Saturday, January 28, 2023

Listening vs. Hearing

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

On April 15, 1912, Harold Cottam, the Communications Officer aboard the R.M.S. Carpathia was preparing to climb into his berth for a good night’s sleep. He had left his radio on while readying for bed, listening to idle chatter from the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. He left a final evening’s message for his acquaintance, the radio operator aboard R.M.S. Titanic; there were messages awaiting the Titanic when they arrived in New York. Suddenly, the idle chatter on the radio became urgent! He tuned his ear to the radio and heard his friend’s plea, “Come at once. We have struck a berg!”

The Carpathia turned about and headed toward the Titanic, 58 miles and 3½ hours away. She was first on the scene of the sinking ship. The S.S. California was much closer, but that radio officer had turned off his radio and gone to bed, hearing nothing. The rest is history; the Carpathia plucked more than 700 passengers from the water and lifeboats. In England, her Captain was honored for the heroic efforts of leading his crew and passengers in the rescue of so many. He later received similar acclaim after US Senate Hearings.

In 1898, fourteen years earlier, Maritime writer Morgan Robertson had written of a similar ship. The fictional “Titan,” was described it as “unsinkable,” a floating city in itself. The fictional ship of the book was exactly like the Titanic, and in the book, it suffered the exact same fate as the Titanic.

Besides the 700 lives saved by the Carpathia, there were more than 1,500 others who perished as the Titanic went down on that dreadful night. Listening can be passive. Hearing can mean the difference between life and death!

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul has been zeroing in on his target audience, the readers of this sacred letter, inspired by God. Warnings abound in this Epistle! We ended last chapter with the relationship between husbands and wives, making their relationship analogous to Christ’s and His Bride, the Church. In this sixth and final chapter, the whole family and household is included as Paul zeroes in further and speaks to the children (the fruit of marriage), to their fathers again, and to the household employees.

1 Samuel 15:23 (spoken to King Saul…) -

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 6:1-17 - "Listening vs. Hearing"


In previous weeks we learned that Paul had been teaching the Ephesians about the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:18, 3:19), the importance of being filled with the Spirit, and the life that flows from it.

There is a difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit is a gift given to all believers in Jesus without exception, and no conditions are placed upon this gift except faith in Christ (John 7:37-39). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 3:2), and His indwelling is permanent. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling the believer is a down payment of sorts, or verification of our future glorification in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).

Being filled with the Spirit comes from obedience to God. Sin hinders that filling, and obedience is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained (Ephesians 5:18). Obedience to God’s commands allows the Holy Spirit the freedom to work within us, and since we have not yet in our perfect state, we are still very much prone to sin.

Paul outlined the standards of the Spirit filled life for believers individually, for fellowship within the Christian community, and for the more intimate family relationships within the home (marriage, children, and household), which we will learn more about today.

Our generation is watching the death of marriage and the family as we know it. Among the many factors contributing to its destruction are immorality, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, abortion, sterilization, so-called women's liberation, and rebellion to name a few.

Society has had many opinions about the restructuring of marriage, the family, morals, values, and more. Those opinions have turned into a war. Surely, we are all aware of the cultural war going on today, but as Christians, are we aware of the spiritual war we are engaged in? In Ephesians 6:12, Paul warns us to, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  

Christian marriages and families should demonstrate the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  God has blessed us with lives that are rewarding, meaningful, and fulfilling.  It is His work in our lives that should be evident to the world around us.

As we continue our study in Ephesians, the text continues to flow out of the command in Ephesians 5:18, to be filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit means we actually live in obedience to God’s Word.

In today's study we are beginning in chapter 6, and here Paul directly deals with the family, the relationship between children and their parents, and the rest of the household, including relationships between employer and employee.

This wonderful new life we have received through Christ’s death and resurrection, is a transformed life. It is a life that no longer conforms to the ways of the world, but one that pleases God. This is accomplished by the renewing of our minds, an inward spiritual transformation that will manifest itself in outward actions. Transformation involves those who were once far from God being “drawn near” to Him through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13) and being led by the Spirit of God. It is through the power of God’s Spirit that Christ lives within us, the Spirit indwells us, and where we draw our strength.

Finally, Paul reminded believers that the Christian life means participation in a spiritual battle. From his own experience, the apostle knew the opposition is real and the warfare intense: 
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:11–13).

