Saturday, March 6, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 7: "Thou Shalt Not Eat Of It"

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

During our Communion Service today, the sweetness of the fruit of the vine will be on our tongues. Making wine is a time honored profession, and a time consuming process. The growth of the fruit of the vine cannot be rushed. And it cannot be rushed as it ferments in the bottle either. The sweetness will develop for the patient vintner, and our God is a patient Husbandman.

There are no short-cuts in ministry. The Word of God will produce results in us in due time. Faithful believers will present themselves at church regularly, and study the Word on their own during the week to water their faith and make it grow. Storms will come, and threaten the crop, but a bruised reed He shall not break, but strengthen it instead.

There are also some who say they believe and take a short-cut by calling on God and using the name of Jesus before the fruit of their life has matured. There are yet others who want recognition and fame who also call upon the Lord, but are not even in His orchard or vineyard. The motivation of their heart is their pride, and a need for building a broad reputation. But instead of serving others, they are there to see their name in lights. These are only ministers to themselves. The Epistle Jude identifies them. 2 Peter 2 warns us of them. 2 Timothy 3 warns us of them and describes them to us. All the Epistles have something to say about false teachers, false professors, or the doctrines that they promote. Galatians 1:6-9 gets quite specific about those that would pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and lead young believers astray.

All these things are summed up in Jesus’ teaching that we go over today in Matthew 7. There are many false prophets and professors in the world today. Even as the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:18-22, the spirit of antichrist was alive and well in his day. How much more do you think it might be present in our day. Pray for the gift of discernment, my brothers and sisters.

Jesus is more than a “feel good teacher.” He is more than a warm fuzzy God to snuggle up to like a child and their favorite stuffed animal. Jesus is doing more than inviting us to a universal salvation, open to all. He calls us to righteousness and will call us His friends as in John 15:14, if we obey His voice.

We are called to be fruit inspectors like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, "
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 6: "Judging & Discerning"

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount continues; today is Part 6, The Mount of Beatitudes in Israel is located on the Korazim Plateau, overlooking the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today, there is a church-shrine atop the hillside, because it is believed to be the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a bit north of Capernaum, Jesus’ home base during His ministry, and north of the village of Migdal, the home of Mary Magdalene. From the hilltop, weather permitting, one can see “The Arbel” to the southwest, a mountain that was split by a valley through which prevailing winds from the Mediterranean blow in from the west, often causing storms on the Sea. And also weather permitting, the City of Tiberius at the southern end of the Sea can be seen from the top of the Mount.

Jerusalem lays almost 75 miles to the south, a city bustling with commerce, high density housing, and the Nation’s Seat of Government. It’s no wonder that Jesus chose the Galilee as His base of operation for His ministry to the masses. The pace of life was slower, and the atmosphere of the region would naturally be more relaxed. The soil was fertile, as opposed to the rocky dry ground of the Judean Hills.

The Sermon on the Mount brings a more relaxed, and person-to-person message first to the Apostles, and later to the masses gathered around them, as we see at the end of chapter 7.

Following Jesus takes folks away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, and away from the responsibilities of home and work, at least temporarily. He literally ministers to us away from the burdens and distractions of daily living.

His words go right to the heart and bring healing.

Oh! If we could just stay in that place! While we are even yet in the world, He calls us to not be part of it.

How do we respond when we hear Him tugging at our hearts, and beckoning us to His feet? There at His feet we find peace in His presence. Lazarus’ sister Martha had a heart to serve others. But Jesus declared that Mary, her sister, had chosen the good part, at His feet, listening to her Lord.

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, 
which shall not be taken away from her."  - Luke 10:42

Today's Audio MessageMatthew 7:1-14

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 6:  "Judging & Discerning"

As Jesus continues teaching the disciples in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, He is still dealing with the heart and attitude of a believer.  If our righteousness is to exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, we must stop acting like them.  A prideful heart, with an outward appearance of righteousness, yet living by a double standard is the exact definition of being a hypocrite.  As a disciple of Christ we are to examine our own hearts, yield ourselves to His will, remain in the careful reading and study of His word, seek Him through prayer - as we correct our behaviors, and change our  attitudes.   

In chapter seven the Lord continues this theme.  Jesus is reproving impetuous and reckless judgment of others.  God has created us each with a godly trait, that is to know the difference between good and evil.  While we are not to run around judging others like the Pharisees, we are to apply discernment in what is right and wrong, good or evil.  He is not forbidding our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, it is impossible not to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. What He is referring to is a the practice of forming judgment hastily, harshly, unnecessarily and wrongly.  

It is also important to remember that our Lord is teaching His disciples.  These teachings do not apply to the unbeliever.  We don’t offer godly precepts and doctrines to those who spurn, oppose, and abuse those doctrines, nor do we offer that which is precious to those who are corrupt, profane, obscene, or sensual - they do not value the gospel and will tread it down under foot. Spiritual disciplines are for those who are in Christ - those who are unbelievers need to hear the Gospel of salvation.

