Saturday, July 31, 2021

Leaven Of The Pharisees

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Jesus has spoken of leaven several times in the scriptures. In the Old Testament it was forbidden to be used in food preparation during the High Holy Days of Passover. In fact their houses had to be purged of it! While allowing dough to rise for baking, it also introduced a spoiling within the bread.

This is the subtlety of leaven, a slow process of rotting and spoiling. Jesus declared Himself to be “the Bread of Life”  in John 6:35 & 48: “...he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."  It is in Him that we find no sin, and nothing in Him to corrupt and introduce any rottenness in us. Jesus is Holy, and He is Pure.

The issue is that leaven is pervasive. Once leavened, a substance cannot be unleavened. It is therefore a “type” of sin and corruption. But in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, spreading through the whole lump of dough. In this case, it is a good thing, if we consider ourselves to be that lump of dough.

Jesus, let me be that lump of dough, let me be heavenly minded, let THAT leaven take over all of me, and all of every Believer! May we all be taken over by thoughts of being in heaven with You, Lord. Come, and make us wholly holy for You! This is the leaven of heaven that we should want in our lives and hearts; to be totally His so that no power on Earth can take us away and corrupt us!

We may still be “lumps” and maybe even lumpy, but to be His is all we need and all we should want. To be leavened for the Kingdom of Heaven, unveils a sense of security in our salvation. If our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, then it is up to Jesus to get us to where we are truly His and can be ushered into God’s Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the all-powerful God that we serve. (And by the way, the lump doesn’t fight against the baker.)
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” ~ Philippians 1:6
Jesus starts the work in us; Jesus performs the work in us; Jesus finishes the work in us. Let Him work in you!

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 16:1-20 - "Leaven Of The Pharisees"


When teaching His disciples, Jesus often used everyday objects to demonstrate spiritual truths.

In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus is warning His disciples to “take heed (or watch carefully), and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”  The word leaven (or yeast) here takes on symbolic connotations.  What does leaven do?  Leaven is a pervasive influence that modifies something.  Literally speaking, leaven is used in baking bread causing the bread to rise over time.  Scripture tells us that “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump,” that is the very nature of leaven. You simply cannot hide it in the mix, because it ultimately affects everything.

So can we just acknowledge that so far there has been a lot of scriptures involving bread in the Gospel of Matthew, and here we find that once again the disciples are unprepared and have forgotten it.  After His encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus warns His disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Whether they weren't paying attention to what was going on just prior to this, or they were troubled by the fact that they had forgotten the loaves of bread, the disciples are just not understanding Him. He is not speaking about food for the body, as His disciples imagined, He is speaking symbolically as to the spiritual nature of of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Spiritually speaking, leaven can be a good thing, a symbol of the kingdom of heaven. Leaven can also be a bad or evil thing, as is the case here in verse 6.

As Jesus warns His disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees,” He is specifically speaking about their religious hypocrisy. Their teachings were a pervasive influence over the people and produced hypocrisy and unbelief.  Like yeast in a loaf of bread, their teachings corrupted all those who heeded them.  These religious leaders displayed an outward conformity to the law, but their hearts were full of unbelief and sinfulness.  

Here in Matthew 16, the Pharisees had tested Jesus once again, asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.  At this point in Jesus ministry, He had literally performed thousands of miracles.  Have they not heard the testimony of the witnesses?  Have they not seen the miracles with their own eyes?  Have they not heard Jesus speak and teach?  Why would they need to see more signs from the heavens?  Surely they could test what they were seeing and hearing against the Word of God.

As spiritual leaders they should have known the scriptures and the very signs of the coming Messiah.  The Old Testament prophets spoke about the blind who would see, and the lame who would walk.  Not only should they have known the scriptures, they should have believed the scriptures and should have been looking for those signs that would reveal Jesus as their Messiah.  Yet here they are once again testing Jesus, seeking more signs not because they wanted to know the truth, but rather because they wanted to get rid of Him, to publicly denounce Him and declare Him as false.  They are hypocrites.  They put on a show for the people to make themselves look holy and righteous, yet they deny the truth of God’s Word, and their Savior.  

Here Jesus teaches His disciples to be aware, spiritually focused, to be wary of false teachers who are hypocrites denying the truth.  

The only way to keep ourselves from the deception of false teachers is to spend time sitting at the Lord’s feet in prayer, and opening our bibles allowing His Spirit to teach us, and fill us with the WORD OF TRUTH!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Always The Need

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

You might recall an event when Martha complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her serve at a dinner. Jesus answered her comfortingly with a truth: Mary had sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to His every Word, instead of serving with her sister. “Mary has chosen the better part,” Jesus said to Martha.

