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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The Cross of Christ 8.31.2014
Dear friend,

May the grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you now and forever, Amen.

As we continue in the Gospel of Matthew, we note that Jesus has called on an individual basis the twelve men that he will train and teach while he is yet in his earthly ministry. He has appointed them to their apostolic office and he has given them the initial teachings of what their call entails. Now they are traveling along with him as he teaches them by word and example so that they will be equipped to carry on his ministry after his work on earth is done.

His own people have rejected him, the various divisions of people have rejected him even to the point that they have banded together in their opposition to his teaching and ministry. Up to this time he has not clearly revealed of his upcoming suffering, death and resurrection, but now it is time to do so. We will begin our study at the beginning of chapter 16 of Matthew's gospel, with our text being verses 21-28.

1. The Founding of the church
2. The Authority of the Church
3. The Necessity of the Death and Resurrection of Christ
4. The Call of Christ on our Lives.

KJV Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

Show us by a miracle that you are from God! Well, we might ask, what has He been doing up to this time? He has been doing many miracles, but that which he has done has been rejected even to the point that they accused him of doing the miracles through an evil spirit. They have not accepted the miracles as from God so Jesus points to the sign of Jonah again, (Matthew 12:38-41) which he earlier had referred to. All his miracles are pointing to The Sign. In Mark's gospel, we are given insight into the heart of Jesus......

KJV Mark 8:12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

The disciples had seen Jesus feed two large multitudes with a few fishes and loaves and had seen him walking on the water and had seen him quiet the storm. He demonstrated very clearly to them of his divine provision and protection for them. In this incident, after Jesus explained to them that he was referring to the false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they understood that he was using the word leaven in a metaphorical way. For by doing so he warned them that a little bit of error can grow into a large error.

1. The Founding of the Church

Now it is time to lay the ground work for the church, (Ekklesia) at a town named Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks his disciples a question:

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

The question was kind of like, what is being said about me in town? It is not as if he did not know, but he was drawing his beloved disciples into a discussion which would lead to his showing them of his upcoming suffering, death and resurrection. Various answers were given, one said John the Baptist, (that is who Herod thought Jesus was), some said Elijah, some said Jeremiah and others said one of the prophets. So then Jesus got more direct with them after first softening the ground for the question he would ask them directly.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {power: or, the right, or, privilege}
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Galatians 1:11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Jesus lays the groundwork of the church by telling Peter that he gave the right answer, and that no human has taught or revealed that truth to him, but it was opened up to him by God in heaven. After telling Peter that the church would be founded on the revelation of God, Jesus went on to say that nothing would prevail against the church. Furthermore....

2. The Authority of the Church

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Here the power of the Gospel is given to the church, for this is a matter of life and death. The person who believes the message of the Gospel will be released and the person who does not believe is yet bound. Only God is able to release a sinner who is bound up. We are not here to bind people up, but we have been given the key to open the door to freedom for a bound sinner. What needs to be understood is that the door that is opened is opened by God Himself, and the door in this sense means that which hinders a person from seeing that which God has done through Jesus Christ. We have been given the ambassorship by which we declare that based on the finished work of Jesus Christ, we tell people: "Your sins are forgiven!"

So far so good, as what has been said would be well received by the disciples in that they were going to be in authority in the church.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

There are different thoughts on why he said this. It is not difficult to see that in light of the rejection by nearly all people of Jesus that if the news got out that He was claiming to be the Messiah, it would only make the public opposition greater yet. Any, it was not time to let that news out yet. Now Jesus begins to speak of the Sign, which is seen in His death and Resurrection.

3. The Necessity of the Death and Resurrection of Christ

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

His rejection has been evident to the disciples, but now Jesus speaks to them of his ultimate rejection by His own to the extent that they would bruise Him and have Him killed. He softens this bombshell with His message of faith to them, "be raised on the third day." It is like: It is difficult now, but in the end it will be okay.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Sin occurs when we take God's place and salvation is when God takes our place.
If Christ does not die, Peter does not live.
If Christ does not die, we do not live.

Christ who has his face set like flint does give any slack to Satan who always speaks through the fallen nature of mankind, hates Christ and all that He has done for humankind. At this point Jesus had not gone to the cross, and Satan not knowing that he was already defeated tried to through Peter to thwart the predetermined plan of God to save the world. Satan is not beneath using anyone or any means in order to separate us from God even today. Let us be mindful of his ways and his evil tactics.

4. The Call of Christ on our Lives.

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

What does this mean? We are called to disown ourselves in that we see ourselves as God sees us: Sinners who have been redeemed by Christ, who now are identified with Him and are called to follow Him. Let us look at Apostle Paul's life to get insight into how this lives out in our lives.

