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

Epiphany 2013 1/06/2012
Dear friends,

May the grace, peace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.

Today is Epiphany, a very special celebration in many Christian churches around the world. The word "Epiphany" means "appearing." It marks the historical occasion of the "Wisemen" coming from the East (Matthew 2:1-2) to worship Jesus, bringing with them gold, frankincense and myrrh: Gold for God the King, frankincense for the God the Son, and myrrh for God the Savior. It marks the coming of the Messiah to the Gentiles, which was a broadening of the revelation of the Messiah now to be inclusive of all people, even as the angel had announced to the shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem on that night: KJV Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.i
To this time in history, salvation had been primarily of the Jews, but now it was to include both the Jew and the Gentile.

The hymn written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., was instrumental in organizing an elaborate holiday pageant for the students of the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1857. Hopkins, the seminary's music director, wrote and staged the pageant, which included his upbeat composition "We Three Kings of Orient Are." Let us together sing these words in our hearts and with our lips, thinking and meditating upon the message of the prophecy, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ......

1. We three Kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

O, Star of wonder star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading, still proceeding

Guide us to thy perfect light.

2. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,

Gold I bring to crown Him again,

King forever, ceasing never,

Over us all to reign.

O, Star ...

3. Frankincense to offer have I;

Incense owns a deity nigh.

Prayer and praising, all men raising,

Worship Him, God most high.

O, Star ...

4. Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume

Breathes a life of gathering gloom,

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

O, Star ...

5. Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and sacrifice,

Alleluia, Alleluia;

Earth to the heav'ns replies.

O, Star ...

The last verse, with its words which point to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, are powerful in meaning. For is it not true, that as we walk in the power, i.e. the assurance, the joy, the hope and the expectation of His second return, do we not sing Alleluia, Alleluia from earth to heaven? Yes, we do, for we cannot stifle that which has been born in us through the love of God in Christ Jesus!!!!! For we walk by faith, and not by sight. And that means that we trust in that which God has said and not in that which we see before us or feel within ourselves. We know that heaven is our home, and not this vanishing earth.....

King Solomon wrote these words of assurance, of hope and of expectation many years ago:

KJV Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

And in the New Testament, Saint Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesian congregation, which primarily addresses the coming together of both Jew and Gentile into a new man, Jesus Christ...

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,1 but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by1 the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul goes on to share his testimony with his beloved people, revealing to them how God had revealed the mystery of what salvation truly is to him through revelation. He did not receive it from any man, he was not taught it, (Galations 1:12) but it was revealed to him through Jesus Christ. Paul was no lazy student of the Bible, as he had studied under the greater Jewish teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-39) but until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, (Acts 9), he was yet blind to the reality that he was outside of the salvation of God which is in Christ Jesus. Paul, on the way to deliver more Christians to the prison, having his "work for the Lord" was interrupted by a light brighter than the noon day sun. (KJV Acts 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me).

Upon experiencing this, Paul asked "the question:" "Who are you, Lord?" To which Jesus replied, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."....................There would be much more to accurately relate in the conversion of Paul by taking the original account as well as when he gave his testimony to others, but for brevity's sake we will simply make the observation that Paul's meeting with the Savior changed his life completely. For after the answer of Jesus, the Bible records that Paul trembled and was astonished, and he asked a second question: "What will you have me to do, Lord?" From there Jesus directed him into the city to where he would be ministered to by Ananias on behalf of the Lord. As Paul got us, he was not able to see and therefore had to be led into the city by the hands of those who were with him........

As Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus, he makes several transitions in his letter. For he speaks personally until verse 12, upon which draws his readers/hearers into Christ by using the plural, saying that into this marvelous salvation "we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. (of Christ). He then reverts back to himself, for he was in prison at the time he was writing. He did not want them to look away from that which Christ had done for them by looking at his state of imprisonment. Paul had began this 3rd chapter by telling them that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ and now he tells them that his physical imprisonment was working for their benefit, their glory. How so? Let us think a little on think on this a bit, for this is an important place of transition in this letter that he wrote to them/to us.

