Author Archives: vicarhoff
Text: Mark 2:23-28
There was a time in the not too distant past when it was considered shameful to dance . . . it was sinful to play card game . . . it was wrong to drink even a sip of alcohol apart from the Lord’s Supper. While those rules are far from the norm for this current generation leaders, parents always have and always will create rules to legislating morality. In Jesus’ day there were hundreds of laws that the religious leaders had set up to keep people a healthy distance from real trouble. Very specific laws had been written to guard the Sabbath day, a day that God designated as a day of rest and worship.
The problem with legislating morality is that living by the rules will only get you so far. Living by a certain set of rules will never fix your relationship with God, it will never get you to heaven because to be right with God you need to follow all of God’s rules perfectly and in that you have already failed.
It’s not that rules and laws are bad things in and of themselves. God has made very clear how humans are to live we should not abandon his rules for our lives. Keeping that in mind, however, we are not and cannot be slaves to the law because if you want to be saved by the law heaven will never be yours. We are slaves to Christ Jesus who came and fulfilled God’s law for us. Jesus changes the way we look at rules. Rules are not something that we follow and make up because we hope they will get us somewhere. We strive to follow God’s rules out of love for a God who loved us. We were not made to follow rules, God’s rules exist so that we have know the correct way to live our lives in a thankful offering back to God. God’s rules are not made to be broken, but neither are they made to be worshiped.
God give us the strength to see his laws not as a feather to put in our cap but as a way to show love to the One who loved us enough to die for us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father we thank you for giving us your law to show us our sinfulness, and our need for a Savior. Most of all we thank you for sending your Son to fulfill the requirements of the law on our behalf. Help us to see and treat your rules with the proper respect, neither making them into a requirement for salvation nor ignoring the importance of following them. Send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us wisdom and zeal to live according to your laws. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: John 3:1-17
Who is Jesus and why is he here? What is God up to? These were the questions that led Nicodemus to rendezvous with Jesus for a late night, behind the scenes interview. It was obvious to Nicodemus that Jesus had come from God because Jesus was doing miracles that only a prophet of God could do. So who was Jesus, was he a prophet or something more? And if he was a prophet what message from God did he have for the Israelites?
Jesus’ beautiful response was just what Nicodemus needed to hear. Jesus’ response is also exactly what we need to hear.
Important point #1: Yes I am from God. I come from God with a heavenly message
Important point #2: Unless you receive the Holy Spirit you cannot go to heaven (the Holy Spirit comes through the waters of baptism)
Important point #3: The Son of Man (a title for Jesus the Son of God) will be lifted up. If you believe in him you will have eternal life.
Important point #4: God the Father orchestrated all of this because he did not wish to condemn the whole world.
I don’t know what Nicodemus expected to hear from Jesus. I don’t know what he wanted to hear from Jesus, but I do know that what he heard was exactly what he needed to hear. “Nicodemus, your triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is offering you the only way to get to heaven. Believe and heaven is yours.”
It’s the gospel, it is the message that every human desperately needs to know. It is the story of our loving God that you desperately need to know. I don’t know what first led you to Jesus. I don’t know what you expect Jesus to do for you, but I do know that he already is offering you everything you need. Heaven is yours, Jesus is offering it to you.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for setting into motion a plan to bring your lost, sinful world back into your loving embrace.
Jesus the Son of God, thank you for offering your life as the ransom which buys our souls a mansion in heaven.
Holy Spirit, thank you for creating in our hearts faith that clings to the promise of Jesus, thank you for bringing about our second birth as children of God.
Text: Isaiah 6:1-8
Are you afraid of God? You should be…
You can make all the excuses you want: God is a God of love, he makes rainbows and sunshine, not fear and anger. I’ve tried my hardest to be good. I’ve lived a much purer life than a lot of people in this world.
But when you find yourself standing in the presence of the perfectly true and just God on Judgment Day, no excuse will be good enough. God has declared, “Be holy as I the Lord your God am holy,” and when you finally see just how holy God really is juxtaposed against your complete unholiness, trust me, the excuses will melt away and the only thing left will be reverent fear.
It was just such an occasion that prompted Isaiah (who probably lived a much purer life than even you) to cry out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips… and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
When you find yourself face to face with the Almighty God, like Isaiah, every pretext will disappear. You will see yourself and you will be seen as you truly are, a dirty, rotten sinner and God is very clear about what he will do to dirty, rotten sinners.
