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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Keeping our eyes on Jesus 8.14.2016
Dear friend,

May the peace of God that passes all human understanding be with you today and always through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. He is the One who brought peace into this world, even as He told His disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

There is usually enough fear to go around which always results from our looking away from the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus the Christ. Fear results when we become faithless and begin to distrust the power of Christ!. The children who attended VBS last week heard of how David who was being challenged by the giant Goliath spoke in faith by foretelling the outcome of his battle with Goliath: "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

David came forward in the skirmish, not retreating in fear, and he came forward in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. David understood and believed that God was all powerful and that He would bring the victory, prounouncing judgment on the giant for his defiance of God. Recently a fellow minister and I were sharing about things of faith and he made the statement that there is no sense in getting worried about the outcome of the present day battles in which lies are being put forth as truth. He said this: "Anything that is false will ultimately fail because truth will always win out."

In our scripture reading we have a wonderful demonstration of how to respond when the enemy comes to meet us, 2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. Through one of the prophets, the Lord then spoke to them Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.

In our text today we are going to see how the writer of the book of Hebrews brought encouragement and comfort to those who were living in the midst of the current culture which did not promote the resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore did not embrace His followers.

In order to understand why they needed encouragement and comfort we must spend a few minutes getting familiar as to what was going on in their lives at that time in history. These were people who had grown up under the teaching of the synogogue and the teachings of the Old Testament which pointed to a greater One to come who would sacrifice His blood one time and it would not be necessary to repeat their continual sacrifices at the temple, year after year. The first 10 chapters of the book of Hebrews speak about how God had established this system but had done so only until that time when the True Sacrifice would come and be laid on the altar for the sin of the entire world. That would be the time of the New Testament and the coming of Jesus the Christ.

Just like anything else the system of sacrifices and offerings became ritualistic and it became something that the worshippers of God began to follow as the teachers began to forget that within the sacrificial system Christ the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world was being foreshadowed. They were not to put their trust in the rituals, but they were to trust only in the salvation that God had provided through His Son Jesus Christ. In other words, no one was made right before God by going through the rituals, for their being made right before God was through believing God and in His Promise: That a Savior/Messiah would come to the to save them sometime in the future. They were connected to God and His Promise by faith.

In the 11th chapter of Hebrews we read these words in the first few verses, which describe faith and then illustrations are given of those who lived before the believers to whom this letter/sermon was written to. We must remember the most likely this letter was read in its entirety to the hearers as they listened.

It has been said that when Christ is preached, faith is enkindled in the heart. So instead of reading the word faith where it begans a sentence in this chapter, one could place Christ in place of faith and the sense would be the same. For example in the last one, Christ holds together all the people of God.

KJV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Two things are obvious from this statement. First, faith involves a sureness about future hope. It orients us with confidence toward what is coming later. Second, the essence of faith is certainty about unseen and invisible realities. Faith is a way of seeing beyond physical sight. The remainder of Hebrews 11 works this definition out in a variety of historical examples.

1. Faith understands God is Creator.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God‚€™s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

2. Faith offers to God.
4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

3. Faith pleases God.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

4. Faith heeds warnings.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

5. Faith obeys without knowing everything.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

6. Faith trusts God‚€™s promises.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age‚€”and Sarah herself was barren‚€”was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

7. Faith longs for heaven.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country‚€”a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

8. Faith willingly sacrifices all.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‚€œIt is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.‚€Ě 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

9. Faith blesses the future.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

10. Faith worships to the end.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph‚€™s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

11. Faith plans beyond our lifetime.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

12. Faith sees potential and fears no king but God.
23 By faith Moses‚€™ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king‚€™s edict.

13. Faith chooses suffering over sin and treasures Christ over the world.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh‚€™s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

14. Faith perseveres in the hope of salvation.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king‚€™s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

15. Faith believes God‚€™s miracles.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

16. Faith does the seemingly ridiculous sometimes.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

17. Faith welcomes and sides with God‚€™s people.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

18. Faith accomplishes more than we can imagine in this life.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

19. Faith sustains the suffering.
36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated‚€” 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes
in the ground.

20. Faith holds together all the people of God.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

KJV Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Here are some questions to stimulate and provoke meditations in our own minds as well as talking points for discussion with others over today's message.

1.How does having such a great cloud of witnesses/believers/martyrs who have gone before us and are waiting for us encourage and inspire us?

2. Are there weights and sins that are burdening me down in the race that we are running together?

3.How does the fact that Jesus is both Author and Finisher of our faith give us assurance and encouragement?

4. Does the reality that Jesus joyfully suffered and despised the shame move us to greater joy as we go through suffering times in our life for His sake?

5. How does knowing "seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them/us" (Hebrews 11:25b) encourage you and I?

Here a few illustrations which may help us understand the nature of faith.

There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then he had succeeding acts; he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, "Tightrope, I don't believe you can do it, but I'm willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls." Now, Tightrope wrote back, "Sir, although I've never been to America and seen the Falls, I'd love to come." Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event. Tightrope was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over the treacherous part of the falls -- blindfolded!! And he makes it across easily. The crowds go wild, and he comes to the promoter and says, "Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it." "No," said Tightrope, "do you really believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do, you just did it." "No, no, no," said Tightrope, "do you believe I can do it?" "Yes," said Mr. Promoter, "I believe you can do it." "Good," said Tightrope, "then you get in the wheel barrow."
The word believe, in Greek means "to live by". This is a nice story...makes you ask, how often do we say that we believe Christ can do it, but refuse to get in the wheelbarrow?

A good way to illustrate what faith is would be to have a child stand on a chair, put a blind fold on them and them ask them to jump into your waiting arms.

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 14 Aug 2016 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