Saturday, May 28, 2022

I Said In Mine Heart

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

“The Preacher” continues into chapter two with another “red-flag” phrase to cause us to be most careful as we make decisions and plans for our lives. In light of Jeremiah 17:9, I cringe when I hear someone say that they are going to follow their heart. The human heart only knows what it sees and hears in this world. Chasing his heart’s content is exactly what Solomon is seeking, and yet he eventually calls it vanity. It is the Spirit that gives counsel.

This King of Israel has been gifted with Godly wisdom to rule over God’s people, but he has not applied that wisdom to his own life. In many ways, Solomon is a double minded man (James 1:8). Our modern concept of “situation ethics” evolved from post-modernist thinking, but clearly it has been rooted in the hearts of mankind since the Garden of Eden. "What’s good for society isn’t necessarily good for me."

That means “truth” is no longer applicable in human society, and it’s every man for themselves! This is not what God had in mind. If you want proof of this statement, just look at all the different social and cultural ideologies just in our own country. “Diversity” is just another word for duplicitous (double-mindedness). There is no ‘one-nation-under-God’ here anymore. There is no singular goal that US residents are seeking after. Indeed, on several levels diversity promotes racism in our current cultural atmosphere.

Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?”

On this Memorial Day Weekend, we call to memory the hundreds of thousands who fought and gave their lives for the cause of freedom. We honor them and their families for their sacrifice. That singular goal has met with the forces of other nations who did not share the love for freedom, and for the most part, they keep their citizens in bondage to the wealthy and powerful.

Lord! Help us all to find our true freedom in You!

Today's audio message:
Ecclesiastes 2:1-26 - "I Said In Mine Heart"


As we continue in our study of Ecclesiastes, I can’t help but think of Frank Sinatra’s song, I did it my way. A life that is lived separate from God, is a life that is preoccupied with self. It is always hungry and never satisfied.

This week’s study is entitled, “I Said In My Heart.” Solomon is now trying to satisfy himself in worldly pleasures. It’s hard to imagine someone like Solomon not being satisfied. He had everything yet it was not enough.

The world tells us to follow our hearts and dreams, and that true happiness comes from within. We are told from the very beginning of our lives that if we do what we want, we can be what we want, and we can find true happiness. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

So, Solomon sets out to satisfy himself with the pleasures of his heart. Notice the words “I” and “myself.”
  • I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.”
  • I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.
  • I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees.
  • I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them.
  • I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.
  • I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men.
  • All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles.
Do you notice a theme? Solomon seems to have an “I” problem. After experimenting with all these things, he debunks the great lie. He is not satisfied, he is empty and miserable.

The vanity of self-indulgence is perhaps the easiest of topics for us to identify with because it covers the smorgasbord of fleshly desires we most typically crave: wealth, power, status and intimacy.

Solomon sought after, accomplished, and exceeded these feats to the extent that no man could rival him. His vast array of riches, entitlement, personal conquests, and material accumulation were unparalleled, yet he was never satisfied with his pursuits, and found life to be empty, and unsatisfying.

He sought all the comforts and temporary satisfactions this world has to offer and found himself more discontent than ever.

Whether we know it or not, all of us are engaged in a quest for something which will meet the needs of our heart. We all are looking for the secret of life and peace and true happiness.

The truth is, without Jesus, nothing else can satisfy. All the work, wisdom and wealth in the world cannot compare to the completeness found in Christ alone. He alone satisfies our deepest needs! And contrary to the life of Solomon
 consuming pleasures for himself, our Lord came to give, to serve and to minister and to offer His life for others.

All that this world has to offer are fading pleasures that leave us empty and wanting. There is nothing under the sun that can cure the emptiness that is inside of us.

Solomon understood the hard way that living the high life was not all it’s cracked up to be. The more he gained under the sun, the further he drifted away from the relationship he once had with the Lord.

This world and everything in it is temporary, but in Christ we have everlasting life, joy and peace.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

God of Every Age

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Ecclesiastes, AKA “The Preacher,” as we learn in the first verse of the book. King Solomon, the son of King David, is credited with writing this book of scripture, as well as two others, “Proverbs,” and “Song Of Solomon.” His wealth was unquestionably great, and his wisdom was sought after by Kings, Queens, and Princes.

His writings of scripture, and his decisions made while seated on his father’s throne, the Throne of David, revealed his wisdom. We too can esteem him, but we must not forget that he was a man. Perhaps he was among God’s favorites, having taking the throne of Israel, he humbled himself and asked God to give him wisdom, and God provided it. Solomon’s name means “peaceable,” and Israel was at peace during his reign.
In Proverbs 16:7 Solomon wrote under the Spirit of God, “When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

To say that the Lord was gracious towards Solomon would be an understatement. But even with all of God’s favor upon him, he was still human, and as the Apostle James wrote of the Prophet Elias, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.” All of the Prophets were human, and subject to human emotion and passions. Perfection is not a human trait; it belongs to God only, and that is a lesson we will learn through the twelve chapters of this Book. It is also a truth that Solomon realizes through his own life experiences.

