Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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The Promise Keeper 2/26/2012
Dear friends,

Genesis 9:8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

We all have seen a rainbow at various times in our lives and quite possibly some of the memories are quite special in that the visible sign of a rainbow has come at a time in one's life that seemed to be an assurance from God of His remembrance of us. God is able to bring assurance of His presence in our lives in many ways through signs, but it is good to remember that God has spoken in the past and often has used a sign to be a token of that which He has said will happen. We need to be careful that we do not place what we deem to be a sign from God to project on God something that He has not said or promised.

As we consider this passage from the Church calender, which is designated for the first Sunday in Lent and which is paralleled by the Gospel reading from Mark which concerns the baptism and temptation of Jesus, we may get a glimpse as to why the church fathers put these two texts together. They are both like new beginnings in that our text speaks of the time after the flood when God placed Noah and his family back on the earth in order continue the Promise through Noah's seed. The beginning work of the fulfilment of the Promised One, Jesus Christ is highlighted in the Gospel text from Mark 1:9-14.

As I spent some time reading and meditating upon that which came before our reading from Genesis 9:8-17, which Moses wrote for the benefit of the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, I was struck by the awfulness of sin in God's sight, both the judgment and mercy of God towards mankind and the faith of Noah.

In review of the history of the world, God had created all things and saw that it was good and after the sixth day saw that it was very good. He saw one thing that was not good and that was that there was no helpmeet for Adam and therefore created Eve out of Adam. He brought them together in marriage, they enjoyed perfect oneness with Him and with themselves until the serpent tempted them to sin to which they succumbed. The consequences of that fall were explained, the Promise was given and life begin on the earth from one generation to the next, but it was not going that well at all.......

The beginnings of Noah's life are seen in the following verses.

Genesis 5:25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:
26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.
30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:
31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.
32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

This is followed by the situation into which God had prepared Noah to be his instrument to continue the Promise: (Jesus would be born in God's time)

KJV Genesis 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

It would require far too much time and space to write here the thoughts and meditations that have come to me as a result of beginning to consider the rainbow and why God gave it as a sign. But I would like to make a few points that I think are significant and that relate to our lives today. For if we only look at the scriptures as a historical record and are not able to bring forth to our time and to our lives in this day, the benefit to us will not be that great.

As the sin became more grievious to God, He communicated to the saints (Methuselah, Lamech, Noah)? of that day that He was going to have to bring an end to humanity that was living outside of the Promise. There was at least one man who was living in light of the Promised Messiah and who God was going to use for His purposes:: Noah. He found grace in the sight of God. He told Noah how He was going to bring His judgment upon the earth and gave Noah a heart for the people at that time. We see this in 2 Peter 2: 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

It takes some time to put the numbers together in order to understand the timetable of when things occurred, but it appears that Noah did not have children as of yet when he received knowledge of God's impending judgment. He and his wife had children after they had received knowledge of the coming destruction of the world. He also had brothers and sisters who were not in the ark when it sailed.

5:32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

7: 6 And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

KJV Genesis 5:30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:

Superficial reading of this account of the flood from chapters 6-9 brings little benefit if one reads through quite fast. But slow contemplative reading in consideration of the wrath of God against sin, the mercy upon those who fear him, the faith of Noah who trusted in God in the Promise of Christ and of the faithfulness of Noah in following God's commands in everything that he was told to do will bring encouragement and inspiration to anyone who will do it.

God keeps His promises, both to bring judgment and to bring life. Noah received a lot of encouragement from God throughout this entire story, for he was a weak man just a like any of us. He had to have fears of what was to come, he had to have gotten terrible mockery from those who saw him building a boat on dry ground, he must have caused confusion to the mockers when he had children while preaching of the end, he must have wept over his loved ones who were outside the ark after the Lord has closed the door and as it began to rain......As Martin Luther said, we who read this without weeping have hearts of stone.........

I am overcome by this account of Moses of the wrath of God as it was poured out upon the first world.
But I am encouraged today by the rainbow, the sign of God's agreement that He will never destroy the earth again by water. I am encouraged when I look upon it because it reminds me of God's promise to us, but what is even greater are the words that Moses wrote:

KJV Genesis 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

God looks upon the rainbow and He remembers!! That is a personal and an assuring God! Can we imagine that the next time that we see a rainbow that as we look upon it that our God is also looking upon it and He is remembering.. For He promised not only that He would not destroy the earth, but if He can look upon this token, He surely looks upon the greater sign of the agreement that He made with mankind on the Garden of Eden when He promised to save us through Christ: The Cross of Christ. His Son.

