Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thankful for Family Faith in Jesus




Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

This past Sunday late worship was a little different for me.  Yes, as pastor I led parts of the worship at the beginning and at the end of the service.  But, the main portion of the worship was the presentation by the Sunday School children of their Christmas program for this year.  The children read Bible verses, explained symbols, and sang songs.  So, I was not in robes for this service.  Also, I did not sit up front in order to lead worship.  Instead I sat in the back of the church with my family  The back two rows were full of 2 Rockey parents or grandparents, Kathy and myself.  Also three of our four children were in that row (one had taught Sunday School and then went skiing), in addition to 6 Rockey grandchildren.  When you put that many Rockey’s in one place it tends to be noisy, and maybe a little rowdy, even in church.

 

I heard my wife talking after the worship service, maybe complaining a little.  She was in the kitchen with Becky Nance who had commented on the fact that I got to sit with my family.  (Becky was operating the screen for worship, so she had a close-up view.)  Kathy said, “Yes, in fact one of the grandchildren even asked why he was there. . . But, he was the worst of them!  He was picking on them and egging them on – in church!”

 

I confess.  I’m guilty as charged.  My grandson, Jackson, asked me, “Poppy, Why are you here?”  Most of the time I do sit up front and lead worship.  I explained to him, “Today is the children’s program.” And then I poked him.  Well, maybe I poked him a couple of times.

 

I’m not sure there is anything that brings more joy to my heart than worshiping with my family.  Actually, I think Kathy is even more warmed by sitting in the back of the sanctuary and herding her brood.  What a joy to both worship our Lord AND to love our family all at the same time!

 

Once Jesus was asked how best to keep God’s commandments.  His answer is helpful and instructive for our lives as Christians.  In Mark 12 we read about Jesus, 28 One of the teachers of the law came and . . . asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)  So Jesus is telling us that we live out our calling as God’s children best when we love God and when we love others.  Is there any better way to answer God’s call than by worshiping Him along with our family???

 

When I visit family in Florida I have a similar joy because I get to worship with my dad and with my siblings and extended family.  We all grew up attending First Lutheran Church in Gainesville, FL.  One of my brothers is pastor of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Oxford, FL, south of Ocala.  And my sister is a leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Chiefland, FL.  When Kathy and I visit we again get to worship with our family.  What a JOY!!! 

 

God’s Church has traditionally observed the season of Advent before Christmas so that our hearts are ready to receive Jesus.  During this season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior, is there any better way to prepare for Jesus than by worshiping with family?

 
A Child of God, Thankful for Family Faith in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  This past week was a BUSY week of preparation and activities at St. John!  Here are some pictures.

 

·         Confirmation classes last week made signs for the Family Promise Van and went Christmas caroling.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/seo6fxBtTTcTiK5h2

 

·         VPA Play outing – We had 20 tickets for the Valley Performing Arts play, “A Christmas Carol” and 22 people attended.  Here are some pictures of some of the folks eating at Piccolino’s (Marcellos) before the play - https://photos.app.goo.gl/Z2MI46X00QaUrK8y1

 

·         Sunday School Christmas Program – The Sunday School Christmas program was a blessing to all who attended.  Here are some pictures from this year’s program. - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NrvDtXB7LtsVwu1E3

 

·         Jamie Farewell – Last week we had an opportunity to say farewell to Jamie Walters who has served as DCE at St. John for over 13 years.  (She will continue through December.)  Here are a couple of pictures - https://photos.app.goo.gl/VlR6orI0FdiqyB9l2

 

·         Ice fishing 12-11-2017 – And of course, here are some pictures from this past Monday’s ice fishing trip – 3 bites and 2 fish - https://photos.app.goo.gl/CVnj514ABbhPI2zt2

 

******

 

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.

 

******

 

ST. JOHN NEWS AND ACTIVITIES

 

 

MID WEEK ADVENT WORSHIP SERVICES will are at St. John in December on Wednesdays December 6, 13, and 20.  These services help us to prepare our hearts for the coming of God’s Christmas gift of His Son, our Savior, Jesus.  The evening services will be held at 6:30 p.m. following the Advent Meal.  This year in Advent we will be looking at the verses of the Advent / Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and look at Jesus’ coming Future, Present, and Past.

