Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power of God's Love and Grace in Jesus

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Do you know what this coming Friday is? The date this Friday is October 31.  You may think you know what this special day is.  But, no, I am not thinking of Halloween.


I was thinking of another more important day.  This Friday is the 497th anniversary of Reformation Day.  On this date in 1517 Day Martin Luther nailed 95 theses, or statements for debate, to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.  These statements pointed people to Jesus and pointed people to faith in Jesus’ saving love as their only hope.  These statements also challenged the teaching and authority of the church at that time.


Actually, this relatively simple act, intended for academic debate in a university setting, set in motion events that led to what is known historically as the Reformation.  Among other results, the Reformation led to the formation of Protestant Christian Churches, put the Bible in the hands of everyday people, helped to create public education, led to the modern form of the German language, and created new freedoms, political realities, and opportunities for the people of the day. 


However, the events of the Reformation did not come without personal cost.  Martin Luther and his followers were scolded and censured by the church and the political leaders of the day.  They were removed from church membership and had a death penalty put on their heads.  This penalty was not carried out in Luther’s case, but was for others. 


Today we hear a lot about the “legacy” of politicians and even athletes.  But, the Reformation was much more than an historic political movement and legacy.  In many ways what we call the Reformation was an intensely personal struggle of a man needing the love and forgiveness of God. 


Luther was a man who believed the Word of God to be true, not just in a general theoretical sense, but true for His own life.  His came to realize deeply that he did not live up to God’s demands in the law to “love God with all our heart and soul and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (Matthew 22:37-39)  This personal failing haunted Luther.  Try as he might, he knew his efforts at personal good works and religious practice fell short of God’s perfect standard, and Luther was filled with guilt and shame and fear.


For someone who was personally overcome with guilt, Luther’s discovery in Scripture of God’s love and grace and forgiveness was freedom and joy and life to him.  By studying the Bible Luther discovered that righteousness in God’s sight is not earned.  Righteousness is a gift that God accomplished by sending His own Son to die for the sins of all and to rise again, overcoming death and sin.  This gift is not earned, because no one but Jesus can be perfect.  But this gift is freely and lovingly given by God when people believe in and trust Jesus as their Savior from sin and then God forgives our failings for Jesus’ sake. 


Luther’s whole view of his life and his future changed.  He had been someone who knew he deserved death and God’s eternal punishment, and knew he could not escape.  Now, because of God’s grace in Jesus, Luther realized that He still deserved God’s  punishment, but that God instead offered love and forgiveness and heaven.  Look at what God tells us in Romans 5:6-8!  6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


Luther had rediscovered the ultimate truth that God saves sinners in Jesus.  Luther did not need to live in guilt and shame and fear, because even when we have sinned, 8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”.  No wonder Luther spoke the truth of God’s word to the emperor and the pope’s representatives so boldly, even at the risk of his own death.  In spite of Luther’s failings God loved him.  In spite of Luther’s continuing struggle with sin, God saved him.  Luther could now live for God, and his imperfect life, which trusted the perfect love of God, led to the Reformation.


When we were on vacation recently we found that a long-time furniture store had closed and become a “Halloween Store.”  This observance of “All Hallow’s Eve” has surely grown.  But, that was only one store.  Every Christian Church which teaches God’s grace in Jesus becomes a place where God can and does work to radically change the lives of people who are caught in failure and sin, so they can live in the joy and hope and love of God in Jesus. 


I hope to see you this Sunday!


A Child of God, Personally blessed by the grace of God in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  The 2003 movie “Luther” with Joseph Fienes and Peter Ustinov is worth seeing if you get a chance.  I believe it is in our church library.





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.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Who is Your Family?

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Who is your family?  That may seem a strange question, but it is a question worth considering.


You see, Kathy and I have just finished visiting family in FL.  We spent a lot of time with my dad, and we spent a good amount of time with my brothers and my sister and their families.  We worshiped together, ate together, played together (golfing and fishing).  We rejoiced at the baptism of the newest member of our family, Nathan.  After living 5000 miles away from where my birth family lives, it is a joy to get back together and catch up and enjoy God’s blessings together.  I guess that one answer to my question is that Dad, and David, and Martha, and Stephen, and James, and their families are my family, in Florida at least.


