Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Finding Strength in the Un-Failing Presence of Jesus


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

There is something exciting going on in the world of professional sports, specifically in the National Hockey League.  The Las Vegas Golden Knights are a first year expansion team.  Their players are those that other teams deemed expendable in an expansion draft.  I have heard the Golden Knights called a team of “cast-offs.”  Usually such first year teams try to be “respectable.”  They try not to have the most losses in the league.  I heard the coach of the Golden Knights say in an interview that their goal was “to give the fans their money’s worth, to give a good effort.”  Expectations for a first year team are not a great or winning season.

 

Yet, even though this team began the year with low expectations, they have earned one of the best records during the regular season of play.  The Vegas Golden Knights have advanced to the final round of playoffs and are playing for the championship!  No one expected this level of success.  It seems unprecedented!

 

I heard the Las Vegas coach, Gerard Gallant, interviewed. He explained their year with a cliché that, nevertheless, seemed to be true for this team when he said it.  “We just play one game at a time.  At the beginning of the year we just wanted to give a good effort in each game.  As we started with an 8-1 record, and then played some of the better teams, we just played each game for what it was.  As we entered the playoffs, we just played one game at a time.” (This is not a word for word quote, but my memory and understanding of what I heard him say. )  Sometimes a life goal seems too big, or unreachable.  So, wisdom says to focus on the present and let the future take care of itself.

 

There are times where it seems to me that life can be overwhelming.  This isn’t even about tragedy, or loss, or severe trial.  Sometimes the day-to-day tasks are so big that to look at what needs doing in the future can be daunting.  Ask someone what the future looks like as they enter college, or begin an advanced degree, or even some who enter the military,  In some ways it is hard to imagine graduating, or finishing military service.  At that point, where the future seems so far away, we need to take one day at a time.

 

I can understand such feelings.  Life has been especially busy since . . . October.  At times the demands of being a pastor, the responsibility of being a husband and dad, the call to live as a child of God, along with my own weaknesses and limitations and sin, can seem overwhelming.  I find I need to take not just one day at a time, but to work on one task at a time.

 

But, during these times when I am looking at the trees, and not the forest, I find comfort in the words Jesus spoke to His disciples as He physically left this world.  “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

The One who is not only our Savior, but who has all authority, is with us . . . always!  The One who loved us enough to die and rise to save us, is with us . . . always!  Jesus, who sends us into all nations to teach and to baptize and to make disciples, is with us . . . always!  When the tasks of life seem overwhelming, Jesus is with us . . . always!

 

Sometimes the words of hymns, taken from the words of Scripture, speak to my heart.  One of my favorite songs, which strengthen me with the assurance that Jesus is always with us is “Lord of All Hopefulness.  This song reminds us that Jesus is with us at break of day.  This hymn assures us that Jesus is with us at noon, in the heat of labor.  This poem set to music strengthen us to know that God is with us as life, hopefully, slows down in the evening.  This song reminds us that our Lord is with us at the end of the day, or also at the end of our life.  In other words, as Jesus says, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

 

Perhaps you would like to ponder and pray with me.

 

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,

Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
            Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,

Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

 

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,

Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:

Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,

Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

 

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,

Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace:

Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,

Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

 

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,

Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:

Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,

Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.


© Oxford University Press. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100012581.

 

Or, as Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, tells us, surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

 

A Child of God, Finding Strength in the Un-failing Presence of Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan          

 

P.S.  No pictures this week.  I was asked by a friend to golf, so I did not fish.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS!!!

 

The St. John Church Council voted on Sunday, May 20, to form a call committee for the purpose of asking the St. John Voters to call Ethan Mirly as full-time DCE.  The process will proceed in this way.

·       The Call Committee will bring a Job Description and Salary Recommendations to the Church for Review.

·       The Church Council will act on the recommendations of the Call Committee and then play a Voters’ Meeting to vote on extending a Divine Call to Ethan.

·       The St. John Voters will pray, discuss, and vote on the recommendation of the Church Council and it’s Call Committee.

·       Ethan will pray and consider God’s direction for his life and respond to the call extended.

 

This is a somewhat long process.  But, the process is designed so that the Lord can guide the process and the congregation has good input.  Please keep this process in your prayers.

 

 

SPECIAL NEEDS!

 

COMMUNITY PICNICSt. John will again host a Colony Days’ Picnic on our grounds on Saturday, June 9.  Plans are being made for the picnic meal AND for a parade entry.  There are MANY opportunities to volunteer and help share God’s love in Jesus with the people of Palmer. 

