Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Grieved by the Senseless Violence Against Those who Protect Us

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Kathy and I were witness to a sad but moving scene on Friday evening, April 20.  We are on vacation in Florida.  Kathy was able to attend a quilting conference in Arkansas the first week of our trip, and then we came to Florida to visit my family.  My 90-year old dad, and my siblings all live in and around Gainesville, Florida.


On Friday, we drove to Chiefland, Florida, so Kathy could help my sister set up at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Joyshop that took place the next day.  I went golfing while Kathy and Martha worked at church.  However, in order to get to Chiefland from Gainesville, a person drives through the little town of Trenton, Florida, population about 2000.


Unfortunately, you probably heard about Trenton last week.  Two police officers, Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, were shot and killed on Thursday while they ate lunch in a small Chinese restaurant in Trenton.  The man who shot them then went to his vehicle and took his own life.


According to news reports, Gilchrist County Sherriff, Bobby Schultz said, "I don't have answers as to why this happened." Schultz said the 29-year-old Ramirez was a 7-year-veteran who was married with children. Lindsay was 25 years old. A statement released Thursday night said the men simply sat down to eat and that there was no crime in progress and no disturbance. “It's important to remember that attacks like Thursday's can happen anywhere, even in small cities like Trenton. After 26 years of doing this, there is nothing that can prepare you for senseless deaths," Schultz said.


I confess that as Kathy and I drove through Trenton on Friday morning, and as we drove past the restaurant where the two officers were murdered, I personally felt a tangible grief and sorrow over these senseless shootings.  A pall of loss hung over my soul the whole day.


But, as we drove back to Gainesville on Friday evening, we were touched and we were deeply moved.  It seems that we had chosen to return to Gainesville a little before the bodies of the fallen officers were to be brought back to Trenton from the Gainesville Medical Examiner.  So, as we drove into Trenton the streets were lined with people, sort of like a parade.  Cars were parked.  Families gathered at the curb.  People held flags.  Others wore blue in support of these fallen policemen.  However, it was not only in Trenton that people lined the streets.  At most every driveway and business along this rural drive for 30 miles into Gainesville, people lined the streets to honor the fallen officers as their bodies were to be transported home.  Kathy and I were overwhelmed by the support given by the people of North Florida.


Hopefully, you know that God cares for you eternally through the life and death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  But, God also cares for us temporally in many ways. Did you also realize that God cares for and protects the people of this world through civil authorities?  God inspired Paul to write in Romans 13, “1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  (Romans 13:1-4)  God cares for all people by establishing authority to punish those who willingly break the law, in order to protect those who keep the law.


Unfortunately, this shooting is not an isolated incident in our country these days.  A news report from April 24 says that, “Since the start of 2018, at least 31 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have died while on duty - with 19 of the deaths caused by gunfire.”  Perhaps you heard of other recent shootings, including the one in Dallas.  It seems that those who are putting their lives on the line to keep the law have become targets.


Truthfully, there are no perfect leaders and no perfect authorities.  There are also no perfect parents.  Neither are there any perfect citizens.  But, God’s plan is to protect and care for those who seek to live law abiding lives by providing authorities who will bring wrong-doers and criminals to justice. 


Pastor Richard Allen, who served officially at St. John from 1999 through 2015 (and still serves), and who also served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, used to have a sign on his office wall which read, “Only two people have been willing to lay down their life for you – Jesus Christ and the US servicemen.”  It seems to me that we should add “first responders” to that list of those who lay down their lives for us. 


I know that Kathy and I were deeply moved on Friday evening to see so many along the road to Trenton honoring the officers who lost their lives simply because they were protecting ours.                                         


A Child of God, Grieved by the Senseless Rebellion and Violence Against those who Serve Us!

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are a couple of articles that have run in local papers about this shooting.

·       This article tells of the shooting of the officers.



P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our vacation.  I’ll be adding more pictures as our vacation progresses.






