Saturday, July 25, 2020

Apostasy In Jerusalem

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

 In 1948, C.S. Lewis wrote his lesser known book, “ON LIVING IN AN ATOMIC AGE” just three years after the end of WW II, and the Age of Weapons of Mass Destruction had been ushered in. Though 220,000 died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, millions of other lives were saved. 
Enter 2020: If Lewis were alive today, he might do a book update entitled, “ON LIVING IN THE COVID-19 AGE.” Were Lewis to update his book, only the title would change. Inconsistent information, and contradictory paths for treatment abound. Today, much of the world is paralyzed by fear once again, as it was after atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. If masks work, why are we social distancing? If social distancing works, why are we wearing masks? Hydro-Chloroquine, or some vaccine that doesn’t even exist yet? Whose reports are we to believe?

Lewis reminded us that living in this fleshly world was 100% fatal. No one would request a painful death. But as scientific research gave us the A-bomb, it has also given us anesthesia, pain killers, medical treatments and even cures for much of what ails us!

Lewis also reminded us as Christians, we were not to go hide with long faces. We ware instead to occupy our time with normal human activities: prayer, raising our children, working, teaching, and sharing time with others. We are to pull ourselves together and experience the fullness of peace and joy that Jesus has provided for those that are truly His, and share it with others!

And, with all of science’s advancements, there is still only one cure for death: 

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: …” - John 3:36
The story has been told and re-told of thousands of starfish that lay dying on a beach, baking in the sun after a storm washed them ashore. A child was tossing them back into the sea one by one, when an adult laughed and said to the child that all his work would not matter. Tossing another back into the water, the child responded, “It matters to that one!”
“He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.”Ezekiel 35:5

 Today's Audio Message: "Apostasy In Jerusalem"
"When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8.  

When Jesus asked this question, He was talking to the disciples about the importance of prayer and not losing heart.  This is something those living in the last days before Jesus’ return need to grab hold of.  We are living in a time of extreme stress, and chaos.  Christians will be tempted to lose heart and give up in the face of a world that for the most part rejects the message of the Gospel and opposes those who believe it.

That is what is going on in Jeremiah 38.  Jeremiah is delivering God’s warning to the people, and when the princes of Jerusalem heard the words he had spoken to the people, they were angered. There confidence was in human strength and might, not in God. They refuse Jeremiah's warning because they have no faith in God.  This is very like what we see happening in our world today.  Mankind has replaced their faith in God, with faith in themselves. Their anger, and unjust treatment of God's messenger portray hearts that have sunk deep into the mire of their own sin.  Strange that this is exactly what they did to Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is taken and lowered down into a miry dungeon, SUNK IN. 

What a perfect description of apostasy - a deep, sludgy, intractable prison. Regardless of the  difficult situations we will face on earth, God will avenge his own…those who cry out to Him day and night. The question that faces us is will we remain faithful to Him, or will we compromise and walk away?  God’s word cannot be silenced, He is faithful to His Word and it will come to pass. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

And One More Thing

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As stated before, Jeremiah’s 30th through 36th chapters are the prophet’s writings, but they have been taken out of sequence. It was Chapter 29 that brought us the Prophet’s warnings of the nearing captivity. In the next few chapters, he takes us from King Zedekiah’s Accession, to the Captivity. Zedekiah has made concessions to Pharaoh of Egypt rather than to go peacefully into Babylon. Jeremiah sees what is happening, and turns to his home town of Anathoth. It seems there is nothing left for him to do in Jerusalem. 

Once in Anathoth, he is recognized, falsely accused, and for the fourth time, Jeremiah is put into prison, this time in the household of one Jonathan. For his speaking the Words of the Father, he is held captive. For doing good, he is looked upon as a traitor.

Perhaps you have experienced similar things: it seems that no matter what you do, there is no good outcome. That’s called being put between a rock, and a hard place. No one benefits in situations like this. It’s “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Jeremiah is accused of the treasonous action of turning to the Chaldeans.

People assume what they want to assume. Sometimes it’s to seek a scapegoat, sometimes it’s observations from which wrong conclusions are drawn. For whatever the reason, it’s extremely hurtful towards the one being lied about. Even appealing to the King proves to be an exercise in frustration. 

But even as judgment is pronounced against Jeremiah, God has seen fit to cause Zedekiah to make sure that Jeremiah will be taken care of in a safe place, and fed daily. Now, understand this: turmoil surrounds the land. The Chaldeans have retreated upon hearing of Pharaoh’s Army coming. Who is in charge? Who carries authority? What’s going to happen to Jerusalem? Only God knows the answers to these kinds of questions.

Though Jeremiah’s ministry is not finished ! ...
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. ~ 2Timothy 4:7,8 ~

Today's Audio Message: "And One More Thing"

Throughout the book of Jeremiah we have learned about a stiff necked people who had hardened their hearts towards the things of God. They had refused his word, and His prophet, and followed after their own sinful desires. Not even the warning of a coming judgment could get their attention. 

Sound familiar? We’ve all known folks like that. They go on in their sinfulness, ignoring the Lord until their lives begin to fall apart. Quickly they get in touch with someone they know is “tight with the Lord” and ask them for prayer. This is what is going on in Jeremiah 37. Here we find Jeremiah falsely accused and thrown into prison, the king sends for him, and seeks assurances that all will be well. Jeremiah does not hold back, he gives King Zedekiah the whole truth, not exactly what the king was looking for.  Well, Jeremiah has been giving them God’s word for decades. They want deliverance, but they don’t want to repent. Jeremiah doesn't quit, he remains faithful to the Lord in his calling. 

God will take care of His own.  Jeremiah spoke God's word with boldness,  and God gave Jeremiah favor in the eyes of the king. 

