Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Walking in the Light of Jesus - The Morning Star

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


So, do you fellow Alaskans roll out of bed as easily in January as you do in June?  Maybe I’m getting older.  Maybe I’m getting lazier. (I hope not!)  But, I think that this year especially I have found it a little easier to open my eyes in the morning, and to see the dark, and to then stay in bed “just for a few more minutes.”  That is not my normal reaction to morning.  I have often fled sleeping so that I would not miss some opportunity to work or play.  My mother used to say that I “fought sleep.”  My wife, Kathy, says that I get along on much less sleep than she does, and she sometimes worries that I don’t get enough sleep to be healthy.  But, this year I’ve just found it a little easier to “hibernate.”


I am convinced that light plays a big difference in our energy level and activity level.  Alaskans know that light also affects our mood.  In the summer, when the sunlight hits my closed eyelids very early in the morning, I often get up before any alarm.  But, in the winter, when it’s time to get up, but there are still stars in the dark sky, it always seems easier to sleep. This year just more so. 


Actually, the effect of light and darkness has been one of the reasons I like to get outdoors in the winter.  If you can rise and go to work in the dark, and if you can then leave work and come home in the dark, those hours of light can be a precious, energy-giving time.  So, on my days off I make sure I go fishing, or skiing, or simply get outside.  Light gives energy and life, perhaps even more so when the world around us is dark.


Do you know that one of the names given to Jesus is “Morning Star?”  The light of that star which shines in darkness has perhaps more meaning to Alaskans who understand times of physical darkness.


In Peter's second epistle, as Peter is sharing his experience at the Transfiguration and re-affirming that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah, promised in the Old Testament, he writes to his congregation, And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) Jesus is The Morning Star.


In the last chapter of the Bible, as Jesus appears to John in a Revelation, promising that He is indeed coming again, Jesus assures John, "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."  Jesus calls himself, “The Morning Star.”


But, it is not just a lack of sunlight that brings darkness to our world.  The sinful nature which lurks within each of us brings disappointment, sorrow, pain and death.  The inability of our elected officials to be able to act in a way that is good for all people brings darkness.  The scourge of substance abuse that ruins lives and families, and which often causes death, brings darkness.  The forces within that tear apart families and households, bring darkness.  The emptiness and grief of missing a loved one who has died, bring darkness.


But, in the dark sky of a sinful world we have the “Morning Star.”  We have the promise of God’s love and favor, even when our world is full of hatred and fighting.  We have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, even when we have failed to live in obedience and love.  We have the sure hope of eternal life for all who believe in Jesus, because the Morning Star died and rose.  Jesus is that Morning Star whose light even shines through the darkness of deepest night.


There are many hymns which offer prayers, and praise God, because Jesus brings the light of the righteousness and love of God into our dark world.  Perhaps you know the traditional hymn “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” (Lutheran Service Book 395)  or the Epiphany hymn, “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” (Lutheran Service Book 400)  But, I believe that a new hymn best speaks a prayer that is on my heart.  Perhaps your heart echos the words of the hymn, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” (Lutheran Service Book 411)


I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.

God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus.



In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the Light of the city of God. I want to follow Jesus.


Yes, in our dark world of sin, this hymn speaks well the prayer of my heart. “I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.” 


A Child of God, Desiring to Walk in the Light of Jesus, the Morning Star,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S. I went ice fishing for the first time in 2019 this past Monday.  I went to a favorite, non-stocked lake, but did not even have a bite.  Yet, the sun was out.  Temperatures were in the high 20’s.  There was no wind.  It was peaceful to sit on the ice and consider the love of God in my life.  Here is a photo of my companions.


P.P.S.  My wife is a GREAT cook.  After a meal of salmon on  Friday evening, Kathy made quiche for Monday evening with the leftover salmon.  Take a look!






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.