Jesus continues to exhort them in prayer.  Pray; pray often, be serious and sincere. Ask, seek, knock and you will find that your Father in heaven knows our needs and will provide what is good and fit for us.

Lastly, there are but two ways right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven and the way to hell. The way of sin and sinners is the wide gate.  It’s easy to pass through.  There are no check points, you can carry with you all of your lusts and carnal appetites.  The path is broad - everything and anything goes, but it is not the way to heaven, it is the way to destruction.  The way to eternal life is narrow. It’s a strait gate.  You cannot carry with you your baggage of sin, lusts, and carnal appetites, you must leave them behind.  The road ahead is difficult, temptations must be resisted, and we must walk with great care.  We will face much tribulation along the way - but there is great reward at the end. This is the way that leads to life, and few will find it.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 5: "Wholly Owned"

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We are backing up just a bit, and recovering Verses 19-24 of Matthew 6 today. It is a segue between the first part of the chapter and the last half. And it’s perfectly situated to finish Jesus’ teaching on prayer with a challenge that might rock our world to its core. It is easy to overlook Jesus’ warning that in this world, believers will have tribulation.

This came up in a discussion yesterday; I can say I have all faith in Jesus, but how often does our faith get traction when severe, or dire events come? Where does the rubber of faith meet the hard pavement of tragedy?

The scriptures deal with every aspect of our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. We can have a personal relationship with Jesus, and Jesus has a personal relationship with the Father; He is therefore the perfect and only mediator of our relationship with the Father in Heaven. Jesus pleads our case with his father.

In 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul writes these encouraging words to a young Pastor Timothy. (It is easy for a young man to be intimidated by those older than himself, and Timothy’s stomach was sometimes tied in knots because he was placed in that position.) Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” Intimidation is really nothing more than mild bullying, and we’ve all felt it to some degree at different times.

Simply put, Paul was telling Timothy to trust Jesus more when trials came his way: a deeper faith from stronger testings. Like with Moses, the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, the Lord having parted the waters. And after Moses’ death Joshua lead the people over the Jordan, but the priests that carried the Ark, had to first put their feet in the water before the waters would part for them to cross (Joshua 3:13). Our own “Promised Land” requires a faith of deeper trust that the Lord will honor His Word in our lives. This is the true victory of trusting in the Lord.

Stretching our faith to actual application is the measure of the depth of our trust in Him. Trust puts action to our faith.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean
not unto thine own understanding."  ~ Proverbs 3:5

Today's Audio MessageMatthew 6:19-34

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 5:  "Wholly Owned"

We live in an age of anxiety. It is as though everyone seems to be worrying about everything - from what they are having for dinner tonight, to some of the most extreme difficulties one can face: like a loss of a job, a serious illness, or a major disaster.

Worry is a by-product of putting your faith in the wrong thing, or the wrong person. It is a big deal because there is nothing in this corrupt world that can provide you with a sure foundation where upon you can stand. In an instant, we can lose everything we own. We can lose our health. We can lose our friends, or our loved ones. We can lose our freedom, or our ability of self-sufficiency. In fact in John 16:33, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, He said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of Good Cheer, for I have overcome the world.” While this world is full of tribulation and suffering, for the Christian there is a firm foundation upon which we are able to stand - His Name is Jesus, and His promises can be fully relied upon!

God wants our whole heart. He desires that we fully Trust Him as our heavenly Father, a loving Father. The example of how he takes care of His creation, the fouls of the air, and He feeds them. Can we not Trust Him to feed those He calls His children?

As we finish chapter 6 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gets into the heart of this issue. Worry is non-productive and has no place in the Christian’s life. It cannot help you. It cannot comfort you. It cannot give you peace. It cannot change your situation. It cannot give you one ounce of wisdom.

Where is your heart? Where are you laying up your treasure? What are you seeking after? What are you focused on? Is your faith real? Are you fully trusting in Him?

It’s all about relationship, not religion. The most important thing we can do in this life is to develop and maintain our relationship with Him. As we seek Him and His Kingdom, our faith will grow, we will trust Him more, and He will take care of our needs according to His promise.

Trust is faith in action. It is trusting God, and His promises for us no matter the circumstances. God wants His children to fully trust in Him!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 4: 'Attention Seekers'

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Matthew 6 opens with several lessons in humility, and selflessness. This is a lesson that is contrary to the natural man. This is a lesson that comes up in the face of a salvation based in works. It is also a teaching that brings into question the ministry of Jesus as He traveled around the Galilee Sea, teaching, healing, and feeding throngs of people and innumerable crowds.

A few weeks ago in Matthew 4:23-25 that we read that His ministry touched many, and His fame went throughout Syria, and huge crowds followed Him from the Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond Jordan. In the modern world, these people would be fans, or “groupies.” It doesn’t sound very humble, does it? Yet...

