Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Thankful! Through Jesus I am Part of the FAMILY of God!"


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,


As Kathy and I return to Alaska, after retirement traveling, we commented on a recent experience we never had before.  For eight straight weeks, from September 15 to November 3, we worshiped in 8 separately different Lutheran Christian churches.  I preached and we worshiped at Our Redeemer Lutheran in Chugiak on September 15, at Faith Lutheran, Juneau, September 22, and at Sterling Lutheran on September 29.  Kathy and I also worshiped at Lamb of God Lutheran in Wasilla, AK, on October 6 before we left town.


We then traveled, I preached and we worshiped at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Chiefland, FL, on October 13.  Then we attended worship at First Lutheran in Gainesville, the Florida congregation where I spent many of my childhood years, on October 20.  On the way back from my seminary reunion in St. Louis, on October 27, we worshiped at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Chattanooga, TN. where I had served two summer vicarages, or internships.  And finally, on November 3, we worshiped our Lord in Oxford, Florida, at Amazing Grace Lutheran, where my brother, James, is pastor.  That’s a LOT of different congregations and places of worship!


However, in each congregation we were not without acquaintances, we had friends.  In fact, when we worshiped in Chiefland, we worshiped with family!  My sister, Martha, and brother-in-law, Mark, attend Good Shepherd.  And, when we worshiped in Oxford, FL, not only is my brother James pastor of the congregation, but his family attends.  My brother Stephen and his family also attend.  In fact, my brother James’ daughter, our niece, Elizabeth, is the lead singer on the praise team.  My brother Stephen also plays guitar in that group, and Stephen’s daughter, Kaitlin, also sings.  Actually, on the Sunday we worshiped there, Kaitlin’s college boyfriend, Matt, even played electric cello in the praise band that week.  Kathy has pictures of family helping to lead worship.   


What a blessing it is to share eternal truths, and eternal blessings of our Lord in worship with people you love and care about?  We felt especially blessed in Oxford that day.


But, in all the other congregations where we worshiped, we may not have had family, but we did have acquaintances, and we knew multiple people.  So, while we worshiped with natural blood family members in Chiefland and Oxford, we worshiped with members of our Christian family in Chugiak, in Juneau, in Sterling and Wasilla.  We worshiped alongside people with whom we had worked, prayed, and shared the blessings and challenges of life at First Lutheran in Gainesville and at Cross of Christ in Chattanooga.  


I may have even already overcommitted!  In Gainesville on November 17, I told, Judy Helling, a long time member whom I’ve known since the 1960’s, that when we return to Florida in January, I might just attend choir practice and sing with the choir from January through March, like I did from 1968 to 1971 when I was in high school.  Judy told me she would tell her husband, John, that I had promised to sing.  Hmmm.  I did sing in the choir with John Helling 50 years ago.  And, John is still in the First Lutheran choir.  If I participate, that will also be a joy.


Nevertheless, Kathy and I have been missing the joy of worshiping with our four children, and our six grandchildren.  They all attend St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, AK.  But since my retirement from St. John on August 31, we have been worshiping in other locations to give St. John a chance to figure out what life is like without their 28 year pastor, Pastor Rockey.  Worshiping with our family was a great source of joy for Kathy and myself.  As children of God, who are given life by our Lord, who are forgiven and saved by the blood of God’s Son, Jesus, who are seeking to live in His grace today, and who are planning on eternity with our Lord in heaven, we cherish sharing our hope and faith with our family.  We pray for our children and grandchildren that they live in the grace of God in this life, and that together we praise Him forever in His eternal kingdom.  Kathy and I do miss those Sundays where our family would gather in the back row, while trying not to make too much noise, when we would worship our Lord together.


Family is a gift from God.  What a joy to have people to love, people with whom we can share our challenges and blessings, people who walk beside us in our journey in this life.  The writer of the Hebrews tells us that we not only have family because of blood ties in this world.  But, because Jesus, the Son of God, took on our humanity, he is our brother.  All those who follow Jesus then are our Christian family.  Please consider with me the words Hebrews 2:10-15. 


10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."  13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.


