Saturday, August 31, 2013

God's Help for My Life of Discipleship

Dear Fellow Children of God,


The Labor Day Holiday is celebrated this weekend.  That means school has started.    The approaching holiday also means the State Fair is almost finished.  But, we all know that with the end of the summer activities the full work schedule begins in earnest.  Schools, businesses, even churches get in to the swing of their full schedule at this time of year. 


So, what is the work that God’s people face?  In worship the last few Wednesdays we have been focusing on the assigned epistle lessons from Hebrews.  God has expectations for His people and in these lessons God speaks plainly about the discipleship He expects from those who follow Him.  This week’s lesson is from Hebrews 13, which is also read this Sunday.  In Hebrew 13 we heard about God’s expectations for his people in regard to loving those around us, even those we don’t know.  We heard about God’s expectations in regard to sex and marriage.  We also heard about God’s expectations in regard to money, and faith, and the church.  Sometimes when God’s people hear of His sacrificial love we can forget God’s continuing call to serve and obey Him.  Unfortunately, none of us are perfect when it comes to God’s call to faith and love and righteousness.  Life as a child of God is a struggle, but that doesn’t free us from God’s call that being His children brings.  The call to obedience is real.


This week I took Friday off and played golf with Ryan Strehlow, the Director of Christian Education from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Chugiak.   My golf game is a struggle.  My shots seem to travel shorter distances these days and my scores seem to go higher.  But, there are some things that could help my game.  Lessons would help.  Good equipment helps.  Practice helps.  My struggle is not without some hope.


God has real help for our struggles to live as his children.  That is part of what happens in the full schedule of activities in the church.  In addition to worship opportunities where we hear God’s word and bring Him praise, Sunday School and various Bible Studies are offered.  Worship and Bible study help God’s people with the struggle of discipleship.


But, there is one more powerful help for God’s children as we seek to fulfill God’s expectations.  That help is God’s love and forgiveness.  It can be discouraging as a golfer to try to hit a good shot and fail time after time.  It can cause a person to consider giving up the game.  But, one little tip that leads to one good shot makes me, at least, want to keep playing.  It can be discouraging to know God’s expectations for our lives, and to know our failure.  But, God forgives us and continues to offer His love without fail.  So, even in our failure, God is there.  God’s presence and love and forgiveness strengthen us for discipleship when we might want to give up in discouragement. 


In Hebrews 13, after calling God’s people to love, faithful marriages, and a proper attitude toward possessions, we are assured, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ 6 So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’" (Hebrews 13:5-6)


I pray that you see the coming activities of the church as opportunities for strengthening your faith and your life as God’s child.  I pray that when you struggle with God’s expectations, His forgiveness gives you reason to keep seeking to serve Him.


A Child of God, Needing Help, and Finding it in God’s Church,

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 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.






Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Blessing of Human Kindness

Dear Fellow Children of God,


I recently had an experience with a large business that was frustrating and maddening and left me shaking my head.  I had trouble with my cell phone and I experienced a run around I couldn’t believe.  I walked into the location where I had purchased my phone in December in order to deal with my problem.  After waiting about 40-45 minutes, I had someone help me, sort of.  The representative looked at my phone and told me I had not damaged it.  This person and their supervisor, however, then told me why they could not help me.  They also could not put my on the line to talk to someone else who could help me, unless I paid $20.00.  I had to go to Anchorage to deal with another business partner of theirs.


Being very busy in the coming week, I went to Anchorage that night, assured this would take care of my problem.  When I arrived at the Anchorage store the manager of that store told me why they could not help me.  Their rules required an appointment and I had just showed up, encouraged by the first company to do so.  I would have to return to Palmer and come back the next day.  When I said I was willing to stay late, the man looked at the phone and then told me, contrary to my first stop, that I had damaged the phone and there was nothing they could do.


However, this 3 ½ hour period of time was not the end.  I went home and, using my computer, communicated with someone with the first company who tried to help, but did very little.  Finally, the next day, with more information in hand, I returned to the first place of business, and, after 3 hours, had a new phone, and some help for the problem.  I believe that from when I left my home to when I returned, including time on the computer, I spent a minimum of 9 hours trying to be helped.  After this experience I was worn out, frustrated, and even a little angry.


I can tell you this story because I had the exact opposite experience with another business.  My boat needed some work for 3 small problems, so I went to where the boat was built.  The owner met with me personally for 2 hours.  We not only fixed those three items, but he found 2 other areas of need and took care of them.  We didn’t just talk the technical issues of the boat, but talked fishing, and life, and faith.  At the end of two hours of time, where more problems were fixed that I knew I had, the charge was minimal for the parts.  Actually, this experience refreshed me to return to the phone store and finish my business there.