Philippians 2:7 says, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” The passage goes on further to say, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus continues in ministry even today, allowing His Words to be spread abroad in the hearts of mankind by those that love Him. He still does not bolster His own reputation, but believers exalt Him anyways because of the reputation garnered from His followers. Movie stars and music artists, small companies and large corporations all have Public Relations agents or departments. 

Jesus needs none of them; His message and His works strike deep in the hearts of His own creation. Those that are His believers and His children laud His greatness, even as He Himself continues to be the humble servant He was when He walked this Earth with us.

When we speak of Jesus to others, who receives the attention? Who gets the glory? To whom are people drawn to? Unless it’s Jesus, there is something wrong with our message. There are many who follow Jesus’ teachings, but in reality do not follow Him in their faith-walk. These are false professors and teachers, gleaning from the wisdom of God, and ignoring Jesus’ true message which applies to them as well as those that hear them.

Personal pride is one of the pitfalls we share in this life. To humble ourselves is contrary to our human nature, but Jesus overcame His human side, and now sits at the right hand of the Father. He has shown us the way.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” ~ John 14:6

Today's Audio MessageMatthew 6:1-24

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 4:  "Attention Seekers"

Most believers want to serve God, but many of them do so for the wrong reasons. As we begin chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus addresses these particular issues directly. He warns his disciples about the pitfalls of the flesh. There is a way that seems right (to us), but it is the wrong way. We must be on guard against the temptation to show off our spiritual abilities or accomplishments, or desire the praise of man. The Lord does not want us to be like the Pharisees who were self righteous, full of pride, and concerned only with the outward show of ritual and appearances of holiness. God is concerned with our hearts. He desires transformed lives that mirror Jesus - this is a true disciple.

Whatever we do, we do fully and wholeheartedly for the Lord, bringing Him the glory and honor that is due His name. God’s standards are higher than ours, and once again Jesus raises the bar.

By contrasting true spiritual service against hypocrisy and false piety, our Lord instructs His disciples about the motivation of the heart in giving, prayer, fasting, and what our true focus is, what we value or treasure most.

The title of today’s message, “Attention Seekers” is heart provoking causing us to question why we do the things we do? Our motivation and attitude become fundamental tests for us. God desires our whole heart. He wants us to serve Him with a pure heart - not for our own vain glory, but for His glory. He is preparing His children for His kingdom.

This is a great lesson to gauge where we are in our relationship with Him.

How and why do we give? What kind of a prayer life do we have? What is it that we treasure most? What we are focused on truly dictates our every action. We are to treasure our Lord above all else, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 3

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Many authors today offer their books in audio form. It’s a blessing to those that travel and those that cannot get to a library or a book store. And when it is the author that is reading his own words, something amazing happens. Their words are put together with the right inflection and correct context, and a much richer meaning is supplied to the listener.

Similarly, with our Deuteronomy 24 reading today, we read what the Lord has written to the Israelites in the Levitical Law. It left much room for embellishment by teachers and scribes who would come later on to teach the people. But then in today’s Matthew 5 teaching, Jesus speaks as the Word of God, the original source of the words in Deuteronomy 24, and He gives us a more accurate and richer meaning to the passage. Jesus’ instruction leaves no room for embellishment.

In the past week, I have had three occasions to be reminded of Psalm 89:34:
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips.”

Embellishment alters the meaning of what has been written or spoken. And if you have never noticed, every case heard by the US Supreme Court has one purpose: to alter the meaning of previous legislation, in essence negating the original law by creating exceptions to the law. Today. Our laws are so vaguely written, that anyone can argue most any meaning they want to read into a law. We can no longer say that we are a nation that follows the Rule of Law.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:…”

In the 1960’s, the Supreme Court heard a case and determined that these first two phrases of the First Amendment implied that there was to be a separation of Church and State. In fact, the Amendment says no such thing. It prohibits legislators from establishing a religion, or interfering with the free exercise of religion, period. It does not say that religion cannot influence the Congress; indeed our laws were established on Biblical Principles!

Jesus frees us from embellishments like this, in Colossians 2:14 ~
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against
us, which was contrary to us, nailing it to His cross.”

Those confusing ordinances are already fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

Today's Audio Message: Matthew 5:31-48

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 3

This week we are still in the midst of Jesus’ first sermon – the Sermon on the Mount. In review, remember how Jesus started off by speaking about the type of life that is blessed by God?  His values are quite the opposite of what our world values. Jesus taught the disciples things like, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek.” Jesus went on to teach them that when we live according to His values, rather than the values of this world, we become as light and salt in this world of darkness, and in doing so we point the way to Him. Others are drawn to Him when they see the evidence of Him in our lives. We are to point others to Him, not ourselves. Jesus' teachings were much different than any they had heard before. While the Pharisees were interested in outward appearances and works, with a great emphasis on the letter of the law, Jesus was interested in our hearts.

