus as light in our lives, but that we share that light of God’s Son with others.  So, while our group was in Germany, we sought to share that light.  We listened to God’s Word and we prayed for others.  We prayed for Dave and Kristine Neslund as their adoption went through for Araya Hope.  (Perhaps more on that next week.)  We prayed for those who are ill or injured, including John Glaser, Megan Odland Nystrom, Janet Kincaid, my brother David, and others.  We asked for the love and mercy and power of Jesus to bring light into these lives.  We also prayed for our world and its problems.



What a blessing that into a dark world of sin, of trouble, and pain, God sends His Son, Jesus.  If you celebrate the gift of the Christ Child this year, how are YOU sharing that gift?



A Child of God, Seeking to Share with Others the Difference Jesus Makes in our Lives,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Many of you have followed our trip and asked questions.  So, here are some more pictures.  Since I last wrote we have visited many more places.  So, here are pictures of:

·       Eisenach, including

o   Wartburg Castle, where Luther translated the New Testament.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/dDp8dnrCWdybVm3BA

o   The Bachhaus – near the birthplace of J.S. Bach, a museum of his work and life, and https://photos.app.goo.gl/yu5pp2Div8ffqGr77


·       Erfurt – Where Luther went to seminary.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/n96y4RH53zc1H7ff6

·       Leipzig – Where Bach was cantor at St. Thomas Church and where Luther engaged in the “Leipzig Debates https://photos.app.goo.gl/fTfgD6ZLgqmjPiv47

·       Wittenburg – Where Luther lived and taught, and where he nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church, and https://photos.app.goo.gl/YKqRf7mDmPxNYqVZ6

·       Berlin, a city of 3 ½ million people with MUCH important modern history.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/DxHyi1a8hqez3qA87





P.P.S. In case you did not get a chance to look at them, here are pictures previously sent.





·       Rothenburg - https://photos.app.goo.gl/S9VcHQdmvrEswYeAA

·       A typical hotel breakfast – Rothenburg - https://photos.app.goo.gl/pjwUrsnK3G8zTt2f7



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ABOUT THIS DEVOTION – I am now retired as senior pastor of St. John Lutheran in Palmer, AK.  This devotion was previously titled, “Thoughts from the Pastor.”  However, with life’s changes I will now call it, “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.  You can also view this message on my Facebook page.



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