Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Praying that I Respond Faithfully to God's Goodness and Grace

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Recently, after going to the post office, I arrived at home and started looking at that day’s mail in the presence of my wife.  I spoke out loud as I perused what we had received.  “Request for money, Request for money, Request for money, Request for money, Request for money, Request for money.  Hmmm, offer to spend.”  I had 6 letters asking for donations, and one credit card offer.  In fact, I had two requests from one place in the same day!  Does that sound familiar?


Actually, I’m thankful to live in a country where not all good causes are paid for by my taxes.  The government doesn’t just take all my money and dole it out to what it considers to be worthwhile causes.  We have the privilege of deciding what needs we want to help alleviate, and which ministries we want to support.  But I confess, sometimes when the mail comes I wonder.


Do you ever feel that way about God’s church?  Does it ever seem to you like the church is always asking for money?  As pastor I get all sorts of advice concering financial issues.  I’ve been told by more than one person, “Pastor, you don’t talk about giving enough.”  Others tell me, “You talk about money too much!”  As you can see, finances are always a sensitive topic. 


As I read through the Bible again in my daily devotions, a September reading from 1 Chronicles 29 really struck me.  David was gathering resources so his son, Solomon, could build a temple for the Lord.  David contributed personally to the temple project and then he gave an opportunity for others to respond.  This is part of what we are told.


6 Then the leaders of families, . . . gave willingly. 7 They gave . . . gold, . . . silver,  . . . bronze and . . . iron. 8 Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD . . .

9 The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly. 10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.  (1 Chronicles 29:6-13)


The leaders and the people of David’s day “gave willingly” and "wholeheartedly."  David not only gave, but acknowledged that “everything in heaven and earth” is really God’s!  (v. 11)  This was one of the few moments of clarity in the history of Israel.  On this day David and the people confessed that all they had belonged to the Lord.  In faith, they responded to the God’s love and returned generously what He had given. 


But, even more than the surprisingly faithful giving, do you hear the praise of God by both the people and by David?  Why do you think they praised God?  Acknowledging God, rather than taking credit ourselves, is rare. And, generosity is not always a natural reaction.  So, on this day of willing generosity, David and the people praised the Lord.


This Sunday at St. John we have an opportunity to think about the grace and provision of God, and to consider our response.  We will consider how God provides us with all we need to live  and more - our "cup overflows.”  (Psalm 23)  We will meditate on how God is gracious to sinful people like us, in Jesus. As Paul writes, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)  God’s goodness and His grace to us in Jesus does not make sense.  But God IS gracious and loving.  God’s goodness and grace call for praise, for a response.


I pray that all God’s people are aware of His goodness in our lives and His grace in Jesus.  I pray that we willingly and wholeheartedly want to respond and contribute to His work, both in our local congregations, and for His work around the world.


Let me share with you about that mail which I recently received, the letters asking for donations.  All the requests I received were from places where I had already contributed.  In fact, the ministry which sent two letters on the same day, Lutheran Hour Ministries, is one of my favorite places to give.  It seems the more we give, the more we are asked.  But, when God’s people recognize His goodness and grace and respond willingly, it is reason to praise God.


A Child of God, Praying that I Respond Faithfully to God’s Goodness and Grace,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Pastor Aaron Spratt was commissioned in Anchorage on Saturday, October 14, to be pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Juneau, and Missionary to SE AK for the Alaska Mission for Christ.  Here are a couple of pictures.





ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.







CELEBRATION POTLUCK AND DESSERT COOKOFF – A day of thanks and commitment will happen in worship THIS Sunday, October 22.  We will consider God’s blessings in our life and our response to His blessings in worship on this Sunday. 

There will ALSO be a pot-luck dinner after worship on October 22.  The Church Council suggests that all St. John families attend and bring:

·       A dish cooked from the recent St. John cookbook (perhaps your own offering), and . . .