Since believers are engaged in an ongoing spiritual battle with the powers of darkness, they cannot endure without the power of God. To be strong in the Lord and the power of His might is vital to living a victorious Christian life. No one who goes to war wants to be on the losing side. 
Notice the scripture says to be strengthened “in the Lord.” Our lives must be positioned in the Lord to obtain His power.

Paul goes into detail about how the Lord equips us for ongoing spiritual warfare with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18), so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  What are the wiles of the devil? They are deceptive methods of trickery as he lies in wait to trip us up.  2 Peter 5:8 tells us to "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

We must stand against the wiles of the devil.  In vs. 13, the phrase “having done all, to stand” is a clear indication of personal responsibility. “Having done all” means while God has supplied everything we need, we must prepare everything necessary to stand. In other words, our responsibility is to “PUT ON” the full armor (vs 11.) 

Paul, before his death, wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Paul understood this battle, and he fought well with His faith intact.  He kept the faith by guarding and watching over.  His trust in the Lord never wavered.   What a powerful affirmation of his unyielding love and undying faith in Jesus and the gospel message.

Being strong in the Lord is a call to faithfulness, abiding in Christ, trusting in the Lord’s power for everything in our lives. The Christian’s true strength comes from being completely dependent upon the Lord, obedience to His Word, unyielding in our love for Him and hope and assurance we have in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Blessings Of Obedience

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We open the second half of Ephesians 5 with the command of God to husbands and wives to be submitted to one another. The reading of Genesis 18 reveals a subtle example of Abraham and his wife Sarah in submission to one another. Each fulfills their roles within their marriage with joy and purpose. The skills each one possesses provides a Godly balanced in their relationship.

If we can imagine living in a tent with our spouses, we can understand how needful it is to live in a Godly balance, especially with those closest to us, and we get a glimpse of their lives, including their combined hospitality. Offering water, fresh-baked cakes, and a hot meal to their guests who are strangers.

But these are special guests, sent by God to bring God’s word to Abraham and Sarah that their prayers will be answered, and they shall have a son. Advanced in years, Sarah laughs at the idea that she will bear a son in her old age, and she laughs loud enough that her guests bringing her God’s promise hear her.

If that were to happen to any of us in our old age, I am sure that we might be tempted to laugh too! But God’s will takes precedence even over our physical weaknesses and inabilities. In the previous chapter, God made the promise to a 90-year-old Abram. It was almost a decade Sarah indeed became pregnant, and when it became time for the child to be born and be named, Abraham commemorated the day that the visitors came, and Sarah laughed. He called his new son "Laughter," or “Isaac” in Hebrew, or more accurately צְחָק’ “Yishaq:“ “he laughs.”

All of this happened because Abraham was obedient to God, even when God first visited him in the land of his birth, Ur of the Chaldees. Abram, at that time was obedient to the Lord, and this was the beginning of Abram’s family; the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the Abrahamic Covenant.
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.” - Genesis 12:1
And the next verse begins to establish the Abrahamic Covenant. 

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 5:20-33 - "Blessings of Obedience"


What is God’s standard for marriage and the family?

We have been fed all sorts of illusions about reality from the entertainment industry, so much so, that people try and make fantasy a reality. The perfect body, the perfect romance, the perfect lifestyle, the perfect relationship, husband, wife…but is there such a thing? Fantasy will always fall short of our expectations.

Marriage is the capstone of the family, and the building block of human civilization. When marriage fails, the whole family falls apart; when the family fails, the whole society suffers. Of course, this is evidenced by the stories of societal suffering filling the headlines every day.

In today’s text, we will be studying God’s standard for marriage and the family. God designed marriage, and when He designs a thing (like marriage), He designs it for His glory and our good.

In fact, Paul describes the marriage union in verse 32 as a mystery, because its deepest meaning has been partially concealed, but now is openly revealed by the apostle, namely, that marriage is an image of Christ and the church.

As we study the roles of the husband, and the wife in marriage it is important to understand that they are not arbitrarily assigned, and they are not reversible without obscuring God’s purpose for marriage. The roles of husband and wife are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church. God means (by marriage) to say something about his Son and his church by the way husbands and wives relate to each other. 

