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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Believe and Guard the Gospel 10.02.2016
The Righteousness of Faith

If you or I knew that we had only a short time to live, and our family was gathered around us, what would we be saying to them? We would be sharing with them of the redemption that God brought us through His Son Jesus and implore our family to keep believing and trusting in Jesus for their eternal life. We would be imploring them to keep believing the Gospel and to guard it against all enemies of it, for through the gospel we are brought to life.

This month we are remembering one of the most significant events in the history of the Christian Church: The Protestant Reformation and the life and contributions of Martin Luther (1483-1546) toward this reformation that came into the God's Church during that era. The word Protestant comes from the word protest and the term Reformation from the word reform. God's Church at that time had strayed away from the Scriptures and the time came in God's oversight of His kingdom for much needed reforms.

Why would we remember an event nearly 500 years ago? What difference does it make for us today?

All Christian congregations hold to the truth that their church exists because they are followers of Jesus Christ and they desire to continue the church that He promised to build (and has built) as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. The impetus for continuing the church of Jesus Christ is that we as believers have received the Good News from God through Jesus Christ and we are commissioned to preach repentance unto the remission of sins in His Name. Our understanding of the church and its role cannot be understood outside of the biblical revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His Life, Death and Resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. We must start there, remain there and continue there.

The biggest controversy of the time of the Reformation was concerning how one is made right with God, in other words,

How does one receive the forgiveness that God brought to mankind through the cross?

Was it by works or by faith?

Was it by faith and works?

Or was it by faith alone?

By having faith, does that mean that works aren't necessary?

These are all questions which we will consider and for which we will seek answers during this month.

As I have considered prayerfully how to procede in this month, I have been drawn to the last letter Apostle Paul ever wrote. It is one of the 12 he wrote and is different than most of the others in that this is a letter to an individual rather than to a group of people. It is the 2nd letter that he wrote to his young cooworker Timothy who was converted through Paul's ministry and is referred to as 2 Timothy.

KJV 2 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
4 Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

NLT 2 Timothy 1:12 And that is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

13 Hold fast the form (pattern/ of sound (free from error, true) words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep (guard, protect) by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Receive the Gospel, Guard the Gospel and later we will see the call to preach the Gospel in this letter.

We could use the mailman to illustrate of what the emphasis of Paul is. A mailman receives the mail from the post office, he guards it and delivers that which he received to the recipients. What would you think of a mailman who got tired of delivering the mail that he gets from the post office and began to write letters himself to the recipients in which he described his own life and his experiences, fears, dreams etc. It would not be long before they would call the post office and complain of not getting their mail.

This is what is being said in this last letter of Paul to his beloved brother in Christ, Timothy. You have received the Gospel, Guard it and deliver it just as it has been given to you. We need to be reminded, and maybe taught as to what this life giving Gospel is. If we do not know what it is, how can we guard it?

The following two scriptures give explanation as to what the gospel is and what is has done for all mankind.

KJV 1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In closing, let us consider the life of the one who wrote the hymn, I know in whom I have believed.

Daniel Whittle worked as a cashier for Wells Fargo bank as a teenager and into his early twenties. He was not a wicked man at first, on the contrary, he was quiet religious. He surrendered his life to the Lord one night while acting as a night watchman at the Wells Fargo Bank. He went into the vault, got down on his knees and gave his surrendered his life for the Heavenly Father to use as he would.

He even became the Sunday School Superintendent at the great Tabernacle in Chicago where he would meet his wife, Miss Abbie Hanson. He would join the army in 1861 and be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. In the summer of 1862, August as the Civil War began to intensify his unit was called to go South. August 22, 1862, the night before his departure, he and Abbie were married. It would be a year before they would be reunited. In his own words he tells of his departure, "My dear mother was a devout Christian, and parted from me with many a tear, and followed me with many a prayer. She had placed a New Testament in a pocket of the haversack that she'd arranged for me"

This little New Testament would pay a vital part in his rededication.

Whittle rose to the rank of Major and while leading a charge, actually filling in, and he was wounded in his sword arm which led to the amputation of his arm and a stay in a prisoner of war camp. It was while he was in this POW camp that out of boredom he began to search for something to read. He found in his personal effects the little New Testament that his Mother had placed there. He read through the New Testament in a matter of days and started through it again.