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, April 18, 2018

Please Pray for our Young People

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


On April 8, eleven young teenagers confirmed their faith in God at St. John.  They shared with others that they believe in Jesus as their Savior.  They shared that they affirm the covenant God made with them in their baptisms.  They shared with others that they want to serve God with their lives, that they want to serve God in His church, even to the point of death!  They received God’s blessings and were sent to live their lives for Him.  Confirmation Day is a joyful day for Christian young people.


But, today I ask you to pray for these young people who were confirmed.  Please pray for Amber, for Regina, for Kai, for John and Thomas, for Jack, for Jacob, for Luke, for Cooper.  Please pray for Dezzy and for Julia.  In fact, please pray for all young people that they may know the Lord and continue in faith.


On the day I was confirmed my pastor gave me a confirmation verse, just as I gave verses to our young people this year.  It turns out that the verse my pastor gave me was his own confirmation verse, and was also his father’s confirmation verse as well.  I was given the following verse from God’s Word to help guide my life, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  (Revelation 2:10)  Being faithful to our Lord, continuing in faith and in love and in obedience, has never been easy.  We constantly fight a battle against our selfishness, our fleshly desires.  As children of God we fight against the temptations of this world.  This struggle has been true since the first sin.


But, being faithful to our Lord, keeping vows made to the Lord, faces greater opposition today than when I was confirmed 51 years ago.  The world around our young people uses advertisements and social media to lure them to self-indulgence and calls this selfishness “natural” or “normal.”  Please pray for our young people.


The world around our young people tells them to find truth in their own hearts and that they get to determine what is true.  There is actually partial truth in telling someone to trust themself.  After all, God has created us as His unique and blessed people.  But, often this self-trust is encouraged at the expense of knowing that ultimate truth comes from God and is found in His Word.  Many times I have heard someone say, “I know what God’s word says.  But, this feels so right.  It must be okay with God.”  When we think we determine what is true, even when our “personal truth” contradicts God’s Word, then we make ourselves god.  In reality, however, God calls for us to listen to Him, to listen to His truth, to listen to His Word, and to follow Him.  But, our young people are constantly being called away from trusting God. Please pray for our young people.


Today’s church can seem old and worn out.  After all people have followed Jesus for over 2000 years.  A majority of people today believe that God is a choice, not the truth.  Being part of a minority of those who believe in Jesus as our Savior can be difficult.  In early days of the Christian Church faith in Jesus seemed new and vibrant.  Today, because many want a change from the traditional values of our culture, a culture in which many values came from God and from Scripture, Christianity seems old fashioned.  It seems old fashioned to our young people who are just beginning their lives.  Please pray for our young people.


You see, we face a constant battle.  We read in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  This battle is not only fought on a large scale, but is fought even more in the heart and soul of every individual Christian, and in the lives each of these young people.  This battle is fought in daily temptations about whether I live for myself, or live for God.  It is fought in daily decisions about whether to believe God and His Word, or to find a different truth in myself.  These are battles which our new “confirmands,” and all our young people face.  Please pray for all our young people.


Our opponent in this battle, and the opponent of the faith of our young people, is an enemy that is much stronger than we are.  In honesty, Satan is too strong, and possibly worse, too crafty and deceitful, for us to win this war on our own.  But, thankfully, the battle has already been won.  Jesus says in John 16:33, " . . .  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."


Jesus overcame our enemy when He lived a perfect life.  Jesus overcame the enemy of our faith when He died for sin, and even more when He rose from the dead.  As He Jesus tells His disciples and all people in this verse, He has overcome the world.  But . . . the battle still goes on!  Please pray for our newly confirmed young people, and for all children of God.


A Child of God, Praying for My Own Children, and for All Young Christians!

Pastor Jonathan          




P.S.      Here are some pictures I was sent of the pot luck taco bar before the St. John outing to see the VPA production of Mary Poppins.  Thank you to our Fellowship Board!


