Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Are YOU Bearing Fruit That Lasts?


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

On Sunday, November 11, I worshiped with Kathy at First Lutheran Church in Gainesville, FL.  I grew up and was nurtured in my faith in this congregation in my youth.  It is always a blessing to worship with folks I’ve known for over 50 years.  It is a blessing of joy to go “home” and see familiar faces who ask how I am doing.  (On this Veterans’ Day Sunday we were also treated with some beautiful patriotic music in worship.  And, an old seminary classmate of mine, Pastor Dennis Bartels, was guest preacher.)  Worship with God’s people was a blessing on this day.

 

After worship I took Kathy to eat at a favorite restaurant of hers.  Since Kathy grew up in Memphis, TN, she still has a place in her heart for “southern home cooking.”  We ate at Cracker Barrel.  It seems, even though our worship was finished around 11:15, we were not the only ones who had that idea.  When arriving around 11:45 a.m., many groups of people were waiting outside the restaurant talking with one another.  We were told there would be a 30 minute wait.  Yet, even with 3 or 4 groups of families or friends being called for a table every minute or two, with some groups as big as 11 people, our wait may have been 40 minutes.  A lot of people must like southern cooking!  When we were seated I watched as people were greeted and served, as tables were cleared, as families and friends enjoyed their time at the restaurant.  They were not rushed, but there was a constant stream of customers.

 

I asked our waitress how many cooks they had working that day.  She said, “Six cooks, I think.  Maybe one other cook, too.  And, there are managers all over the place, and probably in the kitchen as well.”  I was impressed.  To prepare and serve that many people and that much food in a comfortable atmosphere with just 6 or 7 cooks speaks well of the teamwork at this restaurant.

 

Then I got to thinking.  Since we were on vacation in FL in November for maybe the first or second time in almost 30 years, my sister, Martha, hosted a “Rockey Family Thanksgiving” at her house on Saturday, November 10, two weeks early.  Our meal included 8 households, over 20 people, and at least 8 cooks.  We had much for which to be thankful, and the abundant food helped us celebrate.  I think our meal may have gone even smoother, and the wait for food was less than it was on Sunday at the Cracker Barrel.  We had pretty good teamwork too.

 

I also began thinking how I might have been part of the teamwork for that meal, how I might helped.  Kathy made the food we brought to the Rockey Family Thanksgiving.  She made cornbread dressing, cranberry and orange relish – ground by hand, 2 pumpkin pies, 1 pecan pie, and pumpkin cupcakes and fixings for the younger children to decorate.  What did I do?  Hmmm.  I helped shop.  I helped pick out cornmeal.  I found the cranberries and paid for them.  I bought a bottle of white wine.  I didn’t really do that much, but I guess I did do something.

 

God’s plan is that His church works like a team.  In 1 Corinthians 12 (and Romans 12) God inspired St. Paul to instruct the church, 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)  In other words, God created each of us differently.  We have different abilities, talents, and gifts.  But God expects us to use these gifts as part of all God’s people, “for the common good.”  Later on in this chapter the family of God’s church is also described as a body.  “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27)  Each believer in Jesus is part of Christ’s body, part of the Church.  And, God expects us to do the part we are gifted to do.

 

In fact, when Jesus was teaching His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, He instructed His disciples, 1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. . . 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last.” (John 15:1-2,16)  God expects disciples of Jesus to bear fruit.  We are not just spectators in a worship service.  We are part of the body, part of the vine, growing disciples and spreading the good news of Jesus’ love so that there is eternal fruit.  We bear eternal fruit when people learn of Jesus, when people believe in Jesus, and when by God’s grace people are saved to go to heaven.  That is eternal fruit.

 

Ultimately Jesus, the true vine, is the source of all fruit.  Jesus is the Son of God who left heaven to endure the poverty and suffering of this world.  Jesus is the sinless Savior who nevertheless died for the sins of all people.  Jesus is the one and only who overcame sin and death and Satan when He rose from death and from the grave.  All eternal fruit comes from the true vine, from Jesus.  But we are branches.  We have received gifts.  We are part of the body.  And God expects us to bear fruit.

