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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God Our Comforter 9.18.2016
Dear friend,

We all have need of encouragement and comfort as in life there are times when we experience a "pressed down" feeling which sometimes we are able to identify as to why we are experiencing such feelings while at other times there does not seem to be any obvious reason for our "valley experience." We are subject to changing circumstances, changing emotions and changing feelings. But, Our God is a God of comfort and One who continually lifts us up. The Psalmist testifies of this when he writes

Psalm 113:5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,
6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;
8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.
9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

The Gaithers write and sing of the difficulty we have when we go into these valleys of life.

Life is easy when you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind like you’ve never known.
But then things change and you’re down in the valley.
Don’t lose faith for you’re never alone.

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

One of the fruits of our coming through struggles is that we are able to lift up those who are going through struggles currently. We are able to do that offering them the comfort that the Lord gave us during our time of trouble and struggle. May we learn from the experiences recorded of David (1 Samuel 30:1-8) from Psalm 113 and from our text today in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11.

Be encouraged in the Lord today! (1 Samuel 30:6)

As we welcome another day of the Lord with a beautiful sunrise, and as we await with expectation to see how He is going to reveal and to demonstrate his goodness in our lives and into the lives of those who live in this world, we are thankful for His mercy. In the days of Jeremiah the people of God were under captivity due to their sin and there was a lot of heaviness and discouragement in their lives. Jeremiah, the prophet of God, brought encouragement to them by tellling them that
It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 May we have the same mindset today as we arise and greet another day of the Lord.

Our lives are lived in three spheres. What I mean by this is that we live in a global or national society, we live within our local community's society and we live in our personal/family lives. While the events that occur in our world affect us to some degree, and the events in our local community affect us even more, it is our own lives and our world view that takes up most of our time and energy and which largely affects how we relate to the events outside of our personal/family/church life. As Christians we know that our God is overall and even though we don't understand many of the things that happen in the world, in our communities, and in our own lives, nevertheless we stay grounded on the revelation of Truth through the Holy Scriptures. The Psalmist encourages us to praise the Lord and gives the reasons as to why we should do so. He not only has the world's situation under control, but He also is taking care of those of need lifting up.

KJV Psalm 113:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD.
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD'S name is to be praised.
4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,
6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;
8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.
9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

David who was now King of Judah found himself in dire straits as the result of the violence in those days. The people were ready to kill him for failing to protect them and their families, and so what did David do. He encouraged/strengthened himself in the Lord. He did not shrink back, but he remembered that God was in control and he turned to Him in prayer for further directions. What a good reminder!

KJV 1 Samuel 30:1 And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire;
2 And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way.
3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.
4 Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.
5 And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.
6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.
8 And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.

In our text today we hear of mercy and comfort that is of our Father and of our God. He is the Father of mercy and the God of comfort.

KJV 2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

When we remember and are living in the reality of who God is, we have much reason to bless/praise/give thanks to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Even today thinking of the family who lost their son to suicide in our community and of the violence that occurred in St Cloud last night, we pray for God's mercy and comfort to all who have been affected by this events. This must be our foundation, to know and live in this knowledge and experience that He is the Father of mercy and the God of comfort!!! Let us not forget that He had/has mercy on us in that He spared our lives in favor of the life of His Son so that we would live eternally.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation

He then writes that one of the byproducts of our suffering is that we are able to comfort others with the same comfort that we received.

Some of our here today are in the midst of trials, some have gone through them some time back, some are coming through trials, and some, and I would say, not many, are living in peace at the moment. For those in the midst of trials, we pray for strength and endurance for you that you, like David, would be able to strenthen yourself in the Lord by resting in and trusting in His promises.

Sometimes it is year later that we are able to bring comfort and help to someone who has suffered a great loss in their family. Most of us have heard that a young man in our local area took his life this week. As Steve Jarl left the senior luncheon on Friday he shared with me of how he was able to show compassion and give empathy to the father of Dane Anderson at the wake on Thursday evening. He was able to look Mr Anderson in the eye and tell him "I know how you feel," because he had gone through a number of years ago of that which was now being experienced by the Anderson family.

Yesterday as I was praying and preparing for this sermon, I sent out a question to a couple of people who I know have been and are in extreme difficulty at this time in their lives. I would like to share their responses, for which they gave me the okay to do so.