BIM’S BIRTHDAY PARTY – St. John member, James “Bim” Hoylman will celebrate his 69th birthday on Saturday, January 19, at Pizza Ria Delphi in Palmer at noon.  Bim is asking everyone to come and join him.   If you want to send Bim a card you can send it to:

            Bim Hoylman

            190 Edinborough Drive

            Palmer, AK  99645


NEWSIES – Fellowship Trip to see the Disney Play, “The Newsies”  - 

FOUR people from the St. John family are participating in the local musical play, Newsies.  That includes Collin Christiansen, Kyndle Kirby, Gaelen Swigart, and Sara Guhl.  The Fellowship Board is planning a trip to this play on Saturday afternoon, January 26, for the 2:00 p.m. show.  There will be a soup and salad bar at church at noon, and then we’ll leave for the play. 

       Cost of tickets is $25.00 a person.  Sign up on the counter in the narthex THIS WEEK if you wish to join in this fellowship opportunity THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY.










WOOLY LAMBS – Age birth to 3 years old – 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sundays




Jim Summers will teach a class on the Old Testament books of Esther, January 6  through February 3.


Dave Nufer will teach a class on The Holy Spirit, entitled “Spiritual Simplicity – Doing Less, Loving More.”  This class will start January 13 when Sunday School for all ages starts up again.


Pastor Rockey will start another Basic Teachings of the Bible / Adult Member Class.  This is not only a basic class for those who might want to join St. John, but also a good refresher for long time members.  This class will start January 13 when Sunday School for all ages starts up again. 


PRAYER MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY!! – There are Elders in Pastor Allen’s former office between worship who are available for prayer each Sunday between services.  Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God gives His people.  Come bring your prayer requests.  Come join in praying for God’s work, and for others.


WEDNESDAY WORSHIP - Wednesday Worship services are offered each week at 6:30 p.m. at St. John.  These services are offered as an alternative opportunity for worship.  If someone cannot make worship on Sunday, Wednesday worship is an option.  If someone wishes to worship our Lord in addition to Sunday, Wednesday worship is an option. 

            These Wednesday services primarily use the same readings as will be read on the following Sunday, but the sermon is different on Wednesday than the sermon on Sunday. 

            During Advent and Lent, Wednesday worship includes a meal and sermons with a theme appropriate to the season.

            Come and join us in growing closer to our Lord and closer to our fellow Christians.






SHUT IN VISITATIONS – If you would like to reach out to one of our elderly members there is a list on the counter in the narthex of the 24 shut ins that pastor visits, mostly monthly.  If you would like to make monthly contact with one of these folks, please sign up and then talk with Pastor Rockey.



AMC VBS IN EEK - Members of St. John are planning again to go to the village of Eek, AK, to conduct VBS for the children there.  If you are interested please speak to Rod or Temple Christiansen, Marilee Nufer, Sara Guhl, or Pastor Rockey.


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.




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:

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 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!!






Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Senior Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church

907-745-3338 - church

907-746-6117 - fax


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Blessed by the Faith of Children

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


This past Advent God warmed my heart through some children at St. John.


For a number of years now our Advent and Lenten sermons in our mid-week worship services have been a short meditation surrounded by skits.  If you have attended these services you know that the beginning skit raises a problem that God’s people face.  The pastor shares a meditation on this problem based on that night’s Scripture reading.  Then the concluding skit shows God’s help and grace to help us with the temptations and struggles of life.  The people of St. John seem to appreciate and enjoy these short sermons.


Also, for a number of years Carl Jacobson, Scott Manke, and Ann Marie Svedin have acted out these skits.  They receive the skits ahead of time by e-mail, and then arrive early and practice their parts so that they are ready for worship.  However, this Advent, Ann Marie suggested that others might also want to participate.  It was somewhat late to make many changes for Advent 2018, but after mid-week Advent worship on December 12 I announced that if anyone else was interested in helping they should let me, or one of our actors know.  Maybe they could help with Lenten skits in 2019.


