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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Life, Light, Love 1/22/2012
Dear friends, May the grace, mercy and peace from God our heavenly Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you always. Amen!

Have you ever had an opinion or a conviction that later when you found out the facts, you changed your mind of what you had earlier believed about something? That is a common experience for many of us as we grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And this is because we form our convictions and make our judgments based upon our knowledge base. The more we understand as to who God is from His Word the less we will be inclined to form our convictions and make our decisions from the basis of:

What is in it for me? What is the best for me? What benefits me?

Hosea spoke to this truth in his day when he wrote:

KJV Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

To form our convictions and to make our decisions in life based upon what is good for me independent of the decision and action that God has made for us in His Son Jesus Christ is the height of foolishness. Let us expand on this opening statement as we spend time in with Him in His Word today.

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday finds Jesus beginning his ministry in the following manner as described in Mark's Gospel:

Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

We have recently celebrated the incarnation of Jesus Christ (born in the flesh) and now are in the Epiphany (showing, revealing) season of the church year during which the texts are centered around His ministry. Today's Gospel concentrates on the beginning of His ministry. Let us note as to how he makes two statements as He begins to "reveal" Himself to the world that He came to save and not to condemn.

We might say that the first statement speaks of His work which He desires that we become a partaker in salvation by grace through faith.

In second statement He invites our participation in His continued saving work here on this earth, by calling upon us to follow Him so that He may make us His messengers in this world.

Now we go back to our opening statement, if we might call it such. Here it is: " To form our convictions and to make our decisions in life based upon what is good for me independent of the decision and action that God has made for us in His Son Jesus Christ is the height of foolishness."

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and on this day there will be many sermons preached which in some manner focus on the truth that there have been approximately 53 million preborn babies who have not been allowed to continue to live. This is probably the most divisive issue that our nation has experienced since the Civil War and the issue of slavery of the colored people who were brought from Africa. Not only in America have we experienced and witnessed these horrible consequences and evidences of the effects of mankind's fall into sin, but all over the world from the beginning of time we have made decisions and done actions which have been based upon what is good for me/us. In the issues of the sacredness of life at whatever stage, we in our fallen nature will always choose to think and act according to what is in our selfish and self serving interests.

I began this writing by saying that we form convictions and form judgments from what we hear and see. As we hear of ,and therefore, comprehend and live in more of God's mind towards us in Christ as revealed through His Word, those earlier understandings and convictions are put away in favor of those things that are consistent with what God says and who He is.

Therefore, let us today in this SOHLS, take at look at the theme of life as it is brought forth through the revelation of God through the Scriptures. Our text of meditation today is from the book of Genesis, but let us first go back in further into before time by beginning with the Gospel of John. In my studies of this Gospel, I have seen the overall outline of this book in this manner in three words: Life, Light and Love. How do I come up with that you might ask? Please consider:

KJV John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The Word, which is Christ,(John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.) has always existed, it was by Him that all things were created. The beginning of all things is life, this Life (capitalized) came into this world to give us Light, and through Love we come to know and live in this LIght of Life. The Life that is in Jesus Christ.

Understanding the John's Gospel refers to things that predate the creation account in Genesis, let us look at the first chapter of the Bible in order see how God views life. Life has always existed, now the Triune God brings time into existence. Let us also not miss the first four words of the Bible and of their immense significance in understanding issues of human life and of its sacredness: In the beginning God

Please read the first three chapters of Genesis, for this must be the basis on which we look at all issues in life today. Creation, Fall, and the Promise of Redemption are contained in the first three books of the Bible. The entire rest of the Bible reveals God's progressive revelation of Himself, humanity's struggle to live in a fallen world with a fallen nature both in the Old Testament time (Old Covenant) and the New Testament time. (New Covenant)

We in our lives struggle to do the right thing according to God. It is relatively easy to see that when people did things God's way in the Bible, there was blessing in their lives and they brought blessings to their families and to others.. When they did it their own way, it did not go so well. We have seen this in our lives also, in our families lives, in the lives of those whom we have observed. The struggle with our selfish nature will always exist to some degree, but as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we experience maturity in God's school of love. As we grow in this awareness and experience, we find ourselves looking more towards how our attitudes and actions are going to be in accordance with the desires of God rather than making choices that are for the most part entirely self directed and self centered.

There are many things to consider as to how we can participate in the life of Christ in this world. We in our congregation have baby bottles in our homes which have been given to us by the PRC in St Cloud and which are meant to increase our awareness of opportunities to help those struggling with their choices in life. Can we help someone? Even one person? Would that make a difference?

A man was walking along a seashore and he observed that many clams had washed up on the shore and were dying due to not being in the water. The man began to cast them back in the ocean, one by one, and as he did a bystander, looking at the thousands of clams dying said, "You are wasting your time, there are far too many and you will not make a difference." The man paused from casting the clams in, held one up to the bystander and said, "That may be so, but (holding one up in front of him) said, "To this one it makes all the difference in the world." This one will live" and threw it into the waters of life.