In addition Kathy’s brother Pat, and his wife Cindy, and their children Lauren and Michael live in Memphis, TN.  We haven’t been there for a while.  So, that is our Memphis family. I also have cousins and other relatives in New England.  That’s our New England family.


I admit that while in Florida we missed our children and grandchildren in Alaska.  After all, Kathy and I are blessed to be parents of four children, Josh, Andy, Mary and Tim.  We love them and miss them when we are away.  And, we have six wonderful grand children in Alaska.  Often when they see us they come running to hug us and tell us what is happening in their lives.  What a joy to be the recipient of such un-conditional love.  So, Josh and Erin, Andy and Justine, Mary and Tim, and Jacob, Jackson, Emma, Kendall, Henry, and Annabelle are our family, in Alaska at least.


But, while on vacation I confess to missing another family.  I missed my family at St. John.  Some have told us that because so many people have moved to Alaska from other places that your friends and your church become your family.  Think of the time we get to enjoy together.  We spend time receiving the blessings of love and forgiveness from God in worship and Bible Class.  We grow together and enjoy each other’s company.  We laugh and cry together as we share joys and sorrows.  Have you ever thought as your fellow church members as family?  As I sat in worship last Sunday in Gainesville, FL, I realized I longed to be back worshiping at St. John in Palmer.


Actually it is God’s plan that His children live as family.  After all, we all share a Heavenly Father through creation.  And, because Jesus left heaven and became a man to save us, we all share Jesus as our brother through God’s saving work.  Hebrews 2 tells us, “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.”  (Hebrews 2:10-11)  There is a song which says it well, “We are brothers and sisters in Christ.”


Who is your family?  At first you may think of parents and siblings and other extended family.  But, God also expects His children to provide love and compassion, correction and direction, encouragement and support.  We love one another as God has loved us.  I pray that your church family is a blessing to you in this way.


A Child of God, Missing ALL my family in Alaska,

Pastor Jonathan



P.P.S.  Kathy and I are home until April or May.  We hope to attend the graduation of St. John member, Hunter Richards, from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in May.




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, October 10, 2014

Are you Ready for Jesus?

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Many have asked about my moose hunt this year.  Gerry Zellar and I again hunted together where he has hunted for over 30 years, and where I have joined him for the last 22 years.  Every year I use a list to prepare for my hunting trip.  I hope to bring the right clothes, the right food, the right guns and ammunition, knives and game bags.  Some of these items I know to bring because I’ve forgotten them in the past.  But, each year I update my list so I’m prepared for camping in the Alaska fall and prepared for a chance to harvest a moose for my family.


I did not harvest a moose this year, but I saw plenty.  The moose I saw would eat in the meadows and eat and drink in the pond where we hunt.  They often came to my call.  I saw cow moose come in pairs and individually to the pond we hunt.  I called a cow and a calf so close that I had to move from where I was calling.  I even saw a cow followed by a young bull.  But his antlers were bigger than a spike or a fork, yet smaller than 50”.  He had only one brow tine per side.  Therefore, this bull was not legal.  So, we camped, we hunted, we ate and did some exploring.  We read and did devotions together.  We cut a new trail and solved the problems of the world.  But, I never even shot my gun because I never saw a legal moose . . . in camp at least.


You see, while we were driving to camp together, a little south of Cantwell, I looked to my right and saw a bull moose walking down to a small lake.  This was a big bull.  His antlers extended far beyond both sides of his body.  I put my binoculars on him and couldn’t count the brow tines because there were so many.  As we stopped our vehicle the bull walked down to the lake and drank.  He looked up at us and started walking through the water.  He was actually no further away than other moose I have shot. 


