Saturday, June 22, 2024

Morning Message: It's Happening Again

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "It's Happening Again"
Written by:
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Our nation has much in common with the nation of Israel. As we listen to the media, we realize that we are being “invaded” by foreigners, sort of. The Watchmen that we elected have abandoned their sworn duty to protect our borders and have actually invited the invaders to come!

It was 1948 when Jews were resettling their newly independent State of Israel, and Kubutzes sprang up, developing agriculture and other businesses. A land of virtual wilderness with an arid climate, the fledgling government invited Arabs to come in order to build their farms into a self-sustaining agricultural program for the Jewish nation. The Jews came; the Arabs came; and all needed to be fed.

Now, both Israel and our own country are realizing our mistake and paying the price. This is an oversimplification of the problems both our countries face, but the similarities are clear. There is that old saying that reminds us about not learning from past mistakes and being doomed to repeat them.

But we are not alone, it has happened repeatedly around the globe. As we embark on a study of the Prophet Joel, we find Israel going through this same trial about 800 B.C. Joel analogizes the invaders to be insects, eating up one grain after another. Like the plagues of Egypt, each one follows the pattern. They destroy what they want, and leave the populace in ruin, hungry and starving all across the countryside.

While the Watchmen were looking for distant invaders, they completely missed the marauders nearby that would bring ruin from within their borders. Seeing no one coming from outside, the Watchmen lived high-on-the-hog, enjoying the wine and the oil. But the Word of the Lord declared that they were on the brink of disaster. There will be a high price to pay for the Watchmen abdicating their duties and not sounding the alarm loud and clear!

In the days of Jeremiah, the false prophets of Jerusalem kept saying, “All is well, we have the Temple. Everything will be OK.” This they did even as the Babylonian Army was at their door to take the people away into captivity for 70 years! OH! For faithful Prophets and watching Watchmen!

Jeremiah 6:17 - “Also I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Hearken to the sound of the trumpet.’ But they would not listen.”

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message
Joel 1:1-15 - "It's Happening Again

Summary/Additional Commentary & Definitions:

The Book of Joel was likely written between 835 and 800 B.C. The author identified himself only as "Joel the Son of Pethuel" (1:1). The prophet provides little else about his identity.

Tyre, Sidon and Philistia had made frequent military incursions into Israel (3:2). Judah, the setting for the book, is devastated by an extended drought and massive invasion of locusts that had stripped every green thing from the land bringing severe economic devastation (1:7-20), leaving the southern kingdom weak. Joel uses these happenings as the catalyst to send words of warning to Judah. Unless the people repent quickly and completely, enemy armies will devour the land as did the natural elements. Joel appeals to all the people and the priests of the land to fast and humble themselves as they seek God’s forgiveness. If they will respond, there will be renewed material and spiritual blessings for the nation. But the Day of the Lord is coming.

Joel symbolically describes the locusts as a marching human army and views all of this as divine judgment coming against the nation for her sins. As the locusts were a judgment on sin, God's future judgments during the Day of the Lord will far exceed them. At this time the dreaded locusts will seem as gnats in comparison, as all nations receive His judgment. In that day, God will judge His enemies and bless the faithful.

The overriding theme of the Book of Joel is the Day of the Lord, a day of God’s wrath and judgment. It's importance to the canon of Scripture stems from its being the first to develop this oft-mentioned biblical theme. While Obadiah mentioned the terrifying event first (Obadiah 15), Joel’s book gives some of the most striking and specific details in all of Scripture about the day of the Lord—days cloaked in darkness, armies that conquer like consuming fire, and the moon turning to blood. Rooted in such vibrant and physical imagery, this time of ultimate judgment, still future for us today (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), makes clear the seriousness of God’s judgment on sin.

This is the Day in which God reveals His attributes of wrath, power, and holiness, and it is a terrifying day to His enemies. In the first chapter, the Day of the Lord is experienced historically by the plague of locusts upon the land. Chapter 2:1-17 is a transitional chapter in which Joel uses the metaphor of the locust plague and drought to renew a call to repentance. Chapters 2:18-3:21 describes the Day of the Lord in eschatological terms and answers the call to repentance with prophecies of physical restoration (2:21-27), spiritual restoration (2:28-32), and national restoration (3:1-21).

In Joel chapter 1, The prophet Joel delivers a message about a horrific locust infestation that has descended upon Judah, stripping the land bare and causing widespread famine. He describes the complete destruction of crops and vineyards, leaving the people with nothing to harvest or offer as sacrifices.

The chapter progresses into a call for mourning and lament, urging the priests, farmers, and drunkards alike to acknowledge the severity of the situation and plead for God’s mercy.  Joel concludes by calling for a solemn assembly and a time of fasting to appease God’s wrath.

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:  Uploaded Sunday Afternoon!

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

The Word of the LORD (1:1) - The prophets use this introductory phrase to indicate that the message is divinely commissioned.  (See Hosea 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1)

Joel (1:1) - His name means "the LORD is God."

Pethuel (1:1) - This is the name of Joel's father.  His name means "openheartedness of/toward God."  It is the only occurrence of this name in the Bible. 

Hear... Give Ear (1:2) - The gravity of the situation demands the undivided attention of the readers senses, emphasizing the need to make a conscious, purposeful decision in the matter.  The terminology was commonly used in "lawsuit" passages Isaiah 1:2; Hosea 4:1).  