 

PLEASE SIGN UP ON THE SIGN-UP SHEETS IN THE BACK TO

·       BRING FOOD – beans, slaw, chips

·       COOK

·       SERVE FOOD, or

·       SET UP AND TAKE DOWN.  Also

·       PARADE WALKERS are also needed.

Please help us reach out to Palmer in the name of our Lord!

 

 

 

ST. JOHN ACTIVITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES

 

·       KOINONIA – The St. John Senior’s Group, Koinonia, meets Friday, May 25, at St. John at 6:00 p.m. for a pot-luck meal and time of fellowship. St. John member, Grace Miller, will share at this gathering about her experience in the recent Paralympics!

 

·       SUNDAY SCHOOL AND ADULT BIBLE CLASS.

o   SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR ALL AGES is over for the year since school is out of session.  Regular Sunday School will start again after Labor Day.

 

o   NEVERTHELESS . . . There are various adult classes being offered.

§  Selected Psalms is being taught by Hunter Richards.

 

§  Basic Teachings of the Bible will be taught by Pastor Jonathan Rockey beginning Sunday, May 6.  This class will hopefully build a foundation of knowledge and faith for those who wish to grow, and for those who wish to join St. John.

 

WEDNESDAY YOUTH ACTIVITIES

o   Middle School Youth meet at St. John from 5-6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.

o   High School Youth meet at St. John on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.

 

WEDNESDAY WORSHIP – Wednesday worship is offered each week at 6:30 p.m. at St. John.  This service gives another worship opportunity to God’s family in addition to Sunday worship services.  If a person cannot worship on Sunday, the same readings from Sunday are used on Wednesdays, with a different sermon from the Sunday morning sermon.  In addition, if someone wants an additional opportunity for growth and fellowship and praise, Wednesday worship can provide that opportunity.  Come and join us on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

 

ST. JOHN MEN’S BREAKFAST, SATURDAY The St. John men’s group, Promise Keepers, will be meeting on Saturday mornings in May at the Noisy Goose at 7:30 a.m. for food and fellowship.  ALL MEN are invited to join us.  “Fathers, feel free to bring your sons too!

 

OTHER ACTIVITIES SCHEDULED FOR GROWTH, MINISTRY, AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE FUTURE . . .

 

·       Lutheran Church Extension Fund Presentation and Wills Seminar.  Susan Olson and Mike Madsen will make presentations at St. John on June 3.

 

o   Susan is Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) Vice President for the Northwest District.  The LCEF is a bank run by our church body.  It loans out its funds to build churches.  St. John’s building loan is with LCEF.  LCEF offers many attractive options for saving and investment.  Also, all money deposited with LCEF helps build churches.  Susan will share information about LCEF on June 3.

 

o   Mike Madison, from Concordia University Portland, will present a wills seminar in a luncheon meeting after worship on June 3.  It is wise stewardship to have a will.  Mike will give tips on writing a will that helps protect assets and makes a Christian witness.

 

·       St. John Family Camp – Family Camp will be held at Eklutna State Park again this year from June 22-24.  Plan now to attend.

 

·       Alaska Mission for Christ Vacation Bible School Possibility – A group of 12 individuals and families are exploring the opportunity to serve the Lord by sharing Jesus in a VBS at a place requesting help.  We will be going to Eek to conduct VBS there July 5-8.  If you are interested, talk to Marilee Nufer, Temple Christiansen, or myself.

 

·       Vacation Bible School – Vacation Bible School is scheduled for July 23-27.  Registration forms are already available on the counter in the narthex, and online.  There are also sign-up sheets for those who wish to help teach or lead.

 

 

THANKS! - LAST WEEK’S ACTIVITIES

 

THANKS to all who came out to the Trustees work day.  It was well attended and “many hands make light work!”  Thank you!

 

A NEW ACOLYTE SCHEDULE WILL BE OUT SOON.  If your child could not make the training on May 19, but wants to serve, please talk to Pastor Rockey or call the office.

 

THANK YOU to all who filled out “Time and Talent Surveys.”  We may have 3 times as many turned in this year compared to last year.  We hope to get the results of this survey to all boards at the July 1 Church Council Meeting.

