Author Archives: vicarhoff
Text: Ephesians 1:16-23
It is easy to get overwhelmed in this world. Exhaustion sets in when we realize that there is more that needs to be done when time is running short. Exasperation sets in when people and projects continue to add to our already long list of things to do. Downright depression sets in when we realize that no matter how hard we try to make things go our way they have a tendency to go the wrong way. The things we once found joy in become tedious. The people we always depended on let us down all the time. Life isn’t always bad but there certainly are more than enough hardships to make even a slightly optimistic person feel besieged.
In this overwhelming world it is easy to forget what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1. That is why my prayer is the same as Paul’s, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you.” Sections like Ephesians 1 make me feel sorry for the unchristian world. They have to face the hardships of this life with almost no hope, and even the things they do put their hope in will let them down sooner or later. But not us Christians, for us there is a power at work, a power that can give us hope no matter how bad things get. Even though this world may seem like it is spinning out of control, even though our lives will continue to be inundated with stresses and adversity we know that Jesus is ruling everything for our eternal good.
This power that protects us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And if it had the power to raise Christ from death we know it has the power to raise us from the dead. What awaits us when we awaken? “The riches of his glorious inheritance.” I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like but I do know it will be better than this overwhelming, exhausting, exasperating, and depressing world! Cling to your God. Continue to learn of his love. In his love you can have hope!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us when we fail to remember your great love for us. Forgive us when we let the struggles of this world negate the hope we should have in Christ. Send your Spirit into our hearts to strengthen our faith and understanding of your plan to get us to heaven. Give us faith that trusts your eternal power. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: Psalm 98
How many songs can you think of that were written in response to 9-11? How many songs were written about human love, peace and harmony in the 60’s? How many songs have been written for weddings throughout the ages?
The writing and singing of songs is something that has been going on since the beginning of time. Often songs are written to mark and immortalize certain meaningful events. In fact, for much of history this is how news traveled. Before the internet, before television, before newspapers there were traveling minstrel groups that would move from town to town singing songs about important current events.
It comes as no surprise then that the love of God is memorialized in song. The Bible is full of impromptu songs detailing the great and memorable acts of God. Psalm 98 is just one of those many songs, and what a beautiful song it is!
In an imperfect world that needed something, or someone, God stretched out his right hand, his holy arm to do something. What our God did is infinitely more worth remembering than the 60’s or even 9-11. Our God has revealed to the ends of the earth salvation. We will never know what hell is like because our God loves us. We will never have to face the wrath of God because our God has done marvelous things. In Jesus the sins of the whole world have been paid for, now that is song worthy!
Sing to the LORD, sing on the top of your lungs because he loves you!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, our song should have been one of morning for all the sins we have committed but in your love you have put a song of praise and joy on our lips. In Jesus you have offered salvation to each and every one of us. You have given us you Bible which declares the wonders you have done. Help us to live our lives in thankful praise. Help us never forget all the magnificent things you have done for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
5th Sunday of Easter
Looking for Guidance? Consider Your Good Shepherd’s Resume!
Text: John 10:11-18
The young man’s heart was racing. Alone and lost in an unfamiliar city this young teen was tense. It would soon be dark which would make it harder to navigate by the landmarks he had seen for the first time that morning.
“I don’t remember seeing that building” he thought to himself… “I don’t remember being on this street for this long, did I miss a turn… am I even on the right street… what do I do when it gets dark…”
He breaks out in a nervous sweat despite the cool of the evening, his heart continues to race, his footsteps become quicker, almost at a jog his eyes dart back and forth desperately hoping to see something familiar, something that will help him get his bearings. He can’t stop and ask for directions, not because he’s male, but because everyone around him speaks Ukrainian and he knows all of 5 words in Ukrainian. And even if there were street signs he couldn’t read them, he doesn’t know the Cyrillic alphabet! This young man was experiencing what it was like to be lost, and I mean really lost with no idea where he was or where he had to go. This 16 year old young man was me, lost in Kamyanets Podilsky Ukraine…
Being lost is not a fun thing. As humans we love to feel that we are in control of our lives and when we are lost we feel that control start to slip through our fingertips. We enter the land of the unknown where we lose the ability to predict with any degree of certainty what will happen next and stress and panic and worry and doubt begin to fill our minds.