Old Men (Elders)...All Ye Inhabitants (1:2) - Old men revers to the civil and religious leaders, who, in light of their position, were exhorted to lead by example the entire population (inhabitants) toward repentance. 

Tell Ye Your Children (1:3) - The importance of reciting the Lord's mighty acts to subsequent generations is heavily underscored by the threefold injunction.  (See also Exodus 10:1-6; Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6, 7; 11:19; 32:7; Psalm 78:5-7; 145:4-7; Proverbs 4:1). 

Palmerworm (1:4) - from the Hebrew word "gazam." Literally means to gnaw off.

The Locust (1:4) - from the Hebrew word "arbeh." Literally means to be many; migratory. The four kinds of locusts refer to their different species or their stages of development (2:25), where the writer mentions them in different order. The total destruction caused by their voracious appetites demands repentance to avoid future, repeat occurrences (Deuteronomy 28:38; Isaiah 33:4; Amos 7:1). Locusts are compared to an invading army.

Cankerworm (1:4) - from the Hebrew word "yeleq." Literally means to lick off.

Caterpillar (1:4) - from the Hebrew word "chasil." Literally means to devour; consume.

Drunkards (1:5) - Drunkenness is the national sin that prophets condemn (especially Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos). The drunkards delighted in the abundance of the vine, and are addressed because the locusts had destroyed the vine that produces the grapes from which the wine is made.  

The Lord calls ten times upon different segments of the population to mourn and repent:
  • Drunkards - are to mourn like a young bride for a departed husband (v. 8).  
  • Farmers - vs. 11 - are to be ashamed.  They are a public disgrace, a physical state to which the guilty party has been forcibly brought.
  • Vinedressers - vs. 12
  • Priests - The priests are to mourn because no longer will there be meal and wine for the offerings (v. 9 & 13).
  • Ministers of the Altar (v. 13) called to mourn and to lie all night in sackcloth.
My Land (1:6) - The Lord reminds them that the land is His.  He is the owner (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:2; Ezekiel 38:16).

My Vine...My Fig Tree
(1:6, 7) - The Lord again claims ownership. The vine and the fig tree are symbols for prosperity and peace (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10), yet they had become visual reminders of divine judgment.  

A Nation (1:6) - A literal invasion of locusts pictured the kind of destruction and judgment inflicted by human armies

Teeth of a Lion (1:6) - They are described as hostile, countless in numbers, and able to devour anything in their path.  

Meat Offering...Drink Offering (1:9) - Sacrificial offerings each morning and evening have been cut off (Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 23:13).  

All the Trees... Are Withered (1:12) - Even the deep roots of the trees could not withstand the torturous treatment administered by the locusts, especially when accompanied by an extended drought (v. 20). 

Joy Has Withered (1:12) - Human joy and delight had departed from ALL segments of society; none had escaped the devastation.  The joy that the harvest brings had been replaced by despair, and mourning.

Sanctify a Fast (1:13) - The prophet calls the priests to take action, first by example and then by proclamation (vs. 14). 

Cry Unto the Lord (1:13) -The plague had been sent by God as a warning of a much more severe judgment yet to come, and was used by Joel as an incentive to repent, both then and now.

Day of the LORD is at Hand (1:15) - A warning of a coming time of judgment.  The Lord pronounces severe judgment, after a long time of patient forbearance.  This will be followed by cleansing and blessing.  Such prophecies often refer to a current situation, such as the plague of locusts, then leap over the centuries to future end time judgments. Unless sinners repent, dire consequences await them.  

Destruction From the Almighty (1:15) - The Hebrew term destruction forms a powerful play on words with the "Almighty."  The notion of invincible strength is foremost; destruction at the hand of omnipotent God is coming.  Their calamity was not from some freak turn of nature, but rather from the purposeful, punishment of their Creator. 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Morning Message: Beloved Gaius

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Beloved Gaius"
Written by:  Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today we study a most personal letter from John to a fellow believer. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon, regarding Onesimus; full of love, and hope for personal and spiritual growth for both of them.

There are many common names in the Bible. If we include Moses’ sister Miriam in the count, there are six “Mary’s” in the Bible, five of them in the New Testament. In 3rd John, we have his personal letter to Gaius. We are faced with multiple men named Gaius in the New Testament, possibly four of them.

In Acts 19, a man named Gaius is from Macedonia, one of Paul’s travel companions. In Acts 20, we find another Gaius from Derbe. This one accompanied Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem for Pual’s final trip to the Holy City. There was also a Gaius of Corinth mentioned in Romans 16, and 1 Corinthians 1 who had been a host to Paul at one time or another. Finally, the Gaius mentioned here in 3rd John is a fourth Gaius, but based on the letter’s greeting, this Gaius is a 
"wellbeloved" and well known to John. John’s friend Gaius could also be one of the three that knew Paul, but there is direct evidence of that.

John’s well-beloved Gaius received this personal letter that was deemed important enough to be included in the Cannon of the Bible. The theme is the walk of believers, and to a lesser degree the need for Christians to be discerning about whom they spend time with, even within the Church.

God is love, and He loves all His children. The Living Word Himself teaches that the children are to love one another, and even prefer each other’s company, but also be open towards non-believers (Romans 12:9-11). The New Testament reiterates God’s Command to
"love one another" 69 times in 19 individual verses, among which in 13 of them, it occurs as exactly above in the quotes.

