Saturday, December 31, 2022

Prophecy and Promises

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Since the environment became of critical importance in the late 1980s and now into the 21st century, Western Culture has been bombarded with new spheres of worry. Awareness of Global Warming, Climate Change, the depletion of oxygen, air quality, and expanding bubbles of ozone at the north and south poles of the Earth, these have become rallying points for the Godless Leaders of the United Nations, and have become the mantras of those that peddle doom and gloom. Every world citizen should be doing their part to bring “healing” to our environment and air quality.

Bumper Stickers have promoted the idea of “Think Globally - Act Locally.”
It's not a new idea, and Wall Street’s Public Relations & Advertising Moguls were not the first to use this idea. God Himself was already thinking of mankind’s end from before the foundation of the Earth. He saw the corruption of everything on Earth in advance, and made plans for having a reconciliation of everything back to Himself and Earth’s original glory.

God’s word is evidence of His warnings, and His prophecies foretell of a Redeemer/Savior coming to Earth to reconcile all things to Himself. That’s God’s world-wide, global thinking; every person, place, and thing would need His healing touch according to His prophecies.

And lately, as we have been celebrating our Redeemer/Savior’s birth, we have read of His promises to individuals concerning His global plan: promises made to Zacharias and Elizabeth; to Mary and Joseph; and even to one of our Bible characters we’ll read of today, Simeon. God has been thinking globally and acting locally throughout the ages by using righteous and devout believers.

Peter wrote of the prophets God used, referring to them as “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:17) And to these folks we have been reading of in preparation for Christmas, God was making promises to them that would fulfill His thoughts and plans world-wide.

God has not for a single moment forgotten His Creation. All contingencies for human free will have been made, and all things will be reconciled in Earth’s final days. God has planned Globally and acted locally …with Believers.

Today's Audio Message:
Luke 2:21-40 - "Prophecy and Promises"


The entire physical universe was created for God’s glory. When we rebelled, the universe fell under the weight of our sin. Yet God did not give up on us. God is not some hapless inventor whose creation failed. He has a masterful plan. In fact, from before the creation of the world, before the beginning of time, God had a plan to redeem the world through the atoning work of his Son, Jesus. All who are in Christ would be conformed to His image, and adopted as children of God. The message throughout the Old and New Testaments is the promise of a Savior, that Savior is Jesus. Salvation is not the work of humanity, it is the work of God through Christ.

As we continue our study in Luke's gospel, we know that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had been born. The long- awaited promised good news had been announced (1:26–38), affirmed (1:39–56), and arrived (2:1–20).

We are looking at Luke chapter 2 and verses 21 through 40, in which Luke produces testimony to the identity of the child, testimony from His parents, Joseph and Mary, testimony from an old man named Simeon, and an old woman named Anna. This is important for this testimony to be given because the Old Testament law required that all truth be confirmed by two or three witnesses, credible, trustworthy witnesses. Here we have righteous Joseph and Mary, righteous Simeon, and righteous Anna, to give testimony to the fact that the child born in Bethlehem is indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and so we're looking at this testimony.

It's now eight days later, and Jesus has gone through the covenantal custom of circumcision (v. 21; cf. Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:1–3).

Mary and Joseph would bring Jesus to the temple, and God would strengthen their faith further by these two older saints: Simeon and Anna.

Four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Malachi, whose prophecy ends our Old Testament, said that the Sun of righteousness would rise with healing in His wings. And the Old Testament then closes with a prophecy of the coming of Messiah which occurred four hundred years later. Many of the people in Israel paid very little attention to that promise, but there was a remnant of people in the nation that looked to the fulfillment of Malachi's promise and they were anxiously waiting for the arrival of the Sun of righteousness. Simeon and Anna were two of this small remnant of believers.

These faithful believers had, for a long time, anticipated the arrival of God’s promised Messiah. They now experienced what they had been so longingly expecting. Therefore, they celebrated. But this led them to anticipate again. For with the arrival of Messiah, greater things were still to come, not only in the city of Jerusalem, but throughout the nation of Israel and in all the nations.

Their celebration of fulfilment, coupled with their anticipation of future fulfilment, illustrates the biblical truth referred by theologians as “already / not yet.” This is where you and I live—or where we should be.

In Jesus, the fulfillment of the ages has come. The Messiah, so longed for in the history of God’s people, brings together the reign of David and the promise of life to the family of Jacob/Israel, to the Gentile nations and to all of mankind. This passage will help us to wait for God’s full and final salvation. It will help us to persevere through times of hopelessness. May God equip us by scripture’s encouragement, and by the Spirit’s empowerment, to faithfully anticipate the fullest extent of his good news.

Friday, December 23, 2022

A Manger and Swaddling Clothes

Bobersvations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” ([spoken to the tempting serpent] Genesis 3:15)

An adversarial relationship is promised between “the seed of the woman,” and the seed of the serpent. Satan, Lucifer, and the Devil are monikers identifying this serpent in the verse. And the genealogy of Jesus contained in Luke 3 identifies Christ as a direct descendent of Eve, the wife of Adam from the earliest days of Earth. And it was another descendent of Eve’s of which the following verse was written:

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shown round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said until them, ‘Fear not: behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:7-11)

From Genesis to Luke is a long time. But God’s words to the serpent offered no specific time frame for the promise to be fulfilled, and surely 4004 BC to about 4 BC is 4000 years, and that is a long time.

