Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Easter Joy - Rejoicing that Jesus Won the Battle I Cannot Win

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Throughout America we are hearing about an “opioid epidemic.”  But, for at least two generations the lure of illegal drugs has affected our culture so that many willingly place health and life in danger for the hope of the ultimate high.  Others are willing to break the law to gain large sums of money by selling these drugs illegally, placing their freedom, their identity, and their very souls in danger.  Unfortunately, this battle does not just play out in far away New York City, or Los Angeles.  This “epidemic” hits our own back yard, our own community, and often hurts people we know personally and love dearly. 


How does a culture fight against such strong desires in those who use drugs?  How do we fight against the lure of such large profits for those who pedal this slavery and death?  Our country has at times imposed stiff prison sentences.  We have heard campaigns that tell us, “Say ‘No’ to Drugs.”  We have even seen some substances legalized.  But, still loved ones end up with lives enslaved, and they even end up dead.  When the reality of this battle hits us personally, when we lose a loved one, our hopes and plans can face devastation, and we can experience despair.


This war on drugs may seem like a powerful enemy that we cannot defeat, at least not for the last 50 years.  But, the reality is that each one of us faces a much greater enemy.  Our bodies, our souls, and our minds are infected by a rebellion against our Lord and Creator.  In pride we don’t want anyone to tell us what to do, not even the one who made us.  In selfishness we want to indulge ourselves and accumulate to our own harm.  In a lack of love for others, we look away from those in need.  The battle against this sinful nature found within each one of us is not imagined, it is the sad reality.  As Paul writes, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:19, 24).  Much larger than the war on drugs is the battle of our sinful nature against our relationship with God and against our relationships with one another.  Sin is a verifiable spiritual truth.  As Paul laments, “Who WILL deliver us?” 


This Sunday God gives His loving and powerful answer to this question.  HE will deliver us!  God sent His only Son to deliver us.  Jesus, the perfect Son of God took on the battle against sin and won that battle with a life of love and perfect obedience.  Jesus, the eternal Lord of the universe, died on a cross, sacrificing His life in love to save our lives.  If Jesus had stayed dead in the tomb then sin and death and Satan are stronger.  But, this Sunday we remember that Jesus, the Savior of the world, has defeated the enemies of sin and death which we cannot defeat.  With His rising from the dead Jesus has won the battle we cannot win.  He has paid for our sin.  Jesus defeated death.  Listen to the inspired words of God spoken through Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.


54 . . . “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”h 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”i 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54 b – 57)


Sometimes when we face the trials of life and know we are powerless, we can wonder why we should try any more, why we should care.  If life is so brutal, why try to live like there is hope. But, this Sunday we are reminded again that Jesus won the battle we cannot win.  Now we can face the losses, the betrayals, and the tragedies of life and go forward with faith and courage to live in hope and love.  As Paul wrote, 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  (1 Corinthians 15: 58)


The ancient church shouted Jesus’ victory, and we proclaim that victory to one another today, rejoicing in the truth of Jesus’ rising from the dead which gives us freedom and life.  “He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!!  Alleluia!!


A Child of God, Rejoicing that Jesus won the battle I could not win!

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Remember to celebrate Jesus’ Easter victory by worshiping this week.  Services at St. John are held at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m.


P.P.S.  Here are just a couple of other Easter verses to consider,


·       John 11:25-26  25 Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”


·       John 14:19 b Because I live, you also will live.


·       Romans 8:38-39  38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k 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.


P.P.P.S.  Last week was another BUSY Lenten week at St. John.  Here are some pictures from last week.

·       Here are pictures from our final Wednesday Lenten Meal, served by the Lawtons and some of our Stephen Ministers.


·       Here are pictures from Regina Carlson’s baptism, last Friday, March 23.


·       Here is a picture from the St. John Koinonia group last Friday evening, March 23.


·       Here are some pictures from the 2018 Shane Woods Ice Fishing outing on Sunday, March 25.


·       Here are a couple of pictures from Monday’s fishing trip to Point McKenzie.




