Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thankful for the SURE Foundation of Jesus in the Up's and Down's of Life


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Last Sunday felt like a great day to be pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer.  Worship uplifted me as we commissioned our new DCE Intern, and as we installed officers and board members at St. John for 2018.  The afternoon Dave Ramsey Class was full of people wanting to follow God’s wisdom for personal finances.  And the Sunday night All Board Meeting was not only very well attended, but showed the willingness and the desire of God’s people at St. John to step forward and work together to accomplish our Lord’s work.  As I left on a trip to Florida to spend a week helping my dad move, I was greatly encouraged to see God working in our midst!  But, all it takes is a Sunday of low attendance, or a church member who is hurt or angry, and those feelings or encouragement can instead become feelings of discouragement.

 

Likewise, the life of a Christian can be one of up’s and down’s.  God’s children rejoice when we see our Lord’s gracious answer to our prayers.  But, when families struggle, when illness threatens, when our country is in turmoil, when troubles linger, or when we know the guilt of our sin, we call out to God and we can even wonder where He is.

 

In my daily devotions I am currently reading through Isaiah.  It is eye-opening for me to see experiences in the lives of God’s people 2700 years ago that are similar to what we face today.  On Monday I read Isaiah 26 and 27.  As I read I could see how good news or bad news from God affected the lives of people in Isaiah’s time, as our lives and our hearts are moved today.

 

Isaiah 26, verses 1 and 2 proclaims, In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.”  What a great reason to sing praise!  God protects His people! His salvation and eternal life are a wall against the evil of life.  God welcomes people of faith into that city that knows and lives in His eternal love.  Praise the Lord!

 

But, in spite of God’s goodness, His grace is still rejected by many.  In Isaiah 26, verses 9 and 10 we hear bad news. 10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it.”  Doesn’t that sound like our world today?  God offered grace but many of the people in Isaiah’s time turned their backs on His love.  Why do people in our world today turn away from God’s wise guidance and His loving grace? 

 

The up’s and down’s of faith and life can be discouraging.  We would like for our lives to constantly experience the success of God’s blessings.  But we have all had times of failure in serving our Creator.  Even when we want to follow our Lord, we can still act selfishly and sin against Him.  So, it is not surprising that in this world we experience good times and bad times. We experience bad times and good times.

 

However, there is One on Whom we can depend in the constant changes of life.  Isaiah 26:4 calls us, 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”  When our joys are overcome by illness, family trials, political unrest, natural disaster, personal failures, and more, we still have a rock.  In fact, we have THE Rock.  We can always trust in the Lord.

 

As I have been reading in Isaiah, I also hear my Lord telling us more about why we can count on Him.  God explains more in chapter 28.  "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”  The rock, The stone, which is our “sure foundation” is Jesus.  (See Psalm 118:22-23 and 1 Peter 2:6-8)

 

Life as a child of God is encouraging, and it is discouraging.  But there is a rock that is sure in the uncertainty of our lives.  Our Lord’s love is sure.  In fact, in Jesus, God’s love overcomes our sin and our failure to follow Him.  In Jesus, the Lord loves us and forgives us.  In Jesus, we have that “sure foundation.”  Jesus, “the precious cornerstone” gives God’s love eternally because He died to forgive our sin and because He rose to build a wall of salvation.  In this world of good news and bad news, we can build our lives on this foundation of God’s precious cornerstone, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

A Sunday like last week at St. John is a reason for rejoicing as we see God work in our midst.  But, times of discouragement still happen.  Wednesday, January 17, is seven years since my mom passed away.  I spent much of the day with my dad.  We visited my mom’s grave. Then we ate lunch at the restaurant where our family dined after my mom passed on that evening.  But, just as in Isaiah’s time, in the ups and downs of life, the love of God is ours because of His “sure foundation,” Jesus.  God’s sure love is a constant encouragement!

 

A Child of God, Thankful for the Sure Foundation of Jesus in the Up’s and Down’s of Life,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  I am in FL for a week.  Here are some pictures of my trip and time with my dad.  Here are some pictures.  I will keep adding pictures as the week goes on.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/dRcgjaKNBLmGwWvy1

 

 

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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.

 

 

******

 

IN THE NEW YEAR . . .

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

·       Sunday School Classes for children started up again in the New Year JANUARY 7. 

 

·       Wooly Lambs began January 14

 

ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES!