KJV Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

KJV Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

He says that he is continually crucified with Christ and as a result he lives, but not he himself but Christ lives in him and through Him. He desires to glory only in the cross of Christ. Through the cross the world has nothing that he desires greater than Christ him and the world has lost its attraction for him.

For many it is giving up their lives to serve in a greater capacity, but it is not for everyone as this story illustrates for us. It concerns the author of our opening Hymn today: Stand up for Jesus.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high his royal banner, It must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory His army shall he lead, Till every foe is vanquished, And Christ is Lord indeed.
In 1858, three years before the outbreak of the Civil War, revival swept the city of Philadelphia. People responded particularly to the hard-hitting messages of Dudley Tyng, a young, vivacious, abolitionist Episcopal priest.

In March at a noontime, weekday YMCA gathering of five thousand men, Tyng let it rip, basing his sermon on Exodus 10:ll: "Go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord" (KJV). As he spoke, he acknowledged that his radical call for repentance was potentially offensive. He hoped his audience would not take umbrage at his challenge, but, he continued,'! would rather that this right arm were amputated at the trunk, than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God's message."
That afternoon more than a thousand men enlisted in the Lord's army. And Tyng returned home newly challenged to lead the charge, lift high the banner. Little did he know the impending twists of fate.

A week later, studying in his home office, Tyng took a break. He walked out to the barnyard to encourage a mule—whose circular plodding fueled a corn-shelling machine. Alas. Patting the mule, Tyng caught his billowy sleeve in the wheel cogs. Tyng lost his arm. And within days his life.
At his son's deathbed, Tyng's father asked if he had a message for his colleagues. Tyng's last words proved to be his most memorable: "Tell my brethren of the ministry, wherever you meet them, to stand up for Jesus."

That message, relayed at Tyng's funeral, gripped a friend, Rev. George DufEeld. The next Sunday at Philadelphia's Temple Presbyterian Church, DufEeld preached on Ephesians 6:14, a Pauline challenge couched in military language: "Stand firm," wearing the whole armor of God. Duffield ended his sermon with a poem he had penned that week: "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus . . ." (Am I perverse to wonder if there is hidden meaning in the lines: "The arm of flesh will fail you, Ye dare not trust your own"?)

A parishioner printed the poem in leaflet form. It was picked up by a magazine and within a few years sung heartily around Union army campfires. And still is sung today.

Our church organist played its familiar tune. The congregation joined in. A stooped, old man sitting behind me sang lustily. And as the last chord died out, he whispered loudly, spontaneously, as if he'd forgotten he was in church: "That was a good one!"

I smiled.Was he a veteran of a great war? I expect so. After church he slipped out the door before I could ask. The song struck something in his spirit. A call to take courage and stand for his Lord—even as his years and life slipped from him.

A musician tells me this song is a favorite at nursing homes, especially among men and women confined to wheel-chairs—people who can't physically stand. What does the song mean to someone whose options are limited?

In search of an answer I went scrounging for a haunting article I'd clipped some years ago. Richard Mouw writes: ""We are called to be obedient where we are located, with the resources that are available to us, and in the light of our present' understanding of God's will."
Mouw continues, relating an eye-opening exchange between him and sociologist Peter Berger. When a younger, harsher Mouw had suggested "that every Christian is called to engage in radical obedience to God's program of justice, righteousness, and peace," Berger had challenged Mouw's grandiose view of obedience.

Somewhere in a retirement home,. [Berger] said, there is a Christian woman whose greatest fear in life is that she will make a fool of herself because she will not be able to control her bladder in the cafeteria line. For this woman, the greatest act of radical obedience to Jesus Christ is to place herself in the hands of a loving God every time she goes off to dinner.

In summary:

The church was founded in a small town far north of Jerusalem, in Caesarea Philippi. We are brought into the church as individuals so that collectively we form the body of Christ, or the Temple of God. Our primary mission is to announce to the world that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ their sins are forgiven. We have died with Him and now He lives in us. We are called to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

KJV 1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

KJV 2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 31 Aug 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
The Mercy of God 8/24/2014
Dear friend,

May the mercy of God be renewed in our minds, hearts and souls today through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

In the past couple of years it has been one of my sighs before the Lord that I would grow in the knowledge of his mercy toward us as those created in His image and whom He calls His offspring. We understand that the basic definition of mercy is that God has commuted our death sentence by sending His Son to die our death so that through Him we might live. So instead of dying in our sins, we have forgiveness of our sins through Christ. In that way, we have received mercy. We will not receive that which we deserve...

The area that I have been asking Him to show me more is concerning of what is behind His heart of mercy: His kindness, His compassion, His pity, His longings and so on. For myself in the ministry having a regular schedule of teaching and preaching, it often times is easy to fall into somewhat of a rote pattern whereby one feels as if one is repeating just the hard and cold facts minus the heart felt compassion and care for those one is ministering to. So as I thought on the message of this day, I thought that I would take a fly over of the topic of the mercy of God beginning with the Old Testament. So, Lord, may we hear Your Voice as we do so.....