I remember one time being separated from my wife by a great distance. As I missed our being together, I remember looking up at the moon and wondering if she was looking up at the same moon also remembering me. It brought peace to my heart knowing that as she looked at the moon and I looked at the moon we were united in our promise to be faithful to one another. God is faithful and may we be faithful to Him by faith.

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

He is The Promise Keeper. May we be like Noah and trust in Him even in the darkest of times in our lives!

In the hands of the Great Promise Keeper I leave you!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 26 Feb 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
"The greatest of these is love." 2/12/2012
Dear Friends in Christ!

Four Sundays ago we brought forth a message from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, that emphasized the truth the God is life. The theme of that sermon was that God is life, God is light and God is love. We were reminded that even though John's Gospel is written much later than the book of Genesis, John writes of eternity past that existed before the world came into being, which the book of Genesis reveals. It is the story of Creator and His creations.

The following Sunday the theme of the message was that God is love, God loves us, we love God and we love one another.

Last week our text explained to us that as we experience God's love towards us in His Son, we are motivated to live our lives for the benefit of showing God's love to those with whom we meet and share our lives with. All three sermons have been built upon the foundation of this statement from the 1st Epistle of John: God is love. (1 John 4:8b)

Since it is Valentine's Day on Tuesday, and because our theme for the last month has been love, today we will explore one of the most widely interpreted books in the Old Testament: The Song of Solomon. Within the pages of this book, the descrlptions and expressions of love abound. Let us take an overview of this wonderful book today and as a result of taking a fresh look at love through all three readings from Genesis, Ephesians and the Song of Solomon, may love grow even more in our minds, in our hearts and in our lives.

Our readings today were from the book of Genesis 2:18-25 and Ephesians 5:21-33. We see that in the Genesis reading through creation of the world and everything in it God brought us into being and saw that all was good with the exception of one situation. It was not good for man to be alone. He created woman out of the side of Adam and brought the woman to the man in the first marriage. This was and is yet God's ideal for us.

Our second reading from Paul's letter to the Ephesians gives more detail in the New Testament time as to the relationship of marriage and connects it to the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. As we heard both accounts read, we heard that there was a consistency between both of the readings in that Paul amplified and explained to some degree what Moses had written:

KJV Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

KJV Ephesians 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
KJV Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
KJV Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Reason for Overview
As we look at Song of Solomon today, there may be questions as to why I chose to do so. There are at least two reasons that caused me to do so. It is Valentine's Day on Tuesday and the Song is about love. But there is more important reason: We have continually emphasized the importance of reading the Word, have encouraged all to read the Bible through in a year and many have done so and are doing so. We pray that you continue to do so, and it is our hope that as periodically we bring messages that give an overview of a particular book of the Bible, that your ability to understand the nature of the book and of how it fits into the big picture will be increased. It is also our prayer that our appetites to know Jesus Christ through His Word will be whetted and increased.

One of the basic principles of reading, understanding and interpreting the Bible is in keeping it all in context. We ask ourselves the question when we read or hear His Word. How does this verse fit in with the paragraph? How does this paragraph fit in with the chapter? How does this chapter fit in with book? How does this book fit in with the Old or New Testament? How does this fit in with the revelation of God's plan of saving the world?

I chose to give an overview of the Song of Solomon today because it is a book that speaks volumes about love, it is a book that has volumes and volumes of commentaries written about it and it is a book that has been the most widely interpreted of all the books in the Bible, including the books of prophecy in both the Old and the New Testament. It is not my intention to do anymore than to give you tools by which you can read this book for yourselves. So in light of that, I will give a brief explanation of the three main views of interpretation.

1. The Allegorical view.
This is the most ancient method of interpretation. It sprang, no doubt, from the rabbinical school among the Jews, in which the verbal inspiration of Scripture was tenaciously held, while, at the same time, all kinds of fanciful interpretations were foisted into the divinely authorized words. This was the main view until the 1500s.

2. The Literal view: It is a secular love song not intended to convey a spiritual lesson and expressing human love with a typical portrait in a highly romantic way drawn from a historical event in the life of Solomon

3. The Literal/Typical view. This view sees a combination a literal historical event portraying the beauties of physical love along with a typical portrait of God's Love and Christ's love for the church. Portrayed in this book are the joys of love in courtship and marriage and establishes and honors the rightful place of physical love within marriage.

