Saturday, June 12, 2021

Faith Is The Key



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Faith is the key. Scripture tells us it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). We read that salvation is for all, because we all need it; we all need a Savior, because we all fall short of God’s glory. “But wasn’t man made in God’s image?” Genesis 1:26,27 says “Yes.” But then sin came into the world, and by Genesis 5 sin-in-us had become the norm, inherited from Adam. Seth was made in Adam’s image, but Adam was made in God’s image (Genesis 5:1-3). That’s the problem, Adam had already sinned before Cain, Abel, and Seth were born.

Faith is the key. We have the capacity to bear God’s image, but only after we deal with the sin that changed us in the first place. The Bible points to Jesus as the Savior, God himself in the flesh. Animal sacrifices brought atonement, but they could not remove sin from the hearts of sinners. Can a leopard work towards changing his own spots? Of course not. And like a leopard’s spots, sin became part of us, inherited from Adam. Self-reformation is noble, but insufficient to purify the human heart, purging it from the desire to sin.

Faith is the key. Jesus our Creator (Colossians 1:15-19) came to offer salvation to all because the Father so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)!

Faith is the key, specifically faith in Christ Jesus. He changes everything, His sacrifice not only covered our sin, but His Resurrection brings eternal life to those who believe in Him. That’s faith, blind faith, faith without necessarily knowing the how, where, when, and why of God. But we can know the Who, and that’s Jesus Christ, the anointed of God.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Faith in Jesus is the key to understanding God’s words to us. Faith is a gift from God to us, and without it we cannot even speak the words “Jesus is the Lord.” But faith is a choice, nothing more. Without understanding it fully, we can still choose it! And if you desire understanding, then faith is the key.
“I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:”  Psalm 78:2

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 13:1-23 - "Faith Is The Key"

Summary:

Beginning in Matthew chapter 13, Jesus is on the Galilee while large crowds began to gather around Him, and He begins to teach in parables. Confused by this, His disciples asked Him why He was teaching them in parables. 

The parable is a story or an illustration placed along side of a truth with the intention of explaining the one by the other.  An old definition says a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning--some familiar thing of life on earth is placed alongside of some mystery of heaven, that our understanding of the one may help us understand the other.  Jesus drew from the common life of the people to explain some principle or teaching about the kingdom of heaven. In following this method a point of similarity is communicated, as well as a disparity between this life and the life in the kingdom
They are stories meant for every Spirit filled believer who has eyes to see, and ears to hear. He chose to use parables to begin to uncover the faith of true disciples, and to demonstrate judgment on those who refused to see and hear.  Parables are designed to communicate truth in every day terms. But the text says that they also conceal the truth from those who refuse to believe.

True disciples understand the things that Jesus is saying to them because they want to understand it, they believe Him and God has given them the power to understand it.  "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given."  
Matthew 13:11

Others do not understand it because they do not want to understand it, they do not believe God, His Word, and so they reject their Savior.  God does not bless them with the power to understand it, because they refuse it.  They have no love God, they reject His Word, They love their own ways, not His.  Their hearts are hardened.  Therefore they are blind and deaf to spiritual things.  "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should...understand with their heart and should be converted, and I should heal them."  Matthew 13:15


Here is recorded the Parable of the Sower.  It is recorded in three of the four biblical Gospels – Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15. The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God. Jesus used this analogy in the Parable of the Sower. The soil that the seed fell on represents four categories of hearers' hearts, four different reactions to the Word of God: 
  • The hard heart -  "...some fell by the way side"
  • The shallow heart - "some fell on stony places"
  • The crowded heart - "...some fell among the thorns"
  • The fruitful heart - "...some fell into good ground"
“A man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart.” D.A. Carson

While the Sower sows the seeds of the Gospel to everyone, not everyone will put their faith and trust in the Lord. It all comes back to the heart.

That which falls on good soil represents those who hear the word of the kingdom, understand it, and produce fruit for the harvest.






Saturday, June 5, 2021

God's House Divided



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the beginning of the chapter last week, we heard of Jesus breaking the Sabbath Laws regarding work, i.e., the exerting of energy to perform a task. The Pharisees were indignant when they heard Jesus teaching scripture to them. The result was they took council against Our Lord in order to destroy Him. This week we read of Jesus’ further works on that Sabbath.

If the Pharisees were indignant in last week’s study, they have gone “ballistic” as this study continues this week. They accuse Jesus of healing by the power of Beelzebub! Clearly, these Temple Leaders show us how much the House of God is divided: false doctrines abounded among the Temple’s teachers. God’s literal Word is brought into question for believability and truth. Last week marked a change in Jesus’ target audience: opening His Word to the Gentiles (Mt. 12:21). God’s only begotten Son has been accused of abandoning the Father! (And we know our God is one God.)

This is the result of legalism in any organization, but especially within the Church. But the love of God, and His grace can overcome division and pitting of people against one another.

I Corinthians 13:4,5 offers us a great exercise in our faith-walk with Jesus: “Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity does not vaunt itself, it is not puffed up. It does not behave itself in an unseemly way, it seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, or thinks evil. It doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth.”  Your faith-walk with Jesus will be challenged with this exercise:

Read through the passage once; then a second time, replacing the word charity with the name of Jesus. Then lastly, read through it again, and where you read the name of Jesus, replace His name with yours.

