Messages from Pastor DeHope

September 22nd letter

Dear friends in Christ,

This week has been a little trying on my nerves as Joshua’s vocabulary expands and he LOUDLY repeats the same 3-4 word phrase again and again and again and again…. you got it. Leah is full of shouts and enthusiasm for school, her friends and so many good things. It’s often in small spaces like the car. It’s tough. Yet, I consider that in light of Psalm 33 which says Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Give thanks to the Lord with instruments…. Sing to him a new song. For the word of the Lord is upright and all his work is done in faithfulness.

My kids are joyfully making noise…. And it’s a blessing from God. I will pray for more patience. God’s work is always done in faithfulness, even when it doesn’t occur to us that he is even working for us and our benefit. Don’t be bashful to make some noise to the Lord. Let your joy be heard. We all have so much to be joyful about, even in difficult times, even in small spaces….like cars. Sing it Leah! Shout it Joshua. And belt it out, all of YOU! Make that sweet music and that joyful noise to the Lord.

God’s blessings on your week,

Pastor DeHope


September 15th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Prayer – it’s one of those things we could probably all do a little better at or do more often.

I stumbled upon a little prayer for a wife whose husband can be difficult. Though I’m sure Alicia will NEVER need such a prayer, here it is:         

“Dear God, my husband. He can be a pain! But at least he is my pain. Help me to love him in spite of all the annoying little things he does. Because I do love him, and I want to love him more. Amen”.

While it might make you laugh a little, I think it’s a good little prayer. Swap ‘husband’ for wife, son, daughter, friend, cousin, aunt, uncle etc. and thank God for all the people God has put in your life to help, guide, bless or even grow your patience and compassion. Please add Pastor to the list too. I both need and covet your prayers (and I’m sure I give Alicia cause to pray this prayer often)!

God teaches us to pray; he invites us to pray. Not because he needs our prayers, but because we benefit from them. They’re good for us, kind of like vitamins. They help us focus our attention on God, what he’s done for us in Christ and all that he daily and richly provides for us in this life; plus they teach us to rely on him, to come to him at all times, and all situations. I encourage you to pray the Lord’s prayer, pray this prayer or make one up. Two of my favorite (short) prayers are “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief” and simply. “Lord Help!”  Because he does. Always. Don’t be bashful! God’s ear is always inclined towards you; HE is always FOR you!

In Christ,

Pastor DeHope


September 8th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy Thursday! I hope this finds you well. Rejoicing seems to be the theme for the week.  Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin in our Gospel for Sunday and the joy of finding what was lost and how that relates to the kingdom. There is much rejoicing in heaven when the lost are found – when sinners repent. I love the parables. There is always more going on than is immediately apparent. Our house has been full of anticipation and excitement as Grandma arrived this week from California. Neither my mom or her luggage got lost, but we rejoiced anyway. We’re thankful for the visit and our time together.

I have been searching for a few items this week that are still “lost” from our move. They must be somewhere! I want them NOW! When you lose your keys you NEED them now – before you can go anywhere…. Sometimes it seems like joy, can be at a minimum if it’s there at all. We must experience a loss first, frantically search for, or try to repair something, and then find or fix it before that wave of joy and relief sets in. Why is that? Why do we not have more joy in our day simply because something or someone is already there and NOT lost? Why do we fail to fully appreciate the value of someone or something until it is lost or we don’t have it anymore? I think we should work on this…..

Jesus is blasting the Scribes and Pharisees in the parable. He does that a lot. They’re grumbling that Jesus wants to grow the kingdom. Jesus wants to bring more people to himself – to welcome sinners. Notice how the Lord is always harsher on the sin of hypocrisy (usually the Pharisees) than he seems to be on other sinners. The Pharisees don’t see their sin; they think they’re better than others. They are blind to the fact that they need Jesus every bit as much as everyone else. We need Him just as much ourselves. 100%. We’re all sinners. We all need Jesus 100% - there is not sliding scale here; nobody needs Jesus any less….