But, was the area where we were seeing this moose legal for hunting?  There are areas along the Parks Highway where it has illegal to shoot within a certain distance of the highway.  There are areas where a person is traveling through a park, or through private land, so it is illegal to shoot.  I have always wanted to shoot a trophy moose.  I had my gun and this large bull was in right front of me.  But was this area legal to harvest moose?


We got out our regulations and tried to figure out where we were in game management unit 13A. We searched the regulations for the map that would indicate if this area was legal to hunt.  As we did so this large bull moose walked through the lake and then quietly up into the hills.  I knew the regulations for moose camp and was prepared to hunt there.  But I did not know and was not prepared for seeing a moose outside our little corner of the woods.  So, because I was not prepared I missed my opportunity.  Former ADFG biologist and St. John member, Herman Griese, later speculated that this large bull moose might have wandered out of Denali National Park.


There are plenty of times in Scripture when God calls us to be prepared or ready.  In 1 Peter 3:15 we are called to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  The reason for our hope is Jesus.  Are you prepared to share your hope?


But, perhaps the most common and urgent plea of our Lord is to be ready when He will come again.  “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:44)  It sounds like that moose.  If I had seen this bull in moose camp I would have expected him.  But he came when I didn’t expect it, so I was not prepared.  I could have studied the regulations more.  Better yet, I could have hired a guide whose job it is to know the area and the regulations.  But I didn’t.  If we are unprepared in life, as I was in this instance, what makes us think we will be prepared for Jesus?  That is an important question. 


In all honesty, being prepared for Judgment Day is not something we do on our own.  We all fail God and deserve punishment rather than eternal life.  It is Jesus who cleanses us and prepares us for eternity with God.  But, Jesus is not just our guide who points the way and gives information.  Jesus has taken the punishment we deserve for our sin and risen from the dead.  Having a guide would have helped me in my hunt.  When we believe in Jesus God gives eternal life as a gift. 


I thought I was ready for moose hunting, but I was not as prepared as I thought.  I did not know the regulations and didn’t hire a guide. Are you ready for when Jesus returns?  “Am I trusting the saving love and forgiveness of my Lord?  Am I following Jesus and serving Him?”  It is Jesus alone whose forgiveness and love prepares us for when He will come again.


A Child of God, Thankful that Jesus prepares us, even when we have failed,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are a couple of moose pictures from this year’s hunting trip.





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, October 2, 2014

How do We Use our Permanent Funds?

Dear Fellow Children of God,


The story is told of a new pastor in a Christian church.  The pastor preached about the evil of drunkenness and one lady, a long time member, slapped him on the back on the way out of church as she said.  “Way to go, Pastor!.  That’s just what we needed to hear!”  Then the next Sunday he spoke on the troubles of drugs and the lady thanked him again.  “Good job, Pastor, keep it up!”  The following week the pastor shared with his congregation about the importance of marriage and family, and the lady seemed ecstatic as she greeted the pastor after worship.  However, during worship the following week the pastor preached on Christian finances and tithing.  On the way out of church on this Sunday the elderly lady frowned and shook her head as she saw the pastor.  “Watch what you preach about, Pastor.  You’re getting personal.”


So, even understanding the danger of bringing up the topic of money I will risk asking, “What are you doing with your permanent fund dividend?”  I did notice our Alaska permanent funds were deposited on Thursday.  It was nice to see 2 deposits for $1884.00 in our savings account.   

I will share with you what Kathy and I do.  Perhaps this can help you as you at least think about how to use your Permanent Funds. 


Kathy and I try to treat our permanent funds the way we treat all God’s blessings.  God teaches lessons that help us in using managing our resources.  First, according to God’s Word, everything we have really isn’t ours, it is God’s.  Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  The Lord made the world.  He made me.  Everything we might call our own really belongs to God.


Long time St. John member June Liebing is now in The Pioneer Home.  June was born in Sitka in 1921.  Her family moved to King Lake in Wasilla (named after her dad, Clyde King) in 1932.  But at this time every year June stood up after worship to speak.  June would say, “God made the earth.  The oil is in the earth.  The oil belongs to God.  My permanent fund is a gift from God.  I encourage you to give to the Lord from this gift from God.”  That sounds like Psalm 24 to me!


