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 Day Has Dawned 12/21/2014
Dear friend,

After a night of rest, and as the sun comes up in the east and begins to lighten up the sky, the darkness is overcome by the light and as the sun rises higher, we find ourselves and our world in the light of day. Each new day that dawns, we receive a gracious gift from our God who has promised that "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

The Prophet Jeremiah understood the blessing of this cycle, as seen in his writing to his beloved people who were living in the captivity of another nation, which they were enduring as a result of God's judgment for their sin. He encouraged them to look to each new day as a reminder of the faithfulness of their God who longed for them to return to Him. He spoke these words to them, including himself as one in need of encouragement.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 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 3:21-23

We all experience the night times of our lives, often struggling for long periods of time as we await the dawn of a new day. Whether it is due to our own sinful behavior, or due to struggling relationship(s), or due to sorrow because of a loss in our life, and so on, during these times of darkness, we are called to learn to lean more and more on the promises of God that are contained in the Scriptures which have been more fully revealed through the coming of the Messiah.

With 400 years of silence since the last prophet had spoken on behalf of God, at last a voice came crying out of the wilderness which pointed to the NEW DAY. John the Baptist was foreordained to point to One who came to bring the Light into the dark world in which the people.

As his father Zacharias looked upon his 8 day old son on the occasion of his circumcision which placed John in the covenant of Abraham, these words of prophecy were spoken into his infant son's life:

"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us1 from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:76-79

In the history of the world, the NEW DAY has come. The LIGHT has arrived to bring the forgiveness of sins to all, and it is the longing of our Father that all will receive His gift of forgiveness through Christ. All who receive the LIGHT will live in the newness of life in the NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus. May each new day that arises be a reminder of how God brought the LIGHT into the darkness 2000 years ago and as a result we live in the promise of His eventual, glorious and triumphant return.

Today we pickup with the account of the birth of John the Baptist, the longed for child of Zacharias and Elizabeth. This is recorded in Luke 1:57-80 and it comes right after the account of the announcement of the upcoming birth of a child to the young teenage virgin Mary who lived in the small town of Nazareth, who would be the fulfilment of the Promise: The Messiah, Christ, the Anointed One. After this announcement from the angel Gabriel and after her visit with her aged and pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, Mary broke out in praise to God for His favor that He had chosen to shower on her: Her Saviour was to be born and she was to be the mother of the Son of God.

As we move from the Magnificat (Mary's Praise Song) to the story of John the Baptist's birth, which will end with Zacharias' Praise Song, let us again consider that which was written above in the the beginning of this message. Here is what I am referring to: In God's economy, there are three basic time periods, that is, if that is what we want to call them. First, there is God's eternity by which He is, has always been and always will be. He does not measure time as we do, but He nevertheless has His timetable which when referring to His coming into this world to redeem us, is called it the fullness of time. Galatians 4:4-5

In the history of His redemptive work upon this earth, He alone knows of the reasons and purposes as to why He worked so many years (as measured by us) to bring the help that was needed by humanity. In the history of the Old Testament, His people Israel lived in the cycle of blessing, forgetfulness of Him, complacency, pride and sin, judgment and captivity due to their sin, their calling upon Him for deliverance, repentance, return and restoration, which then led to His blessing, which was again followed by forgetfulness of Him, complacency and the cycle continued....

In fact, the words (Lamentations 3:21-23) that Jeremiah spoke to his people were during a period of judgment/captivity. He spoke them to remind them of the faithfulness of God to be true to His Promise, that they would be delivered in the future, and that their God was waiting for them to return to Him and to trust in Him.

So we have God's eternal plan which was enacted upon this earth beginning with the Promise in Genesis 3:15, and we also have the individuals through whom He revealed and worked His plan of blessing to the world. Zacharias and Elizabeth were chosen vessels through whom He worked His heart's desire: To display His bountiful heart of love in the releasing of the world from the guilt, the power and the presence of sin.

As we look at this account of John's birth, it is so important to be looking down from heaven as we consider it, otherwise we may fall victim to being so earthbound in our thinking that we will lose the impact and sweetness of the love message that is interwoven in this biblical account of God working wonder in the heart of Zacharias (God Remembers).

I hope that I have not lost you, but to make sure that the reader understands what I am referring to, let me clarify as to what I am intending to bring forth. As the longing heart of our God and our Father waited over the years to bring humankind back to Himself through the Redeemer/Messiah, He worked in the lives of His messengers so that they would gain a greater sense of His love for His fallen people. Often times He would call upon His prophets/messengers to experience things in a natural manner so as to bring them a greater understanding of the overwhelming love and compassion that He had for His humanity. In other words, He worked to make the messenger a part of the message, which He was doing in preparation for the time when the Messenger would be the Message, Christ the Messiah divinely and human.