Numbers in the Bible do have some significance, and it’s noteworthy to know that 4 is the number of judgment and hardship in scriptures. The dates quoted above have come from study of genealogies in the Bible, and computerized retrograde studies of the mazzaroth (the movement of the starfield). The studies of the mazzaroth reveal a date of about 4 BC for an unusual star to appear in the sky, and the genealogies take us back to approximately 4004 BC, when the serpent tempted Eve.

For those of us that are “spiritually minded,” the evidence speaks of a fulfilled prophecy, for the seed of the woman is the One spoken of by the angel of the Lord who spoke to the shepherds. And there in a manger do we find Jesus the Christ, wrapped in swaddling clothes: Immanuel, or God-with-us. (Isaiah 7:14)

Christmas Eve Communion Service
Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-20 - "A Manger and Swaddling Clothes"

Tonight, we welcome you to our Christmas Eve service, along with a short reading of the Gospel’s record of the Birth of our Savior, Jesus, followed with Communion Service.

God’s eternal plan for world redemption was a perfectly synchronized program of events that centered on the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. When you examine the details you are overwhelmed with the fact that it was not an afterthought with God. It was a carefully laid organizational plan of complexity. The apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4-5 tells us "when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

Saturday, December 17, 2022

His Name Is John

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

One of the common events in the Bible throughout its historical record is fear coming upon God’s people. The fear-of-the-Lord was common, that holy respect for the power and abilities of the Lord God. That’s a good and wholesome fear, for it guides us away from sin and temptation, and drives us humbly to the Lord. “To the Lord” is the direction He always wants us moving.

But on several occasions a profound fear fell upon the people when God interacted with them directly, and tangibly. Today in our joint reading, we’ll read of one of those times. It’s a brief reading, and the gist of it is that God’s chosen people were afraid to look upon Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai after spending 40 days with God on the mountain top.

Spending time with God one-on-one had a profound effect upon Moses. His face shone brightly, so brightly that when coming down from the mountain top, the Jews could not look upon him comfortably. And eventually, Moses placed a veil over his face so the people could approach him and listen to the Words that God gave him to speak to the people. (viv-a-vis, the veil at the Temple’s Holy of Holies, which was torn in two upon Jesus’ death.)

In the New Testament there is a huge contrast: Jesus asked the Apostles to allow the little children to come to Him. Jesus was approachable and wanted even little ones to feel comfortable in His presence. His gentle and loving ways towards all were an invitation. New Testament adults would fall back in fear, but Jesus’ words to them were always spoken immediately, “Fear not.”

That’s what Jesus wants for all of us. God’s thoughts towards us are all for peace, not evil (Jeremiah 29:11). But all His interactions with man are designed to bring about change in the lives of those that are His. The flip side of that coin is that we mortals dislike changes. We get in our comfort zones, and we prefer to stay there. God prefers that we do not stay and stagnate, He asks for obedience to His Word so that we are willing to be changed (by Him). This is the process of sanctification. The word itself means “to be set aside for change.”
2 Timothy 2:21 – “If a man therefore purge himself from these, He shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and (profitable) for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”

Today's Audio Message:
Luke1:57-80 - "His Name Is John"


The momentous intervention of God into human affairs (especially after such a long period of prophetic silence) should cause awe, amazement, and rejoicing. The events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist and the coming of the Messiah (who will bring Redemption and Salvation and Everlasting Life) are anything but ordinary and typical. But what we easily forget is that God’s intervention in our own lives to draw us to Himself in saving faith is no less an awe-inspiring wonder of His mercy and grace. His visitation rescues us out of the domain of darkness into His glorious light, and we serve Him in that glorious light of holiness, righteousness and truth. When the Lord “visits” his people, that means he comes down and gets personally involved in their welfare. And when he “redeems” his people, that means he takes action to set them free. That the Lord has visited and redeemed his people is certainly something to praise God for.

Zechariah is holding his newborn son and speaks of the future with words inspired by the Holy Spirit.  

God's Word is a promise of mercy. His continued relationship with humanity demonstrates His mercy. He visited us with a purpose, to give us the help we need. His promise is abiding, and His mercy and faithfulness are everlasting!

God's mercy and love are demonstrated by action. He is the one who works our salvation. Not only that, but God offers continued revelation in His Word to nurture our relationship with Him.

Luke 1:68, 72-73 mentions God's covenants with Abraham and David. Zechariah's prophecy also anticipates the New Covenant which would fulfill and replace the Mosaic covenant. All of Scripture points to the need for a new covenant. This will be based on the person and work of Jesus Christ and will never be broken by humans.  

In Luke 1:76-79, God's promise reveals the Savior.  Zechariah's son would be "the prophet of the Most High." Prophets always pointed to something greater. The angel told Mary her child would be "the Son of the Most High." John the Baptist's task was to remind people that they were in need of the coming One who would forgive sins. Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season, and forgiveness of our sins is the reason for His coming. Outside of Christ, we sit in death and darkness.

Zechariah's words help us see the unrivaled glory of our Savior. Christ is the Light and a Hero who sacrifices Himself for His people. He visits us in mercy. One day, His light will shine and never be hidden. His reign will be unchallenged and unending.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

God's Will For The Barren

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we get close to the Churches’ celebration of Christmas, the thought occurred to me that if we were doing this chronologically, according to the calendar, I should have begun this first Chapter of Luke last March, or perhaps late February! For it was nine months prior to the birth of Jesus where Luke begins his narrative with news of the birth of John, who Jesus said was “…of those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” (Luke 7:28).

