Saturday, April 30, 2022

Return to Me!

Bobersvations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Malachi’s prophecy comes during the Restoration Period, the years after the Jews returned to the land from their Babylonian captivity. Almost two generations had passed; no Temple, no Temple sacrifices. And now, back in their own land, the daunting task of rebuilding the Temple, rebuilding the City of Jerusalem, and the homes of the people lay on the shoulders of leadership. Ezra and Nehemiah were God’s chosen to help direct the project, and they were eventually successful. But lacking a Temple all those years in Babylon, the traditions of the Law had slipped substantially. The people still saw themselves as Jews, and God had promised their return to the land.

And while they were absent from the land, God was not. Nothing had changed about the Lord’s attitude toward sin and disobedience, that being the reason for God allowing them to be taken off to Babylon in the first place.

There are a multitude of reasons and distractions that might keep us from obedience to God. Maybe you are “between churches,” or new to an area. If we love the Lord, we will not want to stay away from worshipping alongside of other Christians for more than a week, or two.

When one ignores the thing that can anchor us, and center our lives, it’s easy to begin to just stumble through life as best we can on our own, and wander away. But if the Believer stays faithful there won’t be any stumbling, or losing their way. God will direct and bless our lives through His beloved Son, and His Holy Spirit, AND He will bless our families.

Maybe you are just coming to Christ. Maybe you’re coming back to Jesus, always loving Him, but loving the world too. No matter how long you have been counted among the missing, God’s arms are open wide to welcome you home, and the angels will rejoice!

The Prodigal Son -
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him...” “(and) the father said, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him. And put a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.’ “
~ Luke 15:20-24 ~

Today's Audio Message:
Malachi 2:1-17 - "Return To Me"


This week’s study begins in Malachi chapter 2.

The book of Malachi was written to the people of Israel, and is dealing with the same sinful issues they had before their exile to Babylon. Falling back into sin is so easy when we operate in the flesh.

Malachi also had to deal with the sins of the priests, these are the leaders of the people who are supposed to lead the people into the presence of the Lord. These priests are supposed to know God’s law, walking in holiness reverencing the Lord, and teaching the people to do the same.

In this chapter the priests are being called out for dishonoring God. They are disobedient to God’s law, arrogant, lax in their spiritual duties, as well as in their homes, and in so doing they were insulting the name of God. They are warned that if they continued to do so, that God would humiliate them in the eyes of the people, remove them from their positions and allow them to be completely defiled by their own attitudes.

God also confronts the Israelite men who were divorcing their Jewish wives to marry pagan women. They were marrying women from cities of Ashdod and Ammon and the Moabites, those who worship false gods. Marriage is an institution of God, and so God sets Himself against divorce. He hates it. God was also seeking to preserve a godly seed for the nation Israel, in order that they might bring forth His Son into the world. That's why He commanded them not to marry outside of the race. There is a clear warning to those who are in a marriage, they must understand God’s purpose if they are going to preserve it.

While the people are accountable for their own sin, the priests are responsible for leading them astray. They were unfaithful to the Lord, and the teaching of His Word. They had deliberately changed course from what God had called them to. They did not study, and they did not tell the people the truth They did not live out the faith as an example to the people. They had corrupted the ministry and caused many to stumble.

God warns the people of His judgment and He explains what that judgment will be. Malachi reminds the priests of the calling they received, and what that ministry is supposed to be. God’s ministers must teach and live the truth. The essence of God’s Covenant is a ministry of life and peace. God’s blessings are upon those who walk holy and obedient to His Word. The instruction of God’s Holy Word is the law of truth or true instruction. These priests had turned away deliberately, and were corrupting the plan of God.

Blind and numb to their own sin, the people of Israel are blaming God for the consequences of their own actions. First they break God’s law, then complain when God isn’t blessing them, and even more outrageous ask, “Where is the God of justice?”.

Delayed judgment doesn’t mean no judgment. God is slow to anger and longsuffering. He is gracious and merciful calling sinners to repentance. His plan of redemption would come, the Messiah, Jesus Christ would pay for the sins of the world.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Jacob Have I Loved

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

At the end of Jesus’ life on earth, we saw how cruel the Jewish leadership had become. They had no problem ignoring God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill.” But not only with Jesus, they also conspired to kill Lazarus because Lazarus stood as a living example of God’s power to restore life after death.

