President Rockey’s Monthly Message

February 2024 • What’s Love Have to Do With it?

I love what I do as the District President, but it’s at times like this that I miss serving in the parish even more! Maybe it has to do with my sense of humor, or maybe it’s because I see how such occurrences give great opportunities to proclaim the truths of the faith.

What am I talking about? This month, we begin our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day! So, this year, with the intersection of these two widely observed events, there is, in a sense, a contradiction. Ash Wednesday is a time of solemn reflection and repentance over our sins and needs. We even come face to face with the reality of death as we receive ashes on our forehead and hear the words, “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). And with Valentine’s Day, there is this hyper-focus on love and how we share that love with someone near and dear. Sure, it’s been taken over as a retailer’s opportunity, sentimentality, and superficial love, but either way, it certainly doesn’t align with our focus on Ash Wednesday. Or does it?

Sure, Valentine’s Day is supposedly all about love. But I believe that in an even more genuine and powerful way, Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are all about love! You may be asking, “What’s Love Have to Do with It?” Great question. Sure, we have “all fallen short of the glory of God.” We understand that we are “sinful from the time our mothers conceived us” (Psalm 51:5), and we know that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). But Ash Wednesday and our Lenten journey are all about pointing us to the One who “so loved the world”, who so loved you and me, that He could not bear being separated from us. He is the God and Savior who offered Himself as the payment for our sins that death may not have the last word. 

So, when you receive the ashes in the form of a cross on your forehead, know that this is not only a reminder of our sin but of God’s incredible, undeserved, and unceasing love! My prayer for each of us, as we begin our Lenten journey this month, is that we will take these six weeks to spend with the Lord in reflection and prayer so that we may fully experience the depth of His love anew. May we then live in response to His radical love by honoring and serving Him in all we do and say.

What’s love have to do with it? Everything!


PS Daily LENTEN DEVOTIONS AVAILABLE. The FLGA is once again providing daily devotions that you can sign up to have delivered to your email. This year’s Lenten theme continues to explore the “Living as an Along-Sider” theme from our 2023 President’s Equip Conference. Yet this series of Devotions will focus solely upon the most powerful aspect of this way of life…How Jesus is our Along-sider! Even before we can ever begin to live as Along-siders ourselves, Jesus is our Along-sider through all the realities, challenges, sorrows, and trials of life. Join us each day as we discover from the Scriptures how our God is with us, walks along-side of us and provides for our every need! Sign up through our website beginning Monday, Feb. 5th.

January 2024 • New Beginnings Make New…

A few years ago, I read this quote, “No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” (Unknown). Those words struck me in such a way that I began to reflect on that statement and its meaning. The conclusion was that we can’t start over; but we can begin again right where we are, making things new in our lives!

As a believer in Christ, it’s not about saying I will do this, and I won’t do that and then failing at what we committed to do. It’s more about asking the Lord to help us each day grow in our faith and fall deeper in love with Him. That way, our focus will be on what He has done for us and on our relationship with Him…on all the things of heaven and not on the things of this world.

Maybe a New Year’s resolution each of us could make could be to have a deeper commitment, a deeper love, and a deeper relationship with the Lord!

As I look to the beginning of this new year, this phrase and truth I hear from God’s Word keep arising in my heart, saying: “I Am more than enough. I Am more than enough in every area of your life.” As individuals and as a Church Family, these are words we all need to hear. When life is hard – He is more than enough! When we are challenged in some way to do something we don’t think we can – He is more than enough! When we’ve started well with good intentions and then stumble and fall hard – He is still more than enough!

Here is what I love about the Lord (well, one of many things). He is the God of New Beginnings! “His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness” (Lamentations 3).  How awesome to know that when we fail, we can have a new beginning, whether on January 1, February, August, a Monday or a Thursday, or whenever! Our God loves. Our God forgives, and our God freely offers New Beginnings!

Yet there is more to this. It’s not just about the New Beginning. Because with each New Beginning we can change what lies ahead. We can “Make…New Endings!  You see, each time – every time – God provides us with a New Beginning, the result is a New Ending!

