Saturday, December 28, 2013

ANOTHER CHANCE


Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz
 
If we were to listen to an old Andy Williams Christmas Album, we would learn that the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years is the happiest and most wonderful season of all. As we approach New Year’s Day this week, we surely know that this joyous season is winding down to a close. 

This of course, is a worldy view based upon commerce, sales, gift-giving, kindness, love, and compassion. It is also one of the most emotional times of the year. Folks get melancholy about years past and forget that fresh, joyous memories can be made every day. One does not need a holiday of any designation to be generous, and look for special moments to share with others. 

Since we are more than certain that Jesus wasn’t born precisely on December 25th, perhaps this is the real message of the holidays: we can be loving and generous 24/7/365 days each year. It is a choice to live that way; it’s a choice to make any moment special.   

As New Year’s Resolutions are being formulated this week, this is one resolution that exemplifies our faith and puts it into action. Good works follow after faith. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News that Jesus encouraged us to spread to the four corners of the earth. And if you think about it, Paul’s Epistles are the practical application of Jesus’ Good News. Paul writes about his experiences in making every day count for Jesus. And within Paul’s words, we hear of successes, and days that were less so. Planting seeds is not an exact science. Some seeds will be carted away by scavengers, others will fall on rocky terrain, but some will fall on good soil, ready to sprout with new life. Many of Paul’s statements in the Epistles might give us the understanding that one seed fallen in good soil is worth all the fruitless results of the rest. “…I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:18(b)

Paul found his joy in the sharing of the Gospel, not in the success of his ministry. Paul knew well that it wasn’t him that brought growth. His mission and calling was as ours: spread the Gospel. These are truly special moments: Obedience to Jesus, and joy in the possibilities!


“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;
but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.” – 1 Cor. 1:18


Sunday, December 22, 2013

“ THE MIGHTY GOD ”

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The celebrations around us reveal that the anniversary of Jesus’ Birth is this week. From the lighting of Christmas Trees in Town Squares in recent weeks, to Christmas parties with friends and extended family, the signs are all around us. Here in the USA, the Thanksgiving Holiday itself is a sign of the time, announcing that Christmas is near. And the closer we get to December 25th, the more intense our schedules get with more and more demands on our time. 

And as our holiday schedules fill up, it’s exactly as a woman that travails with her birth pangs. They get closer and closer, and more and more intense until finally full labor ensues and a child is born. 

As we celebrate the glorious birth of our Savior and King, there were signs all around: in the heavens; in historical record; even in the word of knowledge given to an old man in the temple named Simeon. Though his name does not appear until the New Testament, he was truly an Old Testament Saint who was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:25-35). As Simeon spent time in the Temple, the Holy Spirit was with him, and he recognized the Baby in Mary’s arms immediately! Lifting Him up Simeon said, “…mine eyes have seen Thy salvation…” 

It makes me wonder if other spirit-filled Old Testament Saints were also waiting and looking with anticipation for the promised Messiah. I wonder too if Simeon had shared with others about the wonderful promise given to him by God? If Simeon was getting on in years, would they not all be looking with excited anticipation? 

Just as God did with a young Virgin named Mary, He revealed something to another otherwise unremarkable and insignificant person. Though easily overlooked by family and neighbors, God has made known His mighty works through the least of mankind, and Simeon and Mary’s names are memorialized for all generations in God’s Word. Take heart, gentle Believer! There is no one so insignificant that God will not reveal to them His plans and His schedule for salvation! Be listening for Him; be filled with the Holy Spirit; Jesus is coming again! 

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

GIFTS FOR MEN


Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? The merchants say that time is running short, and you don’t want to be embarrassed on Christmas morning. And the advertising media is even worse, clamoring for more and more purchases, all with easy credit terms, of course. I cannot even count how many catalogs have come in the mail in recent weeks, many companies sending them multiple times each week.

Jesus gave us the best gift ever, and it wasn’t on Christmas, but on the cross. During all the holiday gaity, it’s easy to lose sight of that. God gave us His “self” in the form of His only begotten Son, that we might have eternal life (John 3:16). Our gifts to each other pale in comparison, for they are all temporal.

Thirty-three years transpired between Jesus birth and His death. Thirty-three years of giving daily and learning obedience to the Father. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” –Heb. 5:8

Besides the enduring of pain, another translation of the word “suffering,” is to put up with, or simply, to endure. You might recall Jesus saying to the Disciples, “How long must I suffer you? This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus’ words confirm His frustration, and His upset was not without cause, but as always, He again taught them anew the basics of miraculously expelling demons.
As the Psalm for today says in verses 18 and 19, He received gifts for men, and that He loads us with benefits daily. I pray that we all realize that Jesus’ gifts to us come daily, and there are many each day. While mankind looks for creature comforts and convenience items for gift giving, Jesus gives us the gifts we need to live, and to help us in ministering the Good News to others.
 

The Father gave us the Son. The Son gave us Himself, leaving the Holy Spirit with us. The Spirit teaches us all things, and reminds us of the teachings of The Word. God has given Himself fully to us; to benefit us daily in multiple ways.

“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”– Matthew 10:8


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving and Chanukah

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz
 
Israel’s region of Judea was for a time part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Then, in 200 BC, Antiochus III of Syria, defeated King Ptolemy in battle, and Judea became part of the Seleucid (Syrian) Empire.