Kathy and I miss worshiping, for now, with our children and grandchildren.  Yet, what a blessing to worship in other locations and to know we have Christian family.  The amazing truth is that, even when we worship in locations where we don’t already know someone, we are still worshiping with God’s family.  We worship with people who are our brothers and sisters because of Jesus.


The older I get, the more I realize I need others.  The older I get, the more precious I realize my family is.  What a blessing, that in Jesus I have brothers and sisters who share my hope, who walk beside me in trials, and who encourage me to continue to trust God’s eternal love in Jesus!


A Child of God, Thankful that Through Jesus I am Part of the Family of God,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here is a picture of the praise team in worship at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Oxford, FL, on November 3.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/RMq1rHR1Sq2H5zmNA


P.P.S.  Kathy and I were part of a celebration of life on Saturday, November 16, for my sister in law, Jan Rockey.  It was held at the home of my sister and brother in law in Chiefland, FL.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/tPezbpjwfeWuqjVCA


P.P.P.S.  I went fishing on Thursday, November 14, at Orange Lake, FL, near Gainesville.  This lake is pretty famous for bass fishing.  And, though we fished all day with only one fish caught, it was a pretty nice one.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/w3hWskuA9KYV2UqbA








******


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


******



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Thankful for Time Outdoors When God Restores My Soul


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,


Kathy and I were a little surprised this past week by a somewhat quiet communication in our Florida place of residence.  We have a small place in the Meadowbrook community of Gainesville, FL, where my dad used to live.  We are spending time in Florida as we ‘get away’ for the first few months of our retirement.  Regular e-mail messages are sent to us from the Meadowbrook community, including a newsletter.  However, after receiving the newsletter one day last week, the next day we got another message saying that the community newsletter would no longer be sent.  It seems a political story in this newsletter on one side of the political spectrum upset a number of people who think and believe differently concerning national politics.  So e-mail distribution of the Meadowbrook newsletter is now suspended.  We certainly live in times of high emotion over political issues!


On Wednesday morning, I turned on the television and saw a special news report concerning the impeachment hearings in Washington, D.C.  It appears to me that all one has to do these day in order to raise high emotions is to begin a discussion either in favor of, or against our current president.  But, opinions were also similarly divided over our previous president.  We do certainly live in times of divided values and turmoil as a nation.


Meanwhile, in past weeks my personal devotions have consisted of readings in the Psalms.  As I write this devotion, I just finished reading Psalm 66.  While spending time in God’s Word, I have been struck by godly wisdom found in the Psalms, wisdom which includes direction for all nations, and certainly direction for our nation.  Please read and consider what these verses from the Psalms say to you. 


The truth found in Psalm 12:8 seem to me a diagnosis of our culture today.  The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.”  Does it seem to you that our culture has embraced values that are contrary to what we find from our Lord in Scripture?  I am saddened and frustrated when I see someone praised for doing what I hear God tell us is wrong or sinful.


Please read Psalm 33:12 with me.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.”  Now, consider the blessings of God for nations who follow the Lord (I would encourage you to also read the rest of the Psalm, verses 13-22 for more wisdom for a life of blessings from God.)  There are indeed blessings for nations who believe in and follow the true God of the universe.


Psalm 65 brought me comfort as I read its wisdom.  Consider especially the end of verse 7.  “4 Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. 5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, 6 who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, 7 who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.”  I am comforted that God who ‘formed the mountains by His power’ also stills the turmoil of the nations.


As I thought about the turmoil in our country, and as I thought about the wicked freely strutting about, I was reminded of what I also recently read in Psalm 23.  1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  I thought, “Perhaps that is why I enjoy fishing so much.  In the midst of such division and emotional turmoil on a national level, God is still the Shepherd of His people.  So, the quiet waters provided by our Creator do restore my soul.  While I am fishing, I can think in quiet, away from the turmoil of our world.  Among those topics I think about are my life as a child of God.  In fact, when I have been fishing alone, I have been doing a lot of praying these days.  I have prayed for my children, for my grandchildren, for my home congregation, and for those who are ill or injured.  I pray for God’s direction in my life, and  . . . I have also been praying for my country.  You see, while I am beside the still waters. it is God who assures me that He hears and answers prayers.  Still waters provide me an opportunity for God to restore my soul in these times of turmoil that can cause me worry.  In fact, I don’t even have to catch any fish; simply soaking in God’s creation blesses me and helps me to continue and persevere.