Someone might ask, “God wants me to live, so how much do I use for God?”  There can be a misunderstanding with this question.  God doesn’t want part of what we have.  Matthew 22:37 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  God wants us to live for him with all that we are and all that we have.   We serve God as we care for our families.  We love God as we live as faithful citizens.  We even serve God in our rest and leisure time.  Then, God also calls His people to give tithes and offerings from the plenty with which He blesses us.  In the Bible these offerings help support a place of worship and honoring God; these offerings support workers; and they support mission work and help for the needy. 


God teaches giving that reflects how we have been blessed (1 Corinthians 16:1), or proportionate offerings.  God also calls for offerings that are from our first fruits and are sacrificial. The proportion most often mentioned in Scripture is the tithe, or 10%.  Actually, in Malachi 3, God calls for tithes and offerings.


However, the most important principle God teaches about giving is that giving to the Lord and His work should be done cheerfully.  After all, if God made the world and has richly blessed us, aren’t we filled with thanks?  But, even more, God gave His Son so we might have life rather than death.  In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we are told, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  Jesus became poor so we might have the riches of heaven.  That is why in the next chapter we are told, “God loves a CHEERFUL giver!” It is a joy to give for the work of the Lord who sent His Son for us!


With this in mind, Kathy and I tithe off our salaries to St. John.  We give 10% to our home congregation, and then we give other offerings.  For example, we give regularly to Christian ministries like Alaska Mission for Christ, Compassion International, St. John Church work students, and Heartreach Crisis Pregnancy Center.  We also give to Lutheran Hour Ministries, world missions, Victory Bible Camp, Soar Ministries, Salvation Army, and others.  In addition, we sometimes give to USO, VFW, March of Dimes, Special Olympics, local sports teams and others.  We use the gifts God gives to serve Him because of whose we are and who we are.


So, when it comes to our Permanent Fund Dividends we do the same thing we do with our salaries.  We donate 10% to our home congregation.  In fact, even though Kathy and I are out of town we already have a check written for $376.80.  How about you?


I’m told a person doesn’t want to visit Walmart or Costco on the day that Permanent Fund Dividends are distributed, because these stores are overrun with customers.  That’s quite a response!  How many Alaskans will return to the Lord who gives us all good things?


A Child of God, Thankful for the Blessings Generosity of my Lord,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Next week I’ll share a story about this year’s moose hunting.




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.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When Eternal life is Sure we are Strengthened to Love

LWML SUNDAY will be Sunday, October 5.  On this day we will celebrate the ministry our Lord has accomplished through the ladies of our church in The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.  The quilts will be out for worship on that day.


PERMANENT FUNDS Soon Alaskans will receive their permanent fund checks again.  For many years members have been asked to consider at least tithing from their permanent funds toward the work of the Lord at St. John. 

Many of you remember Pioneer Alaskan June Liebing standing up in worship and saying, “God made the earth.  The oil is in the earth.  My permanent fund is a gift from God.  I encourage you to give to the Lord from this gift from God.”  (June is now in the Pioneer Home.)

Please consider returning to the Lord as He has blessed you with this permanent fund.  


SPIRITUAL GIFTS CLASS A new class begins on October 19 during the Sunday School hour. This class on spiritual gifts will last 13 sessions and comes from Stephen Ministry.  One unique feature of this class is that it does not just study about spiritual gifts.  This class helps students learn where and how to put their gifts to use.  Please consider attending.


A SUNDAY OF THANKS AND RESPONSE, October 26 – Sunday, October 26 will be “A Sunday of Thanks and Response.” On this day St. John members will consider God’s many blessings in their lives and share their plans to support God’s work in the coming year. 

            After this special worship service there will be a special meal.  This meal of barbeque, beans, slaw, corn bread, and peach cobbler will be served after the late worship service. 

            Plan now to attend worship on this Sunday and enjoy this special meal.