To borrow from an old cliché/adage, we may “have come a long way baby,” but we have a long way to go. God’s love and grace can overcome all things. His is the truth in all things. Meditate on His Word. (Psalm 1:1-3)

“Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.”  - Psalm 17:7 


Today's Audio Message:
 
Matthew 12:22-42 - "God's Divided House"

Summary:

Jesus had an escalating conflict with the Jewish religious leaders.   He
was preaching, teaching and doing mighty works by the power of the Spirit to bring the Spirit’s conviction of sin in their hearts so they might repent and believe. But these Pharisees disregard the call to repent. In fact they had already conspired to destroy Him. 

They are questioning the validity of Christ’s claim as God’s Son. While following the letter of the law, they elevated themselves above the people. They failed to see God's mercy and grace and therefore failed in their interpretation of scripture. They became blind in their pride, rejecting what the Spirit was revealing to the people about Jesus the prophesied Messiah, the One they should have known. Hardened hearts and haughty spirits have brought them dangerously close to blaspheming the Holy Ghost.  Jesus is having none of it and calls them out on it. 

How severe is their rejection? Verse [31], Jesus says, "
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men."

They had come perilously close to crossing a line that would lead to their eternal damnation. The question, of course, is what was that line? The Pharisees were knowledgeable of the prophecies, but they refused to acknowledge the truth when they saw it. Not only that, they publicly rejected Jesus’ claims and said He was demonic. Jesus said that anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Blasphemy involves actively attributing the works of God to Satan, and doing so in spite of the facts and in unbelief.

It is willfully saying the truth is not the truth even though it has been made evident by the Spirit. The consequence of this willful rejection of what one knows to be true is a hardening of the heart, and scriptures warns us that it is the unforgivable sin.















Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Law In Practice


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz


In the last two weeks we learned that Jesus could not win-for-losing when it came to the opinion of the Pharisees. They accused John the Baptist of having a devil. They accused Jesus of gluttony and being a drinker (Matthew 11:18, 19).

So black and white was the Law to the Pharisees, that there was no room for any exceptions. Jesus was accused by them of being a Law Breaker, and therefore just another sinner among the masses. They were incensed by His appeal to the people of Judaism who followed Him religiously.

This week we look at Jesus and the Apostles as they stretch the Law to fit practical, daily life. The Law allowed for many things in daily life that were abhorrent to the leadership of the Temple. Work on the Sabbath was forbidden, period, as far as they were concerned. And indeed it was, except when common sense prevailed and life, limb, or livelihood was in jeopardy. It did no one any good to not heal, cure, or save on the Sabbath if a person’s well-being was at risk. Grace was woven throughout “The Law,” allowing for those things.


Yet the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Law whenever He healed a sinner, The Jewish Holidays and Sabbaths all point to the coming Messiah: newness of life, daily sustenance, joy, and celebration of life. But because these all were such “solemn” occasions, the Religious Leaders took a dim view of actually enjoying them. The Law became a duty to perform to the letter of itself. It became a burden, and not a joy of the heart.

Even in tithing, the Jews were to tithe of their spices and seasonings for various preparations. There was no room for grace and mercy under the Law, until Jesus taught the people otherwise! Love, grace, mercy, faith in God, compassion and empathy were the core of His teachings. God is not insensitive to the needs of His people! He is not insensitive to your needs either; He loves all His people both Jew and Gentile, and provides for all things.

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.”1 Samuel 15:22


Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 12:1-21 - "The Law In Practice"

Summary:

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath law was never intended to restrict deeds of necessity. Secondly, it was never meant to restrict service to God. And thirdly, it was never meant to restrict acts of mercy. The Sabbath was to bring rest, not hardship. The Sabbath was to reflect what the other nine commandments reflected: Love toward God and love toward your fellow man. And that’s what the Ten Commandments are all about. The first of the commandments talk about our love to God through loyalty, faithfulness, reverence, and holiness. The second group in the Ten Commandments talks about love toward our fellow man through respect and purity and unselfishness, truthfulness, and contentment.

Jesus honored the Sabbath, as did His disciples, insofar as God intended it to be honored. But the Pharisees had added so many things to the law that it became a heavy burden. In the Talmud, just in one section, there are 24 chapters listing all the Sabbath laws. One rabbi spent two and a half years trying to understand one of those chapters. Can you imagine?

Jesus did not comply with their heavy handed legalism, and the Pharisees begin to accuse Him. Jesus’ response is classic, "Have you not read in the law?"  The Pharisees who took great pride in the knowing the letter of the law get a lesson they did not expect, nor want to receive…instruction in the law, in the Old Testament scriptures.   He doesn't mince words, but gets to the heart of the matter.  Jesus connected the Sabbath with the heart of God - benevolence, mercy, kindness, goodness. That is the purpose of it all. Jesus came that we might enter into a relationship with God.

There are people today who are caught in systems of religion where they are trying, by their own works, to do what the Pharisees did. Laws upon laws and rules upon rules. All these man-made systems do is bury the heart of God under a pile of legislation, and He wants to give you a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

”Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30







Saturday, May 22, 2021

Hidden From The Wise


 
Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz


Jesus asked the people concerning John the Baptist: “What went ye out to see?”  It calls for an examination of their personal motives.  We open this week in verse 16 of Matthew 11 with Jesus giving an analogy of that generation: Crying out to their fellows like children in the marketplace. Neither entertainment, nor lament seemed to move them.  John was accused of having a devil when he would not join their “fun.” And when Jesus came, He ate and drank with them, and He was accused of being a gluttonous drunk! There’s just no winning!

