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"


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"


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


 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.

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