Like so many others, John’s mother was declared to be barren. As women, they were viewed as being under judgment because the Lord had shut their wombs. Abraham’s Sarah had her womb opened and gave birth to Isaac, Isaac’s Rebekah eventually gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob’s wife Rachel eventually brought forth Joseph. The Patriarchs came from that blood-line, from those mother’s that were declared to be barren. A man of the Tribe of Dan named Manoah and his unnamed wife who was barren eventually gave birth to a rebellious son, Samson. Always pushing the envelope of grace, Samson won a great victory against Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. These barren women of Israel brought forth sons who God used in mighty ways, and their lives are recorded in sacred scripture. Their stories are exciting, their lives full of hardship, and of blessings as they fulfilled God’s word for Israel.

In Luke 1, we are introduced to Zacharias and his barren wife Elizabeth. Her barrenness ended and Gabriel appeared to Zachariah as he performed his duties as a Temple Priest in Jerusalem. The Altar of Incense was Zacharias’ responsibility, and the smoke from the incense was viewed as the prayers of believers rising to heaven, carrying prayer petitions to God’s Throne.

Their son John was prophesied of in Isaiah 40, some 700 years before Christ. Isaiah 40:3-5 ~ “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”

John the Baptist’s message ushered in the birth of Christ Jesus, born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). The role of the angel Gabriel is revealed: 
The Bearer of Good News & Tidings of Great Joy!
The Hashomite Kingdom of Jordan (Israel’s neighbor to the east, east of the Jordan River) has a four lane, divided highway named “King’s Highway.” It gives access through the desert to Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses, and to Petra).

Today's Audio Message:
Luke 1:1-25 - "God's Will For The Barren"


One of the foundational truths of our faith is that God is Creator of all that is. God is also Sovereign which means He is the ultimate source of power, wisdom and authority over all of His creation. As our Sovereign Creator, He exercises His rule in our lives.
God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. We’ve all heard it many times prior to our salvation, and throughout our Christian walk, and it is true! It is essential to know Who God is so that we can understand His providence, which governs and directs all things according to His plan and purposes.

To ensure that His purposes are fulfilled, God governs the affairs of men and works through the natural order of things. The laws of nature are nothing more than God’s work in the universe. The laws of nature have no inherent power; but are the principles that God set in place to govern how things normally work. They are only “laws” because God decreed them.

Today’s study is titled, “God’s Will for the Barren.” It is a look at how God accomplished His will in the lives of Zaccharias and Elizabeth, his barren wife. God would open Elizabeth's womb to bring forth a son, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy as the forerunner of Jesus, our Messiah.

There are other godly women throughout the Old Testament who were barren: Isaac’s mother, Sarah (Genesis 11:30; 21:1-2); Jacob’s mother, Rebekah (Genesis 25:21);
Joseph’s mother, Rachel 
(Genesis 29:31; 30:22), to name a few. What's interesting to note is that their stories nonetheless showcase the power of God as He advances His promises, His plan, and His will in their lives by overcoming obstacles.

Elizabeth is only mentioned in Luke chapter 1, but we learn much about her in this chapter. She is described as a righteous woman living a life of willing obedience to God even in the midst of trials and difficulties. Patient, trusting and waiting - even when it seemed impossible being beyond childbearing years, she remained faithful to God, unwavering in her faith. Her husband Zaccharias is a Priest in the Temple, faithful to God in his calling. After years of praying and waiting, in their old age, an angel of the Lord appears to Him.  

God Alone is the One who has the power to open and close the Womb. The undeniable truth of Scripture tells us this plainly. If a child is conceived and born it is because God has created that life, formed that baby, and even caused the delivery of the child. In this case, and in other examples throughout scripture, God had a specific plan in Elizabeth’s barrenness, the miracle of John, the fulfillment of prophecy, according to His will, His purpose for the salvation of mankind.

No matter the circumstance, God is in control of all of His creation.  Sometimes trials are like barrenness - they are difficult.  Trials may come with the ridicule or reproach of others.  Our prayers may seem to go unanswered, and the waiting seems endless.  Yet God is in the details of our lives.  As we wait, He wants us to trust, to remain faithful and to grow in that faith.  He wants to use us for His glory and the work of His kingdom.  

Sometimes we are distracted by our own plans. We strive in the flesh to make things happen.  Remember, it is God's will that we should be striving for, and in His perfect timing, He will make it happen...even when we doubt.  

Saturday, December 3, 2022

An Uphill Battle

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Greek Culture had a great impact upon all the nations swept up into its Empire, and Rome did the same, overthrowing Corinth and Athens about 146 BCE (BC). The residual effects of Greek and Roman idolatry stayed in place in Asia. The City of Ephesus was steeped in Greco-Roman Culture, including their false gods. The level of involvement of Ephesus is revealed in Acts 19:27 & 28, with the excited declaration of Demetrius, the silversmith, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” If Paul’s ministry was successful, the silversmiths would soon be looking for new careers, for the Gospel is a threat to idolatry. The worship of false gods and idols is addressed in Romans 1, and its impact on a culture is found in verses 18-32 of that chapter.

The worship of false gods will always lead to the same thing. We can recognize it here in our own country, ever since the raucous decade of the 1960’s (School prayer was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court [Engel v. Vitale, 1962], and three decades or more of “free love” followed.)

Diana (Artemis) shared her attributes with other fertility goddesses of the ancient civilizations, Ashtaroth/Ashtoreth, Astarte (Canaanites), Aphrodite (Roman & Greek), Venus (Rome), Hathor (Egypt), each culture had their own. In their worship of Ashtoreth among Israelites, they brought shrines to her into Jewish homes (Joshua 9:10). The worship of her was just one of the issues that King Solomon found to be an empty vanity (1 Kings 11:5,33). Satan makes no exceptions for class distinctions. He attacks any and all alike.