However, after worship on that evening, third grade student, Avery Martin came up to me and asked me with a smile on her face, “Can I help with the sermon next week?”  To say I was surprised is putting it mildly.  However, I talked with Ann Marie, and with Avery’s parents.  Ann said she would help Avery.  Avery’s parents would get her to church to practice.  So, I wrote Avery into the skits for the meditation on December 19.  As she helped with the skit for the sermon, Avery spoke up, she read well, and she did a good job of acting her part.  I believe that the congregation and Avery were blessed by her participation.


Then after worship on that December 19 evening, fourth grade student, Gaelen Swigart, and fifth grade student, Adeline Martin (Avery’s sister), also came to me and asked if they could help with future skits.  Well, that was already the end of our mid-week Advent worship for 2018.  But, Lent is on the horizon. 


This is not the first time that children or youth of St. John have helped lead worship.  In 2014 the 8th grade confirmation class acted out the skits as we considered Ephesians 6 and “The Armor of God.”  Some youth who have been through Lay Ministry training have led worship and even preached, at St. John and at other locations that needed help.  And, each Advent we have children help with the reading and prayer as we light the Advent wreath. But, I do not ever remember children this young being this excited about serving our Lord by helping with worship!


As we begin a new year many have made resolutions hoping for a better 2019.  Resolutions to change our lives for the better can be a challenge.  However, resolutions where God’s people seek to make the world a better place can be a bigger challenge.  In Promise Keepers’ men’s Bible Study on Tuesday, January 8, one of the areas of need that we identified as needing help was that of children in our community.  We saw the need of help for families, and we prayed for God’s help in that area.


I can think of few areas that deserve the effort and attention more than that of raising children to know their Lord, to know their their Creator, and to know their their Savior.   God calls families, and His family - the Church, to train children in the knowledge of the Lord.  Consider the words of Proverbs 22:6.  Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  One of the most important jobs of God’s people is to provide life training to children.  Or, consider God’s words through Paul in Ephesians 6: 4. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.Parents are to instruct about the Lord, and about His plan for our lives!


The ultimate goal of teaching children about the Lord is that they grow in trusting Jesus as their Savior, and that they live in His grace now and eternally.  As you know, often the teacher learns more by teaching, than the student learns in class.  It is a blessing to see children who want so much to learn and who are growing in their faith. 


It is not often that the preacher is blessed by His sermon in the same way that the congregation is blessed.  On December 19, I was not only blessed by the words of Avery, but by the attitude of faith and a desire to learn that I saw in Avery, and in Gaelen, and in Adeline. 


May God bless the efforts of all God’s churches so that the words of Jesus come true, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  (Mark 13:15)  What a great goal for the beginning of 2019, and for years to come!


A Child of God, Blessed by the Faith of Children,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020?  You may know that I am using the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House for my personal devotions in 2019 and 2020.  I have encouraged others to join me.  After the Palmer Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday, January 8, Paul Scott came up to me and talked about his use of this devotional bible, saying that he enjoys the short focus and devotional sections as well.  I encourage you to read through God’s Word with us as you are able.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of a beautiful day of skiing at Alyeska on January 3 with my daughter, Mary.  (No fishing this week.)  This was a great Father – Daughter time.  J




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, January 2, 2019

Planning to Let the Lord be my Strength and My Song in 2019

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


The calendar has turned from 2018 to 2019.  Many of us attended parties on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the passing of one year into the promise of another.  You know the stated reasons for these celebrations.  People hope to say good-bye to the problems and disappointments of the past and hope to welcome new opportunities and blessings of the future.  But think about this. Will there be parties next year on New Year’s Eve?  Why do we expect more New Year’s Eve celebrations next year on December 31?  Doesn’t that expectation just say that we are also expecting more struggles and problems in the coming year of 2019?


