Tuesday, April 25, 2017

God's "Plan that Jesus is the Center of our 'DNA'"

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Many of you know that last weekend Kathy and I attended a reunion of my first college, Concordia Lutheran College in Austin, Texas.  I attended what is now Concordia University, Texas, from August 1971 to May 1973.  As reunions go this one went about as expected.  We renewed old acquaintances, told some stories, and reminisced about the past.  It gave both Kathy and me an opportunity to give thanks for God’s blessings in our lives. 


However, because Concordia was and is a Lutheran Christian college we actually spent time at the reunion in worship both Friday and Saturday mornings.  I have been to high school reunions for both Kathy and myself and there was never a worship service included.  But, we both attended public high schools.  Reflecting back on my experience in Austin, I consider myself especially blessed to have learned from professors who were Christians, often trained Lutheran teachers and pastors.  Many of my fellow students who attended school with me were also studying to be church workers.  Most days we spent time in chapel services, seeking and considering God’s direction and purpose in our education and for our lives.


On Saturday morning of the reunion, after worship, former staff and faculty reflected on past blessings and current realities at the college.  The man who taught me Physical Science while I attended Concordia, Professor Ted Zoch, commented on the goals of the faculty which helped make my education a blessing.  He said, “We couldn’t teach you everything you would need to know, so we put it in your DNA to keep looking for Jesus”  In retrospect, I believe my professors were successful, and I am blessed and extremely thankful. 


Actually, those words from Professor Zoch point to a goal that I, and I believe most pastors, have.  I hope to prepare and equip the people of St. John for lives as children of God.  But, “We couldn’t teach you everything you would need to know, so we put it in your DNA to keep looking for Jesus”  As parents, Kathy and I have worked to prepare our children for life, especially for eternal life.  We pray God has used our efforts.  But, I can also say about our parenting, “We couldn’t teach you everything you would need to know, so we put it in your DNA to keep looking for Jesus”


As I read Scripture, I hear God having the same goal for his children.  Listen to what our Lord moved Paul to write in Ephesians 2.  19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  (Ephesians 2:19-20)  God builds up and equips His people on the foundation of Scripture, with Jesus as the center of that equipping.  It is in knowing Jesus that we serve as members of God’s household, that we live as children of God.


Actually, God cares for us past, present, and future as we are built on this foundation of Jesus. God created us each as unique individuals, and He calls us to live as His children in our baptisms.  Unfortunately, we fail and rebel against God’s purpose for us.  But, our Lord loves and forgives us through Jesus who died on the cross to pay for our sins.  And, because of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter God has our eternal life in heaven won for us.  God fills us with the DNA of looking to Jesus, so that we know our life and purpose are found in Him.


For me, it was a moment of clarity to hear Professor Zoch state what my professors had sought to do, to build and equip me and my classmates  for looking to Jesus.  As pastor, as dad, and grandfather, I seek to do the same, because that is God’s plan for us, that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.


A Child of God, Given Life and Purpose in Jesus,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    Here are some pictures at the 70’s reunion with friends and faculty from the 70’s.  https://goo.gl/photos/fXNi5ephC9uKM4c79


P.P.S.  While “Thoughts from the Pastor” is primarily intended for the members and friends of St. John, it has also been printed weekly in our local newspaper, The Frontiersman, for almost 6 years.  The Frontiersman has recently had changes.  In order for this week’s devotion to get in this week’s paper, I will attempt to get these devotions out at the beginning of each week to make a new Wednesday deadline.  So, you are receiving this message a little earlier this week, and hopefully in the future.




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, April 21, 2017

Comforted by Jesus' Love in Thomas' Time of Doubt

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


On April 23, the Sunday after Easter, the traditional assigned Gospel lesson for St. John and many Christian churches is John 20:19-31.  Many know this Scripture lesson as the story of “Doubting Thomas.”  However, the older I get the more I dislike that title for this disciple of Jesus. Yes, Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection. But often this term is used in a way that speaks critically of this man of faith.  There is so much more to this event in Thomas’ life.


As a man of faith myself, who has experienced life for over 60 years, I have learned that most of us have doubts from time to time.  We have questions.  Especially in the middle of times of trouble we wonder where God is in our lives.


Thomas had actually been a man of bold faith among the disciples.  In John 11, before Jesus travels to raise and heal Lazarus, Jesus tells his disciples of Lazarus’ death.  Jesus also lets them know he is going back to Bethany, near Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived.  The other disciples wonder why Jesus would return to this area after the religious leaders of the day had recently tried to kill him.  But Thomas speaks up in courage, and encourages the others to follow Jesus.  "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16)  Thomas trusted Jesus enough to believe Jesus was worth dying for.  Thomas showed real faith and courage!


