Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Year Resolutions for a Child of God

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Have you ever built a new home?  As Kathy and I were talking the other day we were amazed that it has been almost 9 years since we moved out of our previous home, with many older home issues, and moved into the home that Gary Foster built for us.  It is exciting to watch your home grow from the ground up.  Our new home has been a blessing as we have raised our family and entertained guests and family.  We have had little if any problems with this new house.  But we have learned that one of the important steps in building is to start with a solid foundation.  Obviously, our home was built on a solid foundation because it has served us so well.


I ask these questions because we are approaching the New Year.  In many ways people hope to build a new life in the coming year.  Sort of like moving from an older home to a new one, people hope to leave the problems of the past behind and begin a time of life that has more health, more blessings, and hopefully fewer problems.  And, like building a house, building healthy lives as God’s children means building on a solid foundation.


So, as we approach the New Year, on what foundation do we build our lives?  We are told in Ephesians 2:19-20, “you are . . . fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,  20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  Obviously from this verse, the ultimate foundation on which to build our lives is Jesus.  We build our lives on Jesus because this sinful world does bring problems and death, and we need the forgiveness and life that only come through Jesus.


According to Ephesians God builds us on Jesus through the apostles and prophets, through His Word.  So, using Scripture through worship and personal devotions is a way to build our lives as children of God. 


In addition, we build relationships with others when we spend time with someone and when we talk and share with them.  Our relationship with God is also built when we spend time with our Lord through prayer. 


So, as we approach a new year and seek new opportunities and blessings, there are some simple practices we can follow that can build us up.


Are you regular in worship with God’s people?  One person reminded me on Christmas Eve that God’s word tells us, Let us not give up meeting together . . . ” (Hebrews 10:25)  When God’s people gather around the word and sacraments in worship we are pointed to Jesus, and we are built up in Jesus who is the cornerstone of our faith.  We are built up for lives that receive health and blessings in this world of sin and death.  That is why I like another verse that talks about worship even more.  Psalm 122:1 says,I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’"


Since we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, on the Word of God, will you take time for Bible class and a regular devotional life in the coming year?  Regular, personal time in God’s word also helps build our faith in Jesus.


Since we hope to face a new year with the love and blessings of our Lord, will you be regular in your conversations with the Lord?  Will you go to Him in praise and thanks, with your fears and your hopes?  Will you go to Him for yourself and others?  Prayer builds our relationship with Jesus.


Perhaps you are making resolutions for the coming year.  Why not consider these three habits of faith: faithfulness in worship, faithfulness in Bible Study and devotional life, and faithfulness in prayer? These may not sound life changing.  But, these behaviors will build us up on a firm foundation on Christ Jesus.  In Jesus we will know the blessings of God’s love in the coming year, even in the midst of this world’s trials.


I pray your Christmas brought you peace and joy and love through worship and through family time as you again received the gift of God’s love in Jesus.  I pray that in the coming year you may build on this gift of Christ Jesus as God reveals Him in the prophets and apostles, as we find Him in God’s word and through prayer.


New Year’s Blessings, from one child of God to another,

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. . .




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Prayers of the Christmas Carols

Dear Fellow Children of God,


I have 2 Christmas questions for you.  First, what are your favorite sounds of Christmas? 


Do you enjoy the laughter of children?  I think everyone does.  Does the blanketing quiet of a new snow enchant you?  Some connect the jingling of bells with the Christmas season.  Personally, the music of Christmas speaks to my heart and lifts my spirit.  The traditional hymns and carols of Christmas bring good news and great joy in the familiar melodies that share the good will of the season.  Christmas music is my favorite Christmas sound.


Also, do you have a Christmas gift list?  I mentioned recently that our family exchanges lists to help each other with the giving of gifts.  However, when Kathy asked me this year for a list I told her, “I really don’t need anything.  I just want to worship God and be with family.” (Maybe that is a list of sorts.) 