 

After eating at Cracker Barrel, but even more after being part of the “Rockey Family Thanksgiving” feast, I asked myself how I might have been part of the teamwork of the meal, and how I might helped.  The answer is that I probably could have done more.  I could have used my gifts to serve others in my family a little better (even though I did keep giving updates to everyone about the FL Gator football game.)

 

How about you?  Do you know how God has gifted you in Jesus with love, with forgiveness, with eternal life, and with His Spirit?  Do you know that God has blessed you with knowledge and faith, with gifts and abilities?  How are you part of the teamwork of Christ’s Church?  How are you helping spread the love of Jesus?

 

A Child of God, Thankful to be Part of Christ’s Church, Seeking to Bear Fruit that Lasts,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  I didn’t take many pictures, but here are a couple of pictures from our Florida Rockey Thanksgiving on November 10.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/CXm4EkXSZNd4Hdp28

 

P.P.S.  I bought my plane tickets to FL in July when my dad was still alive, but failing some.  I would be in Portland for a November District Board of Directors’ meeting and thought that, since I was halfway to FL, I should go to see my dad.  I didn’t know my dad would pass away in August.  I ALSO didn’t know my brother, David, would have a heart attack when I was in Portland, and bypass surgery when I was in FL.  Being in FL allowed me to visit David in the hospital 3 times.  I see God’s hand in this trip in a way I didn’t know about ahead of time.  Thank you for your prayers, David had 4 bypasses, and a valve replacement.  He went home on Tuesday!

 

P.P.P.S.  GROWING IN FAITH SO WE CAN BEAR FRUIT - As pastor I am serious about helping our folks grow in their faith in God’s love for them in Jesus.  I strongly believe that personal devotions make a difference.  Here are some devotional resources you may want to use in your home.

 

·       Little Visits with God is the book we used most often.  Here are copies of that book, and OTHER home devotional materials for families.  (There are also some copies in the church library. -  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=little+visits+with+god&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Alittle+visits+with+god

 

·       Advent devotions – I recently bought 4 copies of these Advent devotions, 1 for each home where I have grandchildren, one for my own home, and one for the church.  You may want to purchase one of these Advent devotions for your family.  https://www.cph.org/c-2703-children-and-youth-books.aspx?pagenum=1&sortby=Rank%20Desc&rename=Sales%20%26%20Seasonal&Lk=0&rlk=0&plk=2700

 

·       PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020?  Will you to join me in studying God’s Word together? I plan to use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House in 2019 and 2020.  .  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

o   From CPH (Our Church’s publishing house) for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping - https://www.cph.org/p-22950-todays-light-devotional-bible.aspx


 

******

 

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.

 

******

 


 

SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW AND SERVE

 

THANKSGIVING BLESSING – St. John has been asked to provide a Thanksgiving meal to the needy in our community.  People may help hand out food on Saturday, November 17 at Real Life Church on the Palmer Wasilla Highway.  There are shifts from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 12 noon till 3:00 p.m.

 

CHRISTMAS SHOEBOX PROJECT -  St. John will again participate in the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoe Box project.  The last 3 years we have collected over 50 shoe boxes to bring the joy of Christ at Christmas to children around the world.  Al Kastar is working with Ethan Mirly on this project.  (We will need some people to purchase their own boxes this year for this effort.)  If you have a box to donate, please bring it in now!

 

THANKSGIVING WORSHIP – NOVEMBER 21, 7:00 P.M. – We celebrate the national day of Thanksgiving at St. John on the evening before Thanksgiving Day, Wednesday evening, November 21 at 7:00 p.m.  After a contentious election cycle, our worship is written to pray for our country and our leaders, for unity and justice.  Plan to come and give thanks to God for His blessings to our country, and to pray for our leaders!

 

VPA OUTING – MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25 – The St. John Fellowship Board is sponsoring a trip to the VPA play, A Miracle on 34th Street, on Sunday afternoon, November 25 after church.  The play takes place at 2:00 p.m.  We will also have a taco bar for those attending.