To conciliate his new Jewish subjects, Antiochus III declared that the Jews could practice their faith in Jerusalem according to their own laws and traditions. But 25 years later, son Antiochus IV invaded Jerusalem, and Judaism was outlawed for the sake of Zeus worship. Sacrifices of swine were common sacrifices to Zeus, and so the seeds of a revolution were planted.

Two generations of the Maccabee family led the Jewish revolt against Syria. Under Judah Maccabee the Temple was liberated by 165 BC, and it was in need of cleansing and rededication. A new alter replaced the defiled one, and new altar vessels replaced those that had been plundered, or used for ritual pig sacrifices.

But for the rededication however, only enough lamp oil was found to keep the Temple Menorah lit for one day, In accordance with the Talmud, pure virgin olive oil was required for the Menorah, and it would take eight days to process a new kosher supply, and it needed to be lit during the night.

Nonetheless, the priest lit the Menorah and the day’s-worth of oil lasted for eight days. The righteous efforts of the Maccabees were blessed by God, and the Lord caused the oil to last until a new supply of kosher oil could be produced. An eight day celebration was proclaimed to recall God’s faithfulness: Chanukah.


If the story bears a resemblance to Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, then we see the same miracle of God multiplying the physical supply to provide for the need of His people. How appropriate that our Thanksgiving coincided this year with this Jewish “Festival of Lights.” In the Gospels Jesus promised to make the Apostles “fishers of men,” and said he was “the Light of the world,” and the “Bread of life.”

 “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” -Phil. 4:19

Jesus Christ is still mankind’s greatest need, and greatest supplier.





Saturday, November 23, 2013

...WITH THANKSGIVING


Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Holiday Season officially gets underway this week with Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, and Black Friday sales for merchants and businesses. One minute homes will be filled with the aromas of turkeys roasting, stuffing and pumpkin pies. Then in a matter of hours, many will be out into the cut-throat world of merchandising coupons and limited-time special offers and sales.

This “season” of merchandising begins with the Thanksgiving celebration for family, and ends with the celebration of our Savior’s Birth on Christmas. It seems rather appropriate that Christmas turns our thoughts back to God, family, and friends; saving us from more of the world’s values, temptations, and come-ons. More, new, better, and hi-tech are the siren calls of retailers, while love, joy, and peace, is the call of our Savior.

Consumerism is their goal. Happiness and joy is ours. Over time, goals have been mingled and mixed to blend into a frenzied month of trying to fulfill our heart’s desires with material goods. Blessing others is becoming a lost art. Face-to-face communication is willingly being relinquished to texting, and gifts given to bless quickly become obsolete and unusable. If it makes you fear for our younger and future generations, your fears are well founded.

Keeping our hearts and minds on Jesus is our only protection for the worldly values that have crept into our society and now scream for recognition. To keep from slipping further into the world, Jesus’ teachings must be at the forefront of our every breath. “Hold Fast to that which is good,” Paul said in First Thessalonians 5:21. All other gains are but dung, Paul told the Philippians in 3:8.
Make this Thanksgiving a day of truly giving thanks to the One who is due our praise and our worship. Because of His greatness, faithfulness, and love, He didn’t need to go shopping for a gift; He already knew our great need and gave us His Son.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and (empty lies), after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”    ~ Colossians 2:8 ~








Sunday, November 17, 2013

I WILL DECLARE

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

King David recalls God’s mighty works in today’s Psalm. This man after God’s own heart relishes in the faithfulness of the Lord, and sits in awe of His great power. The good times are times to praise Him and sing. The hard times are to draw us back to Him when we have strayed, and rejoice through it all.

But, not every difficult time is a judgment inflicted because of sin. Most often, it is just life in a fallen world. Straying concedes a starting point of fellowship and relationship. We have a sense of what it means to be God’s elect: His, and chosen before the foundation of the earth. What about that time before we knew God’s call upon our hearts? Often it is a time of sin, shame, and selfishness. If we are to glory, we glory in God’s ability to know us and call us anyway; to catch our hearts; to draw us to His side; to reveal His love for us.

The Psalmist writes here of God’s foreknowledge and His ability to love us enough to keep us, in spite of our tendency to stray. His works are fearsome and hold us in awe. In hindsight, we say, “Look what the Lord just did!”

Jesus’ awe inspiring accomplishments catch our attention and have the calculated effect of returning our minds and hearts back to Him. I use the word “calculated” because Jesus knows what it will take to get us to return to His side, and it is different for each of us. He is a very personal Savior and desires that personal relationship with us. As He knows us, He wants us to know Him…


(from the hymn, Come Thou Fount)

O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

THE CONFIDENCE OF ALL

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Confidence.  A wonderful word used to acknowledge someone's strong, and practiced capabilities.  You might remember a parent or mentor using this word to encourage you to learn a new task or a skill of any kind.  Careers are built on such confidence in a recognized ability to execute an assignment to its fullest.

I went looking for synonyms to this word, and found the following:  Assurance, self-confidence, self-possession, composure, cool, style, ease, and poise.  Even the word "aplomb" was among those similar meanings.  What's indicated is an acknowledgment that someone can perform their task with great skill and ease.  They've practiced it, and have the procedure "down."  

When we apply these words to God, and to Jesus His Son, we can only be awed by His abilities to do all things, and to do them with forethought, planning, and experience and ease:  aplomb.  There really is nothing that's too hard for Him.  On a scale of one to ten, God's skill level for all things is 100.

