Sunday, August 9, 2020

Choose Life!

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The fall of Jerusalem is complete. Go to Babylon and live, or fight for what you cannot keep, and die. King Zedekiah had rebelled against his nephew, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, so things did not go well for him when the Chaldean Army tracked him down and captured him.

But the situation for God’s faithful Prophet was far different from that of King Zedekiah. Being taken by the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar’s influence in the land had garnered him a tremendous amount of information about Jeremiah. He learned the words of God spoken by Jeremiah as a warning to the Jews. He simply knew that this Prophet of the Jewish God had inroads and insight into the mind of God. A wise conqueror knows those of the enemy camp. He undoubtedly became aware the behavior of the Jews towards this man of God.

This would set the stage later on when King Nebuchadnezzar needed a holy man of the Jewish faith to interpret a dream he had dreamed. Daniel was that man chosen because he feared God and was bold in faith, refusing to worship any God but Jehovah God.

But for the 39th Chapter, Jerusalem is destroyed, just as God had warned. Those that tried to save the City were soundly defeated, and those citizens that went off to Babylon lived to see another day, and eventually prospered. This too was part of God’s will for His Chosen People.

God had a plan that would win for His people, and not fail them. That is always God’s way. Man most often chooses an easy path, and learns the hard lesson that God’s way is better, and is assured of success. His agenda is always supreme, taking precedence in even the smallest of details.

While the natural man plods through his life, the sanctified man puts his trust in God, assured of His expected end for him, and the magnificent lessons to be learned along the way, and reaped in glory!

“And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I scatter them among the nations, and disperse them among the countries.” ~ Ezekiel 12:15 ~

Today's Audio Message: "Choose Life!"

We have finally come to the terrible climax, of which Jeremiah spent years prophesying God’s warnings to the people during the last years of Jerusalem. God’s word had fallen on deaf ears, His warnings unheeded.

Nebuchadrezzar's siege lasted almost 2 years. Food sources diminished and supply lines were cut off, the people’s suffering grew. Yet, in it all, there was a hardness of heart, and self-righteousness. Jerusalem was so strong, that the inhabitants believed the enemy could never enter it. But sin provoked God to withdraw his protection. The long-suffering patience of GOD gives way to judgment and Jerusalem, whose name means "the foundation of peace," is delivered into the hands of the Gentiles.

It is a fallacy to think that great difficulties will result in repentance and obedience. The truth is, God leaves the decision to us. His way, or our own way? Life or death? Jeremiah was covered under God’s protection, and Zedekiah met with a terrible end! We can obey God and live, or suffer the consequences of our own futile actions! 

Isaiah 55:6-9
"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Sunday, August 2, 2020

From Mire To The Court

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

 We left off with King Zedekiah putting God’s Prophet in the dungeon, at the request of the King’s Princes. Zedekiah acquiesced, and let them do as they wished. He admitted he was powerless over his underlings. 

I suspect that Zedekiah was in fear of the Princes under him; most likely they were placed as Princes by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who also installed Zedekiah on Jerusalem’s throne. Oh! What a wicked web men can weave! King Zedekiah’s reign over Jerusalem was as compromised as the Jewish faith of those that lived there. 

Love begets love, and wickedness begets more wickedness. And compromise begets more compromise. For Zedekiah, his own faith was so compromised that he did not recognize the words of the Prophet as the Word from God. But there are serious doubts about his Jewish heritage. Though Zedekiah is a lovely name with Jewish underpinnings, Zedekiah was named Mattaniah by his mother, a woman named Hamutal who was a daughter of a different Jeremiah, from the city of Libnah (25 miles WSW of Jerusalem, in the hills of Judea.). 

Somewhere along the way, a Jewish woman spent time with a Babylonian, and Mattaniah/Zedekiah was born. Marrying outside your Jewish tribe was a compromise. At the time, a Jew marrying outside of Judaism is far beyond a compromise. Zedekiah was a compromised King in more ways than one. 