If Jehovah God is not worshipped among a people, they will create a god to worship for themselves, and sexual immorality will follow, and its citizens will fight for acceptance tooth and nail; exactly as we are witnessing here in all of western civilization. If the Son of the Father is not worshipped in a home, there will be pagan ideals that are accepted there.

Paul uses this last part of the fourth chapter of Ephesians as Instruction in Righteousness, and it serves as a high standard against which we can measure our relationships, and examine our own hearts.
1 Corinthians 5:7 - “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:30-31 - "An Uphill Battle"


Today as we look closer at Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul is exhorting the Ephesian believers not to sin, but to manifest the godly behaviors—namely, showing kindness, being tenderhearted, and exhibiting forgiveness. The main danger in not “putting on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24) is that as we sin against and stray from God, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), whose role it is to comfort and to guide believers in Christlikeness.

We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (Ephesians 4:17-19), by lying (Ephesians 4:25), by being angry (Ephesians 4:26-27), by stealing (Ephesians 4:28), by cursing (Ephesians 4:29), by being bitter (Ephesians 4:31), by being unforgiving (Ephesians4:32), and by being sexually immoral (Ephesians 5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed. How can we grow in godliness when we are living like the rest of the world? In order for us to draw closer to God and away from sin, we must be born of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who produces new nature in us. God promised that He would give his people a new heart, a new nature, clean lives and a full measure of the spirit on the last day.

Jesus taught His disciples, and by extension, all believers, how the Holy Spirit will work after Christ’s ascension into heaven. In John's Gospel, Jesus promised that when He departed, He would send another Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. Our Lord expounds on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

New Man; New Walk

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Apostle Paul has taken us a long way in this Epistle. The outline for this Epistle is the same for all Paul’s letters, as presented in 2 Timothy 3:16. He Teaches the church and individuals the truth of God’s Word as doctrine. He reproves even as he encourages. He offers correction without condemnation, reminding them of what Jesus has done for us all. And as with this chapter, he offers instruction in righteousness. All this so that peace reigns in the hearts of His people, whether Jew or Gentile.

His Epistles Are filled with Doctrine and presented in a loving way, but he pulls no punches. From his Jewish background he was transformed into a leader among the Apostles, planting churches, and encouraging other churches that we planted by others.

Paul’s ministry is Spirit-led. Paul’s human spirit is now Spirit-led. His travels were Spirit-led, and his love for the Lord took over his whole life. This is his hope for every Christian, that we would immerse ourselves in Jesus’ teachings, immerse ourselves in His life, and share Him like He shared Himself with all mankind.

Paul followed Jesus all the way to his own execution. Teaching the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and offering the Salvation of the Lord too all. Eternal life became possible with Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and He offers it to all who will simply believe on Him. That’s the first step in our new life. Jesus asks us to follow Him, and He gifts us with the faith to do just that: denying self, take up our cross, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)

This He has done because He loves each of us. And as we walk with Him, He leads us deeper and deeper into relationship with Himself, with the Father, as He imbues His Holy Spirit unto us. And as the Angel Gabriel spoke to a young virgin named Mary, we learn and experience the truth of the Angel’s words: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” - 1 Cor. 15:53

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:17-32 - "New Man; New Walk"


The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the action by which God takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Jesus revealed to His disciples the new role the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter. He is the Spirit of Truth. He would testify of Jesus. He will teach us and guide us into all truth. The role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is in John 14:17, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

The scripture tells us in John 14:16; 15:26; 16:13, that the believer in Jesus Christ has the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, living in him. As the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, He brings about some life-changing results: New Life; New Birth, New Man; New Walk.

The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the yielded believer to live for Christ to do His will (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit leads the believer in paths of righteousness (Romans 8:14).  As Pastor Bob so aptly put it, “The Holy Spirit brings us into full power, the fullness of God’s power - the power behind our growing faith."  The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives enables us to walk in newness of life, obedient to the Word of God, set apart for His plan and purpose.  

As we finish the Ephesians chapter 4, Paul urged the Ephesian church and, by extension, believers today—to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. As believers, we are followers of Christ. We have been given new life, and with that new life we have new duties and a new life path to follow. Through the Holy Spirit, God empowers us for every step of that worthy walk as we submit to His leading.

Paul having described the corruption of the mind, heart, and will of the “old man," then begins to unpack what it means to walk as a “new man” (Ephesians 4:22). In detailing what it means to “no longer walk as other Gentiles walk” (Ephesians 4:17), Paul reminds the church that they had previously “learned . . . heard . . . and been taught by . . . Jesus." With a new mind, heart, and will, Christians begin to resemble Jesus. Practically speaking, the transition from the old man to a new man is oftentimes slow; yet it must occur if salvation is authentic (Luke 6:43–45).

While the exact phrase “new man” or “new self” only occurs in the books of Ephesians and Colossians, the concept occurs with regularity in Scripture, especially in the letters of Paul. Throughout scripture we learn that in Christ, believers have: a new mind (1 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 12:2), new knowledge (Colossians 3:10), a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 26:36), a new will (Philippians 2:12–13), new passions and desires (Galatians 5:24), a new conscience (Hebrews 9:14), and are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is all the result of being in a new covenant with God (Hebrews 8:6). Note the scope of the transformation of the old man into a new man. The new man is completely and thoroughly renewed.