The Jews lived by the Law, it was their rule of life. The Law was given to them by God, and handed down from the fathers. It was how they gauged a right relationship with God.

Jesus had no desire to abolish the Law, in fact, He came to fulfill it. He taught His disciples that righteousness doesn’t come from the outward action of obeying the Law.  In fact true righteousness isn't even possible in ourselves, nor can we obtain it on our own.  Righteousness is obtained by the blood of Christ, the cleansing of our sin, and the indwelling of His Spirit in our hearts.  We must be changed from within.  Just a quick overview of the Beatitudes, reveals that these things are not natural to us. 

Jesus affirmed this idea in verse 20 by saying, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  For the Jew, no one obeyed the law better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. If their righteousness had to surpass that of their religious leaders in order to enter heaven,  then it was impossible for them to attain. This is exactly the point of what Jesus was teaching.  He is teaching spiritual truths, not works of the flesh.  

The only way we can become righteous is to be made righteous by God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:18-19 says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 reiterates this by saying, “ For he (God the Father) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

I am sure His disciples wrestled a bit with this, and probably wondered how they should live in a way to please God if not by ritual and works.

As we finish chapter 5, Jesus continues to expound on examples of the Law and uses them to illustrate and explain exactly how we are to relate to it. Jesus is making clear that He is dealing with attitudes, the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Observing the Law was not a matter of adhering to external codes of conduct, but truly involves a rigorous self-examination of heart and soul.  Only God has the power to change the heart.

Jeremiah 3:17 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

The moral aspect of the Law is holy, just and good, but it is powerless to change the heart.  We need a Savior!

Interesting how Jesus is displaying His authority. Six times over Jesus says, “You have heard it said…But I tell you.” By expounding on the requirements of the Law, Jesus is revealing equal authority with God, the Father. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 2

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We began The Sermon on the Mount last week with the Beatitudes. Jesus’ teaching on the mount continues through Chapter 7 of Matthew, and pitted the practices of daily Jewish life against the Levitical Law itself. The Law was strict to say the least, but the priests and the Sanhedrin had taught the Law for so long, that it was more like to “Do-attitudes,” rather than the Beatitudes. The works of the law became more important than fixing the less desirable attitudes of the human heart. And that friends, is something to which we are all susceptible. So often we choose to fix things by doing a work, rather than repenting of our poor attitudes for God's sake, to the glory of Jesus.

The Levitical Law was a guiding light for Jewish culture, and it also brought much conviction to the heart because there was no way to keep all of its Ordinances. When John the Baptist came, he prepared the way of the Lord by promoting a Baptism of repentance. How does one repent without the searching of our own heart to identify sin? Finding peace with God is not about DOING the Law, but about HATING the things that God hates. Hence, the problem: we do not hate sin enough; our fleshly hearts and bodies have an appetite for it, and then the cravings start.

Those cravings are in every heart despite the believer’s knowledge that they are displeasing to God. Paul later declares in his Epistle to the Romans, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). Fleshly lusts that run amuck and unchecked by our conscience are the very things that will convict us. Paul reconciles the weakness of the flesh by covering it with the power and strength of the sacrifice of Jesus. Though trapped in fleshly bodies on Earth, our Spirits can soar with the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, our faith and hope placed in God’s only begotten Son.

If Jesus is at the helm of our hearts, the rudder of our lives ultimately causes a course change, and we learn new priorities based on Jesus’ example and teachings. The Sermon on the Mount is a harsh light delivered gently to expose sinful hearts. It’s that gentle delivery that creates a new craving within us; a craving for righteousness instead of sin.
“And all bear witness, and wondered at the gracious words which
proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, is not this Joseph’s son?”
Luke 4:22

Today's Audio Message: Matthew 5:13-30

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 2

As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us, the characteristics of a true Christian, while contrasting them with the hypocrisy of religious people and dead works. Our righteousness before God hasn’t been established through our own actions; it is based upon our faith in Jesus Christ and His fulfillment of the Law. When we are born again, we are a New Creation in Christ. Old things are passed away, all things become new.  We no longer live for ourselves, we live for God. As we bow to His authority, we become citizens of His kingdom. Our sin is nailed to the cross with Jesus, and it was buried with Him. He paid the penalty for our sins, and God received His payment in full.  Just as our Lord was risen up from the grave, we too are risen up by God to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  His Holy Spirit takes permanent residence within us and enables us, and gives us the power to do His will.

Starting in verse 13, we begin to understand the influence that every believer has in the lives of others. Every Christian is called by God to be an influence in the world around them. As salt, we are like a preserving force in this world to slow down the growth of moral and spiritual decay.

Salt is also used as a flavor enhancer.  We are to preserve truth and goodness in a fallen world, and our lives should make God’s work stand out.  Our lives reflect His nature, and clearly emphasize the difference that Jesus makes in one’s life. The good works of Christ’s followers are to shine for all to see. 
Our lives ought to be a reflection of Him. We must be like a light in the darkness. His light shines bright in this dark world, and so the presence of Christians in the world must be like a light in darkness.

