Friday, September 30, 2016

Thankful for Partnership in the Gospel with the Body of Christ

Dear Fellow Children of God,


I am back in town, this time to stay for a long time.  Many of you know I have been doing a lot of traveling.  Among the various destinations visited, I have been to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, a District Board of Directors’ meeting in Boise, a wedding in Albuquerque, and a Circuit Visitors’ meeting in Portland.  In addition, I spent time with Florida family around my New Orleans trip. And I went moose hunting the last week of the season.  Even though most of my travel has been church related I’ve been gone a lot.  When I’m gone I miss worship and classes and other important events.  But I preached in Wednesday worship on September 28, and I expect to be in Palmer for every Wednesday and Sunday service through Wednesday, April 19.  It is GOOD to be home!


However, I am not only thankful to be home.  I am thankful for all the others who serve God and keep God’s Church and the congregation going.  While I was gone worship was led by a seminary graduate, by licensed deacons, and by Elders and other leaders.  Those who led worship the last few months include Hunter Richards, Randy Luffberry, David Grosz, Gerry Zellar, Karl Kopperud, Dave Nufer, and Josh Rockey.  That is an IMPRESSIVE list of committed Christians who take their faith seriously and who accepted the opportunity to serve our Lord and His people, even though leading worship can be somewhat nerve wracking at times.


In addition, our DCE, our Administrative Assistant, our custodians, and our music leaders continued giving of their time and talents to serve God’s people and keep the work of God’s church going.  Elected leaders helped to pay bills, to maintain our facilities, to visit the elderly, and to call on those going through difficult times. 


The pastor is called to shepherd and lead the people of God.  But, even if a pastor would always like to be available in every situation that is not physically possible.  So, God uses all the people of the church to accomplish our Lord’s work so that worship and ministry continue even when the leader is gone. As God caused Paul to write,


“12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  (I Corinthians 12:12-14, 27)


Only Jesus is indispensable.  Only Jesus lived, and died, and rose to save the people of the world.  Without the love, the forgiveness, the salvation, and the presence of Jesus the church is nothing.  Jesus is the source of our life and the reason the church exists.  But, when Jesus works in the church by His Word, through His Sacraments, in the gift of His Spirit, then the people of God are empowered to do the work of God.  This is true for all of us.


Do you see yourself listed above?  I only shared a few names, so you may not find your name there.  But, if you believe in Jesus as your Savior you are part of the body of Christ.  If you help with worship or service in Jesus’ name, then you are named in the list above.


Paul also wrote in the first chapter of the book of Philippians, “3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,”  (Philippians 1:3-5)  I agree with Paul.  I thank my God . . . because of your partnership in the Gospel.”


I am back for a long time and thankful to be home.  But, I’m also thankful for all who help lead and serve in Jesus’ name.  It is good to be part of the body of Christ!


A Child of God, Thankful for fellow, gifted Christians,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  I did not get a moose.  I had a chance at a legal moose, but chose not to take a bad shot.  If you want to know more ask me the story.  However, I did enjoy God’s creation.  Here are some pictures of Denali on the way back from hunting.





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.




Monday, September 19, 2016

Standing Firm In Faith in the Face of Opposition and Attack

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Does it seem to you like our world is going in the wrong direction, fast? 


I confess to being frustrated with the current presidential race.  I heard one commentator say, “People don’t want to vote for one of the candidates, and they are afraid to vote for the other one.”  Politics today seems to be more about character assassination than about issues of justice and community well-being.  This diminishing of the political process in our country discourages me.


Racial tensions are increasing leading to protests, and to riots, and even to the killing of policemen.  How many young men of color have been killed recently?  How many policemen have been ambushed and killed?  Why does the tension seem to be rising?


Drug crime seems to be increasing, especially crime in our area related to heroin.  I recently heard of a non-Alaskan resident who says that the heroin problem we have seems even worse than in the large city where they live permanently in the lower 48.  Individual lives, families, and victims of crime suffer the effects as our society is torn apart by the issues surrounding the illegal drug trade.


Churches and individual Christians are finding it more and more difficult to practice their faith.  Churches are struggling as needs increase, and resources seem to decrease.  Antagonism and disdain for people of faith is increasing in our society against Christians.  Those who study these issue say we live in a “post church era.”  Ask most pastors about the struggles of God’s church.


Does it seem to you like our world is going in the wrong direction, fast?  Does it seem like we might be at war?  The truth is that there is a war going on and this battle is nothing new.  Listen to what God inspired Paul to write in Ephesians 6:12-13.  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  There is a war being fought, and our enemy is the devil and his forces.


So, what can we do when the world around us seems to going in the wrong direction, fast?  How do we fight against such powerful forces of evil?