            We have 30 seats set aside for this outing.  Please sign up on the signup sheet in the narthex to let us know you are coming.  Tickets cost $22.00 each.  You may pay in the office for your tickets.

 

VOTERS’ MEETING – DECEMBER 2 – Our Annual Voters meeting is held after late worship on Sunday, December 2.  We will vote on a budget and elect officers and board members.  In addition, we will discuss a new vent hood for the kitchen, and possibly take a first look at Bylaws revisions.

            This meeting is the one planned time we meet each year as a congregation to vote on plans for God’s work at St. John.  It is good to have as many of our members present as possible for this meeting.   We will be dealing with MANY IMPORTANT ITEMS OF BUSINESS!

            There is a pot luck meal before the meeting.  Please bring a main dish and a side dish.

 

COMMUNITY ADVENT MEAL – HELP NEEDED – The Fellowship Board is planning a pasta and salad meal for the Community Advent Service.  We will need help.  There is a sign-up sheet in the narthex.

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL CHRISTMAS PROGRAM – The Sunday School Christmas Program will be presented on Sunday, December 9 in late worship.

CHRISTMAS CAROLING – We plan to visit the homes of some of our shut in folks on Sunday afternoon, December 9 to sing carols.  I usually organize this and the Fellowship Board helps.

MOVIE NIGHT - We will show the movie “The Star” at St. John on Saturday evening, January 5.  Come and enjoy and evening of family fun before the end of Christmas break. 

 

STEPHEN MINISTRY TRAINING – We will soon be starting a new Stephen Ministry class at St. John around the second Thursday in January.  If you are interested in serving as a Stephen Minister, a confidential, trained, Christian care-giver, see Rhoda Olson, Amy Peltier, or Pastor Rockey.

            There are applications forms to be filled out to be considered for serving as a Stephen Minister.

 

 

REGULAR GROWTH AND SERVICE ACTIVITIES

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR THE 2018-2019 SCHOOL YEAR IS OFFERED EACH SUNDAY MORNING FROM 9:45-10:45 a.m. – COME AND GROW!

·       CLASSES ARE OFFERED FOR CHILDREN OF ALL AGES from birth through High School.

·       ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES – Two adult classes are offered.

 

o   Elijah –  Hunter Richards is teaching a class looking at the important old Testament prophet, Elijah.  The Class will meet in the South Fellowship Hall.

 

o   Christian Stewardship – is offered by the Stewardship Board.  This class, taught by Eric Wyatt and Pastor Rockey will look at all areas of Christian faith and service as part of our stewardship / management of God’s gifts to us.  This class from Synod will be taught in the north Fellowship Hall.

 

 

PRAYER MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY!! – There are Elders in Pastor Allen’s former office between worship who are available for prayer each Sunday between services.  Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God gives His people.  Come bring your prayer requests.  Come join in praying for God’s work, and for others.

 

WEDNESDAY WORSHIP continues to meet each week on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and continues weekly until Advent services start in December.  This weekly evening worship service provides an opportunity for those who cannot worship on Sunday, or for those who enjoy an extra time to worship God.  (The sermons on Wednesdays are not the same as Sunday, so you can attend both services if you wish.)

 

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT SUNDAY SERMONS ARE RECORDED AND OFFERED ON LINE ON OUR ST. JOHN WEBSITE?  The July and August recordings are available here:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org/main_pages/worship.htm.

 

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH AND FELLOWSHIP

 

KITCHEN OVEN HOOD REPAIR – A NEW PROJECT AND OPPORTUNITY – St. John received a yearly visit from the State Fire Marshall this past August.  The Fire Marshall indicated that we need a fire suppression hood over our stove to be in compliance for large events, even though we have passed Fire Marshall inspections in the previous 12 years.

            In the October 14 meeting of the Church Council, the St. John Council voted to pursue remedying this situation.  We have an estimate of $30,000 to accomplish this task.  We also received an offer of matching funds to raise $50,000 for this repair, and other needed repairs.

