Friday, March 25, 2016

"The End of Terror and Fear - Living in Jesus' Easter Victory"

Dear Fellow Children of God,


We saw the opposite of God’s Easter victory at work in our world this past week.  ISIS terrorists bombed the airport and metro station in Belgium killing 31 and wounding 270.  The very word “terrorist” points to fear, or terror.  Fear is what we experience when the evil of life is stronger than we are.  Fear and terror are what we experience when there is no answer to the trouble and destruction and death we face in this world.


But, this week Christians celebrate the end of fear and the destruction and terror.  Jesus died for the sins of all people and He rose from the dead.  In His rising Jesus has defeated sin and Satan and death.  For those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection victory we have the presence of God’s conquering love in this life.  For those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection victory God gives eternal life, not in this troubled world, but in heaven where there is no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. (Revelation 21:4)   Listen to what God says to us about Jesus’ victory over sin and death and what God’s victory means to our lives.


·         Isaiah 25:7-8 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.


·         Luke 24:5b-6  5 . . . "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen!


·         John 14: 19 b Because I live, you also will live.


·         Hebrews 13:6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"


·         Revelation 1: 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.


·         Revelation 21: 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."


Do you hear the difference that Jesus’ rising from the dead makes?  When Jesus rose from death to life this was the most important event in the history of the universe.  In Jesus’ resurrection God defeated Satan, good conquered evil, love conquered sin, and life conquers death.  And, because Jesus has risen and gives eternal life in heaven to all who believe in Him, we have nothing to fear.  There is nothing in this world that overcomes His victory.  We can face the terror, the disappointments, the failures, the betrayals, and the illnesses of this world knowing that Jesus has risen and is victorious.  So we live in faith and love.


ISIS can threaten injury and even death.  That threat can bring momentary fear.  Life can cause fear because in our weakness there are problems and enemies we cannot defeat.  But Christ has risen.  He has overcome sin and death, and all who know Jesus’ resurrection live in this victory.


I pray the victory of Jesus’ resurrection for YOUR life.


A Child of God, Living in the Power of Jesus’ Rising from the Dead,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Please note the opportunities below to continue to observe and celebrate Jesus’ death for our sin and Jesus’ rising to give us life.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from last Sunday’s Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing.


P. P.P.S.  Thank you to Hunter Richards for filling in for me on Thursday as I work to recover from the flu!  Here are some pictures from this year’s Passover Meal.

It is WONDERFUL to have a faithful helper who is so effective at sharing God’s love. Thanks again, Hunter!




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.





·         GOOD FRIDAY WORSHIP will again be presented by the youth of St. John, THIS Friday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m.  Plan to attend worship on Good Friday and remember the sacrifice of love from our Lord Jesus!


·         EASTER FESTIVAL AND EGG HUNT – There is an Easter Festival and Easter Egg hunt planned THIS Saturday, March 26, beginning at 10 a.m. at church.  The Easter Egg Hunt begins at noon.  This is always a favorite with the families.  Plan to attend.


·         EASTER WORSHIP Our Easter Sunday Schedule is different than a regular Sunday Schedule.  On Easter Sunday, March 27 (this year), our schedule is as follows:

·                     Easter Sunrise Service is held at 7:00 a.m.

·                     An Easter Breakfast is offered from 8:00 – 10:30 a.m.

·                     There is no Sunday School on this day.

·                     There are Easter Celebration worship services at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.

Come and celebrate Jesus’ victorious rising from the dead!


·         EASTER BREAKFAST – Easter Breakfast is held on Easter Sunday, March 27, from 8:00 – 10:30 a.m.  Men, please feel free to join us in cooking and serving.  Others are requested and welcome to donate hot cross buns or cinnamon rolls.


·         EASTER LILIES – If you would like to donate Easter Lilies for Easter Worship please bring them to St. John by Good Friday




APRIL 3 - CONFIRMATION DAY – Confirmation Day 2016 is held on Sunday, April 3.  This year 10 young people will share their faith with the congregation in late worship as they are confirmed.  Those being confirmed include Lauren Bang, Jade Ellis, Hannah Grosz, Anna Maxwell, Emily McNiven, William Nichols, Gracie Payne, James Stanley, and Luke Theisen .  Please keep these young people in prayer as they seek to live as God’s children in a world that fights against faith in Jesus.


FAMILY PROMISE - Family Promise will possibly have families at St. John for help in a time of homelessness beginning Sunday night, April 3 through Sunday noon, April 10.  Opportunities to serve and volunteer are available.  Kirsten Nelson will be calling those who previously volunteered.  However, she says, “If there is anyone that wants to help, but hasn't previously given me their contact information, they could call me at 414-1688.”