 

 

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH AND FELLOWSHIP

 

Anchorage Lutheran Concert Series

Presents

 

Chapel Choir

College of the Ozarks

Director: Mr. Gregg Busch

Accompanist: Mr. Caleb Lawson

 

We are proud to welcome the Chapel Choir from the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri! 

Come join us for this wonderful experience! The concert is free ~ Donations gratefully accepted.

 

Sunday, May 27th at 4:30pm

Anchorage Lutheran Church

1420 N St

 

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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:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org

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 judy@stjohnpalmer.org. 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, May 16, 2018

THANKFUL for the Love of God and His People!


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Last week I observed another birthday.  Actually, I don’t need to be reminded that I am getting older, in years at least.  But, according to the reckonings of our culture, this was a rather significant birthday.  One of the blessings of this year’s birthday is that I received greetings and wishes from many, many friends and family.  In fact, in this “Facebook Age,” I received between 150 and 200 greetings!  About 150 people sent me greetings by Facebook.  That’s pretty amazing!  But, I also received a number of the more traditional birthday cards.  Quite a few of those who have my phone number texted me greetings.  Others sent me e-mail messages.  And, 2 people called me on the phone.  One of those people, a lady 20 years my senior, sang to me!

 

It is truly a blessing to have family and friends who care about you.  Such care is a comfort as one faces the joys and trials of life.  I personally find strength and assurance in so many sharing well wishes and blessings.  It is somewhat overwhelming to have this many people reach out in family love and Christian friendship!

 

As I was pondering my blessings on my birthday, I realized that we are all known by God, and with His knowledge of us also comes our Lord’s love and care, now and eternally.

 

One of the sections of Scripture in the Old Testament that shares that God knows us even better than we know ourselves is found in Psalm 139.  “1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”  As the Psalmist shares about God’s knowledge of us and care His for us, I agree with his assessments. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”  In fact, when the world around us and our own sin accuse us of failure and tell us we are not of value, God’s assurance gives strength that speaks the real truth about who we are.  (For other Old Testament verses see also Isaiah 49:1, and Jeremiah 1:5)

 

In the New Testament God elaborates on His knowledge of us and His care for us.  In John 10, where Jesus shares with us that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, Jesus also tells us how His knowledge of those who follow and believe in Him blesses them.  27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:27-28)  Jesus knows us personally.  Jesus cares for us sacrificially.  And, Jesus doesn’t just speak His love, He gives eternal life to those who follow Him!

 

In 65 plus years I have seen many trials and tragedies.  But, when people ask me how I am doing I have developed a somewhat pat answer which I now often share.  “Life has blessings.  Life has challenges.  God is good.  And that’s 2 out of 3.  Not only that, but God’s blessings in my life far outweigh my challenges!”  In other words I am blessed by our Lord in this life.  I hope you know the same for yourself.

 

What a joy to receive so many greetings and well-wishes on my 65th birthday.  Thank you to all who reached out to me.  But, in His Word God not only speaks His knowledge and love, but He shares how that love blesses us eternally.  27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”  I pray that this “greeting card” from our Lord gives you joy and peace and strength through the joys and trials of your life

 

A Child of God, Thankful for the Love of God and His People,

Pastor Jonathan          

 

P.S.  Sunday was the birthday of Ethan Mirly, our DCE Intern.  Here are a couple of pictures from worship.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/YpyLqjpFCu9uBJOk1

 

P.P.S.  In the last week, not only have our daffodils bloomed, but now we have tuplips!  https://photos.app.goo.gl/XTYc7OlNqmo83KsG2

 

P.P.P.S.  I put the boat in the water on Monday to test things out.  Here are a couple of pictures of boat, dogs, and fish.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/bGseH1CKpkaQqgAb9

 

 

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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, May 9, 2018

Learning Again That God Loves EVERYONE


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

It is graduation season again.  And, with many high schools and colleges in the area, there are numerous opportunities to join those graduating as they celebrate this milestone in their life.  At St. John we have students graduating from various schools here in the valley, graduating from schools throughout Alaska, and even graduating from schools around the country.  I am proud of our students who have persevered to get to this point of accomplishment in their lives.