Let me say, personally, that my reading of Scripture is that God calls governments and nations to work for justice and for righteousness.  While nations use the sword to enforce civil law, the Gospel is best shared through churches with individuals and with groups.  But, I also believe that what is best for America, and that what is best for all countries, is to follow the direction and laws of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Therefore, I will continue to pray for America to know what Psalm 33 says, that God is our Lord and King.


In the meantime, I know that there is even greater peace for those who follow Jesus and believe in our Savior.  In Philippins 4:6-7, God inspired Paul to write, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Because I know that God is the Lord of all, and because I know that God forgives my sin, and offers eternal life in heaven through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus, I can therefore face the turmoil of this world, knowing that God has my eternity in His hands.  That assurance gives peace.  This peace found in Jesus really restores my soul, even more than fishing (believe it or not).  But, you will still see me on the shore, by still waters, or in a boat, taking time in the beauty of creation and speaking to my Creator, my Savior, and my Lord.  It restores my soul.


A Child of God, Thankful for Times Outdoors when God Restores My Soul,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are some recent pictures of still waters where God restores my soul.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/2p4L557uBWS85Kkr5


P.P.S.  When I attended my 40th reunion at Concordia Seminary I was interviewed, along with a couple of other pastors, by seminary president, Dr. Meyer.  Here is a copy of a video of that interview.  https://concordiatheology.org/2019/11/word-and-work-life-after-seminary/


P.P.P.S.  Kathy and I did some visiting around Florida recently

·       Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings was a FL resident who lived near Gainesville in the early 20th century.  She wrote “The Yearling,” and “Cross Creek” among other books.  We visited the state historic site of her home on Thursday, November 7.  Here are some pictures. https://photos.app.goo.gl/HgMpvETcRdXQ3nEv5


·       Kathy and I visited Crescent Beach on a windy day last Friday, November 8.  We then headed to Jacksonville to see some old friends, some of whom will be traveling to AK, next summer.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/p92uG29XfKEP1pHf6


·       I put a flag on my dad’s grave on Veteran’s Day.  He served in the US Navy, November 1945 to November 1947, and received a WWII participation medal for his time on the USS Rochester.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/7k4SyXsqHbz2H1qc6


·       I did go Fishing last week.

o   On Watermelon Pond, 11-6-2019 (no pictures)

o   On Waters Lake. 11-12-2019 - https://photos.app.goo.gl/5YFQLPAHr1XLB1fB6

o   On the Wacassassa River, 11-12-2019 - https://photos.app.goo.gl/592KjtwfrZz9LfuY8






******


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


******


Psalm 33:12-22

 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.” 

 13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;

 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--

 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.

 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.

 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

 18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

 20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Thankful that When Trouble Arrives, God is Really Present to Help


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



Last weekend, the first weekend in November, I was in Portland, OR, for a Northwest District Board of Directors’ meeting.  After the meeting I rode to Seattle with pastor friend, Rev. Ted Werfelman, so that I could fly back to FL from the SeaTac airport.  However, being in Seattle also gave me an opportunity to visit St. John member and personal friend, John Glaser.  As you know, John was severely burned in an accident at his home in Palmer on October 5.  John has been in the Harborview Hospital burn unit in Seattle since that accident. 



I had heard from John’s wife, Cathy, that the doctors were saying John had burns over 40% of his body.  But, I wasn’t sure what that meant until I got to the hospital.  Most of John’s body, from his waist down, seemed to be bandaged.  In addition, John’s right arm was also wrapped in bandages.  I didn’t expect to see John with burns in that many places.  John’s injuries were obviously worse than I had understood.



John was sleepy when I visited.  Not only was he medicated, but, he also indicated to me that it was hard to sleep because of the noise of the hospital.  Nevertheless, I read Psalm 46:1 to John.   We talked and we prayed. 



What perhaps surprised me the most, however, was John’s response to his accident.  Time and again John told me, “God is so good.”  More than once John shared, “I’m so thankful for the church and all they have done for us.”  The church has tried to help John and Cathy in a number of ways.  However, people do not always respond to a tragic, painful injury the way John was responding.



