Sunday, February 23, 2020

Oppressors To Be Judged

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In Numbers 13 and 14, we read of the spies of the Lord, sent into the land to possess it. One spy from each of the 12 Tribes went in to search out the land and weigh the strength of those heathen peoples that occupied it. Among those heathens were Canaanites, Amalakites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and the descendants of Anak, who were known to be giants. Moses writes the testimony of the spies: “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33). For the Israelites to take the land from all these became a formidable task! It would be impossible without God’s help. 

But the Israelites did take the land, with God fighting the battles with them. God never failed them when they sought Him for victories over His enemies. 

Once in the land though, they became complacent in their relationship with God. They left some of the enemies of God alive, and incorporated them into Jewish culture, but those survivors brought heathen practices into Israel. Was it the mercy of the Israelites? Was it due to compassion? Was it foolish? Probably “yes” to these questions, but these were in disobedience to God. 

In Luke 1:37 we read Gabriel’s words, “For nothing is impossible with God.” Looking at that verse conversely, we understand that we can do nothing without Him. Our own abilities will die with us, and our deeds are not lasting. 

Now one of those spies was ready to act presumptuously, and begin to attack the heathens in the land. His name was Caleb, and he was rebuked by all the other spies. Caleb was of the Tribe of Judah. 

When there is a task facing us, no matter how simple, or how difficult, we should never act presumptuously. Seek the Lord. Seek other Godly people for their opinion. Take heed to their encouragement, or be warned by their doubts. Take even their facial expressions to the Lord and seek Him in all things. Maybe it’s just an issue of timing, but let even the Lord’s timing glorify Him, in wisdom, in love, and in hope. For those in His will...

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ ”
- Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Examining Fruit

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians regarding Communion at the Lord’s Table, we are encouraged to examine ourselves, so as to not partake of the emblems in a sinful, or unworthy state (1 Corinthians 11:27-34).

Examining his own heart is something that King David was in the habit of doing (Psalm 139:23,24), and he stayed in close enough contact with Jehovah that it was written that David “had a heart after God.” It is a great help to examine ourselves with God in order to maintain a healthy and open relationship with the Lord Jesus. He already knows us inside and out, so it’s impossible to hide anything from Him. The examination is not for His benefit, but for ours, that we might know our own weaknesses! 

In Jeremiah 24 this week, it becomes clear that the Jews of Judah had either not learned that lesson, or the habit of examining one’s own heart had fallen by the wayside, for all were righteous in their own eyes. But God sees through us, knowing the thoughts and intents that can fill the human heart if we are not careful to check. 

In today’s chapter, the fig tree comes up, figuratively representing the nation of Israel, and specifically the Tribe of Judah in Jerusalem. The human heart can justify anything if we let it. Call it rebellion, or peer pressure, or just following the leader, we can quickly fall out of favor with our Almighty Father. 

Unchecked, and left uncorrected we can become a Judas without being overtly aware of it. It’s one subtle step off Jesus’ path, and then a second, and a third. Then we wonder why God seems so far away. But the truth is, God did not move, we did. 

Stay close to Jesus, and He will stay close to you. If He is your goal, then let nothing get in the way of your line-of-sight to Him. Accept no blockages; avoid pitfalls; and if something happens and you do lose sight of Him, bring yourself to a halt, and look diligently for Him, resetting your sights on Him. 

Doing this is a benefit of the Holy Spirit’s gift of temperance. It is self-control mixed with commitment, developing self-discipline to stay the course and be His Disciple. 

When I speak of self-discipline, I cannot help but be reminded
that discipline and disciple come from the same root word.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Judgment For Scatterers

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Last week, at the beginning of Jeremiah 23, the Lord God pronounces woe to the Pastors that scatter His sheep. The Hebrew "ra`ah (rah-ah’)" is the primitive root word meaning to graze, or to pasture. More specifically, a pastor is shepherd, a leader of sheep. One does not think about a flock without calling to mind the shepherd also. A pastor is that shepherd that leads God’s flock to fresh grazing, and good provender, providing protection and comfort as well. 

