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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Strong in Weakness 7/08/2102
Dearly beloved in Christ,

On Wednesday we celebrated our 236th birthday as a nation, for which we give thanks to the One who has made all things, Who has given us our nation and our freedoms and the One to whom we look to for the protection and preservation of our country's future.

A few weeks ago we heard a sermon which spoke of how God's people wanted Samuel to give them a king who would be like the kings that that other nations had and even though God was displeased with the motive of their request, He yielded to them and gave Saul to be their king. Saul did not work out as he disobeyed the Lord's will and he was removed as king in favor of King David who was anointed to be the new leader by Samuel (1 Samuel 16). He also was anointed by the elders of Israel, an occasion which is described in our Old Testament reading that Doug will read for us today. (2 Samuel 5:1-10)

The Psalm (48) that Dave will read certainly could have been the praise song of the people who were at the anointing of David as the new king, for praises are sung of the greatness of God, of the superiority of His kingdom over the kingdoms of men, and how it is established and will exist forever!

Our sermon today speaks of life within this eternal Kingdom of God.. Through the eyes of the Apostle Paul, we will be invited to consider as to how he responded to adversity that came his way as the result of his being a child of the Living God. May the Lord open up our understanding so that we may be assured, encouraged and directed in our Christian journey as we listen and think upon His Word as it is revealed into our hearts by His Spirit today.

2 Corinthians 12:9b My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Have Jesus ever spoken to you? Have you ever heard His voice by which He spoke directly to you? Has your sense of helplessness ever got to the point that you were at a loss as to how to proceed in life and then....and then, you heard His voice. I do not mean in the ordinary and usual manner through His Word and by His Spirit, but I am meaning a more direct manner in which you actually heard His voice speak into your mind, into your heart, into your soul, into your life.

If it has not happened to you or to me, could it happen in the future? According to the biblical record, it did happen to our brother Apostle Paul, who we will draw alongside today in order to consider an experience in his life which should give us encouragement as to the faithful care of the Lord toward our lives. Therefore, if it happened to him, it certainly can happen to us.

Our text is found in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12:1-10. Here is the Word of the Lord that we will meditate upon today.

KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
(ESV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.)
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

As you and I spend time with our Lord and Saviour in His Word having fellowship with Him, we learn about those who lived before us, those who God raised up to be His witnesses and messengers through the years. As we spend time reading of that which they did and said, we in a sense get to know them from the heart. Because the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament, we have opportunity to get to know him better than any other person (outside of Jesus) in the New Testament. As we think of this today, we are reminded that it takes time to sit down and to listen to another speak in order to get to know them from the heart. It requires us to listen. This is true in our relationship with God, with Jesus, and with all others whom we have opportunity to seek to build our relationship with.

In various epistles, the Apostle Paul writes of his former life as a religious Pharisee, of his conversion to Christianity and through many of his writings , we are then able to follow his life as a Christian, who lived his life for Christ and not for himself. There is so much written about him that it is easy to fall into the temptation to know him only on a superficial basis and lose the blessing of getting to know him from the heart. Our text today offers us a little insight into the struggles that he faced as a result of his calling as a Christian, a struggle which we should all be able to relate to. For sure, Paul was a chosen vessel of Christ, one who was called to suffer greatly on behalf of the name of Christ, and that is accurate to say that he was a great minister who was faithful unto death. But we need to remember that even though he was a chosen vessel, he was yet one of us, for we are all chosen vessels to bear witness of our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Paul was a Christian, just like we are and in that sense we are all in the same boat.

The Apostle Paul has been defending the ministry into which he has been placed by Jesus. He began to write of this defense back in the beginning of chapter 10 and has, in short, emphasized that he wants those to whom he is writing, to come to follow Christ from the heart by the Spirit and hopes that he will not have to use stronger means to protect them from error. He continually resists the temptation to "toot his own horn," has not been afraid to speak of his sufferings which he has had because he is a minister of the Gospel of Christ, all the while contrasting his ministry with the ministry of the false teachers. We are given an insight into his heart at the close of chapter 11, where we hear the Apostle speak these words:

2 Cor 11:22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

We then come to our text for today.

KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
(ESV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.)
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

The KJV is very difficult to understand with its wording, so I have included the ESV version. The original says something like "to boast is necessary, but not to one's advantage, but I will go onto visions and revelations of the Lord." When we think of boasting we immediately get a negative sense of the use of the word, for the Scriptures continually speak against wrong thinking of ourselves, in that we be prone to think too highly of ourselves. Why is Paul taking this approach, even if he does say that there is no benefit to it, but yet the Holy Spirit has directed him to take this approach. Let us depend on the Spirit to show us our answer.

The first thing we notice is that this happened fourteen years ago......Secondly, he does not say "I", but he uses the third person. Wow....

Let us think about these two points that have been made. Even though he had that experience fourteen years ago, he apparently had never spoken it publicly until this time. Wow, wow! How could he not have told the world about such an experience?? What a private experience that must have been between God and himself!!! There are those things that are so close between our God and ourselves that they are not to be shared with just anyone, but yet there may come a time when it is necessary to do so. Lord, may you give us insight into this important truth that we have seen here today..

Wow....Then by using the third person, he put his own glory as far away from himself as possible as he was a man of humility, one who did not seek his own glory, which would be easy to do because of what he experienced. He distanced himself for fourteen years of silence by not speaking of that experience, and now when he did speak of it, it was from the third person.

Wow...Could I illustrate this place with a humorous personal experience but yet speaks directly to this example of humility? Within our family of my siblings and my children, there has been a bantering back and forth of the use of the term "a guy". Let me explain... In my former life as a logger, we would often plan the work ahead and when we would intend dictate as to how we/I would do something, rather than say, "I would do this or that" we/I would say, " A guy should do this here and that there," and those who have heard it have wondered why we do not say, "We/I should to this here and that there."

We have wondered as to how and why we have got into that practice, but have not really been able to determine its beginnings. It has been suggested that we got it from our uncles who were loggers, but we are not sure. Regardless, we have come to recognize that whenever "a guy" is said, that it is a reminder that it is always good to resist the temptation to point to much to ourselves and in so doing, think more highly of ourselves than we should. It is good to consider in our words and our writings as to how many times the word "I" is used.

Well, what about the "guy" that is being spoken of here? What is being said about the "guy?"

4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

He was caught up to paradise, a word that is used only three times in the Bible. Here are the other two...

Assuming that the “first heaven” would be atmospheric heaven (the sky) and “second heaven” the more distant stars and planets, “third heaven” would refer to the place where God dwells

KJV Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
KJV Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

He does not say what he saw, but only what he heard. That which he heard was "unspeakable" (too sacred to be spoken or unable to find words to properly describe it) It was not permitted for him to speak that which he had heard.........

Now he identifies the "guy"...as himself, Paul.

5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

Paul was not deluded into thinking that he was better than others, that he had more spirituality than others, for he yet knew that he was a sinner, yet saved by grace. He kept separate as to who he was outside of the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was a nothing without Him.

May I illustrate this with a recent communication that I got from a dear friend, for in this short paragraph he reminds us how to think of ourselves in humility.

"Well I thank JESUS for the blessing that it is to be able to be here. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the incredible Grace and Mercy of my Jesus! I don't ever feel worthy to be here or to stand in front of anyone, and I know I'm not.. I just have to pray each time that God would use an unworthy, unprepared, wretch of a sinner like me to bless and help grow whoever is hearing, and not even take me into account. I'm so thankful for His patience with me, and the fact that He can use a twisted pot like myself. I am so thankful for the power of His Word, and the fact that it does NOT depend on me for Him to touch someone through the preaching of His Word! So ALL glory be to God for whatever little He has been able to use me for here. If it depended on me and my strength, who knows where I would be in this world! :)" Ryan Ruotsala, Zacapa, Guatemala

Now Paul goes onto speak of some of his inner experiences that came as a result of this revelation. He speaks of that which God has allowed to come into his life in order to keep him in a place where he is useful to the Lord in the ministry, as a result of his being given the vision and revelation which he describes as being heard only. He does not say anything about seeing.

