Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Remembering the Price God Paid to Save Me from my Sin

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


In 2004 the movie “The Passion of the Christ” caused world-wide reaction.  There was much opposition even to the release of the movie from Hollywood.  But, the movie industry was surprised that the movie did so well at the box office.  Many Christians, on the other hand, delighted that the portrayal of the great salvation act of God was shown in a positive light.  Christians and non-Christians discussed the movie in churches, and in public.


But, there is a reason the move was named “The Passion of the Christ.”  The scenes depicting the scourging, and the beating, and the crucifixion of Jesus were exceptionally violent and bloody.  Some wondered if Mel Gibson, as director, hadn’t over-dramatized the violence and the blood. But, the truth is, without Jesus’ death, there would have been no resurrection.  More fully stated, without Jesus’ suffering and death to pay for the sin of the world, and for our sin, there could be no salvation for the world, or for us.


The suffering and death of Jesus has always been a hard lesson for people just to hear, and even harder to learn.  We are sinful people.  Our rebellion, our hard-headed nature, our selfishness, our greed, our lust and anger and hatred and violence, are abhorrent to our Holy Creator and Heavenly Father.  Our sin is real, even if we don’t want to admit that fact.  We would like to be saved without admitting that our separation from God is something we have caused by our own sinful hearts and our own rebellious actions.


More unbelievable, for the eternal Son of God Himself to die seems so contrary to what our minds think of when we consider the Almighty God working His love and showing His glory.  How could God die?  That still causes many questions and doubts today.


However, whether or not the violence and the blood of the movie “The Passion of the Christ” was totally accurate, the movie got one very important fact right. Jesus’ suffering and death was necessary.  For God to continue holy and opposed to sin, and for God to continue loving and saving His people, it was necessary that sin be paid for by one who was totally without sin and totally righteous.  That is why the holy Son of God became man at Christmas.  And, that is why Jesus, the sinless God-Man suffered and died, so that the one who had no sin could suffer in the place of sinners.  It was necessary, that for us to be saved, Jesus had to pay for our sins because He was holy and did not deserve to suffer and die.  Our rebellion, our selfishness, our hatred, our sin deserves God’s righteous and just punishment.  We could not save ourselves.


The disciples also had trouble hearing this lesson and believing this truth that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die.  In Matthew 16:21 we are told of Jesus teaching His disciples, 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  (See also Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12, Luke 9:22, and Luke 17:25)  Time and again Jesus taught this truth to His disciples.  Time and again they ignored Jesus, or opposed Him, like Peter did in Matthew 16:22.  “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!’"  The truth of the suffering and death of Jesus, the Son of God and the son of Mary, and the reason for the suffering and death of Jesus is hard to swallow.  It always has been. 


That is why Christian churches don’t just celebrate Jesus’s victorious rising from the dead on Easter, but they also observe Holy Week.  Holy Week considers all of Jesus’ suffering and His death.  Holy Week gives Christians a chance to confess that our sins are so abhorrent to our Holy and Loving God that His own Son had to suffer and die to save us.


This week at St. John, and at many other Christian churches, we will observe Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as part of our Holy Week observance.  We will celebrate Passover, and receive the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, remembering Jesus’ last Supper.  We will leave in silence on Good Friday after watching again the retelling of Jesus’ death on the cross.  And then on Easter, April 1 this year, we will celebrate that in spite of our sin, and in spite of the worst that Satan could muster, in spite of the suffering and death of God’s Son, Jesus rose from the dead and God is victorious.


But, before the victory celebration of Easter, there is the opportunity to confess our sin, and the opportunity to remember the love of God shown in the suffering and death of His Son in our Holy Week observance.


A Child of God, Remembering the Price God Paid to Save Me from My Sin,

Pastor Jonathan                                                                                            


P.S.  Last week was a BUSY Lenten week.  Here are some pictures from LAST WEEK

·       Here are pictures from last Wednesday’s Lenten Meal -

·       Here are pictures from last Thursday’s Alyeska Ski Day

·       Here are pictures from last Sunday’s New Member Potluck


P.P.S.  THIS SUNDAY begins our Holy Week Observance.  Two events that are important to remember.