In summary, Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 4:31–32 is to not sin, but to manifest the opposite behaviors—namely, showing kindness, being tenderhearted, and exhibiting forgiveness. The main danger in not “putting on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24) is that as we sin against and stray from God, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), whose role it is to comfort and to guide believers in Christ-likeness.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Unity of the Spirit

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus continues and introduces us to yet another of the “Mysteries of Our Faith” in chapter 4. Jews and Gentiles saved brought both groups together in a new understanding of leaving old beliefs behind, and becoming something new: The Church.

Yes, the Jews are still God’s Chosen People, chosen to bring forth the Savior and Redeemer. Well, Jesus had come and dwelt among them, His salvation and redemptive works were complete. Now it was time to fulfill those prophetic passages with Jews and Gentiles together as “The Church,” a peculiar and unique combination of peoples, where there is neither Jew, nor Gentile; bond nor free, no more wall separating even pagans from Believers; all were and are welcome to fellowship and worship together as His Church.

We jump in at Psalm 68:17-19 today and find that the prophecy has been fulfilled, sort of. The Church is made up of people with multiple backgrounds, backgrounds of sin washed clean, and people redeemed. But there are many in The Church who still hang on to those old things that should have been left behind. The old ways have crept in, and Believers are reluctant to leave their old comfort zones behind.

Today we find The Church divided again. Division is among the traits of the natural man, lacking an understanding of the scriptures and God’s plan for all mankind. Denominations have sprung up putting emphasis on one sacred passage or another. Even the Jews who have accepted Christ have self-identified as Messianic Jews, which separates them from the Jews, AND the Christians!

Division as a trait does not allow for unity. So when God has called for unity in The Church, who do we think has been at work in the hearts of those that have divided it up into denominations and sects? The Deceiver has been at work. My wife and I were brought up in a faith system that taught us it was a sin to worship in any other church but THAT one. Yet all of the churches find their basis for existing in God’s Sacred Word. It is past the time that we should just call ourselves “Christians” regardless of the building where we worship.

Acts 11 is a parallel for our passage for today.
“….And the Disciples were called ‘Christian’ first in Antioch.” ~ Acts 11:26

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:1-17 - "The Unity of the Spirit"


Christian unity comes with Christian maturity, and it is always something that we strive to attain. Paul instructs us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Helping us toward that unity are the gifts of the Spirit. God has given each Christian different gifts, and their exercise in the edification of the church leads to more and more unity. One purpose of the gifts is that “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Saturday, November 12, 2022

God's Eternal Purpose

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

A week and a day ago, my wife’s last living uncle passed into eternity. “Uncle Jim” spent his life serving the Lord in ministry and by example. We know he is home with his beloved Lord Jesus. Our prayers are for the peace and comfort of Fran, his wife, and his four children, James, Linda, John, Mark, and all their families. Dr. Rev. James Allen was a consummate teacher, whether in a church pulpit or in a university classroom. His passion was to teach young people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and all the workings of faith.

In last week’s third chapter of Ephesians, it was the Apostle Paul, another consummate teacher of the Gospel who eloquently revealed and explained some of the mysteries of faith. Today, we look at the second half of chapter 3 and find the title of today’s teaching: “God’s Eternal Purpose.” We find that His eternal purpose is ongoing today: that we might know His Son Jesus, and the incredible work of salvation which He accomplished for all mankind on the cross. It is a universal gift to all.

By definition, a gift is something freely given or made available. In order for the gifting process to be complete, it must be received. Can you imagine, a precious gift being rejected? It’s like a gift left unopened at Christmastime, just because one did not like the gifter/donor. Besides the gift of salvation, God also gave mankind the gift of free will, and many have already rejected God’s gift of salvation. A profound lack of belief or trust is all it takes to reject His gift.

But believers have opened the gift of God and had their lives changed forever. “Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8. This is the invitation given to all mankind. It continues to be extended to every generation throughout the world.

My wife’s uncle told us one time that he prayed regularly that each of his eleven brothers and sisters would come to Christ. A few did. But he was overjoyed when he saw so many of the next generation in the family respond to the invitation, and opened, and receive God’s gift.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6
Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 3:11-21 - "God's Eternal Purpose"


What God planned from the time before time existed—his eternal purpose—has come into fruition through Jesus Christ—his cross, resurrection, and ascension.

God’s eternal purpose centers on Christ and His church. If we want our lives to count for eternity, we’ve got to get God’s vision and purpose for the church and live accordingly.

For 3 chapters Paul has spoken truth about the church and her role. It’s the groundwork for where he turns next: how we as members of the church are to live and be. He ends this section with a beautiful doxology, a song of praise to God who has done the most tremendous things up to this point.

When you think of God’s plan for the church and what it would become it was beyond imagination. It was something no one with the greatest of wisdom could have thought possible. Only God is able to bring about such works beyond anything imaginable.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Two Became One

Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Growing up and attending religious schools, it was common the hear the phrase “The Mysteries of Faith.” The “Mysteries” are numerous: the Mysteries of the Church, the Mysteries of Jesus’ Miracles, the Mysteries of the Eucharist, etc. etc. If any of these phrases are familiar to you, then you might also have attended Catholic Schools. To a degree, some of these “mysteries” are what have divided Christianity into Denominations, each focusing on one mystery or another: Baptism, the Oneness Doctrine, Calvinism and Arminianism, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and on and on the list goes.

It is recorded that Islam has 57 individual Sects. I’m pretty sure that Christianity has more. It is this divisive nature of Gnosticism, or “inside information” allegedly given by God to certain men that creates division in the Body of Christ, or any belief system.