Stay with us through this book, and you will see yourself and others in our shared human experiences.

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” - Ecclesiastes 7:8

Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 - "God of Every Age"


Today we begin our study in the book of Ecclesiastes from chapter 1.

We all desire meaning in life. That search always takes us along winding paths filled with brief moments of satisfaction that eventually fade.

As we begin our study, we will find that we can all relate to the journey of Solomon because, for so many of us, it is our own. When we attempt to find meaning in the pursuit of pleasure, power, careers, wealth, and the depths of the world’s philosophies, we eventually find we’ve come to a dead end in each of these pursuits. As Solomon puts it, vanity (emptiness), vexation of spirit, wanting, madness and folly, not to mention physical exhaustion. Man’s lifework with all of its activity produces limited satisfaction. For all of the vanities described in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the answer is Christ.

The autobiographical profile of the book’s writer unmistakably points to Solomon. There are some commentators who claim that we don’t know who the author is, but the overwhelming evidence is found in verse 1: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.”   While David had other sons, only Solomon fits these titles. Solomon was the “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1) and “king over Israel in Jerusalem” (1:12). The writings chronicles Solomon’s life (1 Kings 2-11; 3), and the role of one who “taught the people knowledge” and wrote “many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9) corresponds to his life. All point to Solomon, the son of David, as the author.

Solomon was probably writing in his latter years, primarily to warn the young people of his kingdom, but applies to all.  His message was to avoid walking through life on the path of human wisdom; he exhorted them to live by the revealed wisdom of God which we will later see in Ecclesiastes 12:9–14.

Solomon’s reputation for possessing extraordinary wisdom also fits the Ecclesiastes profile. David recognized his son’s wisdom (1 Kings 2:6, 9) before God gave Solomon an additional measure. Solomon asked God for wisdom, and God gave him wisdom in abundance. After he received a “wise and understanding heart” from the Lord (1 Kings 3:7–12), Solomon gained renown for being exceedingly wise by rendering insightful decisions (1 Kings 3:16–28), a reputation that attracted “all the kings of the earth” to his courts (1 Kings 4:34). In addition, he composed songs and proverbs (1 Kings 4:32; cf. 12:9), activity befitting only the ablest of sages. Solomon’s wisdom, like Job’s wealth, surpassed the wisdom “of all the people of the east” (1 Kings 4:30; Job 1:3).

While this book was written over 3,000 years ago, the message of Ecclesiastes still resonates. The pursuit of things, people, objects, power and pleasure bring nothing more than emptiness. In the pursuit of anything but God, we will always come up wanting. For it is only in the accomplishments of God and His grace that we are perfectly satisfied.

Solomon gives a personal account of his endeavors in what he referred to as “chasing after the wind.” In his quest for exponential wisdom, for satisfaction in every field under the sun, meaning worldly pursuits,  he not only realized how pointless his pursuits were, but also how exhausting they were both physically and spiritually. Although he had gained more knowledge than anyone in Israelite history, he realized that he neither had personal gratification nor the power to alleviate other people’s misery.

The closing remarks of chapter one affirmed that seeking wisdom and satisfaction also unearthed human corruption and desolation - "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow" (verse 18).  Keep in mind that Solomon is speaking of worldly wisdom, not the wisdom of God.  Solomon would come to know madness and folly as he foolishly pursued wisdom apart from God.

The key word is “vanity,” which expresses the futile attempt to be satisfied apart from God. All earthly goals and ambitions when pursued as ends in themselves produce only emptiness, because God is God of every age.  He is the Creator, the Maker and Giver of life.  He is the ultimate point of our lives, because He created us for a purpose and for His pleasure.  Apart from God, 
there no point to life, and no purpose or direction to it, either.

The book of Ecclesiastes is applicable to all. Those who listen will benefit from the principles he drew as a result of his experiences. In spite of his foolish behavior and thinking, God took corrective measures in Solomon’s life and drew him back to Himself.

Saturday, May 14, 2022


Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today we open the third chapter of Malachi, and it begins with words from Jesus, the Word of God. As always, it’s the personal pronouns in verses like this that reveal the identity of the speaker, and of, or to whom he is speaking. These may have not been realized by readers of the Old Testament, but as New Testament believers, we can acknowledge God’s fulfilled prophecies, and His imparting of the Holy Spirit, and come to the knowledge of the truth.