As He called them to examine their own hearts, they remained steadfast in judging a book by its cover. And in spite of the visits He made, and the works He had done in a variety of cities, none repented of their sin. None weighed the evidence of John’s life, nor Jesus’.

Some said that the Son of man (Jesus) is Elias, though Jesus told them earlier that John the Baptist is Elias, if they would receive that word of truth. John was that voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3).

To say the least, confusion was the order of the day in Judaism and among the followers of John the Baptist.  Today though, Jesus’ Church is built, and in spite of that, confusion reigns among believers who all claim to be part of His Church.

As God’s teachings of old had been hijacked by the elite minds of the Priesthood and the Sanhedrin, it’s safe to say that today’s educated and elite Church leaders, have hijacked the pure, simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s now more complicated, than ever with doctrines shifting in importance from one denomination to the next.

Bible footnotes, and human interpretation of the scriptures are not “the Word of God.” They follow human logic, but we know that God’s logic is far beyond human comprehension, so let’s update Jesus question;  “What did you come out to see at church today?”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way, 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.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

Today's Audio Message

Matthew 11:15-30 - "Hidden From The Wise"

Today’s passage focuses on the people’s estimate of John and Jesus, and Jesus’ estimate of this generation.  

Jesus had been preaching the Gospel, and teaching the multitudes about the Kingdom of God expecting them to apprehend who He was and to believe on Him.  Instead they became dissatisfied and critical.  How incredible that these people who had every benefit and every opportunity, literally witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy before their eyes, would be so dull of heart as to not respond to the Lord.

God had sent them the greatest prophet, John the Baptizer, to prepare the way of the Lord.  He preached to everyone that they should repent and prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah is in their midst.  He healed them and the blind could see, the lame could walk, the lepers were cleansed, and the deaf could hear.  The dead were raised up and they all heard the gospel preached, yet they were unresponsive, indifferent and unrepentant.  It really makes you wonder why they hung around. 

What were they there for?  What are the looking for? What are you looking for?

We need to grasp what is at stake, they didn't. There are eternal consequences for trifling with the Gospel of Christ.   There comes a point in time that those who reject the Lord will face judgment. 

Finally, Jesus responds to their utter lack of concern about their spiritual condition and  importance of salvation.  Like spoiled children with a limited attention span, they are never satisfied, always moving on to the next thrill, and never finding satisfaction.  Woe unto you! They have seen Jesus' gentleness and compassion 
as He ministered to their needs, now they are seeing His severeness. Many believe that a loving God cannot possibly condemn anyone.  If that were the case, what was the point of Jesus' death on the cross? It is a terrifying truth that those who reject Jesus will find themselves under His judgment.

The Lord is calling out to you, to repent and believe on Him.  He offers salvation to all who come to Him on His terms.  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (vs.28) The Lord will remove the heavy yoke of sin, and place His yoke upon you. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Jesus says, Come to me...take my yoke and learn of me.  Your weary soul will find rest in Him. 


 





Saturday, May 15, 2021

Jesus: The Hometown Tour


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

After Jesus’ initial travels around the Galilee Region, He takes His message and ministry to the hometowns of the Apostles. They would have been with Him on the first trip around “Lake Gennesaret,” and those from the Apostles’ home cities might have realized that they had been missing from home for several weeks, or maybe months.

Now Jesus takes them back to their hometowns. In John 1:44, we learn that brothers Andrew and Simon Peter were from Bethsaida, but had apparently moved across the Jordan River to Capernaum, near the river’s inlet into the lake from the north. Philip was also from Bethsaida. Other parts of the Gospels tell us that Matthew was from Capernaum where he sat at the gate receiving taxes.

If Jesus were to call to the Apostles to follow Him today, I wonder if anyone would notice that they were missing from their neighborhoods. The folks in my neighborhood don’t know anyone beyond two or three houses on either side of and across, the street. Our world has changed! Our cities are overcrowded with families that do not know one another. And the current pandemic hasn’t helped! Wearing masks for the last 14 months has depersonalized us all, and kept us even from recognizing each other. But literally, society’s depersonalization has been going on for decades. One could very easily feel all alone in today’s world.

But take heart; God has known you from before the foundation of the Earth! His promises include, “I will never leave you, or forsake you.” “No man is able to pluck them (believers) out of my Father’s hand.”  “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”  Above all else, the believer is never out of God’s mind, and He remains faithful and just. Through Jesus Christ, we gentile believers are grafted in (Romans 11:17-24) to the Abrahamic Covenant applied to Abraham’s children: The family tree of God’s Chosen.

Revelation 2 and 3 reminds us to have on our spiritual ears to understand the scriptures through the Holy Spirit. “He that overcometh (sin and the world) shall…” have specific blessings in their lives. And in Revelation 21:7, the Holy Spirit writes:

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things;
and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."


Today's Audio Message

Matthew 11:1-15 - "Jesus: The Homeland Tour"

Summary:

In John 1:29, John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist also said of Jesus, “Whose shoes lachet I am not worthy to unloose." (John 1:27), and, “I have need to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?” (Matthew 3:14). It is clear that John the Baptist recognized Jesus to be the Messiah and had faith in Him.

However, later, as recorded in Matthew 11:3 and Luke 7:19, John the Baptist is in prison. He sends messengers to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  What happened? Why was John the Baptist doubting whether Jesus was the Messiah?

Jesus’ response is telling. He understood John's doubt, and instructed his disciples to go back and encourage John with what they heard and saw. He then encourages his disciples, pointing to the Old Testament, the prophecies concerning Him. Isaiah 35 couldn't be more clear, He would make the blind to see, the deaf to hear the lame to walk . . . no one need ever doubt the Lord at His Word.