May the Lord bless you as you spend time reading and meditating upon the beauties of Gods' love and of human love contained within this book, the Song of Solomon. It will be helpful to you if as you read it you keep in mind the various contexts that we outlined in the beginning of this meditation.

Last week we heard as to how the Apostle Paul understood clearly that he was right before God through the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. But he also understood that this knowledge was not to be used to puff himself up and to look down on others, but that he would consider as to how his own example affected those he was wanting to come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Love motivated him to say, I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
(1 Cor 9:22b)

He understood that life was not about what was good for him, but what would benefit his neighbor towards salvation. Do we understand what he is talking about? There is something that I want to bring out here that seems to fit here and which I pray that somehow will help us all to see the heart of the love of God for the world, the heart of the love of Jesus for the world and the heart of His love that He desires that we have. We want that kind of love, but sometimes we wonder how does God bring us to that place so that we can feel and have compassion for those who need our help.

People need to know how much we care before they care how much we know. And inorder to know we care for them, people need to know that we understand to some degree how they feel in their lives. There are numerous ways that God brings us to these places of understanding others, so this just one of them.

God wants us to know always that as our Father He loves us and would never want us to think anything else. He never does things that are not meant for our good and our blessing. It is always our lack of understanding of his ways that causes us to doubt his love or to blame Him for something. That is a reality of our fallen nature.

As fathers, we are weak, have failed and often fail, will fail. Our children are confused by actions that we have towards them when we do not demonstrate love, both in the area of our acceptance of them as well as when we give them direction in life. The need for acceptance in our children is great, and in our frailty we wish for them to know that reality.

One of the greatest reasons for separation today in relationships is unresolved conflict. Sometimes it is not possible to reconcile with those with whom we are separated and that is unfortunate. We struggle with admitting our fault, others do the same and a relationship that could be warm and friendly continues on in separate ways. Those are realities of life, and for many reasons relationships must and do remain separate. We can only be responsible for ourselves.

We need to be sensitive in this area to the Holy Spirit as He leads us, guides us, encourages us as well as corrects us. This is important to remember in our relationships.

Also as to how God brings us to a place of understanding of those with whom we wish to minister the Gospel, let us consider this illustration.
We touched on this topic last week, but now an illustration was provided for my wife and I this week. It has to do with our son, Jay. By the way, he arrived back "home' safely and is anxious to get back to work. He and my wife and I thank you for your prayers and ask your continued prayers.

In our congregation today we have parents of grown children who have left home, we have parents of children who are still at home being raised in and for Christ and we have those who someday will be parents. One of most difficult things to do as a parent is to give up our children when we are done raising them, not that we are ever done raising them. It is difficult to give them to the Lord.....We know this by experience.

Jay has been in China for a year and a half, largely without much fellowship as he shared with us last month. During his time over there on occasion he would share with me of the loneliness that he felt concerning being in that culture which does not know the Light of Christ. Naturally that caused us a lot of concern and we would visit weekly on Skype so that we could fellowship together. But it was a struggle for him, I could see it and I could feel it.

A couple of days before he left back home he shared with my wife and I more about that loneliness that he felt over there. He told us during this time of feeling empty and lonely, that he had emailed one of his professors at Crown College where he had attended and told her about his lonely and empty feeling. What she shared with him gave Jay a totally new perspective as well as to my wife and I. She told him that rather than look at yourself and feel somewhat of an attitude 'woe is me', "poor Jay" or "I am all alone," she suggested to him that he should consider that this feeling could be God working in him to allow him to experience the lonely and empty feeling that is in the Chinese people that he associates with so that he may "see through their eyes."

When Jay and I headed for the airport and as we prayed before leaving our home, yes, I was sad by him having to leave, but also I felt great thankfulness to the Lord for our son and joyfully released and committed him to the keeping and purposes of the Lord. He is Jay's true father and He certainly can provide, protect and use Him for his purposes.

God became incarnate among us, dwelt among us and was full of grace and truth in His Son Jesus Christ. God now dwells not among us, but in us through the Spirit of Christ and through this incarnation we dwell among those who have need of Him. May we understand the meaning of Jesus words that He spoke to His disciples when He said "you are in the world but not of the world" in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel. That which is darkness cannot overcome the Light, but Light will penetrate the darkness through those whom God has chosen to be the bearers of Light in the darkness.

May the Lord of love richly bless you this day and always!
Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 12 Feb 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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The Promise Keeper 2/26/2012
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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