Often when people face trials and injuries, they are full of questions. After all, God promises to care for His people.  We don’t want and we don’t plan on life’s troubles.  But remember, we do live in a world of sin.  Our challenges in life are part of the result of the sin in the world, and also a result of the sin in our own lives.  That is why, when people face illness, difficulties, and trials, I often encounter doubts and anger.  “How could God allow this to happen?  Where was God when I needed Him?  Doesn’t God love me?”  Actually, these questions are understandable. 



Therefore, I read Psalm 46:1 to John.  Our Lord tells us in that verse,God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The author of Scripture assures us, not only that He does help us, but when we are in trouble God has not left us.  When we are in trouble, the Lord is not only a help, but an “ever present help.”  In other words, when we need God, He is really present with His wisdom, with His mercy and with His power in our time of need.



I told John that he could only speak praises to God, and be thankful for God’s church, because of His faith.  John knew and trusted that our Lord keeps His promises to be present in our lives, to love us and to help us.  But, in this world of sin, when trial and tragedy hit, God also has the ultimate answer to our questions and our doubts, in Jesus.  Jesus is the Son of God who came to this world bringing love, healing, and most importantly, eternal life.  Jesus took on our suffering.  Jesus paid the price which our sins deserve.  The illnesses, injuries, and setbacks are not the end of life.  In Jesus, God has won victory over trouble and even over death for all who believe.



John not only knew the truth of Psalm 46, he also knew and trusted God’s truth from Romans 8.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:35, 37-39) Nothing separates us from God’s love in Jesus, not the trials of life, not even death.



In my many years of serving as a pastor, I have visited many people in hospitals.  Interestingly, when I come to bring help and comfort to God’s people, I often find these visits work the other way around.  Their faith strengthens me.  John already believed the truth of Psalm 46, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  This truth of God’s help in our lives is especially shown through God’s love in Jesus.  38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  What a blessing and strength to know that, in the trials of life, God is with us through Jesus to help us, and to save us!



A Child of God, Thankful that When Trouble Arrives, God is Really Present to Help,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  I communicated with Pastor Schultz before visiting John.  He gave me the “ok.”



P.P.S.  Kathy and I attended a ‘siblings’ meal at the home of my brother James and his wife, Martha, on Sunday, November 3.  I am the oldest of 5 Rockey children.  Next is my brother, David, then my sister, Martha, my brother Stephen, and then my brother, James.  Here are a couple of pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6z5G2KsdeFs7bY4b7







******



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



******




Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Praying that My Life Might Witness to the Goodness, the Love, and the Grace of God


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,



Last Monday evening Kathy and I were driving to the home of my sister, Martha, and my brother in law, Mark.  The warning light went off on the dash of our car because we were low on gasoline.  I saw a gas station on the lonely road we were traveling and pulled into the station.  The sign board at this gas station read $2.49 a gallon.  But, when I started filling up the car, the gas pump read $2.55 a gallon!  It seems that $2.49 price was a ‘club price.’  But, the sign did not publicize that detail.  I would have stopped at this station anyway, because I did not want to run out of gas.  But, my reaction is that this station was dishonest in their advertising.  I felt taken.  The reputation of that gas station went down in my estimation.  I don’t plan to buy gas there again soon.



But, this is not the only time what seems like a mis-representation, or untruth, has happened to me.  In September, Kathy and I visited Seward, AK, on a trip that our daughter, Mary, gave us as a Christmas gift.  I had gone on the internet and reserved a room in the $160.00 range for our night in Seward.  But when I paid the bill the cost of the hotel room was close to $190.00.  I asked the front desk about the difference in price.  They told me the $160.00 price was for the room, but the rest was for taxes and “other charges.”  I understood, but I was not happy.



I also remember an incident from the 1980’s when Kathy and I lived in FL.  The state voted on whether or not to approve a lottery.  The publicity for this ballot promised that, if the state voted in the affirmative, the money from the lottery would go to statewide education costs.  The ballot measure passed.  When the money came in from the lottery, those funds did go to education.  However, the amount of money added by the lottery was then removed from educational spending to use on “other programs.”  The lottery did not increase educational spending.  Funding for educational costs remained the same.  This state gambling effort had just provided another source of income, and additional revenue for politicians.  Again, I felt taken.



