Saturday, August 29, 2020

We Will Obey

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

With leadership in disarray, any nation is ripe for a coup d’├ętat. Outside forces watch and wait for opportunities to converge and they set their sights on taking over a nation, or a corporation, or a State, county, or a neighborhood. This, is history repeated over and over again. “Conquer, or be conquered!”

True leadership will restore order and a sense of security for the people. But in Chapter 42 of Jeremiah, the new leader, Johanan is sought out, and by-passed for Jeremiah the Prophet. It is a good thing to see that the Jews were willing to seek out God’s Word, and have Him reveal His plans for them.

But even the Word of God is not enough for some, and the Jews among whom Jeremiah lived, were the same “stiff-necked” people as ever. Self-willed, and sticking together for strength in numbers, they forget that this same path was what brought the judgment of God upon their entire nation.

Suppose that it is our faith that is in disarray. We question our “Leader” and His ability to provide security and safety? Our enemy and His, is waiting and watching for the right moment. Avoiding or rejecting God’s counsel will inevitably end with our vulnerability to a personal spiritual “coup” to take place. Is this too not the same throughout history? The head of Liberty College was just removed because he compromised his faith. These are simple, practical lessons for us, and for our country. The application is both narrow for individuals, and broad for entire nations.

The nation that rejects God, and keeps Him away from its children, its youth, and its citizens cannot maintain its independence and liberty. God’s enemies are rioting in our streets, and they also riot in the heart of mankind. For them, freedom means the removal of all authority over them.

True liberty, however, comes with the removal of fear, and from an orderly society able to hear the Holy Spirit. Clamoring and destructive riots bring fear to the people. That’s not freedom, nor is it liberty, for our liberty comes from God.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.~ 2 Corinthians 3:17 ~

Today's Audio Message: "We Will Obey"

There is something to be said about fear and predetermined thoughts when seeking the Lord. Johanan wants to flee to Egypt, but seeks counsel from Jeremiah first. While they are wise to seek the Lord, are they ready to obey what God asks? “Pray for us, we will do whatever God asks.” Jeremiah goes off to seek the Lord, and as 10 days go by, perhaps patience is wearing thin. It seems that Johanan and those with him had already determined the direction they wanted to go. The call to trust and obey was not what they wanted to hear. The Lord challenged them once again to obey Him, and He also warned them of the danger of following their own counsel, and walking their own way. Destruction will surely follow them. They wanted what seemed to be the easy path. You would think by now they would get it, but like many of us, they are a stubborn and rebellious people. Johanan trusts in his own thoughts and follows his own ways instead of the Lord's.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Then Were They Glad

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In 2018, the terrorist group Al Qaeda was in disarray with its leadership gone and no one to take their place. Though leadership was absent, the ideology was not. Enter “The Arab Spring,” a period of time when people of Arabia organized a bit more, and tried to bond together with other people of the Muslim faith from Egypt to Iran.

Any time there is a void in a nation’s leadership, you can be sure that some group or person will be raised up among the people to fill the void. Good, bad, or indifferent, the void will be filled. We can see it in the headlines today, and in the historical events of the past. Of such is today’s study in Jeremiah 41; a historical record of a perceived weakness in Governance, or jealousy from someone that perceives they were overlooked, when they had a bloodline right to leadership.

At the core of it all is pride, a thing which the Lord hates, according to Proverbs 6. The rejection of leadership that the Lord has put in place will surely end in infighting and disagreement as to whom has “the right” to sit on a throne of power. The family line has been broken, and jealousies develop concerning who deserves to be sitting on the throne. Former TV hostess Barbara Walters could accurately say, “Welcome, This Is 20/20.”

As King Solomon is recorded to have said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” As Jeremiah is quoted, “The (human) heart is deceitful and desperately wicked: who can know it?” This is the backdrop of the text today: Fighting against the will of God and His agents will bring terrible results to the rebellious, and good results to the People of God. 