            A plan of paying for these repairs has not yet been determined.  However, you should know St. John will be conducting discussions about these issues.  We will talk more about the kitchen vent hood and fund raising efforts at the Voters’ Meeting, December 2.

 

FROM OTHER ALASKAN LUTHERAN CHURCHES

 

BILL HILGENDORF, PASTOR OF STERLING LUTHERAN AND COOPER LANDING COMMUNITY LUTHERAN

            Bill Hilgendorf, with his wife, Roberta, have served Sterling Lutheran Church for the last few years as a Licensed Deacon.  Bill was recently ordained as a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) at his home congregation in Wisconsin, and was installed as Pastor of Sterling Lutheran on Saturday (so pastors could attend), November 10.  Here are some pictures from that installation. 


 

FROM THE YOUTH OF MT. DRUM LUTHERAN CHURCH IN COPPER CENTER:

 

Hi Pastor Rockey!

 

Mt. Drum Lutheran Church Youth are selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as a fundraiser for our youth attending the National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis next summer.  1 dozen glazed doughnuts cost $15.  We will pick up doughnuts in Anchorage the afternoon of Thursday, November 15th and can deliver them to St. John Lutheran Church before your church office closes.  (Exactly what time would that be on Thursday?)

 

Please share this email with anyone who might be interested in placing an order.  To place an order, simply email kimroeske@ilovealaska.net.

 

Thank you!

 

Sasha Johns

DeBen Reedy

            Shaun Ewan

Karis Roeske

Amani Roeske

Todd and Kim Roeske

 

 

“CHRISTMAS MARKET, MUSIC, AND LUTHER TRIP” TO AUSTRIA AND GERMANY AT THE END OF 2019

 

Pastor Jonathan and Kathy Rockey will be leading a trip to Germany November 26-December 10, 2019.  We will start in Vienna and end in Berlin.  The focus of this trip will be Christmas markets, music, and Martin Luther.  Information about the itinerary, cost, and registration can be found at this link from Luther Tours. - https://www.christiantravelplanners.com/tours/item/181-christmas-markets-austria-and-germany.html

Already, about 20  people have indicated an interest in attending.  If you want to know more about this trip talk to Pastor Rockey or Kathy.

 

 

+++++++

 

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!!

 

Jonathan Rockey, Child of God, Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Senior Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church


907-745-3338 - church

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How Can I Protect My Children and Grandchildren?


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

On Sunday, November 4, I led worship where my sister attends church at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Chiefland, FL.  This was sort of a last minute request. I was also asked to lead Bible Study as well.  Since I would only be at Good Shepherd one Sunday, I used an old Bible Study I had prepared from a Garisson Keillor monologue.  Keillor often talks in his stories about life in the Lutheran Church of America’s upper midwest.  Even though there is humor in his stories, there’s also some truth worth considering.  So, in Bible class on Sunday we listened to Keillor share a story entitled, “Let us Pray.”  This monologue focused on the anxiety and excitement in the local Lutheran Church when Pastor Inquist sends a letter to the members of “Lake Woebegon Lutheran Church” that on the next Sunday he will call on a congregational member to lead prayers in worship.

 

Prayer is an amazing privilege that God gives all people.  We can go to the Almighty Lord of the universe and lay open our hearts and minds to Him.  And . . . He listens!  What an act of patience and love that the All Powerful Creator of all listens to us!  But, prayer is not only a gift that we exercise personally.  Scripture tells us in many places about the joint prayers of God’s people.  So, considering Keillor’s story, are you personally comfortable leading others in prayer, or does that make you nervous, afraid, even?  Many in the class last Sunday admitted that they were nervous about praying in public. 

