Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Prayer For God's Church

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Before I left on vacation I was in Portland to attend the Convention of the Northwest District of our denomination, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Actually, when I arrived in FL and talked with my family I found that my two younger brothers and my sister had been at the convention of the Florida-Georgia District at the same time that I was in Portland.  So we compared notes and found out that we had discussed some of the same issues on opposite shores of the country. 


I have said in the past that I do not believe that majority votes in conventions are necessarily the best way to make spiritual decisions for the church.  When we believe, as children of God, that God’s Word gives direction and decision, it is somewhat contradictory to make decisions by a vote of 51-49%.  But, in this sinful world there are disagreements.  So, acting in faith and humility and love God’s people sometimes meet to decide important matters.  That is the reason for the events we read about in Acts 15.  So God’s people continue to meet and discuss direction and plans for doing the work of our Lord.


However, sometimes God’s people forget whose work they are doing and to whom the church belongs.  So, please look with me at what God says in the verses below.


·        In Matthew 16:18 b, Jesus responds to the confession of Peter and says, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Jesus tells Peter the church belongs to HIM!


·        In John 21:15 b, Jesus restores Peter after his betrayal, and Jesus gives Peter the following work, "Feed my lambs."  Please notice, the lambs belong to Jesus.


·        In Ephesians 5:23, God tells us, Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”  Jesus is head of the Church, not us.


God is very clear that the church is the body of Jesus.  Jesus is the head.  But, when God’s people become so passionate about their work that they can forget to whom the church belongs, this can lead to divisions rather than unified work for our Lord.  Unfortunately, we have all see such disagreements and divisions in God’s church.


So, I was happy to receive an e-mail prayer recently from Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer.  He is president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and a friend of mine.  (Dale spoke at St. John in 2003.)   Please read below and pray this prayer with me.


“I was asked to offer a closing prayer at the convention of a district in our church. If you're active in your church, you may find this helpful.”


“O Spirit of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have blessed us more than we know and therefore it is in our frailty that we thank You not as we ought but as we are able. Created for life in this beautiful world and this incomprehensible universe, You fill us with the added awe that we are Your redeemed and members of the Body of Christ. "The fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10).”


“As this busy day draws to its close, we have been privileged to be stewards of Your mission to people who are living and dying without the help and hope of their only Savior. We confess with shame those times when the feelings and thoughts that well up within us and those words that slip from unguarded lips reveal the heresy within us that this is our church, our doctrine, our practice. You, O Holy Spirit, keep calling us back to the truth that Jesus is the Head and we are His members. Thank You for the gift, the fleeting gift of daily repentance. Your patience fills us with the fear and love of God that should be the hallmark of all the baptized.”


“As the end draws near, lead us to pray not once but constantly, Dear Savior, abide with us for the day is far spent and the evening is at hand" (Luke 24:29). Give us joy in one another's company this evening. Make us kindly disposed toward everyone, for we are all precious members of the Body and love between us is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). Watch over our loved ones while we are absent from one another. What a mercy from You, our God, that they lovingly tend to hearth and home while we are away. Yes, the end is near, only one heartbeat away. Grant us to close out this day in the salutary fear and love that finds its yea and amen in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Amen. “


Thank you, Dale!  Jesus died to save us and has given us the privilege of serving Him in His Church.  May God use us to share His love.


A Child of God, Seeking to Serve my Savior in HIS Church,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are some pictures from our Fathers’ Day celebration in FL.


P.P.S.  Both the Florida-Georgia District and the Northwest District passed resolutions supporting licensed deacons in the work of God’s Church.


P.P.P.S.  Here is another link to some vacation pictures.




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. . .




Friday, June 19, 2015

Some Scattered Thoughts about God's Changeless Love

Dear Fellow Children of God,


As I write this devotion I am on vacation visiting with my family in Florida.  However, in the process of leaving Kathy and I had a hectic schedule.  We attended our church convention Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Portland, then returned home for the Colony Days picnic on Saturday, and for Sunday morning worship, and then finally left for vacation on Sunday evening.  During this hectic time we spent parts of five days out of six on an airplane.  When I finally got to FL where most of my family lives I was tired, and cranky (I’m sorry), and my mind was a little scattered.  So, speaking with a scattered mind I have multiple thoughts this week instead of just one.


