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,
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 -
From Amazon for $32.99 + free 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 -
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.