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, March 21, 2018

Remembering the Price God Paid to Save Me from my Sin

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


In 2004 the movie “The Passion of the Christ” caused world-wide reaction.  There was much opposition even to the release of the movie from Hollywood.  But, the movie industry was surprised that the movie did so well at the box office.  Many Christians, on the other hand, delighted that the portrayal of the great salvation act of God was shown in a positive light.  Christians and non-Christians discussed the movie in churches, and in public.


But, there is a reason the move was named “The Passion of the Christ.”  The scenes depicting the scourging, and the beating, and the crucifixion of Jesus were exceptionally violent and bloody.  Some wondered if Mel Gibson, as director, hadn’t over-dramatized the violence and the blood. But, the truth is, without Jesus’ death, there would have been no resurrection.  More fully stated, without Jesus’ suffering and death to pay for the sin of the world, and for our sin, there could be no salvation for the world, or for us.


The suffering and death of Jesus has always been a hard lesson for people just to hear, and even harder to learn.  We are sinful people.  Our rebellion, our hard-headed nature, our selfishness, our greed, our lust and anger and hatred and violence, are abhorrent to our Holy Creator and Heavenly Father.  Our sin is real, even if we don’t want to admit that fact.  We would like to be saved without admitting that our separation from God is something we have caused by our own sinful hearts and our own rebellious actions.


More unbelievable, for the eternal Son of God Himself to die seems so contrary to what our minds think of when we consider the Almighty God working His love and showing His glory.  How could God die?  That still causes many questions and doubts today.


However, whether or not the violence and the blood of the movie “The Passion of the Christ” was totally accurate, the movie got one very important fact right. Jesus’ suffering and death was necessary.  For God to continue holy and opposed to sin, and for God to continue loving and saving His people, it was necessary that sin be paid for by one who was totally without sin and totally righteous.  That is why the holy Son of God became man at Christmas.  And, that is why Jesus, the sinless God-Man suffered and died, so that the one who had no sin could suffer in the place of sinners.  It was necessary, that for us to be saved, Jesus had to pay for our sins because He was holy and did not deserve to suffer and die.  Our rebellion, our selfishness, our hatred, our sin deserves God’s righteous and just punishment.  We could not save ourselves.


The disciples also had trouble hearing this lesson and believing this truth that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die.  In Matthew 16:21 we are told of Jesus teaching His disciples, 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  (See also Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12, Luke 9:22, and Luke 17:25)  Time and again Jesus taught this truth to His disciples.  Time and again they ignored Jesus, or opposed Him, like Peter did in Matthew 16:22.  “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!’"  The truth of the suffering and death of Jesus, the Son of God and the son of Mary, and the reason for the suffering and death of Jesus is hard to swallow.  It always has been. 


That is why Christian churches don’t just celebrate Jesus’s victorious rising from the dead on Easter, but they also observe Holy Week.  Holy Week considers all of Jesus’ suffering and His death.  Holy Week gives Christians a chance to confess that our sins are so abhorrent to our Holy and Loving God that His own Son had to suffer and die to save us.


This week at St. John, and at many other Christian churches, we will observe Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as part of our Holy Week observance.  We will celebrate Passover, and receive the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, remembering Jesus’ last Supper.  We will leave in silence on Good Friday after watching again the retelling of Jesus’ death on the cross.  And then on Easter, April 1 this year, we will celebrate that in spite of our sin, and in spite of the worst that Satan could muster, in spite of the suffering and death of God’s Son, Jesus rose from the dead and God is victorious.


But, before the victory celebration of Easter, there is the opportunity to confess our sin, and the opportunity to remember the love of God shown in the suffering and death of His Son in our Holy Week observance.


A Child of God, Remembering the Price God Paid to Save Me from My Sin,

Pastor Jonathan                                                                                            


P.S.  Last week was a BUSY Lenten week.  Here are some pictures from LAST WEEK

·       Here are pictures from last Wednesday’s Lenten Meal -

·       Here are pictures from last Thursday’s Alyeska Ski Day

·       Here are pictures from last Sunday’s New Member Potluck


P.P.S.  THIS SUNDAY begins our Holy Week Observance.  Two events that are important to remember.