Obedience always brings God's blessings!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Walk of His Children

Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We had been in the Book of Ephesians before the Holidays. It was written to that specific Church in Asia, and also to the broader audience of every Church. We left off at the end of Chapter 4, as Paul wrote to them that they were in an uphill battle against idolatry for the Church, and against a culture of idolatry for Paul.

Prior to becoming a Christian, I was thoroughly enamored by anything that had a powerful engine. It was somewhat “inherited” because three of my four uncles worked for General Motors Corporation, and the fourth one worked on fighter jets while in the US NAVY for 20 years.

I still enjoy those things, but they are no longer goals for my life, and therein lies the difference. For example, money is not the root of all evil. Scriptures tell us, “For the love of money is the root of all evil…” (1 Timothy 6:10a). Money itself is a neutral commodity, how we use it makes the difference.

As a new Christian, I was still looking to possess the idols I had formed in my heart. Every week on the way to Church, my family and I would drive past a boat for sale on a roadside lot. The powerful boat was there for many weeks, sitting with a FOR SALE sign on it. I mentioned it to my pastor’s wife, and how much I would love to own such a boat, and each week the old desires would be activated upon seeing the craft sitting idle on that lot. She told me if the desire keeps coming, then “it must be of the Lord.”

In truth, I didn’t need that boat, what I needed was a new route to Church!
When I came to that conclusion from reading my Bible, I found that the very next week the boat had been sold and was gone off the lot. The temptation had been removed.

Idolatry can come in many forms: people, places, and things. It can be spiritual, or physical, or it can be wealth, power, or popularity, but always, idolatry becomes an issue of lusting after something other than what God has already given us.

There is nothing wrong with any of the things in this world, as long as they used for His glory. Check your heart regularly for the things you “love.” Make sure that Jesus is #1.
“Be ye therefore, followers of God, as (His) dear children.” ~ Ephesians 5:1

Today's Audio Message:

Ephesians 5:1-20 - "The Walk of His Children"


What is the Christian Walk? Walk means lifestyle or manner of living. Life as a Christian means that we walk differently than the world. We walk worthy of our calling and position in Christ, fully pleasing Him. We walk in humility, unity of the Spirit, and love. We walk circumspectly in wisdom and truth. Circumspectly literally means to walk accurately, walk carefully, and walk with exactness.

When we become a Christian, you don’t just carelessly stroll through the Christian life doing whatever pleases you, there is an exactness to how we are to walk. We enter by the narrow gate. We walk a narrow path. God’s principles for this life have been carefully laid out for us in His Word. It is simply living according to God’s standards written in His Word.

Where there is genuine faith in Christ, fruit will always follow. "The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19)

Society is corrupted by immorality, and the end of every immoral person is the wrath of God.  (vs. 6) "Be ye not therefore partakers with them." (vs. 7)

We have been called out of darkness into light (Acts 26:18), out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:9Colossians 1:13). The reality of that calling, is a new nature, a new heart and a new life. We are a new creation in Christ, and that change is reflected in our daily lives as we rely upon His power to enable us to walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. 

True worship flows from the heart of a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit. This believer is meditating on God's Word, communing with God and worshiping the Lord with a heart of thanksgiving. (vs. 18-19). This is in stark contrast to the world, between the drunken, orgiastic worship of the pagan systems and the Spirit-filled beauty of the worship of the true God. As Christians, we leave off the old life, the pagan rituals, the sinful deeds of the flesh, all of it, and walk in the Spirit as followers of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Matthew Vs. Luke: Shepherds and Kings?

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Jesus told us that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). God’s Word tells us that He cannot lie. “God is not a man that He should lie…,” (Numbers 22:16), literally telling us that God never lies. Paul tells us that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,…” literally that it is “God breathed” (2Timothy 3:16), and Peter tells us that if we don’t want to believe his witness, then we should look to the prophets, for “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21).

Non-believers will argued that the two Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth do not match, so their conclusion is that the Bible’s record cannot be believed.

Matthew’s and Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth are not the same, we shall agree on that. But if we by faith believe what I wrote in the first paragraph above, then both are true, and we have found an area that calls for further study to resolve the alleged contradictions. But first we must realize that Matthew and Luke are addressing two different audiences separated by as much as 30 years; Matthew to the Jews, and Luke to a Greek named Theophilus.

