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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Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus 8.21.2016
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.

Here are some questions to stimulate and provoke meditations in our own minds as well as talking points for discussion with others over today's message. As we think on these two verses which are meant to apply the entire letter that has been written, may the Holy Spirit in His gracious way call our hearts to turn from ourselves and look upon our Saviour Jesus.

1.How does having such a great cloud of witnesses/believers/martyrs who have gone before us and are waiting for us encourage and inspire us?

2. Are there weights and sins that are burdening me down in the race that we are running together? While we acknowledge that sin is always a hindrance to our faith walk, yet not all weights are hindrances, but rather some are helps and for the purpose of working patience/perseverance in us.

3.How does the fact that Jesus is both Author and Finisher of our faith give us assurance and encouragement?

4. Does the reality that Jesus joyfully suffered and despised the shame move us to greater joy as we go through suffering times in our life for His sake?

5. How does knowing "seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them/us" (Hebrews 11:25b) encourage you and I?

We are encouraged from the examples of steadfastness to the end by those who came in the OT, we have learned from those in the NT and we have also been encouraged and inspired by those in our own lives who have influenced our faith journey to date. As we think about the race we are running, we realize that it is a race that we certainly want to finish. It is not like a short sprint race, but it is more like a 26 mile marathon. We, like those to whom the writer was writing to in this letter, can draw on the life, works, trials and sufferings of those who have gone before or are yet living in this world approaching the finish line.

"We may see many things to dishearten us as we run the race, even to the point of dropping out entirely, but by keeping our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith, our speed will increase rather than lessen and our stamina will grow rather than fade out." RCH Lenski

The last verse of our meditations last week went like this:

Heb. 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Heaven is not complete without us being there, and he calls us to consider the great multitude of people who have trusted to the end in Christ as their Savior. He uses the analogy of a race, emphasizing that what is important is that one finishes the race. The meaning of the word race is not as we look at it today, but it means more that we are in a conflict or in a battle to get to the finish. We are called to run the race unemcumbered as much as possible, leaving aside any burden that is weighing us down, which includes sin and to run with endurance through the difficulties that come along the way to our eternal finish line.

But....we struggle at times, we stumble, we fall, we get weary, we get afraid that we might drop out, but God.........but God is mindful of our struggles, He.knows....waits.....and comes..........just when we need Him to come......


In our Scripture readings today we heard of King David and his testimony of faith,(23rd psalm) which tells us that he had tough times in life, and we heard from the book of Genesis of the life of Joseph, who God had set on a pathway, but which had many obstacles which not only tested Joseph, but also strengthened him. In both cases as with all those who walk by faith, they trusted God above every thing else. And not only that, what really shines through them is there believing God for their future. How so? The both exhibited in their lives that the future was already secured by the promise of God and they clung tenaciously to God's promise.

KJV Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

KJV Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

KJV Genesis 50:25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

KJV Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Therefore, in light of such a great crowd of witnesses (martyrus) let aside (laying aside) the weight and the sin which can so easily entangle us, let us run with perserverance on the pathway that is set before us by our God.

But it is not easy, it is like a fish swimming upstream......It is very difficult at times. The disciples had their struggles also....

Mark 6:45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.

Jesus is mindful of our struggles, will come to us when it is the right time, and often this is through a friend that comes to us in some manner. May we recognize Him when He comes to help us in our time of need.

Who are those that have been a helper of our joy in our faith journey? How have they encouraged us, assured us and inspired us to keep on keeping on? Has it been those who have encouraged us to keep our eyes on Christ? How have they showed to us who Christ is by their life?

I would like to give a couple of personal illustrations so that all of our minds would be stimulated to think on just how it is that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, testifiers or examples of those who lived by faith, or as we said last week, those in whom Christ lived and displayed Himself through.

I had a sister whose name was Nancy who was a few of years younger than myself. She was diagnosed early on in life with lupus and died at the age of 20. She showed me Christ in her life as she patiently bore her illness, loved people even when they did not love her in return and lived her life in light of God's promises, just like David and Joseph did.