As Jesus continues to teach his disciples he expounds on the difference between the Spirit of the Law, and the Letter of the Law.  
Christ showed that obeying the “Letter of the Law” is a matter of physical action, whereas obeying the “Spirit of the Law” requires more than just outward actions—it also involves an attitude of the mind—referred to by the Apostle Paul as “circumcision of the heart” (Rom. 2:28-29).  The Law was not intended to be a mindless action, heartless mechanics.  The intent of the Law is to bring us into a right relationship with the Lord. The Spirit of the Law is the miracle of a heart changed by the power and grace of God. Our obedience to follow His law, comes from a heart of love and devotion to Him.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 1 - The 'Be' Attitudes

 Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Last week, we covered the Temptation of Jesus, and learned that He went to the Galilee Region afterward, and dwelled at Capernaum, a seaside fishing village. There, He began to call His Apostles out from their jobs and careers, and simply said, “Follow me.”  The Sea of Galilee reminds me of the Finger Lakes region, here in New York. Lakes, both small and large dot the landscape of Central/Western New York State with its rolling hills, and expansive farm land.

The Galilee is about eight miles long, and five miles wide. It is shaped roughly that of a human heart, and is integral with the overall Jordan River water system, with the river feeding the lake from the north with fresh waters from Mt. Hermon, from Gideon Springs, and a third source, a small river coming down from Lebanon. This inland sea empties southward with the Jordan River flowing further south to the Dead Sea.

We can draw an analogy here to our faith:

The human heart beats and keeps us alive with the flowing of “living water” from three sources. All three converge into one, and bring much life into our hearts and lives. The three should be obvious to us; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John 4:10 completes the teaching with the woman at the well parable:
10 - "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, 'Give me to drink;' thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. "
11 - The woman saith unto him, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?"

Jesus’ conversation with the woman continued, and He eventually affirms to her that He was indeed the long awaited Messiah, “I that speak unto thee am He,” is recorded in verse 26.

Jesus is our source of that living water. The Apostle Paul speaks of it as Christ washes His Church with the water of the Word, making her clean and beautiful, and fit to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).

John 7:38 – “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

Today's Audio Message: Matthew 5:1-12

The Sermon On The Mount - "The 'Be' Attitudes"

This week begins the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount taught by our Lord in Matthew chapter 5. The first part of this sermon is commonly called the 'Beatitudes' which are Christ's 
declarations of what true blessedness really is. Blessed means, "Oh how happy."

These wonderful verses describe a true disciple of Jesus, and their reward.  A believer's character and lifestyle is contrasted with those who are of this world and outside of Christ. The following verses describe a disciples heart, soul and attitude, the evidence of a person who has come into a personal, and real confrontation with God, and the result or outward manifestation of God's work in their lives.

Throughout the world, governments and rulers have each made their own document of declarations with regards to their countries and kingdoms.  Here in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is making a declaration of the Kingdom of God, both in the spiritual literal realm where God rules and reigns. 

As Jesus travelled throughout the Galilee preaching and performing miracles, his fame went out and great multitudes began to follow Him. In chapter 5, Jesus seeing the multitudes went up into a mountain, and his disciples came to him - and here Jesus begins to teach them directly.

The Beatitudes were clearly intended for those who had given their allegiance to Christ, for they describe the characteristics manifested by one who is born again.
How does one enter the Kingdom of God?  Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be “born again” (John 3:1-8) The believer is given a new life dedicated to Christ (Romans 6:1-4).  Scripture teaches that our “citizenship” is now described as being in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  As His ambassadors, we represent His kingdom.

Reading through these verses, "Blessed are the poor...those that mourn...the meek...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...the merciful...the pure in heart....the peacemakers....those who are persecuted..." these characteristics are to be manifested in all true believers.  God's standards can only be attained by the enabling of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer, our natural tendency opposes God's standards.  This is the life that is lived in the spirit. 

The Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy”, or literally, “to be enlarged.” Happiness is something that results from seeking the Lord and His kingdom and His righteousness, and His promise is our reward.

The 'Beatitudes' are quite significant.  They are the blessings to his church, and they are to be taken as the model of conduct for His people.   

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Temptation Of Jesus - Light To The Gentiles - The Call of God

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”   How does one “run into a name?”

Psalm 32:7 provides the answer: “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

From the scriptures:
God is a pillar we can lean on; His Word is powerful; His name is holy; our lives are hid in Him; in His name, and in His Word. The list goes on and on concerning His name and His Word. They are powerful!

There is power in the name of Jesus in the New Testament, just as there was power in the name of Jehovah God in the Old Testament. The reasoning is simple: Jesus is God; He is Jehovah in the flesh of a man. He is God’s promised Anointed One, the perfect One for the sacrifice that is required under the Levitical Law for the remission of sin. How gracious the Father was to send His only begotten Son to pay a price that WE could not afford!

