Saturday, December 26, 2020

Finding Our Shepherd - King

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In many places in the Old Testament we find “types” of Jesus, literally, other Bible characters whose lives reflect all or part of the life of Jesus and His ministry. As we learn from our reading today, David the son of Jesse was anointed to take the Throne of Israel at a young age. Jesus was destined to take the Throne of David, which was to be an everlasting Throne (Psalm 93:2 “Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.”)

It was many years before David was actually installed on Israel’s Throne to rule and lead the nation. Saul, the King at the time had lost favor with the Lord, and God sent the Prophet Samuel to anoint David in Saul’s place. David was anointed to be King while he was a lad tending his father’s sheep. If this sounds familiar, it should, for Jesus has been tending the flocks of His Father for centuries, and it is still a yet future date when Jesus will take the Throne of His earthly ancestor David, in Jerusalem.

In today’s main text, we learn of the shepherds tending their flocks by night outside of Bethlehem. The Angel of the Lord appears to them and told them of tidings of great joy. The shepherds headed in from the fields and found this infant-King, just as the Angel had told them, laying in a manger, and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

For Jesus, like David, it would be many years before He began His public ministry, and at the age of 30, He began to choose His Apostles, and they followed Him as He traveled throughout Israel teaching people the words of His Father, the way they were meant to be taught, learned, and lived.

And it was three years later that Jesus directs Peter to feed His lambs, feed His sheep, and again, feed His sheep.

Jesus is our eternal shepherd, and we are the flocks of His pasture!
“And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:13

Today's Audio Message: "Finding Our Shepherd-King" - Luke 2:1-24

The birth of Jesus - God steps in to redeem mankind.

There was no pretense in the arrival of the Son of God. Rather, Jesus made His appearance in the lowliest of circumstances. His humble birth conveys an amazing message to us, that God chose to humble himself greatly for our sake. The Son of God would clothe Himself in humanity, to offer Himself as the pure sacrificial lamb for our sin, paying the penalty of judgment for those who would believe. The King of kings came humbly, and His first bed was a manger. It was quite a contrast to the birth of John the Baptist whose birth was announced everywhere in the city, and at the temple.

Jesus arrival was virtually unknown to the world, yet His birth would draw an angelic host, and shepherds who were privileged to share in what would be the most fantastic event in history, they would see God’s sign in the heavens, they would become witnesses of Jesus birth, and they would bear the testimony of God’s work and share the wondrous news of the birth Christ, they would also be praising God for all they had seen and heard.

The birth of Jesus is set apart from all other births in history, for this is the arrival of God’s Son, the promise of God’s Word being fulfilled, His plan at work. They break out in praise to God because they are witnesses to the fulfillment of scripture. They are praising God for sending the Messiah. They are praising God because the Savior has come. They are praising God, for the realization of truth. They are praising God for the glorious hope they have seen with their own eyes.

Jesus is our Shepherd-King. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the one who will sit on the throne of David forever. He is The Son of David, the expected One, and He comes to set His people free from their yoke of bondage. He is the One with authority over us, yet He is a gentle and never forces His way into our lives. He is the One Who told the believers in Revelation 3:20 that He stands at the door, knocking and waiting for them to open the doors of their hearts and let Him come in and fellowship with them.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

How Will I Know?

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In our modern times, one can know the joy of having a prayer answered, but with all odds against them, what extreme joy must have been felt by Zacharias and Elisabeth at the news Gabriel brought to them. They would indeed have a son! Zacharias is an old man by this time, and his wife is “well stricken with years.” It’s beyond human hope that this should be happening to them after a lifetime of prayers, and in their old age.

But as Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” When it His Word that is being fulfilled, there is no such thing as “Mission Impossible.” God’s plan will always take precedence over ours; His Will will be done, even if ours is set aside, or denied outright. For Zacharias and Elisabeth, the birth of John the Baptist was a lost hope, that is, until God’s orchestration brought people, places, and times together in a unique combination.

If you have been praying for a Godly purpose, do not give up hope. In such cases, God’s answer is “Not yet!” It is not “No.” And even if you don’t see your prayer answered in your lifetime, the future holds as much promise for us as it did for all those patriarchs who died in faith, not having seen the promises (Hebrews 11:4-13) fulfilled during their lives. James 4:1-5 encourages us to not pray for vain things, and 1 John 5:14 declares if we pray according to His will, He hears us, and will fulfill according to His will.