·       Ephesians – This study of the book of Ephesians is led by Hunter Richards in the Fellowship Hall each Sunday.  This is a continuation of a class begun at the first of November. 

 

·       Jonah – Jim Summers is teaching a class on Jonah.  This class began on Sunday morning, January 7, and meets in the South Fellowship Hall outside the kitchen.

 

NEW PRAYER GROUP OPPORTUNITY

As children of God we seek to put our faith in action through regular prayer.  A NEW PRAYER OPPORTUNITY began at St. John on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m.  Two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.

            Please feel free to join Donita and Jackie in prayer, or to share your requests with them.

 

DAVE RAMSEY FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY AT ST. JOHN – Started Sunday Afternoon, January 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University will begin classes at St. John on Sunday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m.  St. John member, Sarah Brettrager Downing, will lead these sessions.  Sarah has been to the class and used the guidance from this Christian financial stewardship plan.

The sixteen families who have signed up have received a phone call or e-mail reminding them of this class.  For those who have not signed up, please talk to Sarah, or Stewardship Board member, Josh Nance, to discuss possibly attending.  You can still attend!

 

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES

 

HOME SCHOOL ICE FISHING OUTING – The St. John Home School Group meets this Saturday at Finger Lake at 10:00 a.m. for an ice-fishing outing.

 

KOINONIA  -  The St. John seniors’ group, Koinonia, meets at St. John on Friday evening, January 26, at 6:00 p.m. anyone over 55 is welcome to attend!  This is a pot luck meal and time of sharing.

 

CHRISTIAN COUPLES  - A group for Christian couples tries to meet often.  They will meet at St. John on Saturday evening, January 27 at 6:00 p.m.  This is a pot luck meal and time of sharing.

 

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

DO YOU HAVE A PLOW YOU CAN USE TO PLOW AT CHURCH?

We need people who can plow the parking lot at church.  At the current time we have one member who is plowing.  If you can help please contact Peter Probasco, 351-0085, Judy in the church office 745-3338, or Pastor Rockey 841-4066 so we can grow our list of those who can plow as winter arrives.

 

Summer Housing/Vehicle Needed - AMC - The Servant Event Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, Jan Bruick, is seeking housing and a vehicle for June, July and August 2018. Jan Bruick will be assisting AMC teams with mission and service deployment throughout the state this coming summer. She is seeking a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen for rent, as well as a vehicle. Please contact her directly at: janbruick@amclcms.org or 402-641-9691.

 

 

 

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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:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org/

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at judy@stjohnpalmer.org. If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Seeking God's Life Goals Instead of Setting Yearly Resolutions"


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Have you taken down your Christmas decorations yet?  Or are your decorations and lights still up, still decorating your home in the New Year?  Is the job of taking down these decorations also a somewhat dreaded task you face in the future?  I know that on Monday, when Kathy and I were taking down our decorations, the ladies of St. John and their helpers were also “de-decorating”. 

 

However, this year when we took down our decorations at the Rockey house, we also made another, rather large, decision.  We donated at least some of our excess Christmas regalia to Bishops Attic so they could sell it.  That was a large donation including 6 boxes loaded with Christmas decorations collected over the years. We donated a Santa collection, Christmas towels, runners, and table cloths.  There was a box of garlands and lights, an unopened package of angels, and a trash bag full of Christmas boxes.  (Kathy looked for the snowman collection, but she now thinks we gave that away a few years ago.)  This year’s donation did not include the collection of angels we set aside for our daughter, nor the collection of nutcrackers set aside for one of our sons.  And, since I have bought Kathy a Christmas ornament for our tree with the date on it for each of the 41 Christmases of our married life, we still have more than enough decorations for our tree, along with our still growing collection of manger scenes.

 

Forty-one Christmases is a long time!  But, after a while these decorations, which are intended to help celebrate the birth of our Savior, can and do get in the way of that celebration.

 

Life can be like that.  For example, after being pastor in one location for almost 27 years, I have said “Yes” to a lot of servant roles and volunteer causes.  But, I seldom say “No.”  After a while the activities and responsibilities add up and can overwhelm a person.

 

All of that is why, a number of years ago, I gave up making “New Year’s resolutions.”  But, I became serious about life values and goals.  Resolutions can be a similar kind of trap.  I can work on them for a while, and maybe fail.  Or, I can decide what is really important and keep working on these goals from year to year. Ultimately, having life goals can also help me set priorities for making decisions about where I spend my time.