We only have to look at our own leaders 3,000 years later. We can identify good ones and bad ones. We can identify them in other countries too. Jesus gave us perhaps the most important tool to help us see men as they really are: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). We can discern the kind of people we would want to be friends with, and those that we should be avoiding. If someone draws us closer to Christ and our beliefs, that person is likely a keeper. But if their friendship draws us away from Christ and His righteousness, it is time to re-evaluate the friendship.

Jesus told us that He alone is the “way, the truth, and the life.” He said “no man gets to the Father except by me” (John 14:6).

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” ~ John 3:18
Compromise? It’s just not worth it!

 Today's Audio Message: "From Mire To The Court"

Continuing in chapter 38 in the book of Jeremiah, we learned that Jeremiah had been cast down to the dungeon to die in the mire after delivering God's Word to the people. The king who delivered him once before, and promised to feed him had again changed his mind.  Why?  Proverbs 29:25 tells us, "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."  Well we know this king wasn't putting his trust in the Lord, he was a king that scripture tells us did wicked in the eyes of the Lord.  Zedekiah feared the officials under him. Even kings are rendered powerless by compromise. He was weak, compromised, and fearful.

In spite of the king's decision, God had other plans for Jeremiah. All of a sudden, what appears to be out of nowhere, a gentile comes to Jeremiah’s rescue. Ebed-Melech was a eunuch in the kings court who pleads for Jeremiah’s life.  This man is from Ethiopia. Now, Ethiopians in the Old Testament were sometimes called upon as mercenary fighters. So, this man is in Jerusalem probably fighting alongside the Judeans. He’s on their side. He’s no traitor.

And yet, he for some reason cares about what happens to Jeremiah. We will find out why in the next chapter. His concern over the evil injustice of Jeremiah's plight, and his boldness to speak up on Jeremiah's behalf publicly,  speaks volumes of his character. And just as Zedekiah caved to to the wicked officials, he flip flops again and grants the request of the eunuch to release him. A double-minded man like Zedekiah is unstable in all his ways. He wavers and such a one like a wave of the sea – driven with the wind and tossed.

Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to answer His question, and wants a truthful answer. Jeremiah responds cautiously knowing not to trust this king. Nevertheless, the king gives Jeremiah assurance of his safety if he answers the king’s question.  Jeremiah is faithful to God, and once again delivers His Word to Zedekiah. God demands obedience and surrender, if he obeys he will live, if not he will die. The fear of man brings a deadly snare. It's decision time for this king.  The ball is in his court.  God delivered his warning, and now he must choose.  Will he follow the Lord, or will he die?

Jeremiah face much persecution proclaiming God's Word, just as we will. Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."  John 15:20.  But we do not have to fear them!  Jeremiah feared the Lord, not kings, princes, priests, or armies, and that’s exactly what God calls us to do. Be faithful, God has a plan!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Apostasy In Jerusalem

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

 In 1948, C.S. Lewis wrote his lesser known book, “ON LIVING IN AN ATOMIC AGE” just three years after the end of WW II, and the Age of Weapons of Mass Destruction had been ushered in. Though 220,000 died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, millions of other lives were saved. 
Enter 2020: If Lewis were alive today, he might do a book update entitled, “ON LIVING IN THE COVID-19 AGE.” Were Lewis to update his book, only the title would change. Inconsistent information, and contradictory paths for treatment abound. Today, much of the world is paralyzed by fear once again, as it was after atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. If masks work, why are we social distancing? If social distancing works, why are we wearing masks? Hydro-Chloroquine, or some vaccine that doesn’t even exist yet? Whose reports are we to believe?

Lewis reminded us that living in this fleshly world was 100% fatal. No one would request a painful death. But as scientific research gave us the A-bomb, it has also given us anesthesia, pain killers, medical treatments and even cures for much of what ails us!

Lewis also reminded us as Christians, we were not to go hide with long faces. We ware instead to occupy our time with normal human activities: prayer, raising our children, working, teaching, and sharing time with others. We are to pull ourselves together and experience the fullness of peace and joy that Jesus has provided for those that are truly His, and share it with others!

