Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Father's To Give

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In today’s Matthew 20 passage, we are introduced to the human idea of a hierarchy among men. Whether through power, or position, or wealth, or influence, it is an idea based in the sin of pride. We even see it on bumper stickers and recruitment posters. “Where I am is where you really want to be,” is the sentiment, and it’s used to sell everything and promote anything!

“Lord, grant that my brother and I sit one on your right hand, and the other on your left hand when you come into your kingdom.”  When the other Disciples heard it, they became upset, even indignant towards the “sons of thunder.” Were they upset at the audacity of the two, or were they jealous because they had asked first? Maybe a little of both.

We see it in the racial division in our country and others. If they’re not like “me,” then I should be suspicious of them. It was Satan who set this ball rolling as he tempted Eve “to be as gods.” Deceiving us to be something that we’re not is a level of deceit like no other.

It you are old enough, you might remember “L.S.M.F.T. – Lucky Strike means fine tobacco,” leaving us with the idea that other cigarettes were inferior. “Wouldn’t you really rather drive a Buick, this year?” “N.E.S.T.L.E.S, Nestles makes the very best...c h o c ‘ l a t e!” Is it brand loyalty, or arrogence?

This “I’m better than you” mentality separates people, while God’s Word brings us together, in a large, single peer group. With nearly 8 billion people on the Earth, all of us struggle with the same 10 Commandments (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Scripture tells us that all humanity is doomed.... UNLESS we have accepted Jesus! For Christians, this means we are sinners-saved-by-grace. But there’s that separation again, and it’s within the Church! For true followers of Jesus Christ, there is neither bond, nor free, neither Jew, nor Gentile, neither white, nor black, but we are all one in One! Because of Him, there is no room for pride.

To be found in Jesus should be the Believers’ sole desire. To be His child is enough, because of His grace, and mercy. But if there is to be a separation, then let Jesus define it. Saint? Or sinner? Believer? Or rejecter of His love?
“Woe unto you Scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone.” - Matthew 23:23

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 20:20-34 - "The Father's To Give"

As we look at the final verses of this marvelous chapter in Matthew, the majesty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is presented.  

The mother of Zebedee's sons approach Jesus with her sons desiring a higher position for them in His Kingdom.  Like this mother, many times we too don't know what we are asking from the Lord, and that is a big problem.  Jesus again explains to these disciples what it means to be great in His kingdom.

This world we live in is very proud.  People pushing themselves and promoting themselves before others.  Relationships in our society are literally falling apart - homes, friendships, all of them.  All social inter-relationship is at a stress point, because everybody is looking out for number one - SELF.  Society are consumed with self-glory, self-esteem, self-promotion, and pride. This is the world's standard, not our Lord's.  

It is interesting that even in the church we find these same attitudes. The old nature, worldliness and pride. Those who have given place to pride have exalted pride, and yet scripture is clear that a proud heart is sin (Proverbs 21:4).

As they make their way to Jerusalem, even in the midst of Jesus predicting His own death, the apostles are still thinking of themselves, and who will be greatest.   Jesus will make it clear to them that they do not understand the implications of what they are asking, and they won't until after His crucifixion.

Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?  He will be consuming the wrath poured out for sin. He will be consuming wrath, punishment and guilt that He does not deserve.   Jesus points out that they will drink of His cup.  All the apostles would suffer to some extent for His names sake. 

There is a contrast between how people seek greatness in the world and we should seek greatness in the kingdom of heaven.  We are not to seek power, prestige, and influence.  If we want to be first, we must first be a slave.    We must seek humility and service. Other's before self. 

The ones that the Lord lifts up are the humble. And that’s why Colossians 3:12 says that we are to put on humility.  1 Peter 5:5 says we are to be clothed with humility. In Ephesians 4:1,2, we are to walk in humility. Before honor is humility. This is contrary to our earthly philosophy where pride is ever and always exalted.

Honor comes through humility; and glory through suffering.

The example of leadership is Christ who gave His life for many.  He came not to take, but to give.  The path to greatness is the path of humility, brokenness, selflessness and service.  No matter the cost, he still calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Covenant Contract

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Government Contracts vs. Covenant Contracts

Today’s reading in Psalm 89 reminds us of Who it is that has offered to bless us through a Covenant Contract with Him! God offers a contract with us as the beneficiary, just to bless us. In return, He asks us to obey His Word, and to put all our trust in His Son, Jesus.