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our vacation.  I’ll be adding more pictures over time.


P.P.P.S.  Martin Luther described Christian victory in this battle even more succinctly in His famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress.


A mighty fortress is our God, A sword and shield victorious;
He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod And wins salvation glorious.
The old satanic foe Has sworn to work us woe.

With craft and dreadful might He arms himself to fight.
On earth he has no equal.


No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost, rejected.
            But now a champion comes to fight, Whom God Himself elected.
            You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is He,

            Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son, adored.
            He holds the field victorious.


Though hordes of devils fill the land All threat’ning to devour us,
            We tremble not, unmoved we stand; They cannot overpow’r us.
            Let this world’s tyrant rage; In battle we’ll engage.

His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail!
One little word subdues him.


            God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes, who fear it;
            For God Himself fights by our side With weapons of the Spirit.
            Were they to take our house, Goods, honor, child, or spouse,

Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day.
            The Kingdom’s ours forever!






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, April 11, 2018

Thankful for the Privilege of Sharing God's Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Life at St. John has been extremely busy, in a good way, since the beginning of Lent.  Since, Ash Wednesday, February 14 this year, God has worked to grow His people through mid-week Lenten worship and fellowship meals, through a Confirmation Retreat and a marriage retreat, through a ski outing and a congregational ice fishing outing.  We learned through a presentation by Jews for Jesus followed by a Passover meal.  Seventh grade students received first communion. Our high school youth group led Good Friday worship, and families enjoyed the Easter festival.  On Easter morning we celebrated Jesus’ rising from the dead with 3 worship services, and with our Easter breakfast.  In addition, the week after Easter we celebrated Confirmation Day for 11 students.  At the same time we have been working on plans for a congregational outing to see Mary Poppins, on plans for the upcoming community picnic, and we are planning for a congregational trip to possibly lead Vacation Bible School in Akiak.  Whew!!  I’m ready for a vacation!


But, during the day on Tuesday, before Kathy and I left for vacation that evening, I visited a family who had lost a son.  I also visited with a member who will have brain surgery next week.  I was also called to the hospital for a member who is in critical condition.  In some ways, even though I’m ready for a vacation, it is hard to leave.  It is hard to leave when people need God’s care, and when, as a pastor, that is what I am called to do, to care for God’s sheep.


In the back of my mind are God’s words spoken by the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel, against the self-serving priests of Ezekiel’s time.


2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.


I don’t want to neglect the sheep and lambs of God.  Actually, I find that it is an honor and a privilege, not just a job, to bring God’s love to His people. Yet, because of work travel, or vacations, in the past I have missed weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and other important events in the lives of God’s people.  I care for the people of St. John and regret having missed these occasions.


However, I have a book of pastoral theology on my shelf that is entitled, “The Under-shepherd Under Christ.”  David reminds people of all ages who the real Shepherd is.  You know the first line of Psalm 23.  The LORD is my shepherd,”  God is THE shepherd.  A pastor is an “under-shepherd,”


In John 10 Jesus gives more insight into the relationship of God as shepherd for His people.  Jesus taught about Himself, 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.   (John 10:11, 27-28)  Only God is the real Shepherd, the real care-giver of His sheep.  Only God can forgive, can heal, and give eternal life.  The job of a pastor, in fact the job of God’s church, is to point to Jesus as the source of love and life which God’s people need.


So, on Tuesday I read from Psalm 23 to our member in the hospital.  I shared the John 10 verse above with our member facing surgery.  I also contacted some others who will help provide care for those facing these issues of life while I am gone.


It is good to get away, to rest, to refresh, to re-create, to be renewed.  But, it is also a blessing to share the Good Shepherd and all His blessings with the people of God and the sheep of God.  Thank you for giving me that joy and that privilege.


