Saturday, October 30, 2021

They Bid You To Observe

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We see it everywhere in the world: people of every walk-of-life are raised up to positions of authority, and they become different from whom they were prior to being lifted up. From entertainment stars, to politicians, to CEO’s and those that own their own businesses. Judges and Lawyers, teachers and council members, and lesser elected officials; the more they read their own names in the media, the more power they believe is theirs. Yet for all the influence they carry, many forget that their positions are the best that man can do for society. They forget that they themselves are mere humans, and many leave God’s plans and purpose out of the equation for saving the human race.

Their race matters not, nor their education level, nor who their role models are, or growing up rich, or poor; with few exception, they lay heavy burdens on their fellow man, adding laws upon laws, and lining their own pockets, because that’s how this world system works.

John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937) was once asked “How much money is enough?” He answered “Just a little bit more.” “What salary do you think is just enough to be comfortable and happy?” “Right now, I make more money than I spend, but I hit that point back when I started making $75,000/year.”

[Note that these were the dollars of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s! With the rates of inflation since then, Rockefeller would have to be earning $1,633,000/year to maintain his level of comfort, but he would still want  “Just a little more.”]

Is it sinful to be wealthy? No, of course not. But in the hands of sinners, too many ungodly temptations accompany large sums of money. And while I offer you Rockefeller’s quote, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that John D. Rockefeller was a devout Baptist who attended prayer meetings twice each week and taught a Bible Study with his wife. A man named John Penney had a similar result as a devout Christian, as JC Penney Stores grew multi-nationally, and his tithes grew to 90% of his corporate salary in his later years.
“To whom much is given, much will be required.” - Luke 12:48
We are held responsible for what we have. If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that our abundance will benefit others too.

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 23:1-39 - "They Bid You To Observe"

The word hypocrisy in Greek was a term used for an actor on stage who played a specific role. Jesus took this word and turned it to mean a charlatan or pretender assuming a role.

The Pharisees’ traditions had become more important than God’s law. They had added their own sets of laws based upon their interpretation of the Law then placed applications. Besides this being a problem and almost unreachable goal for people – they did not follow it themselves. Obeying the Law was a requirement by God to honor Him but over the years they had exalted their own interpretations and traditions and were lost to the true intent of God's law and were ignorant of His Word. They're only concern was how they looked, exalting themselves above all others. Consider the Greek meaning of hypocrite or hypocrisy – the scribes and Pharisees were simply playing a role.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Knowing God

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In today’s reading we learn that Abraham is a friend of God, forever. What an incredible honor! But it’s not just there that we read of this friendship, we find it again in Isaiah 41:8, and yet again in James 2:23. Mentioned twice in the Scrolls of the Old Testament, it is no wonder that the Jews held Abraham in such high esteem as their ancestral father. But mentioning it a third time in James, it’s clear that God Himself wants the Church to also know that we too can be friends with God, by putting faith in Him, as did Abraham.

Friends meet at some point. They find interests that they hold in common; they speak of the same things; they invest time in the relationship. They get to know each other well.

With Abraham though, he was introduced to the Most High God while he was still known as Abram. It was God who gave him the new name, “Abraham”(Genesis 17:5 & Revelation 2:17).

It’s a given that God knew Abraham inside and out, but Abraham learned of God more and more over time. He met the High Priest of God (Melchizedek) and knew immediately to tithe to the Holy Priest. Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Peace). He appears out of nowhere, and then disappears into history; he is a timeless figure, without a beginning and without an end. His presence in the scriptures mimics that of God, whom he serves, who also has no beginning, and He has no end; God is eternal, and so also is His plan for us.

It is in Isaiah 9:6 that we read the prophetic verse referring to God’s Son, the Prince of Peace. Proverbs 30:4 poses the question to every reader if we know the Son’s name. The Bible also tells us that God has known us from before the foundation of the earth, and through the Bible, we can know Him. 
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. ~ Hebrews 11:17

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 22:23-46 - Knowing God!