It’s obvious even from the history of the Jews that having a right does not make one righteous before the Lord. One may be next in line to the throne, and still prove to be an evil ruler.

Pick a nation, any nation. The events in this chapter are common to all. Revealed is the heart of man as he compares himself to others. Mankind is a fickle lot, and trust from one generation to the next can be unfruitful and detrimental. Don’t look at what they say, but watch what they do.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” - Matthew 7:20

Today's Audio Message: "Then Were They Glad"

Chapter 41 of Jeremiah is a tragic story showing how evil pursues sinners. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil , as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Previously, we had learned that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah a great man, he had given him a commission as governor of the land which he had conquered to secure and protect the land, and the remnant of Judah left behind. As the people transition under new leadership, the enemy sees their weakness and is readying himself at their doorstep.

Ishmael, being of the royal seed of David, sought revolt. Jealousy and pride would drive this man on a killing streak that would shock even the most hardened criminal. His entitlement of royal blood would fuel him to stop at nothing in reversing the absolute humility that came from the Babylonian invasion. Through cunning deception, and under the pretense of friendship, he would go on a treacherous murdering streak killing Gedaliah, the Jews that were with him, the Chaldeans, and the men of war. His ruthlessness was not just contained to this event. Pretending to be in mourning, he went on his next slaughtering expedition killing more, and taking captive the people who survived living in Mizpah.

In this historical political drama of the time, no matter how entitled we think we are to something, it should never rule above the authority of God in our lives. Ishmael is ruled by his own pride. He takes matters into his own hands refusing to trust the plan of God. We may not always understand the plan of God, but we must never fight against it.

Gedaliah will be murdered because he did not believe the warnings of Johanan. Similarly, we too can become indifferent to the warnings the Lord is giving us, and in the end, we can let our guard down to be overtaken in sin and the consequences thereof - captivity. When we find ourselves in these circumstances we may consider returning to that which we have been delivered from. Much like the Israelites, we camp on the border of our own Egypt. When things unexpected happen, or we are thrown by some horrific circumstance, we must continue to maintain our relationship with God, being deeply intimate with Him as we wade into what is unfolding before us.

God is faithful still. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bare. He will make a way of escape!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Remnant Of Judah

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

 A bit of an Epilogue to the previous chapter, today we see how obedience is rewarded as God takes the remnant left behind and sets into motion the keeping of the land for future generations.

The losses are real. Thousands were carted off to Babylon. Neighborhoods were destroyed, and landmark buildings plundered. But all these things were built by the hand of man, and God’s land remained. 
God promised that the people would return to the land, so when that happened, what would they find, were it not for the remnant left there? 

Since the time of Jeremiah’s being called of God to be a prophet to the people, Jeremiah remembered the words of God concerning Jeremiah’s purpose: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 

I can’t imagine anyone forgetting a conversation with God like that! During his 41 years of ministry, he warned the Jews and surrounding kingdoms of God’s plan, “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” Jeremiah 1:10 

With the first part of his mission sadly complete, when given his freedom, Jeremiah knew his work was not finished. Re-building and planting was yet to be accomplished so that “the old paths” were in place, and established for when the People came home to the land given to their fathers. The remnant would tend it and keep it. 

From warnings, to encouragement, a prophet’s work is never really done. God will never leave His people without hope. For an entire nation of Prodigals, there will be always be something to come home to.

“And the LORD God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Genesis 2:25

Today's Audio Message: "The Remnant Of Judah"

Though the script of history changes a bit, the characters remain the same. There’s the faithful obedient servants of God, and there’s the stiff necked, disobedient rebels. Those who follow God and His ways, and those who follow their own way. We know what happened to disobedient Judah, God’s promised judgment had come.

Today we will see how obedience is rewarded, and how God works all things together for the good of those who trust Him (Romans 8:28). The king is carried off into Babylon, and the servant is saved!