However, Thomas’ faith was rocked to the core of His being when he saw Jesus arrested, and when he saw Jesus tried unjustly, and when he saw Jesus brutally executed on the cross.  This man, Jesus, whom Thomas followed and trusted to be the Son of God and promised Messiah was dead!  How can God die?  How can we follow a dead man?  No wonder Thomas doubted.  The other disciples doubted too before Jesus appeared alive to them.  Thomas simply was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared and showed them His victory over death and sin and Satan.  So we have the account of Thomas’ famous declaration,  "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."  (John 20:25)


The older I get, and the more trials I have faced, the more I understand this man we call “Doubting Thomas.”  As I live my own life, and as I help others as pastor, I sympathize with this man in his loss.  I have faced trials, and helped others face failure and loss and pain.  Doubt and questions are natural.  But, I also know that doubt today can be the seed of stronger faith tomorrow.  When we go through loss and trouble and doubt, and when we then see the hand of God for our trials, we are strengthened to know God’s love more deeply. 


I am encouraged that Jesus also seemed to understand Thomas and treated him personally and gently.  Thomas had told the other disciples that he could not believe Jesus was alive until he saw Jesus himself.  So, when Jesus appears to the disciples again, this time while Thomas is present, Jesus speaks these words to Thomas.  "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."


Jesus understood Thomas’ hurt and grief.  Jesus heard Thomas doubt.  Jesus cares for this disciple.  So, Jesus appears to Thomas personally and, instead of scolding him, Jesus calls Thomas back to faith.  "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."  (John 20:27)


Please notice that Thomas responded with a declaration of faith that is one we can seek to imitate.  "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)  Thomas not only trusted that Jesus is ruler and creator.  Thomas declares that Jesus is his Lord.  Jesus is His God!


If you face loss and pain and trial, if you fail as you seek to follow Jesus, please know that Jesus cares for you just as He cared for Thomas and loved Him.  That is why Jesus died on the cross, because He loves you in the midst of your struggles.  Don’t be ashamed of your doubt, but turn to God and seek His love.  He is there to help you through the trials you face so that you are even stronger in living for Him the next time you are tested.


Jesus told Thomas, Stop doubting and believe."    What Jesus didn’t say, but did demonstrate in His actions was “Thomas, I am with you, and I love you.”  I pray that seeing Jesus’ love and presence for Thomas, even in his moment of doubt, can give each of us assurance when life stops us in our tracks


A Child of God, Comforted by Jesus’ Love in Thomas’ Time of Doubt,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    We had a blessed Holy Week at St. John.  Here are some pictures of Holy Week Activities



  • Some of our Easter Musicians. https://goo.gl/photos/WLF9FkYm3pWNMzvC7


P.P.S. I did go fishing Monday. This was probably my last ice fishing outing of this season.  Here are some pictures from a fishing trip on April 17 with Kym Miller. 




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, April 14, 2017

Living in Jesus' Easter Victory

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


If you read the news these days there are stories of a giant bomb being dropped on Afghanistan, and missles hitting Syia, and threats from North Korea against the United States and others.  Jesus said that to the end there would be wars and rumors of wars.  But the tensions seem to be ramping up.


If you read the news in Alaska, the legislature is talking about cutting teaching positions, and possibly getting rid of the Pioneer Homes, doing away with the Permanent Fund, and adding an income tax.  I know oil prices are down and times are tough, but these changes still could lead to real hardships for Alaskans.


On our prayer list at St. John we have been praying for member, David Grosz.  (Please, David asks everyone to pray.)  I think you know doctors have discovered an aggressive lymphoma and David is in the hospital for chemo-therapy.  At the same time members of the church in Funny River asked us to pray for a very ill baby, Arabella.  But, Arabella died in surgery.  Maybe you have other serious concerns for the prayers of God’s people.


All these troubles in our lives can seem overwhelming, but . . . JESUS ROSE ON EASTER!!!


God speaks to all Christians facing trials through Paul’s words in Romans 8. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Because Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the world, and because He rose again victorious over sin and death, NOTHING can separate us from God’s love . . . “that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 


I may personally feel overwhelmed by the trials in this world.  But, because Jesus rose, the writer to the Hebrews could encourage Christians of all ages with God’s love, saying.  5 . . . God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"


Jesus resurrection victory is REAL.  Jesus’ rising guarantees eternal life for those who live in God’s love.  And, Jesus’ rising from the dead blesses our lives in this world, even in the middle of life’s troubles and tragedies.


