Friday, January 29, 2016

Tensions for the Pastor Needing Rest

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Kathy and I have returned from two weeks of vacation in Gainesville, Florida.  It was a very good vacation.  It wasn’t necessarily warm, as some might expect.  Florida was in a cool part of winter and often the temperatures there were colder than the temperature in Palmer.  Go figure!  But, during our time in Gainesville we spent time every day with family.  My 88 year old father, my sister and three brothers and their families all live in the Gainesville, Florida area.  In fact, I have calculated that in the last 9 days of vacation, on 8 of those days we ate with or spent significant time with my dad.  And, in addition to family time I golfed and fished, Kathy sewed, and we did not set alarms except on Sundays, it was a very restful vacation.


But, I feel some tension about this vacation, and actually all vacations. 


Our Elders at St. John try to take care of the staff of our congregation.  They want us to be healthy.  At times I have been told to take more time off.  I do know the importance of self care.  Often I have welcomed new pastors to our area with the words of Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”


A “pastor” is called to “shepherd” the people of God.  Actually, that is what the word “pastor” means, “shepherd.”  But, in order to shepherd the church of God which is bought with the very blood of Jesus, a pastor has to be available. 


I am sometimes “scolded” for working while on vacation.  But what happens when God’s people, people about whom I sincerely care, are in need?


So, in just the first week of this vacation I received a call about someone in the hospital.  The next day I got a call about a crisis for a St. John family.  I followed up on that the following day.  I got a call from the office that same week that the man in the hospital had passed away, and the funeral was scheduled while I was out of town.  I was contacted about a concern for some folks in need.  I got a call from someone wanting to know some information about our denomination.


My tension is that I want to be there for God’s flock, for the people I know and care about.  Yet, I also know that, after an exceptionally busy fall, Christmas season, and beginning of the new year, this 62 year old man needed some rest.


How does God’s church deal with this tension of leaders needing to be available, and also needing to take care of themselves, or “Keep watch over themselves” in order to “shepherd the church of God?” 


My thought process has three answers that I would like to share with you as we work together to serve the Lord as pastor and people.


First, I know the need for presence to serve.  I also know the need for time off to refresh.  Jesus often found time away to rest.  ( See Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31-32, and more.)  So, I try to do my work of shepherding God’s people.  I also try my best to care for myself so I can continue serving.  I spend time each day in Bible reading and prayer.  I do take a regular day off.  And, I take time for family and vacation.


Second, we have good people serving God’s people in addition to myself.  Our Administrative Assistant, Judy, and our Director of Christian Education, Jamie, do a wonderful job of serving God’s people all the time.  In addition our 12 Elders and Pastor Eugene Larmi of Lamb of God in Wasilla backed me up during this past vacation in the case of an emergency.  In fact, pastor Larmi conducted the funeral for the gentleman who passed away.  The family was very thankful.


But, third and most importantly, there is only one Good Shepherd of the church of God.  There is only one person who lived a perfect life and shed his blood to save God’s wandering sheep.  That one person is Jesus, the son of Mary, and the Son of God.  Jesus is the real care giver, the ultimate shepherd, the Good Shepherd.  Jesus says,  14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-- and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  (John 10:14-15)   Even when I am present, Jesus is the real care-giver for God’s people.  When I am gone I can trust Jesus to care for His lambs.


I want to be there for as pastor and shepherd for the people of God whom He has entrusted to me.  I also need to take care of myself.  So, I try my best to trust my Lord, even while I vacation.  I do know Jesus and His love is what God’s people really need!


A Child of God, Caring for God’s People, Trusting Him to Care even more,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are a few pictures from our Florida Vacation.





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 regularly 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, January 15, 2016

Family Love?

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Perhaps you know I am on vacation with my wife, Kathy.  Last October we planned to visit my family this January, after the Christmas rush was over.  We are in Florida and have already spent time with my dad, my sister and brother in law, and one of my 3 brothers.  On Sunday our whole family and lots of nieces and other relatives will also gather.  We are fortunate to have a big family where we all enjoy each other’s company.  That is a blessing from God.


One thing that happens in our family is that we also pick on one another.  (I am telling you this for a reason.)  I think we grew up that way.  My grandfather and other older relatives sort of picked on each other as a way to say, “I’m noticing you.  You’re funny.  I love you anyway.”  This behavior has been handed down through the generations.  Lots of families act in this manner.  Maybe yours does too.  Like I said, I tell you this for a reason. 


While on vacation I have also done some fishing and golfing in the 5 days we have been here and I posted a picture of a fish, a crappie I caught in the Santa Fe River.  One of our Facebook friends and  church elder, Donita Odland, commented that it was nice to see a picture of a fish instead of a picture of me napping at the computer.


You see, over the years my children have enjoyed picking on their dad.  Most kids do.  They learned this behavior from their mom, and of course also from me.  Since cell phones and Facebook have become part of our lives, my children have started posting pictures of me napping with the computer in my lap.  It is a little embarrassing.  Perhaps they are saying that I encourage them to work hard, but, “Look at you.  You’re resting.”  Maybe they just like picking on Dad.  But my family has been posting these embarrassing pictures for a number of years.  My wife first posted such picture a over 6 years ago.  My daughter has also posted pictures of me napping.  My son Tim has posted one such picture this past Christmas Day, which he has since taken down.  On a previous family visit to Florida in 2011, even one of my nieces posted a picture of me napping with the computer in my lap.  Do you see a pattern?


