Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Seeking a Life of Continual Repentance and Faith in Jesus


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

In recent weeks my daily devotions have been leading me through the book of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was written as Jerusalem was being destroyed by the Babylonian army around 587 B.C. As Jeremiah was inspired to write his book, the people of Judah who weren’t killed were being taken into exile to the land of Babylon.  It was one of the darkest times for God’s Jewish people.  Jeremiah is not my favorite book to read.

 

Much of what God inspires Jeremiah to prophesy is a call to repentance.  The people of Jeremiah’s time were constantly breaking God’s laws in regard to justice, in regard to sexual purity, and especially in regard to idolatry.  Time and again God’s chosen people are called to turn away from worshiping idols that were not truly gods.  They were called to turn back to worship of the only true God.  Nevertheless, time and again the people of Judah, as all Israel before them, gave in to their temptations and their sinful desires, and damaged their relationship with God.  God called His people to sorrow for their sin.  He called for a new heart that would turn from sinful behavior and show itself in faithful behavior.  But the people of Jeremiah’s day failed.  They did not want to repent or to change.

 

As the horror of last week’s school shooting in Florida sinks in, a new set of behaviors rears its head.  As I watch the fallout from this tragic act of evil, it seems everyone is seeking for someone else to blame for the tragedy.  In the news I have heard blame placed on law enforcement, on the nation’s laws, on families, on school policies.  But, while I have heard people blame others, I haven’t heard one voice of repentance, of someone admitting their own part in this societal problem that has led to so many school shootings.  I have not heard a willingness of anyone to change themselves for the good of all.  No one wants to repent.

 

This weekend the Confirmation classes and families will go on a retreat to Victory Bible Camp.  We will focus on God’s call to live holy lives, lives that are set apart for God and different from  the ways of the world around us.  What we will find is that we have failed in this calling and need new hearts and new lives.

 

The words of Psalm 139 reflect an attitude that could help people of all times, especially in their relationship with God.  The last two verse of this Psalm read, 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NKJV) In this Psalm David is asking God’s help to do what the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time did not seem to want to do.  David asks God’s help to do what most in America seem to shy away from.  David asks God to help him see his own sins.  David is praying that God would lead him to change his own life to “the way of life everlasting.”

 

The real God-inspired wisdom of David in this verse is that, instead of trusting himself, instead of trusting his heart, his feelings, his thoughts, David looks to God for guidance.  David knows that his own heart and mind are damaged by his own sinfulness.  But God does know our hearts.  And, David knows that God desires eternal life for David and for all people.

 

In the New Testament God tells us that the way to life everlasting is found in a life of faith in Jesus.   Paul writes about new life in 2 Corinthians 5.  15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. . . 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17) 

 

How do we turn from selfish living for ourselves, to life that is lived for God?  When we see the loving sacrifice of God, that Christ Himself died for sinners like us, then we want to live, not for ourselves, but FOR HIM.  When we are in Christ, God makes us new.  He cleanses us by forgiving our sins.  He gives us new hearts to love him because He loved us.  We can admit our own failings because we are forgiven.  We can live for God, loving Him because He loved us.

 

Such new life of repentance and faith is not a one-time decision.  All we need to do is look at the book of Jeremiah.  Time and again the people tried and failed to live as God called them to live.  We can also look at how people in our own country respond to tragic evil, and consider our own part in that problem.  The same problems seem to keep happening. But, thankfully, the love of God continues to call us to repent and believe in God’s love for us in Jesus.  The love of God in Jesus continues to forgive the sins of those who turn to Him in faith.  The love of God continues to work to change our hearts.

 

I pray for my country on a regular basis, not so much for prosperity, as for hearts that repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors and turn to God.  I pray for my fellow Christians daily, not so much for healing of their bodies, though I do pray for healing.  But more so, I pray for a faith in Jesus that gives new life.  “ . . .if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  May God work this new life in each of us.

 

A Child of God, Seeking a Life of Continual Repentance and Faith in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Here are some pictures from our Ash Wednesday Fellowship meal served by the Carlsons, the Christiansens, and the Martins.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/9UJDpyxouCQxO8Bd2

 

P.P.S. I went fishing with granddaughter, Annabelle, and St. John member and friend, Kymberly Miller on Monday.  Here are some pictures.   https://photos.app.goo.gl/LsONap70UMOhWFNS2

 

 

 

 

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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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ST. JOHN ACTIVITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES

 

MID WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP CONTINUES each Wednesday in Lent, including this Wednesday, February 21, at 6:30 p.m.  We continue with services under the theme, “Conventional Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom.”  This week our sermon is entitled, “God’s Wisdom Concerning Prayer.”  