However, on second thought I do have a Christmas list.  This list is really the requests or prayers found in Christmas music and prayed to God.  For example, do you know the ancient plainsong hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”?  The fourth verse is a prayer which asks,


O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight


Yes, Lord, bring joy and life through Jesus, our Dayspring from on high.  I am thinking now of people facing death.  I pray the joy and eternal life of Jesus for them, and for all people.


Do you know the familiar carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”?  The peaceful melody helps us pray the prayer of the fourth and final verse.


            O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

            Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. 

            We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

            O, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!


Yes, Lord, Immanuel, cast out our sin and live in and with each of us.  Make us more like you!


Most people know the children’s cradle song, “Away in a Manger.”  The final verse of this Christmas carol teaches children to pray


Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay

            Close by me forever and love me, I pray.

            Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care

            And take us to heaven to lice with Thee there.

I pray this prayer for my children, even though they are grown.  I pray that Jesus would bless my grandchildren with His tender care and eternal life in heaven.  It is a Christmas request of mine that God would so bless all children with the knowledge of His love in Jesus.


Martin Luther wrote a Christmas song for his children, “From Heaven Above, To Earth I Come.”  This hymn has touched my heart since I was a child.  In the 13th verse of this song we hear the following prayer.


            O dearest Jesus, Holy Child, Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,

            A quiet chamber in my heart, For you to dwell within my heart.


Jesus was born in a manger that first Christmas.  I do pray that my heart is prepared to receive Him this Christmas.


On the first Christmas the Shepherds heard one of the greatest concerts ever, as the angels of heaven praised God, singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)  In a way that concert continues as we sing the praise of God and rejoice in His love through the music of Christmas. 


And, in the words of our Christmas carols and hymns you will find my Christmas list.  My Christmas list is a prayer for the joy, for the eternal life, for the presence of the Christ child in my life, in my children’s and grandchildren’s life, and in the lives of all people.


A Blessed Christmas, from one child of God to another,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  In our 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight worship we will sing and pray the Christmas prayers above as part of our worship.





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. . .



Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Saw God at Work Today

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Christmas is less than 2 weeks away.  As a child I could hardly control my excitement as Christmas day approached.  But, even as adults many continue to look forward to this celebration of the Savior’s birth.  Families gather at Christmas.  Worship is full of good news and joyful music.  We celebrate that in Jesus’ birth God has come to us in the middle of this troubled world, a blessing truly worth celebrating.


But, you don’t have to wait till Christmas to see to see God present in your life.  Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, did come to earth that first Christmas.  But Jesus’ promise is that He is with us “always, to the very end of the age.”  Let me share some events from my week, if not sharing names, to relate how I saw God in action this week in my life and in the lives of His people around me.


I saw reconciliation begin between people who had been separated, and God was in the middle of this reconciliation.


I saw more than one family begin a meal in prayer, and continue boisterously in love.  God was there in the loud laughter and heartfelt prayer.


I saw a man who had been in ICU, but was now home recovering well.  God was present in his recovery in answer to many prayers.


I saw a Christian woman of faith comforting another person who was grieving deeply.  God was there for the comforter, and He was there for the one grieving.


I saw a man who had been near death last week, greet me with a smile and gladly grab my hand.  God was there in mercy.


I saw a large number of God’s people gather around His word and praise Him for His love.  The Spirit of God was moving mightily in that worship service.


I saw the Talkeetna mountains shine brightly with the pink alpenglow of the mid December dusk.  God was displaying His handiwork.


I saw people reach out in love and donate about $2,000.00 to help the homeless in our valley.  God was the source of that love.


The Gospel writer Matthew tells of the coming birth of Jesus and quotes a prophecy from Isaiah to explain what God was doing.  21 She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  23 ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel--which means, God with us.’"


As Christmas arrives it is a joyful blessing to remember God’s coming to us in the birth of Mary’s Son, Jesus.  But, while we celebrate our Lord’s coming at Christmas, the good news from God through Jesus is that God is with us at all times.  He is with us in times of illness, and trial, and heartache.  He is with us in times of love in family situations.  God is with us in His creative care in the world around us.  He is with us in times of worship with fellow children of God. 