It’s found repeatedly in prison stories where God's people are unjustly thrown, facing death, enduring awful conditions, and their faith is stretched in ways we can’t imagine. Fear, confusion, doubt, discouragement is part of the human condition. Yet faith is central to the whole Christian experience. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is always found in the Person and work of Jesus. Those suffering for Christ's sake are at their most vulnerable when in the hands of God's enemies. But, this is exactly where God wants them, they are still in His hands. Faith tested through the furnace of affliction is where we must learn to trust Him, and where we are reminded of the precious promises of His Word. The Lord is faithful to His Word, and in all things.

God’s plans and purposes are not always what we think they should be. In fact, most of the time they are not. John may have expected Jesus to deliver Israel from their oppressors (which He will do at His second coming), but Jesus came to deliver us from our sins. Through his death and resurrection, Christ our Substitute, saves us from the eternal punishment and death we all deserve (mercy), while at the same time providing eternal life that we don’t deserve (grace).



Saturday, May 8, 2021

Forewarned


 Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

With the Apostles gathered together to Jesus, He spends more time preparing them for the future ministry to the saints, believers and followers of Jesus’ teachings and works. He is giving them insight into what they can expect as they go out into the world. Basically, what Jesus has experienced, they should expect no different, not even from their families.

This is an alarming section to study, especially on Mothers’ Day of all days. Yet the subtleties of familial relationships bear out the truth of this chapter. It’s also a warning: with Romans 1:30 and 2Timothy 3:2, the Holy Spirit tells us that things will get worse and worse towards the end of days.

Even as written in verse 34 of this chapter, we learn that Jesus Christ, and the message of the Gospel will bring division among even the closest of relationships. The Gospel is directly opposed to the generally accepted world view of life, death, and all personal relationships. To the point, God is left out of so many of the issues of daily living in the world. That’s not how He meant His Creation to be.

The message of the Gospel challenges those who hear it to think outside the box, to open their hearts and consider another source of truth, other than what the world promotes continually: personal experience, personal opinion and a human interpretation of the world. That’s what the world expects and what they promote to us. Even much of science is based on the human world view, rather than God-the-Creator’s view.

The Gospel kicks against the world view, even though it rings true in the hearts of those that accept Jesus’ message of love, and loving one another. It’s a simple message of a bonded love and acceptance, something we all desire. And because it comes from our Creator, we know we have a desire of our hearts.

Stand up to the pressure and intensity of the world. Bend and bow down to the King of kings, and Lord of lords instead, for Jesus alone is worthy.

“For it is written, ‘As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall
bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

Isaiah 45:23 – Romans 14:11 – Philippians 2:10,11

Today's Audio Message

Matthew 10:21-42 - "Forewarned"

Chapter Summary:

To be a Christian is to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). If many have persecuted Him, so also will many hate us for preaching His Gospel. We who follow Him cannot expect to escape the same tribulations our Lord also endured (Matthew 10:24–25).

If there is a message that desperately needs to be heard by the church today, it is Jesus’ words regarding persecution. In this morning’s text, Jesus prepares His disciples for the certainty of persecution on their current mission to the nation of Israel. In so doing, He also expands His teaching to include the mission to the Gentiles which encompasses the entire history of the church down to the present day. Here Jesus provides key teachings of what His disciples can expect from a world that rejects Him.

In John 15, Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Expect it!

Just as Jesus was crucified, according to tradition handed down from the early Church, all of the apostles, except for John, would be killed for preaching the gospel. It is not so important how the apostles died as it is important that they were all willing to die for their faith in Christ.

Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends, family, job, or even the loss of your life? As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”

The truth is, we have gained everything in Christ, and the cost is nothing in comparison. Sharing our faith is both an honor and a privilege, and following Jesus is priceless!







Saturday, May 1, 2021

Sheep Among Wolves


Bobservations Column
 
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

After Jesus went throughout all the cities in the Galilee Region, we pick up again in Matthew Chapter 10. He had spent time with the Apostles, having called them to follow Him as He went from city to city, gaining followers. They were witnesses to His teachings and His miracles. For them, it was first-hand training. Later on we'll read that they participated in the miracles, such as when the 5,000 were fed. By then, they were "The Twelve."

Today in Matthew 10's study we learn their names, some of the places from which they came, and some of the family relationships between them.

I met a Jewish man in a previous church attended, and he had been raised a Jew by his parents and family. But one time, something prompted him to read the Gospel of Matthew. Whether it was youthful curiosity or something else, as he read Matthew, he realized that all the names of people and places in the Gospel of Matthew were all Jewish names and Jewish cities, things that were familiar to him through his Hebrew School.

By the time he got to the end of Matthew's Gospel, the text itself, and Matthew's style of writing convinced him that Jesus is the Messiah his people have been waiting for. To the chagrin of his family, he converted to Christianity and now in his 70's, is a strong believer, witnessing to "who-so-ever" has a question and a willing ear to hear the answers he provides.

The writings of this Matthew the Levite will strike home to any sincere Jew. It is their story. It is how they have been persecuted through the ages, and endured, and been strengthened by the persecution.

Indeed, all History is His Story. The Prophet Isaiah tells us of the efficacy of God's Word:
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall no return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
The word of God shall fall like rain on many, but it will take root in the lives of those who truly hear.