         Come and prepare your hearts for Easter with our Mid-Week Lenten series listed below..

 

Lent 1 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Glory                  Palm Sunday, Upper Room

Lent 2 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Prayer                Gethsemane (Not my will but your

will – Does God answer?)

Lent 3 -           God’s Wisdom About Forgiveness                Judas – Forgiveness Can’t be Real . .

. for me

Lent 4 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Selfishness         Peter’s Denial – Take Care of # 1

Lent 5 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Power                 Pilate – The Government Has the

Power

Lent 6 -           God’s Wisdom Concerning Death                 Ladies at the Tomb – Death is Final

 

 

MID –WEEK LENTEN MEALS are served at 5:30 p.m.  This week the Berberichs, the Colbergs, and the Knuths will offer a taco bar. 

         All 6 meals have people who have signed up to serve them.  It is possible that the folks serving week 4, March 7, and week 6, March 21, could use another family or two to help them provide and serve the meal.  THANK YOU to those who are serving God and their Christian family at St. John by providing these meals.

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL AND BIBLE CLASSES are offered each Sunday.  In addition to regular Sunday School the following Adult Classes will be taught.

·       Ethan Mirly will teach a class on February 18 and on March 4.  He is looking at current trends in culture and “engagement” by people in the faith of God’s church.

·       Ephesianas taught by Hunter Richards will be taught one more Sunday, February 25.  Then Hunter will teach a class on “Selected Psalms”

·       Dave Nufer will start a new class on March 11.

 

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 each Sunday.  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.

 

THE ANNUAL ST. JOHN CONFIRMATION RETREAT is held this weekend, Friday, February 23, to Sunday, February 25.  At the current time we expect 20-21 youth and 11-14 adults to attend, with one other family member also attending. 

         Those attending should be at church, packed (please remember to bring towels), and having eaten, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.  We should arrive home around noon on Sunday.

         Please keep this retreat in prayer.

 

A MARRIAGE RETREAT will be held at the Alaska Sunset View Lodge, Friday, March 2 – Sunday March 4.  Nine couples have signed up to attend.  We have room for 2-5 more couples.

         Please keep this retreat in prayer.

 

OTHER ACTIVITIES SCHEDULED FOR GROWTH, MINISTRY, AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE FUTURE . . .

·       March 4-11 - Family Promise families will be at St. John,.  Please sign up if you can help serve homeless families.

·       Sunday, March 18 - A NEW MEMBER POT-LUCK will be held after late worship.

·       March 25 - Jews for Jesus WILL PRESENT “Christ in the Passover” in worship  in both worship services.

·       March 25 - The Shane Woods Memorial Ice Fishing Outing will be held after late worship.

·       March 25 – April 1 - Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, March 25, and concludes with Easter on Sunday, April 1.

o   The Passover Meal is Thursday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m.

o   Maundy Thursday worship is held on Thursday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m.  Seventh grade Confirmation Students will receive communion for the first time in this service.

o   The St. John Youth will present Good Friday worship at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30.

o   The Easter Festival and Easter Egg Hunt will be held at St. John on Saturday, March 31

o   Easter Worship  is offered on Easter Sunday, April 1, at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m.

o   Easter Breakfast will be offered on April 1 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

·       April 8 - Confirmation Day is held at St. John on Sunday, April 8 in the 11:00 a.m. worship service.

Sunday, April 15 - A Congregational Play Outing to the play, “Mary Poppins” at the Glenn Massey theater will happen on, at 2:00 p.m.  Cost is $23-25.00.  This is a matinee show, chosen so that families may attend.  There will be a pot luck at church before the play for those attending.

 

Our prayers are that these opportunities for worship and fellowship will strengthen God’s family at St. John in faith and love.

 

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AMC VBS TEAM MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY – I got the following e-mail last week from Alaska Mission for Christ Volunteer Coordinator, Jan Bruick.  There will be a sign up sheet on the counter in the narthex to see who might be interested in forming a VBS team to one of these southwest villages.

 

It's been a busy season of emails from team leaders sharing village/community invitations for the return of their AMC team. What a blessing! 

 

In the midst of this process came a phone call from the Catholic Diocese asking AMC to provide seven VBS teams to southwest Alaska--all "new" villages to our ministry. We have had one team from Ft. Collins, CO step up to adopt one of these villages. However, six remain.  We also have two southwest villages with Moravian ties looking for teams to return this summer.  Eek was served by a team until 2015, and Akiak had a team until this past summer. 