Jesus is Immanuel--which means, "God with us."  The birth of Jesus encourages us that God is with us in His guidance, His forgiveness, His love, and His salvation not just at Christmas, but all year long. 


Now, can you think of a time that you saw God acting in your life this past week?



A Child of God, Thankful that Jesus is “Immanuel”, and that God is always with us,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  The Offering at the Wednesday’s Community Advent Service was $1975.44.  This will be given to My House - MatSu.






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, December 6, 2014

"No Room in the Inn"

Dear Fellow Children of God,


The Saturday night after Thanksgiving I was privileged to give the invocation at the candle light vigil in downtown Palmer for MyHouse – MatSu.  Many of you know that MyHouse works to help homeless teens in the Valley.  The figures I have heard say we have around 700 homeless teens in the Mat Su.  That doesn’t include the adults with no place to stay.  While MyHouse helps homeless teens, Family Promise is a ministry that works in the Mat Su to help homeless families get permanent housing.  I’ve heard the stories.  An Alaskan winter night spent in a baseball dugout or a car or a sleeping bag can be very cold!


For the invocation at the vigil I read from the Christmas story.  In Luke 2:6-7 we are told about Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Every year people’s hearts are touched that there was no room for the baby Jesus.  People are moved that Jesus had to be laid in a feed trough for animals.  Couldn’t someone find a place for this family at the urgent time of bringing a new child into the world?  We wonder that someone in Bethlehem did not see their predicament and find a way to house them.


Actually, this humble birth also shows the depth of the love of God for the people of this world.  This baby is the Son of God himself, born as a human through Mary.  This baby is the Creator and Lord of the universe.  But, He is also Jesus.  The name Jesus points to this child as the promised “Savior.”  So, God Himself, the Lord of all, humbled himself to be born human with no place to stay and laid in a manger.  He did this because He loves us and came to earth to save us.  We can begin to understand the depth of this love of God for us, but we can only begin. 


What we deserve from God is punishment for our selfishness, our greed, our rebellion, our hatred, and our pride.  However, God does not give us what we deserve.  Instead of punishment He first gives us love.  Instead of what we deserve, God gives His Son, born in a manger.


Every year millions of hearts are touched again as they hear about the baby who was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn.  They wish they could have been there to provide a place.  But, Jesus calls us to love Him by loving others.  So, if we want to help the baby who had no room in the inn, one of the best ways to do this is to help the homeless in our area, in our time.


As you buy Christmas gifts this year, maybe you can make a donation to MyHouse so a homeless child has help in finding a place to stay.  Maybe you can give a gift to Family Promise so families can find a place to stay this Christmas as they get their lives together.  Or, you might put a nice donation in a Salvation Army kettle.  By serving those without a home we are serving our Lord, Jesus, who was placed . . . in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

A Child of God, Amazed by the Loving Humility of our Lord Jesus,
Pastor Jonathan

P.S.  The Offering at this Wednesday’s Community Advent Service will be given to MyHouse.


P.P. S.  Another Opportunity to help the Homeless - We have a request and an opportunity to possibly help with homeless families this Christmas season.  The Palmer United Protestant Church is hosting Family Promise families, the week of December 7-13.  St. John has agreed to partner with them in helping homeless families.  They have holes in their schedule and need someone to stay overnight at the UP Church with the family or families staying there on Monday night, December 8, and Thursday, or Friday, or Saturday night, December 11, or 12, or 13.  If you can help, please call Judy at St. John and let her know.  Better yet, The UP contact is Barbara Brown and her home phone is 745-7784.




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.





Every year we hold an annual Congregational Meeting to plan our work for our Lord Jesus Christ.  This year our Annual Congregational Meeting will be held with a pot luck meal after late worship on Sunday, December 7.  Among the issues we address at these annual meetings are our budget for the coming year and the election of those to serve in leadership.