This should not surprise us here in Malachi. The Jews had moved so far from God and His Word that their minds had been seared, and their ears shut up. Malachi’s prophetic Book is followed by 400 years of silence from God, as though He were shunning them for their disobedience, and violations against His Law. But even in their disobedience, God’s grace and mercy shines through as a light in the darkness. His silence to His people will come to an abrupt end with the advent of God’s Messenger, John the Baptist. He will prepare the way before the Lord, the promised Redeemer, and He will come suddenly!

Deuteronomy 8:5 is affirmed by Hebrews 12:6; God chastens those that He loves, as a father chastens his son. The modern church still proclaims the Glory and power of the Son, but many churches have gone astray in their teachings, abandoning the simplicity and beauty of God’s word and teach human dogma for God’s Word. Just as Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem in last week’s teaching, it took a day’s travel before they realized He was not with them. And returning to Jerusalem, it took them three days to find Jesus.
2 Peter 3:8 – “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one days is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Chronologically, we are 22 years into the third thousand-year period after our Redeemer shed His blood for us, and revealed Himself alive on the third day. Mary and Joseph were separated from Jesus for three days before they found Him again in the Temple. “The Church” has been divided, quartered, and divided many times over since Jesus told Peter “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)
Mark 7:7 – “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Today's Audio Message:
Malachi 3:1-4:6 - "I Will Return To You"


Though the words of Malachi were delivered to the Jews, there are so many lessons for us learn in this text.

It is a rebuke to those who have turned away from the Lord, those who have forgotten His ways, and to those who are unfaithful to His Word. It is a call to repentance, to turn away from sin; it is a call to return to Him and righteous living. It is a warning of a coming judgment to sinners, contrasted by the blessedness of the saints. It is a call to righteous living, looking to Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. It is a call to faithfully and actively pursue the Lord, to be committed to His Word, and to live out our faith in righteous living.

In Malachi 2:17, the people are scoffing at the Lord. People who scoff at God, with accusations that He doesn't care, doesn't see, doesn't exist, doesn't reward those who obey him, and doesn't punish evil, have been around since the beginning.

The Lord's answer to these scoffers is in Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes “suddenly to the Temple” is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will “purify the sons of Levi” (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer “an offering in righteousness” because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sin is mankind's problem, Jesus is the answer to that problem. He calls us to repent, to turn from our sins and turn back to Him. Those who harden their hearts towards the Lord, those who deny His Word and continue in sin will be judged on the Day of Judgment.

God's character doesn't change - ever! He is immutable, and because He doesn't change, He keeps His promises. Psalm 89:34 - "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips."

The final message delivered to Israel by Malachi is in verse 7. Here, God accuses the people of "robbing" Him by withholding His required tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). God's covenant with Israel included both blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Israel fails to understand. They have strayed so far from His Word, that they don't remember that this is exactly what God promised them in return for unfaithfulness.

Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to the priest of Salem in Genesis 14:20. Later, the Mosaic Law included commands to give a tenth for tabernacle worship. Tithing is mentioned 18 times in the Law, as the people were to share their produce and livestock to support the Levites, the caretakers of the tabernacle. This same system of tithing would later be applied to the temple (2 Chronicles 31:5).

Does this teaching apply to Christians today? Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day, saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23). These Pharisees obeyed the Law of Moses in that they tithed scrupulously, yet did not truly love God. They were challenged to do both.

The Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17). The principle in the New Testament is to give voluntarily to support the needs of others (Acts 2:45Romans 15:25-27), support Christian workers (1 Corinthians 9:11-121 Timothy 5:18), and expand Christian outreach (Philippians 4:15-16). 

Can you outgive God? We have been so abundantly blessed haven't we? But still, at times we hold back from God. Our giving should be a joyful act, with hearts full of thanksgiving, and love and desire to bless the Lord. Our giving reflects our love for God.

God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).

God keeps track of those who fear and love him in a "scroll of remembrance." They are his special personal possession that he treasures greatly (Malachi 3:16-17).
On Judgment Day the distinction between the righteous and wicked will be clear (Malachi 3:18).

Judgment Day, "the Day of the Lord," will bring fiery punishment for those who don't love God, but blessing and peace to those who trust him (Malachi 4:1-2).

Jesus Christ will be either a stepping stone into heaven or a stumbling stone into hell. No one can be neutral about Jesus Christ. Either you rise on Him, or you fall on Him. You cannot walk around Him. Either you’re saved by Him or you’re judged by Him.

You will encounter Jesus Christ. He is inevitable. He is unavoidable. He is inescapable. What you do with Jesus Christ determines what Jesus Christ will do with you. What are you doing with Jesus Christ today?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Where Did He Go?

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Happy Mothers’ Day! Where would we be without them? And to reveal their importance to us, God’s Word tells of their many roles in the scriptures!

