Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter - Jesus' Victory and Ours

Dear Fellow Children of God,


More than once I have been at the hospital with a patient and their family when the doctor has shared bad news.  “There is nothing we can do, except make you comfortable.”  In such situations it is like the air is sucked out of the room.  Most often people go to the hospital hoping for a cure for their ailment or disease.  We trust doctors.  We are thankful for the amazing advances of modern medicine.  But, when a doctor tells us there is no hope for recovery, when medical science seems to have no answers, it can be a devastating blow from which we know no recovery.


There is an old saying, “The only sure things in life are death and taxes.”  While I’ve known some who don’t pay income taxes at least, no one escapes death.  It is one of those things in life we know is inevitable.  We may not know when death is coming, but we know that it is coming. There is no escape. 


It wasn’t this way at the beginning of God’s creation.  Death was not inevitable.  God created the world in wisdom and love, and death was not part of life.  However, people have rebelled against God in selfish disobedience.  There is no one who doesn’t think and feel and act in ways that serve ourselves, hurt others, and ignore God.  And the consequence of this rebellion and sin is death.  We cannot escape.


But, on that first Easter morning God’s love and power changed the inevitable.  Jesus, the perfect Son of God died on Good Friday for the sins of the whole world, and on Easter morning Jesus walked out of His grave alive.  This is not just a rumor, but Jesus was seen alive many times by his disciples and over 500 people.  Even Jewish and Roman historian (Josephus and Pliny) write about Jesus, who rose from the dead.


Christmas is one of the most important days for the world, because God showed His love when Jesus came to this earth.  But Easter is even more life-changing.  With His Easter resurrection Jesus, acting in power and love, has accomplished the reason for His Christmas coming.


Jesus didn’t just come to this world so He could personally overcome sin and death.  With His Easter resurrection Jesus offers forgiveness and eternal life in heaven for all who believe.  Bodily death may still be inevitable in this life.  But, because Jesus rose the inevitable defeat of death has become simple a doorway to eternal life in heaven.  Listen to God’s description of heaven for His children, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  (Revelation 21:3-4)


And Jesus’ Easter victory does not just change what happens after death, it changes our life now.  Since we know that Jesus rose and believers will join Him in heaven, we can face the trials of life head on, because God forgives us and gives us eternal life in Jesus.  Since we know that God has heaven waiting, we can face death with courage and faith.  Death is no longer the end, but the beginning of God’s gift of eternal life.


I’ve been with people in the hospital who were told there was no hope, but in some cases the doctors were mistaken and those people recovered.  Death may seem like the final defeat.  But, the truth is that Jesus’ Easter rising is God’s ultimate act of victory and love.


I pray Jesus’ Easter victory gives you strength and joy as you face the trials of this world, knowing God has eternal life waiting in heaven for all who believe in Jesus.


A Child of God, Living in Jesus’ Easter Victory,

Pastor Jonathan





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 always adding new However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.




Saturday, March 23, 2013

Love Worth Remembering and Celebrating - Holy Week

Dear Fellow Children of God,


What do you remember about September 11, 2001, the dreadful day of the attack on the World Trade Towers?  If I asked you to remember this event, I expect your memory can bring back a picture of a tower smoking after the plane had flown into it.  These days with all the media coverage we have pictures seared into our minds and our memories. With those images also come the thoughts and feelings of an attack on civilians and the loss of innocent lives.  September 11 is a somber day etched forever in the minds and hearts of those who lived it.


This Sunday we begin another somber memory.  For this coming week we get to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, the eternal Son of God and the only perfect man who ever lived.  On Palm Sunday, celebrated on March 24 this year, Christians remember the shouts of joy and praise that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem.  But, people of the same city which praised Him on Sunday as the Son of David and the Messiah were present to arrest Him on Thursday.  When Pontius Pilate wanted to release Jesus, people of the same city cried out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  In the same city where Jesus was praised on entering Sunday, people on Friday mocked him as he hung on the cross in, dying in pain.