My plan is to do what God calls us to do in Ephesians 6:13. My plan is to stand in faith in my Lord, trusting in Jesus.  I plan to stand, doing the best a forgiven sinner can do to serve my Lord.  I plan to stand in faith and to help others as I can.  I plan to stand, and to share Jesus’s love with those around me.  My plan is not to give up because of the increasing trials God’s people face.  I plan to stand firm, to continue trusting my Lord and living for Him.


It is not that I am so courageous.  But, I know that our enemy has been defeated by my Lord, Jesus.  Jesus resisted all the attacks of Satan, and lived a life of obedience and love.  Jesus suffered and died to pay for my sins, and the sins of the whole world.  And, Jesus rose, winning victory over sin, and death, and Satan. 


So, I am not surprised by the direction our world is taking.  I’m disappointed and troubled, yes.  But, surprised, no.  God’s people have been facing this same enemy since the beginning of time.  But, since the resurrection of Jesus the defeat of Satan has been accomplished.  We are simply waiting for the final verdict against our enemy on the day of judgment.


Does it seem to you like our world is going in the wrong direction, fast?  If so, what is your plan?  My plan is to stand on the righteous life, the sacrificial death, and the victorious resurrection of my Lord Jesus.  How about you?


A Child of God, Facing the trials of our day, Standing on Jesus’ victory,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  I sent this devotion out early, because I leave on Monday to go moose hunting.






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, September 16, 2016

Growing in the Knowledge of God By the Beauty of Creation in Alaska (and By God's Word)

Dear Fellow Children of God,


What is your favorite season?  One of the web sites I frequent asks me that question from time to time.  When I was a sixth grade student growing up in Massachusetts I was required to write an essay about my favorite season.  At 11 years old my answer was that winter was my favorite time of year.  However, when our family moved to north Florida in 1965 there really was no winter.  The summers were hot, and that was alright.  But, it seemed those summers lasted forever.  So as a child in Florida, Spring, with all the flowering shrubs and trees, became my favorite season.


I think most Alaskans cherish the short, lush summer with long hours of daylight.  And, I do truly enjoy the blessings of summer.  But summer is not my favorite season.  My favorite time of year in Alaska is Fall.  I truly enjoy the crisp autumn mornings and warm days. 


For a person who enjoys fishing, I think the autumn fishing in Alaska is the best.  The lakes are full of hungry trout which have grown fat with the summer supply of bugs.  And, usually the streams have a supply of silver salmon.  There are more coho in the fall than there are chinook in the spring and early summer.  But, as school starts, or hunting begins, the streams become empty except for a few die-hard fishermen.  So, there are more fish to catch and less competition in catching them.  How could it be any better?


Fall is also hunting season when a person can get out in the woods and enjoy God’s creation and the company of friends.  You can’t see the northern lights in the summer because of the long hours of sunlight.  But often the sky flashes colors in the Fall nights.  The show can be especially beautiful when a person is out in the woods, away from the cities and towns, camping during Fall hunting season.


And, Fall is the time for Alaska berries!  When I am hunting and walk along in the woods there are often cranberries to give a burst of liquid to my mouth.  And sometimes blueberries to offer a sweet treat.  Not to mention the raspberries that fill the vines in my garden.


Some may say that in Alaska we do not have the maple trees found in New England and the upper Midwest, nor do we have the brilliant color of these trees.  But, have you ever sat in the Alaskan woods while hunting and watched the sun drop below the horizon?  When the last light hits the yellow on the birch and aspen, these trees can almost give light like a lamp in the forest.  And the Fall undergrowth is full of the reds leaves of cranberries and fireweed plants.  Maybe, like me, you have driven north in the Fall and just let the yellow and red splashes on the mountains take your breath away!


What brings the beauty of the Alaskan Fall to mind is a “show” I saw last week.  On Thursday evening, September 8, I was mowing the lawn and the mountains turned a deep rose color as the alpenglow caused them to glow.  And clouds were hanging above the mountain peaks, as clouds often do, and these clouds displayed various colors and hues of light as well.  It looked like a light show from God!  I couldn’t help but think of the words of Psalm 19, “1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”


I think that in Alaska, with the beauty of nature surrounding us, the words God inspired David to write are especially true.  The skies “declare God’s glory!”  Creation displays and gives knowledge!


God also inspired St. Paul to write something similar in Romans 1.  In Romans 1, verse 20, when talking about ways that people can know about God, Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The splendor and beauty of nature display the qualities of God, our Creator.  We can see His power, His Wisdom, and His glory as we look at creation around us.


But, thankfully, we not only have nature revealing the natural knowledge of God, we also have God’s Word revealing the grace and mercy and love of God.  God’s people have often spoiled our Lord’s creation with our sin which dishonors God and hurts our fellow human beings.  But, the greater glory and wonder of God is that He loved us enough to send His Son.  God the Son Himself, took on human form in the person of Jesus.  In Jesus God pays for our sin and mis-deeds and gives us new and eternal life in heaven by His grace, through faith in Jesus. 