This week I spoke with a family friend who lives in a southern state concerning her work that she did in a clinic in the state that she lived in. It had been a few years back that we had visited with her and she had shared some things that were yet stuck in my mind which related to the story that I just told.

She worked for a clinic in a state that required ultra sounds as something that needed to be done before deciding and going through with an abortion. A young girl came in, was in the process of having an ultra sound when the child in the womb moved and raised its hand. OOur friend at that point said something like: "God is showing you your child." The girl got very agitated, jumped off the table and left hurriedly. Our acquaintance thought, well that is the end of that, I won't see her again and I know where she is going.

A few months later, while she was working in the office, she got a call from her supervisor. She went to another part of the building and to her surprise, there was that same girl standing pregnant. Our friend shouted, "You did not do it!" The girl replied, "You changed my mind'" but our friend said that "No, I did not do it, God changed your heart to see things His way."

Then a few months later, the mother came into the clinic with her new born baby boy.....

Our friend made a difference in the life of that mother and child.

I was visiting with a very close friend a couple of days ago and he shared with me of a person that he knew that was visiting his wife who due to dementia was not even aware of her loved one's presence. They were asked as to why he keeps going to visit her when they are not aware of them. The response was:

"She may not know who I am, but I know who she is."

Another man shared with me concerning this same thing a few years ago. He said that he was struggling with visiting his mother who had alzheimers and was not aware of his being there. He told me that he remembered when his dad and mom used to wavy goodbye from the window of their house when he left their home to return to his home, he remembered seeing his mom only waving, (his father had died), he remembered his mom waving from the nursing home bed where she was living, then he remembered her not waving at all for she was not any longer aware.

While he struggled with his thoughts as to the benefit of him visiting her, the Lord came to him and shared with him that His coming to Him is not dependent on Him knowing that He is there. In fact, the Lord told him that many times He was there to visit him and there was no awareness. At that point he was reminded by God that the joy of His love is in the giving of it and it does not depend upon response. My friend had received a blessed lesson in the Lord's school of love. From then on until the day his mother was called home to be with the Lord of love, my friend went to visit his mother with joy.

We are often lacking in knowing as well as remembering as to who God is, but He knows who we are. We are created in His Image, He loves us, has saved us and does He ever desire that we grow in knowledge!!

God is life, He is Light and He is Love. Where are we in comprehending who God is?

May the grace and truth that our Lord Jesus Christ has bestowed upon us through His Gospel ever increase in us.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 22 Jan 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Speak Lord, for your servant hears. 1/15/2012
Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. Epiphany, which traditionally falls on 6 January, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles.

Our text today is from 1 Samuel 3. We could outline this chapter in the following manner.

God calls Samuel

Samuel answers the Lord's Call

Samuel delivers the Lord's Message

Samuel was young boy when the voice of the Lord began to call unto him while he was yet ministering to the Lord under the man of God, Eli. Samuel answered to the voice with "Here am I" and ran to Eli, but was told by Eli that he had not called Samuel. Again the voice came forth and Samuel again went to Eli, but was told to go lay down for he had not called him. After the third time, Eli perceived that it was the Lord who had called the child and this time gave instruction to Samuel that if he hears the voice again, he should answer by saying, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears."

The Lord called Samuel the fourth time, Samuel answered with the words, "Speak, Lord, for you servant hears," but that which the Lord told unto Samuel was a very grievious message and fear came upon him as a result. Neverthelss, when he was called upon to speak of that which the Lord had revealed unto him, he did so.

May we through hearing of the Lord's calling of Samuel be given insight and instruction as to how He yet reveals Himself today, calls us to Himself through the voice of His Word and Spirit for the purpose that we would be His mouthpiece in our world today.

Young Samuel grew up in a Jewish home, was the child of his mother who prayed fervently to the Lord, with the promise that given a son, she would give him unto the Lord. (1 Sameul 1:11) The Lord heard her prayer and in time she bore her son, naming him Samuel, because "she had asked for him from the Lord." She fulfilled her vow by bringing her son to the Lord to be trained in the house of the Lord in Shiloh, (place of rest)

The mother of Samuel reveals her understanding of the Lord in her prayer in chapter two of this book. We will place that prayer here, for it is a significant part of the beginnings of the ministry of Samuel, the first prophet after the long line

KJV 1 Samuel 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Hannah knew the Lord, she believed in the Lord and she trusted the Lord above everything else. This is the environment that her son was raised in. As he ministered in the house of the Lord, it was in the midst of the evil worship practices of Eli's sons, Hophni and Phineas. We see what the writers says about the contrasting ministries of the two and of Samuel.

" Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod." (2:17-18)

22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD'S people to transgress.
25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.
26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.