 

MID-WEEK ADVENT WORSHIP ALSO AT NOON - Thanks to Hunter Richards who again is offering an alternate Advent worship service opportunity at noon.  If the night-time drive is a problem, come and prepare for Jesus’ coming in a noon-time worship service.

 

MID WEEK ADVENT MEALS will again be offered.  A sign-up sheet has been placed on the table in the Narthex.  We ask 3 or 4 families to sign up to serve these Advent meals together.  These meals become a real time of fellowship for our congregation.  Again, these meals will be held on December 6, 13, and 20 at 5:30 p.m.

 

FINANCES – At our Voters meeting we learned a number of points of information about our budget for this year

·         Income is behind expenses for the year so that, at the present time, we have a little over a $5000 deficit.

·         Income for 2017 is similar to last year but we have had some unexpected extra expenses in 2017.

·         Last year we had a good December with offerings of about $60,000.00.  A similar December this year will almost put us at a break-even point for 2017.

As congregational finances were considered at the Voters’ meeting and we discussed sharing this information with the congregation so that members and friends can support the Lord’s work at St. John.

 

A SPECIAL OFFERING WILL BE RECEIVED IN WORSHIP ON SUNDAYS in DECEMBER.  For a number of years we have received these offerings and used the funds to help members of our church, or members of our community, in times of need or crisis.  If you want to help others this Christmas, you can donate to these offerings.

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES AT ST. JOHN

 

·         Sunday School Classes for children are in recess until school is back in session in January.

 

Adult Sunday School Classes WILL BE HELD throughout the holidays.

 

·         Ephesians – This study of this book of Scripture is led by Hunter Richards in the Fellowship Hall.

·         Martin Luther and the Reformation – This class is taught by Pastor Rockey and looks at various important issues and events from the Reformation.  The class will go through December.  Our final video is called, “A Man Named Martin - “The Movement”.  Here are the lessons for the coming weeks:

 

December 3                       Opposition Within and Without

December 10                     The Danger of Islam

December 17                     Faith and Presumptions – Religious Freedom

December 24                     Luther and Calvin

December 31                     Daily Life for Jesus

 

 

 

SUNDAYS ADVENT WORSHIP

·         December 3 - Hope for the Hopeless – God Comes                                      Isaiah 64:1–9

·         December 10 - Comfort for the guilty – The Promise of Forgiveness           Isaiah 40:1–11

·         December 17 - Good news for the Afflicted – God makes a difference TODAY    

Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11

·         December 24 - A miracle birth – God Acts in Love                                      Isaiah 7:10-14

 

*****

 

CHRISTMAS WORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

·         SUNDAY WORSHIP – CHRISTMAS EVE MORNING – There will be one Sunday morning worship service on December 24 at 11:00 a.m.  This will focus on observing the 4th Sunday of Advent before the 3 evening Christmas Eve services.

·         CHRISTMAS EVE CANDLE-LIGHT WORSHIP will be held again at St. John on Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24. 

o   A Children’s Christmas Eve Service will be held at 6:00 p.m. 

o   A Traditional Christmas Carol Candle-light worship service will be held at 8:00 and at 10:00 p.m. 

Plan on attending and inviting your friends!

 

·         CHRISTMAS DAY WORSHIP – Christmas Day worship will be held on Christmas morning, Monday, December 25, at 11:00 a.m.  Our Christmas Day worship is a quieter opportunity to share with one the good news of God’s Christmas love.  Often, after the large Christmas Eve services, the quiet meditation of Christmas morning provides a time of peace and quiet joy. 

 

·         NEW YEAR’S EVE WORSHIP will be held at St. John on Sunday night, December 31, at 7:00 p.m.  This is a good way to end one year and begin another, with the Lord and His blessings.  This also will be a communion service. 

 

·         We will have two worship opportunities on Sunday, December 31.