This time of year as I think about the snowy roads coming our way, changing to snow tires used to be a 15 minute task.  Today, those skills have diminished with time, and sore hands and fingers.

Along with Jesus' forethought, planning, experience, and ease with which He does things, there is another word that must be added:  grace.  Unmerited favor.  It is something that we cannot earn.  Yet it gives God pleasure to give it to us in abundance.  And beyond that, God has promised so much more...Today is a day for our thanksgiving, if we are of His flock.  I am confident of this.

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."  - Luke 12:32





Saturday, November 2, 2013

When I Remember Thee



Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

With all the emphasis on staying fit these days, and hearing the advice of our doctors and health care professionals for our need to exercise, one T-shirt seen recently brought home the message, but with regard to our spiritual health, in addition to our physical health.

There is an underlying message here, and that is that our spiritual life should blend with and match our physical life – our walk should match our talk! Immediately, two scripture verses came to my mind. No doubt there are dozens more that are appropriate.

Isaiah 55:2 – “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

I Timothy 4:8 – “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

One speaks of eating, and the other speaks of exercise; BOTH speak to the greater need for righteously living for the Lord. These verses point to eternity, having their subject matter firmly planted on earth. You might also recognize the subtle directive to having our earthly eye set on heavenly things.


Exercise Your Faith...
…Walk With Jesus !

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you as you meditate on His Word.
As King David did that, he was given hope, direction, and purpose. 





Saturday, October 26, 2013

CONTRASTS IN TRUTH

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

King David’s life is a study in contrasts, and his Psalms reflect it regularly. The Apostle Paul wrote eloquently of the contrasts in his own life, both before and after his conversion to Jesus. Perhaps nowhere in his Epistles is this more evident than in the Roman letter, in the seventh chapter. There we find statements like, “O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” This is the anointed Apostle? What chance do we have then?

It is hard to imagine Paul in such conflict, but in reading his words, it is clear that he has not compromised and “accepted” the fleshly side of his life. Indeed, he fights it continually, moment by moment, as necessary. Paul comes to a reality, with which he is most uncomfortable: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present within me.” Romans 7:21.

Have we ever felt that way? Sure we have. We wonder how we can sometimes move so quickly from one mode to the other… from the spirit into the flesh. Yet Paul assures us in First Corinthians that there is no temptation taken us as such as is common to man. As Paul was, we are assured that this is indeed the human condition of a Believer.

Sin (the flesh) begins in our thoughts, and if it takes hold, we fall to those temptations. Paul states then that every thought is to be brought into the captivity of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). By this means, no corrupt communication will pass from our lips and defile us, for it is what comes out of our mouths that defile us. What measures of grace we must receive daily from Christ! Most often we are not even aware of it until we take time to examine our hearts daily. Who indeed shall deliver us from the bodies of this death?

Jesus felt our same temptations, yet remained above them. And as He knew David’s heart, He knows yours and mine too. Come now to the following reality, also acknowledged by Paul: 


“There is therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ
Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” Romans 8:1











Saturday, October 19, 2013

HUMILITY AND HOPE

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

God asks that we approach Him in humility; that we seek His salvation with a broken and contrite heart. The world does not ask for our humility. We are taught to be bold, self-confident, and to put on attributes of openness and welcoming, and even a gregarious nature at times. The world wants us to grab for all the gusto we can take.

Aware of the difference between what the world expects from us, and what God wants from us, gives us a glimpse of what the world was like in the days of Noah. Genesis 6:5 says “that every imagination of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually.” Verse 6 goes on to tell us that it repented God that He ever made man, for it grieved Him in His heart. We don’t often think about the severity of man’s dilemma back then, but if you read a little further, it says that “Noah found grace in God’s sight.”

Many ask, “When is the Lord is coming back?” We are told that it will be “as in the days of Noah.” There will again be those who find grace in God’s sight. It will be His church.

Asking for anything is an act of humility. It is us seeing our own need, and submitting a request to someone (or to the One) whom has what we desire. If we desire something from God, we ask in prayer, with humility and hope. He already knows our needs. He already knows whether it is good for us, and for what purposes we will use it. Sometimes, His foreknowledge is reason enough to withhold from us the things that we ask.

But there is one thing that He will not withhold from us. We ask Him in prayerful hope and in humility, for it is not available through any other: A relationship with Him, in His Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 – “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”










Saturday, October 12, 2013

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Our headlines are filled with wars and rumors of wars, famines, diseases, strange weather patterns, financial crisis here and abroad, religious upheaval world-wide, and ethnic-religious hatred among the many children of Abraham, and among the heathen as well.

Yet Jeremiah 31:35-36 reassures us of Jesus being seated at the Right Hand of the Father, overseeing all things day to day, even the physical laws of the sun, moon, stars, and the planets. Jesus oversees the spin of the Earth!

We do not have a God who slumbers or sleeps. Jesus is acutely aware of our “standings up,” and our “sittings down.” Sparrows don’t fall to the ground without His knowing about it, and He is very aware of our national crisis, the US Government shut-down. He knows how it is affecting us and our loved ones. Our elected officials claim to be in control, but none are truly leading the charge to bring a resolution to our national and personal dilemma. In-fighting and accusations come from both sides of the political aisle, and our nation’s creditors are watching closely and issuing warnings about defaulting on our loans. While it is a concern for us, God already sees and has the remedy for all of it. Jesus is and will always be our Victor, to bring us all to the place He has gone on ahead to prepare for us. Through times of plenty and in times of want, He has all that we need. Do not fall into the sin of worry, for it only leads to sins of self-pity, and to discontent: undermining our Faith in Jesus Christ.