Today, we will look at one of those mysteries, and find that the scriptures address the mysteries in a logical manner to the Faithful of the Lord. The Mystery of the Church naturally becomes unifying when individuals find a love for Christ Jesus as individuals grasp His love and commitment to them, and to mankind in general. And then it becomes what God meant it to be: His building project. Herod the Great built massive structures in Israel to glorify Rome. God’s building project(s) dwarf Harod’s both here on Earth, and in heaven as He reveals His glory to us!

The Apostle Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 1, and again in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, he addresses it more directly. The shroud of this mystery falls away throughout the Bible, even in our Genesis 2 reading today. We read of newness, and read of putting off the old man. We read of old things passing away and all things becoming new. It’s a theme that repeats often from Genesis to Revelation.

As God sheds His light on “The Mystery of the Church,” the shroud of mystery falls away to understanding, and a love for what God is building develops in our hearts. As the Body of Christ grows, so also does our love for Jesus the Creator, and our love for other believers.
“And I say also unto thee, ‘That thou art Peter (petros, a little stone), and upon this rock (Petra, a large stone) I will build My Church.”Matthew 16: 18 

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 3:1-11 - "Two Became One"


In chapter 2, Paul talked about the Gentile Christians in Ephesus. They had been “dead in transgressions and sins,” (2:1), but God in his mercy “made (them) alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:5-6). The salvation accorded these Gentiles, then, was “the gift of God, not of works” (2:8-9).

In times past, there had been a deep division between Jew and Gentile—between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Gentiles had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12).

But Jesus broke down the dividing wall that separated Jews and Gentiles. He made the two one, “making peace” (2:15). The result was that these Gentiles were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but… fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:19).

In Ephesians 3, the apostle unfolded the great secret that had been in the heart of God from eternity. In a very special sense Paul was the chosen one to make known this mystery in all its fullness. No one else wrote of the body of Christ, among all the New Testament writers. This teaching came first to Paul that he might communicate it to others. But the truth that Jew and Gentile were to be blessed in the same way on the basis of pure grace was made known to the twelve. Our Lord taught this truth. “His own sheep” from the Jewish fold, and “other sheep” of the Gentiles were to form “one flock” under the fostering care of “one Shepherd” (John 10:4John 10:16).

In Ephesians 3, "For this cause..." In other words, God assigned Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and that became the mission that consumed the rest of Paul’s life.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Before and Ever After

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Perhaps you still remember what your life was like before you met Jesus and asked Him to take the reins of your heart. Maybe you have always loved the Lord because of the way you were raised, and parental influence. But loving Jesus does not protect us from tough times, or from temptation.

Eventually though, every one of us must have our crossroads with Jesus.

Back in 2005, a Country & Western singer by the name of Carrie Underwood sang a song, “JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL.” It was a smash hit on the Country Music Charts and crossed over onto the Pop Charts too.

Already loving and trusting the Lord, the song is about a young driver going through a snowstorm on her way home to see her family. The roads were icy, the wind was blowing, and her car went into a skid. Not only was the car out of her control, but it seemed that her life was too. “Jesus take the wheel” was her plea as the car skidded uncontrollably.

If you have ever driven in winter, you have probably encountered “black ice.” You’re on it before you even realize it, and it provides absolutely no traction for the tires. There’s often a thin veneer of water atop black ice and it’s slipperier than an ice-skating rink.

The singer’s plea essentially was “Jesus save me!” There was no one else around, and the singer didn’t know how or where that car was taking her. That’s like just going along and letting your life take you where it wants to go.

Life can do that to an unsuspecting person and drag us along where we don’t want to go. It might be a twisty path one is on, and even a dangerous one.

The scriptures tell us that without Christ we are destined to hell. There are no good works that can alter our eternal destination. Good works aren’t even among the criteria for being saved. The Bible tells us to believe in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead, and to profess our faith publicly, and we will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” ~ Galatians 3:6

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 2:11-22 - "Before and Ever After"


The Gentile nations were once without hope for a Savior to save them. There was no basis for the Gentiles to look for the Messiah, they knew not of him. Christ belonged to Israel, and therefore the Gentiles were excluded as the privileged recipients of the promise. They were strangers to the covenants of promise. The Gentiles had no hope, they did not share in the hope of salvation, nor the possibility of having a relationship with the Lord. They were pagans, and ignorant of the true and living God.

“But now in Christ Jesus” all of that has changed. In Christ Jesus a dramatic change has occurred. Now all can be brought near by the blood of Christ. Jesus is the meeting point with God for all of humanity. We are brought near to God because of the blood of Jesus. We see the high cost of bringing us close to God — Jesus’ death. Paul is announcing the seemingly impossible: the Gentiles who were once excluded from the promises of God have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.


Saturday, October 22, 2022

A Recipe For Change

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Some 40 years ago, my wife and I, and young sons were invited to a neighborhood Summer Picnic. It was a typical picnic for a large group of older, middle-aged, and young families on our street. Hot dogs and burgers, several varieties of salads (garden, potato, macaroni etc.), baked beans, and then desserts like brownies and ice cream sandwiches. When one thinks of a large summer picnic, these are the foods many think of, and there’s room for meat dish variations like steaks or Italian sausages.

Everyone coming was asked to bring a favorite dish recipe of their own to pass. Our elderly neighbor across the street, Ms. Rice, immediately volunteered to bring the baked beans. It was her favorite dish to bring to such gatherings, and “they were always a hit,” she told everyone.