So, how do you face the expected trials of the future?  Do you have an inner strength that gets you through life’s difficulties?  Are you young, or just naturally full of energy and optimism, so that problems roll off your back?  Or, do you get weary and weighed down?  Do you wonder how you will take one more step in a positive direction?


Personally, after over 65 years of life, I know many, if not all, of my weaknesses and struggles.  I know that I can and do grow weary.  I can feel downcast when the disappointments and trials of life come.  I don’t always make the best choices or act in the healthiest ways.  In other words, I am a sinful person whose sin affects my life.  Ultimately, I know that I need help to live with the joy and peace and strength that God intends for His children.


Others in Scripture faced moments of truth and self-realization where they too admitted their need for help, specifically help from the Almighty and Merciful Lord of all.  When the children of Israel had escaped Pharoah and Egypt and had been saved by their miraculous passing through the Red Sea, as they stood safely on the other shore they sang praise and truth.  The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15: 2)  The Israelites recognized the Lord as their strength.  God is the one who had miraculously saved them. God is the One who gave them joy and the reason to sing.


In the Psalms, as David ponders the question and the scourge of evil in the world, he admits his own weakness, and looks to our Creator for strength.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73: 26)


In the gospels of the New Testament Jesus invites those who are wearied by life to come to Him for rest and renewal.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28)  We may find weariness in life’s problems, so Jesus call us to rest in HIM.


And, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul admits that one of his weaknesses may be pride.  But, Paul has learned of his on-going weakness and has also learned his need for the strength and power of Christ.  7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)


It is delightful to consider the new opportunities and blessings of a coming year.  But, we know that trials, failures, disappointments, and losses will also tax our strength and our ability to continue.  Therefore, my practice has been to daily tap into the strength and the grace that God gives.  Each day my goal is to begin by letting God speak to me in His word, and then sharing with Him the concerns and the joys, the praise and the confessions of my heart through prayer.


If you know that you need strength each day, I again suggest that you let the Lord come to you with His love in Jesus. In the midst of your weakness, the Creator of the world is almighty.  In your times of failure, God is faithful to forgive because of Jesus’ death on the cross.  In your doubt and your times of depression, God’s love in Christ is a rock which cannot be taken away.  When you face loss, or illness, or death, God offers you eternal life through Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life. 


Since I know I will need help each day, I go to the Lord who is my constant strength.  Since this world can steal my joy, I go to the Lord who is my delight.  I let the Lord share His plan, His direction, His love, and His life for me in His Word.  I pour out my heart in prayer. 


For me, regular worship with God’s people is also a vital part of a healthy life.  Personal devotional time is private.  Worship allows me to receive and share God’s love through other children of God as we listen and meditate, as we pray and praise.


Do you need God’s strength and joy in 2019?  Would regular time in God’s Word and worship with His people be a blessing to you?  Will you join me in regular use of God’s word and time in prayer in the coming year?


A Child of God, Planning to Let the Lord be My Strength and My Song,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020? I plan to use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House in 2019 and 2020.  .  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

o   From CPH (Our Church’s publishing house) for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping -

You could also use for your devotions,

·       Portals of Prayer – Daily devotionals printed quarterly by our denomination.  They are available in the entry ways to the church.

·       “Jesus Calling” – This is a devotional given to me by Donita Odland.  I used it when I finished my two year Bible and found the devotional thoughts helpful.

·       Other Devotional books found in Christian book stores.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from another busy week

·       Here are pictures from last Sunday’s baptism for Keeper Austin Manelick -

·       Ethan’s Commissioning and Installation on Sunday night, December 31.

·       Here are pictures from the College Student Luncheon on January 2 -


P.P.P.S.  Ice Fishing trips

·       Here are pictures from a fishing trip with Nufer / Helberg clan, visiting Alaska for the wedding of Taylor Nufer and Ellen Carlson-


·       Here are pictures from a fishing trip on Monday, December 31, 2018, with some folks you’ll recognize.




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.