Of course it is my mother that demonstrated to me of what it means to persevere, having lost her husband at 44 yrs of age and a daughter 6 years later and then raising all 10 of us in the country where we warmed bricks for heat when we went to bed, in the summer we packed water from the creek to wash clothes and kept a big garden to feed us all.

The biggest lesson that speaks of perserverance is her having to get a driver's license, failing it five times but not giving up, getting it on the 6th try. I want that kind of perserverance, don't you?

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus

A bicycle rider told me that if you keep your eyes on the road ahead, you will not swerve which causes you to fall over. Runners have looked back as they approached the finish line to see where others are, have stumbled, fell and have not finished their race. In both cases, it is important to remember to fix our eyes ahead of us.

KJV Hebrews 12:2 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.

ESV Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday my wife and I were talking about life in general and she was commenting as to how foolish it is for us to be weighed down by weights of this life when we have a Savior who had guaranteed us heaven. I agreed and said that is exactly right, but yet because we are so easily encumbered with numerous things which detract from the reality that is before us, we need to be reminded of our eternal victory which we are living in now, but yet see only as through a welding glass. It is there, but our vision is clouded by, as she said, the consequences of the fall, namely sin and all that goes with it.

We are not only told to lay aside the hindrances to our faith, but more importantly we are told to look, fix our eyes upon Jesus, our Saviour. We sang two hymns today that illustrate just how this works. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look on His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." We also sang "I look not back, which again illustrates these verses from Hebrews 12:1-2


1 I look not back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets.
I leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And graciously forgives, and then forgets.
2 I look not forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me its every trial,
And bear for me the burdens that may come.
3 I look not round me; then would fears assail me,
So wild the tumult of earth's restless seas,
So dark the world, so filled with woe and evil,
So vain the hope of comfort and of ease.
4 I look not inward; that would make me wretched;
For I have naught on which to stay my trust.
Nothing I see save failures and shortcomings,
And weak endeavors, crumbling into dust.
5 But I look up--into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.
Amen.

I also recall how one of the men in my life whose staunch life of faith encouraged me, a pastor under whom I heard the Word preach many times. He would quote these words of Trust and Obey, from the third verse: "But we never can prove, the delights of his love, until all on the altar we lay, for the joy he bestows and the favor He shows, are for them who will trust and obey."
As we continue to have fellowship with saints of all ages, may our hearts be stimulated to greater joy and perserverance as we seek His help in laying aside the weight and sin that so easily can trip us up. And may we look to our Savior who has gone before us, is running with us and will not leave us behind.
In His Almighty Name, Amen
Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 21 Aug 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Keeping our eyes on Jesus 8.14.2016
Dear friend,

May the peace of God that passes all human understanding be with you today and always through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. He is the One who brought peace into this world, even as He told His disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

There is usually enough fear to go around which always results from our looking away from the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus the Christ. Fear results when we become faithless and begin to distrust the power of Christ!. The children who attended VBS last week heard of how David who was being challenged by the giant Goliath spoke in faith by foretelling the outcome of his battle with Goliath: "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

David came forward in the skirmish, not retreating in fear, and he came forward in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. David understood and believed that God was all powerful and that He would bring the victory, prounouncing judgment on the giant for his defiance of God. Recently a fellow minister and I were sharing about things of faith and he made the statement that there is no sense in getting worried about the outcome of the present day battles in which lies are being put forth as truth. He said this: "Anything that is false will ultimately fail because truth will always win out."

In our scripture reading we have a wonderful demonstration of how to respond when the enemy comes to meet us, 2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. Through one of the prophets, the Lord then spoke to them Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.

In our text today we are going to see how the writer of the book of Hebrews brought encouragement and comfort to those who were living in the midst of the current culture which did not promote the resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore did not embrace His followers.

In order to understand why they needed encouragement and comfort we must spend a few minutes getting familiar as to what was going on in their lives at that time in history. These were people who had grown up under the teaching of the synogogue and the teachings of the Old Testament which pointed to a greater One to come who would sacrifice His blood one time and it would not be necessary to repeat their continual sacrifices at the temple, year after year. The first 10 chapters of the book of Hebrews speak about how God had established this system but had done so only until that time when the True Sacrifice would come and be laid on the altar for the sin of the entire world. That would be the time of the New Testament and the coming of Jesus the Christ.