·       JEWS FOR JESUS PRESENTATION - “Christ in the Passover” – Rob Wertheim from Jews for Jesus will present “Christ in the Passover in both services on Palm Sunday, March 25.  This will help prepare us for Holy Week, for our Passover celebration, and for our Easter Celebration.  Plan to attend worship this Sunday.


·       THE ANNUAL SHANE WOODS MEMORIAL ICE FISHING OUTING will be held at Seventeen Mile Lake this Sunday, March 25 after late worship (beginning around 1:00 p.m.?).  We have fished in this lake the last 3 years.  Here is a link to the ADFG page for Seventeen Mile lake.

The St. John Promise Keepers will provide fishing holes, fishing gear, and bait.  They will provide hot dogs, hot cocoa, cookies and chips.

However, a number of our men will be out of town this year.  We can use some help from other adults in the congregation.

Here is a link to pictures from last year’s outing.






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.








MID WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP CONLUDES THIS Wednesday. This Wednesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. we continue with services under the theme, “Conventional Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom.”  This week we consider the women at the cross and our sermon is entitled, “God’s Wisdom Concerning Death.”  

         Come and prepare your hearts for Easter with our Mid-Week Lenten series listed below..


Lent 1 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Glory                  Palm Sunday, Upper Room

Lent 2 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Prayer                Gethsemane (Not my will but your

will – Does God answer?)

Lent 3 -           God’s Wisdom About Forgiveness                Judas – Forgiveness Can’t be Real

 . . . for me

Lent 4 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Selfishness         Peter’s Denial – Take Care of # 1

Lent 5 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Power                 Pilate – The Government Has the


Lent 6 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Death              Ladies at the Tomb – Death is




MID –WEEK LENTEN MEALS are served each Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., before Lenten worship.  These meal allow people to attend worship and not worry about eating beforehand.  This week the Lawtons and Stephen Ministers who are serving the meal.  THANK YOU to the Rim Rock Riders 4-H Club for serving the meal on March 14. 

        THANK YOU to all those who are serving God and their Christian family at St. John by providing these meals.


AMC VBS MEETING THIS WEDNESDAY .  . A group of 6 families and individuals has shown interest in an Alaska Mission for Christ Vacation Bible School in Southwest Alaska.  We meet during the Lenten meal this Wednesday, March 21 at 5:30 p.m.  Join us if you are interested.


SUNDAY SCHOOL AND BIBLE CLASSES are offered each Sunday.  In addition to regular Sunday School the following Adult Classes are taught.

·       Selected Psalms” taught by Hunter Richards began Sunday, March 11.

·       Dave Nufer began a new class on March 11.  We will look at some Christian videos in March.



As children of God we seek to put our faith in action through regular prayer.  A NEW PRAYER OPPORTUNITY began at St. John iin January.  Two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, (and sometimes other Elders) will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer each Sunday.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.

            This has been WELL RECEIVED!  Please feel free to join Donita and Jackie and our Elders in prayer, or to share your requests with them.



PLEASE BRING EASTER LILIES TO CHURCH NEXT WEEK to beautify our sanctuary for Easter Sunday.  Please have them to St. John by Friday, March 30, if possible.





March 25 – April 1 - Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, March 25, and concludes with Easter on Sunday, April 1.

o   Palm Sunday Processional with Children in both services Sunday, March 25

o   Jews for Jesus Presentation of “Christ in the Passover” by Rob Wertheim in both services Sunday, March 25.


o   The Passover Meal is Thursday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m.


o   Maundy Thursday worship is held on Thursday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m.  Seventh grade Confirmation Students will receive communion for the first time in this service.


o   The St. John Youth will present Good Friday worship at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30.


o   The Easter Festival and Easter Egg Hunt will be held at St. John on Saturday, March 31


o   Easter Worship  is offered on Easter Sunday, April 1, at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m.


o   Easter Breakfast will be offered on April 1 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.


·       April 8 - Confirmation Day is held at St. John on Sunday, April 8 in the 11:00 a.m. worship service.


Our prayers are that these opportunities for worship and fellowship will strengthen God’s family at St. John in faith and love.



SIGN-UP SHEETS – One way to participate in the ministry and activities of God’s family at St. John is to sign-up on the various sign-up sheets which are placed on the counter in the narthex.  At the current time we have multiple opportunities.  Please see below.

