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.

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