God is the God of the living, not the dead.  Jesus had claimed to be "the resurrection and the life". All the Sadducees needed to discredit Jesus was then to show the absurdity of the concept of resurrection. The stakes are high. But Jesus showed that the resurrection was not a new idea, but has already been spoken of by God in Exodus. Jesus also spoke about the great power involved, saying that in the resurrection, people will live and love in an entirely new level that exceeds that of marriages here on earth. Find out from this sermon then how the resurrection is of utmost importance to you and how it impacts your life today!

Finally, a legal expert from among the Pharisees asks Jesus one last question in order to test him, “Which commandment in the law is greatest?” (22:36). For him to answer wisely will be a confirmation of his teaching authority. It seems that after a long day of verbal battle, even the Pharisees begin to lose steam and wonder whether their efforts had been worthwhile.

Jesus’ answer is classic. Loving God is the first thing, the most important thing. But, with it comes a corollary: to love God means that you also love God’s people. 

Biblical love is not passive and it is not strictly emotional. In the Old Testament, there are references to many kinds of love, but the love referred to here by Jesus is the love of Deuteronomy 6:5, the love of God. This love is far from passive. It is the active response of the faithful believer to the love of God.

To love God with all one’s heart, and soul, and mind, is to choose to respond to God even as God chooses to love us. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Prepared For Us

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

From Genesis 2:23,24 we learn that God meant for couples to be bonded together in a life-long relationship. “The two shall become one…” has far-reaching effects for the two individuals. What one does effects the other, and vice-versa. I know I am preaching to the choir, but Ephesians 5:21-33 provides us with more details about what that bond is, and how it should function within the marriage relationship.

Today in Matthew 22, we are looking at a marriage feast that has been prepared and is ready for the guests to arrrive. The father of the bride is excited about this great gathering that he has prepared. And sadly he is disappointed when none of the invited guests come.

It is key to know that hospitality holds a special place in the hearts of those in the Holy Land. The more that have been prepared for, the higher in social status the host rises. And the joy of the wedding feast is matched by the joy of many friends and family celebrating the day together.

Ephesians 5:32 also tells us of the Apostle Paul’s analogous teaching; as he speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives, Paul declares, “But I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” What we conclude is that there is a wedding feast coming in heaven between the Lord Jesus and His church. This is the reason that the church is referred to as “The Bride of Christ.” And every true Christian is part of His Bride.

The “guests” are the host of heavenly angels, and the event will put even Earthly Kings and Prinesses to shame. It will be beyond anything we can imagine. Nothing on this earth will compare to the feast prepared for God’s children. Jesus and His Bride will be joined as one!

Those of any background that respond to the Gospel will be part of that heavenly wedding feast. Those that “send their regrets” will go through The Great Tribulation Period. Yet God is gracious, for the Tribulation Saints are referred to in Rev. 6:9-11: they are those that accept Christ during the Great Tribulation, and will enter into heaven. Those that reject Him still will be cast into the Lake of Fire with Satan, death, and hell. (Revelation 21:11-15)

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 22:1-22 - "Prepared For Us"

We see hear a wedding feast being prepared by the king for his son. We see the folks whose invitation was assumed – and they represented the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

We see their being invited and their shocking refusal of that invitation. We see the persistence of the king’s invitation to them and their persistent refusal of the invitation – some being ambivalent about it and some being antagonistic and even homicidal.

And finally we the servants gathering anyone and everyone to the wedding feast....but will the king accept them? We see the final judgment of those who were not worthy – cast out and into darkness.

The shocking reality that confronts us is that not everyone who has externally responded to God’s invitation to his kingdom is really in actuality going to be accepted by the King. Because we see in the last four verses of this parable that not all who are called – or invited – to God’s kingdom are actually chosen or accepted by the King.

In churches across the world – people who come and they listen and they sing and they give. But they’re not clothed… in Christ’s righteousness. They have on – in God’s eyes – their own filthy rags of their own self-righteousness. They still think they can earn their own way to eternal life.