 

So, on Tuesday evening I attended graduation ceremonies at Palmer High School.  St. John has quite a few students who graduated from Palmer High this year.  I attended the graduation with my daughter, Mary, who has taught some of these students, and who also wanted to be there for her students.  As graduations go, this one was similar to many others I have attended.  Various adults, including principal, Paul Reid, gave the students some good advice.  Ceremonies included student speakers who shared hopes and dreams with their classmates.  A number of students graced the evening with their musical talents.  As is often the case, the students had also chosen a specific person they wanted to speak to them. So Kim Akers gave the graduates some good direction for life.  A slide show and diplomas were presented.  Graduation was special because we know many who were graduating.  But, in some ways this graduation ceremony was like many others.

 

Nevertheless, certain moments at this year’s graduation touched the heart.  Two special moments stood out for me, even though these moments perhaps weren’t intended to be special, but were special, nonetheless.

 

First, as the students processed into the gym, the first one in line was Kamerin Ewart.  If you know Kamerin, he has faced life trials with an attitude of faith and love.  Because of complications at birth, Kam needs a wheelchair to get around, and he uses a computer to help him communicate.  Sometimes people who are handicapped can be forgotten or ignored by others.  But, it seems that everyone knows Kam.  He was the first one to process in, because of his wheelchair.  I heard lots of people applauding and speaking Kam’s name as he simply entered.  In addition, because of his wheelchair, Kam could not walk up the steps of the stage to receive his diploma.  But, there was a ramp on the back of the stage.  It took Kam a while to manipulate his electric chair up the ramp, through the line, and then back down the ramp again.  But, the students and those on stage waited patiently.  And again, I heard cheers and shouts for this handicapped young man.  This love and recognition from Kam’s fellow students touched my heart.

 

The other moment that stood out in my mind, and perhaps that of others who attended, was the presentation of diploma to one student.  Her diploma was not presented by the school board, nor by staff.  Bryanna Ash received her diploma from her step-father, who had just returned from Afghanistan 5 days earlier. Bryanna’s step-dad had been deployed since the fall of the school year.  He came out on stage in uniform to present Bryanna’s diploma.  Presentation of other diplomas stopped right then as the whole gymnasium rose to honor this serviceman who had served his country, and served each of us, by putting his life on the line.  It was a moving moment.

 

What strikes me, however, is that Kam and Bryanna were not those intentionally highlighted in the graduation ceremony.  They weren’t performing music.  Neither Kam nor Bryanna were speaking.  However, every person has their story.  Each one of the Palmer High graduates is special in the eyes of their family, and those who know them.  And, on graduation night 2018, two students who were not highlighted were noticed as being special and cherished.

 

That is also true for all children of God.  He cares for all the people of the earth, even though we may forget His love.  We have recently read in worship from the book of Acts about an incident in Peter’s life that taught him that all people are beloved by God.  Peter knew of ceremonial laws of the Jewish people concerning others who were not of the Jewish faith, who were Gentiles.  Jewish believers separated themselves from non-Jewish people in order to protect the integrity of their faith.  So, we read in Acts that it took a vision from God and a visit from a messenger for a faithful Roman soldier to teach Peter that God cares for everyone, even Gentiles.  When Peter finally saw God’s word create faith in the heart of the Roman centurian, Cornelius, and create faith in those with Cornelius, Peter was led by God to declare,

 

34 . . . "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men  [people] from every nation who fear him and do what is right. . . . 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:34-35, 43)

 

We are often taught in our world that those of high position, or those of special accomplishment, are the ones that deserve special honor and recognition.  In a way that is true.  But, that does not mean that God only cares for those the world honors.  Even if we are not in a place of significance, even if we haven’t accomplished significant milestones, we are children of God and beloved by Him.  “ . . . God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men [people] from every nation who fear him and do what is right. . . . 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name."  I saw this truth illustrated again Tuesday night at the Palmer High graduation.

 

A Child of God, Learning Again that God Loves EVERYONE,

Pastor Jonathan          

 

P.S.  No fishing last week - Too much unsafe ice.  However, I am glad to share with you that Spring IS on the way.  Here are some pictures of flowers at our house.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/WpFsKs5kRxFSBS6d6

 

P.P.S.  Here is a picture of another one of God’s special people, Bim Hoylman, umpiring with Pastor Rockey.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/JjM6pfqBH9BPXD569

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Why Are YOU Eagerly Awaiting Eternal Life in Heaven???