First, I was again impressed by the efforts of all the St. John members who planned the Colony Days Picnic, donated food, carried chairs and food, grilled burgers and hot dogs, served our guests, scooped ice cream, hosted, cleaned up, and generally gave of themselves to serve the Lord at the picnic last Saturday.  When we look at the food served we believe we fed about 1400 people.  But, from the standpoint of pastor of St. John it was a blessing to watch everyone working together!  As our Lord spoke to us through Paul, Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)  THANK YOU to all who served so willingly and faithfully.  The workers heard many offer thanks and your actions shared the love of Jesus.


Last Sunday afternoon, as I prepared to leave for vacation, I worked in my yard and my garden.  While outside I first heard sirens, and then I watched Forest Service planes fly overhead.  Since then all in the Mat Su know about the fire in the Willow area which has burned many acres and cost many their homes.  As I observed from FL two things struck me.  First, to go from a beautiful summer day on Saturday and Sunday to homes burning on Sunday and Monday and beyond, says how quickly life can change.  These events again remind me of how much we need the changeless love of God. (Psalm 46:1-2)  Second, I am amazed and thankful for the sacrificial efforts of those who put their lives on the line to fight fires for the good of others.  This time I know many of those who are fighting the fire.  I am praying for their safety and success and I encourage others to do the same. 


However, my heart goes from thankful admiration to horror and revolt when I see another shooting, this time in a South Carolina church.  I wish I had an answer.  This shooting is the exact opposite of how God calls His people to live.  Jesus said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)  It simply seems to me that the further our culture moves from the Lord who laid down His life for us, the more senseless acts of evil and violence we see.  Even from afar I grieve for the church and the families who lost loved ones to this violence.  How different our Lord is who, instead of taking life, laid down His own life for us!


Finally, I will spend Fathers’ Day this year with my dad for perhaps the first time in 25 years.  My dad is 87 and pretty healthy for someone in His late 80’s, which is a gift to all of us in the Rockey family.  Over the years, my dad has been an example to me and to our whole family of a man of faith and love who trusts the Lord through all of life’s changes and losses.  5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3, 5-6)  What a gift to their children a godly parent is!  Thank you, Dad!!


I pray that these “scattered” thoughts point you to the constant love of God,


A Child of God, Thankful for God’s Unchanging Love,

Pastor Jonathan



P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the Colony Days / 80th Anniversary Parade and Picnic.   Again, THANK YOU to coordinators Diana Christensen, Joe Ahrens, Barb Thomas, and ALL the volunteers!!




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. . .



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thankful for Parents Who Bring Their Children to Worship

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Have you ever made a comment that caused a reaction in the person to whom you were talking so that you got more of a response than you expected?  When I was a child and I started talking, my older relatives would say, “Who pushed your button.”  On Tuesday I “pushed my wife’s button.”  You see, on Tuesday two separate people thanked me for worship last Sunday.  I mentioned those comments to Kathy.  Then she responded with some loving sarcasm.  I was somewhat surprised, but then I was thankful. 


“You ought to come sit with us on Sunday instead of sitting up front all by yourself.  (You see, Kathy sits with 3 of our grown children, and our 6 grandchildren in the back of the church, where hopefully our crowd won’t disturb others too badly.)


“First you get out the gum and give it to the grandchildren.  About 2 minutes later they’re done chewing gum and you give the gum wrappers back to put the gum in, because they’ve been warned not to throw the gum on the ground.


“Then they want gummy snacks.  So you get those out.  They drop them and pick them up and eat them.”


“Then they want to find the page number in the big book.  So you help them find their place in the hymnal.”


“Then they want to go see Poppy (who is leading worship) up front”


“Then we hand out money to put in the offering.  Someone gets a dollar and someone gets 6 pennies.  The person with the six pennies thinks they have more money than the person with the dollar.  The person with 2 quarters decides he will keep one.  When the offering plate gets there they all want to hold it and put their pennies in one by one.”


“Then they want to play with phone and you tell them no.  And they want to write on all the yellow cards in the pew.  They want to know if they can go to the nursery now.”


“Then they drop the lego into the floor vent.  You try to get that out, and even when the vent cover is taken off later, you can’t find it.”


“Then they need to go to the bathroom (even though you made them go to the bathroom before church).  When they come back they need to get a drink of water.”


“Then they want in your lap, then out of your lap.  Then they want to go see Uncle Tim.”


“The people in the other seats think everyone is so cute, but you’re pulling your hair out.  (Charlie Fox used to love to egg the kids on.)”


The people who talked to me on Tuesday mentioned Sunday’s sermon.  Kathy continued, “The sermon, O yeah.  I’m glad they liked it, but when you are taking care of grandkids you don’t get to listen very much.”