The lesson I learned by experience is that it makes a difference how we are treated, and how we treat others.  A willingness to listen and some common kindness go a long way.  This is not just true in business, it is true in all relationships.  Sometimes all of us struggle with kindness.  But, God reminds us the real source of kindness.  Ephesians 4:32 says, 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  In other words, God has been forgiving and kind and compassionate to us.  His kindness and compassion are the power and the example for our relationships with others.


Our relationship with Jesus, our Christian faith, is not just something to talk about inside a church building.  Because we are loved by God, we can put love and faith into practice throughout our community.  What a blessing it would be if we remembered God’s love and were always able to treat others in the same way.


A Child of God, Blessed by God’s Kindness and that of His people,

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 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.




Friday, August 16, 2013

Pray for our Schools

Dear Fellow Children of God,


What is the role of a child of God in the public schools run by our local government?


Public schools began classes again this week in our area.  The beginning of school is one of the most important days in any community calendar.  When school begins, the whole pattern of community life changes.  Families return from summer vacations.  Children go to bed earlier so they can rise early and get to school on time.   Teachers and bus drivers and support staff are back on the job.   Even traffic patterns change.


But, in addition to the business and societal impact of school, there is the personal impact.  The beginning of school is also the beginning of the whole process of helping children grow in knowledge and growing toward maturity.  While the work of the church has eternal impact, I am not sure there is anything more important that our culture does than the nurturing of children which is done by our schools.  Our children are the future of our community and our nation.  It is a vital work to help our children grow toward life as healthy and productive adults. 


But young children are also vulnerable.  That is why headlines about bullying, and headlines about abuse, and headlines about school shootings are so devastating.  From a cultural point of view children are innocent victims when these tragedies take place.


It is because of this important impact on the children of our community that I urge fellow Christians to think about the role of God’s people in the process of education.  Time and again Jesus talks about His special love for children.  We are told in one account of Scripture that, when parents brought children to Jesus, He took them into his arms and blessed them.  (Mark 10:13-16)  In another Bible verse Jesus warns against harming children or leading them astray.  The judgment from God for such harm is dire, according to Matthew 18:6.  But, perhaps my favorite verse that talks about God’s love and our responsibility toward children is found in Matthew 18:10.  Jesus says, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” So, Jesus says we have a responsibility for the “little ones”, but God is also providing extra special care.


So, what is the role of a Christian person in the education of our children?  The schools are run by our government, and the government is by law separate from the church.  But, that does not mean that God’s people don’t have an interest in this important work that happens in the schools. 


Here are some steps Christians can take to help the schools in their jobs of educating our children.  First, Christians should work to provide stable homes for our own children.  The foundation of good education begins in homes.  When children know they are loved they are secure enough to risk learning.  When they know they are loved by God, they can face the challenges that schools will bring.  Stable homes help the education of our children.


Secondly, Christians can and should pray for our schools.  Pray for and encourage the children.  Pray for and encourage the teachers and staff.  Learning takes work and discipline, and it can be difficult.  God does hear our prayers and He answers them!


Finally, Christians can volunteer in schools.  Jesus calls us to serve others as he served us and gave His life for us.  We can volunteer and serve in schools, no strings attached, just because it helps in the important task of educating our children.


The beginning of school also has a special place in my heart this year.  While my daughter, Mary, has taught in Chevak for two years, this year she began her job as a teacher in our local school system.  And, while all of my children have finished public school, my first grandson, Jake, begins kindergarten this year, with 5 more grand children on the way.  So, I have a personal interest in the welfare of our schools.


Children are precious and important to God.  Our schools are important to our children.  I encourage you to reach out in faith and service to make our schools a place where children can grow in knowledge and maturity.


A Child of God, Praying for God’s Blessings on our Schools,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Please remember the church picnic this coming Sunday.  Please see the information below.


P.P.S.  There was another Rockey baptism in worship on Wednesday, August 14.  Here are some pictures.


P.P.P.S.  Fishing has been good recently.  Here are some pictures of some silver salmon fishing.




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.




One Sure Thing - The Presence and Love of God

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Saturday, August 10, was a busy day for St. John members when it comes to weddings.  A wedding ceremony for Kathryn Hermon Jordan and Jacob Jordan was be held at St. John in Palmer with Pastor Allen celebrating.  A ceremony for Shawna Crosley and Trenton Berberich was held in Shawna’s home town of Olympia, WA, with Pastor Rockey officiating.


Marriage has been the traditional relationship for men and women since the beginning of time.  Genesis 2 tells us that it is God’s plan that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  These young couples are excited and full of joy to live the adventure of marriage which is part of God’s creation plan.