The marriage vows remind us that we are Jesus’ Bride, for better or worse; for richer or for poorer, in sickness, and in health. We are His. He is ours.

Ephesians 5:29- “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord (does) the Church: ” 


Philippians 4:19- “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 37:25- “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread.”

Matthew 24:13- “But he that endures to the end, the same shall be saved.”







Saturday, October 5, 2013

REWARD FOR THE RIGHTEOUS

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

“Where is the Body?” It was the type of question we’ve heard from Mary Magdelene, or might expect on a TV police drama, like CSI or NCIS. “Where’s the body?” I surely didn’t expect to hear it from another pastor, concerning the Body of Christ. None the less, that’s often the state of the modern Church.

In every Church, there is about 10% of the congregation that does 90% of the work in dedicated service to the Lord. (Praise Jesus for that 10%!) But it’s much more than just the work of the church and around the church, it’s also the teachings and participation in services. One cannot be considered a member of a faith community when one’s life is so busy that church participation is but once each week. What kind of family gets together once-a-week?

If we were to consider the spiritual feeding that goes on in church, one meal per week would have us on a starvation diet. Weight loss would be easy on a physical diet like that, but on such a spiritual diet, spiritual weakness sets in, ill spiritual health, wrong doctrines crop up, and even spiritual death due to malnutrition. We won’t be fed well enough to face the world’s trials each week.

Do you remember the Wonder Bread Commercials of years past? “Wonder Bread Builds Strong Bodies 12 Ways!” Wonder Bread was more than just a soft, fluffy slice of starch. Its ingredients were a cocktail of nutritious vitamins and minerals, each going to different parts of our bodies and brains to grow us up strong, healthy, and energetic! Likewise in Health and in Spirit, we will only get out as much as we put in. Many will say they are doing as much as they can due to busy schedules. Others will say they’ve done it before, now it’s the next generation’s turn. Still others will tell you anything else to justify the distance they put between themselves and the rest of the Body of Christ. But those that find excuses to avoid church, do so at their own risk.

Hebrews 10:25 - “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”








 







Saturday, September 28, 2013

AWAKE UP!

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Everyone has those “DUH” moments once in a while. We live our lives daily, and then suddenly, a light goes on somewhere in our brains and we think, “There’s something I have to do…”

I think it was one of those moments for the Pharisees that Jesus was speaking of in our Gospel reading today in Matthew 3:7. The scriptures they knew so well began to speak to their hearts as they saw The Baptist’s ministry fulfilling God’s Word. Isaiah 40:3 records, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” This same caliber of men, some 30 years prior, knew where the new King of Israel was to be born. Though well versed in the scriptures, they all failed to make the spiritual application of the Word to their hearts and lives, or to their congregations!

It should not come as a surprise that towards the end of His ministry, Jesus referred to these Temple Leaders as a “generation of vipers,” and “white washed sepulchers.” So intent were they upon the Messiah they wanted, that when God sent the Messiah that they needed, they rejected Him. Inside them, there were dead men’s bones; unregenerate, lifeless, and without the Spirit of God.

The Spirit of God resides within the heart of every Believer to catch us in our wrong thinking, and remind us of what Jesus said, and the decisions we should be making: God’s way, or my own?

The Spirit will bring to our minds other scriptures to support God’s best desire for us, and for the other choice, we have to justify ourselves without the benefit of God’s Word.

The humble heart will always be teachable, and able to acknowledge wrong, and make necessary changes to find God’s best desire for him or herself, knowing full well that God’s mercies are new every morning.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” ~Isaiah 40:3








Saturday, September 21, 2013

THY VOWS ARE UPON ME

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz
 

Our reading today in Psalm 91 reminds us of the many trials we endure, and the source of our safety and comfort. With the crisis in Syria in recent weeks, and our studies of late in Ezekiel 38 & 39, we are as assured of our place in heaven with Christ during the Great Tribulation Period as we are that global crises will continue until He comes. We cling to Psalm 91 and other favorite passages at all times though, not just times of global crisis. In the smaller, more personal tribulations that frequently define our lives, the scriptures are a gracious gift from God: His Word to hold onto.

Yesterday, I was reminded that some of our trials are the result of just living, in that of a fallen world, and being surrounded by it. The source of trials is the same however, whether personal or global. Spiritual Warfare goes on daily and is the cause of trials of the heart, and challenges to the body. It’s not flesh and blood that are the source, but spiritual wickedness in high places.

Yesterday’s trial wasn’t even an overtly wicked deed, but just someone’s carelessness that caused extra work for many around the church. We were blessed that many were here to help resolve the problem, and the number here was God’s provision, knowing ahead of time what our needs would be. Jesus is THAT faithful to His own! He never leaves us short on resources.

This week, think about whatever trials come your way. Satan will do His best to get your eyes off Jesus, but when we know his game plan, we can remain flexible and be prepared. You, I, or we can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth us. (Phil. 4:13 paraphrased. )

Because we already know that we live in a fallen world, it is of great comfort to know that its Creator lifts us up in spite of all of Satan’s efforts.