Wow!!!  I had forgotten what it is like to have children in worship.  But, if children are not in worship how will they learn the importance of spending time each week with God and His people.  Our parents went through the same thing for us.  However, when it came to bringing our children to worship, because I’m a pastor, Kathy has taken care of that responsibility.  I especially remember one Sunday when, as I was preaching, I saw 4 bare feet sticking up from the pew.  Kathy got to deal with that situation.  I was busy preaching.


Jesus scolded his disciples for sending the children away and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  After all, what our children REALLY need, is Jesus!  And that is what we want for them.


THANK YOU PARENTS!  Thank you for your love and your effort and even for your struggles to bring your little children to Jesus!!


I guess I pushed my wife’s button.  But, the truth is that the single event that most brings joy to Kathy is when all her children worship with her together.  Then she is full of joy and contentment.  And NOW, she gets to worship with all her grandchildren too!  Kathy may have shared her grandmother struggles with me, but in truth she was full of joy on Sunday.  It fills me with joy as well!


From a grateful husband and grandfather, “Thank you, Kathy!”


A Child of God, Thankful for Parents and Grandparents who Bring their Children to Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan




P.P.S.  Please see the information below about our Colony Days Picnic.




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. . .



Friday, June 5, 2015

Resting In Jesus

Dear Fellow Children of God,


My first summer in Alaska a church member made a comment to me as I was greeting people as church recessed.  “I’ll be glad when summer is finally over and we can get back to normal sleeping hours.”  I’m not sure I understood that comment then.  But now I know from experience that Alaskans do have different sunlight hours than people in more southern climes.  So we often have different sleep patterns.  It is not uncommon for me to hear people say, “I’m so tired!”


However, being tired is not necessarily just an Alaska experience.  In our affluent world, with so much to do and so much to occupy our minds, people are often sleep and rest deprived.  We often indulge ourselves rather that follow healthy patterns and priorities. Why do you think there are so many commercials for energy drinks?


We may think that such lack of rest is unique only to modern culture.  But, as I was preparing for worship this Sunday I was struck by the first verse from the Gospel reading.  Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.”  (Mark 3:20)  This experience of being overwhelmed is repeated in a different setting in Mark 6 where we are told in verse 31 “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."  Life can be overwhelming.  We need rest.


“Rest” is an important truth of God taught in Scripture, and rest means more than just sleep.  We could consider many of the Bible verses about rest (for example Exodus 20:8-11, Psalm 127:2, Hebrews 4:1-3).  But, there is a positive point truth about rest we also hear in the Gospel of Mark.  In the second chapter of Mark, after religious leaders had criticized Jesus for walking through the grain fields and eating some of the grain on a Sabbath, Jesus responded in the following way,  27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."


Jesus teaches about Himself.  He is Lord of the Sabbath.  Jesus is Lord and ruler of the whole Law.  But, Jesus also teaches the positive truth that the Sabbath and the rest it brings is a gift!  "The Sabbath was made for man,” Yes, we need rest.  That is how God made us.  We need rest for our bodies.  We need nourishment for our souls and our faith.  So, God gives the Sabbath the day of spiritual rest and nourishment.  You see, we find rest in God. 


We weren’t made for the ultimate purpose of keeping God’s Law.  (Though, we are created to bring praise and glory to the Lord.)  God’s law was created to bless our walk in this world of sin.  "The Sabbath was made for man.”


I practice certain disciplines to find times of rest.  I worship on Sundays (and Wednesdays).  I begin my days in Bible reading and prayer.  And, most Mondays you will find me away from the office and perhaps by some water with a fishing pole, or walking around with a golf stick in my hand.  Still, I know that I struggle to get enough rest.  What happens if the hospital calls on a Monday, or we have VBS on a Monday, or a funeral, or I travel, or . . .?  I do work many long hours.  Perhaps the greatest energy theft in my life is the emotional energy required of being responsible for the people and ministry of a Christian congregation.  But, also in this responsibility, rest is a gift.  God Himself is the one who guides and feeds the His Church.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Knowing that God is in control gives the peace of being able to hand off the responsibility to the one really in charge.


Like the folks of Jesus’ day, people of our time also find themselves ‘weary and burdened.’  So, for weary people God gives rest as a gift.  That rest is found in spending time and trusting in our Lord.  May you find rest in Jesus this Summer.


A Child of God, Resting in God’s Promises,

Pastor Jonathan



P.P.S.  I found rest in time with my daughter last Friday, May 29, on Harvey Kolberg’s boat.





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. . .