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


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


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


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. 

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