As I said earlier, we often are so earthbound that we have desires that are more selfish than selfless and therefore we miss intended blessings that our Father wants to bring into our lives. But what a blessing that it is for us that our Father uses our earthly wants and longings as springboards to propel our hearts and minds to the Greater Blessing: Increased awareness and knowledge of His love or us/all humanity through Christ. This is what seems to have happened in the mind and heart of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. God used the natural longings of life to bring increased understanding and knowledge of His longing heart for all humanity. How so, one might say. Well, let us continue on...

We recall that the angel Gabriel came to childless Zacharias and Elizabeth with the announcement that they would have a son who they would name John, gave them specific instructions as to his rearing, told them as to what his purpose and mission would be in his life, and communicated to them of the effect of his ministry in the hearts of men and women. We also recall that Zacharias stumbled at this angelic visitors message, and asked for a sign that he might believe that which was told to him. The sign given was not one of punishment or of rebuke, but it was one of grace and truth, for his gift of hearing and speaking was taken away from him until the time of fulfilment, to the time when his son would be born. How would this be viewed as a blessing?

Well, as a priest of the course of Abia, he certainly had the ability to read the Scriptures, which meant that during the period of silence he would be exposed to the voice of God through the Scriptures. It would seem entirely logical that during this time as he waited with his dear wife Elizabeth for the fulfillment of the Promise, he would be reading and rereading every reference in the Old Testament parchments of the references to the Promise. All distractions would be at a minimum, for he could not speak or hear. And the laborious work of writing notes to one another would most likely quickly have become tiresome and burdensome. So Zacharias would have poured over the Scriptures, looking for those passages which would point to the Promise. Perhaps he would have found the Isaiah 40 reference which prophesied of the birth of the one (his son John) who would be the "voice of one crying in the wilderness."

The more he read, and the more that he understood that God was now going to enter into human history, the more faith must have increased, and with the blossoming faith, must have come certainty, and with certainty must have come joy, a joy which initiated in the heart of God and which He desired from eternity to pour out into all humankind through His Son. Just think of the joy of giving at Christmas time, and multiply it countless times and then we might be able to think from the heavenly perspective which is from the heart of God toward us. Do you see what I mean now?

Zacharias' muteness and his speechless condition was being used as an avenue for God to bring his chosen vessel to a greater awareness of the joy that is in the heart of God, His Father. Through the Scriptures, God was pouring into the heart of Zacharias the knowledge of the joy that was in His Father's heart, and it seems also that He would be increasing in the mind and heart of Zacharias of the longing that must have been in the heart of God to come to His fallen creation in a very special way. The fulness of time had arrived, now He was going to pour out His favor upon humanity, upon all and for all. In the eternal measuring of all things, the Day had arrived, Christ has come, the Joy of heaven had been born.......................

Now as the time of his son's circumcision arrived, I would have to think that inside of Zacharias the water was backing up against the dam, that eventually the dam would burst and the water would begin to flow over the dam, bringing much needed blessing to all that it would water as it flowed abundantly down its course. I can only imagine what was happening inside him as he watched the proceedings go on, of how the joy of the neighbors and their relatives was present as his son was initiated into the Abrahamic Covenant which God had commanded them to obey from the beginning of His calling them into Himself.

He must have wanted to shout out as he watched the circumcision of his son, not being able to understand what was being said or the discussion that was going on. And then when they turned through writing a message to him as to what his son would be called, the dam must have been beginning to break apart......He asked for a writing table and wrote: "His name is John.!" They all
marveled, wondered.......And then the longings of God, joy of God, the love of God came pouring out of Zacharias' soul as the dam broke wide open.....

Now the vessel that God had called to participate in His plan of joy for the world was a ready conduit to bring forth His joy for humanity... Now God was going to speak.....and here I might say that we need be in awe at these holy words of our Creater, of our Redeemer, of our Father and of our Eternal Joy..........for even tho they are the words of a human, they are Spirit and they are Life.

64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

The first words out of his mouth were praise to God and as we will see further on, the praise was because of God doing the acting towards His people, in His coming to redeem, buy them back.
Fear came upon them as it always does and will when we come into the presence of God without Christ. They recognized that it was not a man speaking to them, but it was the Presence of God before them.