~The terms of God’s contract with us have never changed.~

WHAT!? That’s unheard of! No one keeps the terms of a contract the same from one year to the next. Rates must change. Benefits must increase. And the term of the contract might even change. And the overall terms of the contract will likely get more and more complicated as time goes by! That’s what we do. That’s how we do things!

In the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-20), the rich man lived sumptuously, while Lazarus hoped for just the crumbs from the man’s table. The man eventually died and learned that he had not racked up any treasures in heaven, only those on Earth which he hoarded for himself. And now in torment, he begged Father Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water to cool his tongue. But the request was denied because there were no provisions in the contract for post-mortem second chances (John 11:26).

Read, and re-read Jeremiah 31:35-36 carefully. It tells of God’s faithfulness to Israel as long as the Earth spins on its axis; for when day no longer follows night, Israel itself shall cease to exist. This is in full contradiction of the Abrahamic Covenant on Genesis 12. Or, is it?

God says He will be faithful to Israel throughout all her generations. How about when her generations stop at the end of the world? Now that’s food for thought!

If you are going through a trial of any kind, think about how faithful God is to His rebellious children, Israel. Are we Christians going to be forgotten, and slip through His fingers? Certainly not! Has not God warned us of troublesome times? Should we not expect trials and tribulations?

Believing in Jesus does not exempt us from the hardships of the world. They are all the more reason to believe in Him, and put our faith in Him!
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me, ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulations: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 20:1-19 - "Covenant Contract"

The LORD not only seeks to save sinners, but as transformed saints, He sends them out to work in His vineyards. We are called at different times in our lives. Some are called early, in the days of their youth; others are called later in life, and some even in the eleventh hour. The point here is that God does the calling, and it is He that sends the laborers into His vineyard. It is all His work in and through us. He saves our souls, indwells us with His Spirit and enables us to serve Him. In fact, we cannot be faithful servants until He does so, and when He does, we count it a great joy to serve Him.

Isn’t it interesting that God created each one of us individually with certain personalities, certain abilities and gifts. He calls us according to His timing and purposes, and then sends us out ,placing each one in His vineyard to the work that He calls us to. We don’t have to strive or compete for position. We are called to faithfulness and obedience to His Word and in His Service.

What a great joy it is to serve Him. Oh how thankful each of one of us should be to be counted worthy to be of service to our LORD. It is NOT our work, it is His. He is ever with us, leading, directing, enabling and equipping for the work He sets before us. All glory and honor to Him.

There is no place for pride, greed or jealousy. It matters not how long we have labored. What matters is that God called us and He sent us. Our reward is the same. Those who think they deserve more reward than others need to consider the sinfulness of their hearts, like the Pharisees who considered themselves to be above everyone else. We are all deserving of judgment, it is only by His grace that we are even saved. We are all equal in Christ Jesus our Lord, in fact scripture teaches that there is neither Jew, nor Gentile, bond or free, male or female….we are all one in Him.

This is the last time Jesus is in Judea as He and His disciples are heading up to Jerusalem. Jesus takes the twelve aside and tells them that He will be betrayed and put to death. Our compassionate Savior even prepares us for the difficulties we may face ahead. The disciples are about to witness Jesus being betrayed, conspired against, mocked, scourged, falsely accused and crucified. I’m not convinced that they are really grasping this fully at this point, we can certainly relate to the bewilderment of their hearts.

This was God’s plan from the beginning. That Jesus would suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the world. As always, God is faithful to His promise. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, that those who would believe in Him by faith, would receive salvation, forgiveness and newness of life. Jesus did not stay dead and buried in the grave, He rose on the third day and this resurrection from the dead is the gift He offers to all of us. A resurrected life, eternal life, for we too will rise from our graves resurrected to His eternal kingdom with Him forever. This is our great joy and hope!

Saturday, September 11, 2021


Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Every seamstress and tailor, has become expert at slipping a tiny strand of thread through a sewing needle. This “eye of the needle” is not the subject of today’s Matthew 19 parable.

Try putting a thick knitting yarn through that same tiny needle’s eye. You will ruin the yarn. And that is the point (no pun intended).

In todays’ Matthew 19 passage, the Eye of the Needle, is a people-size doorway in a large City Gate. Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, so named because it accesses the road to the Port City of Jaffa on the coast, this is a perfect example. The Walled City of Jerusalem is a fortress to provide safety from marauders. At night the large city gates were closed, but residents can still come in through a people-sized door in the large Jaffa Gate itself. It is made for people, but not for large animals. This people-doorway is known as “the eye of the needle.”