·       A dessert!  We will have a judging of desserts that people wish to enter.  We will later share the recipe for the winning dessert.



SERMON SERIES – “A WALK OF FAITH” – This school year sermons will look at God’s direction for His people by examining the faith lives and stories of individual Christians.  During October we will not only consider Scriptural examples, but also examples of people from the Reformation.

            October 8       Katie Luther

            October 15     Johann Von Staupitz

            October 22     Prince Frederich – Stewardship Sunday

            October 29     Martin Luther


THANK YOU, SARA! – The St. John Elders have discussed for a while that Sara Guhl has faithfully served the members of St. John on the piano and organ and through directing the choir for over 30 years!  On Sunday, November 5, we will honor Sara for her many years of faithful service at St. John!


JAMIE’S NEWS! – DCE Jamie Walters announced in August that she and Philip were expecting another child.  At our August Elders’ meeting, and September Council Meeting, Jamie shared that when the new baby comes along at the end of 2017 she will step down as DCE at St. John and begin staying home to take care of her two boys.  We THANK Jamie for 13 + years of serving the youth and children of St. John! 

The Elders and other leaders are working on a plan to bring a DCE intern from Concordia College, Seward, NE, where Jamie went to school.  We will have a meeting at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, October 21, with Tim Rippstein, DCE placement director from Concordia University, Seward, NE.


CHURCH FINANCES – At the August Church Council meeting the St. John Council asked that the congregation be informed that finances have fallen behind.  After being ahead through May, finances fell behind during the summer.  August and September were better, but finances are still behind as of the end of September.

            Perhaps, you were away for a time and haven’t kept up on offerings.  Perhaps you are a new member and haven’t started giving regularly.  Perhaps you would like to help in someway.  Please consider how you can help us catch up on our responsibilities.


PERMANENT FUND – Permanent Fund Dividends have been deposited.  For many years St. John members have encouraged one another to tithe, or give 10%, from this benefit of living in Alaska.  Long time member, June Liebing, would stand up in church and say, “The checks come from the oil, but the oil comes from God.”  Please consider how you might use this opportunity to help God’s work at St. John.





An All-Alaska Celebration


The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Sponsored by:

The Alaska Circuit

Of the Northwest District, LCMS

October 28-29


Saturday:         Youth Gathering at Anchor School, 10:00am – 8:30pm*

                                    Gathering Games


                                    Servant Event at Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA)

                                    Fun Afternoon Activity

                                    Closing Contemporary Celebration


Sunday:                       Celebration Event

                                    4pm – Celebration Concert and Hymn sing***

                                    5:15 – Celebration Worship Service

                                    6:30 – Celebration Meal


·        Guest Preacher for the Celebration Worship Service:  Retired Army Chaplain, Reverend Paul F. Howe 

Monday - Movie          Zion Lutheran Church will be hosting a screening of a new movie entitled “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World” on Monday, October 30th at 6:30pm at Regal Tikahtnu Stadium 16 theater. Tickets for the event are $11 + $1 booking fee. We do need to sell a minimum of 97 tickets to ensure the event happens, you are encouraged to purchase tickets NOW! I would love to see this showing sell out!  Call Zion Lutheran at 338-3838.


Should you need housing in Anchorage for this event, Inlet Towers, 907-222-8712 is providing a discounted rate.  The rates they offer for all out of town guests wishing to attend are as follows:

·        $64.99/night – All Standard Room Types (Single Queen, Single King, and Double Queen Rooms).

·        $89.00/night – King suite Rooms (featuring a master living area and master King Bedroom)

·        $119.00/night – Elite  Suite Rooms (King Suite with premium, boutique furniture packages, 2 flat screen TV’s upgraded bathrooms, kitchenettes, and premium beds).


Reservations: Simply call the Inlet Tower front desk at 907-276-0110 and reference the rate code: 500






·       Promise Keepers’ Men’s Group is meeting again  on Tuesdays, at 7:30 p.m.