"These things I command you, that you love one another." - John 15:17

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
3 John 1-14 - "Beloved Gaius"

Summary/Additional Commentary & Definitions:

This week we are studying the John's third epistle.  It is the third in a series of 3 epistles that bear the Apostle John’s name. Of Course, the author is the Apostle John. He describes himself in v. 1 as "The Elder" which conveys the advanced age of the apostle, his authority and his eyewitness status especially during the foundational period of Christianity when John was involved with Jesus’ ministry (2 John 1). 

Third John is perhaps the most personal of John’s 3 epistles. While 1 John appears to be a general letter addressed to congregations scattered throughout Asia Minor, and 2 John was sent to a lady and her family (2 John 1), in 3 John the apostle clearly names the sole recipient as "the wellbeloved Gaius" (v. 1). This makes the epistle one of a few letters in the NT addressed strictly to an individual (Philemon). The name "Gaius" was very common in the first century (e.g., Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14), but nothing is known of this individual beyond John’s salutation, from which it is inferred that he was a member of one of the churches under John’s spiritual oversight.

As with 2 John, 3 John focuses on the basic issue of hospitality but from a different perspective. While 2 John warns against showing hospitality to false teachers (2 John 7–11), 3 John condemns the lack of hospitality shown to faithful ministers of the Word (vv. 9,10). Reports came back to the apostle that itinerant teachers known and approved by him (vv. 5–8) had traveled to a certain congregation where they were refused hospitality (e.g., lodging and provision) by an individual named Diotrephes who domineered the assembly (v. 10). Diotrephes went even further; he also verbally slandered the Apostle John with malicious accusations and excluded anyone from the assembly who dared challenge him (v. 10).

In contrast, Gaius, a beloved friend of the apostle and faithful adherent to the truth (vv. 1–4), extended the correct standard of Christian hospitality to itinerant ministers. John wrote to commend the type of hospitality exhibited by Gaius to worthy representatives of the gospel (vv. 6–8) and to condemn the high-handed actions of Diotrephes (v. 10). The apostle promised to correct the situation personally and sent this letter through an individual named Demetrius, whom he commended for his good testimony among the brethren (vv. 10–12).

Some think that Diotrephes may either have been a heretical teacher or at least favored the false teachers who were condemned by 2 John. However, the epistle gives no clear evidence to warrant such a conclusion, especially since one might expect that John would have mentioned Diotrephes’ heretical views. The epistle indicates that his problems centered around arrogance and disobedience, which is a problem for the orthodox as well as the heretic.

Sunday Morning Audio Message

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

The Elder (v. 1) - John uses the same term for himself as he did in 2 John 1.  The term probably has reference to his age, his apostolic eyewitness of Jesus' life, and also that he had an official position of authority in the church.  

Wellbeloved (v. 1) - Gaius is called "beloved" by John no less than four times in this short epistle.  He had evidently been won to Christ by John (v. 4), and John had frequently received good reports from traveling Bible teachers and others concerning his spiritual growth and godly life (v. 3).  The term beloved is only used of Christians in the NT (see Colossians 3:12; Philemon 1,2; 2 Peter 3:14; 1 John 4:1).

Whom I Love in the Truth (v. 1) - Because Christians have common knowledge of the truth, they have the common source of love (2 John 1).  While some have taken the phrase to mean simply "truly" or "really" (Mark 12:32; John 1:47), John's usage of this phrase elsewhere in these letters, where truth takes on such a significant meaning, suggests that the elder intended the kind of love that is consistent with the fundamental truths of the faith (v. 4; 1 John 2:21; 3:19).

Wish (pray) (v. 2) - A better interpretation would be "I pray."  John's prayer for Gaius is significant.  Gaius's spiritual state was so excellent that John prayed that his physical health would match his spiritual vigor.  Asking about one's health was customary in ancient times, as it is today.  John adapted this custom to use in a unique manner, highlighting Gaius's vibrant spiritual state.

Walkest in Truth (v. 3) - Gaius's reputation for practicing what he preached was exemplary (2 John 4).  John's commendation of him is one of the greatest given in the NT, since the commendation centers not only on the fact that he knew the truth, but that he faithfully practiced it.  Gaius's actions were in stark contrast to Diotrephes' negative reputation (v. 10).  Believers should ""know the truth" (John 8:32), "believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3), obey the truth (1 Peter 1:22), speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15), do the truth (John 3:21), and, like Gaius, "walk in truth" (v. 4).

My Children (v. 4) - The world my is emphatic in the original.  John's heart delighted in the proper conduct of his spiritual children in the faith.  Those who walk (conduct) in the truth (belief) have integrity; there is no dichotomy between what one professes and how one lives.  John had strong fatherly affection for them (1 Corinthians 4:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 3:1-10).

Thou Doest Faithfully (v. 5) - Faith that is genuine always produces genuine good works (James 2:14-17).

Brethren, and to Strangers (v. 5) - Gaius practiced hospitality not only toward those whom he knew, but also to those whom he did not know.  The reference concerns, especially, itinerant gospel preachers whom Gaius aided on their journeys.

After a Godly Sort (v. 6) - or, "in a manner worthy of God." The phrase has the connotation of treating people as God would treat them (see Matthe 10:40) and becomes the key manner in which hospitality should be practiced (Matthew 25:40-45).

Receive Such (v. 8) - John give several grounds for practicing hospitality in a "manner worthy of God."  First, we should receive those dedicated servants of the Lord, those who have pure motives.  Itinerant missionaries went out "for his name's sake"" (v. 7; Romans 1:5). Such are doing the work of the ministry for God's glory, not their own, or for money.  John had instructed them to withhold hospitality from false teachers, but to extend hospitality to genuine teachers.    The word "receive" conveys the thought of "underwriting" or supporting them physically and financially. 