One night the nurse woke him up and told him that one of his men was dying and had been begging for someone to pray for him. The nurse told Major Whittle that he (the nurse) was a wicked man and could not pray. Major Whittle confessed that he too was wicked man with many sins in his own life and could not pray either. The nurse said that he thought Major Whittle was a Christian because he had observed him constantly reading the Scripture and the Major Whittle did not cuss as the other men. The nurse begged Major Whittle to at least accompany him to see the boy as he did not want to return alone. Moved with compassion, Major Whittle reluctantly agreed.

Here, in Major Whittle's own words, is what took place that night: "I dropped on my knees and held the boy's hand in mine. In a few broken words I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed earnestly for the boy. He became quiet and pressed my hand as I prayed and pleaded God's promises. When I arose from my knees, he was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior, used me to lead him to trust Christ's precious blood and find pardon. I hope to meet him in heaven."

Below are the words of the hymn that he wrote: Please note how he wrote "I know not" in each of the four verses, which expresses wonder at the workings of God. But he powerfully declared €œI know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able, To keep that which I€™ve committed, Unto Him against that day.€

I know not why God€™s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But €œI know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I€™ve committed
Unto Him against that day.€

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

Posted on 02 Oct 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
He Himself Will Wipe Away All Tears 9.25.2016

Dear friend,

The following statement was made many years ago which went like this:
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.€ (Augustine 354-430 BC)

And Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes:
KJV Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

NIV Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

And in the book of Hebrews, it is written:
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

We have been created by God for relationship in and with Him, knowing and living in Him in the Trinity is not only eternal life, but it forms our entire understanding and purpose in life. Within us is the knowledge and the desire for our "home."

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Jesus came here to redeem us and to bring us back into that relationship which mankind had before our fall into sin, whereby we no longer lived with and for God, but now we became those who live away from God and for self. Jesus came here to set things right as they should be......He came to promote and to establish His kingdom which reigns forever.

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

What??? The Pharisees and scribes murmured against Him? Why? Well, they were the leaders who determined the nature of their worship and this Jesus was not going along with their ways. So Jesus began to teach them by telling stories, 3 in chapter 15 of Luke and then two more in chapter 16. Essentially in the three parables in chapter 15 our Lord is highlighting the great celebrating that goes on when a sinner is returned to God, through the gathering mission of Jesus, and which has continued since He walked on earth. He is weaving a series of lessons to show his hearers, and especially the leaders of Israel, that God has sent Him to gather all people back to Himself and to give them a new understanding of things. He wanted them to realize that to know God and to experience Him is lived out in the love and service of others in their need.
Clearly in the first four stories, God is seen as One who is graciously seeking the lost with the hope of restoration to Himself. Now Jesus tells another story in our text here today.
We understand that Jesus spoke this message first of all to those whom were present that day, namely to the Pharisees who were present and who had initiated this discussion by protesting that fact that publicans and sinners were coming to him and He even had a meal with them. Previous to our text He said:

13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously (celebrated) every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

.Wow, Jesus really gets down to the basics!! The rich man, nameless, and Lazarus are in both scenes, but what a difference once they both die. The rich man was celebrating with his friends and Lazarus was in misery hoping to get crumbs that fall off of the table of the rich man. Now the rich man is in misery in hell and Lazarus is in a place of blessedness, in Abraham's bosom.

The rich man, seeing Abraham and Lazarus, now asks for mercy. He had not been merciful to Lazarus in life, but now being in torment, he asks for mercy, by asking Lazarus to come to alleviate his suffering with a bit of water. He knows Father Abraham, and calls him that. Abraham was highly esteemed in the Jewish mind, being their father of faith. Father Abraham replies by calling the rich man, "Son" and brings to mind to the rich man that in life he had been blessed with good things and Lazarus evil things, but a great reversal has come: "but now he is comforted and you are tormented."

Father Abraham continued: There is a great separation now through which no one can pass either from heaven to hell or from hell to heaven. There is no second chance to change one's mind once death comes. One must have passed into life here during time in order to inherit heaven.

The rich man, realizing that nothing could be done about his final and eternal state, asked on behalf of his brothers. Could Lazarus be sent to tell them of his, the rich man's torment, so that they would not end up there? What was the response of Abraham?