How do you feel when someone lies to you?  I personally feel betrayed when this happens.  After all, the 8th commandment does say, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:16) and one of the meanings of that commandment is that lying is a sin.  Lying is a sin against other people.  But being untruthful is also a sin against God. 



God, on the other hand, always speaks truth.  In John 17:17 Jesus prays for His disciples, knowing he will die the next day.  Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth.  Your Word IS TRUTH.  We can trust the Word of God.  It is always true.  In fact, we are told about Jesus himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)  In contrast to a world that is full of lies, God is truthful.  He can be trusted!



Nevertheless, while being upset about the lies and dishonesty of others, I know that I have not always been truthful either.  I want to tell the truth.  I work to be truthful.  But, there are times that words come out of my mouth before I think.  It is easy to speak words that put me in a good light, even if they may not be totally true.  I do know that I too have been untruthful at times.  God forgive me!



The problem with outwardly sinful behavior, especially for a Christian, is that our lives, as children of God, speak to others about the Lord who lives in us.  When we sin that message and witness that we give is not positive.  That is why Jesus tells His disciples, “ . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16 ESV)  When we live honest, righteous, loving lives, we give a good message about God.  But, when we act in unloving, untruthful, dishonest ways, the message we give about God is not positive.  In fact, many people have been turned off to God by the sinful, dishonest, and unloving actions of people following the Lord.



However, there is another witness Christians can give, a very important witness.  We can admit and confess our sin. God encourages us to confess, to repent of our sin and to turn to Him. “8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John. 1:8-9 ESV)  Confession of our failings is not only honest, but when we admit our sins, we point to a need everyone has, the need of a Savior to forgive us.  Thankfully, God sent His Son to pay the price for our sins.  Thankfully, our Savior speaks truth.  Jesus IS truth!



Therefore, knowing that God forgives us when we confess our sin and trust the suffering and death of Jesus, the Lord is helping us to live for Him.  He helps us to speak the truth.  If God loves and forgives those who have rebelled against Him, then we want to serve Him.  If God forgives us for Jesus’ sake, we can admit our sins, knowing the promised grace of God is true.  And, when we confess, then we are honest.  When we confess we give a good witness to others about God who forgives us, who saves us, and who lives in us.



I felt betrayed after the gas station publicized one price for gasoline, and then charged another amount.  People can also be disappointed in us if we talk about the love and the goodness of God, and then we live in a selfish, dishonest, or sinful way.  So, one of the best things we can do to witness to God is to admit our weaknesses, and point to the righteous God who is also merciful and forgiving.  We ALL need a Savior!



A Child of God, Praying that My Life Might Witness to the Goodness, the Love, and the Grace of God,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Kathy and I attended the 40th reunion of my class at the seminary in St. Louis.  We could have taken more pictures.  Here are a few, however.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/9LAzigRakAPDWiNu6



P.P.S.  Here are some fishing pictures.  I only went fishing twice.  The rest of the time we were traveling.

·       Here are pictures from Orange Lake on October 29.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/XAPKjtHXeKA2dTSK7



·       Here are pictures from October 30.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/LNJrvXqEUJR6HQfB7







******



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



******




Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thankful that God is in the Time, and in the Times, of My Life


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,

In recent months I have been led to consider the time, or even the timing, of life.  I guess retirement can cause a person to think about the span of life.  Interestingly, we are not the only ones with thoughts about our own lives.  For a number of years before my wife and I transitioned, a number of people asked us the question, “Aren’t you ready to retire?” The number of our years had increased.  And, in Alaska, those who worked for the state have had generous opportunities for early retirement.  With that background I answered the retirement question many times over the last 4 or 5 years.  But of course, once Kathy and I did make our decisions about new directions, and once retirement dates were set, many others had different opinions to share with us.  Quite a few folks told me. “You’re too young to retire.”  What is the right time, or the right timing, in life?



However, recent events have me thinking about these issues even more.  Last March, when visiting family in Florida, Kathy and I enjoyed supper with our niece, Sarah, and her mom, Jan Rockey.  Jan was excited because she was in her 42nd year of working for the University of Florida.  She had been to a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Class, and she had paid off her home.  Jan’s retirement date, as she would turn 62, was in October.  She was excited for some new opportunities and new direction in her life.  Of course, with 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren, Jan had all sorts of plans. 