·       Lifelight Bible Class are meeting again and will finish its study of the Gospel of Luke on Wednesdays at noon.


·       Wednesday Confirmation Classes started for the year on Wednesday, October 4, at 2:45 p.m.


·       Choir Practice will start THIS Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m.  Melanie Kopperud and Temple Christiansen will help lead our choir.


·       Lay Ministry Classes will start on Saturday, October 14, at 9:00 a.m. (THIS MAY BE AN 8:00 a.m. class)


·       Saturday Confirmation – Meeting on Saturdays at 10:30.  Watch for more details.







·        “The Invisible War – What every Believer Needs to Know about Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare” – This Chip Ingram class of 8 sessions will be taught by Dave Nufer and Kathy Rockey beginning September 10.  (Kathy Rockey says that if you have ever tried to get a family, especially with small children, ready for church on Sunday, you have probably been involved in Spiritual Warfare.)


·       Martin Luther and the Reformation – This class will be taught by Pastor Rockey beginning October 8 when he returns from his dad’s 90th birthday celebration.


WEDNESDAY WORSHIP continues to meet each week on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and continues weekly until Advent services start in December.  This weekly evening worship service provides an opportunity for those who cannot worship on Sunday, or for those who enjoy an extra time to worship God.  (The sermons on Wednesdays are not the same as Sunday, so you can attend both services if you wish.)


HOMESCHOOL SUPPORT GROUPA Homeschool Fellowship Group is meeting at St John. If you have questions you can contact Temple Christiansen 907-354-6312 or Cynthia Carlson 907-521-7004.


DIVORCE CARE – Divorce Care is a 13 week video based Bible Study and support group for those who have been through divorce, or are going through a divorce.  Ruth Zellar and her daughter, Kristy Anderton, are leading this group. 

This group has decided to meet on Sunday nights, at 5:00 p.m. and to share pot luck food.  Babysitting is provided.  You can call Ruth at 907-232-3823 for more details.







AN NOTE AND AN INVITATION FROM FAMILY PROMISE - Special Recognition and Celebration-October 22-29, 2017 - 12 years of service to our families without housing!

Your congregations each annually provide approximately $22,500 in value in donated lodging, volunteer hours and meals! That adds up to $275,000 total value from each congregation over our 12 years!!

A Gathering will be held at Glacierview Alliance Church Saturday, October 14th at 4pm for snacks (bring one to share if you wish), accolades and the chance to serve after our garage sale.


Laurie Kari, Executive Director
Family Promise Mat-Su



Anchorage Lutheran Concert Series – Anchorage Lutheran will again hold a concert series at 1420 N Street in 2017-2018.  The initial list of concerts includes the following.


·       October 29th 500th Year Anniversary of the Reformation: Bach Cantate BWV 140,  ​with community choir c​onducted by Grant Cochran 4pm

·       Sunday, December 10th Fairweather Flutes

·       Saturday, December 16th Community Carol Sing. 7pm

·       Sunday, January 21st Bel Canto Alaska 4:30pm

·       Sunday, February 11th Glacier Brass 4:30pm

·       Sunday, April 8th Stephen Price Organist 4:30pm







DID YOU KNOW THAT MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT ST. JOHN is available on our church website?  On our web page you can find sermons, newsletters, and these weekly devotions.  The link is:

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Concerned and Praying for My Country

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Do you ever worry about our country?  In recent weeks we have been horrified by a mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Football players protest and our country obviously suffers from deep racial divisions.  There is talk of war, possibly nuclear war, with North Korea.  We find little or no agreement among our leaders in Washington.


As a child, 60 plus years ago, I remember being truly thankful to have been born in America.  America was a land of freedom, including freedom of religion.  Our American culture supported me and others as we pursued our Christian faith.  Many things have changed.  Some changes have been for the better.  But, many of the values and principles that made our country a blessing years ago seem to be hard to find today.


