Thursday, August 31, 2017

Seeking God's Grounding in our Rapidly Changing World

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Our nation observes Labor Day this weekend.  Public school is in full swing.  The Alaska State Fair will soon be over for another year.  So, many folks settle in to the school year schedule that seems to be the closest to “normal” the we experience each year.


But, what is a normal schedule?  Especially in our hype-fast changing world what is normal?  Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer is President of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, my alma mater – 2 times.  In a recent devotion Dale quoted Thomas Friedman from a recent book, “Thank You for  Being Late.”  On this 10th anniversary of the I-Phone, which made its debut in 2007, Friendman wrote about 2004.


“Facebook didn’t even exist yet, Twitter was still a sound, the cloud was still in the sky, 4G was a parking space, “applications” were what you sent to college. LinkedIn was barely known and most people thought it was a prison, Big Data was a good name for a rap star, and Skype, for most people, was a typographical error. All of those technologies blossomed…around 2007” (page 25).


Friedman continue to talk about change. 


“The rate of technological change is now accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes. Many of us can’t keep pace anymore. ‘And that is causing us cultural angst,’ said (Eric) Teller.” (Friedman, 31).


Meyer suggests this rapid change “helps explain why everything’s going crazy.”  So what is normal, and where do we find grounding and a foundation for our lives in our rapidly changing world? 


Jesus saw some of the same issues and shared His wisdom for life in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. 


24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."  (Matthew 7:24-27)


Please note, before someone can put Jesus’ words into practice and find grounding they first must hear those words.  Where do we “hear” God’s Word?  We can hear the Word of God on our own through personal Bible reading and devotions.  That is beneficial.  But, God intends for His people to be a community, to work together in facing the changes and chances of life.   Regular worship gives us an opportunity to hear God’s Word with other believers, and gives us a chance to help one another in facing the challenges in our walk of faith. 


Also, Sunday School starts its school year schedule on Sunday, September 10.  In our classes people hear the Word of God and discuss it’s application to our lives in ways that don’t happen in worship.


And, don’t forget, the Word of God is not just found in a book.  The best communication of God and His love and His direction for our lives is found in JESUS, who is The Word of God.  (John 1:1-3, 14)


That’s also why Dr. Meyer quotes Hebrews 10 in his devotion.  Meyer says, “We need our pastors and congregations to gather as many people as possible into the peace of Christ’s Church.”  “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).


So how are you and your family facing the rapid changes in our world?  In your lives?  Have you let the rock of God’s Word provide you grounding in your rapidly changing world?  Are you worshipping regularly?  Will you attend Sunday School?


A Child of God, Seeking God’s Grounding in This Rapidly Changing World,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Here is a nice article on Rod Christiansen as head football coach at Palmer High.


P.P.S.  Kimberly McDowell played in worship on Wednesday, August 9.  This high school member has been playing in worship for a number of years.  This is the last time she will play before going to college.  We got her a cake.  Here are some pictures


P.P.P.S.  Here are pictures from 2 recent fishing trips


August 16 – With Gerry Zellar and Paul Scott -


August 23 with Mary’s friend, Aaron Smith -




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 do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Seeking to Live God's Time in My Life

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Public school has started.  Hunting season is underway.  There are also still some fish in the rivers to be caught.  Gardens are about ready to need picking and processing of their fruit and vegetables.  And at church, Sunday School is gearing up to begin its school year classes.  All of these activities and responsibilities are in addition to our regular family schedules and work schedules.  Does it sometimes seem to you that there is too much to do and too little time?


A favorite verse of many about time comes from God in chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes.


1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.


These thoughts about time are poetic and share truth that brings God’s wisdom to our lives.  However, sometimes people focus on the poetry and then miss the explanation that follows.


9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil-- this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.


As the school year schedules of busy-ness begin it is good to keep in mind the truths of God.


·       There is a time for everything, and everything is beautiful in its time. (verses 1 and 11) However, everything in God’s time, not all at the same time.

·       God wants us to find satisfaction in our work and labor. (verse 13)  A favorite quote these days is: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Actually, this is not a new idea.  It has been God’s plan all along.

·       It is the things of God that last forever. (verse 14).  This world is temporary.  The things of God are what is really worth spending time pursuing.

·       All God sends our way is so that we revere Him - so that we love Him, so that we worship and serve Him. (Verse 14)  God is our priority.  This truth should help us set priorities in our busy lives.