The Florida-Georgia District is about sharing New Beginnings & New Endings with all people. We do this in our churches and schools through Worship, providing an excellent education in Christ-centered safe environments, Bible Study Groups, Support Groups, Serving others, being a place of Community, and by loving each and every neighbor as ourselves! Picture this – a person Baptized not only has a new beginning but now a new ending as a child of God. A parent of a child in one of our early learning centers hears the message of Christ’s love and discovers a New Beginning out of their painful reality – and has a new ending as a parent and forgiven person of faith!

Yes, my dear friends and partners in the Gospel, with Christ, we have New Beginnings that make new endings! May the Lord continue to help us daily experience, celebrate and share New Beginnings and rejoice in the New Endings He gives!

President Rockey

December 2023 • Out of Time

As we enter the month of December, my sense is that many of our lives seem to parallel that 1977 song, “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne. Yet as we enter this season of Advent, a more appropriate theme arises in my thoughts and prayers, “Out of Time.”

When Advent arrives, have you ever noticed that it’s as though a push notification pops up telling us, “Christmas is Coming.” “Time to shop.” “Don’t forget those mid-week Advent Worship services.” Or simply to remind us that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Yes, with Advent comes this internal “push notification” that says: “‘Jesus is coming! Would you like to do or plan something?” In short, as a season of preparation, Advent reminds us that our time is limited, and in ways, it even calls us to understand that we are nearly “Out of Time.”

Yes, Christmas is about the birth or first coming of Jesus, but as Christians, before we rush to singing Silent Night or listen to the beautiful account of Jesus’ arrival as our Emmanuel God, we also recall that Jesus promised to come again.

So, instead of just focusing on the first coming, our attention is turned during Advent to reminders that “People will faint from fear of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory” Luke 21. We are further warned to “Be on guard…be alert at all times praying that you may have the strength to stand…” These words from the Gospel of Luke also describe our world today.

They are words of NOW: Our cities and even churches are full of people who are afraid — afraid of loss of their jobs, income, health, compassion, safety, change, irrelevancy, and of so much more. Yet, in truth, there has never really been a time in human history when we’ve not had such fears. Luke’s words are also the words of our yesterdays. We may imagine that the past was better, safer, cleaner, or more stable, but that’s not the case. We are fragile humans, and our history is filled with fear. And sadly, they are probably the words of many of humanity’s tomorrows.

But listen! Jesus says, “When you see these things, do not cower in fear, for your redemption is drawing near!” Advent teaches us that in the darkest places suffering, the pain, the violence, the heartache of grief, and all the uncertainty…that God’s reign is among us!

Yes, my friends, all of this reminds us that we are at any moment “Out of time.” Therefore, there is an urgency for us to not only be prepared personally for the Lord’s return but there is an urgency for us to share this message of hope with all people! Now is the time! Now is the time for us to realize that our “redemption is drawing near”, the Lord is coming, and He will redeem and save us!

It is with the certainty that the Lord keeps His promises that we go forward in faith, that we utilize each moment knowing that we are soon to be “out of time.” This, my friends, is no time for fear but for celebration. The Lord sent His Son to take our place and be our Savior. How awesome that even though we are running out of time, God, who knows no time, cuts through our fear as He enters human time to dwell with us, Emmanuel, God with us! 

President Rockey

November 2023 • A Season of Feasting

My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you. Psalm 63:5

Are you ready for the feasts?! This month we begin a two-month journey of celebrations and feasts, beginning with our National Day of Thanksgiving. December will not only be filled with gatherings and feasts on Christmas but for many, the whole month will be filled with feasting!

Over the years, holiday feasts in our family have varied. Some years we lived far from our family. So, for a holiday feast, we gathered around the table with friends and co-workers who had become like family. Other years we would invite those who had no family to join us.