But take heart, the God who inspires such reverent fear is also a God of love; a God who says to us, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”
Nothing we have done or could do for ourselves could prepare us to face God with anything but crippling fear, but what we couldn’t do he did for us. Because of Jesus our guilt is removed and our sin atoned for. We should still treat God with the respectful, reverent fear that the Holy and Almighty God deserves, but now, because of Jesus, we can also treat him as a Father. Like Isaiah, the recognition of what should have been and what actually is when it comes to our relationship to God inspires us to live daily for God. “Here am I, God, send me!”
Prayer: Heavenly Father you are perfect, we are not. Forgive us when we fail to respect you as we should. Forgive us when we fail to take seriously the very real and serious sins we commit on a daily basis. Thank you for sending your Son to pay the price for our sins. Let the realization of our forgiveness inspire us to serve you to the best of our abilities. Send your Holy Spirit into our lives that we may be daily transformed into Christians who live for Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: Romans 8:26-27
Have you ever had one of those moments in life when you just can’t find the words to express how you feel?
The groom feels a lot more than happiness and expectant bliss when he first sees his bride.
The first time mother experiences something more than ecstatic joy and emotional love when she hears her baby cry for the first time.
The little boy who just walked by the casket of his grandfather, the little boy who just saw death for the first time, feels significantly more than words like confused and incredibly sad could explain.
The distraught father and mother who stand weeping by the side of a casket that is much too small for a full grown adult are feeling emotions that words like heartbroken, angry, and bitter cannot even begin to describe.
There just aren’t words in the English language to describe moments like these, and even if there were not many would be able to put them together in a way that would do justice to what we feel.
God tells us to come to him in every trouble. God tells us to pray continually. How do you pray when you can’t find the words? How do you communicate to God your overflowing thanks for the amazing blessings of this life? How do you put to words how you feel when God allows hardships to enter your life?
This week we celebrate Pentecost, the day the God sent his Spirit into his Church to create and sustain life giving faith in all believers. This week we celebrate the Holy Spirit who is able to help us out when our words fail us. What a comforting passage! Our words will fail us. There will be times in our lives when we don’t know what to say to God, good times and bad but the Holy Spirit knows what we are going through and he communicates for us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we cannot thank you enough for all you have done for us. The blessings you have showered on us are without number. You have not left us to fend for ourselves on this world. You have provided a way out, a way to heaven through Jesus. Today we especially thank you for sending you Holy Spirit into our lives to create faith in our hearts. We thank you that you have given us an Intercessor who will speak on our behalf no matter how tongue tied we get. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
When Jesus was on this earth he often taught in stories. Stories have a way of making abstract ideas concrete in our minds. I could spend all day telling you the facts of the kingdom of heaven, how it is perfect and precious and loving but those terms will always remain abstract to a certain degree. Now if I say that the kingdom of heaven is like finding a buried treasure, if I begin to embellish that story by adding the details of the excitement felt when the treasure is first found, the lengths to which the finder will go to make the treasure legally his, then that story about the precious nature of heaven begins to resonate with people of differing ages, IQ’s and socioeconomic classes. Go ahead and read through the Bible, God has always had a knack for telling a good story. God’s stories are told for more than just entertainment, they are teaching stories. His stories are lessons for all people of all times, lessons that teach the real history of his loving plan to make this world whole again.
Read Ezekiel and you will read what I think are some of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament. Ezekiel got to see some amazing things while he carried out his work as a prophet of the Living God and he recorded them so that we too could see and learn from the story of his life. The story from Ezekiel 37 is just one of those amazing stories; a valley of bones comes to life. Ezekiel watches as the inevitable effects of decay on a dead human body are reversed.
What’s the point of this God-given story? Right now we are dead in sin. Soon enough, because of our sin, we will all be dead in the ground. God promises that just as he took that valley of bones and put them back together, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” At your conversion God sent his Spirit to put tendons, flesh and the breath of life on your dead spiritual bones. We are alive because of the love of God. We are spiritually alive and though our bodies may die God will make us whole on the last day and bring us to heaven.
A pretty cool story with a pretty cool application… In God we are made alive!
Prayer: Heavenly Father our sins have guaranteed that we will die, our bodies will decay and our souls ought to perish forever but your love has brought about a different end for us. Forgive us when we forget your tremendous love show to us in Jesus. Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts that we may be comforted in hope of the eternal heaven that awaits us. We will not remain in the grave but will spend all eternity proclaiming what you have done for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.