From Genesis 2 with the creation of Eve, to the Proverbs 31 woman (Proverbs 31:10-33), to the stories of many women in the Bible, we see that God honors them repeatedly with their names and their accomplishments recorded in the text.

Though the genealogies of the Old Testament honor the fathers with the “begats” and “begottens,” it is truly the bloodline of mothers that bring the next generation into the world to fulfill God’s promises. Nowhere in God’s Word does this become more evident than when we read the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, one from Mary’s family and another of Joseph’s.

Whether our mothers are alive, or if they have passed on to receive their reward, their presence in our lives today is clear as we hear their voices yet.

They have loved us, nurtured us, taught us, and offered us correction. Their role in our lives has been huge, and Mothers’ Day is a day to honor what they have accomplished in us.

Not every mother is God’s ideal Mom, and indeed every “Mom” is a sinner, but many are sinners-saved-by-grace. We recall Paul’s Epistle to Timothy, reminding him to think about the unfeigned faith that was in Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. Paul goes further, and says he believes that unfeigned faith is in Timothy also! “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” -2 Timothy 1:5

Just as bad habits can be passed from one generation to the next, so too can good Godly traits and a life of faith! How many of us are assembled together this morning because of the basic lessons of faith that we learned at home?

Let’s celebrate our mothers today and give honor and praise to the Lord God Who gave us to them!

“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:
Luke 2:40-52 - "Where Did He Go?"


In today's teaching we get a brief glimpse into one occasion in Jesus' childhood. We will see the devotion of parents, Joseph and Mary. We will see their devotion to God.  We will see how much they loved this Son, Jesus, their Messiah.  We are inspired by their obedience and their faithfulness to do all that God's Word instructs them to do. And even when they don't fully understand what the Lord is doing, they trust, and His mother kept all these things, all these sayings in her heart.  

We will also see the child Jesus, who understood at the age of twelve the fullness of the truth of God as He grew into manhood. He was full of wisdom. He could see the Passover, the sacrifice, and could see Himself in it. He knew His mission. This child who was God, MUST BE about His Father’s business.

Today we are in Luke 2:40:52, and we will take a look at one of the only childhood events that scripture reveals of Jesus' young life. There just isn’t much information in the Bible about His childhood or teenage years. We know what happened the first eight days of life, that He spent a short time in Egypt with His parents when King Herod was out to kill Him. We know that He grew up in Nazareth but other than that, we know nothing about that time period except for what we are going to learn today from Luke chapter 2. These are known as the silent years of Jesus.

We might be wondering why the scriptures don’t reveal much about this time in Jesus’ life, but we are given a clue as to why in verses 40 and 52. Luke gives us a glimpse of the child who was God. 

Jesus knew that He was God. He knew exactly who He was, and He knew exactly why He came. From birth to twelve “the child continued to grow, He became strong, He increased in wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him" (Luke 2:40). This is normal childhood development except for one thing, Jesus was sinless, never sinning, without the stain of sin on His life, and without the effects of sin in His life. So, during His growing years we understand that Jesus is growing and developing like any child, but is pure and sinless, and thus living a sinless life.  It's important to understand this because, in this story, some confuse what Jesus did as bad behavior, or disobedience to His parents.  When Jesus lingers behind, it was a natural result of His knowledge that He must be about His Father’s business.

Joseph and Mary are on their way to Jerusalem, probably with family in tow. It is the Feast of the Passover and scripture reveals that they observed this feast every year. Parents, children, extended family and friends all heading towards Jerusalem together. Parents teaching their children to be observant of God’s law, and of God’s promise to redeem His people.

They had gone to the feast of the Passover, they had fulfilled the days there, and now they are returning home, that is everyone except for the twelve-year-old Jesus. Scripture tells us that He tarried behind. His lingering was not disobedience or irresponsibility. Jesus was without sin, obedient, thoughtful, perfect. But there is something going on here…a break. Something that Mary will observe and keep in her heart.

After a day's journey heading north out of Jerusalem, they realize that Jesus is not with them, and they cannot find Him anywhere.  We can all sympathize with this couple, perhaps some of you have had similar experiences. Through all the hustle and bustle, and the confusion of travelling they lose sight of Jesus, and they probably left Him behind. A parent's worst nightmare. The panic in their hearts. 

Joseph and Mary did what every parent would do, they worried, and then made haste back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus. Scripture reveals that it took them three full days to find Him. They found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

This sets the stage for the most dramatic, profound and penetrating statement from the mouth of Jesus, indicating that He knew exactly who He was, and why He came.


Jesus uses the word MUST.  "I must be about my Father's business."  

Pastor Bob encourages you to do a word study on this word must.   See: Luke 4:43; Luke 9:22.  

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