 

OTHER OPPORTUNIES FOR CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS

·         CONCERT - Cantora Arctica Women's Choir Saturday, December 16, at 4:00 p.m. , St. John Lutheran

 

  • Christmas Baskets – St. John has encouraged members to make donations to the Palmer Food Bank to help provide holiday food baskets to the needy. 

 

  • A SPECIAL MANGER SCENE IS AGAIN DISPLAYED THIS YEAR IN THE ENTRY WAY.  A stained glass manger scene was donated to St. John by long-time Palmer resident, June Tull, when she was helping an elderly friend break up his home. Thanks, June!

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

DO YOU HAVE A PLOW YOU CAN USE TO PLOW AT CHURCH?

We need people who can plow the parking lot at church.  At the current time we have one member who is plowing.  If you can help please contact Peter Probasco, 351-0085, Judy in the church office 745-3338, or Pastor Rockey 841-4066 so we can grow our list of those who can plow as winter arrives.

 

Summer Housing/Vehicle Needed - AMC - The Servant Event Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, Jan Bruick, is seeking housing and a vehicle for June, July and August 2018. Jan Bruick will be assisting AMC teams with mission and service deployment throughout the state this coming summer. She is seeking a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen for rent, as well as a vehicle. Please contact her directly at: janbruick@amclcms.org or 402-641-9691.

 

 

++++++

 

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, December 6, 2017

Watching, Praying, and Waiting for My Lord


 Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Alaskans know about an “inevitable coming.”  Each autumn the days grow shorter.  Leaves turn yellow and then drop from the trees.  Temperatures decline . . . and then plunge.  Winter is coming.  I have learned that we never know exactly when the signs of winter will arrive.  But we do know that sometime during the dark days of the season temperatures will drop below freezing and we are very likely to see snow.

 

Knowing that winter approaches it is wise to make certain preparations for its coming.  Personally, I bring in my hoses, my sprinklers, and my garden tools.  I store the lawn furniture in our shed.  I remove the batteries from the boat and lawnmower, and change from summer tires to snow tires on our vehicles.  My plan is to be prepared and to get all this preparation done before the arrival of winter.  At least I intend to prepare.  Yet, whether I am prepared or not, winter will come.

 

We are in the church season of Advent and week after week in our Scripture readings we hear the voice of our Lord and His messengers call us to preparation.  In our Gospel the first week of Advent Jesus Himself warns us, 32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. . . 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:33, 37).  Next week the voice of John will cry out, echoing the words of the great prophet Isaiah, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (Mark 1:3).

 

Why this need for preparation?  It is sort of like winter.  We know that the coming of the Lord at the end of time is inevitable.  We do not know when He will appear.  But He will come, not only as Savior but as Judge.  Jesus will come and make Himself visibly known to all.  Jesus comes to usher in God’s victorious, heavenly kingdom.

 

So, when the holy and righteous Judge does come, how do you want to be prepared?  Peter answers this question in his second letter.  11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives . . . 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”  (2 Peter 3:11, 14)

 

Are you feeling holy and godly?  On our own we are weak and sinful.  We fail our Lord and we fail ourselves with our selfishness and sin.  We fail our Lord and ourselves by giving in to the desires of the flesh.  Such sinful behavior may be obvious, or our sin can be hidden.  But, because of our sin none of us can face our judge on our own.

 

However, there is good news!  Jesus is not only inevitably coming again, He has already come!  Born as a man, submitting Himself to torture and death, rising from the dead, Jesus came to pay for our weakness and sin.  He came to defeat sin and death.  Jesus came to save weak and sinful people like us.  The way we “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” is when we receive Jesus as Savior and when He forgives us and gives us peace with Himself.

 

Therefore, I encourage you to spend time in preparation again this Advent, and throughout the year, preparing yourself to receive our Lord.  Here are some of the suggestions of our Lord himself on how His children should prepare for His inevitable coming.

 

Humble yourself – Admit your shortcomings and your weaknesses.  Confess your sins.  Don’t trust in yourself.  Turn to our Lord.  He loves you and will forgive you through faith in Jesus.  God will make you clean in His sight.