In the last part of chapter two, the following words are spoken to Eli by an unnamed man of God.

1 Samuel 2:27Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?
28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?
29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?
30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.
32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.
33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.
34 And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.
35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.
36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.

In these verses we are given insight into the failings of the ministry that Eli was overseeing and for which he bore responsibility. Like so often occurs in messages from the Lord, that which the Lord has done for his people is first explained, and then the question is asked: "Why are you doing what you are doing?" We are reminded of one of this similar instances in the book of Isaiah, chapter five.

Isaiah 5:1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Here we see the same pattern that is found in our text today. First we read of that which God has done, then the question as to why the people have gone their own way and of the judgment that will come upon them if they continue in that pathway. Here we see a picture of the heart of God, for He is longsuffering with his people/us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all would come to repentance and faith. In our text it is clear as to why the judgment has been spoken of and of that which is coming unless Eli repents. He is speaking to Eli here, and not his sons, Hophni and Phineas.

1:29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?
30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.

This is the situation that we find the child Samuel ministering unto the Lord before Eli, in a day when the word of the Lord was precious/rare and divine revelations were quite uncommon. In this backdrop the Lord began to call His mouthpiece through calling him in the night. Verse seven gives a little insight as to why it was difficult for Samuel to know that it was the Lord calling to him.

KJV 1 Samuel 3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.

After thinking three times that it was Eli calling him, Samuel at the instruction of Eli answered the Lord the fourth time with the words: "Speak Lord, for you servant hears."

The young lad was then given a message from the Lord which is as follows:

1 Semuel 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.(quiver)
12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.
13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.

Now the Lord revealed to Samuel the same message that He earlier had told unto Eli. How did Samuel respond to this? What must have been the thoughts of Eli, who must have known that the Lord had revealed something of divine knowledge to Samuel? Let us read on.

KJV 1 Samuel 3:15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.
16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.
17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.
18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.

Apparently Samuel must have had difficulty sleeping since it is written that he feared to show the vision to Eli. After Eli asked Samuel to tell him what the Lord had said to him in the night, Samuel told him exactly what the Lord had revealed to him. At which Eli responded with the words: "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good."

Whenever we read biblical history, we time and time again find ourselves identifying with the principle characters in the story. In this text we mainly get acquainted with Samuel's mother, Eli the man of God in the house of the Lord, Samuel and Hophni and Phineas and of course, the main one in the story, Samuel.

Within these stories we see the examples such as Hannah and Samuel who give us insight and direction as to what it is to follow the paths of righteousness for the sake of the Lord's name. Through the blessing of a godly mother and through the training that he received from Eli in the house of the Lord.

We are also given negative examples which warn us of the path that leads to judgment and destruction. Through both the positive examples and the negative examples before us in this account, we are counseled, rebuked, challenged and comforted as we live our lives in this fallen world. There are many things to consider in this story today, so may the Holy Spirit enlighten us by His grace to allow the Word to have free course in our hearts as we consider the beginnings of the life of the Prophet Samuel. He was raised up to be a servant of the Lord, one who the Lord desired to speak that which the Lord called upon him to speak. He did so and as one follows the course of his life one can see that he never wavered from speaking that which the Lord instructed him to speak.

Eli, on the other hand, was a man of God who served in the house of the Lord, but due to not being able to recognize and acknowledge his sin of favoring his family over the Word of the Lord came to an abrupt end as he fell out of his chariot. (1 Samuel 4:18) He was given the opportunity to repent on at least two occasions, (2:27; 3:18), but did not do so.

Today we live in the New Testament era in which Christ has come into the world, made atonement for the sins of the world, and is set at the right hand of our Father, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. The judgment unto repentance was foreshadowed in the lives of those who lived in the Old Testament period, who lived in the hope of the Promise of Christ the Messiah. They were pointed to Christ through the visible means and structures in the sacrificial system of atonement which eventually found their fulfillment in the incarnational/fleshly appearing of the Son of God on earth.

Judgment is nearly always an invitation to turn from oneself unto the Lord within both the Old and New Testament. Christ has suffered the judgment for sin on our behalf and by grace through faith we are living in freedom from both the guilt of sin as well as the power of sin. The judgments for disobedience to the Word of the Lord are given so that we would return to the Lord and not have to experience judgment for our sin for all eternity. He has born the judgment for all.

Those who rejected and despised the sacrifices that the Lord had ordained and instituted were rejecting and despising the revelation that was to come through Christ. Similar words that the man of God told Eli concerning this matter can be seen in the New Testament also. Consider these verses:

KJV 1 Samuel 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

KJV John 5:23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

May the godly examples of Hannah and her son Samuel direct us and inspire us today as we go forward into the future in a world that lives a lot like Eli and his two sons. May we take the words of the Hebrew writer as encouragement and instruction today:

KJV Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you this day and forever!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 15 Jan 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Life, Light, Love 1/22/2012
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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