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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Live Love Serve
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ today and always! Amen.

It is Vacation Bible School time once again. This year VBS is being led by Katie Salo as Tonja Aho who has led this important mission of our congregation was not able to fulfill that role this year. We thank Katie for this year's leadership and also thank Tonja for her important role in leading VBS for a number of years.

Once again we are given the privilege to share this time with the young children so that they will learn about the love that God has for them which He demonstrated by giving His Son as the payment for their debt of sin. That is a debt that none of us have or ever will have the ability to pay. It is through believing that which God has done for us that we are able to truly live in peace of forgiveness in the midst of a topsy turvy world that offers happiness but never is able to deliver lasting peace and happiness.

The theme for this year's VBS is centered around the teaching that the church is like a body with Jesus being the Head of the church. Within this body all are included, from the little ones to the eldest ones, all having their individual gifts which are collectively used for the benefit of the entire body. It is our hope that through these sessions that the children will be encouraged to know that they are now part of His church and that they do not have to wait for some time in the future to participate/contribute in/to the body.

In addition to our VBS theme, Jennie Inselman, our youth leader, has chosen the three words, Live, Love and Serve to guide the focus of the youth group of our congregation as she leads them into a greater awareness of what it means to offer their bodies and minds in worship to our God so that they may serve Him by serving people. She bases those words on these beginning verses of Romans 12:

" I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

We live because Christ has raised us from death to life through His death and resurrection, it is through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit that we have been gifted with the same love that exists between He and His Father and it is through this love that now indwells us that we serve others for the benefit of the body.. We love in this manner because we have been loved first by God. We then have the privilege to lay down our life for others even as Christ layed down his life for us. We "get" to serve others; we do not 'have" to serve others. This is what the entire chapter 12 of Romans is all about. We could outline it in this manner:

12:1-2 Our Christian Life in relation to God
12:3-8 Our Christian Life in relation to ourself
12:9-16 Our Christian Life in relation to others
12:17-21 Our Christian Life in relation to those who do evil to us.

We have already heard from our reading a lot about love: We have heard that God is love, He demonstrated it by sending His Son as payment for our sin debt, and that because He loved us we ought to love Him. We also heard from 1 Corinthians that giftedness must be accompanied by love or else our gifts are of no value and we also heard of the practical manner in which love is lived out in relationships with others. We all recognize that it is relatively easy to talk about love with one another, but to demonstrate biblical love towards one another is quite another matter. The good health of our congregation depends upon our understanding and demonstration of God's love.

The letter to the Romans is arranged in a manner similar to the others letters that Paul has written. He first lays down the doctrinal teachings of God before applying them into everyday life. In the first 10 chapters of this letter, he has written of mankind's inherited universal sinful state, of God's mercy toward mankind through Christ Jesus, of the change that comes into a person's life when one comes know their lost and condemned state before a holy and righteous God and of how through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the Christian life is one of righteousness, peace and joy in the midst of a sinful world. It is a life of service to others, first in our families, then in our churches, and then to the outlying world around us.

It is on this basis, or on this foundation that this letter begins with an appeal from the Apostle to live the Christian life. Jennie's outline is right on: Live, Love, Serve.. We can live only when we come to understand that without the mercy of God we are lost and condemned before Him .Love now indwells us and we demonstrate this love by serving others in relationships That is what is being said by Paul in the beginning of chapter 12. He is like saying, now that you are alive in Christ because of God's mercy toward you, present your body as a living sacrifice unto God. Not a dead sacrifice, but a living one, one that is acceptable and holy/consecrated/set apart. For if we have received mercy from God, we owe our existence to Him, what else makes sense? That is what he is writing to them in this first sentence....

12:1-2 Our Christian Life in relation to God
KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (testing/discerning) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

How would it make sense to serve the world, our flesh and Satan in light of God's mercy toward us? He goes on to say that we are not to be conformed to this world, but that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

How is this done? It happens through being exposed to the Word of God, for through the taking in of His Word, the Holy Spirit works in us in order to lead us to all truth. He points out those areas of our lives that are contrary to what God wants in our lives. It is through this that we are continually testing that which we are being faced with in order to separate lies from truth so that we may walk in those things that God wants in our lives.