 

Spend time with our Lord – We have the command, but even more we have the encouragement and the example of our Lord to worship.  God intends for His people to be in His presence and to encourage one another in faith and preparation.  How is your worship life at this time?

 

Watch and Pray – As life brings blessings and challenges consider how God may be acting to touch you.  Be in regular times of prayer.  But, be ready to pray whenever you see a blessing or a challenge to your faith.  And being ready, actually go in prayer to the Lord with praise and requests.  He hears and He answers!

 

Winter is not only coming, in many ways it has come and is here.  (Though, personally I am a man who likes snow . . . and LOTS OF IT.)  There are consequences, however, if we do not prepare for winter.  Jesus is surely coming again.  But thankfully, He has come Himself to prepare us.  Strengthen your relationship with Him so that when He comes again you have let Him make you holy and at peace with Him.

 

A Child of God, Watching and Praying and Waiting for My Lord,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  THANKS- Thanks for a good and a short Voters’ Meeting this past Sunday.  The meeting was well attended with 60 people signing the attendance list.  We had people volunteer to serve for all boards and positions.  And we passed the proposed budget.  Thanks to all for the unity, the fellowship, and the commitment to God’s work at St. John as we conducted our Voters’ meeting in . . . only 1 hour!!

 

 

******

 

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.

 

******

 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are You STILL Thankful?


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

You know that the Thanksgiving Day national holiday was observed last week.  So, what are YOU thankful for?  You might be shaking your head and asking, “Pastor, isn’t that holiday past?  Shouldn’t we be focusing on something other than Thanksgiving?” 

 

The Thanksgiving holiday may be in the rear view mirror for this year, but God’s children are called to give thanks to Him at all times.  God “reminds us not to forget” thanking and praising Him, even when it is not Thanksgiving Day.  One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 103.  The first 5 verses of this Psalm from David use these words to call us to thank and praise God:

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

            2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--

            3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

            4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

            5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.  (Psalm 103:1-5)

 

David must have been especially aware of God’s grace in his life when, inspired by God’s Spirit, he wrote this Psalm.  So in Psalm 103 we are called to praise God with all that we are.  We are “reminded not to forget” ALL God’s blessings in our life.  And, God, speaking through David, even gives us a list in this Psalm of reasons for thankfulness.  We can be thankful for forgiveness and for healing (v. 3), for eternal life and for spiritual blessings (v. 4), and we can be thankful for material blessings (v. 5).  God is good and gracious at all times and we, in turn, want to be thanking Him all our lives.

 

So, back to my beginning question, What ARE you thankful for?” 

 

First of all, even after a holiday with moist turkey and family gathered, I am eternally grateful for God’s grace and love in Jesus.  I am a sinner and deserve none of God’s love.  But, as I read Psalm 103 I know that my forgiveness, my salvation, and that all my blessings are given because of God’s saving grace in His Son Jesus Christ.  God’s love in His Son helps me to see and to receive all my other spiritual and physical blessings.

 

At this time I am also especially thankful for faithful doctors and modern medicine.  On Wednesday, November 22, I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee.  This was not a major knee replacement.  But I had this surgery before on my right knee and it took me from 6 months to a year to fully recover.  This time my left knee had failed worse before surgery than my right knee did before the previous surgery. However, after surgery this time, I was able to be active and out of the house each day.  I even went fishing on Monday after the Wednesday surgery (and caught a few fish).  So, I am thankful for our local hospital, and for God’s gifts in modern medicine.  I wrote the last few weeks about our culture crumbling.  But I am thankful for all who continue to faithfully serve God and who serve each of us on a daily basis with their chosen professions and jobs.  I’m thankful for doctors and nurses, for honest businessmen and for those who work hard in government offices to help others.  I’m thankful for faithful teachers, for office managers, and those picking up our trash.  God blesses us with other people in our lives who serve faithfully and honestly. And I am thankful.