“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." ~ Deuteronomy 7:9








Sunday, September 15, 2013

FROM THE NORTH PARTS

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

God's Prophetic Word forms the pattern which history will follow.  Today's reading in Amos 9 could have been plucked from newspaper headlines of fifty years ago, yet it dates to almost 800 years before Christ.  Current events in the Middle East follow the pattern, too.  With Russia now taking such a pre-eminent role in the teetering politics of Syria and its weapons of mass destruction, who would ever have thought that Russia would broker a peace through détente?

Back in 2002, George Bush gave us his famous State of the Union Address during which he labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, an "Axis of Evil."  But these countries have long been a thorn in the side of world politics, not just since Bush's speech.  He merely state the obvious, because "...Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16).

Everyone on Main Street seems to sense that another global war is right around the corner.  The three major issues mentioned in Revelation are inescapably in our headlines:  the failing world economy, political upheaval, and incredible relious differences.  (Antichrist will offer a false resolution to these things.)  In the minds of the people, dark times are looming on the horizon.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:130, "The entrance of thy words gives light;  it gives understanding unto the simple."  Being familiar with God's Word is key to maintaining our peace in troublesome times.  The Believer can take great comfort knowing that God will work everything to the good for His own.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are our patriarchs in the faith.  But there were others in that lineage who turned their backs on God and away from the land given to them:  Cain departed from the Lord and went East; Ishmael, Isaac's brother went West to Ethe land of his mother; and Esau, Jacob's brother went east, and south, and west and mingled with his cousins, the Egyptians.  The "Arab Spring of Old" continues today as the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, (unless) He revealeth His secret to His servants the prophets."  Amos 3:7


~  Major in the Minor Prophets for RICH BLESSINGS! ~










Monday, September 9, 2013

Look Up!

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The horrifying news from Syria in the last few weeks has been the source of much debate on Capitol Hill, and much prayer in our nation’s churches. Do we as a country retaliate against such wickedness? Our President wants to because he drew a line in the sand, and made threats if it was crossed.

The problem is that our own country does not hold sovereignty over a single other nation. We are not the Police Force of the United Nations, and we do not hold higher moral ground while we have the blood of innocents on our own hands. An attack on Syria would be an Act of War against another sovereign nation. And, meddlers are not looked upon very highly in scripture.
 

When thinking about the times of the Old Testament… Idolaters and cruel tribes (governments) like the Canaanites were declared by God to be worthy of extermination, for the sake of the Israelites. Syria is a nation of idolaters as they follow a false god. Inevitably, God judges harshly for idolatry.

Yet, the voices of Syria’s victims already cry from their graves. The cruelty of Syria’s leaders is evident in the number of deaths. Shamefully, morality (to know good from evil) has become a variable, depending upon where one lives. Justice is elusive among the nations of mankind.

Romans 13:1-7 begins, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power, but of God: The powers that be are ordained of God.” These words are echoed several times throughout the New Testament, and even Jesus adhered to this as He stood before Pontius Pilate. In His human form, God made Himself subject to the authority of the Roman government.

It really doesn’t matter if the gas attack came from the Syrian government, or from the rebels. We must pray to discern whether such hardships can be used to further God’s plan for Israel, and all the world, for it is He who has Sovereign Authority over all things.

Pray that America’s actions do not put Israel in further danger. God still favors His People, and true Christians are among those counted as His.

Psalm 141:10- “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while that I withal escape.”






Sunday, September 1, 2013

A MAN MINE EQUAL

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Many years ago, a Christian friend was in business with a partner. The business was quite successful, and supported the two owners, their familes, and their employees quite well.

More recently, another Christian friend was in the restaurant business with his brother. The friend worked in the restaurant daily, and his brother took care of the bookkeeping and business end of the restaurant. The business was supporting the brothers’ two families, and provided jobs for many people.

In both situations, my friends’ partners were not Christians; neither the first business partner, nor the brother of the second one. The results were catastrophic. Both unsaved partners were taken over by greed and laziness. One “cooked the books,” skimming more profits for himself. The other liked the good life too, and failed to pay the business taxes.

Both these “brothers-In-Christ” ended up losing their businesses and filing for bankruptcy. The first one had to sell his home to pay unpaid business expenses, and then went out on his own to build a new business (which now is also successful). The restaurant owner lost his business location, but kept his restaurant reputation, and has opened in a new location, this time without his brother. Because he was the visible partner in the store each day, established customers will follow him and life will be good again soon.

God provides for His own, is the simplest way to describe what has happened. Freed from their unequal yoke, they will both do well because they love Jesus. And they have learned a valuable lesson in the meantime. Unequal yokes, and ungodly alliances and partnerships take their toll on friendships, families, and marriages. Betrayal in any form is still betrayal. Stay close to Jesus; give preference to being with other faithful believers.

è “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: 
but righteousness delivereth from death.” Proverbs 10:2

è “[Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; 
in honour preferring one another;” Romans 12:10

Saturday, August 24, 2013

BRING BACK THE CAPTIVITY

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz 
 
As brand new Christians, we become aware of Satan’s tricks to hinder our growth in Christ. While planning to go to Church services and studies, we have all experienced times when our attention is drawn away by other things. Our own tiredness, or an unexpected “emergency” of some kind arises, and we tell ourselves, “I’ll go next week.” Sleeping through our alarm clocks can only be used as an excuse just so many times. Genuine sicknesses and health problems do come up, there’s no doubt about that. Family emergencies do occur. It’s difficult to think of a household that hasn’t been affected by these things.