We meet a Babylonian captain who basically preaches to the children of Israel the very things that Jeremiah had preached to them for 40 years. Here is a pagan Babylonian telling the children of Israel they were sinners! As believers, don't we bow in shame when the world publicly announces the sins of the saints?  There are many non-believers who can see God's justice and truth with regard to others, they're always quick to point out the sins of believers.  Though they may be right, they are completely blind of their own sinful condition, and do not themselves heed God's Word and His warning.

Jeremiah is freed from the prison court.  He is given a choice to stay in Judah, or go with them back to Babylon where he will be cared for, for the rest of his life. He is advised to go stay with Gedaliah.  After 40 years of hearing the voice of the Lord, I think Jeremiah already knows what God would have him to do.  There will be two more prophets that the Lord raises up in Babylon, both Ezekiel and Daniel, so Jeremiah stays, along with the remnant who are left to keep the land as God preserves it for future generations.

We will also meet Gedaliah, the good governor who is put in authority over the land.  A man who will uphold the law.  Gedaliah is later warned by Johanan of a coming coup led by Ishmael, but he is a man who thought the best in people.

Find out what happens next week!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Choose Life!

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The fall of Jerusalem is complete. Go to Babylon and live, or fight for what you cannot keep, and die. King Zedekiah had rebelled against his nephew, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, so things did not go well for him when the Chaldean Army tracked him down and captured him.

But the situation for God’s faithful Prophet was far different from that of King Zedekiah. Being taken by the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar’s influence in the land had garnered him a tremendous amount of information about Jeremiah. He learned the words of God spoken by Jeremiah as a warning to the Jews. He simply knew that this Prophet of the Jewish God had inroads and insight into the mind of God. A wise conqueror knows those of the enemy camp. He undoubtedly became aware the behavior of the Jews towards this man of God.

This would set the stage later on when King Nebuchadnezzar needed a holy man of the Jewish faith to interpret a dream he had dreamed. Daniel was that man chosen because he feared God and was bold in faith, refusing to worship any God but Jehovah God.

But for the 39th Chapter, Jerusalem is destroyed, just as God had warned. Those that tried to save the City were soundly defeated, and those citizens that went off to Babylon lived to see another day, and eventually prospered. This too was part of God’s will for His Chosen People.

God had a plan that would win for His people, and not fail them. That is always God’s way. Man most often chooses an easy path, and learns the hard lesson that God’s way is better, and is assured of success. His agenda is always supreme, taking precedence in even the smallest of details.

While the natural man plods through his life, the sanctified man puts his trust in God, assured of His expected end for him, and the magnificent lessons to be learned along the way, and reaped in glory!

“And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I scatter them among the nations, and disperse them among the countries.” ~ Ezekiel 12:15 ~

Today's Audio Message: "Choose Life!"

We have finally come to the terrible climax, of which Jeremiah spent years prophesying God’s warnings to the people during the last years of Jerusalem. God’s word had fallen on deaf ears, His warnings unheeded.

Nebuchadrezzar's siege lasted almost 2 years. Food sources diminished and supply lines were cut off, the people’s suffering grew. Yet, in it all, there was a hardness of heart, and self-righteousness. Jerusalem was so strong, that the inhabitants believed the enemy could never enter it. But sin provoked God to withdraw his protection. The long-suffering patience of GOD gives way to judgment and Jerusalem, whose name means "the foundation of peace," is delivered into the hands of the Gentiles.

It is a fallacy to think that great difficulties will result in repentance and obedience. The truth is, God leaves the decision to us. His way, or our own way? Life or death? Jeremiah was covered under God’s protection, and Zedekiah met with a terrible end! We can obey God and live, or suffer the consequences of our own futile actions! 

Isaiah 55:6-9
"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Sunday, August 2, 2020

From Mire To The Court

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

 We left off with King Zedekiah putting God’s Prophet in the dungeon, at the request of the King’s Princes. Zedekiah acquiesced, and let them do as they wished. He admitted he was powerless over his underlings. 