 

Therefore, I am reaching out to you and your congregation to see if you have any resources within your congregation or ties back to a lower 48 congregation who might consider forming a team to serve in these Yup'ik villages this summer. 

 

I am trusting each day that God has a plan for my work in carrying the Gospel message throughout the state.  If you can assist me in any way (especially through prayer and sharing this need with your congregation), I thank you!

 

These are all southwest Alaska villages.  The Catholic sister is selecting which order these are fulfilled with a team based on her knowledge of the community:
 
Chefornak (this village is next on list for adoption)
Emmonak (this village is next on list for adoption)
Newtok
Nightmute
            St. Mary's
Tununak (Tooksook Bay may adopt this village, as well.  Waiting on team size to come

together.)

 

Moravian Villages to be re-opened to AMC teams are:
 Akiak
Eek
Trusting in Him,         
Jan Bruick, Servant Event Coordinator
Alaska Mission for Christ

 

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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, February 14, 2018

Lenten Observance - Thankful for the Patient Love of my Merciful Heavenly Father


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

The church season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, this year on February 14*.  For a number of reasons Lent has become one of my favorite seasons of the church year.  Some may be surprised at such a statement.  Lent is the time before the Easter season that the Christian Church has traditionally focused on the opposition to the ministry of Jesus, opposition which led to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.  Bible readings during Lent portray the sinful behavior of the people of Jesus’ day, including His own followers and the religious leaders of His time.  Such focus gives us a chance to consider our own failings in the face of God’s righteous love.  Lent gives a time for humble confession, and for a heart of repentance.  This time of repentance has become important for my relationship with God.

 

But, as I wrote above, some may be surprised that Lent would be a favorite season of mine.  Who, after all, wants to spend time in repentance?  But, a heart that admits our own failings, our sin, and our rebellion, can then see more clearly the patient love of God.

 

Let me see if I can illustrate this point.  My wife and I had a chuckle recently, at my expense.  Our son, Tim, has faced some vehicle frustrations and challenges in recent times.  I confess to being frustrated along-side him.  A recent trip to Hatcher Pass to ski caused another such problem.  After a day of skiing, Tim could not find his keys.  The keys were later turned in to his gym by someone who found them on the slopes.  But, there were some anxious moments as he searched for his keys in my vehicle, and also in the dark up in Hatcher Pass.

 

I shared those moments of anxious frustration with Tim, but then I mentioned to my wife.  “Who was it that lost his cell phone on the upper mountain of Alyeska years ago?”  That wasn’t Tim, that was me.  In order to find my phone Trenton Berberich skied with me back to the place I had fallen, and we called my phone.  We could hear it ringing under the snow, so we found my phone. 

 

“Who was it that drove the school bus of another church (only for one week of a youth event) until the bus stopped running on the way back to that church . . . because there was no oil in the engine?”  That wasn’t Tim, that was me.  Thankfully, the owner of the bus was very understanding.

 

”Who was it whose car broke down about 200 miles from home on a trip home from college for Christmas vacation?”    That wasn’t Tim, that was me.  The drive shaft in my 62 Volkswagon had broken.  The car would not drive another mile.

 

“Who was it whose first 62 VW burnt up inside the garage of their home causing the fire department to rush to put out the fire?”    That wasn’t Tim, that was me, when I was 16 years old.

 

I try to be patient with my children.  I’m not sure I am always successful in my patience.  But, as I recounted some of these events with my wife, I came to realize just how many times my own dad showed patience to me.  Then, thinking of my own father’s patience, I began wondering just how many times my Heavenly Father has shaken his head wondering, “When will he learn that I love Him?  When will he learn to trust me?”  Our Heavenly Father is incredibly patient!

 

2 Peter 3 talks about the patience of God, “9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

Lent has become a time that I intentionally take time to reflect on my failures, and on God’s patient love.  It is easy to read the Scripture and see the failures of Jesus disciples or the religious leaders of His day.  But, when I stop and reflect, I see my own failures too.  I am thankful for God’s merciful saving love in Jesus.  I am thankful for God’s patience with my rebellious sin.  My heart is led to repentance, to admitting my failure to God again and led to turn to Him for forgiveness and love and strength.  The season of Lent helps my attitude of repentance.

 

People observe the Lenten season in many ways including worship and fasting.  All of these ways to observe Lent are intended to point us to our waywardness, and are intended to point us to the patient saving love of God in Jesus, so that we repent.  The intent of Lent is that we turn from our sin and turn, in faith, to God’s patient love.  I pray a blessed Lent for you.