The guest in this parable – who had received the invitation to the kingdom but was not clothed appropriately – is thrown outside into the darkness. And all who reject God’s forgiveness through Christ – who are dressed in their own unrighteous rags rather than Christ’s righteousness – will be cast away from God’s presence into eternal darkness. They’ll be bound in the sense that they will never be able to escape their fate.

The question posed for each of us to answer in this parable is, How Will You Respond to God’s Invitation to His Kingdom? 

Do you believe? Have you put your faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for your sin?  The invitations have been sent....will you come?

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Authority Of God

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

While preparing for today’s teaching, I decided to do a simple word study on “washing,” as in preparing to be in the presence of pure holiness. There is no such thing as a simple word study of the scriptures. The study took me to nearly every book of the Bible. I had my work cut out to pare the references down to just a few needed to make a point from God’s Word.

From Aaron’s priestly sons being washed in the bronze laver (Ex. 40:12), to Naaman having to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times (2King 5:14), washing to be touched by the Lord’s healing seems to be an essential step. And then, the premise moves from acknowledging the outward dirt of the streets and the world, to the inward dirt of sin in our inner being, and then, on to confession.

In our study today, the Temple Leaders question Jesus about His authority to perform miracles, to touch and to change people’s lives forever. They wondered who gave Jesus this authority? But as when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus in John 3 about being born again, Jesus had to confront him with a truth: (John 3:10...) Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” If it was me, I would have been astounded by the ignorance of this “Master of Israel.” As a teacher at the Jerusalem Temple, and an interpretor of God’s Word for the people, he was apparently totally unqualified to do so.

But in Nicodemus’ defense, his duties were taught to him by others just like himself. It reminds me of an old song by former pop singer Carly Simon in the 1970's. The Temple Leadership’s role had been reduced to being in all the right places, at all the right times; to be seen by the hoi polloi, hold them in awe, and to be reverenced by the masses.

This was hardly the role of the servant-King that Jesus presented to them. And He rightfully rebuffed them when they questioned His authority. Masters of the sacred scriptures? They should have known their scriptures better.
You walked in... to the party... like you were walking onto a yacht.
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye; your scarf, it was apricot.
You had one eye on the mirror, as you watched yourself gavotte...”
“You’re So Vain” - Carly Simon - 1972

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 21:23-36 - "The Authority of God"

Finishing up Matthew 21, here we see the religious authorities—the chief priests and elders—question Jesus’ authority. Who is this Jesus who comes into Jerusalem receiving the praises of the masses and drives the moneychangers out of the temple? The stage is set for the showdown. It is in this context that Jesus tells three parables—the Two Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast. Each of these parables is told to the Jewish religious leaders, each illustrates their rejection of Jesus, and each pronounces judgment on Israel for their rejection of their Messiah. In the Parable of the Two Sons, the leaders of Israel are the second son who claimed obedience, but did not do the will of the father.

These religious leaders are much like many religious leaders today holding positions of authority in the church, loving power and the praise of man, but are disobedient to the will of God and denying the authority of His Word.

The issue of “authority” is a theme that runs throughout the Gospel of Matthew. It is nothing more that unbelief. You can listen to the saving message of Jesus Christ and can walk away and say, “I will not believe that. I will not believe that message, that word preached by John, that word preached by Jesus that word preached by that preacher today. I will not believe.”

Over and over again, Jesus revealed Himself as He does now, through His Word, through His power. You’ve heard His message; You’ve seen His transforming power in the lives of others. Where do you stand? With the religious leaders who willfully rejected Him in spite of all of they heard and witnessed? Open your heart to Christ; receive Him as Savior, Lord, Master, King, for this is your day. May it not be said that you entered into judgment because you didn’t know the day of your visitation.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Promises Beyond

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Goals and deadlines seem to be the bane of our existence. From work schedules, school schedules, monthly bills, doctor visits, and even entertainment, we are strongly encouraged to “be on time.” That’s simple enough, isn’t it?

What if it’s an unpleasant thing that we have to go through to get to peace, joy, and fulfillment? Do we delay it ‘til the last minute, or carry through to get it out of the way? For example: Every time I have a dental appointment coming up to have my teeth cleaned by the hygienist, I can count on a tooth hurting two weeks before the appointment. Without fail, two weeks before, the same tooth gives me a warning, every time!