Just like anything else the system of sacrifices and offerings became ritualistic and it became something that the worshippers of God began to follow as the teachers began to forget that within the sacrificial system Christ the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world was being foreshadowed. They were not to put their trust in the rituals, but they were to trust only in the salvation that God had provided through His Son Jesus Christ. In other words, no one was made right before God by going through the rituals, for their being made right before God was through believing God and in His Promise: That a Savior/Messiah would come to the to save them sometime in the future. They were connected to God and His Promise by faith.

In the 11th chapter of Hebrews we read these words in the first few verses, which describe faith and then illustrations are given of those who lived before the believers to whom this letter/sermon was written to. We must remember the most likely this letter was read in its entirety to the hearers as they listened.

It has been said that when Christ is preached, faith is enkindled in the heart. So instead of reading the word faith where it begans a sentence in this chapter, one could place Christ in place of faith and the sense would be the same. For example in the last one, Christ holds together all the people of God.

KJV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Two things are obvious from this statement. First, faith involves a sureness about future hope. It orients us with confidence toward what is coming later. Second, the essence of faith is certainty about unseen and invisible realities. Faith is a way of seeing beyond physical sight. The remainder of Hebrews 11 works this definition out in a variety of historical examples.

1. Faith understands God is Creator.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God‚€™s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

2. Faith offers to God.
4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

3. Faith pleases God.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

4. Faith heeds warnings.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

5. Faith obeys without knowing everything.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

6. Faith trusts God‚€™s promises.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age‚€”and Sarah herself was barren‚€”was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

7. Faith longs for heaven.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country‚€”a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

8. Faith willingly sacrifices all.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‚€œIt is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.‚€Ě 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

9. Faith blesses the future.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

10. Faith worships to the end.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph‚€™s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

11. Faith plans beyond our lifetime.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

12. Faith sees potential and fears no king but God.
23 By faith Moses‚€™ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king‚€™s edict.

13. Faith chooses suffering over sin and treasures Christ over the world.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh‚€™s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

14. Faith perseveres in the hope of salvation.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king‚€™s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

15. Faith believes God‚€™s miracles.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

16. Faith does the seemingly ridiculous sometimes.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

17. Faith welcomes and sides with God‚€™s people.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

18. Faith accomplishes more than we can imagine in this life.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

19. Faith sustains the suffering.
36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated‚€” 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes
in the ground.

20. Faith holds together all the people of God.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

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.

Here are some questions to stimulate and provoke meditations in our own minds as well as talking points for discussion with others over today's message.

1.How does having such a great cloud of witnesses/believers/martyrs who have gone before us and are waiting for us encourage and inspire us?

2. Are there weights and sins that are burdening me down in the race that we are running together?

3.How does the fact that Jesus is both Author and Finisher of our faith give us assurance and encouragement?

4. Does the reality that Jesus joyfully suffered and despised the shame move us to greater joy as we go through suffering times in our life for His sake?

5. How does knowing "seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them/us" (Hebrews 11:25b) encourage you and I?

Here a few illustrations which may help us understand the nature of faith.

There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then he had succeeding acts; he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, "Tightrope, I don't believe you can do it, but I'm willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls." Now, Tightrope wrote back, "Sir, although I've never been to America and seen the Falls, I'd love to come." Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event. Tightrope was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over the treacherous part of the falls -- blindfolded!! And he makes it across easily. The crowds go wild, and he comes to the promoter and says, "Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it." "No," said Tightrope, "do you really believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do, you just did it." "No, no, no," said Tightrope, "do you believe I can do it?" "Yes," said Mr. Promoter, "I believe you can do it." "Good," said Tightrope, "then you get in the wheel barrow."
The word believe, in Greek means "to live by". This is a nice story...makes you ask, how often do we say that we believe Christ can do it, but refuse to get in the wheelbarrow?

A good way to illustrate what faith is would be to have a child stand on a chair, put a blind fold on them and them ask them to jump into your waiting arms.

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 14 Aug 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus 8.21.2016
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala


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