Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Joy: The Letter to the Philippians 1/4/2014
Philippians 1:1-11 Sermon 1

Dear friend, Blessed New Year to you!

We have been blessed with a New Year and with it we have the promises of our God that He who has carried us to this day will also carry us through this year as well as the rest of the years in our lives. For many of us the last year brought new circumstances into our lives which have caused adjustments to the lives that we were living. Often times our changed circumstances cause our joy in the Lord to diminish as we struggle with acceptance of a changed situation. Nevertheless, with the help of the Lord and others, we attempt to work through to a place of accepting the current circumstances as the way things are for the time being.

So what do we do when our joy is diminished by our present difficult circumstances? Do we wait until our circumstances change to be joyful again? Do we resign ourselves to being a joyless Christian because of less than favorable circumstances? Is it possible to live in joy in the midst of life's often changing circumstances?

The answers to these questions we will begin to seek today and in the coming weeks as we begin a new series in Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians. This letter has been called the letter of joy as in it the Apostle Paul, being held in prison while he wrote the letter, encouraged his readers in this manner: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." This verse is found in the last chapter of his letter, in chapter four, verse four.

Joy is a reality that is ours through the knowledge that God has reconciled us to Himself through the cross, by His gracious gift we trust in that reality, and even if circumstances change in our lives, our relationship with Him now and forever cannot be shaken.
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Christian joy is shared, it is confident and it is increasing.

Jesus spoke of the connection between Himself, His Word, His Love, and His Joy.
John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Apostle John speaks of the joy that comes from our union with the Father and His Son.
KJV 1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Today we will do an introduction to this letter as we consider what was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Philippi, a church that he had been involved in from its beginning. In today's world, we call it a church plant. Acts 16 gives an account of Paul's missionary journey to that area as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit to go minister in that area. As they gathered at the riverside on the Sabbath for prayer, they spoke to some women there and as a result of their sharing, the Lord opened the heart of a business woman named Lydia.

Later as they journeyed, Paul cast out an evil spirit of a young girl, the after effects which caused Paul and Silas to be imprisoned. While in prison, Paul and Silas as prayed and sang praises unto God in the hearing of the prisoners, an earthquake occurred which initiated events through which the jailer asked the all important question: "What must I do to be saved?" He was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house."

After leaving the congregation, he had returned at least once (Acts 20:1-6) and then was imprisoned in Rome, at least 700 miles from Philippi. The congregation and Paul had a very close relationship. This is understandable by anyone who has been involved with anything from its beginning and so when a congregational member Epaphroditus visited Paul in prison to bring him encouragement and humanitarian needs, in the course of their fellowship hearing of the state of the congregation, Paul sent a letter back with his beloved friend which was to be read to the congregation. The letter to the Philippians.

Some of the most common known memory verses are in this letter. Perhaps you are familiar with some of them:

KJV Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

KJV Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

KJV Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

KJV Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

KJV Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

KJV Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

May this letter become more to us than a book from which we have isolated memory verses.

May this letter become more familiar to us as we hear the voice of the Spirit speak through the heart and life of our dear brother in Christ Apostle Paul.

May the message of this letter be burned into our minds, hearts and souls as we hear of and experience the love of Jesus flowing through the heart and life of our beloved brother Paul.

May we be joined closer in the love of God in Christ Jesus, a love that casts out fear, a love that unites us in joy and a love the empowers us to serve together for the sake of our neighbor!

Today we will consider the first eleven verses of chapter one, which introduces the entire letter. I have placed headings on the four separate thoughts put forth in the first eleven verses.

Author and Recipients of letter named.
KJV Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Greetings of grace and peace from heaven
2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Appreciation and Encouragement given to them
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels (tender affections) of Jesus Christ.

Prayer of growth for the Philippians
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

He speaks of his memory of them even though he does not know many of them, making mention of how he prays for them with joy because of their shared work in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great effect of our initial conversion is an immediate care and concern for the soul of our neighbor, in this way the congregation had been very mission minded and had been spreading the gospel of Christ. Concern for the souls of others is the fruit of the Spirit that begins to dwell in the hearts of believers after coming to Christ.

He then gives them encouragement that Christ who called them by the gospel would never leave them or forsake them, but that He would be faithful to the end of their journey of faith, until the day that He returns. He then speaks somewhat openly of the intimacy that they share, not because of any outward characteristics, but because they are joined together through the grace of God which they have all received. Just because they are separated in a physical sense does not mean that they are not still in communion with one another, or that they have stopped working together, for the bonds of the grace of God are not earthly bonds, but heavenly and spiritual bonds. IIn addition, since the love which abides in the heart of all believers as the result of receiving the gospel cares about their neighbor, Paul used his imprisonment as an opportunity to defend and confirm the gospel by sharing it with his captors.

He then with all sincerety pours out his heart, the heart of Christ for them, saying that his affection for them is not some earthly love, but it is the love of Christ. It is the same Greek word that Jesus used to express his longing for his disciples just before His crucifixion. It is the seat of our tenderest affections which have been enlightened and made alive by the Holy Spirit, so that we love one another as Christ has loved us.

Luke 22:13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

Paul continues by praying for them, asking for an increase more and more of their knowledge and discernment in love, for he knows that the future unity of their congregation hangs on whether they are living in and growing in the love of Christ.....There is no way that this point can be overstated........