Please bring a main dish and side dish to the pot luck.  Please pray for God's blessings as St. John works for Him, please look at the proposed budget, and please plan to attend the Congregational Meeting on December 7.





·       We are in need of someone to help with PLOWING the parking lot.  Please call Judy at church.


·         We need a 4th and 5th grade Sunday School Teacher, and substitute teachers.  Please see Jamie if you can help.


·         Boards will be asking people to serve the Lord at St. John by serving on one of our 11 boards and planning ministry and activities.  Please consider serving if you are asked.


·         The 80th Anniversary Committee is seeking someone to coordinate volunteers for the float at Colony Days parade in June.  Our Theme, “St. John Lutheran – 80 years of sharing God’s love with Palmer, AK.”  See Barb Thomas or Diana Christensen if you can help.




SPECIAL ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS WORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES – St. John provides many special worship services held to help God’s people celebrate God’s love in Jesus and share that love.  Please see the list of special services below.



  • MID WEEK ADVENT WORSHIP SERVICES will be held in December on Wednesdays December 3, and 17.  These services help us to prepare our hearts for the coming of God’s Christmas gift of His Son, our Savior, Jesus.  This year’s services are based on Jesus’ call to be prepared, “Repent and Believe.”  These services will be held at 7:00 p.m. following the Advent Meal.


  • MID WEEK ADVENT MEALS will again be offered.  A sign up sheet will be placed on the table in the Narthex.  These meals become a real time of fellowship for our congregation. 


·         THE COMMUNITY ADVENT SERVICE will be held on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:00 p.m. at St. John  Watch the bulletins for more details.  A meal will be served at 5:30 p.m., and the Worship Service will take place at 7:00 p.m. 

Also, everyone is asked to bring ‘Christmas goodies’ to share after the worship service.  Offerings at this year’s service will go to  a local charity.


·         THE CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PROGRAM will be held in late worship on Sunday, December 14.  Practice for the program is happening during the Sunday School.  Plan now to attend!


·         CHRISTMAS EVE CANDLE-LIGHT WORSHIP will be held again at St. John on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24.  A Children’s Christmas Eve Service will be held at 6:00 p.m.  A Traditional Christmas Carol Candle-light worship will be held at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.  Plan on attending and inviting your friends!


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


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


  • Offering for the Needy - A SPECIAL OFFERING WILL BE TAKEN FOR THE NEEDY AT ST. JOHN after worship on December 7, and 14!  This offering is used to help people in our congregation and in our community during life’s difficult times.


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


  • Christmas Caroling - A Christmas Caroling Outing will be held on December 14,  beginning at 2:00 p.m.  Watch for more announcements.  These caroling events have been times of joy which have brought the Christmas joy of God’s love to people who are housebound.  We have many people to sing for this year.  Come and join us!


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


DEVOTIONS FOR 2014 -  This year I am encouraging everyone to use “Who I Am in Christ" by Neil T Anderson as a devotion to use once a week with other devotional materials you may be using.  The first 3 devotions are “I am Accepted,” “I Am God’s Child,” I Am Christ’s Friend.”  I have found these devotions personally helpful. 

However, 2 years ago I asked people to read The Today’s Light Bible for daily devotions.  This Bible takes two years to complete, but sometimes longer.  Using “Who I am in Christ” will allow folks to continue to finish the Today’s Light Bible, and do devotions with other members of God’s family at St. John.

There is a special unity of faith and mission that happens when a whole congregation of God’s children study His Word together. 


WEDNESDAY WORSHIP continues.  However . . . from November 26 to December 31 Wednesday Worship will change for a time as mentioned above.  Below are our Wednesday worship options starting November 26.

·       November 26 7:00 p.m.                 Thanksgiving Worship

·       December 3, 10, 17, 7:00 p.m.      Mid-Week Advent Worship

·       December 24, 6, 8, and 10 p.m.     Christmas Eve Worship

·       December 31, 7:00 p.m.                 New Year’s Eve Worship

Regular Wednesday worship will continue on Wednesday, January 7 at 6:30 p.m.. 




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!!