A Basic Teachings of the Bible / New Member Class started on March 6 in the Pastor’s Office during the Sunday School Hour beginning at 9:45 a.m.  If you want to refresh your knowledge of Scripture, or consider for the first time what God teaches, please feel welcome to attend.  In addition, if someone wants to join St. John you could do so by attending this class.








Dr. Tamara McCoy, pianist and mezzo soprano, and classical guitarist Valerie Hartzell, will perform in a concert of instrumental and vocal music to delight the senses, on Tuesday, April 12 at 6:00 p.m. at St. John.

Ms. Hartzell will present Libra Sonatine by Roland Dyens for guitar.

After a short lecture on the first programmatic piano concerto, 'Totentanz' by Franz Liszt, Dr. McCoy will create a multi-sensory experience by performing the solo transcription of Totentanz while displaying the artwork upon which this piece is based. Duo Amici will collaborate on works by de Falla, Carulli, and Boccherini.

(Dr. McCoy is the granddaughter of long time valley residents, Sig and Carol Restad.)



ACOLYTE TRAINING COURSE – An acolyte training class will offered on Saturday, April 16, at 11:00 a.m.  If a young person, grade 2 and older, would like to help light candles and serve in worship, plan to attend this class.  After class we will visit our local McDonalds.



            Pastor Todd Roeske and Pastor Jonathan Rockey will teach a 2 day continuing education course at St. John for Alaska Licensed deacons, entitled, “Pictures of the Gospel.”  This will be offered on Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30.  Watch for more information.


CHURCH NURSERY OFFERED AGAIN! – The St. John nursery is again being offered,  staffed by Cathy Grosz from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each Sunday.  This provides nursery service during Sunday School and late worship.

        The nursery will be available for children ages 1-4 (up to age 5). 

        While Cathy is the permanent person, we are also looking for volunteers to help staff the nursery.  We will keep nursery numbers safe, so the more volunteers the more children can be cared for. Cathy will have a sign-up sheet available.  

       If you want to donate to support the nursery, please do so.  But the nursery is funded for the foreseeable future. 


UAA DENTAL HYGIENE CLINIC – Chiemi Karino has been a member of St. John for quite a number of years.  She is currently finishing school at UAA to be a Dental Hygienist.

            Chiemi says their clinic at UAA needs patients.  The clinic does cleanings, exams, Fluoride, X-rays, and Sealants.  While there is a cost, the price is greatly reduced over a regular dentist, because this clinic gives students an opportunity to practice their trade.

            If you are interested in dental hygiene at a reduced cost, and in helping students, Chiemi asks that you call the UAA Dental Hygiene Clinic at 786-6960.

            Chiemi says, Please call!



DID YOU KNOW THAT ST. JOHN HAS A FACEBOOK PAGE?  Go to  and click to be a “friend.”






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:



Friday, March 18, 2016

Finding Love and Life in the Cross of Jesus

Dear Fellow Children of God,


In the 1990’s a window of opportunity opened for our congregation and others to do mission work in Russia, across from Nome.  Primarily we worked in the small coastal city of Provideniya.  We found that the people of Russia had not only endured years of religious repression, but their technology had also not kept pace with those in the west, at least not in Far East Russia, “the ends of the earth.”  During the time period that we were traveling and working in Provideniya the mayor of that city tragically lost a child who died from pneumonia.  We were later told that there was no penicillin available in the city, nor any other modern drug, that could be used to fight the disease in this young person.  How valuable might such medicine have been for the mayor, and for the other citizens facing the rigors of arctic living!


We got a glimpse of how the mayor’s heart was changed later.  We had started bringing in medical equipment and supplies when we traveled because of the need.  Local medical personnel in the Mat-Su and Anchorage had made many donations.  So, on one trip we were entering Provideniya through the airport and were carrying medical supplies to donate.  However, getting through customs in Russia was always an adventure.  This time we were being held up in the airport because the customs guards were demanding that we pay a tax for the value of the medical supplies we were donating. We were flabbergasted!  We wanted to donate valuable supplies, but we were being asked to pay for the privilege of giving these life giving goods away. 


Our leaders contacted the mayor, and we then quickly made it through customs.  He had ordered the officials to let us through, with the supplies.  He knew the value of those supplies to his people far surpassed any tax that might be collected.  These supplies meant life.