And, with all of science’s advancements, there is still only one cure for death: 

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: …” - John 3:36
The story has been told and re-told of thousands of starfish that lay dying on a beach, baking in the sun after a storm washed them ashore. A child was tossing them back into the sea one by one, when an adult laughed and said to the child that all his work would not matter. Tossing another back into the water, the child responded, “It matters to that one!”
“He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.”Ezekiel 35:5

 Today's Audio Message: "Apostasy In Jerusalem"
"When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8.  

When Jesus asked this question, He was talking to the disciples about the importance of prayer and not losing heart.  This is something those living in the last days before Jesus’ return need to grab hold of.  We are living in a time of extreme stress, and chaos.  Christians will be tempted to lose heart and give up in the face of a world that for the most part rejects the message of the Gospel and opposes those who believe it.

That is what is going on in Jeremiah 38.  Jeremiah is delivering God’s warning to the people, and when the princes of Jerusalem heard the words he had spoken to the people, they were angered. There confidence was in human strength and might, not in God. They refuse Jeremiah's warning because they have no faith in God.  This is very like what we see happening in our world today.  Mankind has replaced their faith in God, with faith in themselves. Their anger, and unjust treatment of God's messenger portray hearts that have sunk deep into the mire of their own sin.  Strange that this is exactly what they did to Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is taken and lowered down into a miry dungeon, SUNK IN. 

What a perfect description of apostasy - a deep, sludgy, intractable prison. Regardless of the  difficult situations we will face on earth, God will avenge his own…those who cry out to Him day and night. The question that faces us is will we remain faithful to Him, or will we compromise and walk away?  God’s word cannot be silenced, He is faithful to His Word and it will come to pass. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

And One More Thing

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As stated before, Jeremiah’s 30th through 36th chapters are the prophet’s writings, but they have been taken out of sequence. It was Chapter 29 that brought us the Prophet’s warnings of the nearing captivity. In the next few chapters, he takes us from King Zedekiah’s Accession, to the Captivity. Zedekiah has made concessions to Pharaoh of Egypt rather than to go peacefully into Babylon. Jeremiah sees what is happening, and turns to his home town of Anathoth. It seems there is nothing left for him to do in Jerusalem. 

Once in Anathoth, he is recognized, falsely accused, and for the fourth time, Jeremiah is put into prison, this time in the household of one Jonathan. For his speaking the Words of the Father, he is held captive. For doing good, he is looked upon as a traitor.

Perhaps you have experienced similar things: it seems that no matter what you do, there is no good outcome. That’s called being put between a rock, and a hard place. No one benefits in situations like this. It’s “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Jeremiah is accused of the treasonous action of turning to the Chaldeans.

People assume what they want to assume. Sometimes it’s to seek a scapegoat, sometimes it’s observations from which wrong conclusions are drawn. For whatever the reason, it’s extremely hurtful towards the one being lied about. Even appealing to the King proves to be an exercise in frustration. 

But even as judgment is pronounced against Jeremiah, God has seen fit to cause Zedekiah to make sure that Jeremiah will be taken care of in a safe place, and fed daily. Now, understand this: turmoil surrounds the land. The Chaldeans have retreated upon hearing of Pharaoh’s Army coming. Who is in charge? Who carries authority? What’s going to happen to Jerusalem? Only God knows the answers to these kinds of questions.

Though Jeremiah’s ministry is not finished ! ...
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. ~ 2Timothy 4:7,8 ~

Today's Audio Message: "And One More Thing"

Throughout the book of Jeremiah we have learned about a stiff necked people who had hardened their hearts towards the things of God. They had refused his word, and His prophet, and followed after their own sinful desires. Not even the warning of a coming judgment could get their attention. 