But, in September we heard from my sister that Jan was not doing well.  When we arrived in Florida on October 7 the word was that Jan might have cancer.  Kathy made a friendly visit as a nurse / sister-in-law to Jan on Thursday, October 10.  Jan was very weak.  On Monday, October 14, Sarah called Kathy to come to Jan’s home because she was in worse condition.  An ambulance took Jan to the hospital.  On Wednesday, October 16, Jan was placed in a hospice facility.  And, on Friday evening, with family at her bedside, Jan passed away.



Such an unexpected death causes a person to think about the time, or the timing, of life.  Jan was only 62 years old!  In March she had been excited about the future.  And then, seven months later, in the month when she was to retire, Jan passed away.  No wonder Job prays, “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;” (Job 7: 7)



Of course, as I write this devotion, life has given me another reason to consider this topic of life’s time, or timing.  Kathy and I are driving to the reunion of the 40th year of my graduation from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis; 40 YEARS!  It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in class at the seminary, or that I was learning lessons from my supervisor on my vicarage – my internship, in Detroit.  It seems so recent that we spent time in St. Louis working with the dear people of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School.  Those 8 years in Jacksonville, FL, when we served with God’s people of Our Redeemer Lutheran, when God worked in our midst to build a new church on a new site, and when we worked to start a mission congregation in Georgia, seem like yesterday.  And, 28 + years at St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer went by in a flash!  We raised 4 children.  God blessed us with 6 grandchildren.  We worked with the people of God at St. John to bring the Good News of Jesus to the Mat-Su community.  David’s words in Psalm 39 are like the words of Job.  4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. 8 Save me from all my transgressions;” (Psalm 39:4-7a) 



But, just because life goes by quickly, that doesn’t make the passing of time bad news.  This world is full of evil, and full of things that pass away, but since God’s love gives grace today and gives grace eternally, our hope IS in God!  Since life speeds by so quickly, every day is precious.  Every day is an opportunity to spend time with loved ones.  Every day we have the privilege of serving the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.  Every day we can live in the grace of God’s love in this world, and we can know even more how precious is the eternal life God offers in heaven through the life and death and resurrection of His Son, our Savior, Jesus.



So, the words of God in Psalm 90 strike a chord for me!  12 TEACH US to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)  It takes wisdom from God to have the right attitude about life’s time, and about life’ timing.  People can waste the time of life with meaningless activities, or even in sinful pursuits.  (You can figure out what those activities might be on your own.)  Or, we can use the gift of time each day to love our families and friends, and to share the love of God.  We can use the gift of the time of our lives to make a difference in the world.



Jan died at the early age of 62.  But, my dad lived to almost 91 years.  Maybe I have another 25 or 30 years to love my family, to tell people about Jesus, and to cause my wife to shake her head, and then send me fishing.  J



Yes, Lord! 12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”



A Child of God, Thankful that God has His Hand in the Time, and in the Timing, of My Life,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here is a picture of Jan and her daughters. https://photos.app.goo.gl/CaBuszRTYJWyo7Ct7



P.P.S.  I am learning better the art of fishing in Florida. 

·       On Friday, October 18, I had 5 or 6 bites, and caught a bass which fed us that night.  That was my first bass caught this Fall. 

·       Then on Monday, October 21, I went fishing with my sister’s husband, Mark.  That was the best fishing trip I have ever had in Florida.  I think we both caught between 10-20 fish.  We kept 4 nice bass. 

·       And, I learned a lesson . . . AGAIN!  (Put the plug in the boat before you put the boat in the water!)

·       Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/xyEtAPjPqwUc1erb9





******



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



******






Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Humbled in the Presence of God by the Deep Questions of Life


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,

 

Every once in a while, when reading the news on the internet, there are stories about our universe.  “NASA’s Planet Hunter has Found Star Shredding Black Hole.”  (September 25).  “Black Hole at Milky Way’s Center Behaving Strangely.”  (August 15) And, “First Ever Black Hole Image Revealed.”  (April 10, 2019)  Maybe it makes sense that these stories go over my head and simply cause me to wonder.  My education has been primarily in the area of theology, in literature, and in people issues like counseling and outreach.  So, I understand what people mean when they talk about ‘how small WE seem to be in the middle of the expansive universe around us.’  (Have you seen Louis Giglio’s video, “How Great is our God.”?)  I humbly confess my personal lack of understanding when confronted with the mysteries of the universe!