I tell this story for a number of reasons.  First, there is only one cure for the ravage of sin in our lives and in the world.  God is holy and requires holy lives from all people.  And, there is a price to pay for sin.  The debt we owe for sinful, rebellious, disobedient lives is judgment and death.  But, our judgment does not give us life.  It only brings death.


So, guess who paid the price so we could be holy in God’s eyes.  God paid in His Son, Jesus!  When our St. John volunteers were working to bring life giving supplies into Russia, we ultimately did not have to pay in order to bring in the medicines that would take away illness and save lives.  But God did pay the price to take away our sin!  Jesus Himself lived a holy life of obedience and love.  Jesus Himself took our sins on Himself and satisfied the demands of God’s law.  Jesus died a painful, torturous death on a cross so our sin might be taken away and we might live in this amazing love of God.  Consider these selected verses from 2 Corinthians 5.


15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. . . . 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! . . . 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


In a world where people primarily focus on acquiring and getting and taking for themselves, this sacrificial, giving love of God does not seem to make sense.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  But the cross of Jesus, the death of the Son of God to pay for sins that we cannot pay for, this is the only way to receive the forgiveness and eternal love that God wants to give us in heaven.  And, the cross of Jesus is the only way to receive the forgiveness and eternal love that God wants to give us that God wants to give us in this life.


This coming week is Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday this Sunday, March 20, extending through the celebrations of Jesus’ last Supper on Thursday, the observance of Jesus’ sin-forgiving death on Friday, and ending with the Easter celebration of Jesus’ rising on Sunday on March 27.  The center of this history changing week is the incomprehensible love of God shown in the death of Jesus on the cross! 


In my devotions this week I read a short piece from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), in his “Lectures to My Students”.  Spurgeon wrote, “More and more I am jealous lest any view upon prophecy, church government, politics, or even systematic theology should withdraw one of us from glorifying in the cross of Christ.”


Or, maybe Paul said it even better in Galatians 6: 14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”


Indeed, may the power and love of God shown through the cross of Jesus bless you with love and forgiveness, and life!


A Child of God, Finding the Meaning of Life in the Cross of Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Please look at the announcements below and consider all the opportunities for growth and service in the coming weeks.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from fishing on Monday with Sven Maakestad, Rod and Aaron Christiansen, and Leif Neslund.  We will go to this lake on Sunday, March 20, for our Shane Woods Ice Fishing outing.

and another

and another

One more

The final picture from March 14





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, March 11, 2016

Witnessing to Jesus in a World Antagonistic to His Church

Dear Fellow Children of God,


This Friday in a mentoring meeting with Pastor Eugene Larmi, his professor asked us to discuss the question of how to reach people in today’s world with the good news of Jesus.  Pastor Larmi is taking a course at seminary on the Reformation.  This question was meant to help us consider the difference in relating to today’s world compared to the world in the time of Martin Luther.  So, how do Christians share the good news of Jesus with the world around them today? 


How do Christians share the good news of Jesus with the world around them today?  Our Promise Keepers men’s group grappled with the same basic question a couple of weeks ago.  As we work through the study, “Lost Books?”, and consider how Scripture was formed under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, we are looking at other influences on the early church which offered false pictures of Jesus.  So, as we considered these outside, unreliable influences on the early church we came across the following question in our study.  “Today various philosophies from our own culture are profoundly impacting many congregations and individual Christians as well.  Discuss the effects our culture’s views on political correctness, tolerance, abortion, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, etc., are having on Christian congregations and individuals.” 


That’s quite a loaded question!  What I will tell you is that the question I shared was supposed to be a discussion starter into a longer study that evening.  Instead, the men in our group got caught up in discussing that one question and never got any further.  Hmmm.


However, God does give much guidance on how to witness to the saving life of Jesus in a world that is ignoring Him or rejecting Him.  Drawing on this guidance from God, the next week we discussed the following 3 principles from Scripture.  I encourage you to consider what God says to His church as we witness.


First, if the world around us rejects the Lord and His Scriptures, we cannot expect them to have the same values. Nor can the Christian Church hold those who don’t believe in God to the same standard that we expect from Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5 God guided Paul to deal with a sinful situation in the church in Corinth.  But, the church deals differently with those outside the church than they do with those inside the church.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  13 God will judge those outside. . . Christians are often seen to be arrogant and judgmental by those outside God’s church.  If someone does not believe in God, we cannot expect them to follow God’s teaching.  No wonder people around us can refuse to listen to God’s teaching when His people act in judgmental ways.