Jesus uses the example of Jaffa Gate because all the City residents were familiar with it: the gate is the needle, and the people-door is the eye of it.

Camels carrying large loads can easily go through the large open city gate during the day, but at night, they would never fit through the eye of the needle. (See the picture on the cover of this bulletin.)

So Jesus’ parable today holds true: the gates of heaven are made for people. Those that present themselves at the gates of heaven with their Earthly possessions will be sadly disappointed. When looked at from front or rear (I advise the front), the camel looks like a wide-body jet, perched atop thin, knee-bulging legs. Not only would the camel’s load have to be removed from the animal, but all its ribs would have to be broken to allow its body to slip through a doorway made for people. The animal would be destroyed, and its load would still be outside the gate. An impossible situation.

The old joke that one never sees a Funeral Hearse with a U-Haul hitched to the back provides the same truth. Earthly possessions are for earth, and Treasures built up in Heaven are rewards for our New Life with Christ Jesus.
“Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” - 1 John 3:2 

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 19:16-30 - "The Eye Of The Needle"

In the three and a half years of Christ's earthly ministry, He held thousands of conversations and counseled perhaps many hundreds of people. The Gospels record only a portion of those exchanges, indicating that those dialogues chosen for inclusion in the Bible are of particular importance to us, and we should pay close attention to the lessons there for us.

In this world of sin it is easy to get our values distorted . Property, money, material possessions, or a large bank account seem to give us security, but it is all a dream. We came into this world with nothing and it is certain we will go out with no material possessions. Jesus has promised us eternal life if only we believe on Him and determine to dedicate our lives to Him. So many are bartering away eternity because they consider this world more important, their values are all mixed up. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus had this problem.

As Jesus looked at this young man, he saw in him such promise and such potential. And we are told that as Jesus beheld him, He loved him. And, yet, the story ends in tragedy.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that he went away sorrowful. He came to Jesus with a question and went back sad because he did not like the answer.

We find this story in Matthew 19:16 -30; Mark 10:17-30 and in Luke 18:18-30.

He was a wealthy man, and a young man. His eyes were set on religious matters - on teachers, eternal life, good deeds. He had the look of a seeker: he seemed willing to listen and eager to learn. He seemed a disciple-in-the-making. But his story has a dark end. It was he that inspired Jesus famous words "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom." Matthew was there to watch the unfolding of this man’s confrontation with Christ.

As you examine Matthew's account of this encounter, it is important to understand that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

Salvation is not based on something that we do; it is based on what Christ has done (His finished work). We do not contribute to our own salvation; Christ paid it all. Salvation is not working; it is resting on the work of Another, even the Lord Jesus Christ: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5).

Religion is man trying to bring himself to God by human effort, by good works, by ritualism, by traditionalism, by sacraments, etc. Salvation is Christ bringing us to God on the basis of what He did for us on the cross: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

God's holiness utterly condemns the best man ("As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one"--Romans 3:10). God's grace freely justifies the worst man ("For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"--Romans 3:23-24).

The gospel message brings to man not a work to do, but a word to believe about a work done: "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:25).

We are saved, not because of what we have done, but because of the mercy of God based upon what Christ has done on the cross: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). A person can never be saved by his own good works: "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).

Good works done by sinful man can never please a holy God. The greatest good work is God's work accomplished by Jesus Christ who offered Himself on the cross as the sinner's Substitute. Thus we are not saved by good works, but we are saved unto good works: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Are you resting fully in the finished work of Christ? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ, who He is, what He has done for you and what He has said in His Word? "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:22).

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Moses, The Law Giver

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In Chapter 19 of Matthew, Jesus is back in Judea. There, the Temple Leaders approach Him with an issue familiar to us all, even today. They, being Jews represent the faithful of the Old Testament, following The Law to the letter. Their question to Jesus is designed to trick Him into stating something contrary against the Law, thereby giving them reason to declare Him a false teacher.

This brings us to Proverbs 26:27, “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” In the Book of Esther, Haman built a gallows for Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, plotting against him, and planning to have him hanged. But once Esther was declared Queen, the tables were slowly turned as Esther made a plea to her husband the King.