So, we were at my sister’s house on Friday.  I had golfed and then eaten and was checking e-mail.  In my e-mails, a lot of people were commenting on the fish picture I put on Facebook.  I guess I fell asleep at the computer again for about 2 or 3 minutes.  But, when I spoke, Kathy said, “You’re back with us again.”  I pointed out it was just a short nod and then replied that I was looking at messages about the fish picture I shared.  I mentioned to Kathy and Martha that in one of those messages Donita had mentioned it was nice to see a fish picture instead of an embarrassing nap picture.  Then, my sister replied, “I’m trying to post one right now.”  Ugh!


This is not a deep theological devotion, I’m on vacation.  But there are a couple of spiritual truths in this story.  First, it is nice to have people care about you and let you know they are watching you, even if they do so by picking on you in a gentle way.  Thanks for caring Rockey family!


Second, all of us have habits and behaviors which are embarrassing.  We all have our short comings and failings.  In fact, in all our lives there are behaviors that rebel against God and hurt others.  We are all sinners. 


When confronted with our embarrassing behaviors, or our weaknesses, or our sins, it does no good to deny or ignore those short comings and failures.  The best thing to do is to admit them.  We are all sinners and confession really is good for the soul. 


Perhaps, we don’t need to do anything about some of our personal peculiarities.  I’m not sure that if I stopped napping at the computer the world would be a better place.  But it is good to admit that we are all fallible.  And, sometimes when we admit our shortcomings, or faults, or sins, we can work on ourselves and grow in our relationship with God and with one another.  We all have room to grow!


There is only one who is perfect, Jesus.  1 John 2:1-2 says, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”


In other words, all of us have faults and we need a Savior.  We have the Savior we need in Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  All of us need to be loved, so God gives us family to (ahem) notice one another.


A Child of God, Thankful for my family,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  I went to Facebook and made an album of some of the “napping at the computer pictures” others had posted.  Here it is.

P.P.S  The last two weeks we had baptisms at St. John.  Here are some pictures from these blessed, life-changing events.


P. P.P.S.  Here is the fish I brought home on Thursday. This does not include a picture of the pole I broke as I tried not to tip over the canoe.  (I was successful in staying dry.)


P. P. P.P.S.  Last week’s devotion included a typo, where one whole line was left off.  Sorry about that. Here is a corrected version.






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 regularly 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, January 8, 2016

"Grandchldren - Teaching us to be Thankful for the Patience of our Heavenly Father"

Dear Fellow Children of God,


This Sunday in worship we will hear God the Father speak to Jesus at His baptism, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."  So, how patient is our Heavenly Father with you?  As you think of patience, please consider a recent experience I had with 3 of my grandchildren.


The Monday before Christmas I had a family ice-fishing trip scheduled.  The only ones who were able to come along were Jake and Emma and Henry.  So, that afternoon we drove out to a local lake and did some fishing.  Actually, the fishing itself was not too bad.  In a few minutes each child had caught a fish.  But one grandpa, or “Poppy” as they call me, and 3 grandchildren was . . . an adventure.


With 3 fish on the ice and I looked over to see where they were.  But I only saw two fish.  The children had been playing with the fish and I asked where the third fish was.  Emma said, “Maybe a bear took the other fish.”  Jake told me, “Do you remember the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ where the fish try to flop back into the water?  Maybe the fish was trying to flop back in.”  Anyway, we never found that third fish, so we caught a few more.


Henry, the four year old, kept walking around with the ice scoop.  I pointed out he shouldn’t step on the poles.  And, when Henry looked straight at me and walked right at the hole in the ice, I encouraged him to walk on the outside of the four holes I had drilled so he would keep dry and warm.  Henry walked right into the middle of the four holes and kept scooping, backing up toward another hole.  Thankfully, Henry never did fall in.  I have experienced wet children before while ice fishing.


Henry then told me he was cold so I helped him crawl back into the truck which I had driven onto the ice.  I started the truck to keep him warm.  But, while he was in the truck Henry was away from the action.  So he opened up the window.  The next thing I knew I heard Henry’s voice calling, “Poppy.  Poppy.”  I answered, “What, Henry?”  “I’m cold, Poppy,” he told me.  I replied, “So, Henry, close the window.” 


Jake and Emma were fishing but, usually when the bobber went down, their eyes were elsewhere.  I tried teaching them how to stand close to the hole and watch the bobber, but it seems they missed most of the bites.  However, they did learn how to kick the chunks of ice the auger had made when we drilled the holes.  Chunk after chunk of ice ended up in the holes where we were trying to fish.  I tried to encourage, or even more directly instruct, them not to kick the ice into the holes.  But my instructions never worked.  O well.


After a while Jake and Emma also climbed into the truck to get warm.  I started picking up the equipment, with the poles still in the water.  Henry opened the window again. Now Henry hollered out, “Poppy, I’m hot.”  But, Emma stuck her head out the window and said, “I’m cold, Poppy.”  So, what does a grandfather do in that situation?