Church (v. 9) -John apparently had written a previous letter to the church, but it was lost, or intercepted by Diotrephes who refused to honor John's request to help and hear the itinerant teachers, even going so far as to excommunicate those who disagreed with him (v. 10).

Diotrephes...loveth to have the preeminence (v. 9) - The preeminence has the idea of "desiring to be first."  It conveys the idea of someone who is selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking.  The language suggests a self-promoting demagogue, who served no one, but wanted all to serve only him.  Diotrephes's actions directly contradict Jesus' and the NT"s teaching on servant-leadership in the church (Matthew 20:20-28; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3).  

Receiveth Us Not (v. 9) - Diotrephes had a bad reputation.  He modeled the opposite of kindness and hospitality to God's servants, even denying John's apostolic authority over the local congregation and, as a result, denying the revelation of God that came through that authority.  His pride endeavored to supplant the rule of Christ through John in the church.  His character was the polar opposite of Gaius, a godly man, loving and hospitable. 

If I Come...Call to Mind His Deeds (v. 10) - Diotrephes would have to answer for his ungodly behavior, his usurping of Christ's place in the church.

Follow Not That which is Evil, But That Which is Good (v. 11) - Demetrius was commended in verse 12.  Gaius was to imitate Demetrius as the correct role model for his actions.  

Doeth Good (v. 11) - The test of a true believer. This verse affirms, that those who do good are of God.  Those who are of God obey His Word, His commands.  Those who possess God's love walk in truth, and obedience, in practice and deed. 

Demetrius (v. 12) - Demetrius mentioned here was well-known to John, who was now at Ephesus, and was probably being entrusted with carrying this letter from Ephesus to Gaius and the church where Gaius served.  

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Morning Message: Warn Them!

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Warn Them!"
Written by:
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Our reading today introduces us to a man named Simon, a sorcerer who had bewitched many in Samaria with his “special knowledge” and insights into the mind of God. Simon’s special teachings were not because he was unfamiliar with the teachings of the Prophets, but his success was because they were so closely aligned with them! Because of his long history of teaching in Samaria, they held Simon is high regard, believing his words. When Philip the Apostle came into Samaria spreading the Gospel, many were saved, and then Peter and John went also to check on those which were saved through Philip’s ministry (see Galatians 2:7-9 – Peter and John, along with James, were considered to be the pillars of the church in Jerusalem.).

Except to reveal Himself to a Samaritan woman at a well, even Jesus is not reported to have ventured into Samaria. The Jews avoided Samaria as a general rule because of false doctrines that were prevalent there. But when Peter and John went there, Simon the Sorcerer offered them money in order to receive the power of the Holy Ghost. He had witnessed the Apostles’ laying-on of hands, and people receiving the Holy Ghost, and Simon thought he could buy this power. Peter and John would have none of this man and refused his money.

Because of Simon being steeped in sorcery, the two Apostles saw him as a source of false doctrines coming into the church. And it is because of these verses in Acts that many consider this Simon to be none other than Simon Magus (Simon Magnus) the oldest known Gnostic Heretic from the 1st Century.

In Galatians 1:6-9 we learn how to test the teachings of others. It is a test to the authenticity of any “new” doctrine. If it is not already in the Bible, believers are to be suspicious of it, and search the scriptures like a Berean (Acts 17:10-11).

The Apostles were faithful to spread the Gospel in Jerusalem, to all Judea, and in Samaria, and
"unto the uttermost part of the Earth," as directed by Jesus in Acts, immediately prior to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:8-9).

The Holy Ghost inspired Paul and Peter to write, that every believer should test every teaching they hear in 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter 1:17-21. John writes this under the inspiration of God:

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." - 1 John 4:1 

Bobservations Column:  Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
2 John 1-13 - "Warn Them!"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:

This week we are in the second epistle of John, sort of a continuation of the overall theme of 1 John, a "recall to the fundamentals of the faith," adherence to the truth (v. 4), love (v. 5), and obedience (v. 6).

John continues to remind believers of the fundamental truths of Christianity, while warning them of the dangers of deception.  In his second epistle, John is writing to a lady and her children, someone he seems to be very familiar with.  He is giving her the biblical guidelines of the gracious hospitality that Christians are commanded to (Romans 12:13).

Remember, John is still warning these believers of the false prophets and teachers threatening the church.  Their false doctrine was the beginnings of Gnostic thought and had been making its way into the ears of naive Christians, gaining influence over them, and destroying the foundation of the Church.  False teachers seek to make converts who will follow after them, and they will take advantage Christian hospitality in order to advance their cause. The apostle warns his readers against showing hospitality to such deceivers.  True believers must walk in truth, and love within the limits that truth allows.  Love must be discerning.

It is extremely important that we check everything we see, hear, and read that claims to be “Christian” with the Scriptures. This cannot be too strongly emphasized because one of Satan’s greatest weapons is deceit. It is very easy to be taken in by a new and exciting doctrine that appears to be based on Scripture but which, if examined closely, is in fact a departure from the Word of God. If what appears to be happening does not line up explicitly with Scripture, then this is false and not of the Spirit, and we should have nothing to do with it.

Sunday Morning Audio Message

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

The Elder (v. 1) - John uses this title to emphasize his advance age, his spiritual authority over the congregations in Asia Minor, and the strength of his own personal eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus and all that He taught. The vocabulary, tone, and content of this short epistle clearly prove that it was written by the same author as John's gospel and his first epistle. 