A living Lazarus gave credibility to Jesus’ claim that He was God-come-to-earth. Lazarus was therefore a threat to the Temple leadership’s control over all things Jewish, including the Jews themselves.

As we open the book of Malachi this morning, we will see earlier examples of the failure of humans in leadership roles. The people followed their examples, and did not follow the teachings of God. Indeed like many Believers today, they cherry-pick God’s teachings to adhere to, and those to ignore.

The Prophet Malachi was the last of the Jewish prophets chronologically, his times being 400 years before Christ. And his words to the Jews were followed by 400 years of silence from God. The silence ended during Christ’s time, with John the Baptist sharing a message from God for the people to repent and be washed clean from their old sins. Malachi’s words speak of one to be sent before the coming of the Lord. It is also Malachi who sees the Second Coming of the Lord. Both advents are taught of in this Book.

The four chapters of Malachi will carry us through the 40 days after the Resurrection (May 26th) before we return to the New Testament again for Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. But throughout this 40 day time period, Jesus was showing Himself alive after his Crucifixion on the cross. He died a very public death, and yet now shows Himself publicly to be alive as He continues to teach his followers.

Malachi’s words begin with Jehovah’s pronouncement of His love for His people, blessings for obedience, and judgment for sin. God’s Word to us has remained unchanged since the foundation of the earth.
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” - Psalm 89:34
Today's Audio Message:
Malachi 1:1-14 - "Jacob Have I Loved"


Malachi is the last of the prophets in the Old Testament. In fact, when his voice ceased, over 400 years passed before God spoke to His people again. His name means, "My messenger." He is God's messenger called to speak God's Word to Israel.

Malachi was sent to confront Israel, expose their sin and reprove it.  Also, to warn them of judgment and to promise the coming of Him who shall take away sin.  He preached about unrequited love: God’s unrequited love for Israel. He prophesied during or shortly after the ministry of Nehemiah, around 420 B.C. He was the last of God’s prophets for 400 years. He preached against many of the same sins that Nehemiah did, including the corruption of the priesthood (Malachi 1:6-2:9; Nehemiah 13:7-9). But his overall theme, which opens the book, is the indifference of God’s people to His great love for them.

The book of Malachi is a detailed dialogue between God and his hardened people. “I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 1:6

Out of captivity, brought back to into their land to rebuild once again, and it certainly  doesn’t take long for the sinful nature to take over thoughts and actions. God is looking for those who love Him, for those who walk in obedience to Him as children to a Father. Israel is a stark example of those who do not understand God's love, nor His relationship to them. Having been chastened and delivered throughout their history, here we find them once again cold and indifferent to their God, and falling back into the very things they were chastened for.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Tomb Is Empty!

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Imagine that your dearest friend has passed from this life under questionable circumstances. You and other close friends watched his life ebb away, and another acquaintance offers a tomb for his burial. You managed to get through that sad day, even witnessing the entombment.

A few days later you go to the cemetery to say a few prayers and leave flowers on the new grave. You find that the grave has been dug up, the casket lays open on its side, and your beloved friend’s body is missing!

If you can imagine the emotional roller-coaster of these few days, this is the horror that Mary Magdalene faced on that first day of a new week so long ago. Grave robbers! Vandals! Thieves! And you know that your friend died with nothing in this life, no estate, no riches, and no progeny. There was nothing to steal from the grave! Panic set in as Mary ran to tell whosoever of the Apostles might be available to help her bear this new assault.

There was, however, one thing that your friend did take with him to the grave: Jesus took with Him the prospect of eternal life. He had spoken of it many times to multitudes of people in dozens of settings: in cities, in the countryside, on mountains, and along the seashore, Jesus taught of a righteousness of faith, and a peace that surpassed all understanding.

Through His sacrificial death, and resurrection, our Beloved Friend accomplished two seemingly impossible tasks. His sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty for all sin, for all time. No wonder His death was so gruesomely painful, for we are all sinners. (And by today’s count, there are nearly 8 billion sinners on the planet, as well as all those that have gone before us!) Our sin is now paid for, for once and for all.