Do not doubt our God and Lord when it comes to His perfect will, and His purpose. His timing may be awkward for us; Elisabeth went and hid herself for five months, and Zacharias lost his voice! But with John’s birth, Elisabeth’s neighbors and cousins saw how the Lord showed great mercy upon her, and they rejoiced with her! Oh, how excellent is His name! And when naming the child John, as prescribed by the Angel Gabriel, Zacharias showed faith restored in God, his voice returned, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit! Truly nothing shall be impossible for God.

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”  Psalm 113:9

Today's Audio Message: "How Will I Know?" - Luke 1:57-80

This morning, we come to a wonderful passage of scripture. We begin the story of the birth of John the Baptist. A story that shows us how God kept His promise of old, the messenger who would proclaim the arrival of the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world.

The prophecy that God gave through Zacharias comes after 400 years of revelational silence, and fulfills God’s promise in Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me..." John the Baptist is born (Matt. 17:11-13). After centuries of waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy, the scriptures declare that John is born as “the prophet of the highest,” and God has called him to announce the arrival of the promised Messiah.

John would declare, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Here in this passage of scripture, the story of John’s entry onto the scene of human history, is more amazing evidence of the truth of God’s word. It is the demonstration of God to us that He is faithful to His promise!

When John was born, Zacharias who was made dumb by the angel of the Lord for doubting God, is finally able to speak. He offers praise to God at the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Luke tells us;

Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

For He has visited and redeemed His people,

And has raised up a horn of salvation for us

In the house of His servant David,

As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,

Who have been since the world began”
(vv. 67-70).
What a glorious picture! The very first thing that Zacharias gives praise to God for was the Lord Jesus who was yet unborn. For it is Jesus who fulfills these verses in Luke. He is the one who has visited and redeemed His people. Jesus is the “horn” (a symbol of kingly power) “of salvation,” and He fulfilled the promise God to King David, that his seed would reign upon his throne, as King, ruling an everlasting kingdom.

The coming of Jesus into this world is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus is the promised Messiah; and by Him God’s chosen people would be delivered, and restored from their years of disobedience to God.

What good news the coming of Jesus is, and this is the good news that John would declare. Our blessed promise, our wonderful Savior, Redeemer, and King has come to save and deliver us from our sin and judgment. He is the promised Savior of the world.

John role filled God’s plan in this world. Scripture reveals little about John, because the focus is is not on God’s vessel, but on God’s only Son. John came to bear witness of the Light - He was not that Light. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 1:6-9).

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Elul, The Perfect Time


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Angel Gabriel visited the Earth again, in the sixth month. On his previous trip, a conversation with Zacharias the priest left the priest literarily speechless! This time, Gabriel returns to Earth, but not to Jerusalem, instead he comes to Nazareth. In John 1 we read a quote from the Apostle Nathanael (gift of God), as he asks, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” We can read between the lines here that the City of Nazareth did not have a good reputation. But God had His eye on a couple there, about to be married.

God chooses the who, what, when and where that best suits Him, not us. The scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.”

This tells us that God does the exact opposite of what mankind does. CEO’s are groomed to rule in industry because of college transcripts, looks, and abilities. Even a good track record of previous accomplishments is looked upon with great favor. Well, that’s man pinning the blue ribbon on other men.

God is more likely to find someone that’s unkempt, and grooms him or her specific to the ministry needs, not human expectations. To make the point, our audio specialist at church is hearing impaired, and our video specialist has more eye problems than most people. God calls whom He calls because He sees something that the human race misses. It’s not even a tangible, it is faith, and based in willingness to be bent to Gods will. Simply put, it is spiritually based and Spiritually discerned.

So where do we all “fit” in the Body of Christ? If you have ever wondered where you fit, it is best left up to the Lord Himself to plop you into the right place, at the right time, and for His right purposes. Pray to be His willing servant.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” ~ Ephesians 4:16

Today's Audio Message: "Elul, The Perfect Time"

Do you have a plan for your life? – A list of things you hope or expect to accomplish? Maybe it’s finishing high school and going on to college, or graduating from college and starting your career. Perhaps it’s getting married and starting a family; or getting that promotion at work. We all have dreams and goals, what’s yours? How important is that plan to you? How would you feel if you knew that glorifying God most fully in your life would lead you to abandon all those plans? How would you respond to God?