Mordecai was protected and rewarded, and it was Haman himself who was hanged from the gallows that he built. Though God is not mentioned a single time in the Book of Esther, His provision and protection over His Chosen People are never more evident than in that Book.

As believers, this is something that should always lay peacefully in our hearts. God is for us and never overlooks what is going on in our lives, even with things that we cannot see. God is always alert towards us. It is a special and unique relationship that God has with those that believe in Him, and put their trust in Him. His faithfulness is unmatched, and His love never-ending. He is a pillar we can lean on; a tower of strength Who stands with us, watching the minutia of our daily lives.

So as the Temple Leaders are planning to entrap Jesus with His own words, Jesus-the-Living-Word already knows their hearts, and their plan. Our all-knowing Lord cannot be neither surprised, nor caught off-guard. He knows what has been recorded in His Word and what quotes are attributed to whom.

As the Leaders quote Moses, He takes them back further in the scriptures and quotes His own Words. They were caught in their own trap, by the author Himself!
Following The Law can be good, as long as the Law isn’t forced and manipulated by man.

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;”  - 1 Timothy 1:8

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 19:1-15 - "Moses, The Law Giver"

In today’s passage, Jesus teaches us God’s view of divorce.

We see Jesus leaving Galilee for the last time during his earthly life and traveling to Jerusalem where he would be rejected and killed for the redemption of his people. Jesus would return to Galilee only after his resurrection from the dead.

In this passage we find Jesus, along with a crowd, staying beyond the Jordan where he taught and healed multitudes. While he was there some Pharisees came to him. Now, these Pharisees did not come to the Lord Jesus Christ with the intention of being instructed or healed by him. We know that because they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. These Pharisees were coming to test and trap Jesus.  This has been an ongoing plot to discredit Jesus and get rid of Him.

The Pharisees ask a couple of questions dealing with divorce. The Rabbis were split on this issue, and basically had two schools of thought. The liberal and the conservative….very much like it is today. One school of thought gave the husband freedom to divorce his wife if he in any way was displeased with her. The other school of thought taught that divorce was only right when there was infidelity.

Setting the trap: Wanting Jesus to take sides, first between the two schools of thought amongst the rabbis, and second pitting God’s Word against the word of Moses.

Jesus first responds to their ignorance, their ignorance of God’s Word. As religious leaders, they were scholars of the law….man’s law, yet completely ignorant of God’s Word. Once again Jesus asked them, Haven’t you read the scriptures?

Rather than focus on what the scriptures teach on marriage, their focus is divorce. God’s standard of marriage goes all the way back to beginning. Genesis makes it clear that marriage is intended to be for one man and one woman and is considered the strongest, most permanent covenantal bond ever created.

Marriage between a husband and wife completes the image of God that was separated from the creation of Eve. That God took from Adam’s body to create Eve shows us great insight into why we become one flesh in marriage. Since man is the image of God, and God took a part of that image out of man to create woman, the image of God is now separated into two beings (man and woman). Genesis 2:24 says the man and the woman shall become one flesh being joined together by God. God separated the image of God (Adam) when He created Eve, and now the image of God is brought back together when man and woman are married.

Those differences that you see between you and your spouse are more special because they are God’s design. Your spouse completes you, both perfectly  designed by God to compliment each other. Both created in the image of God. The differences are not a reason for divorce, but they are a gift and a blessing from God.

In response to their second question, Jesus explains that Moses allowed for divorce because of the hardness and sinfulness of man’s heart. It was a concession, not a command. It is not God’s design, in fact God hates divorce.

Though God hates divorce, it is not the unpardonable sin. God is able to forgive and restore sinful man into right relationship with Himself and with others. Though this is a sensitive subject for many, we must discuss it with all the grace and mercy of our Lord.  As followers of Christ, we are to walk in holiness and obedience to His Word.

Jesus’ definitive statement on the issue of marriage and divorce is in verse 9: “‘I say to you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” and in Mark 10:12 we find the opposite is also true: “And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Who is speaking these things? The eternal God, the Word that was made flesh! When Jesus says, “I tell you,” he is giving us the command of God himself governing marriage, and we had better pay attention. Marriage, therefore, is for life. It is a unity God has created and no one is to tamper with or dismantle that unity.

Divorce results from sin, not from God. God’s love is not fickle, it is loyal. His love is not conditional but is everlasting. We see this love on the cross. Christ died for us and lives for us, and he will never leave us nor forsake us.



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