Monday, March 30, 2020

Corona Virus Shutdown Week #2

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

I walked into a local Grocery store the other day, and the line at the check out wasn’t even discernable. Everyone was keeping such distances from one another that it was impossible to tell who was in line, and who wasn’t. It turned out that there were only four people were ahead of me in line, and I was 50 feet away from the cashier! An elderly woman was looking for the end of the line… We never did see her again!

Social Distancing is working in the USA. The Corona Virus’ “European Model” is now too out-dated to be believable. We should understand that “model studies” provide us with worst-case scenarios. All it takes is one tweak in the statistics and the results change drastically. The European Model of Corona/COVID-19 never took into consideration any actions undertaken by many governments, Social Distancing being among them.

Following up on last week’s Bobservations, the neighborhoods are still quiet during morning and evening rush hours, and with businesses and non-essential work sites closed down, the numbers of walkers in the neighborhood continues to blossom. Yesterday (Sunday) my wife and I were on the way home from church (Church is closed, yes, but our recording equipment is there for uploading to the web.). On our way home, it was in the high 60 degree range. Passing along the Erie Canal through a nearby Hamlet, we counted 58 people walking along the canal’s towpath, and numerous dogs walking with their owners; and this was within a distance of about a single mile. Couples and families are together on a Sunday morning, rather than divided by activities for the kids, or video games from the couch. I wonder how many of those families would otherwise be in church together if it weren’t for the closures of most churches during this time. I suddenly began to really miss the congregation, and immediately prayed for their safety and protection, for however they were spending their day.

Jesus taught us to "pray without ceasing." There’s plenty to pray about these days, from individuals, to families, friends, neighborhoods towns and cities. But we cannot forget about interceding for those facing their demise from the usual death rates. Heart attacks, strokes, accidents, and the diseases that we’re used to dealing with and praying about. I began to pray for my former co-workers who are First Responders, and everyone in “essential” job positions. Think about the explosion of delivery drivers, and your mailman. From gas station attendants to the guy that advised you well at Home Depot or your favorite Hardware Store.

Maybe you don’t know anyone with the Corona Virus, but there are plenty of people to pray for, and things to pray about. If you can’t think of anything, then you’re not thinking broadly enough. COVID-19 may be the current “noisesome pestilence,” but we still need to be interceding for others who do not live under the wings of our mighty God. Psalm 91 is just as important today as it was in King David’s day.

Pray for any who might read this!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Tribes United

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

There is always something that divides the human race. Skin color, ethnicity, nationality, politics, religion, urban/suburban/rural, economics, smokers/non-smokers, and now even a virus is cause for separation and isolation. Just a month ago we would have considered it Elder Abuse to put Nursing Homes, and Assisted Living Facilities in lock-down, and only see loved ones through a window. Schools, businesses, malls, and churches are all closed. Everything and everyone is now a potential health threat if closer than six feet.

Based on the opinions and judgments of our State and National Leaders, our Main Streets and gathering places are all but empty. Only those holding positions deemed essential are out working and serving others.

In the Bible, leprosy was a disease that only God could cure. Lepers were given wide berth on the streets as they publicly cried out “Unclean, unclean” from behind face coverings. In the case of a possibly cured individual, they had to go show themselves to a priest, and scriptures revealed the criteria for declaring a leper to have been healed. And if healed, it was considered to be an act of God. Today we know about blood-borne pathogens and the need to protect ourselves from them.

But leprosy was also considered to be analogous with sin; God had and still has the only cure for it: the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Disease and death are in the world because of sin. It corrupted the first couple in Genesis 3, and the entire rest of the Bible is about God’s desire to cleanse us from all sin, and restore fellowship with us. Disease and death can separate us from each other, but sin separates us from God. Come to Christ and restore fellowship with mankind’s Creator. His love is an everlasting love, and it is unconditional.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus Shutdown Week #1

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

My wife Norine read a Facebook submission to me last evening that gave me a chuckle and a heartbreak at the same time. The posting was a picture of a career Mom scraping a bumper sticker off the back of her car. “MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT (whatever) SCHOOL" would no longer be proclaimed in traffic!

Apparently the first week of schooling her children at home was not going well, and the Mom was frustrated with her Honor Student’s progress. Stepping into the shoes of another can give us a real appreciation for what they do! Little Johnny or Sara’s school teacher must be a miracle worker!