Is Paul revealing this vision and revelation to the the hearers so that they can see that there is far more to being a witness and messenger of Jesus Christ than meets the eye? Possibly. It is like Paul is allowing us to see a very intimate part of his life in order that we/they will be instructed in this matter.

Illustration: "Some years ago I attended a ladies luncheon. The speaker that day was a lady, who had been through horrendous loss. Her three daughters were traveling to another city for their brothers weding and were killed in an auto accident. As she came on the stage and began sharing her story, I found myself a bit lost in thought. I was thinking that she was so pretty, and that she had such a clear and powerful way of presenting her message. Envy was creeping in as I witnessed her grace and poise and I had thoughts like, "boy, I wish I was like her, I wish I could share like she does."

Then the Holy Spirit came to me and I was hit with reality. "Do you really want to have walked her road? Do you wish to have lived through her tragedy? Do you want to go through the heartache and grief that has brought her to where she is today?"

I need to be reminded to be thankful and content with what and who God has made me. Beth Wirkkala

6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

The tension between his pride and Christ's humility is seen here. He recognizes that temptation to be proud, but also realizes that to yield to that is to be a fool.

He speaks of how he cried unto the Lord three times, for the "thorn" to be taken away. What was his thorn? It is left for us
to wonder, but we do know that it was allowed for a specific purpose, which is detailed here. Did he plead with God over a long period of time in the fourteen years? We do not know, but we do know that it was three times that he pleaded with the Lord for its removal.

At first he looked at the thorn as an enemy of his, but then understood that it was given to him for his blessing so that he could be a blessing to others.

He got a response from the Lord and Paul responded rightly...
9a And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

9b Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Application: Even though this mainly applies to difficulties which come into our lives as the result of our witness for Christ, it applies to all of us, for we stand with Christ not only in speaking the words of the Gospel, but when believe God and trust Him above all else, we will be tried and persecuted. It can be without, but it also can be within.

When I am at the end of my rope, I am weak

When the way ahead seems blocked, and I do not know what to do, I am weak.

When I have no one else to turn to, I am weak.

When we turn to the Lord, we are made strong in faith

I asked in the beginning if anyone had ever heard the Lord speak to them. I want to share some testimonies of those who have heard the Lord speak to them when they were weak, and as a result of their acknowledged weakness, they were made strong in faith

From Grandma
"When Annie was very sick and had recently been diagnosed with her sickness, I was awakened one night by an angel, whose appearance gave me comfort right away. And then I knew that Annie would be taken care of. Right after that, the angel went through the wall to Annie's room."

And now from Grandpa:
"There was a time when I was feeling discouragement with her sickness, as it was continuing on with no changes for the better, my hope was failing and I did not know what to do. I fell before the Lord in a desperate prayer and Karen to did the same. As we were before Him, crying out to Him for His help and comfort,I felt a hand touch my shoulder and I knew it was the hand of God being placed on me and I then felt comfort and peace. It was not just me that felt His hand, but my wife Karen also felt the touch of the hand of God at that time."

From Kevin, Doris' son, Pat's brother:
When Kevin woke up in the night, his father Kenny told him; "I had a visitor in the night, God came and said, "Everything is going to be ok."

What does it mean for you and I?
It means that we continue to be Christians and as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, or whoever we are in a world does not honor God's family design.

We continue to live in this kingdom of God regardless of the cost, knowing that whatever experiences we are given in life are designed to work for our good so that we may be a blessing to others.

It means that we allow the Lord to direct our life so that we may serve him first of all, and are ready to accept his training plan, even at the cost of our personal comforts, even hardship, tragedy, loss and so on.

It means that in our weakness God is able to bring encouragement and strength to our hearts and in our lives.

Jesus spoke these final words of encouragement to His disciples, speaking before the fact as if it was after the fact.
33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

KJV 1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who are the victors? We are the victors through Christ and in Christ, which is through faith!!