I finished picking up the gear, caught a couple more fish, and we got the children buckled into the car seats.  One car seat is a challenge.  Three car seats take a major effort! 


As we were driving away I heard Henry call out from the back seat, “Poppy!”  “Yes, Henry,” But Henry spoke softly and I couldn’t understand.  He called out two more times times and I couldn’t hear him, so I told him, “Henry, you are in the back seat.  You need to speak a little more loudly so I can understand you.”  Back came the call again, “Poppy!”  I still couldn’t understand him, but Emma interpreted for me.  Henry was saying, “Maybe when we get to your house you can answer my question.”  “Ok, Henry,” I said, “What’s your question?”  “I don’t know,” Henry answered.  How do you answer that question?


We did get to my house.  I cleaned the fish and they drank hot cocoa.  I was worn out when I brought them home and began thinking that this was just a short three hour outing with only three of my six grandchildren.  God is Father to all the people of the earth.  How often do we try the patience of God with our questions, or our lack of faith and understanding?  And God’s patience is not just for a three hour period, it is eternal.  God’s patience is not just with 3 loving grandchildren, but often with billions of wayward people.


In Matthew 7 we are told about the love of our heavenly Father, “7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)  God wants us to ask, to seek, and to knock so He can show us His love.


I’m not sure I am as patient with my grandchildren as I should be, or that I was patient with my children the way I should have been.  But God listens to our every request and always answers in a way that is good for our eternal welfare.  Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your patient love and mercy!


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

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Well, I LOST my Christmas pictures transferring them from my camera to my computer.  But, here are some pictures from our Christmas I borrowed from others.






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 regularly 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.




Sunday, January 3, 2016

Looking For God's Help in the New Year

Dear Fellow Children of God,


What are your plans for the New Year?  Have you made resolutions?  Are there some things about your life you want to improve?  Or, have you made resolutions so many times before, resolutions you tried to accomplish but failed, that you don’t want to try . . . and fail . . . again?


This past week I spent quite a bit of time visiting folks in our local prisons.  On Sunday evening, Karl Kopperud and Sven Maakestad and I led worship at the Palmer Correctional Center outside Sutton.  About 8-10 men attended the worship and we studied the Christmas story for God’s guidance.


Then, on Tuesday I drove out to the Goose Creek Correctional Center at Point McKenzie to visit two young men.  We talked about how they were doing and I let them know they are not forgotten.  However, we also talked about future plans.


You might think that for those in prison the reality of incarceration would take away motivation to plan for the future.  But this past week I again found just the opposite to be true.  On Sunday night as we spent time in Bible Study during the worship service the men were focused on ways to grow in faithfulness as Christians.  The men in worship knew their mistakes and wanted to improve in their walk with God.


But, I was even more impressed this week with the faith of the young men I visited at Point McKenzie.  Both of the young men were focused on building their future, even if their time out of prison was a long way off.  They had plans.  They were working on doing what they could while incarcerated to prepare themselves for the future.  And they were looking forward to new behaviors they needed when they finally did get released back into society.


With both of these young men there were two steps that helped them in their focus.


First, contrary to popular opinion, both men willingly admitted their past transgressions and mistakes.  Many people think that everyone in prison claims to be innocent.  Actually, prison has a way of making people aware of their weakness and faults.  And, both of these young men have admitted their wrongs and the harm done by their past actions.


But secondly, both of these young men knew they needed help to grow, and they are looking to God for the help they need.  They are trusting Him for forgiveness.  They are trusting God for guidance and strength. 


Actually, the reason we make resolutions is because our weaknesses often become problems that we need to fix.  And, the best help we have comes from our Creator and Savior.  The forgiveness of God assures us we are loved, even when we have failed Him and failed ourselves.  The truth of God’s Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit help us to grow as God’s children.


After writing two letters to Christians facing persecution, Peter concludes his instruction with the following encouragement.  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  (2 Peter 3:18)


 In my regular prayers I pray for many who are struggling, people who want better lives.  The best our lives can be is when we admit our struggles and look for God to help us be the people He created us to be. 


After admitted past mistakes, the men I visited in prison this week had it right.  They acknowledged their weakness, and their need for God and His forgiveness and help.  As we begin a new year God has wisdom for us in His Word through Peter.  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.


A Child of God, Trusting God’s Help for the Coming Year,

Pastor Jonathan





P.S.  If you want to help with prison ministry talk to Karl, Sven, Randy Luffberry, or Al Kastar who are regular in helping with prison worship at St. John.  The state requires a class in order to make religious visits.  But, those we visit really appreciate the time given.


P.P.S.  On Christmas Day I took some family pictures, but in transferring the pictures from my camera to my computer . . . I LOST them!!!!  (Agh!!!)  However, I found my pictures in an unexpected file on New Year’s Eve.  Here are some pictures our family Christmas celebration.


P. P.P.S.  Next week’s devotion is already written.  I’ll share a grandfather experience and ask you to think about the patience of our Heavenly Father.




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 regularly 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.