Today, we see Jesus, fresh from His baptism, is led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of Satan. [That’s always the way. From our faith-based mountain-top experiences, we go directly to be challenged by Satan, and often by our peers.] And God allows it.

He does not want us just basking in the glow of fellowship with Him, but He wants us to be humble before Him in all things, even in our interpersonal relationships.

How did Satan tempt Jesus? By speaking things contrary to the scriptures, and appealing to the flesh! And Satan already knew Who it was that he was tempting, and he also knows the weakness of the flesh. And on every temptation, Jesus used the written Word of God to defeat Satan’s temptations.

Jesus, being the Word of God that was made flesh and dwelt among us offers us the perfect example of how we will be tested, and how we are to respond. Nothing will defeat His Word, except the flesh when WE allow it.
“Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.”  Proverbs 30:5

Today's Audio Messages: Matthew 4 (Parts 1,2,3)

Matthew 4:1-11 (Part1) - "The Temptation of Jesus"
This week we are in chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel. In this first part of Matthew 4 we will find that the subject matter is temptation. Jesus is led out to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He would be confronted by the Devil himself. He prepares for this time of testing by fasting 40 days and 40 nights. The denial of our flesh, being refreshed by His Spirit, and the Sword of God’s Word deep within our hearts and minds will conquer our evil foe. 

It is no accident that Jesus winds up in the wilderness after his baptism. He is not lost, He has been led by the Holy Spirit right into combat with Satan, and there is a specific plan and purpose for this. While everyone is tempted to sin, almost daily, if not hourly, there is something uniquely different about what is going on here. Jesus, at the outset of His ministry, is confronted by the devil with all his power, and He does not sin! What a contrast to the very first temptation that took place in the garden with Adam and Eve. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Where Adam sinned, Jesus did not. The first temptation plunged the human race into sin, but the second is clearly part of God’s plan of redemption for mankind - and complete victory over Satan. It is at the temptation of Jesus that Satan realized that he could not ruin Jesus as he had the parents of the human race, and therefore that he could not stop God’s plan of redemption.

We learn from Jesus' response to the temptations exactly how we are to respond - with Scripture. The forces of evil come to us with a myriad of temptations, but all have the same three things at their core: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. We can only recognize and combat these temptations by saturating our hearts and minds with the Truth. The armor of a Christian soldier in the spiritual battle of life includes only one offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Knowing the bible intimately will put the Sword in our hands and enable us to be victorious over temptations.

Matthew 4:12-17 (Part 2) - "Light to the Gentiles"
Matthew records that our Lord’s public ministry is about to begin just as John the Baptist had been arrested. Jesus makes his way to the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, west of the Sea of Galilee. It’s not where you would expect Jesus to start His ministry, and some speculate that this area was safe in light of John’s arrest and turmoil in Jerusalem. The significance however is more straightforward. Jesus began His ministry in this area because God said He would (Isaiah 9:1,2), thus fulfilling prophecy.

This region is the land of the Gentiles, steeped in paganism, deep spiritual darkness and death. It is here that Jesus is seen as the sunrise from a deep and long night. Jesus the light of the world has come and is about to shine his light in a dark world. It’s as if God picked the darkest place there was and shinned His light bold and bright on those people. The Messiah has come and He begins preaching in those hopeless and dark places, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Matthew 4:18-25 (Part 3) - "The Call of God"
Come Follow Me. Jesus called all the disciples in the same manner, “Come, follow me.” This was more than an invitation to take a walk somewhere together, it was an invitation to a lifetime commitment of becoming His disciple.

A disciple is immensely more than praying a prayer, Jesus said, “Follow me.” When Jesus called these men, they were busy about their everyday lives, their normal routine. They were fishermen, and so they were casting their nets and mending others. Yet when Jesus called them they “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matt 4:20).

The call of Christ comes with the requirement to leave our old lives behind and begin a new life with Him. It is here that our Lord tells them that they will be “fishers of men.”

What a beautiful picture of a true disciple. He is not double minded. He does not have one foot in the world, and one foot in Christ. A discipleis one who happily makes a life changing decision to forsake all and follow Jesus.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In Turbulent Times - Focus On Jesus!

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

I pray that all is well with you as you read this, and that your hearts and minds are focused on Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, Provider, Protector, and our Salvation! As I wrote to our Church members in an email yesterday, things are heating up quickly in Washington, DC.

The United States, and indeed the whole World are about to enter an unprecedented time of change. This will be this generation’s 9-1-1. The changes will ultimately be for our good, as stated in Romans 8:28-

“And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose,” but change is always disruptive, if not outright difficult. Nonetheless, the Lord always has us in mind when He brings things to pass. The 29th verse that follows speaks of changes to take place, and how reformative they will be for believers, and how glorifying they will be to Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that things in this life will be challenging at times, but if we are following the Lord, He will bring us to where He wants us to be… His expected end and the culmination of His plans for us, namely to be with Him for eternity.  Romans 5 speaks of tribulation in this world, trials to endure, and the Holy Spirit to guide us through. Romans 5:3-5 says,  “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The corruption of this world is about to be exposed. If you are familiar with this vague and hidden group referred to as “QAnon,” they came into being as a result of the November 22, 1962 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Even then the corruption of the world system was beyond comprehension, and the group that formed as a result of the assassination realized that it would not be cleaned up overnight. But it is coming!