A Child of God, Thankful for the Privilege of Caring for God’s Sheep,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.      Confirmation Day was celebrated on Sunday, April 8, at St. John.  This year those confirmed included Amber Alexander, Regina Carlson, Kai Kastar, John Merritt, Thomas Merritt, Jack Nance, Jacob Osterkamp, Luke Peltier, Cooper Singleton, Dezzy Watkins, and Julia Watkins.  Here are pictures from Confirmation Day.


P.P.S.  While on a trip to Portland I got to visit with David Grosz on April 6.  David is doing well in his recovery from cancer, and will travel to Mongolia and Hong Kong for the World Mission Prayer League at the end of May.  Here is a picture of David.


P.P.P.S.  Because of leaving on vacation, these are probably pictures of my last (I think) ice fishing outing of Spring 2018.  Kym Miller and I both kept a limit of rainbow trout.





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, April 4, 2018

Thankful and Humbled by the Easter Faith of Children

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


I have two precious pieces of paper on my desk at this time.  These pieces of paper are attendance cards from Holy Week worship services at St. John.  Both attendance cards have prayer requests on the back.  However, I hope to soon return these written prayer requests to the families involved.


One of these cards is from Sarah Svedin.  The ushers brought this piece of paper to me at the altar for prayer on Palm Sunday, March 25.  Sarah asks, “Can you please prayer for my brother Levi today to heal his heart!”  Actually, we have been praying for Levi Svedin since before he was born.  Levi’s grandparents, Ron and Ann Marie Svedin, have asked prayers for their grandson when doctors discovered problems before birth.  Levi had one set of major surgeries before he left the hospital.  Recently, Levi came home, recovering from heart surgery.  Levi has at least one major surgery ahead of him.  Oh, by the way, Sarah is 6 years old!  (I confess that I broke up a little as I read Sarah’s request in her 6 year old hand-writing at the altar on that day.)


The other prayer request card I have is from Tatum Thomas.  I received this card at the altar in 9:00 a.m. worship on Easter Sunday.  Tatum wrote in her 7 year old hand-writing about her dad, Clint Thomas.  “Pray for my dad because he has a brane tumor.”  (Actually, I received 2 cards at the altar asking prayers for Clint.  One prayer request was from Tatum, and one was from her mom, Carly Thomas.)  We have known for a little over a month that Clint has a small brain tumor.  He will have surgery on April 17.  Tatum is asking for the people of St. John to pray for her dad.


Even as I write today’s devotion, my heart is full as I consider the faith and the love in these two young girls.  These prayer requests bring to mind the account of Jesus and the little children.  13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”  (Mark 10:13-16)


I am thankful that these two young girls have such love for their family that, even at such a young age, they want to do something to help.  I am in awe at the faith of Sarah and Tatum that they go to Jesus for the help which they need.  I am humbled by their request for the people of God to join them in their prayers.  The words of Jesus speak even more truth to me, “15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."


Would you please join me in praying with these two young girls for their family members that God would act in love and in mercy and in power in answer to their prayers?  Also, please pray for these young girls that, as they grow to be teenagers and young adults, their faith may continue and may grow.


What a great way to celebrate Jesus’ Easter victory, to go to Him asking His resurrection power and love in this world, and trusting the risen Jesus to act with power and mercy for those we love!


A Child of God, Thankful and Humbled by the Easter Faith of Children,

Pastor Jonathan          

P.S.      Here are pictures of the prayer requests from Sarah and Tatum.


P.P.S.  Last week was another BUSY Lenten week at St. John.  Here are some more pictures from Holy Week activities.

·       Here are pictures from the 2018 St. John Passover Meal.


·       Here are pictures the 2018 Easter Festival.


·       Here are pictures from this year’s Easter Breakfast.


P. P.P.S.  Monday’s fishing?  On the day after Easter I had my bait thawed, my truck loaded, and my dog along as I went to the gas station.  However, the wind was blowing.  When I had to use my full weight and the strength of my arms to be able to shut the door of my truck in the wind, I decided, “I’m not sure I want to fish in this wind.”  There was no ice fishing on April 2.





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.