The fear that I experienced in the Ukraine was simply a fear of the unknown, control was out of my hands and I was terrified. Fear of the unknown is something that all humans feel to one degree or another. Fear of the unknown is what drives us to surround ourselves with gadgets and gizmos that give us the delusion that we are in control. Smart phones, GPS’, state of the art cars and security systems make us feel safe. In this crazy, confusing, messed up, unpredictable world proper guidance is an imperative.
Surprise, surprise, the God who created us knows that we need guidance, and he offers it. Are you looking for a GPS for life? Are you looking for someone to guide you through the peaks and valleys of this human existence? Consider for a moment Jesus’ resume, consider the Good Shepherd’s credentials. Read the rest of this entry
Text: 1 John 4:1-11
What is the condition of your heart? How good are you at fighting off temptation? How do you go about fighting your natural desire to be selfish? How do you motivate yourself to show the selfless love of Jesus? We all need to fight temptation, we all need to show true love to the world because, “Whoever does not love does not know God.” If we don’t know God we can be sure he doesn’t know us and if he doesn’t know us we can bet that heaven will not be open to us.
On our own we are all pretty pitiful at keeping the devil out of our hearts. Every day the devil prowls around like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour and if we try and fight him alone we will very quickly see how weak we are. Our hearts would much rather be full of malice and deceit than love, so if we plan on going to heaven we need a heart makeover. We need help to fight off the assaulting temptations of this world.
Martin Luther knew a thing or two about fighting the temptations of the devil. Martin Luther, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, knew a thing or two about Christianity… “When the devil comes knocking on the door of my heart and asks, ‘Who lives here?’ Christ my Savior answers, ‘Martin Luther used to. Now I do.'”
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” While our hearts were loveless God showed the ultimate form of love for us. In faith the forgiveness of sins won by Christ sweeps our hearts clean. In the place of selfishness, greed, envy and lust our hearts are fill with love, they are filled with Christ. We are equipped to overcome this world because, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Dear friends, since God loved us so, we also ought to love one another!
Prayer: Heavenly Father forgive our selfish hearts. Send your Son into our hearts so that we can we can fend off the attacks of the devil. We believe in you, help us overcome our unbelief. You showed us what it is to love when you gave your own Son for us, help us emanate your love each and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: John 10:11-18
He didn’t have to die… you know that don’t you? When the crowd mercilessly shouted, “He saved others but he can’t save himself,” well, they didn’t know what they were talking about. Well before he was dragged before rulers and courts, well before he was brutally beaten, well before he was sentenced to death Jesus made one thing very clear, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
He didn’t have to die… so why did he? Jesus’ willful surrendering of his own life seems crazy to our selfish minds. I mean sure, I would die for my son or my wife but would I be so willing to take the electric chair for a man who killed my son or wife and showed no sign of repentance? Jesus wasn’t dying for a group of pretty good people who needed just a little bit of extra help to get to heaven. Jesus was going to willingly die for a world that hated him, a world that wants nothing to do with him.
He didn’t have to die… but he wanted to. He wanted to because he is the Good Shepherd. He willingly faced the wolves because he loves us. He willingly died because in his death he could secure for us pleasant pastures in heaven. It defies reason, but God has made clear that he was pleased to save the world through such an outwardly foolish and simple truth. Your Good Shepherd died for your sins. He didn’t have to but he did and that is the Gospel Truth; that is all you need to know. Heaven is your home because of your Good Shepherd Jesus.
Prayer: My shepherd will supply my need –Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed beside the living stream.
He brings my wand’ring spirit back when I forsake his ways,
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death, his presence is my stay.
One word of his supporting breath drives all my fears away.
His hand, in sight of all my foes, will still my tables spread.
My cup with blessings overflows; his oil anoints my head. Amen.