 

But, there are also events from our lives in this world which also cause me to wonder, often without answers.  The suffering faced by people in our world leaves me with questions.  I learned earlier this past week of the death of a high school classmate from pancreatic cancer.  This lady was bright and beautiful, and in high school she ‘shone like a star.’  How could this be?  But cancer and death do not discriminate.  Unfortunately, I also heard similar news about the illness of a close relative.  It is hard to make sense of the world around us.  This lack of understanding is especially true when we look at the suffering of people created by the God of love!

 

Perhaps it is understandable that my mind is considering these mysteries.  My daily readings in my devotional bible have now taken me into the book of Job.  Job was a man who, as far as humanly possible, sought to live a righteous and upright life.  He was blessed with a large family and with many possessions.  But, in a short series of events Job lost his family, he lost his worldly goods, he lost his health.  And, when Job’s friends saw his appearance, changed by his calamities, Job had then also lost his reputation.  Why would something like this happen, especially to a man of God like Job?  Actually, considering that question is the purpose of the book of Job.  This inspired book of Scripture examines the mystery: ‘Why is there evil and suffering in our world?’

 

As I read this book of Job again, I work through and consider the actions and the re-actions of Job’s friends.  Four friends come to Job with the intent of comforting him.  Throughout this book they try to explain the unexplainable, the suffering which Job faces.  Sometimes, and this humbles ME, their words have a grain of truth.  For example, Job’s friend Eliphaz, shares words encouraging Job to confess his sins.  7"Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.”  (Job 4:7-9)  Yet, these words of Eliphaz, and the words of all Job’s friends, are criticized by God Himself at the end of the book for seeking to share wisdom without any real knowledge.  (Job 42:7)  Sadly, I am sure there are times when my own words have sounded like those of Job’s friends.  The best thing Job’s friends did was when they first arrived to comfort him.  “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”  (Job 2:13)

 

The more experienced (older) I get, and the more knowledge I gain, the more I realize how much I do not know and how much I don’t understand, especially about the working of the Lord.  Paul was led to a similar response when faced with anguish over the lack of faith by His Jewish brothers.  He wrote in Romans, “33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"  35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" (Romans 11:33-35) Paul is actually quoting Isaiah 40 and Job 41 in these verses.  The Lord and God of the universe is higher and greater than we are.  His ways are a mystery, which we will not totally understand in this world.  Therefore, Paul concludes this section of his writing by praising God! “36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.  (Romans 11:36)

 

Therefore, I am led again, in humility, to confess my own lack of knowledge when it comes to God and His ways, even after all my education.  Yet, I have learned to trust Him.  I am thankful that God’s wisdom is found in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:24)  Jesus is “The Word made flesh” (John 1:14), “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), “The Bread of Life” (John 6:35), “The Good Shepherd (John 10:11), “The Way the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).  I am thankful that in Jesus God has acted to save, not to condemn, as we certainly all deserve.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) 

 

Brought to unanswered questions, and to humility in the face of God’s greater and greatest wisdom, I am led to pray with King David, 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)  How about you?  What do you do when faced with life’s great questions?

 

A Child of God, Humbled in the Presence of God by the Deep Questions of Life,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  I am learning about retirement.  I have spent time with family.  I have studied.  I have preached 4 times in 4 different congregation.  And, in Florida I have also fished and golfed.  However, my golf scores have not been good.  And, in three fishing trips I have only caught one bowfin (mudfish), which people here do not keep. 

Nevertheless, the relaxation in God’s creation is a real gift!  Here are a few fishing pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/KS83ez52hf6ntc5E7

 

******

 

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

 

******

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

How Can I Help? PRAY!