For example, as one reads/listens to these words of this chapter, one is offered the opportunity to be evaluated according to the will of God. As we hear His voice, the Holy Spirit within us speaks to us in at least three ways:

He is confirms our acceptability to God through the merits of Christ.
He witnesses with our spirit what we are walking in the light of His Word by giving us peace.

He speaks into those areas of our lives that we are walking in our own way. When we hear Him speak into those areas in which we are grieving Him, there is a call to turn from our way and to return to the way of God.

Having introduced this subject, Paul now begins to break it down into smaller parts. After beginning this practical application on the basis of mercy, he now introduces as to how our lives are lived out among other believers in our congregation

12:3-8 Our Christian Life in relation to ourself
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, (rightly) according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

We are told that we are given gifts by God. therefore we should not boast of ourself, but recognize that just as we have received mercy, likewise we have received our giftedness by grace. Among the many members, there are many gifts, we are one body and we are all connected together.

There are speaking gifts that are to be used to edify the body, but they must be used in the analogy of faith. In other words, that which we speak must be consistent with what God has written in His Word as revealed by His Holy Spirit. If we have the gift of prophecy/preaching, we should do it rightly. If we have the gift of ministry/serving, we should minister/serve with the ability that God has given to us. If we are a teacher, then let us teach. If we are given the gift of exhortation, let us do it.

On a little different note, if we have the ability to give, let us do it with simplicity/doing it sincerely, if we are a leader/ lead diligently, if we are given to show mercy, let us do it with cheerfulness.

12:9-16 Our Christian Life in relation to others
9 Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

As is seen in the letter to the Corinthians, Paul again follows up the listing of gifts for use in the congregation with the teaching on the importance of love. All the giftedness in the world is useless unless it is mixed with love. He lists a number of short statements which define in practical terms as to how love is lived out in relationships.

One could put this together in a similar list similar to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love is sincere 12:9
Love is discerning 12:9
Love is affectionate 12:10
Love puts the other before ourselves 12:10
Love is not lazy 12:11
Love is energetic 12:11
Love is service minded 12:11
Love rejoices in hope 12:12
Love is patient in tribulation 12:12
Love is always praying 12:12
Love is generous 12:13
Love is hospitable 12:13
Love is full of goodwill 12:14
Love is sympathetic 12:15
Love is harmony 12:16
Love is humility 12:16

We live because God has been merciful to us, we love because He has first loved us and we demonstrate our love through serving others with the gift that we have been given by Him.

Live, Love, Serve

12:17-21 Our Christian Life in relation to those who do evil to us.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wow, we are not to have paybacks? No, we are not and we also are to do things honest in the sight of all men so as to not give them a reason to say, "see, that is what those people are, a bunch of hypocrites." We are to seek to live peaceably with all as much as is possible, with the exception being if the conditions of peace violate the Word of God. We are not to get even, but allow God who sees all things to bring forth His judgement in His way and in His time.

Lastly, we are called upon to feed our enemies when they hunger, give them drink when they are thirsty, and in so doing perhaps they may come to see that they are an enemy of God. We are not to use evil to overcome evil, for all we are doing then is adding to the evil in the world. Isn't there enough evil in the world already? Why should we add to it? But rather let us overcome evil with good, for then we will be adding to the good in the world. Even if our good does not have a positive effect on the evil, at the very least we will be adding good to our world.

I would like to close with a few illustrations which relate to our lesson today of: Live, Love, Serve. One is from the Old Testament and the other two are from the New Testament.

An example of good overcoming evil

2 Kings 6:8 Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp.
9 And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.
10 And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.
11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?
12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
18 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
19 And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. {follow...: Heb. come ye after me}
20 And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria
21 And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?
22 And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
23 And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.

Jesus teaches James and John about love

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.

Jesus demonstrated love for us and to us

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

My dear friend, may the love of Christ which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit constrain us to serve others with the gift that we have been graced with so that others would be blessed and encouraged through us. May His love also restrain us from serving self by thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to, and thereby being a stumbling block to others in his kingdom of grace.

May His grace be upon you this day,
Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 28 Jul 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Cross of Christ 2.25.2018
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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