This is where the JOY and the rejoicing comes in. Rejoicing is the business of heaven! There is more joy in heaven over 1 repentant sinner than a whole gaggle of self-righteous people that think they need Jesus less than someone else. When we rejoice at finding our keys or other lost items – that’s good. But we already had them to begin with. We had already been blessed with it (before we lost it). There is rejoicing in heaven when the numbers grow! When those outside the kingdom are brought inside. When they are added. Don’t be a Pharisee – don’t compare yourselves more favorably to others. We all need Jesus 100%. There is plenty of him to go around. Repent, rejoice and be glad that you’re ALREADY in the kingdom. Rejoice and be glad that the kingdom grows daily and abundantly in spite of us! When you find what you’ve lost, rejoice. Rejoice also in what you already have and that it is NOT lost.

To God be the Glory!

Pastor DeHope


August 30th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Has anyone ever said to you “loosen up, you look so serious” or “have fun, let go a little”? I’ve heard it, so I’m sure you have too. In that moment, I check in with myself and ask if that’s accurate. There is a time and a place for everything, or as Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”. There is a time to be serious, and a time to be silly. There are times to be happy and times to be sad. 

I came across a C.S. Lewis quote this week (he’s one of my favorite authors): “Joy is the serious business of Heaven”. I wholeheartedly believe that, but then I thought, why not work to make that true in our own lives here, now, on earth too. Of course, it will never be possible to have heaven on earth because of sin. There are times that are not joyous, and places that it may not be right even to smile. But as Christians, even in rough times, even now, we have something the world does not have. We have Jesus; we have the good news of the gospel. We have a joy in knowing we belong to the Lord, and nothing can separate us from his love. 

Everything we have and everything we are, is a gift. Everything we have done wrong or left undone has been forgiven. We see things differently than the world does. For us it is different. I can’t wait to get to heaven and experience the unimaginable Joy that is there – that serious business of heaven. But there is great joy even now – knowing what we know, having what we have. Don’t let the devil, the world, or your own flesh steal your joy; don’t let them rob you of it. It’s far too valuable of a thing to not keep better tabs on. I am trying to “check-in” more often and find joy in more things, and even rejoice in my sufferings. I have something special the world doesn’t have. I want to share it, and I want to ENJOY it. I want our JOY to be serious business here too!

To God be the Glory,

Pastor DeHope


August 25th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Leah has learned to work the TV remote. We’re now taking steps to ensure that when, and if she turns it on, she won’t find things that scare her or that will require unnecessary explanations for a 5 year old. It reminded me of many times when my dad would quote Titus 1:15 “to the pure, all things are pure”. And while I want to protect my kids and their child-like innocence as best I can, there’s a problem. None of us are completely pure – not even Leah, because of sin. We see the effects of sin all around us in the world, our relationships and ourselves with our thoughts, words and actions. It’s a real struggle, a daily one. Our Lord sends us to be salt and light to the world, carrying the good news gospel message of Jesus Christ with forgiveness life and salvation in him. And yet still we struggle.

We live in a world where evil still exists all around us, but the one who conquered sin and death is still with us. As Jesus was sending out his disciples into the dark world with the gospel he said something that changes everything. He promised “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matthew 28:20. We’re not sent out into the world with a list of principles, nor does he guide us with rules to follow. HE COMES WITH US! And not just to jump in a save the day when we need a hand. He knows we’ll never make it unless he’s with us every moment of every situation, location, and interaction. He IS with us in every trial and struggle because he’s been with us all along. In our struggle with evil, he gives us himself. He knows that in HIM we have everything thing we need.

Let this comfort you in your times of worry and struggle. Give thanks in times of joy. Your Lord is truly with you ALWAYS, in everything. Even when you turn on the TV. Fear not! The Lord is with you always – even to the end of the age.

To God be the Glory,

Pastor DeHope


 

August 21st letter

Dear friends in Christ,

We’re back from MN, mostly rested and thankful for the opportunity to see friends. This week I’ve been catching up on meetings and it occurred to me that very often when I pray with a group before a meeting, at Bible study or some other gathering I thank the Lord of his mercies new to us each day, but then often forget that as the day gets busy or as I become distracted by work, thoughts or some other task and it gets sidelined in my thinking. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. So often we allow ourselves to have a view of ourselves, of others, of circumstances, of daily joys and struggles, of God, of meaning and purpose and what life is about that is completely lacking of this gorgeous redemptive reality: mercy. His mercies are new every morning – we should post this somewhere it will be seen each day multiple times. 