The first announcement of the mercy of God was given in:

KJV Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The day of Christ was prophesied in this place, which was given immediately after we lost our fellowship rights with Him due to our believing the lie of the Devil.

King David in his later years of life, having grown in the knowledge and experience of his great need of the abundant mercy of God wrote this way.....

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

Jeremiah in the midst of difficult circumstances cried out to the Lord...

Lamentations17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall
20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. bowed}
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
:22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

And last week we heard the cries of the woman who would not give up asking for mercy from Jesus for the sake of her daughter......

Matthew 15: 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

As it was with blind Bartimeaus.....

Mark 10:46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

The fundamental factor in each act of God is mercy: God's compassionate love for his creation that leads him to do for it what it cannot do for itself. Before the Ultimate Act of mercy in which God gave His Son for us, Jesus foreshadowed His coming sacrifice through His merciful acts of healing.

It is because we have received the kindness and mercy of God that we present our bodies to be living sacrifices, which are holy and acceptable to God. How could it be any different than that? This is what Paul tells his Roman readers as he moves from the theological teachings in his letter to the to the practical aspect of their Christian life. He beseeches them, comes alongside them in order to appeal to them on the basis of the revelation that they have received from God concerning His mercies toward them. He like comes alongside them, puts his arm around them and reminds them of the compassion, the pity and the longing of God for them to the end that they would not only remember that they have received mercy, but that it has been given out of great kindness and caring. He desires for us to demonstrate His presence by His indwelling Spirit in us through our offering of ourselves for the sake of others.

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

He tells them that it is logical/rational to do such, for it is as their act of worship. He tells them to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. The ESV translation is a little clearer.

ESV Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.2

Our mind is renewed by regularly and continually by being exposed to the mind and heart of God through His Holy Scriptures and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word that is used to describe the transformation process is metamorpho, from which we get our word metamorphis. It is in the passive sense, which means that it is something that is being done to us and in us.

As we read and hear Him speak through the Bible, our attitudes and actions are brought before Him and if we have been self serving rather than serving, His Spirit will rebuke us, correct us and instruct us from His Word.

3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly,(with a sound mind, thinking godly) according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Paul here points to humility, that we consider the other as above us and not ourselves above the other. This is all in preparation for what is to follow in the rest of the chapter. He first points out that we are all part of one body, but that we are given different gifts, which are to be used for the benefit of the entire body.

4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

He then gives seven examples of the gifts that are given to an individual, and which are given for the benefit of the body. Here they are in verses 6 and 7.

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

1) Prophecy: He speaks of the gift of prophecy which in this application seems to point to the office of preaching the Word, and he emphasizes that it needs to be consistent with the entire Scriptures. It may be easier to understand if we use the word "in agreement with faith" in place of "according to the proportion of faith."

2) Ministry, or service. The Greek word is diakonia, from which we get our word deacon, or we could refer to an elder, or a board member.

3) Teacher: To Explain and Instruct

4) Exhortation, (parakaleo, called to one's side) let us do so. We note that Paul began this 12th chapter with the word "beseech" which is from the same parakaleo Greek word.

5) Giving: Give with singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty 1a) the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy 2) not self seeking, openness of heart manifesting itself by generousity

6) Ruling: to be over, to superintend, preside over 1c) to be a protector or guardian 1c1) to give aid 1d) to care for, give attention to 1d1) profess honest occupations

With diligence: (1) haste, speed; (2) as a quality of genuine commitment zeal, diligence, eagerness (3) as an expression of active concern devotion, care, goodwill

7) Showing Mercy: with cheerfulness, gladness, as a mark of genuine benevolence

Dear friend. As you and I reflect on the goodness and the kindness of God towards us in His mercy, what will be our response to what He has shared with us here today? We were brought face to face with the reality that we have received the mercies of God through Christ Jesus by the Apostle Paul who himself was a recipient of the great mercy of God. He came alongside us to exhort us to offer our bodies unto the Lord, he shared with us that we are not to be puffed up since the gift that we have has been given by God, he told us that there are many other members in the body who have been given a variety of gifts and that we are to use our gifts collectively. He then listed seven gifts, listing them in order of importance with preaching and teaching the first two given. He then lists five general gifts that are useful and beneficial in the support of the members in a congregation.

May the Lord guide our meditations and reflections over this passage of Scripture so that we may be able to discern through testing what is the will of God for each of us as relating to our participation in the life of our congregations. May we be transformed into His image and as a result be one who offers ourselves for the benefit the other, whoever that might be.

One who has received mercy,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 24 Aug 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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The Cross of Christ 8.31.2014
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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The Lawry Kilpela family as they grieve but yet rejoice in Lawry's being called home.