 

I am thankful for the grace of God when unexpected trials happen.  This past Tuesday, November 28, five local Lutheran pastors were driving to the Kenai peninsula for an early morning meeting.  As they left Potters Marsh and were driving along Turnagain Arm they hit a patch of black ice and ended up colliding with the rock cliff across the highway.  Two pastors ended up being treated at the hospital and released, but no one received life-threatening injuries.  Today I am thankful there was no on-coming traffic, that there were faithful first responders, and that my friends and God’s servants are safe.  God is good and gracious, and I am grateful.

 

I am thankful for the grace of God seen in worship.  On Sunday, November 26, God acted in the baptism of Remington Nelsen.  What a joy to see God reach down and call a child to His eternal family! But God is present every time two or three gather in His name.  So I give thanks!

 

I’m thankful for family.  In the midst of preparing for a busy Thanksgiving Day our new son-in-law to be, Aaron Smith, put up new shelves in the little space under our stairway.  This cramped space that had stored a “pile” of stuff is now organized and accessible.  It seems like a small thing, but to a neat freak like myself, this new organization touched my heart.  Even better, is having a young man who loves our daughter, who is joining our family, and who wants to help.  God is gracious and I give thanks.

 

I have many more reasons for thanks.  I know others who have recently received good news from doctors.  I visited a young man in prison on Tuesday, and it is a blessing to see how his faith has matured.  We sadly lost a friend to death on Saturday, November 25, but this child of God knew her Lord and is with Him now.  I give thanks for each of these gifts of God.

 

Actually, giving thanks AFTER Thanksgiving Day may be even more meaningful than going around the table on Thanksgiving Day and stating reasons for thanks.  That is a worthwhile exercise, but on Thanksgiving Day thankfulness is expected.  However, we always have reason to thank our Lord.  Right now, like David my heart overflows.  Thank you, Lord!!

 

A Child of God, Overwhelmed by the Grace of God and Giving Him Thanks,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Remington Nelsen was baptized on Sunday, November 26.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/0CICLDi3VbSkCkD02

 

P.P.S.  I am thankful that the five pastors traveling to Funny River are safe after their vehicle spun out of control into the rock wall just past Potter Marsh.  Here are pictures of the vehicle.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/hczPTqCj9vrdO0IW2

 

P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of our daughter Mary and her fiancĂ©e, Aaron.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6WWL9gx14zlYUJKm1  Their wedding is December 30 at 2:00 p.m..  The December newsletter will include an invitation to all St. John members. Also, in this family picture, Aaron is on the right standing behind Mary.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/woHZVweoHL3QdtoT2

 

P.P.P.P.S.  (whew – That’s a lot of “PS’s”)  After arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday I got to go fishing on Monday.  Here are the two rainbow trout I kept.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Swvv0hwPjIuW7lS92

 

******

 

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.

 

******

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Building Churches on Jesus, THE Rock


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Do you ever worry about your children, or grandchildren?  The world in which I was raised lived with the fear of nuclear war.  But, at least from my perspective as a child, it seemed that the values of our country were pretty firm.  Now, we live in a world where drugs are rampant and hurting our families, sexual harassment accusations are coming out in all sectors of our society, and citizens have valid concerns about the integrity of our government.  What kind of world will our children and grandchildren inherit?  I confess, I am more than a little concerned.

 

As I have written the last two weeks, I don’t claim to be able to change our world personally.  But, I do know the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.  Changing the world is beyond my ability, it is God’s hands.  God does promise a new heaven and a new earth after this life.  For this world, however, even though I can’t personally change the world, I can have a positive influence for good on individuals and smaller groups of people.  Two weeks ago I wrote about “Building Lives on Jesus, our Foundation.”  Last week I wrote about “Building our Homes on Jesus, the Rock.”  This week I want you to consider with me, “Building Churches on Jesus, our Rock.”



Please do not think that Christian congregations and churches are perfect.  From the very beginning of Christian history, congregations had conflicts.  (See Acts 5, 6, 15 for examples of  conflict in the early church.)  Christian congregations still have issues today.  You see, churches are God’s plan for sinners who need a savior.  But, Christian are sinners who acknowledge that they need Jesus as their savior, and churches composed of sinful people are not perfect!!