With schools and so many businesses closed during this time, we are all doing things that we take for granted that others do regularly:

Why is there so much laundry to do!?
You have laundry? That must mean you have the means to clean your clothes, like a washing machine! Not to mention, you have clothes to wear during the week! Count your blessings.

With everyone home this week, the vacuuming and cleaning probably has to be done more frequently. A vacuum, you say? Count your blessings.

The kids have been playing out in the yard and dragging the outside dirt inside? You said something about having a “yard?” Count your blessings.

Soon the lawns will have to be cut. Hmmmm. And you have a lawn mower? Count your blessings.

Continual planning for three meals at home, running to the store, cooking, setting a table….
You say you have a future to plan for? Food shopping? Cooking? And that table to set again?
Count your blessings: A roof over your head? Multiple rooms under that roof? A kitchen with a stove, sink, maybe a dishwasher, a table to sit at, a bed to sleep in (with sheets and blankets, I'll bet!). And all the little jobs to keep things operating and running smoothly to keep your blessings in good working order! The blessings in our lives require maintenance. And in maintaining them we familiarize ourselves with them, and continually learn new facets of the blessings.

And let’s not forget perhaps the greatest of our blessings: we have spouses and/or families and loved ones for whom we do all these things, and share the spaces under our roofs.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS (and maintain them!) !

Proverbs 18:22 – “He that findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor from the Lord.”

Psalm 127:4-5 -- “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, …"

The media reminds us all the "We are in this together."
Count OUR blessings!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lockdown - Getting The Family Back On Track

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The neighborhood is eerily quiet this morning. Very few cars are out delivering folks to work. Schools shut down, many businesses are closed, and those still open are reduced to working with skeleton crews for staffing. All because of a virus. Over the weekend and for the past few days, it seems like the world has nearly stopped.

I wonder if our lives haven’t changed permanently? I think I’d like that if it’s true!

For the first time in 20+ years here, we saw kids outside playing in the neighborhood. Married couples were taking walks together (not just individuals). And if you did have to pick up something at the grocery store, everyone seems a bit more friendly. Moms and Dads were actually doing a few errands with their kids in tow, and for the most part, with smiles on their faces. I wondered how many families would actually sit down around a table and share a home-cooked meal together…

All these things work to bond a family together, instead of developing such independence that they barely pass in the halls because of their varied schedules. And with any luck, couples have bonded together too instead of rushing off to their individual careers. I must confess, I sort of like this slow down in our culture. Might we see a spike in the birth rate about 9 months from now? I hope so.

Now…what to do about cell phones and the kid’s video games…? Can Mom & Dad play too?

"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." - Deuteronomy 6:6-7

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Promise Of Returning

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In 2011, Fukashima Japan suffered a triple disaster. An Earthquake hit; a nuclear power plant was damaged; and the subsequent tsunami from the earthquake sent a wave crashing along the Japanese coastline for miles. Thirty-foot high Tsunami Protection Walls were not enough to save even inland towns and villages. The damage was inestimable. My local Public Broadcasting Network aired a documentary about the multifaceted event just as we all were preparing to practice “Social Distancing” and closing many businesses.

One screen view showed how the tsunami was generated by the earthquake, and then showed its path of travel. Like a ripple from a stone cast into a pond, the tsunami waves radiated outward. The entire Pacific was put on tsunami alert, from Indonesia, to the Philippines, to Hawaii, and even to the West Coast of the USA.

I could not help but draw a comparison to the way the COVID-19 virus has spread and endangered so many lives. The earthquake’s more than 500 aftershocks were in diverse places along the fault line, and each of those reminded me of individuals going out and spreading COVID-19 to many other individuals in diverse places.

With water resistance and distance, the tsunami’s 30 foot waves were reduced to small waves on California’s beaches. But travelers exposed to the virus offer it no resistance at all, and only serve to spread the virus world-wide, with catastrophic results.

Just as all mankind is susceptible to viruses, we are all vulnerable to temptations as well. Who we associate with is just as important as maintaining good health spiritually and physically. Person-to-person relationships offer no resistance to sin, and we can easily be swept away before realizing some of our chosen companions were a mistake to choose.

Social distancing” may very well work for the virus, but the seeds of sin are already in us at birth. While scientists and chemists look for a cure for the virus, Jesus offers us the only immunity and cure for sin. Come to Him; stay close to Him; and share your immunity with others.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7

[As of 27 February 2017, the Fukushima prefecture government counted 2,129 "disaster-related deaths" in the prefecture. This value exceeds the number that have died in Fukushima prefecture directly from the earthquake and tsunami.]