We weren’t there but we have all seen paintings and movies of Jesus hanging in bloody agony on the cross.  Those pictures easily come to mind.  Yet, there is something different about this scene.  The victim hanging on the cross is there knowingly.  Jesus went to Jerusalem on purpose, knowing that arrest and the cross lay before Him.  Jesus went in love for us because we were lost in sin and death.  The death of Jesus is the greatest sacrifice and the greatest love the world has ever known.  Scripture tells us, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)”  Jesus knowingly went to Jerusalem so that He might suffer and die and save those who believe in Him as Savior, even if they had been calling for His death on Thursday and mocking Him on Friday.


I expect you may have celebrated a wedding anniversary.  We observe anniversaries to celebrate the day love began in a marriage.  We have even greater love to celebrate this coming week.  We get to remember and celebrate and receive the sacrificial love of God shown in the suffering and death of Jesus, even for a world that was rejecting Him. 


So, let’s remember and celebrate.  I urge you to make it a point to worship this Sunday, Palm Sunday.  Join Jesus’ disciples and the children of Jerusalem in welcoming Jesus with palms and praise as He willingly enters the city to sacrifice Himself for the world.  I also urge you to make it a point to celebrate God’s love in worship on Thursday.  Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus celebrated the Passover, washed His disciples feet, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, an on-going gift of forgiveness and love. I especially urge you to make it a point to worship on Friday.  Even though this was not a good day for Jesus, we call this day Good Friday, because the perfect Son of God died on the cross to forgive and save sinners like us.


We can’t help but remember somber days of loss.  We willingly celebrate the beginning of love in anniversaries.  This week God again calls us to remember and receive His sacrificial love that saves us from sin and death for eternal life in heaven.  This is worth celebrating.  I hope to see you in worship!


A Child of God, Overwhelmed by the Sacrificial Love of God,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  THE SHANE WOODS ICE FISHING OUTING was held last Sunday.  A good group of adults and children enjoyed a crisp day of sun on Finger Lake, and remembered Shane Woods who gave his life for His country.  Here are some pictures from that event.






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 always adding new However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.



Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Gift of Peace

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Have you ever heard someone say, “If only I could win the lottery, all my troubles would be over.”?  I’ve heard that statement more than once.  But, I’ve also read stories that most people who win a lottery end up with strained family relationships and in bankruptcy.  Perhaps you have known or heard of someone who was financially well off, but was not happy.  That seems to be a common place predicament for many of the Hollywood celebrities.  Wealth doesn’t always bring happiness.  Actually, it is not uncommon to hear about folks who have more in the way of possessions, that they also have more in the way of troubles.  People often think that if they had more money their troubles would go away.  But this thinking is a foolish trap.  More possessions bring more responsibility, and often more responsibilities bring troubles.


This week in my readings and studies I have twice come across God’s words and His gift of peace.  In my personal devotions I am reading in the book of Numbers and read where God instructed Moses to tell Aaron to give the blessings of God to the people.  Numbers 6:22-27 says, 22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 "'"The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."' 27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

When you worship today you still often receive God’s blessings in the same words as Aaron used 3500 years ago! 


In a Saturday Confirmation Class I’m teaching, one of this week’s lessons told of Jesus’ greeting to the disciples the night after his resurrection.  Jesus’ greeting was, “Peace be with You.” (or Shalom) (John 20:19).  The disciples were hidden and locked away in a room because they feared the same people who killed Jesus would kill them, and Jesus comes bringing peace!


Peace is different from Happiness.  Happiness comes and goes with the circumstances of life, and sometimes even when we are well off we aren’t happy.  Peace is the gift of God’s presence and blessings.  For those who know God’s forgiveness, God’s love, God’s presence, and the blessings God gives, peace is something that can bless us even in the worst of times.  God told Aaron to bless the Israelites with His peace even when they were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  Jesus spoke peace to the disciples the third day after His death. 


