Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Does God really exist? If so, does God actually hear and answer prayer? Have you seen the hand of God in your life so that you can tell others of His power and His love? These big questions are often asked by those who dismiss that God exists. But, sometimes even believers ask these questions. After all, our world is so full of pain and suffering and evil, it is not surprising that people ask, “Where is God?”
The Scriptures are full of God’s promises of deliverance and rescue. In one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 30, David praises God for his deliverance from death and the grave. “I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. 3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.” (Psalm 30:1-3)
When He was tempted in the wilderness, Jesus rebuked Satan with verses from Scripture, including Psalm 91. The chaplain corps of US Armed Services have especially chosen Psalm 91 because of its promise of God’s protection in time of danger. (Kathy made a stole for a chaplain friend of mine with all of Psalm 91 embroidered on the stole.) Listen to God’s promise of rescue for those who acknowledge him. “13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." (Psalm 91:13-15)
Or, if you search Scripture, you will find God’s rescue promised in Isaiah, in Jeremiah, in Daniel, in Ezekiel, and in many other places. (See Isaiah 46:3-4, Jeremiah 1:8, 19, Ezekiel 34:10, 12, 27, Daniel 3:17, Daniel 6:16,20, Zephaniah 3:17-19) For example, in Daniel we read the famous stories of God rescuing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the firey furnace, and of God rescuing Daniel from the lions’ den. Paul and Peter also write of God’s rescue. (2 Timothy 4:18, 2 Peter 2:7-9)
So, God promises in Scripture to love, to protect, and to save His people. But, is this promise just something from the past, or is God really still active today? Are these just stories from people of faith, or is the power and love of God also present for our lives today?
This Sunday St. John will host a concert commemorating the 25th anniversary of a powerful rescue in our very midst. In the early 1990’s Russia was opening up to Christian efforts. St. John sent a team to Provideniya, across from Nome, in late July and early August 1993. The Koss family and our son, Joshua, returned from this exploratory trip on Thursday, August 12. Among the others reaching out with the love of God to this region were Lutheran singers Dave and Barb Anderson and a team 5 others, including our friend, Don Wharton. On Sunday, August 8, Don sang in worship at St. John. On Friday, August 13, on the way home from Far East Russia, the plane carrying the team with Dave and Barb and friends ran out of gas and crashed into the Bering Sea. People rarely survive over 20 minutes in these frigid waters. But, God showed His power again and, against conventional wisdom, all seven were rescued from the Bering Sea, and continued their lives of serving the Lord. The air traffic control center in Anchorage helped direct a rescue effort from Nome and all seven were plucked from the icy waters by helicopters. Our friends could not have saved themselves, but they all were saved by the efforts of others, through the grace of God.
The greatest rescue, however, is not one from any earthly danger. As Paul begins writing his letter to the Christians in Galatia, God moves him to write. “3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Galatians 1:3-4) All people in this world face trials and suffering. All those living face death. These troubles plague us because of our weakness, our rebellion, because of our sin against the Creator and Ruler of all. But, though we have brought these trials on ourselves, we are powerless to save ourselves. So, as Paul writes, “Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us.”
Sometimes we think our main need is help and rescue in this life. But, our greatest need is rescue from death and from condemnation for eternal life in heaven. The great value of examples of God’s loving power to rescue us in this world, like the rescue from the Bering Sea in 1993, is that this earthly rescue points to God’s greater rescue of all of us for heaven, through Jesus.
This Sunday night we will have an opportunity to hear an answer to the questions, “Does God exist? Does He really help and save?” I invite you to come and celebrate God’s saving goodness in this life, and to find your hope and your strength in God’s eternal rescue in Jesus.
A Child of God, Rejoicing in God’s Power and Love to Rescue Us,
P.S. Dave Anderson and Roger Walck will present a concert at St. John this Sunday, August 5, beginning at 6:00 p.m. This concert is part of the 25th anniversary celebration of God’s rescue from the Bering Sea.
P.P.S. Here are some pictures from a leisurely fishing trip with my dogs on Monday, July 30.
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.