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,
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
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 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!
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: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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!!