The trials and changes that we are about to embark on will be transformative in the US Government, and the Leadership of the Oval Office. Many nations around the world will be impacted by the events of the next month or so, and arrests will be made for treasonous acts against the United States. The Transfer of Power expected on January 20th will not be as the Mainstream Media outlets are preparing to report; indeed these next weeks may see an end to CNN, MSNBC, CSNBC, and the rest of them. Large corporations will be scrutinized heavily for who and what they support. And in spite of what you will be hearing about the President traveling from Washington to Texas and to Arizona later this week, rest assured that it’s a false narrative, because he is not in Washington DC at this time. The media spin will be incredible, so be forewarned: as they all lied about Trump’s collusion with Russia for the past four years, they have earned the reputation of being untrustworthy in the reports they broadcast to the nation, and to the world. Do not believe what you hear and see in the media, it will be nothing but the false information that they want you to believe.

Social Media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are going through drastic changes, and these changes will continue for a while, some even disappearing from Cyberspace altogether. Google and Amazon are already scrambling to cover their sixes for past policies. The First Amendment Right to Free Speech has been in peril because Social Media giants are privately held. They are now living in fear for what they know is coming in the near future.

Travel and movement may be hindered until the turmoil quiets and the dust settles from all the changes, This is to be expected, particularly if Martial Law is declared here in The States. The scriptures tell us “to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,” in Titus 3:1; and in 1 Peter 2:13-17, we read, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors; as unto that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For this is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

Keep looking up, and the Lord will guide us through the tumult!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Preparing The Way

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Luke moves quickly past “the silent years” of Jesus’ life in Chapter 3 of His Gospel account. John the Baptist returns to the pages, and the chapter ends with Jesus’ Baptism.

The first chapter was all about John’s conception and birth; Chapter 2 was all about Jesus’ conception and birth. And chapter 3 describes John’s ministry, ending where the two cross paths at the Jordan with John baptizing his younger Cousin. Chapter 3 closes with Joseph’s genealogy, and chapter 4 then takes us closer to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, Luke’s third chapter is a very important historical record. It is significant due to its details about Roman rulers, a wilderness area, the nearby Jordan River, and its proximity to Jerusalem! How faithful the Holy Spirit is to inspire Luke to include all these facts that are certifiable in secular history. The Holy Spirit knew that the Gospels would be scrutinized heavily and details like in Chapter 3 would be undeniable. Historical characters and geography are not the substance of fairy tales!

For anyone who doubts the historical facts these days, they are easily verified in seconds on any computer they may have access to. And Luke himself declares that he was an eyewitness to all that he is about to write in this record (Luke 1:1-4).

Like the Apostles Paul and Peter, et al, each of them knows they were moved to write and relate the story of Jesus by the Holy Spirit of God. These Evangelists were men who had seen Jesus in all His humility, and seen Him also in His power and glory! By the time they all wrote their accounts, each was Spirit-filled and sold-out for Jesus. These historical accounts declare it, because they all gave their lives for it. Peter states:
“For we have not followed cunningly devise fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” ~ 2Peter 1:16 & 21 

Today's Audio Message: "Preparing The Way" - Luke 3:1-22

Today’s message looks at the ministry of John the Baptist (3:2b-3) joined between the historical context in verses 1-2a, and Old Testament prophecy in chapter 3:4-6. Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers who mentions the leaders in power at the arrival of John. Luke’s Gospel is also the only one who realizes the promise of Isaiah 40:3-5. God’s work to deliver his people is renewed in the word of a “voice of one crying in the wilderness” as John’s calling was not to follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest in the temple, but to obey God’s calling in preparing the way of the Lord. God approaches, and all obstacles prepare for his coming. Every geological obstacles are removed to demonstrate that the King was coming and that all people would see their King in the person of Jesus. But spiritually speaking - every obstacle that keeps mankind from being reconciled with God is now made possible through the finished work of Jesus Christ. “Every valley shall be filled, every mount and hill will be made low and the crooked shall become straight and the rough places shall become level ways.”

After 400 years of silence, when the time came for God’s voice to proclaim the coming of their promised Savior – he used the most unusual individual. There’s no getting around the fact John the Baptist was a unique man, and quite an odd character. He lived out in the wilderness. He wore really strange clothes, and ate weird food. More importantly he preached a most unusual message. Remember that the Spirit of God was upon Him, even in His mother’s womb. Because of this, and God’s specific call upon him, multitudes, including religious leaders, and Roman soldiers traveled out to the area surrounding the Jordan River in order to hear him preach repentance and baptism. Many hungered for the Word of God.