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Kathy and I are in Alaska again.  Our plane touched down at 2:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning after being gone on vacation for almost 3 weeks visiting family and friends.  As I began writing this devotion on the plane, I “eagerly awaited” returning to my home in Alaska!  My children and my grandchildren live in Palmer.  I’ve missed them while I was out of town.  My church family at St. John is also located in Palmer.  And, while gone, I have thought of many of our people, praying and wishing I could be there to bring God’s love.  I confess that I find joy and fulfillment in serving in the place where God has called me.  After two weeks of vacation I was sort of “chomping at the bit” to be back doing the work God has called me to do.  After 3 weeks I confess to “early awaiting” our return home . . . sort of.

 

The last two weeks of our vacation was in Gainesville, Florida.  My dad lives in Gainesville and we spent time with him.  We ate with my dad, ran errands with him, and worshiped with him while visiting.  My brothers and sister also live in Florida.  I saw most of them on this trip, as well as many nephews and nieces.  God has blessed me with a wonderful extended family.  I appreciate time spent with them in conversation, in worship, in recreation, just being family.  In addition to blood family, while in Gainesville Kathy and I worshiped at First Lutheran Church, the church that has been the cradle of much of my faith as a Christian.  In addition to my dad, there are many others at this congregation whom I know from when I was a child.  We have a shared faith journey.  It was good to visit family and friends, and it was also good to visit church family in Florida.  I eagerly awaited my return to Alaska.  But, in returning home, I had to leave family and friends in Florida.

 

Are you eagerly awaiting another trip, your journey to heaven?  God speaks through Paul to give this promise to the Christians in Philippi, “20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)    Are you eagerly awaiting eternal life in heaven with God?  If so, why do you eagerly await this journey?

 

That is a big question with multiple answers for each person.  Some people are looking forward to seeing their Savior, face to face.  I have met Christians who shared with me their fervent hope of meeting Jesus.  Some people look forward to an end to the pain and suffering of this world.  That can especially true for those who are ill, or those who miss loved ones who have passed on.  Others look forward to life that lasts forever with no fear of death.  Scripture gives us many reasons to do what Paul says, “to eagerly await our Savior.”  Again, why are you looking forward to eternal life in heaven with Jesus?

 

You may ask, “Pastor, what does this question have to do with your visit with family and friend’s in FL, and your return home to Alaska?  Yes, I am glad to be home in Alaska, but I was also glad to visit those in Florida.  However, I am only human and cannot be in both places at once.

 

So, let me share some of the reasons why I eagerly await eternal life in heaven.  I also fervently look forward to time with my Lord.  But, in many ways I can’t imagine the “glory to be revealed” (Romans 8:19) when I meet Jesus.  I also look forward to the end of pain and trouble of this world. Yet, life in this world also has many blessings. (Revelation 21:3-4).  But, one of the big reasons I look forward to eternal life in heaven is that I won’t have to say “good bye” any longer.  Actually, I’ve had this hope about heaven throughout my adult life.  When I would leave family and friends for school, or when I would leave the churches where I was pastor to visit family and friends, I have regretted saying “Good-Bye.”  In heaven, I won’t have to say “Good-Bye” anymore.

 

In fact, think of those whom God has called home.  There are family members, friends, fellow Christians, who have died believing in Jesus and are now in heaven.  There is no trip on this earth which I can take to spend time with those loved ones and friends who have died.  Yet, in heaven, I can spend as much time as I want with loved ones and friends who have believed in Jesus, and, after spending time with them, still have time for others.  With the gift of heaven, God gives eternal life.  In heaven, I won’t have to say “Good-Bye” anymore!

 

William Shakespeare is famous for writing the phrase, “Parting is such sweet sorrow” in his tragic drama, “Romeo and Juliet.”  I think I understand what Shakespeare meant.  But, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Thankfully, in heaven we will not have to say, “Good-Bye anymore!”

 

A Child of God, Thankful for the Promise of Eternal Life in Heaven,

Pastor Jonathan          

 

P.S.  Here are all the pictures from our vacation.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/3Iz1u7xY2gq6UkP83

 

 

 

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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, April 25, 2018

Grieved by the Senseless Violence Against Those who Protect Us


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Kathy and I were witness to a sad but moving scene on Friday evening, April 20.  We are on vacation in Florida.  Kathy was able to attend a quilting conference in Arkansas the first week of our trip, and then we came to Florida to visit my family.  My 90-year old dad, and my siblings all live in and around Gainesville, Florida.