And then as we celebrate this Resurrection Day, we recall the other thing that He accomplished for us: new-life-after-death. This new life is an eternal one and it’s available to any and all. Sins forgiven, and Eternal Life, all accomplished over a weekend. This is the spirit of Passover that the Jews have given to us, and one Jew in particular, of the Tribe of Judah, heir of King David, whose Throne is an everlasting one!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” - John 3:16

Today's Audio Message:
John 20:1-31 - Easter Sunday - "The Tomb Is Empty!"


The tomb was empty, Christ had risen from the dead! He is alive! The implications are profound. Without the resurrection, there is no salvation, no forgiveness, no hope and no heaven. Just when Satan thought he had beaten Jesus, Jesus rose up in victory and proved otherwise. The kind of eternal life Jesus has is now available to us; this isn’t any ordinary, dreary existence to which most people are accustomed, but a joyful, celebratory life.

The glorious truth that makes the gospel of Jesus Christ such good news is “that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). In the words of the angel at the empty tomb: “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

Christ’s resurrection is the central point around which all biblical truth revolves. It represents the culmination and triumph of every righteous expectation that preceded it, starting with Job 19:25–27. It is the basis for the apostles’ unshakable faith and the pivotal point in the message they proclaimed. It is the living guarantee of every divine promise from the beginning to the end of Scripture. Every other miracle described in Scripture pales in significance by comparison.

Although all four gospels bear witness that Christ had repeatedly foretold His own resurrection (Matthew 20:19; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; John 2:19–21; 10:18), the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. They were clearly surprised—even inclined to skepticism—when they found the empty grave. Thomas was emphatic: 
“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). Jesus allowed Thomas to do much more than "touch" Him, a privilege He denied Mary. Jesus allowed him to be convinced by sound evidence. 

Throughout the eight-day interim, Jesus made multiple appearances, often in the presence of multiple eyewitnesses.  They were so firmly convinced of the truth of the resurrection that no argument, no threat, no form of torture could silence them. All of them ultimately gave their lives rather than deny the resurrection. After all, they had seen Him, touched Him, eaten with Him, and fellowshipped with Him after the resurrection. That explains the amazing boldness and determination with which they carried the gospel to the nations. “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). 

Today as we look at the John’s gospel in chapter 20, we will read again this amazing account of the resurrection story. We will take a closer look at those closest to Him, their fears, their doubts and their unbelief. We will once again be amazed at God’s redemptive plan for mankind, including the finest details from the beginning, through the bloodline, and the prophets from old. The overwhelming truth of God’s Word, and all of God promises are sure and everlasting! The scriptures declare Jesus Christ, the Messiah is the Risen King and Lord of All.

Pastor Bob reminds us that if you ever find yourself in doubt about your faith, pray. Just like Christ appeared to these disappointed, fearful and skeptical disciples, Christ will come to you. Thomas believed because he saw with his own eyes, in fact they all did, but Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" - John 20:29.

We believe unto eternal salvation. We believe in the one we haven’t seen. Why do we believe? Because we believe in the record of Scripture. We have a risen Christ whom we experience in our daily lives, who has transformed us and given us a new life, a new nature. We have been called to a commission, empowered by the Holy Spirit to confront the world with the gospel of salvation.

John 3:16 says, 
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This mornings scripture reading is from Psalm 16. Not only does this Psalm speak of the coming Messiah, and clearly a promise of the resurrection, but it talks about our future life in heaven. If you’re wondering what heaven will be like, scripture tells us "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Everything that now makes us groan will finally be done away with, and we will find ourselves in the very presence of God, where the purest and truest kind of pleasure and joy is possible for all eternity.

God has given us the truth in His Word. Jesus rose from the dead and has been given a name above every name.   Those who put their f
aith and trust in Him have an unimaginable glorious and joyous future!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Thy King Cometh!

Bobservations Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Fresh on the heels of Lazarus’ being raised from the dead, Jesus’ week of The Passion begins with Zechariah 9:9 being fulfilled (487 BC – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

This fulfillment kicked off a week of teaching and encouragement, and of providing an example for all who would follow Jesus in their lives. The Apostles and Disciples would see their Teacher/Prophet/Healer/and Lord raised up for all to see. The texts written of Him are countless, some are true and others utter blasphemy because of the hatred that rests in some human hearts.