Some may be saying, “Pastor Rockey, don’t you remember that old saying?  ‘There are two things not to talk about: Religion and politics.’  And here you go talking about BOTH topics.”  Nevertheless, I am concerned for America.  As a Christian who is also American, I pray for our country regularly. 


My experience says that 60 years ago there was more agreement among the people of this country.  Most people believed God is Lord of all and Lord of our lives.  Even people who didn’t believe in God, respected the majority who did.  Biblical faith was a major value used by people to make choices and to face troubles.  There seemed to be general agreement on what was right and wrong. Disagreement happened over how to accomplish worthwhile goals.  But I don’t remember whole different groups disagreeing about what is right and wrong.  Unity of values and thought was a blessing to our country.


However, America now finds itself as a pluralistic society and we find few, if any, areas where all agree.  Actually, today’s culture is similar in many ways to the culture in which the early church first existed.  The early church grew in the cradle of the Roman Empire.  The Roman political system and its leaders of that time were growing more corrupt.  All religions were tolerated, to some degree.  In that pluralistic society the church grew quickly, even though God’s people believed that there is only one true God, and that Jesus is the only way to heaven.


It is worth noting that the apostles did not seek to overthrow the corrupt government of the Roman Empire.  Nor did they seek to impose their beliefs on others by force.  Actually, you cannot pass a law that changes hearts.  We cannot legislate faith.  In fact, laws are best kept when people understand why they exist and therefore want to keep them.  Instead of revolution and force, early Christians were called to let their lives and their words witness to God, and then to allow others to consider what Jesus and the Christian faith had to offer.


I believe that Scripture calls American Christians to the same behavior today.  The best thing that Christians can do for our country is not to complain about others, but to be serious in living our own faith.


Jesus calls His followers to lives of righteousness.  “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)  Christians should seek to live lives of faith and love, worshiping God.  This sets Christians apart as different, not part of the decline in faith and integrity we see around us. 


Through Paul God calls for our work to be a witness   11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)  When God’s children work with honesty, giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, that behavior speaks loudly. “


God calls His people to pray for their country.  When the Israelites were carried to exile in Babylon, Jeremiah urged them to pray for the land in which they lived as exiles.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."  (Jeremiah 29:7)  Even though the Roman emperors were corrupt, Paul called on the church to pray for civil leaders.  1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 1:12).  When countries are in turmoil, God calls for prayer.


Of course, if the laws of the land require God’s people to sin against the Lord, then we have to say with Peter and the Apostles, “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29)  But, ultimately, God does not intend for Christians to be a problem for their nation, but to be a blessing, to be the best citizens.  God intends for his people to work and pray for the good of everyone.  Christians look to God to tell us what is good.


I have children and grandchildren.  I don’t just want blessings for America for myself.   I want my family to live in a country where they can also experience freedom and grow as Christians.  I pray for America and seek, by the way I live, to make it a better place for everybody.  I pray that some day my children and grandchildren will also be thankful to live here.


A Child of God, Concerned and Praying for my Country,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  It may be hard to believe but our youngest son, Tim, turned 25 on Monday.  Here are pictures from our birthday celebration.






ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pressing On and Persevering Because of Jesus' Unfailing Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”?  Kathy and I returned on Monday night, Tuesday morning, from visiting my dad and family in Florida.  Actually, after boarding our flight in Florida around 11:30 a.m. Alaska time, the plane landed just after midnight in Anchorage.  We had our luggage around 12:30 a.m., and our heads hit our bed around 2:00 a.m. Alaska time, 6:00 a.m. Florida time.  I calculate that from the time we arrived at the airport in Florida, till when we arrived home, we spent 16 hours traveling.  Monday was a LONG day!