In every ministry, every Church, and every religious gathering, there is room for those who are gifted to serve, and those who need to simply be listening to the Words of God, as they wash over the entire gathering and minister to all in a way specific to each one. Each person is both unique in themselves, but subject to the common temptations in this world. Martha and Mary are perfect examples of church membership, and it’s up to us to ask for Spiritual gifts to help us learn our role(s) within the Church.

Jesus’ statement about Mary choosing the better part is interesting. In Hebrews 5:10-14, the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as...
“Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which (are) the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Clearly then, there is a process of learning, and of serving. While they are two very different Spiritual Gifts they go hand-in-glove in the fullness of the Church. Martha was naturally gifted to serve. Anyone who has hosted a dinner party is able to appreciate Martha’s ability to multi-task for food, and for the comfort of her guests. But others are simply satisfied to sit and focus on Jesus’ Word being spoken and taught.

There also comes a time when every Believer can cross the line and fulfill the role of the other. This is a dynamic of the Holy Spirit. As He quietly and continually points us to Jesus, what comes into focus is Jesus’ ability to serve His children and to teach then at the same time by example.

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 15:29-39 - "Always The Need"


In Matthew 15:32 it says, “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.’"

Basically, the word compassion comes from the Latin which means to suffer with, but really, in the English, it’s even enriched beyond that, for the English dictionary describes compassion as this: A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the pain and remove its cause. For the Latins, it meant to suffer with, but in English, it has come to mean not only to suffer with someone or to feel their pain and their hurt but to have a strong desire to see its cause permanently eliminated.

And I think that’s a marvelous definition of what was in the heart of our Lord who, looking upon anyone in need, identified with that need, felt sympathy and sorrow for that need, and had a strong desire to see its cause removed. The Greek term itself is a most interesting term. It’s basically a verb form added to a word that means bowels or visceral area or guts, stomach, and it means that Jesus actually felt physical pain in His stomach over the needs of people with which He identified and for whom He desired deliverance.

Now, if you learn anything at all about God, you learn in the Scriptures that He is a God of great compassion. He suffers with people. He feels their pain, and more than that, He seeks to alleviate its cause. And that’s exactly why He moves in the world. That’s exactly why He redeems men. That’s exactly why He heals and comforts and extends grace and mercy and lovingkindness, in order to reach men in their need and deliver them from it.

This is an important portion of scripture as we see Jesus is reaching beyond the covenant people, beyond the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and is reaching out to gentiles, and He is giving us a prophetic picture of the extension of the Kingdom in the purpose of God to encompass the lost of the world. The intention of Christ coming to Israel was never that that was the end but that that was only the means to reaching the world. It was always His intention to reach the world.

"For God 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

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Our Shield And Buckler

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today’s study in Matthew 15 gives us insight into how the Jewish Leadership monitored Him, and kept track of events in Jesus’ Ministry. Immediately after coming ashore after Peter’s Baptism, and more healings, the Pharisees confront Jesus about specific behaviors of the Disciples.

Their question reveals that they were present for The Feeding of the Five Thousand, taking in the crowd, and watching the miracle unfold before their eyes. But instead of giving glory to God for this miracle, they were critical of the Disciples, as though they were guilty of some horrible transgression!

Jesus would later teach those around Him to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” Their own transgressions of the Law were ignored, while they held the Jewish people to a higher standard. Their doctrines were made by man, while they imposed the higher standards of God on the people. This is a precise example of a double standard that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:1-3. And He will speak of it again in Matthew 16, so this is an important topic to God, and to Believers everywhere. Doctrines of men can be rationalizations for sin!

With God, there is no room for hypocrisy. We are to let our yea be yea, and our nay be nay. At the risk of plagiarizing an old cliche’, hypocrites speak with a forked tongue, And we know that it’s that slimy serpent, Satan that is the source of every forked tongue. The traditions of men will always be reproved by the Doctrines of God, for God’s Word is a light unto our path.

Darkness is dispelled by the true light. Even heathens can recognize a truth of God, as evidenced by a Syrophenician woman in this chapter. By nationality, she was Syrian and Phoenician, a mixed race woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon along the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean. As she had discourse with Jesus, she spoke a profession of faith in Him that could not be denied. Though from a heathen nation, her faith was real, and Jesus healed her daughter. A step-in-faith, and a point of contact made the way for yet another miracle. Jesus is our defender, and our buckler!
"But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."  - Psalm 3:3 

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 15:1-28 - "Our Shield And Buckler"


The Pharisees! They look righteous and act holy, but their hearts deceive them.  "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."  Matthew 12:34

They had been following Jesus' ministry, and listened to Him teach. They had observed His power, the miraculous healings and yet are blind to understand Who He Is!  They refuse His Words. They fail to acknowledge their sin, let alone repent and receive salvation. They are jealous, sanctimonious, self righteous and conspire against Him.