 

So Kathy told a story about our son, Tim, when he attended Parentshare Preschool at St. John.  Since Tim has just turned 26, that was a little while ago.  Back then Tim’s teacher, Linda Griese, confided to Kathy that she was needing to schedule more time at preschool for snack prayers.  It seems that, in addition to singing the Johnny Appleseed song before snack, Tim also wanted to add some personal prayers.  My understanding is that he would pray for family members, and even pets.  Somehow, Tim’s enthusiasm caught on so that other class members also asked time for prayer.  These preschool students would enlist their friends and classmates as they spoke to God about the joys and concerns on their hearts.  So, Mrs. Griese had to schedule more time for prayer.  She couldn’t stifle this spontaneous exercise of faith. 

 

As Kathy told her story another lady attending class shared about her grandchildren.  They are also quick to offer prayer.  As we discussed these items in Bible class this lady commented, “If you teach children when they are young, it stays with them.”

 

You might say that you expect such behavior from a pastor’s son.  But, the truth is that our home devotions at supper time did not necessarily come from the pastor in the house.  For much of the time our children were at home we used the same book Kathy had used when she was young, “Little Visits with God.”  Each night we would read the story and answer the questions.  Actually, our children liked reading because then they could question their siblings.  (We still use this book when our grandchildren come to visit.) Then we would pray the prayer at the end of the devotion and perhaps add other prayers for concerns on our heart.  I believe this is where Tim learned to pray in public.  We weren’t necessarily creative.  We were persistent and persevering in practicing our faith in God and our belief that He listens and answers prayers.

 

I share these stories for a number of reasons.  First, Scripture instructs parents that, in addition to caring for and protecting their children, teaching the faith is a parent’s main responsibility.  In the New Testament we are told, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)  This verse echos Old Testament instruction to parents that they teach their children about God.  (See Deuteronomy 6:1-12 and 11:18-22, Proverbs 22:6)  This God inspired guidance for parents is different from much popular thinking that says, “I’ll let my children choose for themselves when they are older.”  Children will choose when they are older.  But, how can they choose if they don’t have a foundation with which to compare?

 

Secondly, I hear many parents and grandparents tell me they are concerned about where our country is headed.  It seems that our children are under attack from many influences that are unhealthy to their lives in this world, and unhealthy to their eternal welfare.  Look at all the drug problems, the suicides, the anti-social behavior we see.  What can we do to protect our children?  There is no magic cure to our problems.  Even Christian children struggle with these issues.  But, when children are taught to love God and to love others, when children are taught that there are consequences to their sinful behaviors, and when they are taught that God loves them in spite of their sins and forgives them in Jesus, then our children are given some weapons to stand firm in their faith, and to fight back.  Maybe they will remember that God loves them, that God listens to their prayers.  Maybe our children will even lead others in prayer!

 

Do you want to equip your children, or your grandchildren, to face the challenges in today’s world?  Do you want to teach them about God and His love for them in Jesus?  Do you also want to grow in faith to face the challenges of each day with the strength and love of God?  Would you like to be able to pray in public?  Home devotions seems like an old-fashioned practice.  But, God works in our hearts when we spend time in His word.  When families spend time with God at home, and then back this up with regular worship, God grows faith in us that can face the challenges in our world.

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Strengthen my children and grandchildren in faith, and Seeking to Grow in Faith Myself,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  As pastor I am serious about helping our folks grow in their faith in God’s love for them in Jesus.  I strongly believe that personal devotions make a difference.  Here are some devotional resources you may want to use in your home.

 

·       Little Visits with God is the book we used most often.  Here are copies of that book, and OTHER home devotional materials for families.  (There are also some copies in the church library. -  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=little+visits+with+god&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Alittle+visits+with+god

 

·       Advent devotions – I recently bought 4 copies of these Advent devotions, 1 for each home where I have grandchildren, one for my own home, and one for the church.  You may want to purchase one of these Advent devotions for your family.  https://www.cph.org/c-2703-children-and-youth-books.aspx?pagenum=1&sortby=Rank%20Desc&rename=Sales%20%26%20Seasonal&Lk=0&rlk=0&plk=2700

 

·       PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020?  Will you to join me in studying God’s Word together? I plan to use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House in 2019 and 2020.  .  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

o   From CPH (Our Church’s publishing house) for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping - https://www.cph.org/p-22950-todays-light-devotional-bible.aspx


 

P.P.S.  I’m told Linda a whole list of “Tim stories.”