So, I confess I was somewhat in a fog on Tuesday as, in the morning, I tried to pay bills, unpack, and pick up at home.  (Our dog had left some visible evidence that he missed us.)  At noon I attended a Kiwanis meeting, my first as President for the 2017-2018 year, and then also led a Kiwanis board of directors’ meeting.  I spent the afternoon handing out dictionaries at Finger Lake Elementary School, and was also in the office to catch up on phone calls and other tasks.  Finally, on Tuesday evening we held our first Promise Keepers men’s Bible Study for the year.  I went through the motions and tried my best on Tuesday.  But I know that, had I been adjusted to Alaska time and not a little sleep deprived, I might have been a little more functional. 


However, just because we may not be at our peak for functioning and performing, that doesn’t mean we just ignore what lays before us.  There is still work to be done and life to be lived.  We still have people to love and faith to share.  So, even if “we need a vacation from our vacation” we keep going, we persevere.


I find that the quality of perseverance is one that we all need in our fast-paced lives, but one that gets little attention in today’s world of instant gratification.  A few Sundays ago I told our “Basic Teachings of the Bible” class that I hear a lot about “passion.”  We do all need to be convinced, convicted, and committed in our lives.  But passion can be a passing emotion.  Perseverance, founded on godly convictions, keeps going.  For most of us, life is not a short sprint, but a long marathon.  We need to keep going.  We need perseverance.


The virtue of perseverance may not seem attractive or popular in today’s self-absorbed world, but the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, speak a lot of perseverance and endurance.


The Epistle Lesson assigned for this Sunday, The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from Philippians 3.  Paul talks of his pursuit to obtain the eternal blessings of God found in Jesus.  In verse 12, Paul tells the people of the city of Philippi of his efforts, and his perseverance. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”


In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he gives encouragement to the young pastor who is shepherding the people of Ephesus, Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.  (I Timothy 4:16)


In Romans 5 we are told that God’s children can even rejoice in suffering, because suffering produces perseverance, among other virtues.  “3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  (Romans 5:3-4)


And one of my favorite sections of Scripture is found in Hebrews where, after the writer has taught the Hebrew exiles in chapter 11 about the examples of faith found in the lives of God’s people, He then encourages these exiles in chapter 12 to live in faith which shows in perseverance.  1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)


We all understand why perseverance may be unpopular.  Why would anyone want to continue in struggle and continue in suffering?  But, following the example used in Hebrews 12, we also know that athletes persevere through the rigors of training for the goals of their competition.  We know that God has eternal joy and life waiting for us who finish the race, as the writer of the Hebrews says.  And we know that because of Jesus’ perseverance of living and dying for us, even when we stumble, we have the love of God to forgive and strengthen and encourage.  We may fail, but God perseveres in His love.  Our Lord’s love never fails.  So, we can keep going.  We can persevere because of the love of God shown in the perseverance of Jesus. 


I woke up on Wednesday morning, early because my body is still partially on Florida time, yet more alert and ready to go than on Tuesday.  But, no matter the day, my Lord Jesus persevered for me.  He is with me to love, to forgive, and to save me.  I want to live for Him, even when I may not be all there.


A Child of God, Pressing on and Persevering Because of Jesus’ Unfailing Love,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures of our vacation with my dad and family in FL.


P. P.S.  I know I included these pictures last week, but in case you didn’t see them, here are some pictures from the celebration of my dad’s 90th birthday party in FL.







ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.





Saturday, September 30, 2017

Where Do I Find Health?

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


I have been in Florida for the celebration of my dad’s 90th birthday.  We had a nice turnout of family and friends who gathered on Saturday afternoon, September 23, to celebrate with him.  One of my dad’s friends is Larry Christian, who worked with him at General Electric and has been his financial advisor with Raymond James for a number of years.  Larry highly respects my dad and asked us if he could help with the costs of the party.  At Dad’s party I thanked Larry for his help.  He replied, “I just wanted to see how a man makes it to 90 years old like your dad did.  What I see is a loving family and regular exercise.”  I replied, “My dad’s faith life is a big part of his health too.”