Sound familiar? We’ve all known folks like that. They go on in their sinfulness, ignoring the Lord until their lives begin to fall apart. Quickly they get in touch with someone they know is “tight with the Lord” and ask them for prayer. This is what is going on in Jeremiah 37. Here we find Jeremiah falsely accused and thrown into prison, the king sends for him, and seeks assurances that all will be well. Jeremiah does not hold back, he gives King Zedekiah the whole truth, not exactly what the king was looking for.  Well, Jeremiah has been giving them God’s word for decades. They want deliverance, but they don’t want to repent. Jeremiah doesn't quit, he remains faithful to the Lord in his calling. 

God will take care of His own.  Jeremiah spoke God's word with boldness,  and God gave Jeremiah favor in the eyes of the king. 

Like Jeremiah, Paul was a faithful minister of the Gospel, faithful to the very end. And at the end of his life, he had no regrets. He was able to look forward to hearing his Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” He was able to affirm, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Word Restored

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the days of Israel wandering in the wilderness, towards the end of their journey, Moses was called up onto a mountain. And there he received the Ten Commandments, etched on two stone tablets to share with the People. Now safely away from Pharaoh and his army, and Egypt clearly behind them, the Lord knew they would need laws to guide their lives in a land promised to them by God.

But when Moses came down from the mountain, he was incensed by what the people were doing, and threw the tablets down, breaking them to bits. And today in Jeremiah, we learn that the words of God were an offense to those that held power over the people in Jeremiah's day. 

Are we not watching the same thing happen again in our own land today?

Man's actions are offensive to many, and God’s Word is an offense to those who hold sway over others by instilling fear in the weak and slow to understand. Today’s message leaps out of the Bible and onto the front page of nearly every media outlet available. Solomon was absolutely correct: “There is nothing new under the sun.” 

While many believe we are living in the Last Days, today’s message is one of hope in the future. Whether the laws were broken by Moses, by Jehoiakim, or by those that rebel against western society and our culture, the Laws inspired by God can never be erased from the human heart, and they will be restored one day. But let’s be more specific than just “one day.” Moses broke the tablets in Exodus 32, and God etched new tablets in Exodus 34. If we believe the timeline set forth in many Study Bibles, the Law was restored to the people within a year, if not within days. In the Book of Jeremiah, Jehoiakim destroyed the words of God in chapter 36 and they were restored in the same chapter. 

We are told, and we believe that our nation’s laws were originally founded upon Godly principles found in God’s Word. God’s inspiration to mankind is all around us. I believe the restoration of law and order will be soon. God will not put up with His inspired words being set aside, and removing them or changing them comes with heavy penalties in Revelation 22.

"Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.”  (Mt. 24:35 ~ Mk. 13:31 ~ Lk. 21:33).

Today's Audio Message: "The Word Restored"

In chapter 36, once again we see God’s wonderful mercy to a sinful nation.

Jehoiakim was an evil king. Unlike his father, King Josiah who honored the word of God with great reverence, Jehoiakim had great contempt for, and rebellion against God’s word.

Jeremiah is instructed to take a scroll and write down all the words that God gives him to be proclaimed before the unrepentant people of Judah. He sends Baruch, his scribe, to proclaim God's Word to the people, and when the officials in the temple heard, their hearts were stirred wanting to hear more. They receive it, authenticate that it is from God, and take it to the King.

Not everyone welcomes God’s word or heeds His warning. . Jehoiakim did not accept God’s word or His warning. He would not believe that God would make good on His threat and bring the Babylonians down upon Judah. He sought to silence God by throwing His words into the fire. So God speaks His word directly through Jeremiah to Jehoiakim - when you despise and reject the Word of God, you're done! You are cut off permanently - and he was.

One of the ways that God vindicates His own Word is through the fact that He fulfills it. Everything happens just as He promises; and when it’s all over, it will be proven that—as it says elsewhere in Scripture—“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:45).

God’s Word endures forever. God stands behind His own word, and as we see from this passage, He preserves it, He broadcasts it, He authenticates it, He protects it, and He fulfills it!

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