However, God is the Creator of the world and there are natural laws that operate in the world which display God’s creative power and authority.  In our men’s class we also considered Proverbs 14: 34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  There are natural results and consequences to behaviors of righteousness and to behaviors of sinful rebellion.  Even if people do not believe in God’s direction through His law, nor believe in His love through Jesus, God’s ways are still the reality of our created world.  There is still punishment for sin.  God still saves by grace through faith in Jesus.  But, we are not the ones who exact judgment, nor the ones who save.  God does, and God will accomplish His righteous purposes in this world.


Finally, the best witness from a Christian is not judgmental words, but a life of faith and obedience.  In our men’s group we read 1 Peter 2:11-12 and God spoke to us in these words.  11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”  God’s people do have a responsibility to witness.  The greatest witness is found in our lives even more than in our words.  When we believe that God the Father sent His own Son, and when we believe that Jesus died and rose for us, then God changes our hearts so we want to serve Him.


The world around us is complex and becoming more complex all the time.  But there is a simple truth; actions speak louder than words.  When God’s people act in faith, in obedience, and in love, their actions give an opportunity to witness to others concerning the truth about God’s love for us in Jesus.


A Child of God, Seeking to Witness about Jesus in an Effective Way,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Please look at the announcements below and consider all the opportunities for growth and service in the coming weeks.





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, March 4, 2016

Praying for our Country

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Perhaps you know the old saying, “We don’t talk about religion and politics.” That common sentiment is understandable because opinions on faith and politics can be so passionate and conflicting.  Yet, there are appropriate times to speak, both about the Creator, Savior, and Lord of all, and to speak about human decisions that govern the way that people live.


So, maybe you have been watching the debates from the presidential candidates.  I personally have watched one of the debates, and have read opinions about the outcome of these debates.  News of the presidential race for our country has dominated the national news.


And, I’ve had many people ask me questions about the political issues of our day.  The man I still look to as my pastor after 50 years asked me on the phone last week, “Johnny, what are we going to do about our country?”  He was frustrated and apprehensive because of what he was seeing as a direction for our nation.


Another close friend from Idaho shared his frustrations recently.  And, in our men’s Promise Keepers Bible study we seldom get away on a Tuesday night without having expressed some opinions and frustrations about the direction of our world.


“What ARE we going to do?”  I believe God gives wise and sound direction in Scripture which His children should remember and follow.


First, my trust is not in earthly leaders.  My trust is in God.  In Psalm 20:7 we are told, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  I have learned that all people have weaknesses and failings, even our leaders.  As a Christian pastor I do not endorse any specific candidates.  I point people to the word of God and His direction for life, and I encourage them to find the leader who might do the best job of leading our people toward God’s justice and righteousness.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions as an American citizen.  But, my ultimate leader and king is God.  No other leader measures up to His standards.


Nonetheless, we have responsibilities to follow what our governing authorities direct . . . most of the time.  Through Paul, God directs the church in Rome, during the time of Emperor, Nero, with the following words.   “1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”  (Romans 13:1-2)  There are no perfect parents, no perfect children, and there are no perfect authorities.  But, in this sinful and fallen world God establishes government to provide order for our lives together.  When anarchy breaks out everyone suffers.  So, as a rule, we submit to those who govern, because God established government.


However, when our authorities either require a Christian to do what is contrary to God’s law, or when government forbids Christians from doing what God’s law demands, in those cases we are called to a different standard.  When commanded by the Jewish authorities to discontinue preaching about Jesus, the Lord’s disciples declared, "We must obey God rather than men!”  This standard still applies today for children of God. 


But, for me the most practical and important direction from God concerning authorities comes from 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  It is VITAL that we pray for our leaders.  They need God’s help!!  And God DOES answer prayer. 


So, in answer to my pastor’s question, “Johnny, what are we going to do about our country?” I replied, “Well, first of all, I’m going to pray.”  I have been praying for our current leaders.  I have been praying for the election process.  I have been praying for our state and local leaders.  All our leaders have to make decisions where both sides of the coin bring difficulties.  I want God guiding those difficult decisions if they will listen. 


And ultimately, I am going to trust and follow the Lord of the universe.  When earthly leaders make decisions that disappoint me, I know that God is good.  And, I know that when I have failed and sinned, my Lord acted in mercy and sacrificial love to save me through Jesus.  I trust His decisions and His Lordship in my life.


A Child of God, Praying for our Country,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are some pictures from the 8th Grade Confirmation trip to help at the Palmer Food Bank on March 2.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the Lenten Meal on February 24.


P.P.P.S. Here is a picture of the view from the Lodge where the Marriage Retreat was held.


P.P.P.P.S.  (Whew!)  Here are some pictures from fishing on Monday.





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.