For those who don’t know, my mom and dad had 5 children.  My mom passed away about 6 years ago, but all five children were present at Dad’s party, along with many grandchildren and great grandchildren.  My dad has also exercised and worked out regularly for over 20 years.  For the last few years when I have visited I have gone with him on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings at 5:00 a.m. to the local gym where he does some cardio work and lifts weights each visit.  Larry was seeing those obvious blessings of family and physical health.


Actually, Larry had previously worked with my dad and also knew his faith, not so much from his words but more so from his life.  My dad has led his family in regular worship and participation in our local Lutheran Christian congregation.  People around my dad saw his faith in how he lived, and how he worked.


What does give a person good health?  It would be presumptuous to say there is one answer to that question about health.  But I believe my dad has found some answers to health that even doctors would agree with.  Physical health, social health, and spiritual health lead a person to overall health. 


In this world, damaged by sin, there is no absolute answer to health.  Just because a person takes care of themselves does not necessarily mean they will live a long life.  Accidents happen.  Illnesses like cancer and heart disease occur.  Relationship struggles happen.  But, when we choose healthy lifestyles it helps us to meet those challenges of life.


I am also convinced that taking care of our relationship with God then gives direction in other areas of healthy living.  After Jesus talked to the people of His day about length of life and about physical provision, He then told those people, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)


Our life is a gift from God who created us, who sustains us, and who saves us through faith in Jesus for eternity.  Taking care of a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father gives us health and priorities as we face the trials of life.  In fact, as Jesus says, if we first seek God, He takes care of the rest.  That care happens through the difficulties of life in this world.  That care of God happens when we have made some bad choices, but God reaches out in grace and forgiveness through Jesus to restore us.  That care and love of God is given eternally by our gracious Lord.


So, how do I grow health in my life?  We need to ask ourselves this question because disaster, illness, and death are all around us and are part of life.  From my dad’s long life I believe he found his answer in these words of Jesus.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well.”


May your relationship with God bring you spiritual, relational, and physical health.


A Child of God, Seeking Health through My relationship with God,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from the celebration of my dad’s 90th birthday in FL.






ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Weathering Life's Storms in the Refuge of God's Church

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

Perhaps you have been following this year’s parade of hurricanes.  I read somewhere that there had recently been a record amount of time between large hurricanes hitting the U.S. mainland.  However, 2017 seems to have made up for the recent lack of storms.  First Harvey drenched Texas with over 50” of rain in some places.  Then Irma lashed at the Caribbean and made its way up the Florida peninsula and into the southeast US with wind and rain and destruction.  Next Jose threatened the US, specifically the upper northeast, bringing wind and rain to New York and surrounding areas.  Now Maria brings destruction to Puerto Rico and to who knows where else.

You may know that I am currently in Florida to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday this week.  So, having flown into Orlando, and then driving up to Gainesville, I got to see some of the results of Hurricane Irma a week after it hit.  In some ways central and northern Florida seem to have been spared major damage.  I have family in those areas.  Some were without power for a time.  Others lost trees and shingles.  Thankfully, no one was in any danger.

However, even in North Florida where the storm had weakened when it hit, the results of Hurricane Irma linger.  There are still piles of trees and brush along roads and highways for crews to pick up.  Many of the swamps have become lakes.  My dad lives on a golf course that used to have 3 little ponds.  Each of those ponds have swelled so that each pond now covers part of 3 different holes and a golfer cannot walk from one hole to another.  There have been pumps diverting the water since I arrived on Monday.  I can see the water flowing from the pumps, but I have yet to see any result in how high the water appears.

So, how do you weather the storms of life?  It seems that we have seen trials and tribulations more than normal in recent days.  Sunday, September 17, David Grosz shared in worship about his fight with lymphoma.  Our community is still reeling from the recent tragic fire deaths of 5 young girls in their home.  And, as pastor I know of many other major struggles being faced by members and friends of our congregation.  Sometimes life’s storms feel overwhelming, beyond our ability to stand.  Life can seem like this year’s storm season with storm after storm lashing at the lives of God’s people.  How do you weather the storms of life?