·       Therefore the last half of verse 11 is also true.  While God blesses the times of our lives, He also “sets eternity in the hearts of men.”  In the stress of hectic lives it gives us perspective to know that God has eternity waiting, where there will always being enough time.  This is God’s gift in Jesus.


As fall arrives and our schedules grow busier, may that fact that God has time in His hands give you comfort and strength.


A Child of God, Seeking God’s Time As I Pastor, and Garden, and Fish, and Hunt,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  I harvested broccoli, raspberries, and peas recently.  Here are some 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 do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What is the Poem of YOUR Life?

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Have you ever read a Bible verse and, while reading, seen or understood something that passed you by before?  On Tuesday I was reading my daily devotions from the Today’s Light Bible.  This is a Bible which leads a person through Scriptures in 2 years.  Before each reading is a “Focus” Note to help a person understand what they will be reading.  After each day’s Scripture, there is a devotion based on something found in the reading of that day.


On Tuesday I was reading through 2 Kings 17.  This is not necessarily a pleasant chapter.  These Bible verses list the idolatry and rebellion of God’s chosen people that led to the exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Assyria.  (2 Kings 17:7)  The devotion for this reading, however, took a positive approach for our lives in comparison to the list of sins in 2 Kings 17.  In contrast to the list of sin, the devotion quotes Ephesians 2:8-10 where God tell us, 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”


Yes, all of us have sinned.  We have failed in living perfectly as the people God made us to be.  But, through His grace God saves us from our sin by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  Because of God’s grace in Jesus, by His Spirit, God works new life in us.  In Ephesians 2, after telling us that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, the Lord teaches us that He has created us for good works. 


The devotion on 2 Kings 17 then noted that in Classical Greek, the word for workmanship” (verse 10) can also be translated “poem” or “poetry.”  When our lives are made new by God’s grace, when we believe and serve God with lives of good works, what does the poem of your life look like?  Instead of listing your failures, how is God working to accomplish good through your life?  I confess, I have read this devotion before and missed this point.  I have read Ephesians 2:10, but missed out on considering how God created me so that the “poem of my life” could be a blessing to others.


So, what IS the poem of your life?  How is God using you?  How have you touched the lives of others for good?  Perhaps you are a special blessing to your children, your spouse, your family, and your life points to the grace of God.  Maybe your love and mercy have touched the lives of folks in your neighborhood.  Maybe the people at your place of work are led to praise God because of your wisdom, your faithfulness and commitment.


Maybe your gifts of time have helped others in your community.  Perhaps your donations of resources to God’s church have provided ministry that touches others with love and faith.  Perhaps your prayers have been answered in ways that bring blessings to others you cannot begin to imagine.


On the one hand, it is easy to be shamed by our failures and weaknesses.  But, what joy there is when God uses weak vessels like us and touches the lives of others and brings glory to His name.


God told Abraham he was blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3).  God works hope and love in us for new lives.  Those new lives touch others and bring glory to God himself.  Have you considered that God works through you to bring His grace and love to others? 


Next month my dad will celebrate his 90th birthday.  Many of our family and friends will gather to celebrate his 90 years.  During his time on earth I know my dad to have been a loving son, a faithful husband, and Christian father.  When I visited in April I joined him as he ate breakfast with those he had worked with 30 + years ago.  They told me privately that he made a difference for good in his work place.  My pastor from our home town has witnessed to me more than once about the blessing my dad was and is in his local Christian congregation.


Yes, like all of us my dad has had struggles at times.  But, I remember his 90 years and counting for his faith, his love, and his faithfulness.  God worked in his life and that workmanship is a “poem” that blesses others.


What is the poem of your life?  How is God using the new life He created in you to bless others?


A Child of God, Blessed to think God’s “Workmanship” is found in me,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  Last weekend I was in Seattle, WA, for a church meeting.  Among other activities, we visited the Community Garden at Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Federal Way, WA.  I was impressed.  Here are some pictures.


P.P.S.  I finally caught some salmon here in the Mat-Su this past week. Here are pictures of a day of fishing with Kym and Grace Miller, 8-14-2017.





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 do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.





Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Christians and the 'Opioid Epidemic'

Dear Fellow Children of God,


In July I had a visit from Kelly Marre.  Kelly is the granddaughter of St. John member, Mary Welch, and also the grandmother of St. John members Olivienne and Ailynn McNiven.   The visit with Kelly was pleasant, but the topic was unpleasant.  Kelly is working with the United Way as they participate in the Opiod Taskforce.


I expect you have heard about the drug problem with heroin and other opioid drugs in the Mat-Su Valley.  But, this is not just a local issue.  According to the Center for Disease Control deaths in the United States from opioids have quadrupled since 2000.  In fact 6 of 10 deaths from drugs in the U.S. are from opioids.  More than half a million people have died from this problem since 2000.  In 2016 Senator Dan Sullivan held a Mat-Su Summit on “the opioid epidemic” which included attendance by the U.S. Surgeon General.  After the meeting Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch that the “ . . . at-times harrowing stories of heroin and painkiller addiction opened his eyes to the devastating consequences on addicts and loved ones.”  Unfortunately, as bad as the problem is in our country, there seems to be evidence that the issue may be even worse right here in our community.


However, this drug issue is not just a problem that affects only those outside God’s Church.  Most of us know someone, or perhaps more than one person, who has struggled, or been addicted, or possibly even died because of this problem in their lives.  God calls Christians to live holy lives, lives of faith and love and obedience.  But, God sent His Son to be our Savior because we have not always lived righteous lives.  We have all sinned against our Lord.  Even Christians, called to holiness, have struggled with this issue of opioid addiction.


It would be nice to just ignore the opioid crisis, the addictions, the deaths, the families torn apart, and hope the problem goes away.  But, God calls us to “'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mark 12:31) 


What can children of God do in the face of this “epidemic?”  It is always best to start with our own lives.  God gives instruction about struggles with sin in Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth.  Corinth was a wealthy city full of life-styles which pursued the desires of the flesh.  Because of the temptations faced by Corinthian Christians they were instructed, 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”  ( 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 )


In other words, we are so valuable to God that He purchased us, body and soul, for eternal life in heaven.  God sent His Son, Jesus, who died to pay the price our sins deserve.  Such sacrifice is ultimate love.  Because God loves us like that, we want to love Him, AND we should love ourselves.


Because God saves us through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial love, we are told that our bodies are temples of the Spirit of God, the Spirit Who creates that faith in us.  One of the ways we take care of God’s temple is to take care of our bodies, to live healthy lives.  Then, as the Holy Spirit lives in us by faith, we have strength and ability to serve the one who died for us.  When we don’t take care of ourselves, when we give in to unhealthy, or sinful behavior, we hurt the bodies Jesus died to save.  God calls for us to honor Him with our bodies.  That also means that we stay away from harmful behavior with addictive substances, including opioids.


But, if your own life is “clean”, can you then ignore others who struggle?  Years ago I received a phone call in Jacksonville, FL, from a pastor in Nebraska. His son had a drug problem and had run away to our town.  The father was aching in his heart for his son.  I found this pastor’s son and put him on a bus back to Nebraska, though I’m not sure if he made it.  If one of my children, or grandchildren, or nieces or nephews had a problem, I would hope that a loving a faithful Christian would have compassion and help them.  As Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”


There are more problems in the world than one Christian person can deal with.  But that does not give us an excuse to do nothing when others suffer.  In addition to taking care of ourselves, we can be there for friends and family who may struggle with this problem.  There might also be opportunities to help others, for example volunteering at the United Way.


Being a Christian is not easy.  Life can be and is messy.  Christian life is messy too.  But, in the middle of this world we have One who cares about us enough to come to our mess and to sacrifice His life for us.  Trusting Jesus and sharing Jesus, we can love others and help our community.


A Child of God, Seeking to Make a Difference for Others as Jesus has Loved Me,

Pastor Jonathan





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 do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.






Thursday, August 3, 2017

God's Mercy for our Struggles

Dear Fellow Children of God,


In 1986, when I was pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, FL, I visited with a member who had made some life choices which were obviously contrary to God’s word and plan for His people.  I took this member to lunch, expressed my Christian care for them, and shared concern over the situation which was harmful to them, harmful to their family, and harmful to their relationship with God.  The person I met with was offended about what I said and stopped coming to church.  


Some may think that talking with someone about personal life issues is “meddling.”  I’m sure that is true at times.  However, I was also taught, that the word “pastor” means shepherd.  Pastors shepherd God’s people under the leadership of The Good Shepherd, Jesus.  But, “speaking the truth in love,” as God instructs in Ephesians 4:15, is difficult.


