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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He Rejoices In Us! 1/01/2012
Blessed New Year to you!

As we begin this New Year in our lives which are passing and fading away, we continue our relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through spending time with Him in prayer, with Him in His Word, with our families and with one another. As we look to the New Year with its joys, challenges, sorrows and worries, may it be that as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God through His Son, we would be assured, we would be encouraged and we would be strengthen in the reality of who we are in Him. For our knowledge and experience of who we are in God's sight has great signficance and meaning in our lives as we live them out in the coming year and into the future.

Financial and Economic woes, family sickness and or death, struggling or broken relationships, uncertainty of one's future vocation or job, worries about children and grandchildren's futures and so on. There are many things to think about, to pray about and to wait upon the Lord for Him to show the way and work out the future.

Martin Luther understood the importance of trusting in God as opposed to trusting and depending on man as he struggled to bring change and correction to the Catholic church in the 1500s. As through money the leader of the church was trying to influence him back to the church, Martin's reply was brought back to the Pope.

"The fool, referring to Martin Luther, does not love gold." Then Martin was told, "Why do you think that the Pope cares for the opinions of a German boer? The Pope's little finger is stronger than all Germany. Do you expect your princes to take up arms to defend you? I tell you no. And where will you be then?
Luther replied in a simple way. "Where I am now. In the hand of Almighty God."

In our text today from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, we find some valuable encouragement and instruction. Previous to this portion of the Scripture (Isaiah 61:10-62:5) Isaiah has spoken of the Servant Jesus, pointed to His mission and showed the Israelite people of their restoration from the captivity that they had been in due to their disobeying God'. As a result of this Good News, their response was that they rejoiced in the Lord and they were joyful in him for what He had done for them.

To understand this text, we must understand the parallel that exists between Israel being delivered from physical captivity and our being delivered from captivity of sin. Both of the responses are understandable by us today. We could outline this text in the following manner.

1. God has delivered us in Christ, clothed us in the beauty of His righteousness
2. We rejoice in this personal knowledge and experience it corporately
3. God gives us a new name and greatly rejoices in His relationship with us.

1. God has delivered us in Christ, clothed us in the beauty of His righteousness

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

We have been covered with the perfect covering that is needed for our sin, the robe of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, therefore we greatly rejoice!!! We see this also referred to in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

2. We rejoice in this personal knowledge and experience it corporately

As a result of being blessed by God through Jesus Christ, we ourselves become blessers of other people, in that the kingdom of God grows as the seed sprouts, either as in a tree, in a garden or in an orchard.

11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

A good friend asked me this question in relation to seeds and their mulitiplication. He asked me: "How many seeds are in an apple? I replied, "Only so many." Then he asked, "How many apples trees are in an apple? I thought about it and said, "There are many as long as they are planted and growing. Jesus alluded to this in Matthew's Gospel:

Matthew 13: 31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Carrying a ton
When we hosted our annual convention here in 2009, I recall Pastor Saitijoki illustrating this very clearly by speaking of the time when he was walking with his son who was carrying some small seedlings on their way to plant them. He told his son that he was carrying 2000 pounds of trees. His son looked at him with a question in his eyes as to how that could be. His father went on to explain to him that these small trees would eventually grow to be large trees once they were planted.

So far in this text the focus has been on God's action for us, our response to Him and the blessing that comes upon others through us.

3. God gives us a new name and greatly rejoices in His relationship with us.

KJV Isaiah 62:1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

This next part seems to focus more on how God sees us. We often see ourselves in our poorness and project that opinion of ourselves onto God. We learn from our youth of the fickleness of love, for we remember sitting in the grass using a clover to decide if our latest girlfriend or boyfriend loves us or not. "She love me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not. Is that how God's love is toward us. But is that right? Does He see us as we see ourselves? No, He does not. Again, who is speaking here? Is is God, Is it Jesus?

KJV Isaiah 62:1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

The Gospel text for today is found in Luke 2:21-40 and concerns Jesus's circumcision and the giving of His name, Mary's purification, and the testimonies of Simeon and Anna. He was named with the name that the angel told them was to be his name before he was born. He was given the name of Jesus which means Jehovah is salvation.

Names in the Bible are significant. Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah,

KJV Genesis 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

KJV Genesis 17:15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

Names has signficance in our day, but maybe not to th extent that they did in timies past.
When God changed the name of Abraham and Elizabeth, the change reflected who they would be in His plan.

In the New Testament, we see a name change in Peter's life.

KJV John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

What is that new name that He has given us?
What is your name? Is it not Christian. We all have our familial names and our first names which determine to a large part of who we are today. We are born into a family which our last name reflects, but the first name is often given us by our parents and it reflects that which they desire us to be. Our name may be given us from a "so called names for babies" book or we may be named after someone our parents admired and to some degree desire that we would grow up to be like that person.