May the Lord add His blessing to this meditation today through the enlightenment of His Holy Spirit!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 08 Jul 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
True Freedom is in Christ 7/01/2012
Dearly beloved in Christ,
KJV Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Since the year 1776 our nation has enjoyed the freedoms in which we are a people of the people, by the people and for the people, one nation, under God, indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.
This Wednesday our nation will celebrate its 236th birthday, which marks the date that we declared independence from the nation who had colonized us but had gradually placed us under its power of domination. Our forefathers declared independence from that nation and began to fight for the right to self rule, creating documents that could guide as to how they would govern this new country, documents which recognized that all powers are ordained of God and that every citizen would be given the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Consequentely, our nation has been the nation that people of nearly all other nations have desired to come to and many yet continue to want to immigrate to our United States of America. For many years we have used the blessings that have received from God to help those who are in need of help.

As we celebrate with thanksgiving to God for another year of this independence and freedom, let us remember that the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been given to us by our Creator. (Inalienable means that this right cannot be given to some else or be transferred to someone else)
It does not mean that we live to ourselves outside of the truth which God is as revealed in His Word.. These freedoms have continued to be ours but not without the cost of lives which have been given and are being given..
Signboard in Litchfield: "Our first veterans fought for the right to worship" (without interference from the government)

Our nation has been founded on the truths of God's Holy Word, the Bible, which testifies to us that He is the Creator, that we are His creation, that we are dependent upon Him for our every need in our lives and that without Him, we can do nothing.

We all value our political and physical freedom, but we realize that the Christian Liberty, along with its benefits and responsiblities, is superior to all other freedoms. It is that which the Apostle Paul speaks of in the first verse of our text: ""the liberty in which Christ has made us free."

There is somewhat of a difference between the freedom that we enjoy as American citizens and the freedom which we enjoy as citizens of the Kingdom of God, or the heavenly kingdom. Our own people (with God's help) have fought for our freedom. God has fought the battle alone which won our spiritual freedom.. When we forget that God has given us all our freedoms, we slide toward towards independence from Him towards dependence on self.

Our understanding of the meaning of spiritual freedom and how it is lived out in our lives is the main point of our sermon today, which is taken from Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians. We are given freedom so that we would live in the benefits of it, not solely for our benefit, but also that we would seek to bless others so that they could live in this freedom. Freedom in Christ frees us from our selfish drive to live for self so that we can live for the blessing of others.

Being freed from our self opens the way to see others as Jesus sees them. And seeing them as Jesus sees them, opens the way for us to love them in practical ways even as He loved us in a very practical way by giving His life for ours.

It is not a freedom from sin, but it is a freedom from the law. Liberty is not living as we want, but living as we should.
Christ through His redemptive work has freed us from the guilt and the power of sin, and therefore we live in the Spirit, no longer under the dictates and commands of the law which says: "Do this and you will live," while the Spirit says, "I point you to Christ who has fulfilled all on your behalf, has entered into our heart through repentance and faith, and now His desires have become our desires.....Paul here warns them against going back to a foolish existence, saying in so many words, "don't you know that if you are going to attempt to save ;yourself by circumcision, that you must keep the rest of the law also?" Do you not understand that you will never be able to do it? You are leaving Christ if you go along with that type of teaching!! If you think you can be justified by the law, you are telling God: "I do not want or need Christ.!" Also, you all are fallen from grace!" Wow.......Listen in as he speaks to them....

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Let us look at some other places in Scripture to refresh our memory as to the purpose and the function of the law.

KJV Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead.
9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

I am reminded of a late brother, Edwin Erickson, who was called to glory a few months ago. When he and I would have fellowship together, he often spoke of this place in the scriptures and of how the Lord had used it to bring him to freedom in Christ and out from under the bondage to the law. He would share that as long as he lived under the "I musts" of the law, he could never do enough to the point that he felt that it was enough. He struggled in keeping with these commands of doing good and not doing evil until one day he threw us his hands and said: "That's it, I give up, to heck with it!" And then he would quote Apostle Paul's experience which is recorded in this seventh chapter of Romans: "And I died, for that which I thought was unto life, I found to be unto death, and I died." Then Edwin would look at me and in an encouraging manner he would say to me, words which I still can hear being spoken into my heart today as I write this: "And I know you have died, too." I thank God for this brother, for he brought a lot of encouragement, counsel and inspiration to my heart, soul and life....