Elect Lady and Her Children (v. 1) - Modern writers believe that John was writing to a particular woman leader of one of the churches, it is not.  John was writing to a particular woman and her children (offspring) who were well known to John.  

For the Truth's Sake (v. 2) - The basis of Christian hospitality is the truth (v. 1-3).  John repeats the term for truth five times in the opening four verses.  Truth refers to the basics of fundamentals of the faith that John has discussed in 1 John as well as the truths expressed in 2 John.  Truth is the necessary condition of unity and, as a result, the basis of hospitality.  One of the great themes in all of John's writings is truth. It is the cognitive truth of God's Word. (Colossians 3:16).

Walking in Truth (v. 4) - This is one of only three references in Scripture to "walking in truth," but should always characterize our daily "walk."  Here, the behavior of hospitality involves obedience to the truth (v. 5, 6).  The word Walking has reference to continual walking in the truth, or making obedience to the truth a habit in one's life.

New Commandment - (v. 5) - John ties the commandment of truth to the commandment of love (1 John 2:7-11; 4:7-12).  

This is Love...Walk According to His Commandments (v. 6) - John defines love, not as a sentiment or an emotion, but as obedience to God's commands.  Those who are obedient to the truth as contained in God's commandments, the fundamentals of the faith (1 John 2:3-11), are identified as walking in love. (John 14:15, 21; 15:10).

Many Deceivers (v. 7) - (Mark 13:22, 23; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).  In verses 7-11, John gives limits for Christian hospitality.  This is the centerpiece of John's thought in this epistle and expands the basis of hospitality and the behavior of Chistian hospitality.  Since Satan comes as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), believers must be on guard against error by having an intimate acquaintance with the truth.  The habitual denial of the undiminished deity and humanity of Christ is the distinguishing mark of an unbeliever, and a deceiver and an antichrist. Such a denial is the doctrine of Satan.

Entered (v. 7) - This means, Literally, "gone forth" into the world, evidently from the domain of Satan, seeking to undermine and destroy any true church. 

Lose Not Those Things (v. 8) - A loss of reward may occur to any believer who does not discriminate fellowship on the basis of adherence to the truth.  This seems to be a really strong warning.  We should not be going along to get along.  We should never aid those promoting false teaching.  

Transgresseth (v. 9) - This means "goes beyond," trying to put esoteric meanings of a pseudo-spiritual nature on the plain teachings of Christ and His Word.

Doctrine (v. 9) - The "doctrine" of Christ (which word actually is "teachings" in the Greek) must include ALL the teachings of Christ, everything that He said and did, covering ALL the Scripture and ALL His purposes.

Receive Him Not Into Your House (v. 10) - John's prohibition is not a case of entertaining people who disagree on minor matters.  These are FALSE TEACHERS who are intent on destroying the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity.  Complete disassociation from such heretics is the only appropriate course of action for genuine believers.  No benefit or aid of any type (not even a greeting) is permissible.  Believers should aid only those who proclaim the truth (v. 5-8).  

Your House (v. 10) - The "house" is the church, probably still meeting in houses.  No false teacher is to be allowed to teach in the church... or your home.

Partaker of His Evil Deeds (v. 11) - Hospitality to such leaders aids in the spread of their heresy and inevitably leave the impression of sanctioning the teachings of these antichrists (1 John 2:22).  Supreme loyalty to God and His Word alone must characterize the actions of EVERY TRUE BELIEVER.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Morning Message: Blessed Assurance

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Blessed Assurance"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I learned early on that taking on responsibilities came with the Ten Commandments, and avoiding responsibilities produced feelings of guilt. Even when accomplishing those things, I often ended up second-guessing myself. Was it enough? Or even good enough? The resolution to this dilemma is to trust Jesus for all things. It was a great relief to learn that my salvation was not my responsibility, except to hear God’s Word, and respond to it. That’s a decision-making proposition. Once we hear the Gospel, we have a decision to make: Do we believe God’s Word, or not?

The Apostle John began making his point in the beginning of this Epistle, and now he drives the point home for us in this second half of 1 John 5. From “whosever” meaning me, to an “assurance” of salvation if we believe. Learning that salvation is the work of the Lord, takes that responsibility off from a believer’s shoulders and leaves it upon Jesus’ shoulders, the one who promised it to us. And Jesus promised that even our mustard seed sized faith would grow into a great tree!

This creates a division with the world, and with some others who call themselves believers. Those who remain unbelievers have made their choice, and God will continue to try to get their attention throughout their lives, because it is His desire that none would be lost. And God continues to try to reveal to those other professors that works do not save us. “Works” do not save us, but works do come naturally by faith once an individual realizes that they are indeed “saved,” others can become the focus (Ephesians 2:8,9 and James 2:18, 26).

Belief in the Lord Jesus brings with it first the indwelling, and then the actions of the Holy Spirit of God. The good works come from Him, working through us, in many ways showing our faith by works of compassion and empathy. In these are displayed the gifts of the Spirit. If we ask for them, He will not deny us.

Spiritual gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 - Word of wisdom; knowledge; faith; healing; miracles; prophecy; discerning of spirits; diverse languages; interpretation of those languages. Ephesians 4:11– apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

Bobservations Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
1 John 5:9-21 - "Blessed Assurance"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:  

1 John chapter 5 serves as a concluding exhortation to those who believe in Jesus Christ. It offers reassurance of eternal life and emphasizes the importance of love and obedience in the Christian Walk.