The beauty of God’s creation fills my soul and takes my breath away.  But, the mystery and wonder that our righteous God loves sinners like me enough to suffer, and to die, and to rise for me still surprises my mind and melts my heart.  This ‘revealed’ knowledge of God is found in Scripture.  And, study of God’s Word often starts up again in the Fall when churches get back into the school-year schedule.  The beauty of Creation teaches me regularly about the wonder of my creator.  But, the study of God’s Word fills my heart with His love. 


I pray that God reveals Himself to you this Fall through the beauty of the creation around us.  And, I pray that you take time to study God’s word with others and that He reveals Himself to you this Fall even more through Scripture.  The knowledge of our Creator, our Savior, and our Comforter brings peace, and joy and life!


A Child of God, Growing in the Knowledge of God by the Beauty of Creation Around Me,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here are the pictures of the mountains bathed in alpenglow from Thursday evening, September 8.



P.P.S.  Perhaps Monday, September 12, was the last day of salmon fishing for 2016.  (Though, one can always hope for more.)  Here are a couple of pictures from that fishing trip.







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, September 9, 2016

Praying for my Children to Walk in Faith and Truth

Dear Fellow Children of God,


What do you want for your children?  That’s a loaded question, isn’t it?


Actually, as I prepare to teach Adult Sunday School this week, I have two classes as options for classes for people to choose from.  One class is the training class from the project for my doctoral thesis in relational evangelism.  You may remember the title of my thesis, “Fishing for Men While Fishing With Men.”  (It’s still available in the library at St. John.)  This training class I would teach in Sunday School is entitled, “Sharing Jesus in Recreational Settings.”


However, the other class I am offering to teach is called, “From the Heart of a Pastor.”  This class would allow me to share issues on my heart with those in my class.  (Actually, I would be glad to lead a study of God’s Word in topic suggested by class members as well.)  If the group chooses to study this subject the first class I have prepared to teach is entitled, “What Do You Want for Your Children?”


Actually, my wife has informed me more on this topic than maybe the other way around.  A number of years ago as we were sharing favorite Bible Verses with a group of fellow church workers and spouses, with tears in her eyes, Kathy shared 3 John 4.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  I agree with Kathy!  (Smart husband!)  There is nothing that I desire more in this world than for my children to know the truth, to know Jesus.  There is nothing I desire more than for my children to know Jesus in this life, and to receive the gift of eternal life through faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in heaven.


So, what do you want for your children?  If you want the same thing as I do, for your children to know Jesus and to walk with Jesus, then this Sunday you have an opportunity to work toward your desire.  This Sunday, the first Sunday after Labor Day, Sunday School starts its regular school year schedule.  There are classes for people of all ages.  Yes, there are classes for those as young as new born (though, they probably start really learning at age 18 months) to those who are among the oldest in our congregation.


You see, God has given us His Word to help us to grow in knowledge, to grow in faith, to grow in our relationship with Jesus, to grow in God’s truth.  Many Bible verses include God’s promises that He creates and strengthen faith through His Word.  (See, for example, Psalm 119:11, Proverbs 22:6, Isaiah 55:10-11, John 20:30-31, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, and 1 Peter 1:23.)  So, when children are given the opportunity to learn about God, and given resources to combat the messages from the world around us, through a time of group learning and reflection, then children are being strengthened for faith in Jesus.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.


But, Sunday School is not just for children.  None of us knows everything we need to know about God.  Every adult could and should be learning and growing in faith.  We especially need this growth as our faith in Jesus is tested on a daily basis. 


And, children are like adults.  Sometimes children learn what they are told.  But, more often children learn what they see.  If children see their parents or grandparents teaching a class, or see their parents or grandparents attending a class, then they learn from this example that learning from God’s Word is important for the adults in their lives.  They are more likely to think that learning about Jesus is important for them too.


Perhaps you know that last weekend I was in Albuquerque to perform the wedding ceremony for JC and Rachel Forrester.  JC is a captain in the US Air Force.  But, JC attended Sunday School as a child at St. John.  He also was regular in Confirmation classes, and even served as a Lay Minister.  Kathy and I were both impressed and thankful for the privilege of participating in this ceremony.  JC, whom we have known and loved his whole life, has found a wonderful Christian woman to share his life with.  We are proud of him.  Maybe even for those who are friends of our children the same is true.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.


Don’t forget, Sunday School begins this week for children, AND for Adults.  I pray you take the opportunity to grow in your walk with Jesus.