Mercy is the theme of God’s story, and the thread that runs through all of Scripture. Mercy is the reason for Jesus’s coming and it’s what our desperate heart needs. Mercy is what gives you comfort in weakness and hope in times of trial. Mercy does what the law is powerless to do. Mercy not only meets you in your struggle, but guarantees that someday your struggle will end. Let the amazing words of this passage sink in. 

As God’s child they describe your identity and your hope. They give you reason to get up in the morning and to continue. They allow us to face and admit how messed up we really are and they allow us to extend mercy to the failing people around us. They allow us to be comforted by God’s presence rather than be terrified at the thought that he is near. God’s love for us will never end, his grace and forgiveness will never end. It’s not left-over, recycled or one size fits all mercy. It’s new mercy for each of us, each day - unique to our struggles and the crosses we bear. So be encouraged, strengthened and renewed by God’s mercy new each day, and keep it always before you – it’s FOR you. 

To God be the Glory,

Pastor DeHope


August 11th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

By the time you read this, Lord willing,  we’ll be safely in Grand Rapids, MN visiting friends. We’re hoping for an uneventful drive and a peaceful relaxing time with friends and that their 5 kids and our 2 play nicely together as they have in the past. This peaceful  theme seems to be the opposite of our Gospel text for Sunday where our Lord Jesus claims that he’s come to bring division instead of peace. Christianity is a peaceful religion, so what is our Lord saying here? Truly our Lord’s mission and purpose is to seek and save the lost (Like 19:10). What he is saying here is that what you confess about him, who you say he is may cause division in our world and in our homes. Surely you’ve seen or experienced this first hand. Yet who we believe Jesus is makes all the difference for us here now and in eternity.  He says earlier in this chapter in verse 8 that he will acknowledge us before his father, and our father. We need not be anxious about a thing – God always cares for and provides for us – it is his joy to give us the kingdom. HIS kingdom. We are to be ready for his coming, for we don’t know the day or the hour, but we can take heart and be comforted knowing that even in all the troubles of this life, whether they about our confession of Jesus or not, he is with us. We can look forward to seeing him with our own eyes when he returns in all His glory. Even more than I’ll look forward to seeing you when we get back!

The Prince of Peace be with you always!

Pastor


August 4th letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Life has been crazy, hectic, and wonderful lately with all its changes; the blessings the Lord has provided. Sometimes I find myself lamenting all the things I want to get done, and the people I want to see and how it seems the days pass so quickly and yet my to do list never gets checked off as quickly as I’d like…. There always seems to be an interruption or something that comes up. Perhaps you can relate, even if just a little bit? I came across a C.S. Lewis quote this week that has stuck with me – “The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life”. I’m trying to regard those little interruptions whether they’re an unexpected call or something else differently. 

Church can often seem like an interruption with all the things we’ve got going on, yet it’s possibly the most important interruption to make time for. It is here that God equips and strengthens us for all the other interruptions with His gifts of word and sacrament FOR us. This is exactly where God has promised to be to give us stuff that we can’t get anywhere else. 

We’re preparing for a waterpark adventure to celebrate birthdays for both kids with vacation to MN to see some friends next week. We hope it will be a wonderful interruption for us. We pray God’s blessings on your interruptions great and small.

God’s blessings,

Pastor


July 26th Letter

Dear friends in Christ,

Monumental VBS continues this week at our house as Leah can be heard throughout the day singing all the songs; even I catch myself humming along from time to time. But at church it’s much quieter…. It almost feels lonely after such a bustling week despite the fact that Mary and Glenda and Amy are faithfully at their desks and many visitors have come and gone. 