Picnic tables, lawn chairs, and bar-b-que grills were brought together onto one of the neighborhood’s double-wide driveways on the morning of the picnic. About 1 PM neighbors began to gather together, and the dishes-to-pass began to fill the folding aluminum tables. With the dozen or so families coming, the variety of food was amazing. The aromas from the tables mingled with that which was cooking on the grills. Everything looked and smelled delicious.

Going through the food line, folks were trying a little bit of everything on the food table. And when each person got to the baked bean dish, they would stop, look it over, bring a spoonful up over their plates to savor the aroma of the baked beans. The smell and the taste of the elderly neighbors baked bean dish was different from any other baked beans anyone had ever had. It was just brown beans, but a wide variety of beans cooked together in a savory sauce that made everyone take an extra spoonful. She was right, her bean dish was a hit!

And all the homemakers took home a recipe card for the beans. They became known as “Picnic Beans” for all future picnics, even sharing the recipe at our own family picnics.

Ms. Rice’s Picnic Beans changed the food fare for dozens of normal, average mundane group picnics. One special, unique dish can change the event.
Just one dish can change a picnic. One person can change the heart of a thing.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” - Psalm 34:8 

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 2:1-10 - "Recipe For Change" 


Ephesians 2 starts with a reminder of God’s great love for us, that even when we were dead, Christ made us alive in Him. We have been raised and seated with Christ in heaven and all of this comes by His Grace that we receive through faith.

Without God’s action in this world, there would be no hope for the future. Life, as cannot be understood unless one views it in light of God. As believers in Christ, we are to remind people of the true and only hope: salvation in Christ Jesus. That hope is not to be placed in governments, people, programs or systems, but in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

How Excellent Is Thy Name!

Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

When we recall Genesis chapter 1, it’s impossible to dismiss God’s limitless power and knowledge. From beginning to end, the Bible presents evidence to us that God has had a plan all along, and He has the ability to “choreograph” every event to the good of those that choose to believe in Him.

Were we media reporters, we would be asking the who, what, where, when, and why for all His planning and purpose. And the answers to all those questions would bring us to God’s plan of salvation: His plan, for all mankind.

It is the Bible itself that presents that answers we seek. That we are all here today gathered in this sanctuary means that His salvation is important to us.

As we study through this Epistle of Paul’s, we “stumble across” what The Father in heaven has done, and that He has done it through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. No one is left out of His plan. And the only way for anyone to lose out on God’s plans for us is to openly reject His plan, and chose to work out their best options for themselves.

In glaring contrast, those who choose to believe in Christ Jesus, gain God’s best plan for them, AND an assurance of eternal life with the One who keeps this world spinning from day to day. God’s plan for His chosen ones, and those to whom He offers an adoption into that “family” through the blood of His Son.

He is a masterful planner, and a loving Father for all. That’s what we learn by reading and studying His Word. We learn more about the Father and the Son, and their shared Holy Spirit Who works all things to the good for those that believe. The promises God has made to us will remain in place until the world stops spinning.
"Thus saith the LORD; If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and there should not be day and night in their season: then, may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers." – Jeremiah 33: 20, 21

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 1:13-23 - "How Excellent Is Thy Name!"


In the first part of Ephesians 1, Paul tells the believer who they are in Christ, you are chosen, adopted, redeemed and sealed. He goes on to share the many spiritual blessings that are found in our Lord. As we finish this chapter, Paul describes to us what God wants us to have and what God wants us to know. God wants us to know him, not just to know about him. As we walk with God, He reveals the glorious things that He wants us to know in His Word. In His Word is found the knowledge of the Lord, the hope to which you have been called, and the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. He wants you to know the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us as seen through the resurrection and exaltation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

By The Will Of God

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Among Paul’s Prison Epistles, Ephesians was the first in chronological order. Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are the other three; the studies of latter two we have just completed.

The Prison Letters are unique among the Epistles for their strait-to-the-point way of addressing problems within the churches. They remind me very much of Jesus’ letter to the seven churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation.

Those letters were a final plea from the Lord to repentance, and a fuller commitment to Himself. The words that John wrote to the churches are strong: full of conviction and encouragement, underscored by the statement off Who’s words they truly were! “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:” and the letters revealed things about each church that only the Alpha and the Omega could know.

God’s all-knowing foreknowledge is how Paul opens this first Chapter of Ephesians. Paul understands that nothing happens without the Lord knowing ahead of time. His own circumstances are the result of God’s foreknowledge.

The Apostle is deeply committed to the believers there because of his extended stay with them in their city, which was a stronghold of idolatry. Paul knew the people there well; he knew their pastor and leaders also. Many in the congregation were no doubt personal friends since he had been there for more than two years. His affection for them is evident in his words and those are filled with all of Paul’s experience and teachings.

After being confined to House Arrest in Rome, his visitors would keep him aware of the events in the many churches he helped to establish. He would teach while confined to his own house. His confinement, visitors, and teaching also left him enough time to write letters such as this.

And God smiled from above. Everything was working out according to His perfect will.
“According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:” - Ephesians 1:4

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 1:1-14 - "By the Will of God"


The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, in present-day Turkey. Ephesians is one of 13 epistles, or letters, that he wrote to various churches or followers of Christ. Whereas some of the Pauline epistles were written to address issues that had arisen in certain churches, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to give revelation to the most important themes of Christianity – kind of a grand summary of what it means to be a Christian. The first 14 verses of Ephesians 1 are important, as they set the tone for the rest of the book, dealing with God's foreknowledge and God's will in His plan of Redemption.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Continue In Prayer

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

This final chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians closes out with final instructions, and a detailed sign off mentioning others in service to Christ Jesus with the writer.