 

******

 

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, October 31, 2018

Grieving Over the Common-Place Violence in our Country


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

Our Alaska Lutheran Church Workers’ Conference in mid-October focused on “lament.”  We talked about areas in our lives personally, and in the life of God’s Church, that we need to grieve the evils of the day.  We talked specifically about social justice issues in this conference.  The presenter led us to consider, as we look at the evil in the world around us, where we fit in as part of the problem or problems of our world?  We asked, “Where do we need to confess, repent, and seek to receive and share the grace God gives in Jesus?”

 

I remember going to a Tuesday night men’s Bible Study in April of 1999 and learning with shock of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.  Those of us gathered for this study were is disbelief that someone could perform such an act of violence and evil in a high school.  We were in grief over the loss of lives.  We were at a loss for how to respond, other than to go to the Lord in prayer and ask His mercy and His help.

 

I share these two random thoughts because, where this shooting at Columbine seemed unbelievable, last week we had two incidents of domestic terrorism and violence from individual citizens in our country.  Just a week ago we were hearing on the news about bombs being delivered to at least 10 leaders in the circles of the Democratic Party.  The man sending the bombs seems to have been caught and arrested.  Thankfully no one was hurt in this specific incident.  But, unfortunately such news is no longer a shock – it seems commonplace.

 

Then, on Saturday, October 27, at Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburg, PA, area, a man attacked people during a worship service, killing 11 and wounding seven others.  Our whole country grieves.  And, unfortunately, this is not the only recent shooting in a place of worship.

 

Have you asked yourself, “What is happening in our country?  Why are there so many deadly acts of mass violence?  How is it that such horrible evil seem to have become commonplace in America?”

 

As I listen to those discussing these issues, I hear a lot of blame being placed, usually on other people.  I hear those people of a liberal political persuasion blame conservatives and their leaders.  I hear conservative people blame those whose politics lean to the left, and also blame their leaders.  I also hear people of faith involved in such blaming.  Unfortunately, there is enough blame to go around for everyone, every one of us.

 

As I grow older in years, and as I realize more and more how little I know personally, the book of Psalms has become a treasure to me.  The struggle, the prayers, the confessions, and the hope I find in Psalms speak to my own journey of faith as a child of God.  In the midst of these two national tragedies, and in this time of rampant mass violence, I share with you Psalm 130, and hope that it may speak to you as you deal with the questions above.

 

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

 3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than
watchmen wait for the morning.

7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.

 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

 

When we look at these national acts of shame, as people are blaming each other, I personally know the truth of Psalm 130, verse 3, If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 

 

I also know that our only hope in this country is not found in our own wisdom, or the wisdom of a particular political party.  Our only hope is in God’s grace and forgiveness, which the Psalmist proclaims in verse 4.  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

 

So, my first response to these tragic crimes is to turn to my Lord.  I will trust in His wisdom, His grace, and His love.  I will trust for His grace eternally, but also His intervening grace in this life.  6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

 

As I watch these tragedies unfold, I turn to my Lord, to His forgiveness, to His redemption.  I don’t have the answers to why this is happening.  I do believe that if people turned to the Lord in repentance, seeking His love and grace so that we could love one another, that our country and all of us would be much better off.  Lord, have mercy!

 

A Child of God, Grieving over the Common-Place Violence in our Country,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  Here are some pictures from the 2018 St. John Fall Festival Saturday, October 27. Do the adults look like they’re having as much fun as the kids?????! - https://photos.app.goo.gl/oj26LkAHa3QpTXNM7
 
 

P.P.S.  Here are pictures from confirmation games and snacks, last Wednesday, 10-24-2018 - https://photos.app.goo.gl/gr5F1avn19eWieai9

 

P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of the snow we received Sunday and Monday as seen from my house.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/kjzWFVGtjEo5CV4j8

 

P.P.P.P.S.  PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020?  I am encouraging you to join me in studying God’s Word together by using the same devotional Bible I plan to use in the next two years.  I will use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House (our church’s publishing house) in 2019 and 2020.  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

·         From CPH for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping - https://www.cph.org/p-22950-todays-light-devotional-bible.aspx


 

 

 

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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.