I suspect that Zedekiah was in fear of the Princes under him; most likely they were placed as Princes by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who also installed Zedekiah on Jerusalem’s throne. Oh! What a wicked web men can weave! King Zedekiah’s reign over Jerusalem was as compromised as the Jewish faith of those that lived there. 

Love begets love, and wickedness begets more wickedness. And compromise begets more compromise. For Zedekiah, his own faith was so compromised that he did not recognize the words of the Prophet as the Word from God. But there are serious doubts about his Jewish heritage. Though Zedekiah is a lovely name with Jewish underpinnings, Zedekiah was named Mattaniah by his mother, a woman named Hamutal who was a daughter of a different Jeremiah, from the city of Libnah (25 miles WSW of Jerusalem, in the hills of Judea.). 

Somewhere along the way, a Jewish woman spent time with a Babylonian, and Mattaniah/Zedekiah was born. Marrying outside your Jewish tribe was a compromise. At the time, a Jew marrying outside of Judaism is far beyond a compromise. Zedekiah was a compromised King in more ways than one. 

We only have to look at our own leaders 3,000 years later. We can identify good ones and bad ones. We can identify them in other countries too. Jesus gave us perhaps the most important tool to help us see men as they really are: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). We can discern the kind of people we would want to be friends with, and those that we should be avoiding. If someone draws us closer to Christ and our beliefs, that person is likely a keeper. But if their friendship draws us away from Christ and His righteousness, it is time to re-evaluate the friendship.

Jesus told us that He alone is the “way, the truth, and the life.” He said “no man gets to the Father except by me” (John 14:6).

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” ~ John 3:18
Compromise? It’s just not worth it!

 Today's Audio Message: "From Mire To The Court"

Continuing in chapter 38 in the book of Jeremiah, we learned that Jeremiah had been cast down to the dungeon to die in the mire after delivering God's Word to the people. The king who delivered him once before, and promised to feed him had again changed his mind.  Why?  Proverbs 29:25 tells us, "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."  Well we know this king wasn't putting his trust in the Lord, he was a king that scripture tells us did wicked in the eyes of the Lord.  Zedekiah feared the officials under him. Even kings are rendered powerless by compromise. He was weak, compromised, and fearful.

In spite of the king's decision, God had other plans for Jeremiah. All of a sudden, what appears to be out of nowhere, a gentile comes to Jeremiah’s rescue. Ebed-Melech was a eunuch in the kings court who pleads for Jeremiah’s life.  This man is from Ethiopia. Now, Ethiopians in the Old Testament were sometimes called upon as mercenary fighters. So, this man is in Jerusalem probably fighting alongside the Judeans. He’s on their side. He’s no traitor.

And yet, he for some reason cares about what happens to Jeremiah. We will find out why in the next chapter. His concern over the evil injustice of Jeremiah's plight, and his boldness to speak up on Jeremiah's behalf publicly,  speaks volumes of his character. And just as Zedekiah caved to to the wicked officials, he flip flops again and grants the request of the eunuch to release him. A double-minded man like Zedekiah is unstable in all his ways. He wavers and such a one like a wave of the sea – driven with the wind and tossed.

Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to answer His question, and wants a truthful answer. Jeremiah responds cautiously knowing not to trust this king. Nevertheless, the king gives Jeremiah assurance of his safety if he answers the king’s question.  Jeremiah is faithful to God, and once again delivers His Word to Zedekiah. God demands obedience and surrender, if he obeys he will live, if not he will die. The fear of man brings a deadly snare. It's decision time for this king.  The ball is in his court.  God delivered his warning, and now he must choose.  Will he follow the Lord, or will he die?

Jeremiah face much persecution proclaiming God's Word, just as we will. Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."  John 15:20.  But we do not have to fear them!  Jeremiah feared the Lord, not kings, princes, priests, or armies, and that’s exactly what God calls us to do. Be faithful, God has a plan!

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