A few days ago I received the latest copy of the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) monthly magazine. The VOM organization was started in 1967 by Richard Wurmbrand who was held prisoner in communist prisons for 14 years and who has written several books, the most well known being "Tortured for Christ." The emphasis of this latest magazine is on the importance of giving encouragement to prisoners who are being held captive for preaching the gospel of Christ in foreign countries. Various testimonies are given by prisoners, who are now free, who received letters while in prison from VOM supporters. They all spoke of the great benefit that they received from the outside world, and of how through the letters they were reminded that they were not alone.

The life of Paul the prisoner is reviewed in one article, and is taken from his writing to Timothy,which is considered to be the last letter that Paul, wrote. In this Paul remembers the blessing that a man name Onesiphorus (bringing profit).Here is the reference.

2 Timothy 1:15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:
17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

Historical records about prisons reveal to us that the prison cells of that time had no windows, for they were underground in dungeons. Furthermore, there were no entry ways into the prison, making it necessary to be dropped down through a narrow hole in the ceiling in order to visit a prisoner. Their feet were shackled and attached to the wall. There was no chance of escape.... One can only imagine the conditions that were in those cells and in which someone like Apostle Paul would be living in. But that did not dissuade Onesiphorous into visiting with his beloved brother in Christ, Saint and Apostle Paul. (v 17)........................

13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

From other testimonies of Paul in his other letters, we can be sure that he is saying: "Get your eyes off of me and keep them on Christ!!" Oh to be sure, those who had come to the knowledge of the forgiveness of their sins through Christ Jesus dearly loved the Apostle like a brother. We see this in the book of Acts..But he did not want their attention to be diverted from Christ by their emotional attachment to him and for his earthly welfare. Paul knew that his release from the earthly prison would be his heavenly freedom and eternal joy, even as Dietrich Bonhoffer understood, for he said when he was led to be hung at the end of WW2. "For me this is the beginning."

Let us read through Paul's meeting with the elders at Ephesus, noting how he did not consider his life important, but the lives of others. Galatians 2: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Can we not hear the passion of Paul and the love of his fellow travelers?.

Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. {abide me: or, wait for me}
24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

What a parting.......but there will be a reunion one day, and from the reunion there will be no parting ever again.

Please not how Pau, after opening up his heart with his beloved in Christ, kneeled down and prayed with them all....They prayed together.....Wow.......He likewise prays for the Ephesians in the last part of the 3rd chapter.

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Lord, as we think on that which you have accomplished through Christ our Saviour, we ask that you grant unto us, according to the riches of your glory, to be strengthened with might by your Spirit inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. We pray, Lord, that we will be rooted like a tree and have a foundation that is built upon the Rock, Jesus the Christ. Lord, through this, we ask that you would continue to reveal your boundless love to us, so that we will know your love for us as sinners. For while we were yet sinning, you gave yourself for us, while we yet sin you continue to love us.....Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us, for according to your own testimony, you do not remember our sins and iniquities anymore. You have laid them on your Son. Lord, help us to understand what it means to live in the fulness of this love, which is to live in your fulness! We know that there is no lack of your capacity to do this, for your supply is far greater than our comprehension of your love, but nevertheless, Lord, increase our faith, increase our knowledge of your love for us.........We like Paul, Lord, break out in praise of you today, for you are the One who has loved us and washed us from our sins. Yes, Lord, we praise you today and sing our song of joy as we close our time with you...
Let us allow the rich meaning of these words sink deeply into our minds and hearts today so that out of our soul will rise "Alleluia, Alleluia, from earth to heaven, now and forevermore.......For we have been created in Christ Jesus to praise Him both now, ....and forevermore..........

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

May the exceeding abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all now and forevermore, Amen.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 06 Jan 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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