 

On Friday, we drove to Chiefland, Florida, so Kathy could help my sister set up at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Joyshop that took place the next day.  I went golfing while Kathy and Martha worked at church.  However, in order to get to Chiefland from Gainesville, a person drives through the little town of Trenton, Florida, population about 2000.

 

Unfortunately, you probably heard about Trenton last week.  Two police officers, Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, were shot and killed on Thursday while they ate lunch in a small Chinese restaurant in Trenton.  The man who shot them then went to his vehicle and took his own life.

 

According to news reports, Gilchrist County Sherriff, Bobby Schultz said, "I don't have answers as to why this happened." Schultz said the 29-year-old Ramirez was a 7-year-veteran who was married with children. Lindsay was 25 years old. A statement released Thursday night said the men simply sat down to eat and that there was no crime in progress and no disturbance. “It's important to remember that attacks like Thursday's can happen anywhere, even in small cities like Trenton. After 26 years of doing this, there is nothing that can prepare you for senseless deaths," Schultz said.

 

I confess that as Kathy and I drove through Trenton on Friday morning, and as we drove past the restaurant where the two officers were murdered, I personally felt a tangible grief and sorrow over these senseless shootings.  A pall of loss hung over my soul the whole day.

 

But, as we drove back to Gainesville on Friday evening, we were touched and we were deeply moved.  It seems that we had chosen to return to Gainesville a little before the bodies of the fallen officers were to be brought back to Trenton from the Gainesville Medical Examiner.  So, as we drove into Trenton the streets were lined with people, sort of like a parade.  Cars were parked.  Families gathered at the curb.  People held flags.  Others wore blue in support of these fallen policemen.  However, it was not only in Trenton that people lined the streets.  At most every driveway and business along this rural drive for 30 miles into Gainesville, people lined the streets to honor the fallen officers as their bodies were to be transported home.  Kathy and I were overwhelmed by the support given by the people of North Florida.

 

Hopefully, you know that God cares for you eternally through the life and death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  But, God also cares for us temporally in many ways. Did you also realize that God cares for and protects the people of this world through civil authorities?  God inspired Paul to write in Romans 13, “1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  (Romans 13:1-4)  God cares for all people by establishing authority to punish those who willingly break the law, in order to protect those who keep the law.

 

Unfortunately, this shooting is not an isolated incident in our country these days.  A news report from April 24 says that, “Since the start of 2018, at least 31 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have died while on duty - with 19 of the deaths caused by gunfire.”  Perhaps you heard of other recent shootings, including the one in Dallas.  It seems that those who are putting their lives on the line to keep the law have become targets.

 

Truthfully, there are no perfect leaders and no perfect authorities.  There are also no perfect parents.  Neither are there any perfect citizens.  But, God’s plan is to protect and care for those who seek to live law abiding lives by providing authorities who will bring wrong-doers and criminals to justice. 

 

Pastor Richard Allen, who served officially at St. John from 1999 through 2015 (and still serves), and who also served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, used to have a sign on his office wall which read, “Only two people have been willing to lay down their life for you – Jesus Christ and the US servicemen.”  It seems to me that we should add “first responders” to that list of those who lay down their lives for us. 

 

I know that Kathy and I were deeply moved on Friday evening to see so many along the road to Trenton honoring the officers who lost their lives simply because they were protecting ours.                                         

 

A Child of God, Grieved by the Senseless Rebellion and Violence Against those who Serve Us!

Pastor Jonathan          

 

P.S.  Here are a couple of articles that have run in local papers about this shooting.

·       This article tells of the shooting of the officers.  http://www.gainesville.com/news/20180420/trenton-aches-after-officers-shot

 


 

P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our vacation.  I’ll be adding more pictures as our vacation progresses.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/3Iz1u7xY2gq6UkP83

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Please Pray for our Young People


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

On April 8, eleven young teenagers confirmed their faith in God at St. John.  They shared with others that they believe in Jesus as their Savior.  They shared that they affirm the covenant God made with them in their baptisms.  They shared with others that they want to serve God with their lives, that they want to serve God in His church, even to the point of death!  They received God’s blessings and were sent to live their lives for Him.  Confirmation Day is a joyful day for Christian young people.

 

But, today I ask you to pray for these young people who were confirmed.  Please pray for Amber, for Regina, for Kai, for John and Thomas, for Jack, for Jacob, for Luke, for Cooper.  Please pray for Dezzy and for Julia.  In fact, please pray for all young people that they may know the Lord and continue in faith.