My father named me after a co worker in a factory. I learned early on in my life that it was not a name that everyone liked, but through an experience at one of my first jobs, I was given the wisdom to know that the person makes name and that the name does not make the person. I was hired on to a crew and when the foreman asked me what my name and after I told him Orval, he said something not nice about my name, in fact, he was quite mean! He asked me what my middle name was and I told him Andrew, (I am named after my Grandfather's brother, Andrew)

For six months he called me Andy, which was at first kind of hard to get used to, but after awhile it was okay. I remember kind of wondering about why he would not like my given name, but beyond my comprehension I was given the wisdom to simply work hard for him as part of the team and be Andy. One day he started calling me Orval, nothing was ever said by anyone, and life went on. I do not know what trait my father saw in the Orval at the factory, but I did know at that time that I did not have to let the rudeness and lack of tact by my foreman define and determine who this Orval would be. He could call me Andy all he wanted to, but I would be the one who God had made me to be...
which brings us back to the question: What is my name? What does God call me?

What name has He given us? Christian! Why does He give us that name? Because we have been purchased by His Son and now we united in Him and are called by our right name: Christian or Christ's own.

As we know names have meanings but God does not really see us as individuals, but He sees us in His Son Jesus Christ. As individuals we really cease to exist as we become part of the body of Jesus Christ. Who we are is defined and determined by how we live in the community of others through love, and not so much of how we act as individually or separate from community. By community, we mean our connections with other people.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

How much does God rejoice over us?

First of all, we recognize that this is a difficulty for us, to live in this knowledge that God indeed loves us and rejoices over us. Here are a couple of references which show us this.

KJV 1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1 Cor 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Micah spoke of our God in the following manner, God Himself spoke from heaven concerning His pleasure in His Son at Jesus' baptism and Jesus refects of the relationship that He and His Father share, desiring that we would share in the joy of that love.

KJV Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

KJV Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John 1726 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

God said after he created humanity that it was very good,(Gen 1:31) and even though humanity was tarnished by the fall into sin, nevertheless, we are created in the image of God. God has not changed his mind and said we are bad, or evil. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus and in Him He has great joy in His relationship with us. Often times at the beginning of the New Year, we are looking for ways to improve ourselves in various ways, and that is good. But in this sermon we are focusing of the love that God has for us, the pleasure and joy that He has in our relationship. It is not based on our performance, but it is based on His performance.

He continually points us to how He has made us new through Jesus' work for us and calls us to live in that secure relationship. Through His Word He continually brings us back to that place, of living in the grace of the this relationship and following Him in His Word. It does not matter how far away we have gone, what is important is that we return to Him

He is seeking, He is waiting and watching for His creation to return/to come to Him.
But what about when we have forgotten that we Christ's and have forgotten that our name is Christian? And we have found ourselves in the far country, far from home? What about our loved ones? What about those who seemingly are happy being in the "far country?" What does God think of us/them? God loves us, is seeking, is waiting and watching for us/them to come home. Let us note the joy that is experienced by the three different situations in Luke 15 upon their being found and coming to their right name again.

KJV Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

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

KJV Luke 15:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Two stories which illustrate God's grace and love for us.
Recently I heard a minister share at the on this parable which is commonly called the parable of the prodigal son, but it seems more fitting to refer to it as the parable of the compassionate and gracious seeking Father. After the minister had explained this parable of how the younger son left His Father's house and went his own way, but over time remembered His Father's house and returned there where he was welcomed and rejoiced over by everyone but his older brother, he gave a personal illustration of his experience.

He stated that he had grown up in the church, had been faithfully attending over the years, but his sister had gone into the world's ways. One night she knocked on the door, their father opened it and seeing her father, she cried, "Father, I have no place to go, I need to come home." At which her Father opened his big arms of love and embraced her pulling her inside their home. At which this minister, then young man of nineteen, challenged his father and said, "Father, you cannot take her in, she is a sinner." His dad replied, "You do not understand, she is my daughter and she will always be my daughter, I love her."

A recent personal experience
For a number of years I have wanted a GPS and this year I received one for Christmas from my daughter and her family. One programs a destination and the device will lead one to that point through visual and audio means. What has struck me with this device is that regardless of how many times one does not hear or heed the directions, the computerized voice recalculates a new route to get to the programmed destination. For me it has been an illustration of the relationship of grace that we enjoy in Jesus Christ, in that He always points us to Himself through His Word, not wanting us to lose our way, but to keep returning to Him. Therefore, I have named my GPS "Gracey" She reminds me that my name is Christian first of all, because of God's grace and mercy through His Son Jesus Christ.

May the Lord grant us the privilege of growing in His grace and knowledge as we continue in our relationship with Him.

Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 01 Jan 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Unto You 12/25/2011
Merry Christmas to all!