In Matthew 15 we see the Pharisees criticizing the disciples once again.  What did they do? They did not wash their hands before breaking bread.  Jesus cuts to the chase. Speaking of the heart Jesus tells them that it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but rather what comes out.   Here's the truth, we simply cannot hide what is really in our hearts, it all comes out eventually.  The Pharisees worked hard to look good on the outside, but the reality is they were corrupt deep within. They knew a lot about God – they simply DID NOT KNOW HIM.

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Romans 3:23

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

I can’t imagine a more horrifying thing than those who thought they were living for God, possessed good works, stood for justice, mercy, and love and believed that they knew God only to find out that God did not know them. Those who have deceived themselves will not listen to anyone. It’s ironic how many Christians still get into deep arguments and debates with those who have hardened their heart to God considering that when Jesus himself stood before the Pharisees they refused to acknowledge their own sin.

Sinful human nature cannot meet God's standards.  The only way to meet God's standard is to abandon ourselves and receive new life in Him.  
Jesus was going to the cross to provide a new life for all whosoever would lay down their own will and believe in Him.

Unfortunately, the Pharisees wanted to keep their old life and represent God at the same time. When we understand what has been done for us at the cross, we hand our lives over to the gentle authority of Christ. It’s all His.

The Pharisees couldn’t see it, and in the end, most of them didn’t want to.  Are you turning a deaf ear to the Lord,  disregarding His Word in order to follow your own traditions? Your own ways?  


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Peter's Baptism


Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz
Today we read that Jesus “constrained” His Disciples to get into a ship, and go on ahead to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without Him. From the east side of the Sea, they would be tacking to the western shore. Expert fishermen many of them, this should have been a normal crossing.

In John 4:4, it says, “And he must needs go through Samaria,” and once there, He met the woman at the well. There was a purpose in everything that Jesus did, everywhere He traveled, and every means of travel He chose. And in this crossing of the Galilee, there was something specific Jesus would do in full view of the Disciples’ boat. Would superstitions take them over?

From Bethlehem to Calvary, nothing was left to chance. People, places, and things were all planned for, and no “Plan B” was ever necessary. Jesus is God.

If the miraculous feeding of the multitude was not enough, He must had needs to cross the Sea alone. It was not a last minute decision; it was not a spur of the moment opportunity. Jesus’ timing was perfect. This was to be a “teachable moment,” planned for since before the Earth’s foundation was laid.

The feeding of the multitude did hold their attention, and the success of it was because of Jesus directing and providing for it. But the crossing of the Sea would prove to be more than even the best of sailors was prepared to accomplish. The fishermen among them, Peter, Andrew, James, and John had spent a lifetime fishing these same 5 X 8 miles of water. They knew every cove and inlet. They knew the best fishing holes. It was something they had done hundreds of times; they likely thought they cross it blindfolded.

Jesus’ plans for them on this trip would take them fully out of their comfort zone, and He would reveal a little more of Himself to them.

Have you ever found yourself out of your comfort zone in the midst of the familiar? You might have cried out, “What’s going on?!” Someone turned your world upside-down. You were suddenly in unfamiliar waters!

For with God nothing shall be impossible. -  Luke 1:37

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”  -  
John 15:5 

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 14:22-36 - "Peter's Baptism


Hebrews 11 says, Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Throughout the Scriptures, we learn that in this life we must live by faith, which is difficult because we naturally prefer to live by sight. Our fear and doubt interferes with our faith and we look for something visible in which to trust. But God gives us the promises of his Word, accompanied by the help of his Holy Spirit,
to help us live by faith.

As we finish up Matthew 14, we read of the account of Jesus walking on the water. The disciples had been in the sea battling the storm for several hours. They were exhausted from pulling the oars. They were frightened that drowning was imminent. And just when they thought all was lost, Jesus comes out to them walking on the sea, but they don't recognize Him. Fear is getting the better of them. They think Jesus is a "spirit." And instantly Jesus calls out to them, He reveals Himself in the midst of the storm to calm their fears. 

Peter full of doubt says if it's really you call me out to you. And Jesus said "come."  As Peter takes a step of faith, gets out of the boat in a terrible storm and began walking on the water towards Jesus.  Fear takes hold of him.  He starts to sink, sinking in fear. His eyes are off of the Lord. He sees the storm, the wind driven waves....terror strikes. He cries out, "Lord, save me." Immediately Jesus is there to rescue him.

