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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Apostle Paul the Pastor 9/22/2013
Dear Friend,

Today we consider a letter that was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Philippi, a church that he had been involved in from its beginning. 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 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.

Before getting into the text, I wish to jump back to the book of Acts to bring forth a significant point which we need to be reminded of in the ministry of Apostle Paul. Please note that to the plea for help was interpreted by Paul as the call to preach the gospel unto them.

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

ESV Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

He introduces himself and Timothy as servants of Christ and addresses the letter to the saints in Christ Jesus along with the leaders who are at Philippi. He is referring to those who have received the grace of God through Christ and are a member of the invisible body of Jesus Christ, with Jesus being the head. He goes on to give the Apostolic greeting which is often used at the beginning of these types of letters, saying both grace and peace. Some have the thought that the reason he spoke both grace and peace is the term grace meant more for the Gentile believer while peace had more meaning to the former Jew who was now a believer in Christ.

I have included a writing which describes the word grace with the hope that we will get the huge significance as to why the Apostle begins his letters with the word grace. For if we have not received the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus, the rest of the letter will not be of much help for us. Please read on....

Romans 5: 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

"Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.

Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

It is one-way love. (Written by Paul Zahl)

Paul now begins to address his readers in person...

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

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. Apparently upon conversion 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.

6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

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:

He then 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........

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.

The following commentary is from Kretzman's Popular Commentary.

His gratitude and loving sympathy now urges the apostle to express the feeling of his heart in a fervent prayer for the Philippians: And this I pray, that your love abound yet more and more in understanding and all intelligence. They were believers, they had given ample proof of the sound condition of their faith in good works, yet the perfection had not yet been gained that is the hope of all Christians. Therefore Paul adds intercession to prayer, pleading that through God’s gracious power their love toward Christ and the brethren should grow, be enlarged, be added to. As the beloved of the Lord they should show the growth which alone is consistent with their Christian profession; for love is the first, immediate fruit of faith. The believers should persist in love; as their, faith grows, so their love should grow.

Standing still in faith and love is an impossibility to a Christian. The chief consideration that controls this growth is understanding, for love grows with the understanding of the saving truth, of the Word of our redemption. As the understanding and knowledge of God and His gracious counsel of love toward salvation grows, love must keep pace with this growth, in fact, it must be the corollary of this understanding. At the same time, this is no mere understanding of the reason and mind, but of the entire and full intelligence, of the developed discernment which is shown in sound common sense and correct judgment in spiritual matters. It is a spiritual ability to discern the good and true, that which will stand before the criterion and standard of God's Word. It is the moral sensibility which enables the Christians to apply the proper tact to all situations and relations in the world.

The result of such understanding and sense is shown at all times: That you may test things that differ, that you may be pure and unblamable for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. The Christians must gain practice more and more in distinguishing that which must be judged or discriminated, that they may learn to choose, almost instinctively, between good and bad, between true and false, between what pleases and what displeases God, between what is to be recommended to Christians and what is to be shunned, between that which serves the kingdom of God and that which is inimical to its interests. This judgment of Christians should be grounded and should grow: that is the prayer of the apostle, in which all Christians will join him.

The gift of trying the spirits, of distinguishing between true and false, is a very important blessing; to know in each individual instance what is right and wrong, and to fulfill the will of God in this knowledge, that is a wonderful gift of God's grace. Only in this manner will the purpose of God be realized, namely, that the Christians will be found pure and without offense for the day of Jesus Christ. The Christian's life should be so thoroughly above reproach and suspicion that he can let the light of full publicity fall upon him, as one that is tested by a sunbeam, and not be afraid to face his critics. The things of darkness cannot stand in the sight of the Word, which reveals all. Only the pure will stand in God's sight.

And without offense, blameless, the Christians should be; they should not stumble and fall, and they should not cause others to stumble and fall. They are always aware of the coming of the day of Jesus Christ, when everything will be revealed before the eye of the all-seeing Judge. The apostle has no reference to every-day weaknesses and foibles, but he insists that Christians should shun all the open mortal sins of the flesh. Especially such crimes as will make a Christian infamous also in the eyes of the world should not be found in a Christian community. The Christian will therefore prayerfully watch his every move and carefully weigh everything that is brought to his attention, to find which is the right course to pursue in each individual case.

It follows then, also, that Christians will always be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Love, growing in the manner indicated by the apostle, will know in every case what to do and what to leave undone, and this knowledge results in the fruit of good works. Faith and love are manifested in good works. The whole life of the believers should be filled up with good works. And yet, all the works may be entered under one single heading: fruit of faith. It is fruit of righteousness, fruit which consists in righteousness, righteousness of life, for a Christian to act and live justly toward God and his neighbor. Such fruit will result only in and through Jesus Christ. In reality, it is the power, the strength, of Jesus in the believers that works and brings forth the good deeds. And chiefly for this reason such bringing forth results to the honor and praise of God. Even in this life the Christians increase the glory and the praise of God by their life in accordance with His will.

Breifly stating a conclusion to the three verses, it is clear that the growth of our knowledge and discernment of the love of God will regulate our ability to arightly approve things that are excellent, to be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, and to be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.

I encourage you to continue a study in this letter to the Philippian church, which also applies to any Christian church today as far as that goes.Read through it, pray over it, listen to it over and over again on your electronic device, listen to teachers go through it verse by verse...... We have gone through the introduction to the book and the themes that have been put before us will be further expounded on as he goes through the letter. Perhaps I will continue the study in this format, but at this point I am not sure. May the Lord bless our studies, whether they be together or individually.