Last week we began our study in the Gospel of Luke. The angel Gabriel announced to the priest Zacharias that he and his wife Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son. Elizabeth was barren and had prayed for years to conceive for a child, and here they are well beyond child bearing years, and God is answering that prayer. God had a purpose and a plan, and His timing is perfect. They would not just be parents, but parents of the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah. Talk about a huge change in one’s life, but the angel tells Zacharias, “You will have joy and gladness.” The Lord has taken away Elizabeth’s disgrace and shame among the people, and Zecharias sees the link between this birth and the fulfillment of God’s plan that was written by the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 40:3-8.

This week, we see the angel Gabriel announce God’s plan to the young girl Mary who had found favor with God. This announcement comes within sixth months of the announcement made to Zacharias and her cousin Elizabeth. Now Mary is told that she would conceive and bring forth a son whose name shall be called Jesus. Pregnancy for an unmarried girl was and still is very problematic. How would she explain this to her family, her betrothed? Yet that doesn’t stop God from fulfilling His plan, by His means, and in His timing according to His perfect will - and yes, takes care of every detail. God’s plan would changed Mary’s plans dramatically.

How does she respond? Why does she respond the way she does? What lessons does Mary provide for us, as God changes our plans? Let’s find the answer to those questions as we look at Luke 1:26-56.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Of Priests And Kings

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The telling of any true story requires details that can only be known by those that “lived” the story. Luke’s Gospel begins with minute details, and even a salutation for the one to whom he writes this tome.

After introducing the readers to his friend Theophilus, we are then taken back in time a bit in verse 5 of Luke 1, and introduced to Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. The time period is in the days of Herod The Great, King of Judea. And Zacharias, we learn, is a priest “of the course of Abia.”

It would be easy to read right over this last detail and miss the importance of Abia, a Grandson of King Solomon. This verse established Zacharias as being a priest in the Royal Family line. The same verse tells us also of Elizabeth his wife, who was “of the daughters of Aaron.” She is of the Aaronic Line of the Jewish priesthood. Aaron was the brother of Moses; they were born to a Levite man and his wife, Aram and Jochobed, and the Levites were the priestly Tribe of Levi. More Jewish “Royalty” in the Priesthood!

These are details that set the stage, tracing Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s heritage back to the days of Moses, a Deliverer of the Jews in his own rite. But for Zacharias and Elizabeth, it places them in a difficult time living under a King of Judea that was not even Jewish, but an Idumean, and therefore not a son of Jacob, but a son of Esau.

Further on in Luke, and in Matthew, we are introduced to Mary, a cousin to Elizabeth and her espoused husband Joseph, both of whom trace their family line back to King David. There is enough Royalty in this family’s bloodline to make it a curious thing that their Son Jesus would have such a humble birth.

For criminal actions, we are told to “follow the money.” But for the love of God, we should be following the bloodline of this narrative, from God, to the first Adam, to the Second Adam, and then to those that believe on His name. Follow the details in the story and discover the truth of our Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be on His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father , The Prince of Peace.” - Isaiah 9:6

Today's Audio Message: "Of Priests And Kings"

As we begin the Christmas Season, we will be looking at Luke’s Gospel for the real reason we celebrate.  There is no greater gift to mankind than the birth of our Savior and Lord. His name is  Jesus.  He is that indescribable gift that God gave to us. He is the Savior who delivers us from sin and death. He is the Messiah who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.  Jesus, who is fully divine, and the Lord of Heaven, entered our world taking on human flesh.  He is Emmanuel - God is truly with us!

In this first section of chapter one, we read the apostle’s account of the announcement of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner of the promised Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5).  John was the chosen one to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.  We will learn about his parents, both from a royal and priestly heritage - God did not miss one intricate detail in the fulfillment of prophecy leading to the birth of Christ.

It’s interesting that even the names of John’s parents leave no room for doubt about God’s plan, His promises and His complete ability to fulfill every detail of His word.  Zacharias whose name means ‘God Remembers’, and Elizabeth, whose name means ‘His Oath’.  Together their names mean, ‘God Remembers His Oath’. That oath can be found in Psalm 89:34-37 - God’s promise to King David, that his seed shall endure forever, and the throne of this coming King will be established forever!

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