Sign-ups in the Narthex

·       Passover Help                                   - The annual Passover Meal will again be held on

Maundy Thursday, March 29, at 6:00 p.m.  If you can help with the Passover there is a sign-up sheet in the narthex.  We can especially use help with setting up and taking down.


·       Passover Attendance                        -If you plan to attend the Passover it helps in

planning if you sign up.  Cost is $15.00 for adults and $10.00 for children.


·       Easter Breakfast Help                      -Traditionally our men serve Easter Breakfast.  You

can sign up to help in this service to our congregation and visitors.


·       Mary Poppins Fellowship Outing   -St. John has 30 seats reserved for the VPS

production of Mary Poppins to be held at the Glen Massay Theater.  This family activity will be held on Sunday afternoon, with the play starting at 2:00 p.m.  Cost is $25 for adults and $23 for children and seniors (12 and under, 65 and older).  Those attending will have the opportunity of a pot luck meal at St. John after late worship.


·       Alaska Mission for Christ

Southwest Alaska VBS                     -The AMC has the opportunity to present Vacation

Bible School in 10 new villages in Southwest Alaska.  If you are interested in possibly being part of a team from St. John, please sign up and we will discuss possible dates, times, and place for serving.



SPECIAL OFFERINGS – A number of years ago a “Finance Committee” worked to increase offerings to missions through St. John.  One of the recommendations was that we give from our budget to the Northwest District of the LCMS (our denomination), and to Alaska Mission for Christ.  In addition, we planned to have special offerings for other mission opportunities.  These offerings add to the offerings from the budgeted income. The process developed is that the Stewardship Board suggests a schedule of offerings and the Church Council approves these suggestions. 

In the February Church Council meeting the Stewardship Board made suggestions for 2018 and the Church Council approved their suggestions.  (Sometimes opportunities arise for other special offerings.  In 2017 we took an offering for the Grosz family as David was battling lymphoma.  This year we took a special offering for Grace Miller to help with expenses related to her trip to the Paralympics in Korea.)

Special offerings for 2018 include:

·       Heartreach Crisis Pregnancy Center baby bottles, January – March

·       Grace Miller Paralympics - February

·       Jews for Jesus – March 25 worship presentation

·       Alaska Mission for Christ – April/May

·       Northwest District – June   

·       Bible Sticks for military service people – July

·       Family Promise – August

·       LWML – LWML Sunday, October

·       Christmas Shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse – November

·       Food Drive for Thanksgiving Blessing – November

·       Advent Offering – December

·       Offering for Local Missions / needy – December






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, March 14, 2018

White As Snow - New Life Through God's Forgiveness

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


In 1984 I was sitting in a meeting between two church members who had some issues with each other.  In reality, both had serious complaints . . . about the other.  I was in this meeting with another pastor as both parties shared their hurts.  Finally, the other pastor, Pastor Chuck Bichel, said to those involved.  “We can go on and on about the hurts you have received, and you have both been hurt.  Or, we can trust that Jesus forgives us and we can forgive one another.  We can put the past behind us and build a new future, based on Jesus.” 


That was an important moment in the lives of these two fellow Christians.  They both chose to forgive and actually built up their relationship again.  I watched them rebuild their friendship.


I remember this story as I look out the window and see that it is snowing . . . again!  (My computer weather says it will keep snowing at least through midnight.  That is over 20 hours of snow . . . again.)  Actually, I like snow.  But, I know that for many, when March rolls around, they are ready for spring to bud.  However, we do live in Alaska.  Spring is a couple of months away.  Nevertheless, the snow reminds me of the verse from Isaiah about forgiveness. 


In Isaiah chapter 1 we are told that Isaiah has a vision from God.  In this vision, God recounts the many sins of Israel, of which Isaiah is part.  But, then the voice from heaven says to Isaiah, "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)


I don’t even know all my sins before God, but I am ashamed of those I do know.  What a comfort to hear these words of forgiveness.  What a comfort to look out the window and see the snow covering all the dirt.  What a blessing during this Lenten season to consider that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)


Last Sunday, March 11, we were blessed at St. John to witness two baptisms.  Caleb Walters and Emryn Remele were called as God’s children, were given the gift of God’s Spirit, and . . . were forgiven of their sins.  (Acts 2:38-39)  God reached out and granted His grace which He promises to His children in baptism.  Many of us are baptized, and God continues to work in our lives by His Spirit to create and to strengthen our faith in Jesus, and to forgive our sins.  Or, as God speaks to us through Isaiah, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  When God forgives we have a new start.  When God forgives we are born again to new life.