This closing of the Epistle is a touching tribute to the many at Colossae, and the affection Paul feels towards them, and towards his fellow laborers. In welcoming others to the ministry at Colossae, it’s like Paul want the church there to be introduced to others who will share God’s eternal kingdom with them ahead of time. Other Epistles mention some of his ministerial helpers and all the Epistles together make us realize how widespread Paul’s outreach had become.

As we will have gone through the entire Epistle by the end of today, there is no mistaking the similarities of those societies in Asia are to our own today. And therefore, his final encouragement to pray is for every reader that has read this Epistle since it was written, and published to the Church as a whole, for the Body of Christ is knit together in ways we can only imagine.

We’re praying for many: for salvation, for illness and diseases, for our daily bread, and for dozens of our loved ones. We are praying for people in Florida that have just gone through a natural disaster. And the Bible’s encouragement to “pray without ceasing,” brings our focus to the importance of prayer. Lifting the names of believers, and non-believers, of friends, family, and strangers up before the Throne of Grace takes on a renewed sense of importance for them, and for us. For us because we will be obedient to God’s Word, and for them that some might be strengthen in faith or brought into the kingdom.

Jesus is recorded to have prayed often in the Gospels. He prayed for Himself, for the Apostles, and for them that would come to faith by the testimony of the Apostles. Jesus’ words carry a power all their own as His prayers are heard by the Father. Prayer is foundational to the Church, and a means by which the Father hears us too.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word:” ~ John 17:20
Jesus prayed for us!

Today's Audio Message:
Colossians 4:1-18 - "Continue In Prayer"


As we finish up the book of Colossians, Paul leaves us with some final instructions:

Devote yourselves to prayer, be persistent, be watchful and be thankful.

1. Persistence.  "Continue in" (KJV) is proskartereō, "to persist in something," here, "busy oneself with, be busily engaged in, be devoted to," from pros, "on, at"+ kartereō, "be steadfast, endure."

It's easy to skip times of prayer, to rush over our devotional time because we're so busy, but the Bible tells us we should be busy WITH prayer. Be persistent.  Make prayer a regular part of your daily life.   We have a spiritual enemy who tries to distract us from talking to God. But Paul highlights prayer's importance: persist in prayer, be devoted to it!

Prayer is an essential aspect of our spiritual life. It is a meaningful time essential to our relationship with Jesus. Devotion to our prayer time is a long haul of intercession. It is speaking to the Father about the daily things we encounter, and the long-term burdens we carry.

2. Alertness.  "Watch" (KJV) is grēgoreō, "to stay awake, be watchful," then figuratively as here, "to be in constant readiness, be on the alert."  The verb comes from egrēgora, "to have been roused from sleep, to be awake," the perfect of egeirō, "wake, arouse" someone from sleep.

Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? I have!  Maybe bedtime isn’t the best time for our regular prayer time. C.S. Lewis once wrote: “No one in his senses, if he has any power of ordering his own day, would reserve his chief prayers for bedtime – obviously the worst possible hour for any action which needs concentration.”

But Paul is not just talking about wakefulness here but watchfulness, being alert – watching over your own life with prayer, watching over the people around you in prayer, being alert to opportunities and how your life affects your witness. 
We can go through the motions of prayer without having our minds really engaged. Paul urges attention to what we're doing. This is not just a mindless exercise. It is communication with the Most High God.

3. Thankfulness. "Thanksgiving" (KJV) is eucharistia, "the expression or content of gratitude, the rendering of thanks, thanksgiving," from which we get our English word "Eucharist."  

And then Paul says we should be thankful. Paul continues to sound the note of thanksgiving in this letter. In fact, this is the seventh time in four chapters that Paul has mentioned thankfulness. (Colossians 1:3,12; 2:7; 3:15,16,17; 4:2

Thanksgiving is essential to keep prayer fresh and alive, to staying alert! Remember Paul is in prison as he writes these words. And if Paul could be thankful in prison, we can remember to be thankful in prayer. We should be persistent, watchful and thankful in prayer.

Next Paul reminds us of how we should act toward nonbelievers.

We must walk in wisdom. This alone is such an important ingredient to a relationship with a nonbeliever. Those outside the faith are watching your life, watching to see if your testimony of Jesus is true. In other words, when we live no different from the world (without wisdom) we give nonbelievers solid reasoning as to why they don’t need Jesus. It sends a message to them that Christianity is fake and powerless. People of all different depths of spiritual maturity are watching us and taking note of how we live.

Next, Paul writes about seasoning our speech. To season something is to sprinkle another ingredient to the food that adds a whole new flavor to the dish. With speech, Paul encourages both grace and salt. Think of it in terms of grace and truth. These two components working together make a powerful combination. 
Our words and the way we communicate them are important. As believers, our words should reflect to others the truth of the gospel. They should reveal how this gospel has transformed our lives. Our words should impact our conversations for the better as we bring a different “flavor” to our interactions, build others up, and share as well as defend the gospel. The content and tone of our words should impact those around us for the better, especially unbelievers.

Jesus did all this perfectly. He was wise in his conduct and he was full of grace and truth. People loved to be around Him. They flocked to Him! 
Paul turns from practical teaching to personal comments, as he winds down his letter. He lists all those who helped him along the way in the ministry. A great reminder of the fellowship of believers, and that we work together in the ministry...we are not alone. Paul didn’t do it all alone either. He had plenty of help and encouragement along the way. Each of these men had different gifts and callings but were all of one mind in Christ our Lord.

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