 

Christians have an advantage, I believe, when it comes to setting life goals.  First we can look to God to tell us what is really important.  This week our Confirmation Class will learn Mark 12:30-31.  You get the whole context if you also read verses 28-29.  28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

 

So, loving God and loving others are our Lord’s priorities for our life.  Over 20 years ago, in a time of learning and introspection, I realized that I am first of all a child of God, and need to focus on that identity.  So, I begin each day in devotional Bible reading and prayer.  I take God’s church seriously.  I work on my relationship with my Lord and loving Him.  Secondly, I am a husband, a father, and a son.  I am not perfect at these jobs, but I seek to do my best to love my family, and then others as God has taught me.  Finally, I know if I am not healthy, in spirit and body and mind, I cannot love God and others as I should.  So, I seek to take care of myself.  It has been a struggle.  But these are life goals I have for myself, because I believe they are God’s goals for my life.

 

There is also another way that Christians have an advantage in setting life goals.  When we fail, and as weak sinful people we will fail, we don’t have to give up.  Because of the forgiveness God gives in Jesus, if that goal was worthwhile, we can re-start our efforts in the grace and forgiveness of our Lord.  Because of God’s love and forgiveness we can admit our weaknesses and failures to ourselves and to others.  We can ask forgiveness and forgive, and start again to live as the child of God we are made to be.

 

On Monday, as we were “de-cluttering”, we got rid of table decorations and garlands, we got rid of Santas and angels and nutcrackers.  But, you may have noticed we kept the mangers to help us celebrate the reason for the Christmas season.  I am sure, some day we will get rid of many of those too.  After all, we have a Savior, Jesus.  What is really important in life is that we want to love God and love other, because in Jesus God has loved us and saved us.

 

A Child of God, Seeking God’s Life Goals Instead of Making Yearly Resolutions,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  We are still basking in the joy the wedding of our daughter Mary to Aaron Smith at St. John on December 30!!  In addition to the pictures we took ourselves, we received an early group of pictures from the photographer.

Here are some new wedding pictures you might enjoy seeing (along with those shared last week). - https://photos.app.goo.gl/bX2g4HFaRHxyxJAk2

 

P.P.S.  I intended to go fishing on Monday but, taking down the decorations TOOK A LONG TIME!

 

P.P.P.S.  My 90 year old dad has sold his home and is moving into a senior living complex a mile from his old home.  I will be in FL next week trying to help with the move.  Kathy will be in AK working. Hunter will lead worship on January 21.

 

******

 

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.

 

 

******

 

NEW DCE INTERN ARRIVED LAST FRIDAY!– Ethan Mirly, new DCE intern for St. John, arrived in Alaska on Friday, January 5, and was in worship Sunday, January 7.  His first official day in the office was Tuesday, January 9.  We pray God blesses Ethan through his time at St. John, and that God works through Ethan to bring God’s love to His family in this place.

 

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

·       Sunday School Classes for children started up again in the New Year LAST Sunday JANUARY 7. 

 

·       HOWEVER, Wooly Lambs will begin again THIS SUNDAY, January 14

 

ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES!

·       Ephesians – This study of the book of Ephesians is led by Hunter Richards in the Fellowship Hall each Sunday.  This is a continuation of a class begun at the first of November. 

 

·       Jonah – Jim Summers is teaching a class on Jonah.  This class began on Sunday morning, January 7, and meets in the South Fellowship Hall outside the kitchen.

 

 

NEW PRAYER GROUP OPPORTUNITY

As children of God we seek to put our faith in action through regular prayer.  A NEW PRAYER OPPORTUNITY began at St. John on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m.  Two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.

            Please feel free to join Donita and Jackie in prayer, or to share your requests with them.

 

COMMISSIONING AND INSTALLATION OF OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS will take place in worship on Sunday, January 14! 

Officers and Board Members of St. John are asked to please be in worship that day for this Installation and Commissioning.  This gives leaders a chance to commit themselves to serving the Lord in the strength of His help.  It also gives the congregation a chance to support its leaders in prayer as they serve.

 

DAVE RAMSEY FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY AT ST. JOHN – Starting Sunday Afternoon, January 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University will begin classes at St. John on Sunday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m.  St. John member, Sarah Brettrager Downing, will lead these sessions.  Sarah has been to the class and used the guidance from this Christian financial stewardship plan.