 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Thankful for Daily Faith and Direction Found in God's Word


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

This past Monday I was working outside in my yard and went to lock the tongue of my trailer.  However, when I reached for the lock I was surprised to find only half of the lock with the keys, and the other half was missing.  I looked on the ground.  I looked on the trailer and in the truck, but I did not find the missing part of the lock.  Then, the third time I looked on the ground I examined the area more closely.  There was the missing piece of lock, its dark color blending in with the dark brown color of the ground.  When I looked more closely I saw something I had previously missed.

 

As I read through 2 Timothy in my devotions this week, I saw something I hadn’t seen before.  I remember the section of 2 Timothy that warns about ungodly behavior in the end times.  I have memorized the verses in 2 Timothy 3 about the purpose and the power of God’s Word.  But I had somehow missed that these verse were connected.

 

Listen with me to God’s warning to the people of Paul’s day about the dangers of the last times. 

 

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

 

Does that sound familiar?  Yes, people have always battled sinful desires.  But it is my experience that in the last few decades selfishness, greed, boastfulness, disobedience, unloving behavior, and loving pleasure rather than loving God, has increased in the world around us.  Such behaviors unfortunately have also increased even among God’s people.

 

Now consider God’s solution to the troubles of these last days. 

 

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

 

Young pastor Timothy was facing some real challenges as he sought to shepherd the people of God.  God does not point Timothy to some new program of that time as a solution.  The Lord uses Paul to remind Timothy that it is in God’s Word that Christians find a foundation for their faith and a foundation for their lives.  Scripture first of all points people to wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, God’s Word creates and grows faith in Jesus as our Savior from sin and death.  And, in contrast to the evil direction of our selfish world, God speaks to Timothy through Paul, and God points Timothy and his congregation to righteous lives, directed by the sure word of truth found in Scripture.

 

I knew both of these verses from previous readings of God’s Word.  But, somehow I had not put them together.  It was sort of like having only half of my lock for the trailer.  But, this past week when I read 2 Timothy in my morning devotions, I found something, God revealed something, I had not seen before.

 

This experience teaches me, and perhaps it can be a lesson to you.  Time in God’s Word (and time in prayer and in worship as well) is vital to the faith and life of the Christian person.  I have known that truth.  But, finding the connection between these verses, was like finding the other half of my lock.  This discovery re-affirmed what I knew. 

 

Will you join me in regular daily time in God’s Word?

 

A Child of God, Thankful for Daily Faith and Direction found in God’s Word,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  In the past I have alternated devotional studies every two years, but I will re-use this year’s devotions so we can study and grow TOGETHER.  I am encouraging you to join me in studying God’s Word together by using the same devotional Bible I plan to use in the next two years.  I will use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House (our church’s publishing house) in 2019 and 2020.  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

·         From CPH for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping - https://www.cph.org/p-22950-todays-light-devotional-bible.aspx


 

P.P.S.  God acted with grace through baptism in the lives of two of his children the last two Sundays in early worship.

·         Here is a picture of the baptism of Walter Lee Downing, October 14  https://photos.app.goo.gl/7M28LpwUBThwSM8v8

·         Here is a picture of the baptism of Lorrie Ann Lutz, Sunday, October 21.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/bwhvHtxmno7538pUA

 

P.P.P.S.  Here are 2 pictures of confirmation students eating “snacks” Wednesday, October 17.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6UEj588g1Wx5u9Gt7

 

P.P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of those at the St. John Youth Dinner Auction.  Ethan says we made about $3500 with this year’s event.  Money will go to help our St. John Youth go to the National Youth Gathering in MN next July.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6Ubvg3wHQoH8hjio9

 

 

 

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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.