My question was: The main points of the message that we have a Father of mercies and a God of all comfort, and that in suffering we not only receive comfort but we are then equipped to help others in their suffering. What would you be willing to share with us concerning your experience in the valley?

From a young man of 40 years of age, with a wife and family of three who was a very athletic person. A couple of years ago he suffered a back injury and was also struck by lightning, the combination which has affected his ability to work as well as has affected his emotional well being. Here is what he had to say....

"Well the only thing that comes to mind right now deals with compassion. It seems clear to me that it's pretty tough to have much compassion for others if you haven't been through some serious trials. Going thru stuff that I don't understand will help me take people right where they are and be able to show understanding and compassion beyond what I could before. If I'm bitter and angry won't be of much use to others. I saw a football commentary about an NFL hall of fame running back Curtis Martin. He came from a horrific home life and he believes God preserved him and gave him a life in football and a way to help others. He's a good man. He made an interesting point that we sometimes have to go backward to go forward. It's pretty common to become stagnant in our compassion and unconditional love. but once we deal with some pain and adversity our eyes get opened.

"One thing I don't think my wife will mind sharing is that before I got hurt, in some way God let her know that difficulty was coming. When she got the call that I got hurt she knew that this was the difficulty.

And not only that, Paul writes that our suffering actually will work for the benefit of others.

The second response was from a 70+ year old man whose wife rather quickly came down with dementia and is now resting in a nursing home in his local town. He visits her as often as is possible, but he said he has a lot of time on his hands. He shared with me that he has found that it is in helping others in their suffering that he has found a lot of relief in dealing with the sudden loss of companionship of his dear wife of around 50 years. He also said that it is a struggle not to feel like a victim and that it was through a Reader's Digest article that he was empowered to, as he said, "get off his cross" and go help others. I know that a lot of people are being helped because of his willingness to "get off his cross."

8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

In the last part of our message, we see two important things that Paul learned and experienced. He himself had sufferings to the point that he feared the worst, death. But he recognized that this experience was intended to work for his good in that he would move away from self dependence to God dependence. He trusted in the God who raises the dead, who delivers us from so great a death and does deliver. He lived by faith in the promises of God.

Secondly and lastly, he saw that people who were compassionate and caring prayed for his general welfafe, not only as a fellow believer but as a preacher of the gospel!! He recognized that he needed the prayers of others in his life. Don't we thank God for those who lift us up and carry us in their prayers? We sure do!!!

May our Father of mercies and the God of all comfort lift us up today in Christ!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 18 Sep 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Love Serves

In today's message we are going to hear of how Apostle Paul intentionally, on the basis of love, motivated Philemon to accept the return of Onesimus, his former slave, by extending love towards him. Paul first showed appreciation for the work of Christ in the heart of Philemon and of how through the life of Philemon many including himself had been refreshed/encouraged in the Lord. They had been strengthened, encouraged and inspired. Here is the pertinent verse which points to how Philemon, in whom the Spirit of love dwelt, had encouraged others in various ways....

7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Paul, recognizing that with his apostolic authority he could have commanded Philemon to accept his former and now converted slave back to himself (Philemon) but he did not do so, but he rather appealed on the basis of love. That is why Paul had this request of Philemon: 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Paul is wanting Philemon to take back his slave who had not only stolen from his master, but had run away as well. This letter of one chapter is a marvelous testimony of how Paul, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit of love, graciously laid the love of God before Philemon in the matter of taking his former slave back to himself. He acknowledged and celebrated first of all the reality of who Philemon was in Jesus Christ, pointing out how he had encouraged/refreshed others in the past. Paul was now, on the basis of love, calling Philemon to demonstrate one more time of who He was in Jesus Christ by extending love, forgiveness and reconciliation to Onesimus. Here is the brief letter that was written to Philemon.

KJV Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

Paul shares first of all of how he prays for Philemon, of how he has heard of his love and faith which he has for both the Lord and His people and then he states the point of his prayer: The the sharing of Philemon's faith would be effectual because of the living presence of Jesus Christ in him, so that through it, Christ was being poured out of the life of Philemon, namely the love of Christ for the souls of humanity. Let us not miss this first very significant thing that Paul does: He reminds Philemon as to who he is in the person of Jesus Christ, of how many have been encouraged in Jesus Christ through his living out of that reality and he wants to stir up that gift which is in Philemon through encouragement. He does this purposefully so that when he asks Philemon to take back his slave, the love that is in the heart of Philemon will be poured out towards Onesimus.