All through the epistle he’s been giving tests, tests that identify the true and the false believers. There were false teachers among these believers. There were antichrists among these believers. There were spiritual fakes and frauds and phonies and deceivers among these believers. They were insecure, as believers tend to be when they’re not well taught, and so John gives tests, doctrinal tests, the test of understanding a true view of man as sinful, the test of understanding a true view of Jesus Christ, who He is and why He came. Those are the doctrinal tests. The moral tests have to do with obedience to the law of God and to Christ, and love for God and not the world, and love for others. 

As we read and study John's epistle, we are easily able to discern whether or not if what we believe lines up with God's Word.  John gave certain tests by which we can test the spirits, doctrines, teachings, teachers and those who claim to be Believers. Believers believe the right things about themselves as sinners and about Jesus Christ as Savior. They obey the Word of God and demonstrate love for Him and love for others.

John declared, “This is why I’ve written this. I want you to know; I want you to be certain; I want you to be confident.”

The apostle John was vitally concerned that his “little children” (5:21) know a number of things because they had come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, a quick survey of this 5-chapter letter reveals at least the following things we can know: 
  1. We can know that we know God (2:3, 13, 14; 4:7). 
  2. We can know that we are in God (2:5). 
  3. We can know that it is the last hour (2:18). 
  4. We can know the truth (2:21; 3:19). 
  5. We can know that Jesus is righteous (2:29). 
  6. We can know that we will be like Jesus (3:2). 
  7. We can know Jesus appeared to take away sins (3:5). 
  8. We can know that Jesus is sinless (3:5). 
  9. We can know that we have passed out of death into life (3:14). 
  10. We can know no murderer has eternal life (3:15). 
  11. We can know love (3:16; 4:16). 
  12. We can know that God abides in us (3:24; 4:13). 
  13. We can know the Spirit of God (4:2). 
  14. We can know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error (4:6). 
  15. We can know that we love God’s children (5:2). 
  16. We can know that we have eternal life (5:13). 
  17. We can know that God answers prayer (5:15). 
  18. We can know that we will not practice sin (5:18). 
  19. We can know that we belong to God (5:19). 
  20. We can know that the Son of God has come (5:20).
  21. We can know that the Son of God has given us understanding (5:20). 
  22. We can know Him who is true (5:20).
In this final section of 1 John (5:13-21), John the things every believer can and should know. Seven times the word know appears. Christianity is not an “I hope so” or “I think so” faith. It is an “I know so” faith because what has been revealed in the Bible was given to us by God, a God who speaks and a God who speaks only truth. As he brings his letter to close, what is it, in particular, that John wants, that God wants, every child of His to know?
  • We can know we have eternal life
  • We can know that God answers prayer
  • We can know victory over sin
  • We can know we belong to God
  • We can know what is true
Knowing these things brings confidence.  That confidence is knowing that as we come to God in prayer, He hears our prayers and will answer according to His will (verses 14-17).

Quick Review: The chapter opens by establishing a connection between being born of God, believing in Jesus as the Christ, and loving both God and his children. This love is demonstrated through keeping God’s commandments, which are described as not burdensome. It then highlights the believer’s victory over the world through faith in Jesus Christ.

John presents various evidences for Christ’s identity as the Son of God, including the Spirit, the water of baptism, and the blood of the cross. This section provides believers with confidence in their salvation. John declares that, for believers, this testimony about Jesus is both objective and personal. Christians have evidence of the truth because God lives within them. There are natural, powerful effects of a relationship with Christ that can be seen and felt by ourselves, and by others. Those who do not believe God, John says, are rejecting His truth, which is the same as accusing Him of lying.

There is a final warning in verse 21, that every Believer must heed, Keep yourselves from idols."  
John ends this epistle with a warning. Cities across the Mediterranean were filled with idol worship. But throughout this letter, the errors that John has confronted have focused on a wrong Christology, lack of love, and lawlessness. Why does he bring up idol worship now?

Because John has just exhorted his readers that Jesus Christ the Son is 
"the true God and eternal life" (5:20). The essence of idolatry is substituting something false and unworthy in the place of the true God. So, John is saying: Little children, watch yourselves so that you don't let anything false or unworthy take the place of your true faith in the true God -- a fitting way to conclude!

Sunday Morning Audio Message:  

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

Hath the Witness (5:10) - The internal witness is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is both 
"in heaven" (as the third Person of the Godhead) and "in earth" (note 5:7-8), as He indwells each believer.  Compare Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:6.

Made Him a Liar (5:10) - Those who recoil at the thought of eternal punishment of the lost need to reckon with the infinite magnitude of their sin - that of calling their own Creator a liar.  An infinite sin warrants infinite punishment, especially in light of the infinite sacrifice made for them by their Creator, and the free gift of infinite life (5:11) offered them by that loving God on the basis of His sacrifice.  The punishment is more than merited by the crime.

The Record (5:10) - The same Greek word, in either verb or noun form (martureo, marturia).  It is translated "record" three times in this epistle, "testify" twice, and "witness" seven times.  
These Things (5:13) - References all that John has written in his letter.

That Ye May Know (5:13) - While John wrote his Gospel to bring unbelievers to faith (John 20:31), he wrote the epistle to give Believers confidence that they possessed eternal life. 