Forget about building a life on the beach; 

come stand upon the Rock!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Corona Vision

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In school we all learned of the corona of the sun, A corona is a luminescent ring around a source of light. We can see them around the moon, the sun, and even light bulbs. In Daniel 10, the young Prophet had a vision. It was then that he no doubt saw the Corona of the Son! Daniel came to understand the vision and the message given to him by God. He had read about it in Jeremiah, and God’s Son came to give him understanding. 

Today we are facing a threat to the entire world, much the same as in Daniel’s time. In a place where God had determined that the Jews would be driven, God met Daniel in a heathen land, and under the authority of a King who did not know Daniel’s God at first. That King’s corona (crown) faded and fell, and he eventually proclaimed the God of Daniel to be the God of gods. It is worth noting that Nebuchadnezzar never said that Jehovah was his God, but Daniel’s God! 

The Corona Virus casts off a luminous glow around its edges when alive, and this corona is visible under certain microscopes. Researchers are learning that when the live virus are killed, the corona ceases to glow, assuring them that that speck of virus is dead. The researchers are hopeful to develop a vaccine that would extinguish the corona’s glow. 

But our faithful Lord Jesus has a corona that will never go out. Lord of lords, King of all kings, and God of all gods, He is the highest of the high, and the first and the last, Alpha and Omega. Six hundred years after Daniel saw Him in that vision, the Apostle John also saw Him as recorded in Revelation 1:12-18. The two visions are identical as seen through 2 different sets of eyes. Jesus will remain as God of gods from everlasting to everlasting. In His glorified existence He is the perfection of mankind and He identifies easily with us, having lived on this Earth that He created. He is our Advocate with the Father, and His Spirit resides within every believer. He is our hope, and our supply, our provider, and our protection. 

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
~ Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, March 8, 2020

God Raises Kings

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Political wars are nothing new in this world. Kings of nations, ethnicities, and tribes all battled against other Kings regularly to conquer them and expand their own kingdoms. They would even form alliances, but always with their own agendas in mind. The reign of Jehoiakim’s father, Josiah, as King of Judah was a pivotal point in Israel’s captivity into Babylon. Pharaoh Nechoh King of Egypt, went to the aid of the King of Assyria, and King Josiah went up against Pharaoh Nechoh. Nechoh killed Josiah at Megiddo (2 Kings 23), and appointed Josiah’s son Eliakim to be King of Judah, and at the same time changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim.

In previous chapters of Jeremiah, God relayed through the Prophet that Judah should submit themselves to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, or face famine, disease, and death in the battle for Jerusalem.

Today in Jeremiah, with his contemporary Daniel, we learn that it is Jehovah who removes kings, and raises other kings to replace them.

God does this, and He does it because HE has HIS agenda for HIS people! God’s actions and directives are always for the good of His faithful believers. As we have learned, God will even use heathen kings to provide for His people, just as He did with the Twelve Tribes in Egypt. And if God provides national leaders that we fight against, then we ultimately fight against God’s provision, and His will. The political climate in our own country is testimony to this truth. But it doesn’t stop there: God raises up Prophets, Pastors, Apostles and Disciples; He has even raised up Gentiles like us to follow and believe in Him!

In Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel warned the Pharisees to leave the Apostles alone, to do them no harm. If their work was of man, it would not last, but if their work was of God, then those that opposed them would be fighting against God Himself. The Pharisee Saul ignored Gamaliel’s words, and met Jesus on the road to Damascus. This was a pivotal point in Saul’s life, and the King of kings changed his name to Paul (a beloved Apostle, Teacher, and Evangelist!). 

“I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:
it is hard for thee to kick against the goads.”

Acts 9:5, 26:14

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Death Of One

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We often see parallels in scripture where one person goes through something so similar as another Bible character, that it cannot be coincidental. It should remind us all how similar all our lives can be; it should also remind us of how susceptible to temptations we all are.

When we see God in a Burning Bush, it's called a "Theophany." when we see Jesus in the tree that was cast into the bitter waters of Mara during the Exodus, we call it a "Christophany." But when life events are similar, with similar outcomes, we see the parallels of the Bible, and refer to them as Types," or typology.

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