Today's Audio Message

Matthew 10:1-20 - "Sheep Among Wolves"

Chapter Summary:

We are continuing our series in the Gospel of Matthew and we are right smack dab in the middle of the section where Jesus is giving very specific instructions to His disciples.

Jesus has called these twelve ordinary men together for the specific purpose of anointing them, and empowering them to preach the Gospel of salvation, the Kingdom of Heaven and to continue His work here on earth. Jesus is enlightening the apostles to the reality that in the future they will experience a whole different level of hatred, persecution, and difficulty, even death for his names sake. He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. He encourages His disciples that persecution is not a failure of God to protect them, but rather God’s plan. This would indeed be an opportunity to share the gospel of salvation.

As Christian's we should expect to be rejected, even persecuted as Jesus had warned. We need to be wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove. We should also expect help from the Holy Spirit. He will show us how and what to speak, even if arrested, and dragged before the court and the angry mob. It is then that the Holy Spirit will give the words, and the opportunity to tell all these powerful people about the gospel of Jesus, and salvation through faith in Christ.

PLEASE NOTE: You can turn off the background music when listening to the audio teachings. To do so, go to the right hand column and click the stop or pause button on the audio player.






Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sin, Forgiveness, And Healing

 

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the beginning of Matthew 9, Jesus told a paralytic that his sins were forgiven, and that he was to get up and walk. While we don’t fully understand the correlation between sin and illnesses, there appears to be one from First Corinthians 11:30, and sin and illness are directly tied to the reverence and obedience we give to God. From verses 26-29 of that same chapter, we find the link. It is a spiritual issue that all must deal with when it comes to God and His only begotten Son, Jesus.

On the cross, Jesus endured something quite physical to accomplish something very spiritual, the forgiveness of sin to make us presentable to His Father and ours. His blood sacrifice as the Lamb of God covered over the knowledge of sin in our lives. The Father Himself set the precedent in Genesis 3:21, the first animal blood sacrifice, with the skins provided to Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. Innocence was lost to sin, and a sacrifice was required to cover their new-found knowledge of sin. With the skins, they were no longer physically naked and spiritually exposed.

The Lamb of God did the same for us. He gave His life for our sin(s) and when we believe, His sacrifice is our vindication.

This is the New Covenant which was spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34. It is a test of faith, much like Abraham was tested when the Lord ask him to sacrifice his only son. Do we believe the promises of God? If we do, then the Spiritual and the physical realm become blended in faith and belief.

But this New (eighth) Covenant is nothing like the first seven. It is a covenant of faith. It will not fit into the parameters of the former covenants. Hence, Jesus’ parable of trying to put new wine into old bottles is a good example of His doctrine of salvation.

His healings continued there in Capernaum for all who put their faith in Him: a woman healed, a daughter raised up, two blind men receive their sight, and a demon cast out. Jesus continued to minister to those in need throughout the region, ignoring the accusation of the Pharisees. Truth can stand alone.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. "  
Matthew 9:36 


Today's Audio Message

Matthew 9:11-38 - "Sin, Forgiveness, And Healing"

Chapter Summary:

The focal point where the old and new covenants meet is found in Jesus Christ. The old covenant, as a guardian, prepares the way for Him and prepares His people for Him. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross fulfills the promise that God will forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts are turned toward Him.

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching the Kingdom of God and healing and restoring broken lives. By faith they come, believing that He alone can help and heal them.

Jesus spoke of a spiritual harvest waiting to be reaped. As Jesus traveled, “he saw the multitudes, [and] he was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.'" (Matthew 9:36–38). Here, Jesus referred to the many souls needing to be brought to repentance and faith as a harvest waiting to be realized.  


 



Saturday, April 17, 2021

Answers To The Pharisees


Bobservations Column
 
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We return today to our series in the Gospel of Matthew after breaking away for The Passion and Resurrection of our Lord.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels, because of their similarity in recording events in Jesus’ ministry in similar sequence, and with similar wording.

Matthew, writing to the Jews; (John) Mark writing from what some believe has been dictated from Peter; and Luke writing to the Greek-speaking Jews of the nation. There is evidence that Matthew might well be the earliest written of the Gospel’s accounts. C.I. Scofield notes that it was written in 37 A.D., while Mark was written between 57 and 63 A.D., and Luke between 63 and 68 A.D. (John’s Gospel was penned while John was exiled to Patmos, in 85-90 A.D.)

Jesus’ return to Capernaum after His visit to Gadara across the Sea, brings Him back to His home base with familiar people and surroundings. But the crowds always followed. The boats going back and forth across the sea, would have carried news back to Capernaum about the events from the Gadarenes: the demonic possession was purged, and the people’s swine leaped into the sea and drowned.

There were people hurting throughout the region, and word-of-mouth continued among them, raising their hopes for a healing. Their Pharisees and Temple Leaders could do nothing, but this Jesus....! This healer showed Himself to be faithful to the Word of God. Faith and trust in God they had, but no apparent means to put them into action, not even through their Temples.

Desperation and faith can be the perfect mix to draw us to the Lord. Realizing our own inability to make changes in our lives, Jesus can enter in, and alter our situations. In humbleness of mind, we can approach the Lord and lay out our petitions. He will hear us, and will respond when we are in a mode of worship.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” -  Matthew 11:28 


Today's Audio Message

Matthew 9:1-15 - "Answers To The Pharisees"

Chapter Summary:

Oh the self-righteous Pharisees!  They were the religious people among the Jews. Throughout Jesus’ ministry they were always in the crowd ready to criticize, harass, and conspire to trap Him in His words.  Having the word of God, these prideful men never recognized the Messiah had come and He is right in their midst.  You would think with such a desire to obey the Mosaic law, and knowing the scriptures, that they would have recognized Jesus as Messiah, and followed Him, but they didn’t.  In fact they spent all of their time trying to prove Jesus was a liar and a blasphemer.  Incredible.