John role was unique. He was to be the forerunner of Jesus before the long-awaited Messiah arrived. He would prepare the way of the Lord. In ancient times, whenever a king would take a trip, messengers would be sent out to announce his passing through. The announcement was a way for the people to prepare themselves for the king to pass their way. In like manner, John would announce the coming of Jesus. Luke 3:6, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

John’s message was powerful and he proclaimed it with boldness. People were to repent of their sins, be baptized and look for their long-awaited King. As People flocked by the hundreds, the way was being prepared. He pointed to One who was greater than he, the Son of God. “And when Jesus was baptized and praying the heaven opened, the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.” If anyone has any doubts of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit being One - verse 22 is your proof text, where all three persons of the Trinity are present for all to see.

We live in difficult times, the world is upside down and people are filled with skepticism and animosity to the ways of God. How critical is our great commission in this world? We are lights of redemption, pointing others to Jesus. We too are His messengers, and we must take seriously His calling in our lives to share The Gospel. It is His message of the love of God and His redemptive plan for mankind through Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus is our Salvation!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Holy Spirit's Presence

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Whenever I’m reading through the early chapters of Matthew’s, and Luke’s Gospels, I find myself thinking in terms of the Old Testament, and the promises and prophecies that are contained there. These are the chapters where the Old Testament’s rubber meets the New Testament’s road, so to speak. Prophecies are being fulfilled left and right through the lives of people that were born in Old Testament times. These early chapters are like a segue between the two Testaments, and Jesus bridges that gap.
There is another Who causes the gap to be bridged though. We see the evidence of His work in Genesis 1, and He is mentioned throughout both Testaments! He is the Spirit of God in the Old, and the Holy Spirit in the New.

Joshua 24:19 declares that our God is a holy God. Therefore the spirit of our holy God must also be holy, hence the Holy Spirit. King David affirms this in Psalm 51:11, with King David crying out, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy Spirit from me.”

The Holy Spirit’s role is to point us always towards Christ Jesus, and give substance to many issues of faith (See John 14:26). In our reading today in Genesis 1:1-2, we read that the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters of creation. So apparently, the Holy Spirit gives substance to things that were not, and He does it quickly!

Naturally, we understand that the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of the Prophets, and they were merely ordinary people who were men and women of faith, ready and willing to be used by God. God’s Holy Spirit was in many Old Testament characters, and today we will study a little of Him at work through these early chapters, bridging the gap with Jesus.

But more than a “segue,” the Holy Spirit is described be a “He,” a personal pronoun which gives Him substance in our understanding of the Holy Trinity of God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He is our God.

And mind, body and spirit, we are made in His image. Each facet of “us” correlates to each “Person of the Godhead.” We also are triune beings.
“For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” ~ Colossians 2:9

Today's Audio Message: "The Holy Spirit's Presence" - Luke 2:25-52

In today’s study, Luke is narrating the events surrounding the arrival of the Son of God. He presents ordinary events with the extraordinary. We see this when we read about Simeon a devout and just man, filled with God’s Spirit. As the family is simply obeying the traditions and custom of the law, a supernatural promise was made to a man named Simeon, who was told he would see the coming Savior before his death. Similar to the story of Zechariah, we are introduced to a man who was associated with the temple, a devout man filled with the Holy Spirit.

Simeon acts on the prompting of the Holy Spirit in obedience . . . just as Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph responded in faithful obedience, we now see the same of Simeon, and Anna the prophetess. God’s unmerited favor is upon each one of these individuals, and each one will witness God’s faithfulness as He fulfills His promises. God is faithful, His word is true, and will surely come to pass.

As Simeon goes to the temple, he experiences the fulfillment of this promise, brought to him in the flesh. His response says it all, He immediately recognizes the significance of this child, and blesses God. He prophesies concerning Jesus, and speaks to Mary of what is to come. Ironically, we see the same theme with Anna, the prophetess in Luke 2:38:
“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Do you see a pattern? God speaks through His Spirit. We have the promises of God given to us in His Word, and just as these men and women saw the evidence of those promises, we too can certainly see the evidence of those promises…those looking for redemption.
  • “I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me. Proverbs 8:17
  • But from there, you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
  • So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9-10
  • ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
The promised Messiah in the Old Testament is revealed In the New Testament - and it is His Spirit through His word, that continues to reveal our Savior Jesus Christ to the hearts and lives of people today. Our response should be no different than these Old/New Testament saints, and there is no greater way to bless the Lord than giving our lives to Him. When God said He would send a Savior, they lived like that promise was already true. Faithful to believe. Faithful to trust.  Faithful to yield their lives to Him. Faithful to serve Him in obedience to His will.  

God still comes to each of us exactly where we are, no matter how insignificant we may feel or be. His message is the same as it was then. He desires that we each know Him personally as our Savior, Lord and our King. 


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