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

Paul first states that I could command that you take Onesimus back, but I will not do so. For love's sake, the love that is in your heart, I appeal to you. He pleads for his son, as he calls him, for evidently Onesimus had been converted through Paul's ministry. He does not steer away from pointing out that Onesimus had been unprofitable to his master in stealing from him, but he points out that he is now changed and he is a different man, for he is now a Christ follower. Paul tells Philemon to take him back as if you were receiving me, even though he could have been of much benefit to me, he is to come back to you. Again in verse 14 he appeals to the heart of love that dwells in Philemon, so that Philemon would act willingly and not because Paul was forcing the situation. In verse 15 Paul speculates that perhaps the reason he was gone from his master for a season was so that he could be converted...and now he would be coming back not so much as a servant, but as a brother both to Paul and to Philemon......

17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

He then ratchets up his appeal to an even higher plateau, saying that "If you count me as a partner, receive him as if I was coming back, if he has wronged you, or owes you anything, I will be good for it. And then, maybe with a little laugh, Paul says, "don't forget that you owe me even your own self," a part which I am not quite sure why he said it. But he did say it, but also he did not exercise that right that he had. He was appealing on the basis of love, so that love would be the impetus for Philemon to take Onesimus back to himself. He then gave to Philemon the bottom line, so to speak, when he made this appeal.

20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

He is saying, "yield to love's appeal to your heart of love, for when I see you acting out of love, I am encouraged, I am refreshed and I am inspired myself." But wait, Paul not only asks this of him, but he does it with confidence that Philemon will not only receive his former slave back, but he will go beyond just taking him back. Paul in speaking higher of Philemon than just the letter of the request is touching the love that lies in the bosom of all believers in whom the capacity to love is boundless. I could write volumes on these two verses, but instead of doing that I am going to place some illustrations of situation in which I have seen this happen in real life. But before that, let us note the humility of Paul towards himself in that he has not talked much about his need to this time, and so in closing he makes mention that he needs a place to sleep at night, and then closes by asking them to greet some of their brothers in the Lord. Paul was always looking out for the needs, spiritual needs, before he talked about his own needs. That is something really worth noting and remembering.

22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Let us think about this now...and consider some applications to our own lives. My call into the ministry was on the basis of love, and not force. God simply pointed out to me of how He had blessed me so much in my life and on the basis of that asked me to leave the west and move to the midwest to serve this congregation. That is what Paul is doing with Philemon, and that is what the Lord does in us. When he wants us to serve Him in a different way, He calls us on the basis of love and mercy, for He knows that only an inner calling by Him will enable us to endure that difficulties that come in following Him as He leads us.

For most of us, putting the principles into practice that Our Lord and Apostle Paul model, is not usually such life changing happenings, but it is in the everyday interactions of life with others. It is in being motivated and the motivating of others. In a very practical way, we are able to nurture and foster encouragement in other's lives. One simple but effective way to do this is to practice the following exercise at home. Take five of the following sentences, fill the blank in and trade it with your spouse, brother, sister, mother, father and so on. Then do that which you know will refresh/encourage the other.

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

Allow me to give you and example to help you to see how this could work.

A few weeks ago I was in the church office with no one else in the building when one of the ladies of the congregation came in and went into the kitchen. After awhile I began to smell some hamburger being cooked so being curious I went to investigate what was going on. I went into the kitchen, saw that hamburger was being browned, had some small talk with her and returned to my office. A little while later I observed another one of the ladies drive up to the church and go behind it towards the kitchen door. At the same time the first lady who had been in the kitchen went out the front door of the church, and I noticed that it seemed like she was trying to leave the church without the lady in the car that had just driven up seeing her. I was kind of puzzled but then the lady who had driven up came into my office, kind of crying and asking "where did she go?" I said, she drove off....

Later I found out that the first lady had been at the second lady's house, had noticed that the second lady seemed stressed out and had quietly slipped away to the church kitchen to help the second lady out with her stress load by browning the hamburger. Needless to say, the second lady was refreshed in the Lord, the first lady was refreshed in the Lord and I as well was refreshed in the Lord.

Would the care note not have been filled out like this by the second lady?

I feel refreshed/encouraged when someone notices my stress and helps relieve some of it through browning the hamburger.

May we be encouragers and refreshers as we journey towards heaven!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 04 Sep 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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God Our Comforter 9.18.2016
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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