·       JEWS FOR JESUS PRESENTATION - “Christ in the Passover” – Rob Wertheim from Jews for Jesus will present “Christ in the Passover in both services on Palm Sunday, March 25.  This will help prepare us for Holy Week, for our Passover celebration, and for our Easter Celebration.  Plan to attend worship this Sunday.


·       THE ANNUAL SHANE WOODS MEMORIAL ICE FISHING OUTING will be held at Seventeen Mile Lake this Sunday, March 25 after late worship (beginning around 1:00 p.m.?).  We have fished in this lake the last 3 years.  Here is a link to the ADFG page for Seventeen Mile lake.

The St. John Promise Keepers will provide fishing holes, fishing gear, and bait.  They will provide hot dogs, hot cocoa, cookies and chips.

However, a number of our men will be out of town this year.  We can use some help from other adults in the congregation.

Here is a link to pictures from last year’s outing.






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, March 14, 2018

White As Snow - New Life Through God's Forgiveness

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


In 1984 I was sitting in a meeting between two church members who had some issues with each other.  In reality, both had serious complaints . . . about the other.  I was in this meeting with another pastor as both parties shared their hurts.  Finally, the other pastor, Pastor Chuck Bichel, said to those involved.  “We can go on and on about the hurts you have received, and you have both been hurt.  Or, we can trust that Jesus forgives us and we can forgive one another.  We can put the past behind us and build a new future, based on Jesus.” 


That was an important moment in the lives of these two fellow Christians.  They both chose to forgive and actually built up their relationship again.  I watched them rebuild their friendship.


I remember this story as I look out the window and see that it is snowing . . . again!  (My computer weather says it will keep snowing at least through midnight.  That is over 20 hours of snow . . . again.)  Actually, I like snow.  But, I know that for many, when March rolls around, they are ready for spring to bud.  However, we do live in Alaska.  Spring is a couple of months away.  Nevertheless, the snow reminds me of the verse from Isaiah about forgiveness. 


In Isaiah chapter 1 we are told that Isaiah has a vision from God.  In this vision, God recounts the many sins of Israel, of which Isaiah is part.  But, then the voice from heaven says to Isaiah, "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)


I don’t even know all my sins before God, but I am ashamed of those I do know.  What a comfort to hear these words of forgiveness.  What a comfort to look out the window and see the snow covering all the dirt.  What a blessing during this Lenten season to consider that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)


Last Sunday, March 11, we were blessed at St. John to witness two baptisms.  Caleb Walters and Emryn Remele were called as God’s children, were given the gift of God’s Spirit, and . . . were forgiven of their sins.  (Acts 2:38-39)  God reached out and granted His grace which He promises to His children in baptism.  Many of us are baptized, and God continues to work in our lives by His Spirit to create and to strengthen our faith in Jesus, and to forgive our sins.  Or, as God speaks to us through Isaiah, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  When God forgives we have a new start.  When God forgives we are born again to new life.


As pastor for almost 39 years, I have watched the forgiveness of God change lives.  I have seen people who had been slaves to alcohol or drugs as God surprised them with His love and forgiveness.  This forgiveness gave these people a new start and gave them new lives. I have watched some marriages heal as the real forgiveness of Jesus was shared from spouse to spouse.  I have witnessed Christians who literally hated one another find reconciliation, and work together for the Lord.  I have been amazed to see families put the past behind them because of Jesus and build new relationships of love. 


Actually, I have personally been blessed by the forgiveness of God, and the forgiveness of others.  What a blessing God’s forgiveness is, because all of us are stained crimson by our sin.


So, South Central Alaska had very little snow this year, through January.  But February was a near record month of snow days, and March is continuing the trend.  This large amount of snow may dampen the spirits of some.  But, I choose to remember the words of Isaiah and find comfort in the gift of forgiveness from my Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus.  "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”


A Child of God, Thankful for New Starts in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan                                                                                            


P.S.  As mentioned above, we had two baptisms in worship on Sunday, March 11.