Dear Friends and Fellow Children of God,

 

Last Sunday evening, as I was preparing to leave town, I dropped some books off at St. John Lutheran Church.  While there I ran into Dorothy Jacobson.  Dorothy is the sister of John Glaser.  Both Dorothy and John are friends from my days as pastor of St. John.  John was injured in a serious accident on Saturday night, suffering burns over large parts of his body.  When Dorothy and I spoke on Sunday, John was already at Harborview Hospital in Seattle in the burn unit.  I asked Dorothy about John.  Her update was about what I had previously heard, but then she replied, “I’d like to do more, but he’s in Seattle and we’re here in Alaska.”

 

I understand Dorothy’s expression of wanting to do something for John, and her frustration of not being able to help as she would like.  Actually, I share her feelings.  I was not only John’s pastor for about 25 years, but I consider him a good friend.  Yet, as former pastor, there is a way in which I want to be sensitive about my new role and not get in the way of current Intentional Interim Pastor, Craig Schultz. 

 

But, John is not the only person whose health concerns me.  There are friends at St. John struggling with cancer.  A young man whose family became friends with our family is recovering from kidney surgery he underwent in September.  One of the elderly members of St. John had a stroke last month.  And then, my brother David in Orlando has had serious health issues for about a year now.  And there are more . . . many more!

 

Dorothy was frustrated by the distance between Palmer and Seattle.  I am now in Gainesville, Florida.  So, for all of these people who concern me there is distance between us also, like the distance between Dorothy and John.  When I visited with folks who were ill or injured to pray with them, I trust that those visits brought God’s comfort.  I understand Dorothy’s frustration of not being able to help as she would like to help.  I would like to be doing more too.

 

However, in times of care and concern for others we are not powerless.  God tells us to come to Him.  “Call on me in the day of trouble.  I will deliver you and you will glorify me.”  (Psalm 50:15)  Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, constantly encouraged God’s children to know that God is their Father, and to approach Him as their beloved Father, trusting Him for mercy.

 

7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 7:7-11)

 

But, have you ever heard someone who is faced with one of life’s challenges sigh and say with resignation, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray.”?  Prayer is not a last ditch hope.  We are created children of the Lord and the Maker of the universe.  As Jesus said in Matthew, that Lord is our loving Father.  I am convinced that God wants us to come to Him in prayer.  I am convinced that God always hears and always answers our prayers. 

 

There are times when I don’t understand God’s answer, but I always trust His love and mercy and wisdom.  That is because even more than I trust the prayer which I utter from my own lips, I trust the Lord of the universe who answers our prayers.  Maybe I can re-state that thought in another way.  I have often seen a slogan which declares, “Prayer changes things.”  I would change that slogan to read, “GOD answers prayer.”

 

As people who are God’s children, not only because He created us, but also because He redeemed us in the life and the death and the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, we have even more reason to trust God.  Jesus tells us to pray in HIS name and our Father will answer.  (John 16;23)  God inspired Paul to expound on that thought.  31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  (Romans 8:31-32)  God gave His Son to save us from our sin.  He will be with us through the trials of this life as well.

 

I do understand Dorothy’s desire to help her brother, John, and her frustration at not being able to do more.  There are many I want to care for as well, including John, and Megan, and James, and Carol, and Judy, and David, and . . .  Guess what? These people are all on my prayer list which is in my devotional Bible.  As I write this devotion, I prayed for them this morning.  And, I trust that the Lord who sent His own Son to die for us will act with mercy and power in their lives, (In fact, if you want me to pray for you, let me know what to pray about, and I will write your name on my prayer list as well.  In fact, you might already be there!) 

 

But God’s promise is for all His children, not just me.  “11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  How can you help those you love?  PRAY!

 

A Child of God, Trusting in the Lord of the Universe to Answer the Prayers of His Children,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Pastor Schultz and I were talking recently specifically about the situation of my being former pastor.  I do not want to get in the way, but I do still care about my friends at St. John.  You should know that Pastor Schultz gave me permission to visit any “friends” I would like to visit.  I will take that opportunity.  I did talk with Cathy Glaser by phone on Monday.  However,  . . . I am now in Florida.

 

P.P.S.  If you see our son, Tim, on Wednesday, October 9, wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

 

P,P.P.S.  Here is my plan for Wednesday.  J  https://photos.app.goo.gl/9kL7pX3CocVvw6EBA

 

 

******

 

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

 

******