But preparations can avoid many of the things that hinder our fellowship. We should remember that Satan is looking for those he might devour. Exhausting Saturdays and “living for the weekends” can make us weak and vulnerable prey.

When it’s a school night, we make sure the kidos are in bed on time so they can function in the classroom the next day. For jobs and work, we make sure we ourselves are in bed to get enough sleep so that we aren’t late for work, or too groggy to perform our jobs the next day. Why is the Lord any less important than school or work? I am not unsympathetic to this plight we all share. Temptations to skip church come to all of us, but we need one another.

If Satan is roaming about, then busy Saturdays and recreation times are among the socially acceptable ways Satan uses to rob us of the blessings of church and fellowship. The very things that build us up for weekday battles are cast aside for idle pleasures far too often. We need one another.

We plan for work, school, and for relaxation and recreation. Budgeting our time to optimize our schedules can mean we must trade one thing off for another. I pray that none of us would ever short-change Jesus for the time He wants to spend with us; the time that He knows we need. We need one another.

- Hebrews 10:24,25 -

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see that day approaching.”






Saturday, August 17, 2013

EXAMINE SELF; DISCERN OTHERS

Bobservation Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Many years ago, a woman came to me with a difficulty she was having about tithing. Her desire was to give a tithe of a large sum of money given to her by her brother. What troubled her was the source of the money. You see, her brother didn’t always conduct his business with honesty and integrity. She did not want to sully the church tithe box with money that wasn’t gained in an upright manner.

Her brother knew a portion of the gift would go to her church; it was his way of performing a good work. Some of the money would do good for others, but it put his sister into inner turmoil. She had done well to question the gift. She examined her own heart and came to the conclusion that her intents were righteous in obedience. She also did well to question the funds, for she knew her brother’s life by the fruit of it.
Judas Iscariot also had a love for money, and betrayed the Lord because of it. Though he repented and returned the money to the High Priests, they rejected it, for it was now “blood money.” It would defile their coffers if they returned the money to the Temple Funds.


Judas went out and hanged himself because of the betrayal. And the Priests eventually used the money to bless the poor by purchasing a Potter’s field to bury their family members.


God somehow has the ability to turn bad into good (Rom. 8:28). So our Sister-in-Christ determined that she would tithe the money, so the work of the church could continue, and others might be blessed.


Judgment would have come to the Priests for their deeds, and Judas certainly received his reward for his actions. But money has no soul; it can be used for good, or for bad. The heart of the giver determines the difference.

Acts 11:8-9 - “But I said, ‘Not so Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered me again from heaven, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’” 













Saturday, August 10, 2013

DISCERNING TRUTH

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

It tells us in the scriptures that a prophet is not with honor, except in his own country, among his own people, and in his own house. The households, the Tribes, and the Israelites as a whole did not respect the prophets God sent. Nothing in the scriptures indicates that any of the prophets had a bad reputation to overcome. Yet, the prophets were all killed because the people didn’t like being convicted by God’s Word spoken to them. Jesus’ above words are repeated in all four Gospel accounts, so it must be important. You can find them in Matthew 13:57; in Mark 6:4; in Luke 4:24; and in John 4:44. 

 While all of these verses are attributed to our Lord, only three of the four are printed in red in our red-letter edition Bibles, and all four are worded differently. Such are the dynamics of human language. In this case, we must realize that the four Gospels were written to four different audiences. Matthew wrote to the Jews, Mark to the Greeks, Luke to his friend Theophilus, and John to you and me perhaps in personal, everyday language.

If we do not understand what someone is saying, they might say, “Wait, let me put it to you another way.” Stating the same thing different ways allows more people to grasp what we’re talking about. Underlying every word is the true meaning of a statement, but we need to be careful about listening to a single person’s spin on teachings from God’s Word. This was the heresy of the Gnostics, that only they had the truth.

Jesus taught us, “…the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) Words carry weight, and Jesus’ words carry the weight of our blessed Creator. Words bring the spirit of an idea into an audible language.

If we are not being pushed in Jesus’ direction by the words we hear, then we are cautioned by God’s Word to be discerning and use wisdom. He tells us that Satan is a liar, and the father of lies. The Holy Spirit dwelling inside every Believer, will set off alarms if what we hear draws us away from our Savior. Listen closely to what you hear….. be discerning, because the Bible will reaffirm itself in more than one passage, or chapter.












Monday, August 5, 2013

The Sacrifice of Praise

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the Old Testament, God made seven covenants with His people, Israel. Each one offered provision, protection, and precious promises to the Israelites. The covenants covered everything from their offspring, to their land, and even to their future as a nation. No less than seven times we find these words in the Jewish texts: “…they shall be my people; and I will be their God” almost verbatim. Curious to me is the verb tense used: they shall be my people; I will be their God. It indicates a yet future time when the relation between the Israelites and God will be finalized and complete.

They acknowledged God; worshiped Him; offered sacrifices to Him; they followed the prescribed rituals and visited Jerusalem three times each year during the holiday’s (when they weren’t in captivity). Their lips spoke of Him, but their hearts were far from Him.

An eighth covenant was predicted in Jeremiah 29:31, and His Word would be written in the hearts of the Jews rather than on tablets of stone. Through the purging of their hearts, the people would never leave Him.

It’s impossible to turn our own hearts consistently to the Lord; how will God turn a whole nation to Himself? Honestly, I am clueless… except for the words of Jesus: “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me…This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.”