In chapter 9, Matthew pens snapshot after snapshot of stories of broken people and their troubled lives.  They are desperate. They are hurting. They are sick and weary.  They have no hope until they hear of this miracle worker whose name is Jesus.  No one speaks like He speaks.  No one acts as He does.  No one can do the things He can do.  News gets around.  This Jesus of Nazareth is full of compassion and willing to help them. He has been travelling around the Galilee, and He is changing peoples lives. They seek after him, others are brought to him, and Jesus touches and heals them both physically, and spiritually. These people have experienced His kindness (which leads to repentance), and His compassion. They are forgiven and healed, and they depart filled with joy and peace sharing their testimony to everyone.

The Pharisees are in the crowd and having none of it. They do not see God as gracious and merciful and abounding in love, but as one who makes demands. They have elevated themselves above the people, and they are looking rather stupid right about now.  They were exacting in keeping the letter of the law - and are still missing its intent. All their petty man made rules and their cold and cruel behavior have distanced themselves from the people, and has displeased the Lord.  Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice and blind ritual. Jesus, who is the Son of God is the personification of mercy and grace.  He would soon become the Mercy Seat. He was the one great sacrifice for our sins. He offers Himself to us. He turns away the wrath of God from us. He bring us into the presence of God blameless and acceptable. 










Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alive Indeed!


Bobservations Column
 
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The crucifixion and burial of Jesus devastated the Apostles and Disciples of our Lord. The scriptures tell us that they had hoped that Jesus was going to be the one to free Israel from its oppressors, primarily Rome, redeeming God’s people and freeing the nation. But on the third day after came disbelief, wonder, and confusion. Though their hopes had been dashed, the women in the ministry brought them unbelievable news. Jesus was alive!

A few had seen the empty tomb. Those few had heard the voice(s) of the angels at the tomb, telling them that Jesus had risen. And in spite of seeing Lazarus raised from the dead earlier, they were still not believing it!

Jesus’ words to two of the Apostles walking on the road to Emmaus could be applied to the two of them, or to all the remaining eleven. “Oh, fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:” (Luke 24:25). The Apostles were all Jewish, hand-picked by Jesus, and if they’d been paying attention in Temple, they’d be familiar with all the passages that spoke of their Redeemer/Messiah/The Holy One of Israel. Jesus affirms that not only is He Messiah, but He affirms that the Old Testament reveals not only His role, but His plan for us all: to redeem us from our own fleshly, sinful lives.

What they were instead familiar with were the words of their Priests, the Sanhedrin, and the Scribes. And few, if any of them, were filled with the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Jewish Prophets were filled with the Spirit, and the Temple leadership killed all the prophets through the ages.

Many New Testament Churches avoid teaching the Old Testament, thinking it’s not for Christians. But unless today’s believers have a firm foundation for their Christian faith, it can be shaken or washed away by those offering a different foundation other than God’s Word.

NASA sends rockets into orbit around Earth, around the moon, and around other planets. If those scientists are just 1/20 off in their calculations, their rockets will fly off into space, missing their mark. We have learned that Arsenic is only 3% poison, but ingesting it still makes you dead.

The Word of God, living and alive, tells us that He “...is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man comes to the Father except by Him.”

 “For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."  -  1 John 5:7



NOTES/REFERENCES:

1) “The word of the God (Jehovah, YHWH)” appear 48 times in the Bible.
2) “The word of the Lord (Jehovah, YHWH)” appears 255 times in the Bible, including “the word of the Lord” (lower case ‘ord’) as the people listened to Jesus’ words as He personally taught them.
[The Father is referred to as “Lord” in the text, and Jesus is “Lord.”]
3) John 6:63 – Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. “
4) 1 Corinthians 2:14 – “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirt of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know then, because they are spiritually discerned.”


Today's Audio Message

Luke 24:13-35 - "Alive Indeed"

As we look at the story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road, we find that these men had experienced a faith-shaking blow after watching Him die on the cross. Returning home that Sunday afternoon proved the finality of all of their hope. The men of Emmaus had no doubt: Jesus was gone and that was the end of their confidence. As they journeyed home, we can just imagine the conversation as they discussed all that had happened that final week in Jerusalem.

Their horror, and disappointment led to their failing to recognize Jesus when He approached. He hadn't disguised Himself, they were blinded by their own disbelief - slow of heart to believe the prophets concerning his death and resurrection.

These two on the road to Emmaus should not have been slow to believe in the resurrection report. Why? Because all the Scriptures had foretold these things. That’s why they were slow to believe in the resurrection. Because they were slow to believe in God's Word.

Can you imagine how amazing it would have been to sit with Jesus and listen to Him teach from Moses, through the prophets and the psalms? Can you imagine Him opening up our minds with clarity to the Scriptures? Can you picture yourself intensely listening to every word, as your heart burned within you with joy, bearing witness to the truth? Jesus did not leave us wandering around in this world hopeless and alone.  Jesus said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." He sent us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of promise who dwells within the believer.  The Holy Spirit is Spirit of truth, who will teach us all things, and guide us into all truth.  You don't have to imagine what it would have been like, seek Him diligently in His Word - it is there that you will find Him!




Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Chronological Sequence of Events: "Resurrection Morning"

 


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz 

It happened before. One of Jesus’ ancestors was rejected by his brethren. Out of jealousy, they sold him as a slave. He was eventually taken to a foreign land and made a servant in a ruler’s household. And once there, his abilities caused him to be raised up to a high position, second only to the King of that land. He was the go-to-guy for food when there was a famine.

The famine spread also into the ancestor’s homeland, and his brethren who sold him eventually came seeking food for their families, for they had heard there was food in that foreign land. They were to go see this man raised up to power, not realizing who he actually was. If they wanted their families to live, they had to get to him, and be in his good graces.

Though his brethren did not recognize him, he indeed recognized them. He recalled the day when they sold him off to be a servant to foreigners. They had told their father, Jacob, that he was dead, killed by a wild beast. They even took his coat and bloodied it to show his father. Years passed, and they found themselves groveling at this man’s feet. He asked of their father back home, and their youngest brother, Benjamin. And, he learned that his brethren were still sticking to their lie, that they had another brother who had been killed.

The man put the brothers through their paces, requiring this and that from them, even requiring that the youngest brother be brought to him from Israel.

And then they were to return to Israel and bring the father and all the family.

The man’s name was Joseph. He and all his brothers were the twelve sons of Jacob, and when Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers, they shook with fear, their sin being exposed for what they had done to him. Sure that they would face severe consequences at his hand, they pledged to be his servants in Egypt. Joseph instead showed them mercy, and forgiveness.

( ~ Read the whole story in Genesis 35-50 ~ )

Rejected by His own, Jesus was a servant to all. Away from His Father, He suffered many things, even the death of the cross. He was then raised up to a position of authority. By His sufferings, any who come to Him will be saved.

“For it pleased the Father that in Him, all fullness should dwell.” ~ Colossians 1:19

Happy Resurrrection Day !

“This is the day the Lord hath made!" Psalm 118:24


Renewal and new growth surrounds us in nature, and we have already enjoyed a taste of the better weather coming our way after the winter.

Be blessed this week! Read on in the Gospels as Jesus continues to teach His followers and spread the good news that He Is Risen! Let new growth and renewal happen in your life, and your heart.

Today's Audio Message

Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John20 - "Resurrection Morning"

In the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, is where they laid the body of Jesus after He suffered and died on the cross for our sins. There His body lay for three days until just before dawn on Sunday, the events that took place changed everything! Jesus had risen from the dead! His tomb was empty! In one of the greatest historical events in all of human history, Jesus had risen from the dead.

The Jewish leaders thought that they had finally rid themselves of a radical teacher. The Gentile leaders, hoped that they had stopped a potential insurrection. Satan thought he had thwarted God’s plan of salvation and reconciliation. BUT…Death could not hold Him! “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).  Jesus death was like no other…it didn’t defeat Him, He defeated it! Talk about significant and substantial! The resurrection of Jesus is God’s great marker in history that declares that Jesus will have the last word in history. 

Talk about significant and substantial! The resurrection of Jesus is God’s great marker in history that declares that Jesus will have the last word in history. Acts 17:31 says;

“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

The world would never be the same again. Jesus is risen and since He is risen, those who put their faith and trust in Him will also be risen with Him. The hope of our lives is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

The four Gospels each contain bits of information about the events occurring after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Putting the four accounts together provides us with an amazing detailed account and harmonization of the gospels.


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Palm Sunday - Hosanna In The Highest!


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

John’s Gospel tells us that if all of what Jesus did were written in books, the world itself could not hold the volumes recording them (John 21:25).  And as we observe Palm Sunday with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it is the culmination of His and His followers traveling south from the Galilee region where so many of Jesus’ works were done. But we dare not overlook the trip itself, and the mighty works that were done as they traveled. We cannot know the precise chronology of His teachings and miracles, but we do know that He walked and taught at the same time, ministering to those who had heard He was passing through. Crowds would gather because word of mouth would spread from town to town, and village to village that Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing was coming. Their southbound trip was needful, for every able-bodied Jew was required to go the Jerusalem for Passover, and being an observant Jew, Jesus was faithful to follow the dictates of the Levitical Law.

Near Jericho, there were two blind men whose sight Jesus healed. (Matt. 20:29-43, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43.) Each of the Gospel accounts of this event varies a bit one to the next, but the basics are shared by all three accounts. The blind heard a commotion and asked what was going on. Jesus was passing their way, they were told, and they cried out to Him...

Where ever He went, people would come to Him with their requests. Physical healings, sinful lifestyles, and even demons were cast out. Though He never wanted any notoriety, word of Him spread from person to person, and town to town. If there was one word that described Jesus’ ministry, it was Humility. People may have been drawn to him for a variety of reasons, but anyone who heard Him or was touched by His ministry was changed.

The Pharisees that were among the crowds monitored His movements, and often provoked him with questions, but as the crowds grew, there was no denying that Jesus was a very special Person, and He was becoming a threat to the status-quo of the Jews in Jerusalem. In the end, Jesus would triumph, and the Jews and Romans would be exposed for who they were, and what they worshiped. Jesus sits now at the right hand of the father.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17


Today's Audio Message

Mark 11:1-4 - "Hosanna In The Highest"

Chapter Summary:

The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is found in all four Gospels. Jesus and his disciples are making their way from Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. It is here that Jesus commissions two of the disciples to head to the village and immediately after entering they will find a colt which had never been ridden. (The word colt is from the greek word, po’los - a young donkey.) He instructs them to untie it and bring it back. If anyone asked why they were doing this, they were to say, “The Lord has need of it…”

Why did the Lord need to ride a colt to enter Jerusalem at this time?  He did so in order to demonstrate to all who were in Jerusalem that He is the Messiah.  This is the fulfilling of the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.  This prophecy was about Him, and His entrance demonstrated to the Jews that He is their King.  