Today is Christmas Day and on a Sunday! Wow! Our day of joy is here again, one that we have been looking forward to all during the Advent time during December. As we revisit the familiar Christmas story which Doctor Luke describes from various vantage points, may our hearts be lifted up in praise and adoration for that which has come to pass in the "fullness of time." May the clouds of darkness be moved away on this day of celebration of the birth of the One who made all things and the One who came in flesh so that He might reconcile all things unto Himself through His life, death and resurrection.

Ever since I can remember it has been a tradition for my family to read Luke's account of the journey to Bethlehem to where Jesus was born. Even though I have gained knowledge of Christ through the years, nevertheless this account stills enthralls my soul in the way that it did when I was a young boy listening to a member of my birth family read it. It is a story that never grows old, for each year it seems as if the Lord is gracious to me in revealing more of His saving grace to me through this particular Word.

For example, this year it was made new to me again how God fulfills His plans just as He said He would and He does it according to His own timetable. Not ours, but His! He moves people to bring about His purposes as if they had strings on them and they were puppets. It was not different in this case, for Caesar Augustus decided have people pay a tax and in order to do it, they would have to travel to their own country. In Joseph case, he traveled to Bethlehem, since he was of the house and lineage of David, taking his engaged to him wife along with him.

As they got to the city that was bustling with other people coming to pay their tax, they had trouble finding a place for the night and ended up sleeping in a barn or a stable like place and that is where Mary gave birth to God. Wow, that is weird, that the God who made all things would be born in such conditions. We wonder how many people were there to see God come to earth?? We wonder how many people were aware of this amazing event??

In verse 8 of Luke 2, we see who God showed this too initially and of how He broke the Good News to the world. We find shepherds doing their jobs as they were out in the field during the night, perhaps sitting around the fire talking and looking at the stars. It was perhaps a night like any other night, but which soon became a night like no other previous night! Suddenly in the darkness of that night, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone around about them! They feared, for they had never seen anything like this before! The Holy light was everywhere!

As they shook in fear and wonderment, the angel spoke to them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

The angels told them that there is nothing to fear, for behold....When the angel said behold the shepherds understood that what was going to be said was mighty important, for that word means "listen up," "this is super important, "do not miss this." The angel went on to bring the good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And what were these good tiding of great joy? Amazing words now came out of the angel's mouth, which God had sent the angel to say:

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

"Unto you" Not unto someone else, but unto you and unto me is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord!!! Those words should excite our hearts with joy and gladness anew this morning, in that the Saviour Jesus the Christ is born unto me and unto you!! Martin Luther wrote that there were to two most important words of Christmas: "Unto you!" He understood the signficance of humanity's need to recognize that this God who became as one of us in the flesh came "unto us," "unto you," "unto me." He is a person God who came because He loves us and wanted to restore us unto Himself.

Most of us at the hearing of such marvelous news would perhaps begin to wonder where we can get such blessing from heaven. Perhaps the shepherds wondered about that too, and while they were in their transfixed state, the angel told them that the sign of this happening would be found in a stable a short distance away from them, where a baby had been born and was lying in a stable. They would not find Him by staring into the heavens, but they would find Him in the manger.

After this fabulous proclamation, another amazing thing happened. The angelic choir of the heavens broke through in praise and adoration of its Creator with these words, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Wow! That must have been something to hear those voices perfectly sychronized in their song of praise!

Soon the scene dissipated, the sounds of praise grew quiet and it grew dark again. Perhaps we could relate to the scene in a small in the events of our July 4th celebrations. In the fireworks displays we look forward to the grand finale, a time in which a host of fireworks are exploded simultaneously. The great noise and smoke fill the air, but soon the noise disappears into the distance and the smoke dissipates into the night. Perhaps in a small way we can relate to what the shepherds experienced, but of course they experienced something of much much more significance than a fireworks display.

The shepherds in the dark, "said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. They reocognized that it was God speaking through His messengers. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

They talked it over, decided to go to Bethlehem and they did not drag their feet as they went. There they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. What they saw had such an impact on them that they told others about the saying which was told concerning Jesus. What they told other people caused a lot of thinking and pondering, for the people marveled at such a happening.

Mary, who was anywhere between 12 to 18 years old, had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had told her of her favor before the Lord, had struggled with how to tell her future husband of her pregnancy which was by the Holy Spirit, had given birth just as the angel had told her she would, continued to think on all the things that had been told to her and of her recent experiences. As she mixed all these together, she kept them to herself.

Lastly, the shepherds returned to their fields, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them!

They returned to their regular job, but they returned different men, for as they considered all the things that they heard and seen from God, they glorified and praised their God who had come to them. They had no need to stay there at the manger, but they returned to their place of employment with glad hearts, knowing that the God who they had worshipped for years in shadows and types had now come "unto them!"

Let us this Christmas Day ponder, ie.put together all the things that we have heard and seen during this Advent and Christmas season concerning God's coming "unto us!"

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

In the joy of Christmas, I leave you.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 25 Dec 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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He Rejoices In Us! 1/01/2012
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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