In worship last Sunday David shared two main lessons he learned as he suffered through his illness and treatment.  First, David spoke from experience that, in spite of the ravages of illness that come, God is faithful.  God keeps His promises of love.  No matter the outcome, God is with us.  We have all heard those words.  I thank David that he was willing to share the truth of God’s presence as he has personally weathered the storm of lymphoma with the Lord’s promises and presence.

Second, David shared how God’s church provided support and comfort and help to him and his family during their storm.  David thanked us for our prayers, visits, meals, and other help given.  Being part of a Christian congregation can be a real place of refuge through the storms of life!

Do you remember the account of Jesus and His disciples as they made their way in a boat across the Sea of Galilee?  We are told in Matthew 8: 24, “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”  Without warning!!”  That sounds like our lives.  Even though we live in a world ravaged by sin, we don’t expect the diagnoses, the tragedies, the losses, the illnesses, the betrayals, and the struggles.  Sometimes it does seem like Jesus is asleep while we suffer.  But, He is there, present with us as life batters us with its wind and waves.

Did you know that many times the church is pictured as the boat which God provides to help His people ride out the storms of life?  In acolyte classes our young people learn that even some of the names of parts of the church have nautical background.  The storms of life will come, often unexpectedly and with horrible fury.  But God gives His church to help us weather those storms.  Hebrews 10:25 is often understandably quoted to encourage worship attendance.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  But, God also talks in this verse of how His people encourage one another as we see “the day”, or the storms, approaching. 

When we face tragic illnesses, losses, and trials God intends for His church to be a place of relative safety even though the storms of life do rage.  God intends for His Word to assure us of His promised love and salvation.  God’s plan is that through regular worship and fellowship we are encouraged through our tragedies and trials.  God seals us in Jesus for eternal life as we receive His forgiveness in our baptisms and in the Lord’s Supper.  God’s church is that boat that helps us weather the storms of life.

In Gainesville where my dad lives, it will be a while before the brush is picked up and the waters recede and life totally gets back to normal.  Unfortunately, we know the storms of life will come.  Thankfully, God gives His Church as a refuge in the storm to carry us across the sea of life to the shores of eternity.

A Child of God, Weathering Life’s Storms in the Refuge of God’s Church,

Pastor Jonathan

P.S.  In 2007 Kathy and Jamie and I traveled to Israel.  One of the sites we saw showed a boat discovered in the mud of the Sea of Galilee in 1986 during a severe drought.   The boat was dated to the time of Jesus.  Also, many of the characteristics of this boat match the kind of boat that fishermen like Andrew and Peter, James and John, used during Jesus’ day.  Here are some pictures we took of “the Jesus Boat.”

P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of the bounty of our garden picked on final harvest day, 9-16-2017.  The next day we shared much of this at church.

P.P.P.S.  Here are some fish pictures from my last salmon fishing trip of the year.  I threw all these fish back, but the day was beautiful and the outdoors enjoyable -


ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Why Did He Have to Die?

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

In July I bought a new dog.  We had a yellow Labrador retriever, Susitna, from 2000 till September of 2014.  Su was a loving dog who grew as part our family, and lived to go fishing with me.  Su went salmon fishing in the boat, trout fishing in the canoe, stream fishing along various rivers and creeks, and ice-fishing in the winter.  But Su grew old and ill and we had her put down because of her serious health problems.

Even though Kathy tells me she is not an animal person, I personally missed having a dog.  I loved petting other people’s pets.  I sometimes took my daughter’s dog fishing.  But that wasn’t my dog.  Yet, when Kathy and I looked at puppies and thought about bringing one home, we also considered our schedules.  We are often gone for work and travel.  What kind of life is that for a puppy to be home alone.  So, we bought a 5 year old male yellow lab and have named him Mat.  (“Mat-Su”)  In a month and a half Mat has found a home with our family.  And, he loves to go fishing.  When I open the door of the truck he bounces around and jumps into the cab.

