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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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, €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
Who may I show kindness to?
Dear friend,

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Dear friend,

May the abundant grace of God our Father and His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with us today and always! Amen.

A wonderful day of His grace again has dawned upon us, the rain has fallen upon us, the crops are greening up very well and we have another day in which to rejoice in the day He has made. He has made the day that we see and enjoy with our physical senses, but more than that we by faith and experience know that the day that we live in is an eternal day, a day which began with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and which continues forever and forever. It is only the cycles of the universe that cause the night and day cycle, but we as children of the Light walk in the day (the Light) continually with the promise from Jesus that when we walk in the Light we shall not stumble so that we would fall into the darkness.

As I approach this lesson I thought of how important it is for all of us to have regular physical health checkups with the doctor, so that if one would have contracted an illness it could be treated early in order to ward off a potential serious sickness. It is even more important that once we have been diagnosed with an illness that we would get regular testing done in order to determine as to the state of our illness/disease.

How much important would it be to have checkups in our spiritual life, as since we yet live in this world and are yet subject to not seeing as God sees, to not hearing as God hears and to not feeling as God feels. We are subject to forgetfulness of what it means to be a Christian, to be a follower of Christ as one in whom Christ dwells. We in our religious zeal often times place conditions and requirements in front of ourselves and in front of others which God Himself has not done. In our lesson today, Jesus is going to teach us that difference between religion (man's work) and Christianity (God's work). Another way to say it would be that one comes to "be" a Christian before they "do." It is not that we "do" to become a Christian, but it is that because we are a Christian we "do." Perhaps as we go through this teaching of Jesus what I have introduced here will become more plain.

Here is the part of the scripture that we will consider today in light of what I have already written above.

Luke 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care do of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

We see in this parable that Jesus used to teach the lawyer (and us) that there were three that came upon the man left half dead, and who had no clothes on. The first two did not minister to him because either they did not know what nationality he was as he could not speak or they could not tell by his dress who people he belonged to. They both were bound by the rules that had been established by the hierarchy of their religious organization so they could not help him for fear of violating their rules.

The third one, a Samaritan, when he came by had compassion on him when he saw him. He went to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn to take care of him. The next day before he left ht took out two days wages, gave it to the host and told him: "Take care of him; and however much more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you."

Please allow me to give a little more cultural background to this account in order that we might understand what it must have been like to be living in that time.

For those listening, the responses and reactions by the first two (priest and Levite) would have drawn affirmative responses by them, as all that they had been taught and knew about how to "do" religion was "done" by the priest and the Levite in relation to the man lying by the road, half dead. But what do you think the audience said when the name of the Samaritan came up? We must remember that the prejudice and animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans was of hatred and separation. We recall this previous account of how this was played out as Jesus began his journey towards Jerusalem and the cross.

Luke 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

The audience would have gasped, and perhaps said in their minds: "This cannot be, how can one who is not part of our religion and how we practice be one that is the hero of the story? The Samaritans are not part of God's chosen people, so it is impossible that they could be right! Who do you think you are anyway, Jesus, using a dog like the Samaritans as an example of God and yourself?"

Let me continue on to the part about the Good Samaritan bringing the man to the inn. A noted scholar, Kenneth Bailey, who has lived, studied and taught in the middle East for many years and who understands very well the cultural patterns and thinking stated that for the Samaritan to bring the man to the inn would be like an Indian bringing a scalped cowboy into the city of Dodge. That would certainly be done at very great risk.

Those are two bits of info which should help us to understand of the walls of animosity that were between the cultures, but are walls that God has broken down by the cross of Christ, as Apostle Paul explains to us.

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

The scripture plainly teaches that God has bought back fallen humanity through the cross by the blood of Christ, and all animosity that existed between God and ourselves is erased in grace. He is our Peace and coming to Him in our brokenness and need, He give us peace of soul, for we are forgiven and accounted as righteous by faith. As a believer in Christ, we have been embedded with His love by the Holy Spirit, the love that loves others as we have been loved by Him.

On occasion I ask myself this question: Is my religion or relationship with Christ more like the lawyer in that I consider how much I have been doing for God as the plumbline of my spiritual health? Or does within me lie the love that God has downloaded into my by His Spirit, a love that is on the lookout for opportunities to serve others? As I ask God to help me see rightly and to see as He sees, He comes to me by His Spirit with comfort and assurance that I am His, and at times brings to my mind those opportunities that I have missed because of various reasons: fear, complacency, business, prejudice etc.

When we sit before the Lord, it is good to ask Him to open up unto us those areas that we could show mercy, which says something like this: "Who is there that I can show mercy and helpfulness to? Just think of the difference between religion which says "what are the requirements to get and to remain in good standing with God" vs "Lord, you have showed such great mercy to me that I am overflowing with gratitude, please open my eyes to those who I may show mercy to!!!"

Oh, dear Lord, help us to see as you do, think as you do, feel as you do for all human beings everywhere!!

If I may, I would like to present a couple of opportunities in which we as a congregation have opportunity to show the spirit of helpfulness to those who are in need.

Our annual VBS (Vacation Bible School) will be held this year from August 1 through August 5 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
Everyone in this congregation is presented with an opportunity to serve our youngest neighbors: children. You might ask, how could I serve?

1. Pray for those children who will be coming or who could potentially come. We could begin with our family......

2. Give of our time, our abilities or our gifts.

John and Laurel Anderson have given us trees that were blown over by the wind in the Sleepy Eye area a couple of weeks back. We are soliciting people, chain saws, a wood splitter and a truck by which to take advantage of this kind offer to us.

After the service today, please let me know as to how you might be able to help us take advantage of this generous offer.
We are planning to go down there one day this week in order to begin the job.

Lord, how we pray today that your Spirit would so move us so that we would leave this assembly today with such a bountiful heart of gratitude towards you that we would be overflowing with love towards you and towards all. Lord, may it be that way today, or with anyone who is reading this writing. Lord, open our hearts to your love.........

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 10 Jul 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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The Great Exchange July 17, 2016
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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*Wendy and Dan Salo: Strength & courage to trust Him w/her health concerns