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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Pastor's Blog

Teach US to pray 7.24.2016
Dear friend,

May the grace of God be poured out abundantly upon us today through the love of His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May we be like sponges that soak in His grace that is able to warm and uplift our hearts so that we are able to "see" above and to "live" above the effects of sin in our lives and in the life of the world.

In our introductory notes today, two vital ingredients concerning prayer are detailed. Our helplessness to fix ourself and the need to believe that God is there for us. A child understands this very well as is illustrated by the following story.

Text Illustration:
One Sunday in a Midwest city, a young child was "acting up "during the morning worship hour. The parents did their best to maintain some sense of order in the pew but were losing the battle. Finally, the father picked the little fellow up and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out. Just before reaching the safety of the foyer, the little one called loudly to the congregation, "Pray for me! Pray for me!"


Before we begin to share a bit from the heart of our Father in heaven today, I would like to ask a couple of questions that perhaps will help focus our minds on the subject of our meditations today.

1. Is there an aspect of your lives as Christians that we find it difficult to "do" as we would like to do?

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2. What motivates us to pray, or what things/practices/helps do we use to help us in our life of prayer?

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The disciples that were being taught by Jesus had observed that He spent a lot of time in communication with His Father. Luke's Gospel, from which our lesson comes today records of number of these times of prayer. There are 27 prayers that Jesus prayed in the Bible, one of which is from our scripture reading today in John 17, which is the prayer that gives us the best insight into the relationship between the Father and the Son. It has been said that if you want to know what is in the heart of a person, listen to them praying. Here are the references of Jesus praying in the Gospel of Luke leading up to our text today in Luke 11.

KJV Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

KJV Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

KJV Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

KJV Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

KJV Luke 9:28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
KJV Luke 9:29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

KJV Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
JV Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

He gave them a pattern
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

He illustrated His teaching for them.
5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

He pointed to the persistence in prayer.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

He pointed to an earthly father.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

He emphasized/highlighted the superiority of the "Givingness" of the heart of our Father.
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?


In the beginning we considered two questions which I will repeat here:
1. Is there an aspect of your lives as Christians that we find it difficult to "do" as we would like to do?
2. What motivates us to pray, or what things/practices/helps do we use to help us in our life of prayer?


In Luther's Catechism, he teaches that there are reasons for us to pray:


1. God's command

2. His promise to hear our prayers.

3. Our own need.

4. The power and importance of prayer.


As we consider the response of Jesus to the question of the disciples: "Teach US to pray," what was Jesus wanting to leave with them?

1. He gave a pattern for prayer

2. He taught us to be persistent in prayer.

3. He taught us most important of all, through the parables, that Our Father is ready to pour out all that is necessary into our neediness.

Where do we see that one might ask?

Well, there is one word in verse 8 "importunity" which has been translated as persistence. A study of the culture in which Jesus was speaking into seems to focus on the man who was visited in the night and who at first refused to give his neighbor what He had need of. He was not focusing on the man who to get the three loaves of bread, but on the man who had the three loaves of bread.

Let us remember that Jesus is addressing the question "Teach us to pray." He is not pointing out so much of their persistence in coming to God with their prayers, but He is pointing out the benevolent heart of our Father who wants to give "as many as are needed." Wow, what a difference in points of focus. One points to our persistence in prayer and the other points to the "givingness" of God to give to those who are in need.

But what caused the man to get up and tell his neighbor that I will give you whatever you need? Well, in that culture if the man would have refused to give to his neighbor, he would have been met with cries of "shame on you" for not giving to your neighbor last night.

It was to avoid shame that he got up and offered to give his neighbor in order to keep his honor. As we see the comparison between the earthly father and our Heavenly Father in the last verses of our text, we see in this parable that honor of God being pictured here. A neighbor who for the sake of honor gives to a neighbor who is not even a friend, a father gives good things to his son whom he loves and then "How much more your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

So, as we wind this up, how do we understand the point of Jesus' parable? Well, it seems that He is pointing out the the huge heart of His Father who most of all wants to pour Himself out into the lives of all those who wish to receive Him, to receive His Son, to receive His Holy Spirit!! Does not the understanding and knowing that He is waiting to pour out Himself into our lives move us to continue in His school of prayer? I think so......