Our reading for today in 2 Samuel 5:1-5 speaks the reign of David that Jesus has inherited as the King of Israel, and of the whole world. Those long genealogies of the Old Testament give us a direct bloodline from King David in both Mary’s lineage, and Joseph’s also. David’s Throne is an Eternal Throne that takes us to the Book of Revelation, and beyond. Jesus is the rightful heir to David’s Throne, and the only Eternal One who can sit upon it forever.

David’s kingly reign over all Israel and Judah lasted for 33 years. And Jesus’ life on earth is well enough documented that we know His entire life was 33 years.

So, when the Magi came to Bethlehem to see the King of the Jews, truer words were never spoken: Matthew 2:2 -
 "saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'"

Jesus was born as the King of the Jews, and the prophecy from Zechariah 12:10-14 remains yet to be fulfilled, when the Jews finally mourn for their promised King that they put upon a cross to die. This is a sad story of unbelief and rejection, but one day in the future, it will be a glorious day when the Jews see their King seated upon, and reigning from King David’s Throne! As the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal,” and in this case it springs for all Eternity!

Psalm 89:4 – “I will give you an eternal dynasty and establish your throne throughout future generations.” 

Psalm 89:29 – “I will give him an eternal dynasty, and make his throne as enduring as the skies above.”

Today's Audio Message:
John 12:1-24 - "Thy King Cometh!" 


Today as we look at the twelfth chapter of John we are coming to the end of Christ’s ministry. The first eleven chapters of John describe the whole of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ from John’s perspective, covering a period of three years. But the second half of the book from chapter 12 to the end covers ONE WEEK. This final week is known as the Passion week. It is the time from Palm Sunday, or Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to His death on the cross for our sins as the Passover Lamb, and His victorious resurrection from death to life, or Easter Sunday. Everything gets very intense from here on.

Palm Sunday, or Christ's triumphal entry was a significant event not only to the people of Jesus' time, but to all Christians throughout history. 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. Matthew says that the King coming on the foal of a donkey was an exact fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Jesus rides into His capital city as a conquering King and is hailed by the people as such, in the manner of the day. The streets of Jerusalem, the royal city, are open to Him, and like a king He ascends to His palace, not a temporal palace but the spiritual palace that is the temple, because His is a spiritual kingdom. He receives the worship and praise of the people because only He deserves it. No longer does He tell His disciples to be quiet about Him (Matthew 12:16, 16:20) but to shout His praises and worship Him openly. The spreading of cloaks was an act of homage for royalty (see 2 Kings 9:13). Jesus was openly declaring to the people that He was their King and the Messiah they had been waiting for.

God’s fullest revelation of Himself as Savior came in the person of Jesus Christ—God in human flesh. The incarnation itself was an expression of sympathy and identification with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ we can see countless expressions of His compassion. Though without sin Himself, Jesus suffered all the consequences of sin in infinite measure—and in so suffering, He identifies with the misery of all who feel the pains of human anguish. This was the whole reason God the Son became a man to begin with. However, the compassion of God and the earthly work of Christ must be seen as redemptive. In other words, our Lord’s tenderest mercies are concerned primarily with the salvation of our souls, not merely the suffering of our bodies.

Jesus miraculously healed the sick, made the lame walk and the blind see. He raised the dead back to the living.  What vivid displays of both Christ’s power and His compassion! Jesus exhibited proof of His deity and living demonstrations of His divine authority, and established His unlimited ability to liberate anyone and everyone from the bondage, the penalty, and the consequences of sin. The healing ministry of Jesus was illustrative of the gospel message, a true expression of God's compassion, and proof of His messianic credentials.

Here in chapter 12, we are 6 days before the Passover.

Everyone is looking for Jesus. He is the most popular person in the nation, a teacher, a miracle worker, the claimed Son of God. Everyone is waiting for Him to show up at the Passover Feast. The leaders were looking for Him, they had been conspiring to kill Him. In fact in John 11:57, the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, to report it so they could arrest Him.

We see the crowds looking for Him. They had heard testimonies about the many miracles of Jesus. They wanted more miracles to be performed. They had heard about Lazarus rising from the dead, and they came just to see him with their own eyes. All of this is waiting for Him in Jerusalem.  Just six days before the Passover, Jesus comes to Bethany. Bethany is the place where Lazarus was raised from the dead.