As pastor for almost 39 years, I have watched the forgiveness of God change lives.  I have seen people who had been slaves to alcohol or drugs as God surprised them with His love and forgiveness.  This forgiveness gave these people a new start and gave them new lives. I have watched some marriages heal as the real forgiveness of Jesus was shared from spouse to spouse.  I have witnessed Christians who literally hated one another find reconciliation, and work together for the Lord.  I have been amazed to see families put the past behind them because of Jesus and build new relationships of love. 


Actually, I have personally been blessed by the forgiveness of God, and the forgiveness of others.  What a blessing God’s forgiveness is, because all of us are stained crimson by our sin.


So, South Central Alaska had very little snow this year, through January.  But February was a near record month of snow days, and March is continuing the trend.  This large amount of snow may dampen the spirits of some.  But, I choose to remember the words of Isaiah and find comfort in the gift of forgiveness from my Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus.  "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”


A Child of God, Thankful for New Starts in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan                                                                                            


P.S.  As mentioned above, we had two baptisms in worship on Sunday, March 11.

·       Caleb Walters, infant son of Philip and Jamie Walters was baptized in early worship.


·       Emryn Remele, infant daughter of Brett and Hadley Remele was baptized in late worship.


P.P.S.  I took my daughter ice fishing on Monday, since school was on recess for Spring Break.  Here are a couple of pictures.  What a BEAUTIFUL winter day!


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from last week’s Lenten Fellowship Meal served by the Schurmans, the Jacobsons, and the Brettragers.




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, March 7, 2018

Pondering Jesus' Passion-Seeking to Grow in Faith and Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


During the Lenten season this year, as in most years at St. John, we are offering special mid-week worship services to help people in their Lenten journey to the cross with Jesus.  So, how is your Lent going?  Are you growing to understand the sacrifice of Jesus, that He willingly faced rejection, violence, and death at the hands of those He came to save?  Are you growing in understanding of how your own sin helped cause Jesus’ suffering and death?  Is the love of God shining through the darkness of this sinful world, that He lovingly gave of Himself . . . FOR US?!


Each week in our mid-week Lenten worship this year we have been singing the hymn, “Jesus I will Ponder Now” as we prepare our hearts to hear God’s Word read.  I saved a devotion from my friend, Dr. Dale Meyer, that helps us think of our Lenten journey, and suggests some other thoughts about the Christian walk of faith in our modern technological world.  This devotion also considers the prayer of this hymn we are singing.  I share these thoughts with you now.


“Jesus, I will ponder now / On Your holy passion.” Many Christians sing that hymn today . . . How deeply will we ponder?


I’m enjoying a book by Bernard Bull, a professor at Concordia University Wisconsin. “Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology,” from Concordia Publishing House, suggests deeper Lenten questions than “shall I give up chocolate?”


“People today are seeking love and answers to their greatest problems not only from other people; we are also turning to technology. We may come to rely on it as our source of hope and comfort, setting God aside. We see technology as the beacon of light and hope for a better future for us and for the rest of the world, believing that it will deliver us from the darkness of disease, disaster, poverty, war, and other troubles in our world and lives. When we seek love, security, healing, solutions to society’s most pressing problems, safety, or any other basic need from technologies or the people who wield them, we are tempted to act as if they play the role of messiah—a role that only Jesus properly fills.” (p. 87)


“Jesus, I will ponder now”? Technology can address the symptoms of sin but cannot forgive sin. Technology can busy our lives but cannot calm our hearts. Technology can eavesdrop on our conversations but cannot answer prayers with fatherly love. Technology can improve our health and prolong our lives but cannot lead body and soul to heaven. Technology crashes, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, God’s Word alone endures into eternity.


“Jesus, I will ponder now / On Your holy passion;

With Your Sprit me endow / For such meditation.