 

A Child of God, Thankful for the Patient Love of My Merciful Heavenly Father,

Pastor Jonathan

 

 

P.S.  I went skiing at Alyeska for the first time in a couple of years this past Monday.  DCE Intern, Ethan Mirly, and St. John member Cameron Christiansen went with me.  The visibility was not great because it was snowing.  But we still got to ski.  We all had a great time.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/2z1S89IsmpjnRQrv1

 

*The date of Easter is moveable, so Ash Wednesday has a changeable date as well.  Easter occurs the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.  Therefore, some years Easter is in March.  Some years Easter is celebrated in April.  This year western Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 1.

 

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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, February 7, 2018

Seeking to Walk in the Light of the Life and Love Found in Jesus


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

On Tuesday evening, January 30, the St. John men’s group, the Promise Keepers, had an interesting gathering.  First, the wind was blowing and gusting so that it was difficult to venture out.  However, four of us did brave the elements and make it to our study.  We began with prayer and talked a little.  We were just about to go to the computer to look at Lesson Two in a Lutheran Hour Ministries video Bible study when “it” happened.  A gust of wind must have hit a power line somewhere.  The lights in the church went out around 7:45 p.m. 

 

With the lights and the power out, we could not use the video for the Bible study.  But, maybe the lights would come back on.  So we waited, and discussed issues of life and faith in the darkness.  And, we waited and we discussed.  Finally, about 25 minutes later we decided we would not get to the Bible Study that night, so we discussed prayer needs, and we prayed.  After a half an hour in the dark we headed for home.

 

As we left and locked up I mentioned some about our evening session without light, in darkness.  Eric Wyatt corrected me.  “The lights may have been out, but we had The Light.”

 

Eric’s statement got me to thinking about what the Bible says about light and darkness.  Did you know there are 158 verse that talk about “darkness” in the New International Version translation of the Bible?  As I read through these verses I found a common theme.  Darkness is characteristic of sin, and judgement, and those who live and act in disobedience to God.  Living in darkness is the result of a sin in our world.  But, God brings light to those in darkness, especially through His Son, Jesus.  Jesus, brings us righteousness before God through His own righteous life and His sacrificial, forgiving death.  Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, gives us life through His victorious rising from the dead.  As we know and believe in Jesus, as we follow Him, we receive the light of God in place of the darkness in our lives.

 

I spent time studying the teaching of Scripture on light and darkness.  I ask you to please consider with me just some of the truth God reveals through the contrast of light and darkness. 

 

In Isaiah 9:2 we are told, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. In Matthew 4 God reveals that the light which dawns in the land of darkness is Jesus Himself.

 

In the first five verse of the Gospel of John, God contrasts the power and life and light we have in Jesus, with the darkness in which this rebellious world lives. 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.  3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  (John 1:1-5)  Like the flipping of a switch to turn on the lights in a dark room, Jesus burst on the world bringing light and life. 

 

Jesus speaks about Himself to the leaders of His day, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 8:12 b ) If you read on in this section of Scripture, however, you see the leaders immediately challenged Jesus. 

 

Finally, in the Epistle reading assigned for this Sunday, for Transfiguration Sunday, God inspired Paul to write in 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  In Jesus, light shines out of darkness.  In Jesus we are given the knowledge of the glory of God. 

 

I believe that, in a way he did not even realize, Eric was correct in his statement.  No one likes to be in darkness.  It is hard to see and maneuver in the dark. Alaskans know how continued darkness can create gloom and depression.  But, our men’s group gladly sat in the darkness and discussed God’s love and God’s power.  Even in the darkness of that evening, the light of Jesus was shining in our midst.

 

It is only early February in Alaska.  The hours of light are beginning to lengthen so we know the time of long daylight is coming.  But, for now we still experience many more hours of darkness than light.  In many ways our spirits are anxiously waiting for that time of light.  Perhaps Alaskans can understand even more what Jesus means when he tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Walk in the Light of the Love and Life Found in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

 

P.S.  At the end of today’s e-mail message I have chosen some more of these Scripture verses about darkness and light copied them so you can read and see some of what Scripture says.

 

P.P.S.  The St. John Elders met with DCE intern Ethan Mirly on January 25 at the home of Ron and Ann Marie Svedin.  Here are a couple of pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/SWyZ7CWonlbl4tEi2

 

P.P.P.S.  I finally got to go ice fishing this year.  St. John DCE Intern, Ethan Mirly, and Our Redeemer DCE intern, Alex Parker, also joined me.  Here are a couple of pictures from that trip.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ETXD0lJtB7G7wW132

 

 

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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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