But today many fear and refrain from the adventure of God’s plan of marriage.  Most of us have seen marriages that have broken up, and more difficultly, we have seen the pain that friends and loved ones experience when families struggle. 


It is true that little is sure in life.  Will my job last?  Will health last?  Will the love for my spouse that I feel and live today continue through life’s struggles?  When a man and woman make vows and promises to continue in faithfulness and love, it can be a scary leap of faith because life is so uncertain.


But, though life may seem uncertain, there is one thing that is certain.  In Matthew 18:20 Jesus tells his disciples, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."


Health may leave, but God’s presence and love continue.  Jobs may disappear, but God continues to love us.  Relationships change and sometimes marriage break up, but God’s love remains the same – faithful, merciful, forgiving, and strong in Jesus’ sacrificial love for us.  We can’t always be sure of life situations.  Nor can we be sure of ourselves.  But we can be sure of God.  He is with us in love and forgiveness through Jesus.


The promises and commitment of marriage can be scary, but faith trusts God’s love even when life is not sure.  I have recently become aware that August 10 is special for another reason.  I performed a funeral on August 3 for Alison Lewis, but August 10 of this year would have been the 50th anniversary for Gary and Alison.  Pastor George Rakos and Carolyn also celebrate their 50th anniversary this Saturday, August 10.  Life was not always easy for these couples.  Life has challenges for everyone.   But God’s love is real.  It is there in the midst of life’s joys, such as the ceremonies this Saturday.  God is there when the trials of life seem bigger than we are.  His love can and does make a difference.  It made a difference for the Rakos’ and Lewis’.  God’s love can help us face whatever challenges life brings.


God bless you Jake and Kathryn, Trent and Shawna.  Congratulations and continued blessings, George and Caroline, (Gary and Alison)!


A Child of God, Leaning on God’s love to face the adventures of life.,

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 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.





·         Bible Class on Philippians – Jim Summers started teaching a Bible Class on Sundays between worship services (at 9:45 a.m.) in the library.  This class is growing through studying the book of Philippians.


·         Installation at Our Redeemer Chugiak for Ryan Strehlow – DCE, Ryan Stehlow, will be installed as Director of Christian Education at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Chugiak on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.  It would be great to have a nice representation of St. John members for this event.  A meal will follow the worship service.


JOINT PICNIC – St. John is planning a congregational picnic for Sunday, August 18, after worship on that day.  We will also share this pot luck picnic time with our neighbors, the members of St. Michael Roman Catholic Church and Palmer United Protestant Church.  (In fact St. Michael will be bringing hot dogs and hamburgers to supplement what people bring to share)

            A grill will be available to cook meat.  Some games will be provided.    Some hymns will be sung.  We even hope to have a pick up softball game.  Plan to bring meat to cook and a side dish to share.  There are 8 gallons of ice cream in the freezer already!  More details will follow.




THANKS JOE AHRENS, and other Community Garden Volunteers!  Have you seen the community garden on our east property?  It is really looking good.  The idea is that these vegetables can first be shared with St. John members, and then the local food bank.  Thanks to all who have participated in this activity of witness and love.  If you are interested in helping Joe, please let him know.  You can call Joe at 746-2232.




WEDNESDAY WORSHIP continues.  These Wednesday worship services focus on the readings and themes of the coming Sunday.  These services are intended to provide an alternative service for those who cannot attend worship on a Sunday, or an extra worship service for those who wish another opportunity for growth and fellowship and worship.  Come and join us at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening! 




A VISIT FROM THE SEMINARY – St. Louis seminarian, Glen Emery will be in the Mat-Su Valley on August 25 visiting family in Wasilla.  In fact, there will be two baptisms for the Emery family at St. John on that day.  Ryan and Asher Emery will receive God’s grace through this concrete promise of God.

            In addition, Glen has offered to share his experiences as a seminary student between services.


ST. JOHN SEMINARIAN – HUNTER RICHARDS - Many of you know that St. John has its own member attending seminary, Hunter Richards.  Hunter is now serving his vicarage (an internship for being a pastor) in North Canton, Ohio.  In fact, St. John supports Hunter and Elizabeth with a small gift each month.  We have budgeted $100.00 a month for them as they work to finish school and serve as Pastor.  Also, at the same time, if others give extra gifts (as a number of people do) these gifts are also sent along in addition to help Hunter and Elizabeth in their educational expenses so they can serve the Lord.

Please also keep Hunter and Elizabeth in prayer as they learn and grow!





DID YOU KNOW THAT MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT ST. JOHN is available on our church website?  On our web page you can find sermons, newsletters, and these weekly devotions.  The link is: 

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!