Grant that I in love and faith / May the image cherish

            Of Your suff’ring, pain, and death / That I may not perish.”            

(Meyer Minute, February 14, 2018)


So, are we pursuing hope and life in Jesus, in His cross?  Or do we look elsewhere, sometimes even to technology, and “set God aside”?  In Romans 5 God inspired Paul to share with the Romans Christians the surprise of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the depths of God’s love.


“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)

How is your Lent going?  I pray that the special disciplines of the journey of Lent are helping you to focus on Jesus’ sacrificial love, and turning your hearts from the false wisdom and idols of this world, to God’s love for us in Jesus.


A Child of God, Pondering Jesus’ Passion-Seeking to Grow in Faith and Love,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from Lenten Fellowship meal served by the Young Adults of St. John on February 28.


P.P.S.  This past weekend 9 couples went on a Marriage Retreat.  I meant to take pictures, but . . . the only pictures I have are of an ice-fishing outing at the retreat.


P.P.P.S.  Pastor Todd Roeske came to town for an Alaska Mission for Christ meeting.  Todd and I joined St. John member, Gerry Zellar, to go ice fishing near Gerry’s house.  We caught 6 fish after a number of hours of hard work.  Here are pictures of the largest fish, which Todd caught.




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, February 28, 2018

Rejoicing to See God Work in the Lives of Middle School Students

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Maybe you noticed that I missed worship at St. John last Sunday, February 25.  Actually, I was at Victory Bible Camp as 28 of us (32 on Saturday) participated in the annual St. John Confirmation Retreat.  This year’s theme was “Be Holy – Different from the World.”  We considered many verses of Scripture surrounding this theme, especially Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. 


At the retreat we listened to God’s call in our lives to be holy. We talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world around us in our relationship with our Creator, our Savior, and our Comforter.  We talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world in our relationships with others.  We also talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world in our care for our bodies. 


You will be glad to know that the retreat went very well.  Often middle school students are distracted when it comes to studying. Sometimes they are worried about their image, or how others view them.  There are times that middle school students, being self-conscious about themselves, can also pick on one another and be mean.  Maybe some of you remember those days yourselves.


However, this weekend I watched new people fit in with the larger group and be accepted.  I watched shy people speak and share.  I observed our students showing care for one another, instead picking on one another.  I saw young people express their faith and help lead worship.  I watched learning which translated to faith in action.  I returned from this year’s retreat encouraged, as I do most years.


You may wonder about why confirmation retreats can be so effective.  Why do these students listen in a retreat setting, when often they have trouble listening in a classroom?  I find some insight from Jesus’ parable of the sower or planter.  Jesus teaches about a farmer who plants seed.  Some of the seed grows and bears fruit, but some does not grow.  Jesus explains why in Matthew 13.  Verses 22-23, especially speak to me. 


18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.  23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."


One of the situations at a retreat that is different from a classroom has to do with distractions.  First, those attending are in a beautiful setting, away from their everyday chores and worries.  In regular classes we tell students to put away their electronics.  But just last week I found one of my students looking at their phone during class.  However, at Victory, there is no cell signal.  Phones don’t work and “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” cannot so easily distract from the truth of the word of God.  Over a weekend, the Word of God has a chance to sink in to hearts full of trouble and distractions.  The students have an opportunity to encourage and care for one another.  It is wonderful to see the Word of God work in the lives of His people and bear fruit.


You may hear me joke about going on a retreat with “middle school students. . . PRAY for me!”  But, I confess, there is still a middle school student inside me.  I personally enjoy these retreats.  I love to see God work in the lives of these young people so that they know His love and His promises are real.  I find joy in seeing God’s children act like brothers and sisters in Christ.  Perhaps you want to rejoice and thank God with me.


A Child of God, Rejoicing to See God Work in the Lives of Middle School Students,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from Lenten Fellowship meal served by the Berberichs, the Colbergs, and the Knuths on February 21.


P.P.S.  As mentioned above, the Confirmation Retreat was held last weekend, February 23-25, at Victory Bible Camp.  Here is a link to a few pictures. (If you would like a copy of the retreat program and Bible Studies I can share that with you.)


P.P.P.S. Some of us went fishing at the confirmation retreat and we caught a couple of nice fish.  Here are fish 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.