Confidence (5:14) - Confidence in God.  God's love delivers us from self-condemnation.  The manifestation of God's love in a believer's life and deeds brings confidence about his relationship with God. Christians can know with absolute confidence that God answers prayer when they approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

According to His Will (5:14) - This phrase constitutes a strategic key to answered prayer.  To pray according to God's will is to pray in accord with what He would want, not what we would desire or insist that He do for us (John 14:13, 14).  

He Heareth Us (5:14) - The word hear signifies that God always hears the prayers of His children (Psalm 34:15-17), but not always in the manner they are presented.

Sin Unto Death (5:16) - Such a sin could be any premeditated and unconfessed sin that causes the Lord to end a believer's life.  It is not one particular sin, but whatever sin is the final one in the tolerance of God.  Failure to repent of and forsake sin may eventually lead to physical death as a judgment of God.

Pray For It (5:16) - Praying according to God's will with the specific example of sin leading to death."  No intercessory prayer will be effective for those who have committed such sin.  There is no use in praying for the dead.

Unrighteousness is Sin (5:17) - Here is a very succinct definition of sin.  

Keepeth Himself (5:18) -"Keepeth" is used in the sense of "guardeth."  The born-again Christian should guard himself against the deceptions of Satan by constantly availing himself of "the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18).  We resist the devil steadfastly in the faith (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8, 9).  We follow Christ's example in silencing him with appropriate Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11).  That "wicked one" cannot touch us to the extent that we thus guard ourselves against the wiles of the devil, (1 John 4:4).  The Believer belongs to God, Satan must operate within God's sovereignty and cannot function beyond what God allows, as in the example of Job (Job 2:5; Romans 16:20).  While Satan may persecute, tempt, test, and accuse the believer, God protects His children and places definite limits on Satan's influence or power (2:13; John 10:28; 17:12-15).

We Are of God (5:19) - We can be certain that Christians belong to God.  Only two types of people exist in the world according to scripture:  they are either the children of God, or the children of Satan.  

Wickedness (5:19) - This explicitly refers to "that wicked one" of the previous verse.  Satan indeed is not"the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), the one "Which deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).  We, however, "are of God" and certainly should not be pandering to the world system, as so many churches do today. 

True (5:20) - The word means "genuine" as opposed to what is false (vs 21).  Jesus Christ is the TRUE God.  The greatest certainty of all that we know is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  This is the doctrinal foundation out of which comes love and obedience.  

Idols (5:21) - John contrasts the term idols with "the true God" of verse 20.  He has reference here to the false teachers who withdrew from the brotherhood with which they had been formerly associated (2:19).  Their false beliefs and practices are the idols from which the readers are commanded to protect themselves.  The false teachers upheld the world's philosophy as superior to God's revelation as demonstrated in their perversion of basic Christian teaching (faith, love, and obedience).  John closes by highlighting the importance of adherence to the fundamentals of the faith. 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Morning Message: Overcoming the World


Bobservations' Column
Titled: "Overcoming the World"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The enemies of the Cross are the same that are the enemies of Israel. And what we have seen since October 7, 2023 and April 13, 2024 is the promises of God fulfilled against that enemy. This is a hard saying to receive because of all the destruction and death reported in the media since those days. It has infiltrated every nation, and polarized both sides of the war, and even the unlearned on our college campuses. (See Joshua 5:13 – 6:27)

Hamas and Hezbollah share Iran’s ideology. It promotes violence against Israel (Jews), and the West (Christians). The Islamic teachings state it clearly: “Do not make friends with the Jews or the Christians; for they are friends of one another.” “O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (this one was spoken by a tree, in the Hadith, one of Islam's holy books.)

“And I shall bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” from Genesis 12:3, spoken as a promise to Abraham and his progeny. Considering the Palestinian battle cry, “from the river to the sea,” it has backfired on them just as Pharaoh’s threat backfired on him when he cursed the firstborn of Moses. Likewise, the Israelis have pushed Hamas to the sea.

But there’s more: Iran’s attack against Israel on April 13th with hundreds of rockets, drones, and missiles has stirred the ire of the living God! President Raisi of Iran, and many of his upper-level cabinet members were killed in a helicopter crash. Many of his Generals in Syria and Lebanon have also been killed in recent months, including one just Wednesday who was responsible for rockets being launched into upper Galilee from the City of Tyre, in Lebanon.

Why am I telling you all of this? I am telling you this because God’s Word is true. And the media is reporting it! The hardness of the heart of God’s enemies today numbers more than the Chariots and Horsemen of Pharaoh’s Army in the days of the Red Sea crossing. They all perished in the Sea.

Perhaps even more sad is that peace-loving Iranians who hate the regime they live under, danced in the streets and celebrated President Raisi’s death with fireworks! What kind of legacy has he left behind for his family and children. After killing thousands in Iran, he became the Butcher of Bagdad, just as surely as President Bashar al-Assad became the Butcher of Damascus after killing so many of his own country. THIS is the religion of peace?

From Proverbs 8:13 -

 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth.”

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message
1 John 5:1-9 - "Overcoming the World"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions

This marvelous epistle has a very clear-cut purpose. It has the purpose of demonstrating the tests by which someone can know they’re a Christian. Chapter 5 verse 13 is really the key verse to the whole epistle. 
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”  
This is a letter written to provide assurance of salvation.  It's basic Christianity 101. It cycles back through the same themes again and again, and each time John cycles back through he broadens and widens our understanding of those themes. 