Yet many years, we have been blessed to live close enough to our families that we could travel and enjoy the holiday celebrations together. With Martha and me both having 3 or 4 siblings, these holiday feasts have often been around a huge table that still couldn’t seat all our family!

Our family loves to talk and laugh, and as a result, our gatherings are loud and full of life. However, some years it has been different when we’ve lost someone through death or sickness that has kept them from being with us. 

This year, we once again have so much to give thanks to God. Yet, in some ways, it seems a bit quieter and reflective. It’s not so much what’s happening in our family but in the world and the lives of others around us. There’s the war in Israel and the Ukraine. There’s increased violence, crime, and mass shootings, and then there are so many who are dealing with depression, loss, and uncertain futures.

When I read the above Scripture, I imagine a feast. I picture a lavish table, beautifully decorated and overflowing with the finest foods. Words like satisfied and sing capture my attention. As people who love to host others, I’m tempted to try and make everything perfect so that our celebration will be filled with abundance and joy like I imagine. Yet the picture I get in this verse is not entirely accurate. When we read the verses that surround this text, it paints a very different picture. Instead of a feast, it’s famine. Instead of the blessing of community and family, it’s wilderness. David wrote Psalm 63:5 when he was in the wilderness of Judah, “My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you” Psalm 63:5 GNT.

While none of us would ever wish to be in such a wilderness, I’m encouraged because this truth helps us see that a feast is not reserved for the best of circumstances. When our circumstances leave us empty, hurting, alone, afraid, or lacking, we can still feast and be satisfied!

In fact, this isn’t the only time that Scripture speaks of feasting in unlikely places. David writes in Psalm 23 of how the Lord prepares a feast for him in the presence of his enemies. Jesus found sustenance in the wilderness when He responded to Satan’s temptation saying, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Matthew 4:4).

I know that I can relate to that. Life, at times, has had its difficulties, hardships, looming questions, and uncertainties. Yet the Lord not only provided for us and carried us through, but satisfaction was found in Him and His Word. Such satisfaction doesn’t just come in one moment of reading or feeding, it comes as we continually seek the Lord and are assured of His faithfulness in His Word day after day.

Indeed, where there is a celebration, there is often a feast. As I’ve come to this realization, I am trying to apply more feasting on God’s Word in my life. I’ve started looking for reasons to celebrate. Whether it’s a simple text sent to celebrate something in another’s life, a brief but refreshing interaction of coming along-side someone, or a pause to praise God for an answered prayer, we can feast on God’s Word and His goodness even in the midst of life’s difficulties, sorrow and uncertainty. 

President Rockey

October 2023 • Living as Long-Siders Means… Giving them What you Have!

Then Peter said (to the lame beggar), “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. Acts 3:6

Life and living as a follower of Jesus is an incredible journey! I love how through all of life’s circumstances, realities, trials, and experiences, God is present and working. My last parish before being elected District President was truly an incredible journey. I’m still amazed that God chose me to come and work with 13 people outside of The Villages to plant a new congregation. I’d never planted a church. I’d not gone through any specific training to do so. Sure, I had a deep passion for mission, but starting a new church from nothing?!

Yet from the time I received the Call to serve as mission planter, God taught me time and time again that He was in charge and all He was asking of me and the core group I began with was to not worry about what we lacked but instead to give from what we have!

In 2007 it all began with no bank account, no place to worship or gather, no incorporation or constitution, and no plan. Yet within a short time, the Lord provided a Baptist church right in the area we were targeting that had a building we could use exclusively and only for $500 a month. God brought together a growing group of people who not only wanted a place where they could receive God’s gifts of grace but to reach the existing and growing community living without Jesus. Small group Bible studies began almost immediately; six months after arriving, we had our first worship service, and we were able to charter with over 100 people in less than two years.

After 4 years, 140 members came together and bought 10 acres. Some said, “But we don’t have enough people or money…it’s too soon.” But the Lord said to us, “Give what you have!” Then just a year later, we were challenged again with the words, “Now is the time!” As we discussed building a facility on our newly purchased land, some again said, “But it’s too soon. We haven’t paid off the land. We’re only 150 people. We can’t afford to build.” And the Lord again said, “Give what you have!”