But, where troubles can take away happiness, God gives peace in the very midst of the troubles of life.  No matter what hardship, or illness, or loss you may be facing, as you know God’s love for you in Jesus you are safe in His loving hands. 


Money doesn’t always bring happiness.  But, for those who know and receive the love of God, He always brings peace, no matter what is happening in our lives.


A Child of God, Thankful for the Blessings of God,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  SHANE WOODS ICE FISHING DAY IS TOMORROW!!!!  The Promise Keepers of St. John will be  holding an ice fishing day for the children of the congregation this Sunday, March 17, after late worship at Finger Lake. 

·         Poles and bait are ready. 

·         The ice auger is warmed up. 

·         Hot dogs and hot cocoa are purchased. 

·         Fire is coming. 

            Drive out on the lake and join us for this day of family fun in remembrance of St. John member and soldier, Shane Woods!!!  Pictures to follow next week!!


P.P.S.  My granddaughter, Emmalee and I caught fish on Finger Lake last Monday.






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 always adding new However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.




Saturday, March 9, 2013

Is Sin Really Serious?



Dear Fellow Children of God,


This week in my devotional readings from the Today’s Light Bible I have been reading in Leviticus, specifically chapters 4-19.  As I have read through these chapters it is striking how many ways the Jews were called to stay away from personal sin against God and others, and how much work they had to do to stay ceremonially clean so they could worship the Lord.  The devotional writer in this Bible suggested that the many requirements for spiritual purity point to the overwhelming presence of sin in our world and in our lives.


Sin is considered by many today to be an “old-fashioned” idea that has little or no relevance in today’s world.  I guess if we don’t believe that we have been created in wisdom and love by God, and if we believe we don’t answer to our Creator and Lord, then sin can seem an outdated idea.  But, if we sincerely believe we are children of God, to whom we owe honor and love and obedience, then anything that harms or breaks our relationship with God is serious.  Christians believe that the struggle with sin is constant. 


This Lent as a small part of my Lenten disciplines I have given up caffeine.  Any of you who know me, know I especially appreciate a strong cup of coffee.  There are daily reminders and temptations to compromise my discipline during Lent.  In truth, drinking coffee in and of itself is not a sin, but it points me to the many ways we are daily tempted to compromise God’s call to be holy as He is holy.  Every day we each face temptations to selfishness, lust, unrighteous anger, or other actions that disobey God and hurt others.  These sins are not just some old fashioned way to think.  They are serious.  How serious?  The first half of Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death. . . ” If you think death is serious, then sin is serious.


These Lenten disciplines not only point us to our struggle with sin, but they point us to our only real hope.  I know that I have drunk caffeine at least twice this Lent.  One time I did so out of politeness at someone’s home.  Another time I thought I was drinking something that was de-caffeinated, but my racing heart later told me there was indeed caffeine in the drink.  Even with my best efforts I have not perfectly kept my goal.  We are all much worse when it comes to obeying God and loving others.  Even when we try to obey we fail.  And how about the times we don’t even want to try?


The Jews had many laws to keep them obedient and pure, but they were unable to keep them all.  We have a God who created us in love, but we do not always obey Him.  Often we obey our own sinful desires.  That is why it is important to know the seriousness of our sin.  That is why it is important to know the only real source of help for our eternal relationship with God. 


The whole verse from Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Thankfully, God has an answer for our failure, our Savior, Jesus.  Our sin demands and leads to death, but Jesus kept God’s law.  When we believe in Jesus God forgives our sins.  Instead of the death we deserve for the serious break that our sin causes in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, God reaches out with Jesus and calls us to love and eternal life.  Jesus’ life and death and resurrection are our only real hope.


If sin seems like an outmoded idea of a less educated time, then I guess it doesn’t seem like we need a Savior.  But, if death is real, maybe you know the depth of the gift that God has given in His only Son, Jesus.  May your Lent point you in faith to Jesus, our Savior from sin.


A Child of God, Thankful for the Gift of God,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME HITS TONIGHT.  Remember to set your clocks forward 1 hour before going to bed tonight.





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 always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.