Then I begin to worry: is this my two week warning, or is this tooth going to give me a lot of trouble and pain? Honest! Same tooth, two weeks before my appointment. (No, I don’t believe in psychic teeth!) But do I call to see if there’s a sooner appointment to fix the problem, or suffer through the two weeks? Since the tooth has such a consistent track record, I just wait ‘til my appointment. My experience with the tooth helps me make the decision.

And today as we begin Matthew 21, we see Jesus continuing on his final journey to Jerusalem. His goal? Salvation for mankind, peace, joy, and a reunion in heaven. But we know, as does He, that He has an appointment with an excruciating death before reaching His goal. And there is volatility on Earth that we of creation must endure too! Trials and tribulations of every sort must take place to bring prideful mankind low enough to cry out to God for mercy, grace, and salvation.

My tooth ache was on Friday this past week. I know what’s coming. But it’s pretty insignificant compared to what Jesus was looking to go through during this passage of the text. Yet He still went through it. For the joy that awaited Him beyond the pain, He went through it for our sakes.
 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises, offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called.’”Hebrews 11:17 

Today's Audio Message:

Matthew 21:1-22 - "The Promises Beyond"

Think about a time of turmoil in your life and you will likely recall how the foundations of your world were shaken. Turmoil challenges our beliefs and faith, confronts the way we have always done things, makes us question where we are going.

In the midst of turmoil, we just want life to go back to the way it was before. Some will pray God to fix the problem and end the turmoil. Others will comes to church seeking answers to or an escape from the turmoil of our lives and world. Jesus saw the cross before Him and walked on towards it. He had a purpose here on earth, to fulfill the will of His Father.

As they make their way into Jerusalem, there would be no escape. Jesus knew what awaited Him by the end of the week, and He chose to put Himself center stage for that all to unfold. Jesus is coming, and a mass of people are following Him to Passover. They are experiencing everything He’s saying and doing as they go along. They sense He is like no other. Is this their awaited king? And of course, the disciples are along, and the disciples are affirming that He is the Christ, He is the Messiah, He is the Son of God.

It is just six days before His crucifixion, six days until the Lamb of God becomes the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, six days before He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; six days before the nails, the thorns, the spit, the cursings, the spear, the hatred, the sin-bearing, the loneliness of being God forsaken; six days before He feels the full fury of divine wrath for the sins of His people.

Jesus was entering into Jerusalem as the conquering King. He had come to them. He brought salvation. Jesus’ purpose in riding into Jerusalem was to make public His claim to be their Messiah and King of Israel in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9).

The people are hailing Jesus as their conquering King. Hosanna in the Highest! Passover was a commemoration of that great deliverance. When Moses was their leader, and how God delivered them from Egypt. They all expected that when the Messiah came, He would also deliver them from bondage to any blasphemous, godless Gentile power. So the assumption is, if this is the Messiah, He’s going to come and He’s going to exercise power and authority, and drive the Romans out, give them back their freedom.

The whole crowd is praising God with a loud voice. The leaders, they were incensed. Their Conquering King would go to battle, but not against the Romans. Jesus went right to the temple. He attacked their religious system, and their religious leaders. He dismantles their operations, throws the money changers out and declares they had turned the house of God into a den of thieves.

This will set things in motion to get rid of Him. We know that through a middle-of-the-night phony trial with false witnesses, every bit of it illegal, they pronounce a death sentence on Him, and they execute Him in the morning, on Friday, exactly at the hour that God had planned, so that He would die as the Passover Lamb for the sins of His people.

The king they wanted was not the KING that has come. He didn’t come to satisfy their flesh. He didn’t come to cater to their religious ceremony and pomp. He came to save us from our sin. To set the captives free. To conquer sin and rescue us from death and hell. To give us a future and a hope.

He is the Lamb that was slain. He IS THE RISEN & CONQUERING KING! 


WhitestoneCF Media - Web TV

WhitestoneCF Media - Web TV