A small boy had been consistently late for dinner. One particular day his parents had warned him to be on time, but he arrived later than ever. He found his parents already seated at the table, about to start eating. Quickly he sat at his place, and then noticed what was set before him--a slice of bread and a glass of water. There was silence as he sat staring at his plate, crushed. Suddenly he saw his fatherā€™s hand reach over, pick up his plate and set it before himself. Then his dad put his own full plate in front of his son, smiling warmly as he made the exchange. When the boy became a man, he said, "All my life Iā€™ve known what God was like by what my father did that night."


May the meditations of our heart in this teaching be acceptable in your sight, our dear Father and Redeemer.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 24 Jul 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
The Great Exchange July 17, 2016

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:1-2)

Dear friend,

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

A notable football coach of the past would begin his spring training every year by standing in front of his veteran and rookie players, hold up a football in front of them and say: "Gentlemen, this is a football." He would then tell them that the their whole season's success will depend on the movement of the football and how sucessful they were in moving it across the opposition's goal line. It sounds kind of simplistic coming from a very successful coach, but he knew what he was doing. He was getting down to the basics of the game by reminding them from the get go that it is all about the football.

In a similar way, as Christians the eternal and domestic success of our lives (and the life of our country) will be dependent upon our knowing, understanding, interpreting and following the Bible in relation to the redeeming purpose of God through Jesus Christ. The Bible has four basic themes: Creation, Fall (into sin), Redemption and Glorification. (heaven)

It is the Truth that the Bible carries in its pages, the Truth that the Christian Church has received, upholds and will live or die by: Jesus the Christ. He stands and He will stand forever!

Only the Lord knows the struggles that you (as participants in worship here in this church today or those of you who are reading this article) have been through, are going through or will be going through in the future. He knows exactly what you are experiencing today, is mindful of that which you are going through, and He wishes to bring comfort assurance and encouragement to you today through His Word and Spirit. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway: He shines into our present day life and also shines the light into the future, a future which oftentimes is simply the next moment and we are not able to see around the corner of tomorrow.

We look to the future in faith, trusting that God will direct our steps and lives into ways that will cause and enable us to live in spiritual peace and safety. We are assured of that truth, that He cares for each of His creations that He has made in His image, a creation that is good. We are assured that "All things work together for the good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose."

But still as children of God we suffer from discouragement and disillusionment we experience or see others experiencing the fallout from our fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. We do not have to look far to see that sin has a foothold in this world and it would like to get the upper hand in our lives as well. We hear of the latest terror attack, whether here in our country or in another country such as France. Many think and many ask, what is going on, what is happening and what does the future hold?

As I was before the Lord earlier in the week, seeking His direction in what message to bring to His people this Sunday, it came to me that it would be good to speak concerning "The Great Exchange." The Great Exchange! What is that all about?

Well, let us approach it from this direction. We have heard of prisoner of war exchanges that have occurred through the years, with the basic premise being that an even exchange in value of prisoners would take place. For example an officer of high ranking would be exchanged for another officer of high ranking of another country. Or one high ranking officer would be exchanged for a number of lower ranking military prisoners. At any rate, the concept is that there would be "dollar for dollar" exchange.

Have you heard of the Great Exchange? Have you experienced the Great Exchange?

What would we think if there was a very fine upstanding honorable and good person that was exchanged for the worst criminal that one could imagine? What if this good person was exchanged for someone like Adolph Hitler, Mao Tsetung, Pol Pot, Sadaam Hussein, the one who drove the truck into the crowd in France or some serial killer? What would we think? Initially we might think, that would be absurd!! No way!!

The Great Exchange has already taken place and we read about it in our scripture reference today, which is found in one of Apostle Paul's letters to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

In these verses we read (1) that Christ in His death experienced death for all (2) for the purpose that all would live unto Him who died and arose again. In His death and resurrection He has made everyone new through His reconciling/reconnecting us back to Himself (to God) taking the punishment for our sin unto Himself. It is important to understand that the Great Exchange has two parts: (1) God has bought us back and (2) He has granted us the ability to see that we needed to be bought back. In other words, we come to Him for forgiveness of our sin.

As stated earlier in the beginning the coach wanted to emphsize the basics of football and in a like manner we wish today to emphasize the basics of who God is and what He has done for us in Christ. He has initiated the Great Exchange. We need to be mindful of that in this world of temptation, the ultimate of which is to not believe that who God is and that which He has done for us. There are many things that may occupy our minds, our hearts and our time, but nothing is as important as keeping fresh in our minds and hearts of knowing who God is and what He has done for us in Christ!!!!!!