·       Caleb Walters, infant son of Philip and Jamie Walters was baptized in early worship.


·       Emryn Remele, infant daughter of Brett and Hadley Remele was baptized in late worship.


P.P.S.  I took my daughter ice fishing on Monday, since school was on recess for Spring Break.  Here are a couple of pictures.  What a BEAUTIFUL winter day!


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from last week’s Lenten Fellowship Meal served by the Schurmans, the Jacobsons, and the Brettragers.




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, March 7, 2018

Pondering Jesus' Passion-Seeking to Grow in Faith and Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


During the Lenten season this year, as in most years at St. John, we are offering special mid-week worship services to help people in their Lenten journey to the cross with Jesus.  So, how is your Lent going?  Are you growing to understand the sacrifice of Jesus, that He willingly faced rejection, violence, and death at the hands of those He came to save?  Are you growing in understanding of how your own sin helped cause Jesus’ suffering and death?  Is the love of God shining through the darkness of this sinful world, that He lovingly gave of Himself . . . FOR US?!


Each week in our mid-week Lenten worship this year we have been singing the hymn, “Jesus I will Ponder Now” as we prepare our hearts to hear God’s Word read.  I saved a devotion from my friend, Dr. Dale Meyer, that helps us think of our Lenten journey, and suggests some other thoughts about the Christian walk of faith in our modern technological world.  This devotion also considers the prayer of this hymn we are singing.  I share these thoughts with you now.


“Jesus, I will ponder now / On Your holy passion.” Many Christians sing that hymn today . . . How deeply will we ponder?


I’m enjoying a book by Bernard Bull, a professor at Concordia University Wisconsin. “Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology,” from Concordia Publishing House, suggests deeper Lenten questions than “shall I give up chocolate?”


“People today are seeking love and answers to their greatest problems not only from other people; we are also turning to technology. We may come to rely on it as our source of hope and comfort, setting God aside. We see technology as the beacon of light and hope for a better future for us and for the rest of the world, believing that it will deliver us from the darkness of disease, disaster, poverty, war, and other troubles in our world and lives. When we seek love, security, healing, solutions to society’s most pressing problems, safety, or any other basic need from technologies or the people who wield them, we are tempted to act as if they play the role of messiah—a role that only Jesus properly fills.” (p. 87)


“Jesus, I will ponder now”? Technology can address the symptoms of sin but cannot forgive sin. Technology can busy our lives but cannot calm our hearts. Technology can eavesdrop on our conversations but cannot answer prayers with fatherly love. Technology can improve our health and prolong our lives but cannot lead body and soul to heaven. Technology crashes, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, God’s Word alone endures into eternity.


“Jesus, I will ponder now / On Your holy passion;

With Your Sprit me endow / For such meditation.

Grant that I in love and faith / May the image cherish

            Of Your suff’ring, pain, and death / That I may not perish.”            

(Meyer Minute, February 14, 2018)


So, are we pursuing hope and life in Jesus, in His cross?  Or do we look elsewhere, sometimes even to technology, and “set God aside”?  In Romans 5 God inspired Paul to share with the Romans Christians the surprise of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the depths of God’s love.


“6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

How is your Lent going?  I pray that the special disciplines of the journey of Lent are helping you to focus on Jesus’ sacrificial love, and turning your hearts from the false wisdom and idols of this world, to God’s love for us in Jesus.


A Child of God, Pondering Jesus’ Passion-Seeking to Grow in Faith and Love,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from Lenten Fellowship meal served by the Young Adults of St. John on February 28.


P.P.S.  This past weekend 9 couples went on a Marriage Retreat.  I meant to take pictures, but . . . the only pictures I have are of an ice-fishing outing at the retreat.


P.P.P.S.  Pastor Todd Roeske came to town for an Alaska Mission for Christ meeting.  Todd and I joined St. John member, Gerry Zellar, to go ice fishing near Gerry’s house.  We caught 6 fish after a number of hours of hard work.  Here are pictures of the largest fish, which Todd caught.




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.