His time had come. Jesus would come to the Passover feast, and He would be the true Passover Lamb.  In these final days, Jesus chooses to share this time with His beloved apostles, and close friends in Bethany. He spend time with those whom He loved, and those who loved Him, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus comes to Bethany to the home of Simon the leper. He is a leper who has been cleansed and healed by Jesus.  This is just another incredible testimony of Jesus' miraculous power. We see them preparing a supper and Martha in service to her Lord and to others.  Martha gets criticized often, but it is important to see that our service to the Lord is a high calling, and a noble service.   She loves those who she serves, and where Jesus corrected her earlier, it was because she needed to understand that true service is rooted in love. 

Lazarus, their brother, is also with them.  Lazarus who had who had been raised from the dead is sitting at the table with Jesus. We also learn that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees plotted to kill him, because so many witnesses to the miracle believed in Jesus (John 12:9–11). The enemies of Christ couldn’t deny the miracle; the next best thing, in their view, was to destroy the evidence—in this case, the evidence was a living, breathing person. But they couldn’t stop the truth from spreading.

We see the humble sacrifice of Mary who took 12 ounces of very costly perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus. Mary’s anointing again points to Christ’s identity as Messiah-King, but it also points to His humble position as Servant-King. When Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and then wipes them with her hair, she foreshadows Jesus’ actions at the upcoming Last Supper when the Lord washes the disciples’ feet and teaches them how to love one another through sacrificial, humble service (John 13:1–20).  Jesus Christ is God’s anointed Messiah. The word Messiah means “anointed one” and derives directly from the Hebrew word for “anointed.”

To the contrast, we see Judas the betrayer, the hypocrite, and a thief berating Mary for the way she lavishly used this expensive perfume on Jesus, rather than selling it at a profit to be used for the poor. As Mary’s perfume filled the house with its fragrance, the poison of Judas’s words contaminated the air. Judas cared nothing for the poor, he only had his own self-interest at heart. Mary’s act symbolized the Lord’s coming death according to Jesus, John 12:7.  

We read of those who love and serve Jesus.  We see the selfish sin and apostasy of another.  We see a crowd looking for another spectacle, another miracle and maybe then they will believe, but Hebrews 11:1 teaches us that 
" is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  We see the hatred of the false leaders of Israel plotting against Jesus, and the testimony of those who believe. We see the indifference of the crowd.  We see prophecy being fulfilled. All of this continues today. Different people, same attitudes…and God’s Word will continue to be fulfilled until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Forgive Us Our Debts

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we will see today, there are two versions of what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” one found in Matthew, and the other found in Luke. Because they are not identical, these two passages give us an outline for prayer: praise and acknowledgement of the Father; the ideal of His perfect will being accomplished; laying out our petitions for our needs; and finally following Jesus’ example of grace and mercy: His towards us, and ours towards each other. The two passages have obvious similarities, and both lay out the same pattern for our prayers to the Lord God.

In Luke 11:1 the Apostles had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, not what to pray. Our prayers should include all the elements that the Lord Jesus taught them. If you want to find a prayer that the Lord actually prayed, look to John 17 where Lord Jesus prays for the Apostles and Disciples and for US! That’s right, Jesus prayed for us, who believe on Him because of the testimony of those who learned from His teachings, and His example.

Love is the main theme of the Gospels, but in these passages is also another theme derived from love, and that’s His example of forgiving (in grace and in mercy). This directive to forgive others is self-effacing. Thinking others are higher than self is mindset of humility. The shoes they walk in are not ours, and ours are not theirs. Cutting others some slack is appropriate at all times if we are to walk with Jesus. His entire life on earth was lived in consideration for others. He didn’t even make a reputation for Himself; we who have been touched by Him have spread the word and given Him a reputation for which He alone is worthy.

And so that we don’t just become doormats in the world, the scriptures also call for accountability for our choices and behaviors, whether we are believers or not. God will judge all by His own single set of balances. Even “Lady Justice” is blindfolded, but carries a sword. There are consequences for violating others. But has she been peaking under the blindfold?