The triumphal entry is a significant event in Jerusalem.  There were multitudes and crowds who went before and those who followed. The whole city was stirred up.

The people understood that Jesus was claiming to be the coming King, their Messiah.  Their reaction speaks volumes as they shouted, “Hosanna (or, save us)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord:  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord:  Hosanna in the highest.”  Those that went before Him spread their cloaks and leafy branches on the dusty road before Him.  They understood the scriptures, the promise of the Messiah and what His entry meant.   

But little did they really know, and what that would actually mean.  Jesus was not going to Jerusalem to sit on a throne, but to the cross to make an atoning sacrifice for their sins. He had come to save them, but not in the way they imagined. Jesus knew He was entering the world to be the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Their cries for salvation were answered with the cross. Our heavenly Father provided us a spiritual salvation from the bondage and penalty of sin, through the sacrifice of His precious Son. This is our eternal hope!  

When we reflect on the triumphal entry, we should ask ourselves where we would have been in that mass of people.  Would we have been laying our cloaks in the road?  Would we have eagerly followed Jesus? Do we really understand His coming and what He would do for anyone who would believe?   


 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Follow Me


 
Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz


The second half of Matthew 8 takes us to the Lord’s complete power over all things. During this time, the Lord’s charisma is evident by the numbers of people that followed Him during His ministry.  Even as chapter 7 ended, Matthew notes that 1) Jesus’ doctrines astonished the people, and 2) He taught with authority, not as the scribes taught. (Matthew 7:28, 29)

The Word of God in the Old Testament has drawing power as we read it.  The simplicity of the Ten Commandments is beautiful in and of itself.  But the knowledge of good and evil is not sufficient to keep the Israelites from sinning. (And we are as the Jews!) The moral code we are all imbued with at birth (Genesis 3:22, 5:3 ) is in conflict with the desires and lusts within us. It is everyone’s internal struggle. Paul says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.” –Galatians 5:17.

The knowledge of good and evil actually fuels the battle for our souls! Yet God gives us grace, and motivates us to do better. Then He also empowers us to take the next step towards righteousness. As we saw contrasts between good and evil in the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 to 7, we see the same contrasts worked out in daily living, in the attitudes of men’s hearts vs. God’s desire. King Solomon taught us that there is nothing new under the sun: with nearly 8 billion people on the Earth today, we all still struggle with the same 10 Commandments. We are our own peer group!

In this second half of the chapter, we can see evidence of who is behind evil even as Jesus teaches of good. Hindering the Lord’s work to perfect us and to mature us into the children He would like us to be, Satan is right at the door often plaguing our every step. We find here today a test of discipleship, a test of earthly circumstances, and a direct confrontation with demons. Yet Jesus wins out every time, just as He did when the devil tempted Him from the pinnacle of the Temple. Now we see why Jesus diligently encourages us to follow Him!
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."  John 12:26 


Today's Audio Message

Matthew 8:18-34 - "Follow Me"

Chapter Summary:

As we finish up chapter 8 of Matthew's gospel, we continue to see Jesus' power over all things. Throughout this chapter, snapshot after snapshot we see Jesus meeting people who are going through various storms in their lives. They are desperate. They are weary. They can find no peace or comfort or help - until they hear of this man who is like no other, and they seek Him out.  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Jesus speaks like no other. They marvel at His teachings and are blown away by the power of His word. Who is this man who can heal the sick, cast our demons, restore the mind, calm the storm?

Over and over Jesus calls ordinary people to follow Him. We read of multitudes following Him for a while, but interestingly enough, the closer Jesus comes to the cross, many forsake Him. Excited by what they hear and what the see, many are willing to follow but have not considered the cost. They haven’t considered where He was going, nor understood what He was calling them to do. What does it mean to follow Jesus? There is a cost to discipleship, are we willing to fully surrender our lives in His hands no matter the cost?

Jesus does not just have power over the storms of nature, He has power over storms of a troubled heart. Jesus has the power to rescue and save the weary soul not only in this life, but for eternity. His power is greater than whatever trials or hardships you are going through. He can cleanse our hearts from sin, renew our minds, clothe us in robes of righteousness. He teaches us, loves us and gives us peace!

Even in spite of witnessing the power of Jesus, there are many who will reject Him, as we see in the last few verses of this chapter. After hearing all that He had done, casting out demons and into the swine and delivering those who were possessed by the devil, the entire city came out to meet Him and told Him to leave their coasts. They preferred the swine above the Savior. They preferred their rebellion, and their pagan lifestyles. They love darkness and hate the light. They reject His Word, and are angry at His good works because they are unwilling to abandon their depraved lusts. Jesus will not stay where He is not wanted. As they forsake Him, He will forsake them in the end.

Who is this man who alone has the power over all things? He is full of compassion and righteous works. He calls us to follow Him. He has come with a purpose, to lead us to the cross where He has purchased our redemption, paying the penalty for and releasing us from our sin and its punishment. The benefits are everlasting and cannot be obtained any other way - a new life, a new heart, forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, adoption into His family fully reconciled with God and fellowship with Him.





















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