Why did they fear? Why do we fear? Because when we truly realize our smallness and weakness as it truly is before our Creator, we will fear. We inherited the fear of God when we sinned in the beginning and ever since that we are afraid of our Creator and do not want to approach him. If a small child approaches me, I do not fear them, for I know that I am an adult and there is nothing to fear from them. But if I am the child and an adult approaches me, I will fear that adult and not want to come close to that adult. It all depends upon if I see myself as a child or as an adult. The fear of God is healthy for it will keep us in the correct mindset of who we are, but then coming to a true knowledge of how God has humbled Himself before us in Christ causes fear to dissipate as He draws us and receive us to Himself through His Advent to and amongst us.

They could not keep this astounding news quiet, as they went broadcasting it all around the hills of Judea. The message that was spoken did not fall to the ground, for those that heard the message laid it. pondered it in their hearts, which then caused the question to come out: What kind of a child is this going to be? That is answered in verse 66b by the Holy Spirit....

"And the hand of the Lord was with him."

Dear friend, the hand of the Lord is with you and me. for He has come for you and me. He so desperately wants to break through our resistance to Him to bring about the revelation of His love for us. He joys in you and I and wants us to know it today. Our future is certain through Him and His Promise. Yes, His hand was with John....

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

As it was with Mary in her praise of her God and Saviour, Zacharias praised the Lord God of Israel for having visited them and redeeming his people. He did not praise Him for what He was going to do, but for what He already did, thereby demonstrating his union with the mind of God in speaking of God's Promise as already done. It is already finished!!! He goes on as Mary did, and in so doing revealing his familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures by recounting the redemptive plans and activities of God through the years. He spoke of the mercy that was promised to his fathers, of how God remembers his agreements for He swore by an oath. Perhaps at this time he rejoiced in the meaningfulness of the name of his wife, Elizabeth (God's oath)

He praised God that through this deliverance that they would serve Him without fear, and that they would serve in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of their lives. There must have been many unspeakable praises in the mind and heart of Zacharias as the joy of the Lord flowed through him as he held his child, John, (God is a gracious Giver) in his arms. And then as that praise ebbed, his thoughts turned to the instrument that God had chosen in order to bless all humanity, his son John. Can you imagine the joy that Zacharias experienced in praying for his son at that time as he looked to the future blessing that would be poured out through the Messiah? Can we imagine the joy that Zacharias must have experienced in his union with the purposes of God for mankind, the joy of giving his son to the Lord for His joyful purposes?

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

He spoke to his son, recognizing that he is a prophet of God, one who speaks on behalf of God now and for the future, who would prepare people to receive the Messiah. Again, it is difficult not to enter into the mind of Zacharias and consequently of God at these verses.. What does God first tell Zacharias to tell his son? Can we not imagine God holding His Son in His arms, while pouring out His heart into His Son: Son, go tell them that through my tender mercy you have the forgiveness of your sins. Tell them that I released you from the unpayable debt that you have toward me, and oh how I want you to know that. Tell them that I have saved them, I have redeemed them, I have released them from the debt of sin that they owe.

Do we not think that Zacharias at that point was lifted into the heavenly realm, even though He was standing in the house of prayer with humans like himself? I think so.........Oh, Lord, thank you for lifting us from our often heavy shoes on which clay get caked on them so thickly that we get stuck to earthly things. Thank you for your Word that so clearly and richly reveals your heart of joy in coming for us, who needed you to come to us. We would not have, could not have ever come to you. Help us to grow in our understanding of your love and mercy toward us, dear Lord.

He then uses the Jeremiah imagery to tell them that the Dayspring from on high has visited us so that light would be given to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Just as Jeremiah wanted the people to see a picture in the rising of the sun each day pf the faithfunless of God to His promises, Zacharias wanted the hearers in that day to see the Messiah as the One who had risen with healing in His wings so that they could be guided into the way of peace.

In the history of the world, the NEW DAY has come. The LIGHT has arrived to bring the forgiveness of sins to all, and it is the longing of our Father that all will receive His gift of forgiveness through Christ. All who receive the LIGHT will live in the newness of life in the NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus. May each new day that arises be a reminder of how God brought the LIGHT into the darkness 2000 years ago and as a result we live in the promise of His eventual, glorious and triumphant return.

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

It is not known at what age he left his parents home, but at some point he went into the wilderness where he spent time alone with his God and his Redeemer until the day when God sent him to do that which he had been prepared to do: Bring the joy of the heart of God to the world: To gather all to Himself through Christ.....

May these words and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our Strength, our Redeemer.

Merry Christmas to you.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 21 Dec 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Temptation of Jesus
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The Lawry Kilpela family as they grieve but yet rejoice in Lawry's being called home.