For a simple illustration of how the law functions, let us use a glass of water with an inch of dirt in the bottom of it to represent the human heart. Let us use a pencil to represent the law, which is designed to bring us unto death, by dipping it into the apparently clean heart and stir the entire contents of the glass. What will happen? The water will be turned brown and will continue to be brown as long as one stirs the water. Take the "law" away and the water/heart will eventually clear up. Ask your self the question: How long would one have to stir the contents of the heart with the "law" for the heart to become clean? The answer is obvious, which illustrates that the law can never bring life, for it is not designed to do so. It is meant to bring death so that we may enter into the life in Christ, who has fulfilled the entire law. We now live in the Spirit, for we have died.

5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? {hinder you: or, drive you back}
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
Living in the Spirit means that through faith we live in the expected hope of the return of Christ, the righteous one. We are counted righteous through faith in Him and as a result of this faith love flows from our hearts and lives outwardly. It is as the Apostle John wrote in his first epistle:
1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Paul goes onto say, you all were doing great in your journey of faith. What happened? Who drove you back to the bondage of the law, convincing you that you must add something to what Jesus did to be saved? He tells them in verse 8, "God did not do so," also warning them that a little error will spoil and ruin the entire work of Christ that has been done for you. Then Paul again does what he does so often in his tender fatherly letters to his beloved people: He build them up with affirmation and encouragement, saying that "I have confidence in you through the Lord, that you be not otherwise minded." He is telling them to not turn from the Gospel and its authority over their lives. He speaks to them with an affirming tone, putting his confidence in the work that Christ has done in them and has promised to complete until the day He returns. Paul was one never to look at another person through the eyes of the flesh, for he wrote the following to the Corinthians:

KJV 2 Corinthians 5:16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

This meant that he looked not at their weakness of human frailty, but at the power of God which lived in them by the Spirit. We see an example of this in his relationship with Philemon in his letter to him. Philemon has a slave, Onesimus, who had run away from Philemon, and now Paul was entreating Philemon to take Onesimus back. Listen to the heart of Paul as he speaks with Philemon through this letter..

Philemon 7 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it- to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.
20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Do we understand the difference between looking at another through the eyes of the Spirit vs the eye of the flesh? Or we could say, through the eyes of Christ vs the eye of the fallen human? Yes, I believe we do. Paul formerly looked on people through the eyes of the flesh, but when the revelation of Christ came to him and Christ began to live in him, he did not use this new existence of freedom in Christ to live for himself, but he used it to pour out the life of Christ which was in Him to shower others with the grace of Christ. He did this both in the giving of himself as well as seeing others in the same manner as he himself had come to know that he was seen and received by Christ. In other words, Paul now saw people as Christ saw them, sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins but who have been redeemed by Christ. Paul/Christ longed for them to come to this knowledge and experience through repentance and faith. His/their (Christ and Paul's) life existed entirely towards that end. Christ now lived in Paul, and Paul in Him and all that they did reflected the heart of Christ toward the world. So when we listen to Paul speak to Philemon in the letter, we hear Christ speaking.
Now we see that there were those who insisted on circumcision as mandatory for salvation, accused Paul of preaching that type of teaching. How absurd is that? Paul addresses that easily, saying how could that be that if I am agreeing with you and preaching what you say I must, why am I being persecuted? He defends himself in verse and then speaks to the extreme danger in allowing false teachers to teach.

11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Galatians 6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Paul exhibits how deadly these false teachers are through this verse. Was he remembering the verse in Deuteronomy?
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (castrate)
KJV Deuteronomy 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

Paul has explained that it is only through faith in Christ that we are justified and not by the works of the law. He then explains what it looks like to live in Christian freedom/liberty.
There are two extremes which we as Christians have a tendency to drift into:

A. We struggle with the concept of freedom which comes with salvation and want to put some conditions on it. (Save ourselves)

B. We use our liberty as a cloak for living in the desires of our flesh. (self serving)

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

KJV Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

We have been called to freedom in Christ, out of the bondage to the law. What does that mean for us?