The sixteen families who have signed up have received a phone call or e-mail reminding them of this class.  For those who have not signed up, please talk to Sarah, or Stewardship Board member, Josh Nance, to discuss possibly attending.

 

THE JANUARY ALL-BOARD MEETING will be held on Sunday, January 14 at 6:00 p.m.

Twice a year St. John holds an ‘All Board Meeting’ in place of a regular Church Council meeting.  Instead of just the chair people of each board attending the council meeting, ALL officers AND all board members of each board attend this working meeting.  There is time allotted so that each board gets to meet and discuss their responsibilities at St. John, and to discuss their plans and opportunities for serving our Lord in the coming year.  This January meeting is usually a low-key time for new Board members to understand what we are doing to serve the Lord, and a time to begin making plans for the coming year.    

IF YOU ARE AN OFFICER OR SERVE ON A BOARD AT ST. JOHN, please plan now to attend this important meeting.  This really helps us to start the New Year right.  We want to do a good job serving our Lord!

 

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

DO YOU HAVE A PLOW YOU CAN USE TO PLOW AT CHURCH?

We need people who can plow the parking lot at church.  At the current time we have one member who is plowing.  If you can help please contact Peter Probasco, 351-0085, Judy in the church office 745-3338, or Pastor Rockey 841-4066 so we can grow our list of those who can plow as winter arrives.

 

Summer Housing/Vehicle Needed - AMC - The Servant Event Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, Jan Bruick, is seeking housing and a vehicle for June, July and August 2018. Jan Bruick will be assisting AMC teams with mission and service deployment throughout the state this coming summer. She is seeking a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen for rent, as well as a vehicle. Please contact her directly at: janbruick@amclcms.org or 402-641-9691.

 

 

 

++++++

 

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:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org/

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at judy@stjohnpalmer.org. If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!

 

 

 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolving to Grow in Regular, Fervent Prayer in 2018


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Perhaps you know the new mission statement that St. John adopted in 2016.  As Children of the Everlasting God, we are called to PRAY for everyone, to SERVE our community, and to ENCOURAGE the knowledge of Christ’s unfailing love.

 

The first verb that, after studying Scripture, we have chosen to describe how we live as children of God is, “Pray for everyone.”  But, it is one thing to say we pray. It is another thing to actually pray as a church. 

 

Jesus taught about prayer many times during His life.  One of the best lessons from our Lord about prayer is from Matthew 7:7-11 where Jesus tells us, 7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

 

God’s children pray because God calls us to pray.  We pray because God promises to answer our prayers.  We pray because we believe God keeps his promise and does answer our faithful prayers.

 

Some of my most fervent prayers over the years have been for my children.  I can show you my prayer lists for the last 10 or more years.  You would see the names of my family members, and little notes about items for which I was praying at the time.  You might also see some warped paper from a tear or two, which would show my concern for my children.  Sometimes I wondered if, or when, or how God might answer those prayers.

 

On December 30 I saw an answer to some of my prayers for my daughter Mary.  She was married to a young Christian man, Aaron Smith, whom we have grown to love.  There are many stories behind my prayers.  But, I am sure that in this marriage God acted in love and faithfulness, answering my prayers and those of others.

 

If you make New Year’s resolutions for 2018, a good plan for living one’s faith is regular, fervent prayer.  God wants us to go to Him as our loving heavenly Father.  God, wants us to see His love as He answers those prayers.  God shapes and strengthens our faith as we experience His wisdom and love in the answers He gives.

 

There is also a new opportunity in 2018 to pray with God’s Christian family at St. John.  Beginning on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m., two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.  And, we trust God to answer these prayers as He promises, in wisdom, in power, and in love.

 

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:8.  “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

A Blessed New Year to Each of You!

 

A Child of God, Resolving to Grow in Regular, Fervent prayer in 2018,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  THANK YOU, from Kathy and from me, to all who attended and helped with the wedding of our daughter Mary to Aaron Smith at St. John on December 30!!  Thanks also to all who have prayed for Mary over the years.  We are truly thankful for that special day of joy and celebration with the Rockey and Smith families, and with our church family.

Here are some wedding pictures you might enjoy seeing. - https://photos.app.goo.gl/bX2g4HFaRHxyxJAk2

 

******

 

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.

 

 

******