SUNDAY SCHOOL STARTED Sunday September 7.  Plan now for your children or grandchildren to attend Sunday School, or to attend an adult class yourself.

Sunday School opening begins in the sanctuary at 9:45 a.m., after early worship and before late worship.  Classes continue until 10:45 a.m.  The Following classes are offered on Sunday mornings:

·         Wooly Lambs, for children ages 18 months – 3 years.  They meet 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  A parent or adult is asked to attend with the child.


·         Preschool – Cindi Payne is teaching this class for those not yet in kindergarten. 


·         Sunday School Classes – Ages kindergarten through 5th grade.  The classes are separated by ages and children study lessons from the Bible.


·         Middle School and High School Youth Classes -   Middle School has met in the Fellowship Hall, and high school classes have met in the Youth Building.  Rebecca Kopperud is teaching Middle School Classes and the Wernings are teaching High School Classes.


·         Adult Classes -  These classes meet in various locations around the church.  I know it would be a blessing to you and your family if you grew in adult classes while your children were   This Fall the Adult Classes that will be offered include

·         “The Greatest Question Ever”      Linda Griese and Kathy Rockey teach this video based class recommended by Mark Prieksat.  Regular Adult Bible Class attendees, and especially young adults are encouraged to attend.

·         Genesis      Jim Summers teaches this class.

·         There is not a Women’s Bible Class planned at this time.

I pray you and your children growing through worship and Sunday School at St. John at these opportunities on Sunday mornings.





LWML – The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.  This group of ladies meets to grow and serve.  They also support worldwide missions through mites and other efforts.  All women in the community are welcome to attend!!


PROMISE KEEPERS MEN’S BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER GROUP begins on Tuesday night, October 21 at 7:30 p.m.  This group is open to all men of the congregation and provides a time of sharing, support, Bible Study and prayer.

            This year we will start by either study the study “Mormons”  These studies come from Lutheran Hour Ministries.

            All men of the congregation are encouraged to join us for this time of growth and support!


QUILTING  -  Ladies of St. John have gathered for many decades to quilt and then donate these quilts to the needy, especially through Lutheran World Relief.  These ladies gather in the church Fellowship Hall at 9:30 a.m. each Wednesday morning.  Come and join them.


LIFELIGHT BIBLE CLASSES have been held on Wednesday noons for about 21 years.  A group of St. John members and friends meet at noon to study God’s Word and share pot luck lunch.  This year we will start studying the Gospel of Luke.  Class starts on October 22 at noon this year. 


CONFIRMATION CLASSES begins again on Wednesday, October 22, for those in grades 6-8 on Wednesdays beginning at 2:45 p.m.  These classes help our young people grow in Christian faith as young men and women of God.  All those in grades 6-8 are invited to attend.

An important meeting of Confirmation Students and parents will be held after late service Sunday, October 19 to prepare for this year’s classes.   Hopefully all confirmation families will be able to attend.


SENIOR CHOIR has met for many years on Wednesday evenings.  At this time plans are still being made for choir this year.  Talk to Sara Guhl if you have a desire to sing or help.  You can reach Sara at 250-5995.


FRIDAY NIGHT BIBLE CLASS meets at 7:00 in the cry room on Fridays before the first and third Sundays.  This group has met for almost 30 years, and the class is not only a time of studying God’s Word but encouragement and fellowship.  Come and join!


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! 



WE THOUGHT WE WERE SIGNED UP – NOW WE ARE SIGNED UP!  FRED MEYER OPPORTUNITY – There is a new ‘Community Rewards Program’ at Fred Meyer which allows people to designate matching rewards dollars for their purchases.   Many have a rewards card which gives them cash rebates at the end of each quarter.  For those who sign up, Fred Meyer will now not only give the rewards to the individual customer, but also match those rewards to a non-profit of that customer’s choice.  So, you can sign up, not only to receive rebates when you purchase groceries and other supplies, you can also benefit our congregation with your rewards.  Here is the link to begin the process.








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!!