This is the Great Exchange, the Holy One for the guilty one. The Innocent One for the worst criminal. Jesus for Barabbas. Jesus Christ for me the chief of sinners. Me the chief of sinners?? I am not as bad as those mentioned above! I would never or could never do what they did? Am I sure about that? Given the right influence, the right environments, the right opportunities, just what would/could I do? We have heard the saying over the years, "But for the grace of God there go I," which has deep meaning but sometimes it is said and thought of in a surface type manner. Do we really think that we could end up with wrecked lives and in so doing wreck the lives of our families/ministry/etc? Yes we could.......

May it be that regardless the road that we traveled to arrive in our present lives today, that the Great Exchange be always in the forefront of our minds and hearts. That is the primary purpose of all of us who have become partakers of the Great Exchange, that we would let others know Who God is and what He has done for them in Christ. The Great Exchange. May the following true story inspire us to that end.

The Amazing, True Story Of John Harper
The Last Hero Of The Titanic

The unsinkable ship. It was April 15, 1912, when HMS Titanic sank beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic, taking with it 1517 lives. The largest and most luxurious ship at the time was gone, reminding the world of our frailty as human beings. But there is more to the sinking of the Titanic than a historical tragedy. There is a story of courageous heroism and unshakable faith. Titanic, the "unsinkable ship" did nothing but sink. As the sounds of terror and mayhem continued, Harper focused on his God-given purpose. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers,
praying for their salvation.

The great ship hits an iceberg
John Harper was aboard the Titanic when she set sail from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. An evangelist originally from Glasgow, Scotland, he was well known throughout the United Kingdom as a charismatic, passionate speaker who led many to Christ through his gift of preaching. In 1912, Reverend Harper received an invitation to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago, U.S.A. On April 11, 1912, John Harper boarded the Titanic.

Some of the wealthiest people in the world were aboard. While many passengers spoke of business deals, acquisitions and material desires, John Harper was diligently sharing the love of Christ with others. In the days leading up to the tragedy, survivors reported seeing Harper living like a man of faith, speaking kind words and sharing the love of Christ.
On the evening of April 14, 1912 John Harper put his daughter to bed and read his devotions as he did every night. At 11:40pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg. The "unsinkable" ship was doomed.

Either in disbelief or unaware at the time, passengers continued about their pleasures. It wasn't until the ship's crew sent up a series of distress flares that passengers realized the seriousness of their situation. Then chaos ensued.

It all happened so fast. But John Harper's response left an historic example of courage and faith. Harper awakened his daughter, picked her up and wrapped her in a blanket before carrying her up to the deck. There he kissed her good-bye and handed her to a crewman who put her into lifeboat 11. Harper knew he would never see his daughter again, His daughter would be left an orphan at six years of age.

Harper then gave his life jacket to a fellow passenger, ending any chance of his own survival. From a survivor we learn that he was calling out, "Women and children and unsaved people into the lifeboats." So he understood that there was a more important thing than surviving that terrible disaster. He understood that there were those who were unprepared to face eternity.

As the sounds of terror and mayhem continued, Harper focused on his God-given purpose. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers, praying for their salvation.

At 2:40 am, the Titanic disappeared beneath the North Atlantic, leaving a mushroom-like cloud of smoke and steam above her grave and, tragically, over 1000 people, including Harper, fighting for their lives in the icy water. He managed to find a piece of floating wreckage to hold onto. Quickly he swam to every person he could find, urging those about him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. While death forced others to face the folly of their life's pursuits, John Harper's goal of winning people to Jesus Christ became more vital.

Are you saved?

In the water, John Harper was moving around as best he could, speaking to as many people as possible. His question was, "Are you saved?" And if they weren't saved and if they didn't understand that terminology, then as rapidly as he could he explained the Christian Gospel.
Soon John Harper succumbed to the icy sea. But even in his last moment, this tireless man of undying faith continued his life pursuit of winning lost souls.

One person remembered, "I am a survivor of the Titanic. I was one of only six people out of 1517 to be pulled from the icy waters on that dreadful night. Like hundreds around me, I found myself struggling in the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic.

The wail of the perishing was ringing in my ears when there floated by me a man who called to me, ā€˜Is your soul saved?' Then I heard him call out to others as he and everyone around me sank beneath the waters. There, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I cried to Christ to save me. I am John Harper's last convert."

"Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...and thy house." - Acts 16:31

May we hear the Voice of the Spirit who is calling us today, who always is revealing the merits of Christ's Great Exchange into our hearts.

In Christ alone we are saved....

Pastor Orval Wirkkala




Posted on 17 Jul 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Teach US to pray 7.24.2016
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala


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