Dear Fellow Children of God,
Last Sunday night, April 24, four men from St. John helped lead worship at the Palmer Correctional Center near Sutton. St. John has been leading worship at PCC once a month since October 1991. As we led worship last week we sang and then we had a Bible Study on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And as we moved into confessing our faith with the Apostles’ Creed I asked about the religious background of the 11 or 12 men in attendance at that time. Some of the men came from traditional denominational churches. Some had attended non-denominational churches. One or two had not been regularly worshiping before they entered the prison system. But one man proudly said, when asked his religious background, “Atheist! I had to enter prison to find Jesus.” The other inmates had known this truth, but this man’s confession brought chills to me, and impressed the other three men who had helped lead worship that night. What a wonderful blessing that this man had learned of Jesus through the ministry of many in our local prison.
Just recently I was listening to Christian radio, to the program entitled, “Through The Bible.” There was a testimony shared on the program from a listener in a foreign land who had lost faith because he had to work in a non-Christian environment. This man heard the radio program and, through that program, was brought back to faith in Jesus and to a committed Christian life. In fact, he wrote to the ministry and asked that the radio programs last longer. (I have seldom had people ask for my sermons to be longer. Hah!) The testimony of this man touched my heart! He had made the journey from doubt and unbelief to faith in Jesus.
This Sunday is Alaska Mission for Christ Sunday at St. John. A number of years ago one of the AMC volunteer teams returned to the village where they had led Vacation Bible School the previous year. When one of the volunteers saw a little girl they met the year before they greeted her. Apart from the Vacation Bible School this girl didn’t have much contact with the church or with our loving God. The volunteer asked the girl if she remembered what she had learned from the Bible. The girl remembered the volunteer, and she remembered something else. She told the volunteer, “I don’t know the Bible, but I do know (and she put her index fingers into the form of a cross) that Jesus died for me.” Wow! Someone who had not known about Jesus was learning about His dying, His sacrificial, love, and His resurrection. What a blessing!
In recent years at St. John there are quite a number of people who have gone from telling others they were not believers, or who had been separated from the church for decades, but who now have come to faith. These people have come to a point of sharing their faith in Jesus with others, to the point of attending worship, and even receiving the Lord’s Supper. It is an amazing, humbling, blessing to be part of God’s working in someone’s life to bring them to faith in the love of God through Jesus His Son.
St. Paul writes to young pastor Timothy and reminds him about the reason God called him. Paul reminds Timothy about God and His wishes for the church. Paul again teaches Timothy about, “God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3b – 4) God doesn’t just love those born into faith in Him. God wants all people to know His love in Jesus, to believe, and to live for Him in this world. God wants all to ultimately have everlasting life in heaven.
When we have good news in our lives we often have trouble keeping that good news to ourselves. Instead we want to share it with those we know so they too can rejoice with us. The fact that Jesus knows our rebellion and sin against God, yet Jesus also loves us enough to die for us, is good news beyond comprehension. Jesus’ sacrificial, saving, love is so wonderful that we want to share it with others. And, as Paul taught Timothy, saving all people is God’s will too.
Sometimes people may wonder, we may wonder, “Does God really want all to be saved? All?” I know that I am a sinner. I have not always put God at the head of my life. I have not always been loving to others. So, I take comfort when Scripture says, “God our Savior, 4 . . . wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” That even means God loves me and wants me to be saved. That’s why Jesus came. And if God loves me, yes, He loves everyone, including those in prison, like the man on Sunday night.
May God work through His people and His church to reach others with the saving love of Jesus so they too may “be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
A Child of God, Seeking to Share the Unbelievable Love of Jesus,
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.