Some topics are difficult to discuss because they are sensitive.  God gives His law as the healthiest way for His people to live.  But, God’s people cannot and do not keep His law perfectly.  When others express their concern for our personal and spiritual well-being we can be offended by their seeming criticism, or meddling.  Yet, when what seems like criticism is intended for our good, it is wise to listen.  Proverbs 27:6 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”


Divorce is one of those difficult topics to discuss.  I can count over 5 divorces in my own extended family and remember the pain experienced by those I love.  God created human beings male and female (Genesis 1:27) and instituted marriage between men and women at the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:23-25).  God intends for marriage to be a lifetime of commitment and love where the husband and wife are a blessing to each another.  Therefore, divorce is not part of God’s original plan.  As Jesus says in Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.”  God wants marriages to last for the good of the individuals, for the good of the couple, and for the good of the family.  But, because all of us are weak and sinful, divorce is a reality in life. 


However, as a father loves his children even if they make choices that disappoint him, God loves His children even when they stray.  God gives us His law so we might have guidance.  But, God sent His Son, Jesus, to save sinners, people who are lost.  In Mark 2:17 Jesus tells the religious leaders of His day, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."


Jesus plainly taught God’s standard for marriage when He lived on the earth (Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:1-9, Mark 10:2-9), and yet when confronted with people whose lives did not meet God’s plans for their lives, Jesus was merciful and forgiving to those who knew their sin and sought his grace.  You might read on your own the story of the woman of the city (Luke 7:36-50), or the parables of God’s concern for the lost (Luke 15).  I also suggest you read the account of the woman at the well who had been married 5 times (John 4:4-30), and the account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  So, on the one hand, Jesus teaches God’s plan and hope for His people.  On, the other hand, Jesus offers mercy and forgiveness to those who failed.


At. St. John we want to uphold God’s standards.  We want husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, children and parents to be strong in love and faith, and healthy in their home life.  On the other hand, we want to be there to help people when things fall apart.


Therefore, starting soon we will be offering Divorce Care.  Divorce Care is a 13 week program using video and Bible study to give Christian help to people who have gone through a divorce, or who are going through a divorce.  St. John member Bev DuBos taught Divorce Care about 5 or 6 years ago and a number of people benefited greatly.  However, because the first class was so successful, when subsequent classes were offered there were many less who attended, and sometimes no one attended.  Bev now lives in Oregon.  This current class will be taught by Ruth Zellar.  Ruth attended Bev’s first class with her daughter Kristy, who will be helping Ruth lead the class. 


There is a tension and paradox to Christian life.  God calls us to righteous and holy lives.  Yet, Jesus came to save sinners.  (Philippians 1:15-16)  God’s church lives in that tension.  We teach and uphold God’s will for our lives.  But, when we stumble in trying to live as God’s children, as all of us do, God’s church tries to be there to love and care for our Lord’s people.


I am writing this so that anyone who wants to receive the help of this Divorce Care Class knows that this group will soon be offered.  There will be a sign-up sheet in the back of the church for any who wants to attend.  However, if you don’t want to sign-up, but do want to attend, you can call the office at 745-3338 and let me or our Administrative Assistant, Judy Stahancyk, know that you are interested. 


Three years after I met with the member of our church in Jacksonville, about issues that led to a divorce, they returned to church.  In fact, when I visited their home they thanked me for speaking the truth of God in a loving way when we had previously met.  It was a difficult journey for this person, and a difficult journey for me as their pastor.  But, just because some issues are painful or sensitive does not mean we should not talk about those issues.  Jesus talks about divorce.  Jesus also showed love and forgiveness.  Like Jesus we also want to speak His truth in love. 


I pray the love and forgiveness of Jesus brings peace and direction to your life.


A Child of God, Seeking God’s Wisdom and Love to Color My Speaking of God’s Truth,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  I will let you know when the Divorce Care Sessions start.  I will first contact people individually to see if they are interested in this Biblically based support group.


P.P.S.     Mia Guhl was baptized in late worship on Sunday.  Here are a picture.


P.P.P.S Here are a couple of pictures of a fishing trip for red salmon on the Kenai River on Sunday night with my daughter Mary.  Thank you, Pastor George Rakos for the gift of time with you in your cabin.





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 do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.