Christians are as prone to wander as the Israelites. Yet we have this covenant in Jesus’ blood to draw us to Him, when we draw from its well. The blood of bullocks and goats is not wanted by God. He tells Believers that there is no more blood sacrifice to be made, because God’s Only Son has been sacrificed for us. That’s how He changes us. That’s how He will change a whole nation. When He reveals Himself to them, they will ask, “Where did you get these wounds?” Then, they shall know. Then shall they see and hear their scriptures in spirit and in truth. He will at last be their God, and they will be His people. Then shall the only remaining sacrifice be made: A sacrifice of praise!









Saturday, July 27, 2013

Something For Everyone!

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz
 
One of the region’s Centenarians passed away recently. She remained healthy all through her 90’s and was even riding her lawn tractor to cut her lawn earlier this year at 103 years of age. Though her children are still alive, she had far outlived her parents, her siblings, her husband, and her in-laws.

As her family passed away one-by-one, their possessions found their way to her home. To clean out the house after her death, her son (age 76) hired an Estate Sale Company to come in and price everything for a sale. That alone took two weeks, for the house was full of new items and old ones dating to the 1930’s.

The lesson of her home fits with today’s Psalm, 49. The Psalm addresses all the world, not just the Jews, and not just Believers. Regardless of our station in life, and even our religious beliefs, the things we work for all our lives will be passed on to others.

Now her accumulation of possessions shall be purchased and passed onto to many others. This Psalm 49 is a scripture that runs to the core of every heart. Our desires in passing are that our “stuff” will be cared for by those that have loved us, or used to bless others. But it is also a call to Believers to “keep a light touch” on the things of this world. Nothing can be used forever. Its usefulness will be used up with the using.

And so life goes with all our stuff. But before we all get depressed about all this, the Psalm goes much further to remind us that God will redeem our souls from the grave, and He shall receive us to Himself. The things of Earth are to come to an end, but the things of God are eternal. This is now our great hope; that as Believers, we shall be received by God because of the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus.

Once a profession of faith is made, we are on the path to His side in eternity. Psalm 16 reminds us in its final verse that what awaits us in heaven is “fullness of joy,” and “at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore.”




Psalm 16:10 ~ “For thou shalt not leave my soul in the grave.”












Sunday, July 21, 2013

BEAUTIFUL FOR SITUATION

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz


A couple decided several years ago that it was time to build a new home.  Knowing generally what they wanted in a house, they considered a parcel of land that they came across: its shape, its high spots, its low spots, its good points and its less desirable points.  They decided the highest elevation on the lot would be ideal for their new home, and they purchased it.

They went about designing a house that would optimize the lot by how the house was situated atop of the hill.  The couple planned, and looked, adjusted, and made choices.  They designed and used the lot to enhance the house, and they used the house to enhance the lot.  The view from each window has its own vista.

This is how God chose, and looked, and planned when He directed David to purchase Ornan's threshing floor.  He bought the land, and built an altar.  Ornan was a peace-loving Jebusite, but God had plans for his land atop a mountain.  David sacrificed there to stop a plague that had spread across all Israel.


Today, on the site of that threshing floor stands the beautiful City of Jerusalem.  God had a plan.  Like our friends' house, Jerusalem in all its beauty, it is as a good work done where God directed.  Great as it is, it is still an earthly city.  It is destined to be replaced by the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-11).

God sees us the same way.  He sees our potential, and what He can make out of our earthly beings.  He knows where and how to situate us and He'll move heaven and earth to complete that task.  Like Jerusalem, we too are destined for change.  Are you willing to let God take you as a raw material and change you into something that no longer resembles the old earthly "you?"

In the Book of Revelation, the Church on Earth becomes the Bride of Christ in heaven.  Believers are the Church, so we will be the Bride, and like Jerusalem we will be fitly put together...God has a plan still for us.


"In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord."  Ephesians 2:21








Saturday, July 13, 2013

"FOLLOW ME"

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

     You have heard before that we have four seasons in upstate New York: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Construction. Detours are mild inconveniences. But if you are already unfamiliar with the region around a detour, one could easily think, “I can’t get there from here.” Happily though, the detour signs will direct us if we follow them.  They might not give us the shortest route, but the route will be the easiest one to follow, and it will be on the better roads. Just follow the big orange arrows posted at the side of the road.

    That’s what God had in mind when He gave mankind His Word. The Jews were a stiff-necked and stubborn people though. We can see the difficulty already. Someone will think they have a better idea than God. If God’s directions are true, then all other directions are heresy. After a long period of not following God’s directions, mankind has become unfamiliar with His voice and with His Word.

    The human race was “lost” and like Moses was sent to lead the people out of Egypt, Jesus was sent to seek and to save those that were lost. The  directions God gave had been compromised so God sent His only begotten Son to lead us back to His heavenly home. No longer are we lost. We are found. No longer do we follow orange arrows. We have Jesus sent to lead us; no longer a series of signs to follow, God sent His only begotten Son to guide us onto the right path to eternal life.

    Humanistic shortcuts can be dead-ends, wrong turns, and most certainly, tours with an altered destination. The dangers on the short cuts are unknown to us as we proceed carelessly, even to our own hurt. Jesus alone gives us the most direct and safest route. Following Jesus, we know that we’ll get there, and it is even easier than operating your car’s GPS unit.


Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man
cometh unto the Father, but by me.”      – John 14:6

Seventeen times in the Gospels, Jesus is recorded to have given
really easy directions: ……“Follow me.”





Saturday, July 6, 2013

UNDIVIDED HEART

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

A sinful world will always work to invade our lives and interrupt our service to God. When Jesus tells us that we are in the world, but not to be of the world, we might scratch our heads and wonder how we can separate ourselves from worldly distractions and habits. 

    Glorifying God, and being thankful for all things is the first step. Romans 1:21 is a strong, healthy warning to those whom refuse to glory to God, and will instead grumble about everything. Bringing every thought into the captivity of Christ is another step. Scriptures even tell us that talking to ourselves will fill a void in our thought processes: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, and giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus  Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:19 & 20)


    Merely whistling while you work can leave you like a couple of the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White: Grumpy & Dopey. Those dwarfs were named after normal human traits. Happy, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, and Dopey. The names define who they are. The traits are as human as we are without Christ.


    To lift ourselves to God’s use, we must want to be better than that. We must desire to be changed, and allowed God’s Divine Holy Spirit to flow through us to change us. To dwell on His word, to meditate on it always, and to sing of His glorious works will keep our minds occupied with heavenly things, even as we work though our earthly  responsibilities.


    How much better it is to “put on” the things of the seven spirits of God (Isaiah 11:2), rather than the things of the Seven Dwarfs. While they are caught up in their own fantasy world, we can be raised up to the heavenlies and begin to take on Godly attributes. The simplicity of our mundane lives allows us to work, and to give our hearts and minds over to God in the process.


    The “Proberbs 31 Woman” has succeeded in her many tasks of each day, but she has clearly been focused on God’s word as she works through each task.


 “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; 
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Prov. 31:26





Sunday, June 30, 2013

THY THRONE IS FOREVER!

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

    Though we are well beyond spring time today, its effects are seen everywhere as another group of flowers and  flowering trees comes into their season. Daisies are here, as the peonies die off. The fruit trees are well into their fruit-growing season while the Catalpa trees are in full bloom this week. Each flower and blossom has a unique time to give its show. Our excitement grows towards the end of winter in anticipation of the new growth coming to our yards and gardens.


    The Psalmist today is also looking forward to the next season beyond the straining and groaning of Earth’s renewal. The Throne, the King, and the future Kingdom are in full view. The expectation is clearly prophetic and longingly hoped for. In time, our faith will be these sights and descriptions fulfilled before our faces. But the  Psalmist is not ignorant of the on-going battle between the flesh and the spirit. Can you feel the battle today? Believers live their lives in occupied territory. Satan is the Prince and power of the air, but not forever. As the enemy of God, his days are numbered. That is the hope in faith for every Believer, that no matter how hard the battle gets, our Victor will always be Jesus Christ. Our commission is not to fight Jesus’ battles, but to stand on the ground which He has already won! The fighting and battle will cease upon His appearing.


    As we consider the likes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they lived in the heat of the same battle, and did not see the fulfillment of these things. Our faith should be at least as strong as theirs, knowing Who made these precious promises to those who will trust and believe God’s Word.


    The Fourth of July is this week. We celebrate our national freedoms, won with the shedding of the blood of multiple generations. But the freedom from sin which we truly seek has already been won by the shedding of Jesus’ blood. The seasons are moving forward; will it be this next one, or the one after that? Can we hold on to the promises until He comes and fulfills all? Maybe we are suffering now, but soon….   Soon we shall stand with Him. At that time, we will be in His presence. His goodness extends to saints in the earth, and to the excellent, which are His delight.


Psalm 16:1-5   -   BE HIS DELIGHT!



Friday, June 28, 2013

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!

Bobservations Column
by Pastor Bob Lawrenz

   True betrayal can only come from someone that is a trusted friend, or confidant. The disappointment can be devastating when we learn of a betrayal, and we have all been there….  We have placed our trust in someone, who for whatever reason has compromised the friendship.


    Friendships involve mutual trust, and that means that the walls of defense are down, and we are open, and we are vulnerable. That can be a scary issue to those who have been hurt in the past. The old adage, “You only hurt the ones you love” is perhaps more true than we’d like to admit. So, we choose carefully those that we love and we are rarely hurt by people with whom we do not have a relationship.

    “A man who has friends must show himself friendly.” Is what Solomon wrote in Proverbs. And to have friends, there must be a point of vulnerability that we are willing to place on the line between “acquaintance” and “friend,” and it is reciprocal in respect and in love. The heart of another is a cherished possession.

    Jesus’ command is to love one another; to love and respect our spouses; to love our neighbors, and to even love our enemies. It’s a challenge to love the unlovable. It’s a challenge to love our enemies. Those who hurt others have most certainly been hurt themselves. Healing needs to take place on both sides.

    Among the twelve Apostles, you just know there had to be issues among them: preferences, disagreements, suspicions, etc. Yet look what happened when the relationships were built around the singular identity of Jesus Christ.

    It is then no wonder that Jesus tells us to “know no man after the flesh.” Nothing good will ever come of it. But when we focus our attention on Jesus, we will find ourselves in good company, with shared goals, motives, and desires. We will be among like-minded friends. And conveniently, Jesus has already prayed for us along those lines:

“That they may be one; as thou,
Father,  art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be one in us:
that the world might believe
that thou hast sent me.”

~ John 17:21 (12-26) ~




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