As we come into chapter 5, however, there’s a special note here in the first five verses. It is the issue of the overcomer. Of the twenty-four times the word occurs in the NT, John uses it twenty-one times (See also: Revelation 2:7, 11, 17; 2:26; 3:5, 12, 21). There are several different forms of this term in these verses, all emphasize the victorious nature of the believer.  

There are so many wonderful titles in the New Testament by which we describe believers in Christ.  We are called Christians, children, children of God, children of light, children of the day, and children of obedience. We are called believers or the faithful. We are called friends of Jesus Christ. We are called brothers and sisters. We are called sheep. We’re called saints, holy ones. We are called soldiers. We are called witnesses. We are called stewards. We are called fellow-citizens. We are called lights in the world. We’re called the elect of God. We’re called the chosen. We’re called ambassadors of Christ. We’re called ministers. We’re called servants. We’re called disciples. We’re called heirs. We’re called joint-heirs. We’re called branches in the vine. We’re called members of the body of Christ. We’re called living stones by which the temple of God is built. We are called epistles, living letters. We’re called temples. We’re called beloved. We’re called followers. And there are more.

Each of these terms give us the definition of who we are in Christ Jesus.  And in a sense, it takes all of those terms to express the fullness of what it means to belong to God through faith in Christ. There’s one other title that is used a number of times in today's text. We are overcomers. 
 Overcomers are victors, or winners. And they are those who love and obey His commandments.

According to John, entrance into God’s family comes by faith alone. Yet, this faith is never truly alone since it always results in love and obedience. Unlike the apostle Paul, who was at pains to distinguish sharply between saving faith itself and the good works that result from it, for John faith and love are so tightly connected that he can’t speak of one without implying the other. This by no means blurs the lines between the two, but it does highlight one particular strand of our spiritual DNA: Those born into God’s family obey God and love their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we have already heard, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

There’s an important caveat here, however: Obedience isn't the entrance fee we pay to get into the family of God. John has already shown that our spiritual heritage is a product of God's great love in Christ and not our own efforts (3:1). Notice also the lack of an imperative in verse three. The translation is not “For this is the love of God, that we OUGHT to keep his commandments," but rather "This is the love of God, that we KEEP his commandments.” Can you see the difference? It’s promissory in nature. We aren’t able to birth ourselves spiritually by demonstrating the requisite amount of love.  We cannot bring about our own spiritual birth any more than a newborn can deliver itself. We need someone else to do it for us, outside ourselves.

So, chapter 5 emphasizes the believer's ability to "overcome" the world (1 John 5:1–5) through the power of Christ. Overcomers are those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The term witness is the theme of verses (6-12).  The passage concerns the witness or testimony of God and the Spirit to the world regarding the great truth of the deity of Jesus Christ.  He gives two kinds of testimony: external (6-9) which we will cover today, and internal (vs. 10-12) which we will cover next week.

Sunday Morning Audio Message:

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

Whoever believes (5:1) The term believes conveys the idea of continuing faith, making the point that the mark of genuine believers is that they CONTINUE in the faith throughout their life.  Saving belief is not simply an intellectual acceptance, but wholehearted dedication to Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is the Christ (5:1) - Believes what? The object of the believer's faith is JESUS.  That He is the promised Messiah, the Anointed One. That God sent Him to be the Savior from sin. Whoever places faith in Him as the ONLY Savior, has been born again, and is an overcomer, a winner.

Loves Him Also (5:1) - The test of true love for God is whether we love the children of God, our Christian brethren.

Keep His Commandments (5:2) - This phrase is repeated in verses 2 and 3.  Obedience is a characteristic of an overcomer.  The word keep conveys the idea of constant obedience (see John 8:31, 32; 14:15, 21; 15:10).

Commandments Are Not Grievous (5:3) - Grievous means burdensome.  They are not like the man-made religious traditions (Matthew 23:4).  Jesus said that His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30).  

Overcomes (5:4) - The word overcomes in the original language conveys the idea that believers have continual victory over the world.

The World (5:4, 5) - Satan's worldwide system of deception and wickedness.  Because of Jesus Christ and His provision of Salvation, Believers are victorious over the invisible system of evil that Satan operates to capture people's souls for hell.   Faith in Jesus Christ and dedication of one's life to Him make a person an overcomer.

Water and Blood (5:6) - These constitute external, objective witnesses to who Jesus Christ is.  They refer to Jesus' baptism (water) and death (blood).  John again writing to show that God has given testimony to the deity of Jesus through both His baptism and death. 

Spirit that Beareth Witness (5:6) - This is the witness of the Holy Spirit, who bears testimony of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the world.  Christ's baptism, and shed blood, and the Spirit of truth all give a united testimony concerning the saving work of Jesus Christ. Since the Spirit of God cannot lie, His testimony is sure.

Three That Bear Record (5:7) - Old Testament law required "the testimony of two or three witnesses" to establish the truth of a matter (See Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; John 8:17, 18; 1 Timothy 5:19).  The three that bear record in heaven are the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost - our triune God.

The Spirit...the Water...the Blood (5:8) - At Jesus' baptism, the Father and the Spirit testified to the Son (Matthew 3:16, 17).  The death of Jesus Christ also testified to who He was (Matthe 27:54; Hebrews (;14).  

Witness in Earth (5:8) - The reference to three witnesses "in earth" strengthens the case for the validity of reference in 1 John 5:7 to the three witnesses "in heaven."  They are the same - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  

WhitestoneCF Media - Web TV

WhitestoneCF Media - Web TV