Consider: because their “view” is from two different perspectives, two witnesses to the same event will never describe it exactly the same. Our system of jurisprudence in the US is based on two or three witnesses testifying of the same thing so that the truth will be established. This premise comes from scripture (Dt. 19:15; Mt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1 – notice: 3 references, 3 witnesses to the premise, and all are “God breathed.”). The truth is revealed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

What is likely lost for the non-believer is perspective: a fuller picture of the events of so long ago. So, we must have the perspective of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the scribes of the New Testament that reveal a truth.

But there is one more thing that the non-believer lacks, and the scriptures speak of it in Genesis 2:7, as God breathes His breath into Adam, and Adam “became a living soul,” and able to communicate with God’s living Spirit. The Holy Ghost’s role is to imbue His understanding to us. The Holy Spirit teaches us, so we must possess a measure of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11; Luke 11:13; John 14:26; Acts 19:1-6) to grasp His Word.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are Spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew Vs. Luke - "Shepherds and Kings?"


In comparing Matthew and Luke's account of the Birth of our Savior, there are some things you should note:  They are Different Gospels.  They are written by Different Authors.  They are written at Different Times, and they are written to Different Audiences.  

That said, "All Scripture is Inspired by God."  In other words, God is the Source or Origin of what is recorded in Scripture. See 2 Timothy 3:16.

Atheists and skeptics can throw around the words “contradict” and “contradictory” with regard to the Gospels, but is it? Only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, give an account of the happenings surrounding Jesus’ birth. Matthew's gospel is written to the Jews, and provides information about Joseph and the Magi (or Kings from the East). Luke's gospel is clearly written to the Gentiles, and focuses on Elizabeth, Zacharias, John the Baptist, the shepherds and Simeon and Anna.

Does one gospel providing information that the other does not necessarily mean that that the two accounts cannot be reconciled? Of course not.

While various people claim that the books of Matthew and Luke contradict each other, what they have failed to see is that each of these accounts is vitally important providing a fuller picture of the fulfillment of bible prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. Each writer, inspired by God, wrote the account to different audiences, at different times, providing vital details that ultimately provides evidence beyond a shadow of doubt, that Christ is the promised Messiah.

I’m sure you’ve seen the Magi (or wise men) and shepherds' side by side in Nativity scenes for a lifetime as you drive pass churches or residential areas. Unfortunately, it is not accurate.  While it is a beautiful sight to behold, biblically, it’s a bit anachronistic because the wise men and the shepherds were never present together (at the same time) when Jesus was born in a manger.

ACCORDING TO LUKE'S GOSPEL, the shepherds in the fields were told by the angels about a Savior, which is Christ the Lord, and they would find a babe (Jesus) lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

ACCORDING TO MATTHEW'S GOSPEL, the wise men came into a house (not a manger), they saw a young child (not a babe) with Mary. The wise men were not present at His birth, but rather when the child was a toddler, nearly 2 years later when they saw Jesus.

The only thing that would make these accounts contradictory is if Luke had said, “Only the shepherds witnessed the birth” and Matthew had said, “Only the wise men witnessed the birth of Jesus.”  Since neither of these statements can be found in the bible, then there is another explanation to the differing accounts. 

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke aren’t giving contradictory accounts but focusing on different aspects of the birth of our Lord. The fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies is clear.  These details are vitally important as they provide undeniable proofs of the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the birth of our Lord.

The gospels were written by four different men to four unique audiences, so it is natural that they would include different details concerning the life of Christ. But their writing was superintended by the Holy Spirit, who guaranteed that what each wrote was the absolute truth. There are differences, but they can all be harmonized. The narratives of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew and Luke are not contradictory but complementary.

God's Word is True, it is Living, it is Accurate and Infallible. All Scripture is Inspired by God. It is Historical, Prophetic, and Spiritually Discerned. The accounts of the birth of our Savior, some 2,000 years ago, provide the evidence that the prophecies concerning His first coming have been fulfilled.  The overriding message of the Gospels is that Jesus came to earth in a humble manner. The Savior of the world and God of all creation put on humanity to die for our sins and conquer death, giving the hope of salvation to all who turn from their sin and believe on Him. One day, He will return in judgment, and He will not appear as a seemingly helpless baby, but as the risen, glorified, sovereign Lord and Judge.

Today we will look at the two accounts of Jesus' birth. Let’s examine why Matthew and Luke differ.

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