Life is like that sometimes though. Despite being busy and active you can feel alone or weighed down by hardships and struggle. Truly we’re never alone, and we know that God is always with us, even in our sufferings. One passage I’ve been pondering this week is Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” This is such a beautiful picture of God’s tender care; he is a giver, not a taker. He’s slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy. He’ll never give up on us – not even when we’re weakest or at our worst. He is unchanging, he’s constant, so regardless of how we’re tossed about by the waves of the world our Lord is with us. He is also FOR us - through all our seasons whether we’ve got a song in our heart or can’t bear the thought. 

The peace of the Lord be with you!

Pastor


July 21th Letter

Dear friends in Christ,

We’ve had a MONUMENTAL week of Vacation Bible School here at Prince of Peace! It was wonderfully encouraging to see all the kids learning about God’s love for us in Jesus – how he sticks with us no matter what, and that nothing can separate us from his love. We sang about God watching over us 24/7 and his plan for us in Jesus. Psalm 118 talks about the strength of the Lord and his steadfast love – that he is my helper and my refuge. We can call on him and he will answer us. God is in charge of all things, even when we try to take matters into our own hands. We simply can’t debate it – God’s way is better than our way. His plan is infinitely better than any plan we could have for ourselves. God is in control. We can try to exercise our free will, but ultimately our will is bound to God’s will and we can’t overpower him to get our own way – no matter how much we try. He always prevails. God is like Huckleberry Hound – he always gets him man. It doesn’t matter when or how he got you. You are his. Nothing can separate you from God’s love.

A big thanks to everyone who volunteered and helped make VBS such a special week! There was a monumental amount of work that went into all the preparation and execution of our VBS! THANK YOU! To God be the Glory!

Pastor DeHope


July 17th Letter

Dear friends in Christ at POP,

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately – who am I? Who do I want to be? I can say with certainty that I am not Justin – though I have been getting a lot of calls for him from some mortgage lending outfit. Sigh. I do really hope those stop. But those calls did get me thinking that as Christians we don’t work in the hope of getting an identity; we work in celebration of the identity that; in Christ we have been given. Galatians 4:4-7 talks about the identity we have in Christ who has redeemed us by his cross and reconciled us to God so that we are heirs and can call God OUR Father. We don’t need to wonder who we are or what we will be or look for meaning and identity in the things of the world. We have been given something much better. Our identity is God’s child and an heir of heaven through our baptism.  

Here at church the week has been full of preparation for Vacation Bible School that starts on Monday! You might not even recognize the place right now. Everyone is excited to have all those kids here at POP and teach them about Jesus and his love for us – it’s truly “Monumental”! Our hope and prayer is that the kids will have fun this week and grow in their understanding of their Lord and Savior Jesus, and the identity they have in him.  That’s my hope and prayer for all of us each day too!  God’s richest blessings to you all!  

Pastor DeHope


July 10th Letter

Dear friends in Christ,

hope you all survived and enjoyed our Independence Day festivities this week! In addition to the freedoms we enjoy in our country I have been contemplating the "hope" we have as Christians (Ephesians 1:18-19 and Eph. 2:11-22).  We hope for many things - good weather, lower prices and a better economy, for our marriages, our kids and other relationships, for our church and many other things that are future focused. Looking ahead to the future and the tasks before us can be daunting and we can lose hope before we've taken the first step of the climb. The hope we have as Christians isn't just wishful thinking about what might be, IT IS a present reality we live in that is rooted in our Savior Jesus Christ and what he has already done for us on the cross. It is a hope with an expectation in a promise being fulfilled already by our gracious Lord.  

Alicia and I took advantage of some appliance sales for 4th of July so we could have a gas stove and an opportunity to bear witness to this hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15) presented itself and I had an interesting conversation about faith, life, and our church with a fellow believer at Lowe's of all places. Turns out he was even a Lutheran! 

Your hope is no ordinary hope as the world sees it. Your hope is in the rock of our salvation who has given you, life and many blessings now, but also the promise and "hope" of life everlasting. I hope you enjoy your upcoming week in the peace of the Lord. Let us "have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which God has called us". 

Pastor DeHope

 

 

 

 

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