Israel was being led astray by false shepherds, by errant teachers and their bad teachings, by errant prophets and their false prophecies. The first half of chapter 23 was directed to the flock. Verses 10 and 11 tell us that the land was full of adulterers because the prophets and priests were all profane.

Today as we cover the second half of Jeremiah 23, the Lord directs Jeremiah to address the problematic sheep that are willing to graze on garbage, rather than healthy spiritual food; and to those prophets who speak presumptively in the name of the Lord, but who so far have not heard from the Lord at all! Their “Thus saith the Lord...” is nothing more than a lie, conjured up in their own minds. Insecure in their own faith relationship, they speak “popular things,” because 1) they want the flock to like them, and 2) because they do not want the flock to turn against them. That’s pride, based in a fear of man, rather than truth due to a healthy fear of the Lord! 

The Lord does not raise up shepherds, priests, and prophets for any reason other than to lead His flock, whom God knows have a tendency to wander. They are aloof and unprotected as they wander away from the flock. Sheep wandering away from good grazing become vulnerable to predators that will drag them further from the flock, and then tear them apart. 

Being a shepherd is not about being popular, it’s about faithfully tending to God’s flock. Warnings, corrections, teachings and instruction is good spiritual food. But not all good foods are easily chewed, digested, or liked! 

Perhaps you remember a least favorite food
that was doctored up so that you would eat it.
(for me, it was broccholi !)

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

When hardships come along, even Believers will sit back to ask God what's going on, and when the troubles start to pile up, we can begin to doubt God and those that He has sent to encourage us.  It seems incongruous that we are being encouraged even as we are being torn down.  Humanly, we find ourselves in untenable situations.  When two people tell us two different things about the same situation, it makes sense that one is lying to us.

But which one?  Until that question is resolved, we must consider them both to be liars.  We don't have to declare that to them, and in fact, we should not.  To speak those words to them risks losing the friendship with the one that is not lying to us.  But in the meantime, it's best to lay low and wait for God to bring the resolution.

In Jeremiah's day, their priest and teachers were telling them everything was alright, while Jeremiah was bringing warnings of losing everything.  By adhering to the "nicer" message of the priests, the Jews of Jerusalem laid themselves wide open for God's vengeance on their nation and tribe.

But what a merciful God, and in spite of His judgment! Today we read of His promise to return them and to supply new pastor/shepherds to them who will feed them properly!  Additionally, God reiterates directly to them the Promise of the Redeemer/Savior who will come from their Tribe, a King Who shall reign and rule over the Earth!  He shall reign in righteousness, restore them to their land, with all their fellow Tribes!

Before that happens the Lord must take them through a time of purging, and getting rid of their idolatrous habits.  The time in Babylon for the Jews will give them a hunger for their own country,  their own Jehovah, His teachings and His righteousness.

This is the message of that Christian standard, the poem "Footprints."  That single set of footprints carries us securely to the place He wants us to be.

We doubt due to our poor perception, but they are God's footprints in the sand, not our own.  Unable to walk, or stand ourselves, Jesus carries us.  

~ He will carry you through all your troubles. ~

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The House of the Lord

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Being a “Believer” should be a truly cherished thing, and a protected possession. With the label comes an identity as a “child of God,” following His Word and looking forward to seeing Him face-to-face, and living with Him on into eternity. Being a Believer means that a person is “of the House of the Lord.” And from Jeremiah 22:5, we find that if a dominant number of professing believers are drawn away into the world, the House of the Lord will be left in desolation. (Jer. 22:5) 

While it’s true that every Christian is a sinner-saved-by-grace, that should not be an identity we are comfortable with, for it re-enforces our identification with our “old man.” If one is born-again, then our “old man” in considered dead by Christ, and He affords us the new identity described in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” 

That is the goal of Christ Jesus for all of mankind, that we would embrace Him, and embrace our new identity, leaving the old one behind. The natural man is a sinner; the Spiritual man is a New Creature in Christ. The writer of 2 Corinthians gives us insight in his letter to the Philippians in 3:13: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward unto those things which are before” 

If you detect Paul’s struggle, then you can identify with him. Even within the House of God, the world is always trying to draw us away. We are the devil’s preferred target. Be prepared. Be forewarned.