1. It is freedom to live in the power of the Spirit of Christ in the forgiveness of our sin because Christ has loved us (v 13)
2. It is not freedom to live in the life of the flesh/for ourselves (13)
3. It is freedom to serve one another in love (13)
4. It is freedom love others as we love ourselves (Because we are loved by Christ) (14)

What will we do with this freedom that we live in through Christ?
Will we live for ourselves?
Will we serve others in love?
Will we love others as we love ourselves? (Because we are loved by Christ)

What ways can we practically do so? May we ask ourselves: How may I serve others within my home, within my congregation, within my community?

I leave before ourselves this morning three opportunities for us to serve others in love: One from within our congregation, and two outside, one within these United States and the other outside of these United States.

From Christ and Jane Hendrickson, Roger and Janet's son in law and daughter, whose 14 month old daughter has a rare kidney disease and needs a transplant. It has been determined that Jane will be able to give her kidney to her daughter. Here is what Jane wrote on the caring bridge site the other day.

"Verbal conformation today that we will be doing the Kidney Transplant on August 15th. We are excited and nervous all at the same time. Cora will be having some additional procedures done including gal-bladder removal, and a liver biopsy."

I had previously extended an offer of help for their family during the transplant recovery time. She responded with "So excited for the transplant date. I am working on putting together everything and will get back to you on what is needed."

May we ask ourselves: "How may I serve in this opportunity to love their family?"

The second one was sent to me by email by my sister Kathy. It is an email from one of her dear friends:

> I spent the entire day at Interstate Kaiser today getting a magnesium infusion and seeing the transplant doc and my oncologist. The results of the PET scan I had on Friday: The mass in my back is smaller but still big and active; the other spots are gone. I will not have any more chemo, so I won't be going into the hospital again on Saturday. I will have radiation on the mass in my back beginning, hopefully, within the next 2 weeks. After 3 weeks of radiation and 2 weeks of recovery, I'll have another PET and CT scan to see if the radiation took care of it. If it does, I need to decide if I want to go through with the stem cell transplant.
> After talking to the transplant doc today, I'm not sure that I want to do it. It involves killing my immune system with massive doses of chemo and putting me at great risk of infection, then getting massive doses of a drug that builds my marrow, then harvesting the stem cells through blood draw and giving them back to me. We might have to move closer to OHSU for a few months, I'd be in the hospital with chemo reactions for 3-4 weeks, and months of recovery. If I survive all that, there is only a 33% chance of cure. That is not how I want to live the life I have left.
> This is a really hard decision for me. I've never been afraid of dying, but it's hard to say, "Just let me go." I have a few weeks to gain some courage and make my decision. I appreciate all the support from my friends and family - if you have more words of wisdom to make me strong, I'm listening.
> I love every one of you. Sharon Brown.

Will we pray for her, will we write to her? If you want to write to her, let me know and I will give you the info you need.

The last one is from our recent trip to Guatemala and concerns a family who is a typical family there.

My brother in law, Paul, my wife's brother, told my son and I that he wanted us to meet his friend Alba who lived nearby in a village. I will put some photos up on the screen so that we can see them. As we waited for Alba to come out of her house, I was surprised to see her crawling......Paul explained to me that she could not walk and as she came close, I could see the joy that was in both Paul's eyes and in Alba's eyes and countenances as Paul reached down to pull her up to himself so that they could hug. I saw Christ in my brother, Paul Somero. I watched as Alba put her hands around Paul and as Paul hugged her in their love for one another. I have been to a number of far off places, I have seen unbelieveable poverty, but this reunion really affected myself as well as my son who had never seen anything like this before. As I watched, Paul offered me the privilege to hold and to hug Alba which I eagerly did. As I did an overwhelming sense of love for her came over me and as I held her filthy crippled body to myself, I could not help but think of the joy that Christ must feel when He holds our filthy and crippled body to Himself. As I looked into the face of Alba, I rejoiced in the privilege to hold beautiful Alba in my arms and I kissed her with a kiss that was overflowing with the compassion of Christ........

Christ has come to set us free from ourselves so that we will be free to love all others as He loved and does love us. How will we respond to His love?

May we pray in response to the message of the Lord today as He shared his heart of love with us through His Word and through the lives of others....

In Christ's boundless love I leave you,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 01 Jul 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Strong in Weakness 7/08/2102
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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*Wendy and Dan Salo: Strength & courage to trust Him w/her health concerns