Like Jeremiah, Paul was a faithful minister of the Gospel, faithful to the very end. And at the end of his life, he had no regrets. He was able to look forward to hearing his Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” He was able to affirm, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Word Restored

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the days of Israel wandering in the wilderness, towards the end of their journey, Moses was called up onto a mountain. And there he received the Ten Commandments, etched on two stone tablets to share with the People. Now safely away from Pharaoh and his army, and Egypt clearly behind them, the Lord knew they would need laws to guide their lives in a land promised to them by God.

But when Moses came down from the mountain, he was incensed by what the people were doing, and threw the tablets down, breaking them to bits. And today in Jeremiah, we learn that the words of God were an offense to those that held power over the people in Jeremiah's day. 

Are we not watching the same thing happen again in our own land today?

Man's actions are offensive to many, and God’s Word is an offense to those who hold sway over others by instilling fear in the weak and slow to understand. Today’s message leaps out of the Bible and onto the front page of nearly every media outlet available. Solomon was absolutely correct: “There is nothing new under the sun.” 

While many believe we are living in the Last Days, today’s message is one of hope in the future. Whether the laws were broken by Moses, by Jehoiakim, or by those that rebel against western society and our culture, the Laws inspired by God can never be erased from the human heart, and they will be restored one day. But let’s be more specific than just “one day.” Moses broke the tablets in Exodus 32, and God etched new tablets in Exodus 34. If we believe the timeline set forth in many Study Bibles, the Law was restored to the people within a year, if not within days. In the Book of Jeremiah, Jehoiakim destroyed the words of God in chapter 36 and they were restored in the same chapter. 

We are told, and we believe that our nation’s laws were originally founded upon Godly principles found in God’s Word. God’s inspiration to mankind is all around us. I believe the restoration of law and order will be soon. God will not put up with His inspired words being set aside, and removing them or changing them comes with heavy penalties in Revelation 22.

"Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.”  (Mt. 24:35 ~ Mk. 13:31 ~ Lk. 21:33).

Today's Audio Message: "The Word Restored"

In chapter 36, once again we see God’s wonderful mercy to a sinful nation.

Jehoiakim was an evil king. Unlike his father, King Josiah who honored the word of God with great reverence, Jehoiakim had great contempt for, and rebellion against God’s word.

Jeremiah is instructed to take a scroll and write down all the words that God gives him to be proclaimed before the unrepentant people of Judah. He sends Baruch, his scribe, to proclaim God's Word to the people, and when the officials in the temple heard, their hearts were stirred wanting to hear more. They receive it, authenticate that it is from God, and take it to the King.

Not everyone welcomes God’s word or heeds His warning. . Jehoiakim did not accept God’s word or His warning. He would not believe that God would make good on His threat and bring the Babylonians down upon Judah. He sought to silence God by throwing His words into the fire. So God speaks His word directly through Jeremiah to Jehoiakim - when you despise and reject the Word of God, you're done! You are cut off permanently - and he was.

One of the ways that God vindicates His own Word is through the fact that He fulfills it. Everything happens just as He promises; and when it’s all over, it will be proven that—as it says elsewhere in Scripture—“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:45).

God’s Word endures forever. God stands behind His own word, and as we see from this passage, He preserves it, He broadcasts it, He authenticates it, He protects it, and He fulfills it!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

King Of Hearts

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today in Jeremiah 35, we are introduced to “the Rechabites.” These people come into focus in this chapter only, in the entirety of the Bible. It is thought that they were possibly from a small village, 3 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Little else is known of them, but for reasons laid out in today’s study, their name is recorded in Sacred Scripture for us to read. 

Scripture itself offers us a glimpse of who they might have been: King Saul’s son, Jonathan, had two Captains of the Bands at his disposal. Baanah and Rechab were brothers, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, of the Tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 4:2).
[Scriptures also tell us that “Rachab” (spelled with an “a” is also the Greek spelling of Rahab, the harlot who helped Joshua at the taking of Jericho.) We are not to confuse the two.]

Captain Rechab would have lived in the Palace of King Saul, and witnessed much of what went on in the lives of King Saul and Jonathan. He would have witnessed the cost of pride for what had happened in that Royal Family. From the pinnacle of power over Israel, to watching the family be wiped out, if this is the correct Rechab, the fear of the Lord would have been instilled deeply in him. 

The Rechabites, as descendants of Captain Rechab, become an example for Israel to follow. Jeremiah uses them as an example of obedience, and questions why some will give complete obedience to their human ancestry, and others reject God, the Father of us all! Yet in spite of His promises to us, He, His warnings, His prophets, and His Word are rejected regularly.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” ~ Joshua 24:15 

Today's Audio Message: "King Of Hearts"

Jeremiah 35 showcases a group of individuals who paid attention to detail, as it were. This group, known as "the Rechabites" had obeyed the commands of their ancestor Jonadab, who was famous for wisdom and piety. 

He charged his descendants to live their lives separately, as sojourners in the land. They were not to settle in a land that was not their own. They were not to build houses, plant vineyards, or drink wine, among other things, which was the basis for refusing the wine that God had instructed Jeremiah to offer them. They strictly observed these rules, for their safety in times of suffering. 

God draws a sharp contrast between the Rechabites who faithfully obeyed the commands of their earthly father, and the children of Judah who failed to hearken to the commands of their loving heavenly Father. It is the contrast between wisdom and folly (Proverbs 1). 

The wickedness of men’s hearts will ultimately meet with God's judgment. If they will not hearken to the will of God, God will bring correction. 

As Jesus bent His will to the Father’s will, so should we. 

Who is the King of your heart today?

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