 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thankful for God's Peace Found in Christian Music


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

In confirmation class last Wednesday one of our students was going through a tough time.  But, even in his distress, when discussion about the lesson started, he pitched right in.  One of the questions for students in this lesson was, “Where do you find peace?”  We wanted our students to further consider how Jesus gives peace.  This student opened his heart and talked about how listening to music soothes him in time of trouble.  I was able to share with him how the music of the young shepherd, David, calmed the troubled heart of King Saul. (1 Samuel 16:23)

 

We then discussed in class the peace that Jesus offers.  When the rest of the world is against us Jesus brings peace to our lives because God’s love in Jesus is sure and is eternal.  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.” (Romans 8:38-39)

 

We also taught our class to see how God’s forgiveness, through Jesus’ death on the cross and through His rising again from the dead, brings peace to people troubled by their failures and their sins.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)  So, in confirmation class we discussed all those ways that Jesus brings peace to our troubled lives.

 

But, let’s consider again the answer of that one student.  He found peace by turning to music.  Perhaps you have also experienced that music can be a place where we not only hear words of peace-giving truth, but where the tune of the music can also touch our heart, and enter our soul.

 

Actually, many of my favorite songs and musicians have come as recommendations or gifts from others.  Pastor Corbie Cross once gave me an album from Keith and Kristyn Getty, “In Christ Alone.”  That music lifts my spirit and points me to Jesus.  St. John member, Dave Ianson, once gifted me with an album from Emmy Lou Harris, “Angel Band.”  This simple country music shares deep truths about the love of God for us.  Long time St. John member, Bill Weith, once suggested I listen to the British boys choir, Libera, sing “Going Home.”  Boy, does that song feed faith in my heart.  Kathy bought me an album of their music. (You can listen to this song on YouTube.) 

 

When Pastor David Boedecker was a fellow seminary student with me, he shared his personal practice of listening to The Messiah each Christmas season while eating a pomegranate.  I’ve learned to appreciate both.  I also like to listen to Handel’s Messiah during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday!  Andrew Bosela attended a Kaleidoscope Christian youth camp I helped lead.  This former student recommended the music of Fernando Ortega.  I often listen to Ortega’s music in the morning while I clean the kitchen and prepare breakfast.  I have Ortega’s albums “Hymns and Meditations” and “The Shadow of Your Wings – Hymns.”

 

I have also discovered other peace-giving Christian music on my own.  Twenty years ago I bought Twila Paris’ album “A Heart that Knows You.”  This album is still one of my favorites.  I like Alan Jackson’s country music.  But his album of Christian hymns, “Precious Memories” has been one I’ve shared with others.  And recently I bought music of Joey and Rory Feek. Their album “Hymns” brings me the quiet peace of Jesus in a loud and troubling world.  The Christmas album by the Valparaiso University Chorus, “Behold What Wonder” helps me to truly enjoy the Christmas wonder of the gift of God’s Son!  And Johan Sebastian Bach . . . Ah, Bach!

 

The world around us can bring a lot of noise into our lives.  That noise can come from commercials, or from political rhetoric, or even from people who are angry, or hateful, but do not know Jesus.

 

What is your favorite Christian music?  Does the singing of Amazing Grace stir your soul?  It is true, the grace – the undeserved love of God in Jesus, is AMAZING.  But, when put to music that truth seems to me to sink even deeper.

 

In Psalm 96 the Psalmist calls us to “1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.”  But then, inspired by God, the Psalmist tells us we are not alone as we sing praise to God.  All creation joins in praising God through it’s songs.  11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;  13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”

 

Our confirmation student was drowning out the noise in his world with music.  I encourage you, not just to drown out the world’s noise.  I encourage you to bring the peace we have through God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus into your lives.  I too have found that Christian music helps me to know God’s peace!

 

A Child of God, Thankful for God’s Peace Found in Christian Music,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  Here is a picture of closing prayer at confirmation last Wednesday.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/iCPhvBt6KDu1P4ZR7

 

P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from a mid-October fishing and discovery trip.  As you know, this is late in the year to be able to be out on the rivers.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/C5XkWaffRkHAYVAF6

 

 

******

 

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.

 

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