It wasn’t faith in himself that Peter needed. It was not confidence in himself that would keep him above water. What Peter feared revealed that his faith in the power and sovereignty of Jesus was not as solid as he thought. When Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” isn’t he pointing out that even with the storm in view, Peter had nothing to fear, because when walking by faith we can trust the continual presence of our sufficient and loving God?

We all face storms in our lives, God allows them for our spiritual growth.  Whether they are storms of our own making, or storms that come as a direct result of following God's direction, we can be confident that when we cry out to Him, the Lord is there in our presence.   His presence provides peace, safety and assurance.  Our hearts and our minds become refocused on Him, and the cares of this world fade away. He is never too late, but always on time!

Storms are part of life, but the focus of our hearts and minds are stayed on Jesus.  Sometimes He will calm the storm. Sometimes He will carry us through it. Sometimes He will walk with us back to the boat.

But He is there!

He is always there!

Saturday, July 3, 2021


Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Parables of Matthew 13: From the wide spreading of seeds of faith, the Parables progress more narrowly to the individual, and finally to the angels separating the wicked from the good. Looked at as a progression, it can give us further insight into the heart and mind of the Father and Jesus. (Let the Holy Spirit participate, and give insight.)

Fresh from being rejected in His home town of Nazareth, we find Jesus not dejected or depressed, but wholly able to move forward in the “mission” given to Him by the Father. We should take a lesson from this! In the zeal of a new believer, we want to bring all our old friends with us into new life! It rarely works however. The Apostle Paul tells us in Second Corinthians 5:17 that old things are passed away, and everything becomes new, now being seen through the eyes of faith-in-Christ.

It was the Holy Spirit that removed you from the past and brought you into the present where we all found Jesus waiting for us.

As we begin Matthew 14, we learn of the execution of John the Baptist. And, we learn what that the mighty works of God produce fear in unbelievers, and faith in the faithful. Herod had heard of Jesus’ works, and was fearful that it was John the Baptist come back to life after Herod had him executed! (As thought the haunting would begin!) In truth, John was home in heaven, where the Prophets of God have all had reservations from before time.

Sharing the Word of God and His wisdom with people whose ears are closed, and still maintain their faith in man is an exercise in futility. Bringing them along is a work of the Holy Spirit. Let them see your new life as you move forward. A changed life is the best way to witness to people. Let them see your good works, and words will not have to be spoken; your new life will speak volumes.

“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”  -  1 Corinthians 3:6 

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 14:1-21 - "Fear or Faith, Bond or Free"

Matthew 14 tells the story of a wicked ruler who kills John the Baptist by having him  beheaded.  Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great.  He ruled only a fourth of his father's kingdom. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Herod Antipas was as wicked, as cruel and self indulged as his father before him.  At some point in John's ministry there is a confrontation between Herod and John, about the sinful act of  taking his brother's wife, Herodias.  It was unlawful according to the Levitical law, and as a converted Jew it was a sin against God.  John would be arrested and thrown into prison for speaking the truth to him.  We find Herodias conspiring with her daughter to kill John.  We see Herodias' daughter enticing Herod at his birthday party with a dance, and ultimately he rewards her with giving her anything her her heart desires...ultimately this meant the beheading of John the Baptist.   Fear falls upon them.  They hear of the fame of Jesus and think John has risen from the dead.  Fear and guilt always follow sin and rejection of God's truth.

The kingdom of God is rejected by fools. Herod not only rejected God’s prophet, and the message of the gospel, but He would later reject Jesus right before His crucifixion.

It’s important for us to catch the fact that not everyone will follow Jesus. Not everyone will want to be a part of the kingdom of heaven. Some people will reject Jesus and His ways. Rulers and politicians may reject Jesus, your coworkers may reject Jesus, family members and friends may reject Jesus, not everyone will believe in Him.

People may have all the worldly wisdom, knowledge, and achievement there is to have, but they may be fools when it comes to the things of God.

Following Jesus will cause us to lose favor in this world.  Holding to authority of God's Word, the exclusivity of the Gospel, living righteously, morally, truthfully is not popular.  It is hated and rejected. Persecution may come, and like John, may cost you your life.  John lost his life following the ways of God. 

God’s work did not stop after John was killed. His kingdom is greater and of much more importance.  Though the death of a loved one, a family member, remember John was Jesus's cousin, it did not stop him from having compassion on the crowds that followed him.  His work would continue to be revealed and peoples lives changed.

Jesus would continue to minister and would eventually sacrifice His own life. After that, He would rise from the dead and the Holy Spirit would come to the earth to dwell in the hearts of people who by faith put their trust in Him. Churches would be formed all over the world  and many people would be changed by God and used by God to change the world.

The death of John the Baptist was just a picture of what was to come in the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus. God’s kingdom would not be overcome!


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