The angels of God appeared at Christmas and sang to the shepherds.  But, on Easter Sunday we hear the angels at Jesus’ empty tomb tell the disciples, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  6 He is not here; he has risen!”  (Luke 24:5 b – 6 a)


Easter is not just a nice story from 2000 years ago.  The truth of Jesus’ righteous life, His sacrificial death, and His victorious resurrection have impact on our lives today.  We can face bombings, and illness, and budget cuts, and whatever trial or tragedy life brings because of Jesus’ victory!


Christians have shouted a proclamation of Jesus’ Easter rising for ages.  “He is risen!”  “He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!!”  May God’s Easter victory bless your life to know real victory over the trials and sin of this life.


A Child of God, Living in Jesus’ Easter Victory,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    Confirmation Day was a real blessing last Sunday.  Here are some pictures from Confirmation Day.  https://goo.gl/photos/CXSeps8UZ9VP9dv36


P.P.S. I did go fishing Monday.  We still have about 40” of ice where I fished, just not quite as hard as a month ago.  The lake where I fished has probably lost 10‘ or more of water, so the fish are all in one place!! In an hour of fishing I caught about 20-25 fish, and kept the bigger ones.  Here are a couple of 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 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.




Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Holy Week - Celebrating the Eternal Gifts of God's Saving Love!"

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


During the past month or so our family has celebrated the birthdays of 2 grandsons, a granddaughter, and, oh yes, my wife, Kathy.  With all those important days coming so close together it led me to the question, “What is the most important day in my life / in our lives?”  In addition to birthdays, you might also consider graduations or wedding anniversaries, or other special occasions.  So, “what is the most important day in your life?”


The Scripture reading for my devotions on Friday, April 7, came from Deuteronomy 5, as Moses speaks to the children of Israel before they enter The Promised Land.  As you consider what the most important day or time in your life might be, consider Moses’ somewhat surprising words in Deurteronomy 5:1-4.  1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.”


What Moses told the Israelites seems strange.  Actually, at Mt. Horeb, or Sinai, in the book of Exodus, God is speaking to the parents of these people in the book of Deuteronomy.  These were not the same people.  But, God is telling them that the Exodus experience has permanent blessings for the people of God.  It is not just the people who came out of Egypt who were blessed.  ALL God’s people received blessings through the Exodus event.  So, God’s words at Horeb, or Sinai, spoke to ALL His children.


Let’s ask that opening question again. “What is the most important day in your life?”  This week we have the privilege of observing Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, including observance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, somberly remembering the death of Jesus on Good Friday, and finally joyfully climaxing with Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.  These events were not just for the disciples.  I believe Scripture tells us that what we will observe and experience as we celebrate Holy Week is the most important event of all time, and the most important even in our lives. 


Some may think of the observance of Holy Week is just another holiday.  But, the historic events which we celebrate during Holy Week are the center of human history!  Listen to God speak through St. Paul.  3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)


You see, what Jesus accomplished during this last week of His life gives eternal blessings to all who receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  Our selfishness and sin separate us from God and we deserve punishment.  But, Jesus’ death pays the price for our sin and offers us forgiveness and the righteousness of Jesus.  Our pride, and rebellion, and sin lead to death for everyone.  But the resurrection of Jesus defeats death and guarantees eternal life for all believers.  The events of Calvary, where Jesus died, and the empty tomb, where He rose, are the most important event in my life and in yours, even if we weren’t physically there.


What do you do on your birthday?  I expect you recognize your birthday or celebrate it in some way.  Perhaps you celebrate with a party, or a cake, or just by receiving a card.  So, if Holy Week is the most important event in our lives, how do you plan to observe this gift of God which gives eternal life?


A Child of God, Celebrating the Eternal Gift of God’s Saving Love This Holy Week,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    Please see a list of worship and celebration opportunities for this Holy Week at St. John below


P.P.S. Here are some pictures of the celebration last Sunday as Jamie received her “Lux Christi Award.” https://goo.gl/photos/Jw3g6A5TFReWrp1h9


Also, Here is the slide show, showing pictures of Jamie, which was shown after worship and during the reception last week.  https://goo.gl/photos/7Z1WQoUAU7Uiym4F9


P.P.P.S.  Here is an interesting story about St. John member and elder, John Lee.