He then prays for them in the following manner:

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Meaning: 1) to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals 2) to recognise as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He acknowledges their love and prays that it would flourish more and more, but with knowledge and discernment. He wrote to the Corinthians and defined the characteristics of love which flow from God who is Love. The love of God increases only as it is kept in balance with the truth of God as revealed throught the Scriptures, the Word. It is through this balance that growth occurs so that that which is excellent in the sight of God would be tested and approved.

As love grows with knowledge and discernment, the ability to test and approve those things that are excellent and as a result one is found to be pure and blameless through Christ, being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. and this to the glory and praise of God.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

May the Lord bless our meditations in His Word to His glory, to our increase in the knowldge and experience of His love and bind us together in a closer manner in His love, and thereby increasing our joy in Him and in one another.

In His Joy,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 04 Jan 2015 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
The Wisemen Worship the King 12/28/2014
Dear friend,

As we continue to remember the beginnings of Jesus' earthly life during this Christmastime, we recall that the first persons to whom God revealed the Good News to were the shepherds who were keeping their sheep in the pasture. They responded to the Good News by going to Bethlehem to see for themselves, they could not keep the news to themselves, and they returned to their job glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had seen and heard.

The wisemen came from the east to Jerusalem seeking the King, keeping direction by following a star. And they came with a question: Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

Now it had been around two years since the night when the glory of God had shown around and outside of the few that were blessed to have witnessed the events and those who heard the news, the birth of Jesus was largely unnoticed. Life continued as usual for most people, as they lived out their lives, waiting for the deliverance which was promised by the Messiah.

And then one day the visitors came from the east, asking the question: Where is He born king of the Jews? For they looked for Him in order to worship Him. To pay homage to Him.

When Herod heard about this, he was troubled as well as all of the city of Jerusalem. Herod was a ruler who tolerated no threat to his throne and had many killed, even those in his own family, to protect his power. It is easy to understand that if Herod was troubled all of Jerusalem would be also because they would suffer at the hands of the tyrant king.

Herod did the right thing in asking the chief priests and scribes as to where this king would be born, but he used the knowledge not to bless himself and his people, but he used it to try to get rid of the threat. He used the Bible not to gain more knowledge of this King of the Jews, but to destroy Him. He was looking out for his own selfish ambitions. Wow, how different the King of the Jews was, for He came not to destroy men's lives but to save them.

Then Herod secretly called for the wisemen, and under the guise that he wanted to worship Him attempted to determine the time period of the birth of the King. He then sent the wisemen on to Bethlehem with the order to bring the King back with them.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

As they began to follow the star again, it went before them and stood over where the young child was. When they saw it, perhaps because it stopped, they were given the knowledge that they had found the King that they were looking for. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy!!

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Let us note that the wisemen arrived in Bethlehem some time later, up to two years and they came into the house. When they saw the young child with Mary his mother, they fell down and worshipped Him. They then opened their gifts, the significance and meaning of which have been sung many many times over the years in the Christmas Carol "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

Before we go through that hymn verse by verse, let us note that God was superintending his plan of salvation through a warning given to them through a dream that they should not go back to Herod. Let us not forget, never forget, that He is the King of the Universe.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

The hymn written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., was instrumental in organizing an elaborate holiday pageant for the students of the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1857. Hopkins, the seminary's music director, wrote and staged the pageant, which included his upbeat composition "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

1. We three Kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

O, Star of wonder star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading, still proceeding

Guide us to thy perfect light.

2. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,

Gold I bring to crown Him again,

King forever, ceasing never,

Over us all to reign.

O, Star ...

3. Frankincense to offer have I;

Incense owns a deity nigh.

Prayer and praising, all men raising,

Worship Him, God most high.

O, Star ...

4. Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume

Breathes a life of gathering gloom,

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

O, Star ...

5. Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and sacrifice,

Alleluia, Alleluia;

Earth to the heav'ns replies.

O, Star ...

Can you picture the scene as the wisemen knelt and bowed in worship of the King, of the Divine, of the One who would suffer death and the One who would rise again. They understood of the nature of his Kingship while Herod understood only of his earthly kingship, or a kingship of his ownself. The wise bowed their hearts in love, in adoration, in thankfulness, for they saw the joy in the heart of God being poured out for them through the King lying before them. Herod bowed his neck in stubbornness and pride as he sought to destroy any threat to his kingship, kingship of self.

O may we see the love of God being poured out into our world through the symbolist of these gifts that were brought from far off in the east to the King, who is worthy of all honor and praise.

Take the Name of Jesus With You
Lydia Baxter, 1809-1874
“Take the Name of Jesus With You” was written by Mrs. Baxter on her sick bed just four years before her death in 1874 at the age of 65. Throughout her lifetime she was known as an avid student of the Bible who loved to discuss the significance of scriptural names with her friends. She would inform them that Samuel means “asked of God,” Hannah “grace,” Sarah -“princess,” and Naomi “pleasantness.” But the name that meant everything to Lydia Baxter was the name of “Jesus.”

Take the Name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe,
It will joy and comfort give you;
Take it then, where’er you go.
Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.
Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.
Take the Name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from every snare;
If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy Name in prayer.
O the precious Name of Jesus!
How it thrills our souls with joy,
When His loving arms receive us,
And His songs our tongues employ!
At the Name of Jesus bowing,
Falling prostrate at His feet,
King of kings in Heav’n we’ll crown Him,
When our journey is complete.

Let us take the name of Jesus with us into the New Year, as we look into it with anticipation and expectation to see what the Lord has in store for us.

In Jesus Name, I leave you.
Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 28 Dec 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Joy: The Letter to the Philippians 1/4/2014
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Carol Fischer and her family as they grieve the loss of Bob