I am still moved when I think of what the Lord did in and through His people at Amazing Grace. During those mini self-run campaigns for the land, church, or school, the Lord exceeded what was needed each time! No one ever said how much anyone should give or even how or what they should give. Instead, we were encouraged to “Give what you have.” So, we gave…we gave from the heart…we gave after prayerful consideration and struggle. We gave sacrificially, and we gave joyfully, knowing that whatever we gave – it all belonged to the Lord anyway.

Nehemiah was doing a great work for God as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But his enemies tried to convince him to come down from the wall for a meeting, and they were relentless. It was a diversion to get Nehemiah off the wall so they could attack Israel, but he refused to come down. Nehemiah said, “Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply” (Nehemiah 6:4 NLT). “I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?'” As I think about this, I can’t help but also remember Jesus’ words in the feeding of the 5,000. Where shall we buy bread for them to eat? Philip said: Here is a boy with five loaves and two small fish. Jesus’ reply was You give them something to eat. In summary, “Give them what you have!”

We just concluded one of the greatest events in the history of the Florida Georgia District, our President’s Equip Conference, where over 1,000 people gathered around the theme, Living as Along-Siders: Disciples Making Disciple Makers! It was a reminder that as God’s people, we are called to “Go and Make disciples…” (Matt 28). And it was a reminder that the best way for this to happen is through individual relationships where you, me, and all of us as followers of Jesus “Give them what you have!”

Yes, give them what you have…give them the love and mercy that you experience daily as one of the Lord’s redeemed. Share with them the message of hope and compassion as they cry out for someone to hear them and walk along-side of them. Give them the gift of forgiveness, unconditional love, and life that you yourself receive daily through Christ. Give them what you have – give them Jesus!

For 75 years, the Florida-Georgia District has been about connecting people to Jesus. My dear friends, our mission remains the same! As we enter this new era of disciple-making, we do so in order that many more will be connected to Jesus and the Lord’s Kingdom will grow! Therefore, may each of us be assured that we already have what we need to live as Along-siders. Let us boldly and faithful “give them what we have!”

President Rockey

September 2023 • Celebrating the Gift of Labor

This weekend we observe the Labor Day Holiday. I know for many, this has become little more than another holiday or a sign that summer is over. Yet I believe that this holiday gives us a wonderful opportunity to consider the gift of work!

I believe that work has been given to us by God as a gift. From the beginning, man was placed in God’s creation to work, serve, and honor Him. As such, we are to work in a way that results in bringing blessings and value to the society and community where we work. Work is, therefore, not only for our benefit and joy but is also about our relationship with the Lord and one another.  

The integration of faith and work allows and provides for a purpose-driven view of work. Work is to be done to God’s glory and celebrated as an endeavor that brings joy to the worker and blessings to those who benefit from what we do. Sadly, most people today view work in terms of benefiting the individual rather than for the purpose of glorifying God or even doing work for the joy of the work itself. In reality, we’ve seen work reduced to being primarily or even solely about personal financial benefit.

Yet I believe that Labor Day is not only the opportunity to thank the Lord for the work or jobs that He provides for us. It is also an incredible opportunity for us to consider our Christian vocations. You may remember that our “Christian vocations” are not just what we do for an income or living but about how we serve and honor the Lord in whatever we do and wherever we are called to do it. I believe Paul’s words to the Colossians echo this when he wrote: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3: 17).

So, my dear friends and fellow servants of God. If you are serving the Lord, you are doing great work for God. Maybe you’re an usher, a youth volunteer, a Sunday School teacher, a Small Group leader, a member of the Welcome Team, a Board member, a prayer warrior, a coach, a cook, a musician or singer, a part of the clean-up crew or an office volunteer. You’re doing a great work for God!

No matter what you are doing for the Lord in His church or elsewhere, one person’s work for God is not greater than another’s work. It is not about better or worse. It is all about responding to the God who is always faithful to us. It’s about doing what God has given each of us to do.