 

God, does have a plan, however, for how churches are to be built so that they are the blessing which our Lord intends for His people.  Very simply, churches are to be built on the truth of God found in Scripture, with Jesus as the center of that truth.  Consider please Ephesians 2:19-22.  19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  So, God’s church is built on “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” - the Bible, and Jesus is the center of God’s revealed word.  It is by finding Jesus in that truth of God that Christians and Christian congregations grow.

 

I’ll add to that thought, what is also implied.  God doesn’t just intend for truthful teaching from Scripture.  He also calls for faithful living.  In Luke 11:28 Jesus tells His followers.  " . . . blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"  (See also James 1:22) 

 

Maybe I can state those points about building Christian congregations in this way.  At the end of each year of Confirmation Classes, I ask students in my class to answer questions that lead to a life plan.  I want them to consider how they will live their faith when they have grown up and moved away from home.  For many, adult life will even mean living in another town or state.  I ask them what their worship habits will be, and I encourage them toward weekly worship.  But I also give them advice on finding a Christian congregation.  I tell my classes, “Look for a church that teaches what God’s Word says, and seeks to live according to God’s Word.”

 

The point is that churches built on God’s word, churches that focus on Jesus’ saving life, death, and resurrection, churches where people are changed by the love of God, these churches can and do impact the world around us.  These churches can be a safe haven in a world of corruption.  Such churches can be places where people who have fallen away and damaged their lives can return to the Lord and grow healthy again.  Faithful churches are places that influence God’s people so that each Christian can make a difference in the lives they touch around them.

 

In a world that seems to be rapidly declining, God’s people can build their Christian congregations so that they build people up in Jesus, even as the world around us is falling apart.  I pray that St. John is faithful in working to be such a Christian congregation, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Build God’s Church on Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  DCE INTERN – We have been assigned a DCE Intern by Concordia University Nebraska who will work with Youth and Children at St. John when Jamie leaves to be a full-time mom. 

Ethan Mirly is from Cape Girardeau County, MO.  He has worked at Concordia to receive a double major.  So in addition to his DCE Internship, he has a teaching certificate.  He is currently doing an internship at a Lutheran High School in Metro East St. Louis, teaching PE and Theology.  Ethan played baseball at school and likes the outdoors.  Ethan is looking forward to working with children and youth for our Lord at St. John. 

Pastor Rockey went to Seward, NE, November 17 to meet with Ethan and start Ethan’s relationship with St. John.  Ethan currently plans to arrive in Alaska on January 5 or 6.  Present plans are for his first day in the office to be Tuesday, January 9.  Here are some pictures of Ethan.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/FbRl5AugVUPf7NRA2

 

******

 

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, November 15, 2017

Building our HOMES on Jesus, our Rock


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

In my devotion last week I mentioned a comment from Bible Class where a member of the class had noted that, “The foundation of our society is crumbling.”  Some people might question that assertion.  “Really?  What do you mean society is crumbling?”  Well, on October 1 we witnessed in horror as a man in Las Vegas shot and wounded over 600 people, according to the last count I saw.  On November 6 a man entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, and shot worshipers, killing 26.  This past week, on Tuesday, November 14, a man in California killed four people, wounding nearly a dozen, as he tried, but was prevented from, attacking a school.  That is evidence to me that our culture is changing for the worse.

 

My wife, Kathy, commented, “Obviously, something is different that all these shootings are happening.”  Please consider recent past history.  The Pledge of Allegiance was adopted by Congress in 1942, and in 1954 the words, “one nation, under God,” were added.  Is the Pledge of Allegiance even spoken in schools these days?  Our national motto found on currency is, “In God we trust.”  This motto was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1956.  Ignoring for a moment the arguments about Church and State, these actions show that 50-60 years ago the people of the United States held dearly to faith as the foundation for their lives.  Most would say our country stood on a Judeao-Christian ethic.  But, for many reasons, today public faith is often dis-allowed or rejected.  When the soul of a nation rejects the guidance of God who created and who saved us, we should not be surprised when our culture falls apart.