They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. What is being said here is that the scriptures as they had been given to that day (The Old Testament) spoke of that which Jesus had been illustrating in His previous teachings: He was the Messiah, the Saviour, who had come to restore and gather those who had gone to the far country. Moses and the Prophets had testified of Him who was to come. That was the means by which God had used throughout history and was continuing to use to gather those who were lost and his brothers needed to pay heed to the preaching of Moses and the Prophets, the Word of God.

But the rich man protested, No! He very emphatically stated that if one went to them from the dead, they will repent!
What is the rich man saying here? He is disagreeing with the statement of Abraham but what is he meaning here, that if one will come back from the dead, his brothers will repent?

The answer is given by Abraham, that nothing will help his brothers than hearing the Word of God which calls upon them to repent and to believe the Gospel. Lazarus coming back to life in order to warn them was not going to convince them, and as a matter of fact, nothing was going to help them gain heaven and avoid hell but the hearing and believing of the Word of God.

31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Now let us think on this story as it might relate to us, and let us do it through the eyes of Lazarus.

Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Last week we shared from the 2nd letter of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians and heard of how God is our Great Comforter, that when we are comforted we not only are helped in our distress, but we are also then built up and strengthened to help others who are in need of comfort. We heard of how we are able to comfort them with the same comfort by which we have been comforted.

In our text today, we hear that the rich man received good things in his life and Lazarus evil things, but that in eternity the rich man is tormented and Lazarus is comforted.

KJV Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Genesis 50:18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Lazarus is picture of one who walks by faith, trusting God and His promises even in the darkest of valleys. He would have sang "will you walk with me" in his pain, and He would have been strengthened along the way to life eternal.

The rich man typifies one who lives in celebration of this life, thinking that the good things that he has been given or accummulated were to be used by him for his purposes in this life. He did not see that the created things were given to illustrate and to give a taste of that which was to come. In other words, he lived his best life now and sought to enjoy life to the fullest in created things, as opposed to Lazarus who lived in the promises of God by faith.

The last verse of the hymn we will close with today is a somewhat unfamiliar hymn, O Precious Thought, Some Day the Mist Will Vanish.

I pray Thee, O my precious Saviour, waken these hallowed thoughts of Paradise within me, And let them solace me, till I am taken to dwell in Salem evermore with Thee.

When we are touched by the compassion of Jesus and the light and longing for heaven and total union with God are ignited, we not only long for that union, but we are already living in the union in part in the here and now! And out of that confident and ongoing realization and experience, we long for others to be gathered into that hope.

Created things are meant to illustrate the eternal things that are awaiting us. Perhaps Lazarus took comfort as he observed rich man's celebration in knowing that one day he would partake of the greatest celebration ever. When you and I sit down for a meal, do we not think of the heavenly feast that is awaiting us one day? And do we not consider as to how we can help others see past the good things of this life, and keep them in their proper perspective?

God Remembers Us
By Elsie Wirkkala
The writers in the Bible had doubts and often felt despondent. We are accustomed to read that they were heroes of the faith and bold confessors of it. The writer of Psalms is not afraid to reveal his doubts; that does God remember me? Thus we may confess our unbelief and thence trust that God is merciful to us sinners. We may pour out our feelings before Him. We may battle in our mind against despair and say, "God remember me, remember me again, do not reject me."
Another point we may notice. We are accustomed to think that God is an almighty majesty and king who rules everything. Everything is in His hands in this life. We think God has foreordained everything. We have no say in His plans. We have no influence on changing them. God knows, decides, dictates all. When we think thus, God becomes to us cold, distant, and far off, foreign who cares little about our thoughts. We receive a picture of God who is hard and immovable.
The gospels and the book of Isaiah give us a picture of a different God. A God who is near and warm, of a God to whom it is important what we feel and think and ask from Him. We have a God who hears our personal matters. He feels our experience in our daily lives. Of this we have an example of the woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:21-28) and also King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38)

Have you ever had someone sit down next to you and begin to shed tears? How did you respond, how would you respond? I would take a cleenex out of the box and offer it to them so that they would wipe their tears. But what will God do? He will take the cleenex out of the box and He Himself will wipe our tears.
KJV Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Yes He is a personal God who will one day cause us to see how things worked to the good for us in our lives. He Himself will wipe away our tears.


Posted on 25 Sep 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Believe and Guard the Gospel 10.02.2016
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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