Nehemiah was doing a great work for God as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But his enemies tried to convince him to come down from the wall for a meeting, and they were relentless. It was a diversion to get Nehemiah off the wall so they could attack Israel, but he refused to come down. Nehemiah said, “Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply” (Nehemiah 6:4 NLT). “I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?'”

Whatever work God has called you to do, do it fully, stay engaged and focused, knowing that what the Lord has given you is a “great work.” It is with this in mind that we should make every day and every task we do count! Yes, “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of the Lord!”

One of the most powerful images of joy in God-centered work is illustrated in the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” When Eric Liddel, the Scottish athlete portrayed in the film, is confronted by his sister over her perceived higher calling of missionary work to the work Liddel is engaged in, he responds with the blessing of an integrated view of work and faith. He says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” May you, my fellow servants of Christ, feel His pleasure and the joy of Laboring for Him in all you do!

President Rockey

August 2023 • A More Perfect Union

I know you’re probably wondering why I’m beginning with a quote from something other than Scripture. Yet, since returning from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Convention in Milwaukee, that phrase has risen in my mind as I’ve assessed the decisions and spirit of the Convention.

We all recognize this phrase from the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union… Although the intent and mission of the Church is far more critical and a worthy cause, there is something to be applied in our calling as the citizens of the Lord’s Kingdom, and for that matter, of the LCMS.

Indeed, I rejoice along with many of you in being part of our church body. We are a church that has consistently sought to proclaim, extend, and preserve the message of God’s love and the free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus alone. In a world where many church bodies have forsaken the truths of God’s Word and the very faith that saves, the LCMS has continued to hold up that God’s Word is unchanging, that He is the One true God who is Father and Lord of all and desires to see all come to saving faith. In His Holy Word, He has revealed that He is a God of mercy and grace and blesses us through His Law to see our sin and need for a Savior, and in the Gospel, shows us our Savior through whom we receive forgiveness and life.

A more perfect union. Sometimes, I sense there is a view that, at one time, we were perfectly united as a church body. Although, in many ways, we may have been united in doctrine and mission, I believe we would all agree we were not perfect. I hear many concerns over where we are as a Synod. How we are divided or have given up our primary purpose for existing – the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and extension of the His Kingdom. Yet I would suggest that is still at the heart of who we are and what we are about. Yes, we may approach mission and ministry in different ways based on our settings and the communities we have been called to reach. I believe we should honor such a faithful response to our call to be His witnesses. I also believe we should cling to our unwavering stance in the inerrancy of Scripture, that salvation can be found in no other Name, and that our doctrines are a true exposition reflecting God’s teaching and will.

No, we are not a perfect union or church body, but in Christ and through Him, we are forgiven and go forward. I came across a quote recently from Jon Meacham that seems to reflect my prayers of late. “To know what has come before is to be armed against despair. If the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations, ambitions and appetites, could press on…then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs and take another step forward toward that most enchanting and elusive destinations: a more perfect Union.” (2018).

In truth, we will not experience a perfect union or unity until the Lord returns. Yet my prayer is that in this fast-changing and decaying world, in this time of discord and misplaced agendas, we would recommit ourselves to living as “Synod”; to living as those who “walk together” in seeking to proclaim the only true message of hope, the Light of the world. That we would seek to listen and trust each other, to love and serve our neighbors as Christ’s servants so they too may have the same hope and joy we have, that all may receive the gift of life and salvation through our perfect Savior and Lord!  By the grace of God, I do believe we can work towards a more perfect union in our Synod for the sake of fulfilling God’s mission.

Equipping, Empowering, and Engaging…to Connect People to Jesus!

President Rockey

P.S. Our District was wonderfully blessed by well-prepared pastoral and lay delegates to the Convention. Please note that we will be working to help communicate a summary report from the Convention. Our hope is this report will be shared and expounded upon by your delegates in a Circuit Forum or other appropriate setting.

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