 

Changing a culture so that it is once again healthy is a big job for an individual, or for a small group of individuals.  God can accomplish such a change, and He does answer prayer.  But, there are other areas where we can be more effective, and in fact, areas where we are more needed.  When our culture is falling apart, it is even more important that we build our homes and families on Jesus, our Rock.

 

Please don’t think this is a new idea.  Throughout Scripture God calls people to live their faith and to teach this faith to children.  In Proverbs 22:6, for example, God’s wisdom teaches us, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  (See also Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:18-22, Proverbs, 22:15).  Through Paul, God instructs parents, specifically fathers, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)  Throughout time God has called for homes to be built on faith in His love, and for parents to teach children about Him.

 

How can we build our homes on Jesus, our Rock?  I saw recently where the pastor of King of Kings Lutheran in Wasilla suggested, on this 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, that we need to continue the Reformation, or start a new one.  I hear God saying that this Reformation, or revival even, needs to start in our homes.  The Scripture reading usually read on Reformation Sunday is John 8:31-32.  Here Jesus calls disciples of all time, saying, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  We build homes on Jesus by holding to Jesus’ teachings.

 

So, how do we hold to Jesus’ teaching in order to build our homes on Jesus?  First, we cannot just speak our faith in words.  We need to live our faith in actions.  In 1983, when I became pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, FL, I visited the homes of members.  One home I visited had two recently confirmed daughters who were not attending worship.  The dad said, “I’m not sure why they don’t attend church anymore.  I dropped them off at church every week.”  I asked him, “Did you attend yourself?”  “Well, no” he answered “But I dropped them off.”  Faith is taught best when it is “caught,”  In other words, parents need to set an example for children.  Wives and husbands need to set an example for each other.  When one roommate is regular in worship, it influences the roommate who may not have an active faith.  So, in order for parents to teach children to have Jesus as their Rock, parents need to live this reality.  Regular worship by parents teaches children the importance of God for our lives.  Regular attendance in Sunday School and Bible Class by one spouse, influences the other spouse.  We build our homes on Jesus, our Rock, when we don’t just speak our faith, but live it.  And, it is never to late to start.

 

If you read the Bible verses above, we learn that faith is spoken not just in the place of worship, but also in the home.  We hold to Jesus’ teaching when we read His word and have devotional time in our homes.  We hold to Jesus’ teaching when we pray individually and together in our homes.  When we allow the wisdom and love of God to speak to us in our homes, through His Word and prayer, this helps build our homes on Jesus.

 

Faith is not just private, either.  When our children and spouses and the members of our homes see us living our faith through lives of honesty and integrity in our community, that example teaches faith in Jesus, and builds our homes.  When our children and spouses and the members of our homes see us willing to witness to God’s love with gentle and respectful words of faith, that example also teaches faith in Jesus, and builds our homes. 

 

There is no guarantee that when we live and teach God’s law and His love that our children or spouses or others will necessarily take that faith as their own.  But, it is guaranteed that if we do not live our faith in words and actions, the members of our households are less likely to know Jesus and build their lives on Him.

 

We can debate whether or not the foundation of our society is crumbling.  But it is obvious, now more than in the recent past, that we need to build our homes on Jesus, our Rock.  The job of reforming our culture may seem too big.  But, we know that it is vital that we not only speak, but live our faith in our homes.  "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Build My Life and Home on Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  This week I have written about “Building Homes on Jesus our Rock.”  Next week I will write about “Building Churches on Jesus our Rock.”

 

P.P.S.  On Sunday, November 5, We had a baptism for Carl James Button.  Here are a couple of pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Dcq8TQ02be0XNA5E3

 

P.P.P.S.  On Monday, November 13, I went ice fishing for the first time this year with grandchildren Emma and Henry.  There was a lot of movement of poles when the fish weren’t biting, and a lot of watching poles with no reaction while the fish were biting.  However, we did catch one fish.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/lrJsBkCkle2R3lTv1

 

 

 

******

 

 

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, November 8, 2017

As Culture's Foundations Crumble, We Have THE Rock!



Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
 
Recently in Bible Class a number of people shared personal criticism and ridicule they have received for being people of faith.  Some parents shared that their children felt ridiculed by others for attending worship and church activities.  Other adults shared experiences of being questioned by fellow workers in the job place.  It is not easy to follow Jesus today.
 
Our culture is changing.  As a child most of my peers attended regular Sunday worship, as my family did.  Those who did not attend church were in the minority.  As the world changed and as fewer people attended worship regularly, there was still a respect for people who practiced their faith.  Seldom did Christians receive ridicule or criticism.  The change in today’s world caused one of the members of our class to say about what he and his family were facing, “The foundation of our society is crumbling.”
 
Our foundation is crumbling, or is it?  The values of our culture are obviously changing.  To operate with no moral compass hurts our world.  If God’s direction about idolatry, worship, government, personal well-being, sexual morality, and greed are not considered relevant, then our society will move in directions that are unhealthy and harmful. All people, Christian or not, see the deterioration of order, and the growing chaos we face today.  But, even if our world turns away from God, there is still a foundation for our lives.  There is still strength and hope for living as people of God.  Today that foundation is even more important!
 
I’m reading through the Psalms now in my regular devotional reading.  On Tuesday part of my reading was from Psalm 18, where David writes, I love you, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  David points to God as his rock, his stronghold, his protector, or the foundation for his life. 
 
On Wednesday part of my devotional reading was Psalm 27.  "1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?"  When the world seems full of chaos and danger, we do not need to fear, because God guides us in this life and He is the one Who saves us eternally.
 
In the New Testament God teaches us that His Word is the foundation for Christian lives, and that Jesus is the center of that teaching.  Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s foundation for His church.  19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  (Ephesians 2:19-20, see also verse 21-22, 1 Peter 2:4-10.)  Maybe the foundations of our culture are changing, even deteriorating. But, God is still the rock on whom we build our lives here in this world.  Jesus and His death and resurrection, His forgiveness and His salvation, are the foundation for our eternity. 
 
Our culture may have changed, so other areas become more important as we seek to live as children of God and to build our children up in faith on our “rock,” Jesus.  Homes are vital.  But, faith has to be taught and it has to be lived.  Children do not just “catch” knowledge and faith in Jesus in our culture any more.  Yet, when parents teach and live their faith in Jesus, children can face the challenges of this world, and even be a witness and a blessing to others.
 
Churches are important places of strengthening God’s people and strengthening families.  So Christian congregations need to speak and live the Word of God.  And, God’s people need to be in worship and Bible Class in order to be fed and strengthened.  As society changes, God’s word continues to be the foundation of the lives of Christians.  Jesus is still the central message, the cornerstone of the message of the Word of God.
 
If you attend worship at St. John you have heard me pray before a sermon.  I use words of David which God inspired in Psalm 19 as a way to ask God to bless what happens when the pastor teaches and God’s people seek to learn and then to live the Word of God.  I pray, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)  God is our Rock and our Redeemer.  The foundations of our culture may be crumbling, but children of God have THE firm foundation for this life and for eternity.
 
A Child of God, Seeking to Build My Life and Home on Jesus,
Pastor Jonathan
 
P.S.  In the next 2 weeks I’ll write about “Building Homes on Jesus our Rock,” and “Building Churches on Jesus our Rock.”
 
P.P.S.  On Sunday, November 5, St. John recognized Sara Guhl for over 30 years of service at St. John as pianist, organist, choir director, youth worker, hike leader, National Youth Gathering Counselor, and for many other areas of service.  Here are a few pictures from that recognition.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Tr0H0P5ax9qp6IU62
 
P.P.P.S.  In case you missed it, I was in Portland for a Church meeting at the end of last week.  I had lunch with St. John members, David and Cathy Grosz, who moved to Portland last month.  You remember that David was fighting cancer last spring and summer.  God is good and David is looking good.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/5TrLvPIyCTnSb1Zw1
 
 
 
 
******
 
 
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.
 
******