 

On the day I was confirmed my pastor gave me a confirmation verse, just as I gave verses to our young people this year.  It turns out that the verse my pastor gave me was his own confirmation verse, and was also his father’s confirmation verse as well.  I was given the following verse from God’s Word to help guide my life, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  (Revelation 2:10)  Being faithful to our Lord, continuing in faith and in love and in obedience, has never been easy.  We constantly fight a battle against our selfishness, our fleshly desires.  As children of God we fight against the temptations of this world.  This struggle has been true since the first sin.

 

But, being faithful to our Lord, keeping vows made to the Lord, faces greater opposition today than when I was confirmed 51 years ago.  The world around our young people uses advertisements and social media to lure them to self-indulgence and calls this selfishness “natural” or “normal.”  Please pray for our young people.

 

The world around our young people tells them to find truth in their own hearts and that they get to determine what is true.  There is actually partial truth in telling someone to trust themself.  After all, God has created us as His unique and blessed people.  But, often this self-trust is encouraged at the expense of knowing that ultimate truth comes from God and is found in His Word.  Many times I have heard someone say, “I know what God’s word says.  But, this feels so right.  It must be okay with God.”  When we think we determine what is true, even when our “personal truth” contradicts God’s Word, then we make ourselves god.  In reality, however, God calls for us to listen to Him, to listen to His truth, to listen to His Word, and to follow Him.  But, our young people are constantly being called away from trusting God. Please pray for our young people.

 

Today’s church can seem old and worn out.  After all people have followed Jesus for over 2000 years.  A majority of people today believe that God is a choice, not the truth.  Being part of a minority of those who believe in Jesus as our Savior can be difficult.  In early days of the Christian Church faith in Jesus seemed new and vibrant.  Today, because many want a change from the traditional values of our culture, a culture in which many values came from God and from Scripture, Christianity seems old fashioned.  It seems old fashioned to our young people who are just beginning their lives.  Please pray for our young people.

 

You see, we face a constant battle.  We read in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  This battle is not only fought on a large scale, but is fought even more in the heart and soul of every individual Christian, and in the lives each of these young people.  This battle is fought in daily temptations about whether I live for myself, or live for God.  It is fought in daily decisions about whether to believe God and His Word, or to find a different truth in myself.  These are battles which our new “confirmands,” and all our young people face.  Please pray for all our young people.

 

Our opponent in this battle, and the opponent of the faith of our young people, is an enemy that is much stronger than we are.  In honesty, Satan is too strong, and possibly worse, too crafty and deceitful, for us to win this war on our own.  But, thankfully, the battle has already been won.  Jesus says in John 16:33, " . . .  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

 

Jesus overcame our enemy when He lived a perfect life.  Jesus overcame the enemy of our faith when He died for sin, and even more when He rose from the dead.  As He Jesus tells His disciples and all people in this verse, He has overcome the world.  But . . . the battle still goes on!  Please pray for our newly confirmed young people, and for all children of God.

 

A Child of God, Praying for My Own Children, and for All Young Christians!

Pastor Jonathan          

 

 

 

P.S.      Here are some pictures I was sent of the pot luck taco bar before the St. John outing to see the VPA production of Mary Poppins.  Thank you to our Fellowship Board! https://photos.app.goo.gl/4dJLSsmUBZe5ckvY2

 

P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our vacation.  I’ll be adding more pictures over time.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/3Iz1u7xY2gq6UkP83

 

P.P.P.S.  Martin Luther described Christian victory in this battle even more succinctly in His famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress.

 

A mighty fortress is our God, A sword and shield victorious;
He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod And wins salvation glorious.
The old satanic foe Has sworn to work us woe.

With craft and dreadful might He arms himself to fight.
On earth he has no equal.

 

No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost, rejected.
            But now a champion comes to fight, Whom God Himself elected.
            You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is He,

            Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son, adored.
            He holds the field victorious.

 

Though hordes of devils fill the land All threat’ning to devour us,
            We tremble not, unmoved we stand; They cannot overpow’r us.
            Let this world’s tyrant rage; In battle we’ll engage.

His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail!
One little word subdues him.

 

            God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes, who fear it;
            For God Himself fights by our side With weapons of the Spirit.
            Were they to take our house, Goods, honor, child, or spouse,

Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day.
            The Kingdom’s ours forever!

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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