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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