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Seeking a Life of Continual Repentance and Faith in Jesus

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


In recent weeks my daily devotions have been leading me through the book of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was written as Jerusalem was being destroyed by the Babylonian army around 587 B.C. As Jeremiah was inspired to write his book, the people of Judah who weren’t killed were being taken into exile to the land of Babylon.  It was one of the darkest times for God’s Jewish people.  Jeremiah is not my favorite book to read.


Much of what God inspires Jeremiah to prophesy is a call to repentance.  The people of Jeremiah’s time were constantly breaking God’s laws in regard to justice, in regard to sexual purity, and especially in regard to idolatry.  Time and again God’s chosen people are called to turn away from worshiping idols that were not truly gods.  They were called to turn back to worship of the only true God.  Nevertheless, time and again the people of Judah, as all Israel before them, gave in to their temptations and their sinful desires, and damaged their relationship with God.  God called His people to sorrow for their sin.  He called for a new heart that would turn from sinful behavior and show itself in faithful behavior.  But the people of Jeremiah’s day failed.  They did not want to repent or to change.


As the horror of last week’s school shooting in Florida sinks in, a new set of behaviors rears its head.  As I watch the fallout from this tragic act of evil, it seems everyone is seeking for someone else to blame for the tragedy.  In the news I have heard blame placed on law enforcement, on the nation’s laws, on families, on school policies.  But, while I have heard people blame others, I haven’t heard one voice of repentance, of someone admitting their own part in this societal problem that has led to so many school shootings.  I have not heard a willingness of anyone to change themselves for the good of all.  No one wants to repent.


This weekend the Confirmation classes and families will go on a retreat to Victory Bible Camp.  We will focus on God’s call to live holy lives, lives that are set apart for God and different from  the ways of the world around us.  What we will find is that we have failed in this calling and need new hearts and new lives.


The words of Psalm 139 reflect an attitude that could help people of all times, especially in their relationship with God.  The last two verse of this Psalm read, 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NKJV) In this Psalm David is asking God’s help to do what the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time did not seem to want to do.  David asks God’s help to do what most in America seem to shy away from.  David asks God to help him see his own sins.  David is praying that God would lead him to change his own life to “the way of life everlasting.”


The real God-inspired wisdom of David in this verse is that, instead of trusting himself, instead of trusting his heart, his feelings, his thoughts, David looks to God for guidance.  David knows that his own heart and mind are damaged by his own sinfulness.  But God does know our hearts.  And, David knows that God desires eternal life for David and for all people.


In the New Testament God tells us that the way to life everlasting is found in a life of faith in Jesus.   Paul writes about new life in 2 Corinthians 5.  15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. . . 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17) 


How do we turn from selfish living for ourselves, to life that is lived for God?  When we see the loving sacrifice of God, that Christ Himself died for sinners like us, then we want to live, not for ourselves, but FOR HIM.  When we are in Christ, God makes us new.  He cleanses us by forgiving our sins.  He gives us new hearts to love him because He loved us.  We can admit our own failings because we are forgiven.  We can live for God, loving Him because He loved us.


Such new life of repentance and faith is not a one-time decision.  All we need to do is look at the book of Jeremiah.  Time and again the people tried and failed to live as God called them to live.  We can also look at how people in our own country respond to tragic evil, and consider our own part in that problem.  The same problems seem to keep happening. But, thankfully, the love of God continues to call us to repent and believe in God’s love for us in Jesus.  The love of God in Jesus continues to forgive the sins of those who turn to Him in faith.  The love of God continues to work to change our hearts.


I pray for my country on a regular basis, not so much for prosperity, as for hearts that repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors and turn to God.  I pray for my fellow Christians daily, not so much for healing of their bodies, though I do pray for healing.  But more so, I pray for a faith in Jesus that gives new life.  “ . . .if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  May God work this new life in each of us.


A Child of God, Seeking a Life of Continual Repentance and Faith in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are some pictures from our Ash Wednesday Fellowship meal served by the Carlsons, the Christiansens, and the Martins.


P.P.S. I went fishing with granddaughter, Annabelle, and St. John member and friend, Kymberly Miller on Monday.  Here are some 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.