A Child of God, Praying for My Children to Walk in Faith and Truth,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  One joy I can share is that 3 of our classes this year are being taught by young adults in our congregation.  These three young people grew up at St. John and are now sharing their faith by teaching.  The classes are:

·      James – this class is taught by Hunter Richards in the Northeast Fellowship Hall.

·      High School Class – This class is taught by Mary Rockey in the Portable building in the parking lot.

·      Middle School Class – This class is taught by Taylor Berberich in the church library.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the wedding of JC and Rachel Forrester last weekend in Albuquerque, NM.





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, September 2, 2016

God's Peace For Busy Lives

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Summer is supposed to be a time that our hectic lives slow down.  But, I’ll ask the somewhat sarcastic question I’ve heard others ask me.  “How is that working for you?”  Did summer really slow down?  Or, do your lives seem to be getting busier and busier, even when we are supposed to have down times?


For a number of years, with the encouragement and blessing of our Elders, I have tried to take two days off each week during the summer, instead of the one day off I take during the school year.  But, this year from the end of May through the end of June I managed only 3 days total when I had a whole day off during that five week period.  Does that sound familiar to you too?


During the third week in August we had friends visit who had arranged their trip months ago.  They wanted to go fishing and I actually took people fishing 3 days that week.  Still, when one of our Elders asked me on Sunday about my week, it turned out that I had appointments every evening that week which included various counseling sessions, a wedding, worship, an Elders’ meeting, jail worship, and a funeral.  These activities brought God’s presence and love to others.  But, when I was asked to share my schedule I was surprised at the amount of activity.


There are dangers in being too busy.  For one thing our busy-ness can get in the way of our time with God.  It is for a purpose that God says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by Keeping it holy.”  (Exodus 20:8)  Do you spend time each week in worship?  Do you spend time each day with our Lord in devotion and prayer?  We not only need time with our Lord and fellow believers in worship for our spirits, but our minds and our bodies also need rest.  The Sabbath is part of God’s original rhythm and plan for His people.


Another danger of our busy-ness is that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are the ones accomplishing the good which happens in our lives.  Actually, God can and does use our efforts in His kingdom.  But, when good things happen it is God working, not us.  You know Romans 8:28  “ . . . in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”


So, does it seem to you like our world and our lives are getting busier and busier?  It seems that way to me.  Maybe the growing world population causes need for more activity.  Perhaps our technology and the constant contact with the events of our world brings frenetic lives.  You probably know that many of us are affluent on a level seldom seen in the history of the world.  Our possessions require maintenance and care, and this care requires time and attention. Perhaps our many possessions are causing our busy schedules.  Or, maybe this busy-ness and stress exerts itself in our world as our world drifts further away from God and away from His plan for our lives.


But, our generation is not the only one who was busy.  We are told of Jesus in Mark 6:31, 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.’"  Jesus and His disciples were busy.  And, if you remember, Jesus was often criticized for healing on the Sabbath.  So, if Jesus was busy when He lived in this world, why should we be surprised when we are busy?


I have learned two practices based on what I read in God’s Word that help me deal with busy lives and with stress.  Maybe these habits can help you.  First, we are told to “Remember the Sabbath Day by Keeping it holy.”  So I schedule regular time with my Lord.  It is not just because I am a pastor that I worship regularly.  When we travel and I am not responsible for leading others in worship, Kathy and I still find a place to spend time listening to our Lord and praising Him with fellow children of God.  And, every day I try to start with Bible readings and prayer.  If you read the New Testament you will find that this time in prayer was the practice of Jesus.  I know that I need time with my Lord and Savior for my health.  So, one way I deal with stress is to make sure I spend time with Jesus.  Sometimes this time with Jesus pre-empts some of my other activities, and makes me a little less busy.  That helps.


But, even the best laid plans can fail.  So, I also remember the words of Philippians 4:7. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Even when we plan time for worship and prayer time, our lives are still busy.  Remember Jesus.  But, in Jesus God gives us peace.  We have peace through His presence and His strength and His love for our lives.  We have peace as He forgives our sin.  In the middle of the busy-ness and stress of life, Jesus gives peace.  This peace of Jesus brings balm for my busy soul.  I pray the same for you.


Does the busy-ness of your life bring you stress?  Imagine how our Lord Jesus gives us direction that leads us to schedule time with Him.  Consider how, in our busy and stressful lives, God gives us peace in Jesus that transcends all understanding.  In Jesus God gives peace that guards our hearts and minds.  May God bless you with His presence and His peace.


A Child of God, Seeking Help with my Schedule and Peace in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  This weekend I am in Albuquerque bringing God’s blessings to the wedding of JC Forrester and Rachel Bass.  What a blessing to bring God’s presence and peace to the marriage of this member of our St. John family who is serving us in the Air Force!  Please keep this wedding in prayer.





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.