“Be sober, be vigilant, for adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Sunday, January 19, 2020

If It's Of God...

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Years ago, the children were taught a praise song for a church presentation.  The lyrics included this line:  "Praise Him for the good, Praise Him for the bad..."  While Satan is always working against our salvation, God is always working towards it!  And sometimes, that includes His version of "tough love."  It's a reminder of Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose."  All things:  could be a scary prospect, like the consequences of sin!

When we weigh the promises of God I the Bible, against some of our habits and behaviors, it only stands to reason that God will want to get our attention and speak to us about some of them.  Sometimes, He will speak encouraging words to build us up, and other times, they might be somewhat less encouraging and even critical.  And yes, even those times are praise-worthy, because God is looking out for our best interests.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Apostle Paul's Spirit-filled words are these:  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, (and) for instruction in righteousness."  If we dwell on that, we will conclude that God wants His truth, His reproof, His correction, and His righteousness in our lives.  This is where comparing personal behaviors against His Word will bring us to our knees, and drive us back toward Him!

That restores us back into good fellowship with our Maker.  Rather than counting on His grace and mercy, we are affirmed in the relationship!  Of Lazarus' sisters, Martha, and Mary, Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better part, to sit at His feet and hear His words.  And by allowing Jesus' words wash over her, Mary was promoting the renewing of her mind, cleansing it with the washing of water by the word, as husbands are called to do for their wives according to Ephesians 5:26.

Is Jesus your husbandman?  As Christians, we'll respond with a resounding "Yes!"  And this is praise-worthy!

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grevious: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby."  Hebrews 12:11

~ Disciple and Discipline are from the same root word. ~

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Silversmith

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today in our reading, Malachi 3 says the Lord shall be as a refiner of gold and silver. We understand that with all the compromises that the Jews had made in their own faith and worship practices that this message was for them. But in Jeremiah 20, we find that the Prophet himself who speaks God’s Word also needed refining. Jeremiah finds himself under vengeful persecution because he spoke some of God’s harshest words to the people, and the people rebelled!

The Law was clear: Idol worshippers were doomed to eternal torment. Those that reject God, worship something else. We were designed to worship; we will worship something. But even for Believers living in the world, the world will have a conditioning effect on our thinking regarding faith and how/what/whom we worship. This is why Jesus warned that we are IN the world, but we’re not to be OF the world (Think of Lot, living among the citizens of Sodom).

In the case of the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, the Babylonian captivity was their judgment. But for Jeremiah personally, God was as a silversmith, turning up the heat to purify and perfect the one chosen to speak His message to His people. 

The silversmith faithfully watches over the vessel where the silver is being heated. To leave it unwatched is to invite ruining the silver by burning it. He’ll turn up the heat slowly to burn off more and more impurities from the silver. The “dross” is skimmed off as the heat is increased. The silver goes from being a hard gray solid to being a shiny silver in liquid. The silversmith knows when he has pure silver when he can see his own image on the surface of the silver. 

God is at work purifying all those that are His. Are you going through a tough time? It may well be God is turning up the heat. And, He is watching over you as He does so. Perfecting is His goal as He watches over us.

For those that regularly examine their own hearts, 1 John 3:2,3 says, 
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
God shall see Himself in us when we finally reflect Him.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Not Grace But Judgment

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, His commands were clear, and though consequences for breaking them were not given, there were no doubts left in the hearts of the people that there were some. New rules and laws are implemented because of the specific ways in which the lives of people are displeasing to the One in charge. Everyone could relate to each new commandment because they either encouraged or forbade behaviors that were familiar everyone. At the time, there was not an Israelite alive that didn’t relate to the behaviors that the Commandments scrutinized. 

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