From this comes racism, ethnic preferences, jealousies, an evil eye, envy, and sin. Guard your hearts in all these things. Be loving, forgiving, merciful, and accountable.
“...Wars and rumors of wars... nations against nations... kingdoms against kingdoms... all these are the beginning of sorrows.” - Matthew 24:6-8

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 6:8-15 - "Forgive Us Our Debts"


When Christ gave us the Lord’s Prayer, he gave us our pattern and primer for prayer. We begin with the Lord’s name, kingdom, and will. Then we bring our petitions to the Lord and that of others. We ask for our daily bread. Though God is our King, he is also our Father. He cares for both our physical and spiritual needs. In the fifth petition, we ask for our Father’s forgiveness. In the final petition, we ask for spiritual protection—deliverance from temptation and the evil one.

In today’s study, we’ll consider the fifth petition—a petition for forgiveness and the importance of forgiving others; Joseph's example in Genesis 37-51; wars and rumors of wars; and prophecy being played out before our eyes - Daniel 7.

When Christ calls for believers to pray for forgiveness of their debts, he is referring to their sins. In the parallel version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4, the word “sin” is used instead.

We have been called to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nobody has ever perfectly obeyed these two commands, which essentially summarize all other commands (Matthew 22:37-40). We have put ourselves and our needs before others. We have put our entertainment, education, jobs, and friendships before God. We have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

While all of our sins are forgiven “positionally” the moment we receive Christ as Savior. This means that this forgiveness guarantees our salvation and promise of an eternal home in heaven. When we stand before God after death, God will not deny us entrance into heaven because of our sins. But the fact that Christ adds this petition to his ideal prayer means that we will always struggle with sin until we die or Christ returns, whichever happens first. When we sin, we offend God and grieve His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). While God has ultimately forgiven us of the sins we commit, sin still affects our relationship with Him. Sin will result in a blocking or hindrance in our relationship with God, and stunt our spiritual growth.

We must confess our sins—the moment we recognize that we have sinned, and we are promised in 1 John 1:9, “That if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” 

The scripture in James 4:1-4 tells us, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"

People want what they want and when they want it, and when they do it causes them to fight and quarrel. Their inability to get what they want drives them to war with one another. Today’s world is a picture of this. What people want, they take.  We've seen plenty of examples of this: from individuals looting in the streets, to countries ignoring international law and national boundaries as we see playing out between Russia and the Ukraine. The nations of the world are out to further their own agenda to get what they want by any means possible.

While it is no surprise that we witness these things in the world, what’s worse is when Christian’s behave like this. Instead of seeing sin as we should, our views often conform to that of our secular culture (Romans 12:2). We make excuses for our sin, or we try and justify our sin. 

James says that there is a better way. We simply ask God to supply our needs according to His will and His purpose. Scripture tells us that the main reason we do not have what we want is because we don’t come to Him and ask. A good review of Matthew chapter 5 will clarify what we as believers ought to be: meek and humble, merciful and pure. As we approach God in prayer, we come to him in the spirit of meekness.

All of the worlds problems are a result of refusing God and exalting man and his sinful desires.

Matthew 6:12, 14-15 - “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

As in all other areas of life, Jesus is our perfect example of how to handle wrongs that others commit against us (1 Peter 2:21-24). What should our attitude be toward those who do wrong to us? Forgiveness!

Our relationships with others should mirror our relationship with God. In order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others.

A good example of this is found in the book of Genesis chapters 37-51. It is the story of Joseph. in chapters 37 through 51 in the book of Genesis.

Joseph, the “prince among his brothers.” His life, the history of his conflict with his brothers, their plot to get rid of him, his captivity, his troubled life, and the subsequent victory God brought about through his trials are well documented in the book of Genesis. Through all his trials, Joseph never forgot the faith of his father, always stood his ground and emerged more than a conqueror.  His troubles didn’t define him. He didn’t use them as an excuse for bitterness and defeat. Joseph reminds us that all of our strength comes from God alone. The ability to bear up under the weight of heavy burdens and not sink under them, comes from God. He is our help, and our provider.  Joseph understood God’s plan and purpose in all that he suffered, and in the end forgives his brothers for their sins against him. What Satan meant for evil, God means for good.

Just as God has bestowed his mercy and grace upon us, Joseph shows mercy and grace to his brothers. They are forgiven. They are provided for. Joseph understood the forgiveness of God, and his brothers came to know the same.

In Matthew 24, Jesus describes what are the signs of His second coming:  deception, wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, weather related disasters.  More than 2,000 years later we see these things coming to pass. As this sinful world continues to forget God, reject Christ, and seek its own ways, the prophecies of Daniel 7 unfold.

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