In His love,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 22 Sep 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Reason to Rejoice! 9/15/2013
Dear friend,

KJV Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

As Jesus continued towards Jerusalem and to His death on the cross, desiring to gather souls unto Himself, some felt safe approaching Him while others murmured against Him for the way He was going about His business. We see two groups of people in our text today, those who drew near Him and those who followed Him at a distance, with the latter often finding fault with Him. Those who drew near Him were despised by the Pharisees and scribes, who accused Jesus of receiving sinners and even eating with them.

Jesus again used this as an opportunity to teach His hearers of that day by relating to them 3 parables which speak to the recovery/gathering of the lost. He speaks of the finding 1 of 100, the finding of 1 of 10 and finishes with the finding of 1 of 2. They were lost, but now were found.

As we seek to understand the lessons in this portion of the Scriptures today, may we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear that which He wishes to teach us today concerning His gathering heart toward the lost. He seeks until He finds; when He finds the lost He has great joy, furthermore, He calls upon the neighbors to rejoice with Him and there is also great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, or over one sinner who turns towards the Lord......

Oh Lord, please pour out your Spirit into our hearts today so that we would be revived, refreshed, and revitalized.......in our relationship with you....May we hear what you would say to us through your Word today.

KJV Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

The last part the last verse in chapter 14 reads thus: "He that has ears, let him hear."

Luke then begins chapter 15 of his gospel by telling us that the publicans (tax collectors) and sinners drew near to Jesus for to hear Him. If we connect the two verses, it appears that they felt safe to approach Him and were not given the impression by Him that they would be turned away. While we do not know what they thought of Jesus, nevertheless, they felt free to draw close to Him...

On the other hand, were they free to approach the Pharisees and scribes or not? It does not appear that they did, for was the self righteousness of the leaders a turn off to come to them? Would they feel judged by the attitude of the leaders? Let us look at another passage, which comes later in this gospel which gives us further insight into the contrast between the two people groups.

Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Both men were worshipping in the temple, but there was a substantial difference in their focus. The first looked to his own works as reason for thankfulness while the other looked into himself and found nothing but sin. The latter was justified over the first one, for in order to be lifted up by God one must first humble himself.

Jesus now addresses the two people groups by telling two stories in parabolic form....and He carefully weaves the story to bring to light the inability of the Pharisees and the scribes to see the soul value of the tax collectors and the sinners.

3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Those hearing this story would be very familiar with the metaphorical language concerning sheep from the Old Testament scriptures. The shepherds were responsible for taking care of the sheep. He is emphasizing the value of one soul by asking the question in this way: Which of you would not leave all the other sheep to go find the one? How long would you keep looking for it? Until you found it, He says.
He goes on to say that when the lost sheep is found, there would be much rejoicing by the shepherd as it was brought back on His shoulders for restoration purposes. Not only would the shepherd rejoice, but the rejoicing would be contagious as he shared the joy of finding the lost one with his friends and neighbors, calling upon them to rejoice with him at the finding of the lost one.

He then says: Likewise, there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine that need no repentance. We recall that earlier there was a publican who was called by Jesus to follow him. Let us go back to that portion.

Luke 5:27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

As we consider this, what do we conclude? Who are the ninety and nine in the wilderness that need no repentance? Are they those who are quite satifisfied in their own righteousness? Or are they those who are walking with the Lord in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? It is not clear, but application could certainly be made to the Pharisees and scribes by comparing our text to the portion in chapter 5 which we have placed above.

8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

The second parable is somewhat similar, with the exception being that nothing is said about her joy at finding the lost coin, but yet by calling on her friends and neighbors, it would seem that she was bubbling over with joy at the find. She had sought her lost coin with diligence, found it and in the presence of angels therw was joy over the sinner that had repented...............

How are we to understand that which is being emphasized here by Jesus? There are a number of points that can be gained, but what is He really driving at in these two parables? Let us prayerfully consider this...

He seems to be pointing out to the leaders of the Jews that He came to seek and to find those who are lost. They have lost their ability to recognize what lostness is and by using these two parables he hopes to cause them so see that their lack of caring for the publicans and sinners is an indication of their blindness to their sin.

What caused them to be lifted up in their own eyes? Most likely because they had become a part of a hierarchy which made it easy for them to be part of a system of religion. They did not understand the love of God for the world and for the lost sinners of the world. They thought that they were in the right and that the publicans and the sinners were to be looked down upon as those who God did not care about.

Often times we are quick to forget the value of each human soul and in our religious system find ourselves prone to going through the motions. I have been thinking a lot about the contrast that is being continually displayed before us as we go through the gospel of Luke: The religious establishment and the seeking and gathering heart of Jesus. When we become too entrenched in religion we tend to lose sight of the seeking and gathering heart of Jesus.

Jesus is pointing to Himself in these parables as they Great Shepherd who came to seek and to save. We are all like sheep who have gone astray, have become lost and He has come to find us so that we could be restored. In both stories, there is a sense of joy in His heart at finding us, that joy is shared by our friends and neighbors and in heaven there is rejoicing because we have been found by Christ.

God began to seek us since we became lost in the Garden of Eden, and He has never ceased in that mission. By our fallen human nature we often become blind to our sin and begin to look down on others as greater sinners than ourselves, which is caused by forgetting who we are and who Christ is. We are the chief of sinners and Christ is the Greatest Pardoner. When we lose sight of our sin, we lose sight of our need for Christ and His forgiveness.

KJV Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

May the Spirit give us ears to hear and eyes to see what He is teaching here. May each of us in our own station in life be quieted before Him so that we could hear Him speak to us.

In Christ's love,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 15 Sep 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Apostle Paul the Pastor 9/22/2013
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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