However, Mat loves to do something else.  While he doesn’t always eat his dog food, and when he does eat he doesn’t eat much, he does like to pilfer the food that people have. 

On Mat’s first fishing trip, St. John member Kym Miller was along.  Kym was eating a sandwich and didn’t see Mat take the other half of the sandwich from her plastic container. 

Later in August Sara Guhl and her grandson Galen were fishing with me.  I had a can of Vienna sausage to give to the dog as treats. But, when I turned around, the dog had the can of sausage on the beach and was licking the now empty can.  Later Sara found him eating the salmon eggs we had along for bait.  Finally, Sara had to take my plum, which I had brought as a snack, out of my dog’s mouth.

I was fishing with Aaron Smith, my daughter Mary’s fiancĂ©e.  Aaron had prepared some breakfast burritos and offered me one.  I declined, but in a minute we saw the dog with the burrito in his mouth, plastic wrap and all.

I took Mark Ford fishing in early September and we caught a nice bright salmon full of eggs.  I was curing the eggs in a plastic container in the garage so that I could later use them as bait.  I left the container on my workbench, far enough away from the dog who was on a rope, I thought.  But when I looked outside I found the plastic container in the back yard.  The eggs were gone and there was a pink stain on the garage floor from the cure I was using on the eggs.

This past Monday I took Pastor Tony Schultz fishing with me.  I was having a test in the hospital so I left the dog in the truck with my snacks stuffed under the front seat, thinking Mat couldn’t reach them.  But, when I came out of the hospital, the snack bag was on the front seat of the truck, torn to pieces.  The small sandwich bag that had the tiny pieces of cheese, wrapped in wax, was torn open and empty.  Two of my three apples had teeth marks, and one of the three plums was missing.  When I got home I put the two damaged apples into the dog’s food dish.  Soon I called Kathy. Mat was lying in her kennel, chewing on the apples.  Only a small piece was left.

When I told Kathy of the missing snacks, and she knew of other incidents, she snickered and asked, “Should I say something?  You know, it would be alright with me if we didn’t have any animals.”  But, the truth is, I have grown attached to my dog.  I enjoy spending time with him.  I really enjoy seeing his delight as he jumps in the truck and as he runs along the beach when we go fishing.  So, I try to show him praise for good behavior and love him into our family.  Kathy just smiles and shakes her head.

What does all this have to do with a devotion?  I recently read a story about a little girl who was visiting her grandmother and went to church with her.  It was the girl’s first experience in a worship service.  As the pastor stood up front speaking, he said that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  The little girl leaned over and whispered to her grandmother, but not very softly, “Why did He do that?”  Her grandmother put her finger over her lips to encourage quiet during worship.  But the girl would not stop.  She asked again, more loudly so others could hear, “Why did He have to die?”  The grandmother replied this time with a “Shhh.”  Being her first time in worship and not wanting to be denied, the girl asked loudly enough for everyone to hear, even the pastor, “Why did He have to die?”  The pastor stopped speaking.  He could have offered all sorts of theological explanations to the question.  But the grandmother answered the grand daughter so all could hear, “He died because He loves you so very much.” 

Perhaps you know God’s word from Romans 5.  6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Someday my dog may learn not to take other people’s food.  Until that time I will try to teach him good behavior and love him into the family.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

A Child of God, Learning Patience From our New Pet,

Pastor Jonathan

P.S.  Here are some fish pictures from the trip to the Little Su with Mark Ford.  In a very real way this was a Stephen Ministry outing.

P.P.S.  Here are some veggies picked for supper 9-8-2017.

P.P.P.S.  This flower sprung up in our garden.  We are not sure what kind of flower it is.  A Holly Hock??  (Do you see our new Labrador rooting through the compost pile in the background?)


ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.