I Quit! Why Should I Go On?

I Quit! Why Should I Go On?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

You know I hear this sentiment a lot from people who under pressure. Yesterday we looked at where we should draw comfort while under pressures from life. Today we will be looking at what God commands us to do when we feel like quitting on Him and life in general.

 

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
– 1 Peter 1:13-21

 

When we come to verse thirteen, Peter starts this out by using the word “therefore.” Therefore what? This means that we are to look at the words that were penned in the previous scripture up to this point (Which we looked at yesterday). Because of what he wrote up to this point, he can say put your mind into action. This means Peter is about to show us what we must do.

The King James Version of the Bible uses some interesting wording here, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” I like this because in the Old Testament when someone was about to do action they would take there robes and tuck between their legs and into their belts, making their robes kind of like pants so that they may do some strenuous activity. Peter is telling us to get prepared because he needs us to get ready for some kind of action!

The rest of this verse and into verse fourteen tells us how to be prepared for what lies ahead of us. He tells us to be sober (awake and alert). We must calm down and put our hope fully in Jesus, knowing He will work all things out in their time, knowing we can trust Him to do what is right. In this He requires us to be obedient to Him, to not be ruled by our sinful nature and passions, knowing that the end of sin is death and He doesn’t want the purpose of each of our lives to not be fulfilled because we are ruled by sin. He says that we were walking in sin out of ignorance, but no more should we walk in this way, because we have seen and tasted the good fruit of God. He says to be Holy for God is Holy.

Which brings us to our concept of holiness, our concept of holiness is not the concept that is presented in the Bible. When we think of Holy we think of someone who is a monk and has no impure thoughts, chanting all day. This is wrong! The word “Holy” (or one of its derivatives) is found over six hundred times in the Bible, therefore it is important we understand the Bible’s concept of Holiness.  The subject of holiness is one that has had whole books written about it, which we don’t have time for here, so let us get to the basic concept. The term used here for “holy” simply means to separate ourselves from things (sins of omission and commission) that can pull us out of a close relationship with God. It is because of the cross of Christ that we can have a close relationship to begin with and we shouldn’t allow anything to turn our focus off of God and onto other things, not even trials in this life. So long as we keep our gaze on Jesus we won’t drown in the sea of trials. We will stand with our minds empowered by God, to go through things that at the present moment seem very difficult.

Peter again reminds his readers in verses seventeen through twenty-one that this life is but temporary and that we must do all that we do in reverence before a loving God, remembering what He has done for us. Verse seventeen, depending upon translation, can be confusing.  Peter is trying to remind us that we will be judged before God for our actions (This is not about salvation because that was settled at the cross. This is about our rewards in heaven which are based upon our motives and actions here on earth). We will be judged on how well we reflect Jesus in our lives, so we must remember to fear God. The word “fear” here simply means to hold God with reverence (i.e. with esteem as higher than you are, Holy and Powerful).  Verses eighteen through twenty-one remind us where our hope and faith is placed, namely in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Cavalry. Our victory is in Christ and His completed work on the cross. No we have not obtained it yet but we have received the down-payment of that promise, the Holy Spirit. Any time we are under pressure or trials we must remember this awesome truth from God’s Word.

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God! I Can’t Take It Anymore!

God! I Can’t Take It Anymore!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

A lot of us feel pain and hurt, sadness and disappointment but one thing we can remember is that there is still a loving God who wants to see us succeed. When no one else cares, and no one else will lift you up we can take comfort in the following scripture that there is a loving mighty God who does care about us. Are you feeling down? Is it because of a job, relationship, or something else? Then take comfort in God.

 

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.  12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. -1 Peter 1:3-12 (KJV)

 

Peter promises comfort in verses three through five. He blesses God because of the hope that He has given us through Jesus Christ. This hope comes because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  There are those today who would deny the resurrection and still call themselves a Christian, but to deny the resurrection denies part of what is fundamental to Christianity. Yes it may seem impossible, but without the resurrection of the dead, Christianity falls apart. There is no hope, if there is no resurrection. Because of the resurrection, Christians have a great promise. This promise is incorruptible and will not be taken away from those that are kept by God’s power, because they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and walk in that faith. Our walk with God starts in salvation by faith and should continue in faith.

Now in verse six, Peter goes on to say that though these Christians have endured great trials they should rejoice in what he is trying to explain to them, because the testing of their faith will produce much more than any kind of riches here on earth. Knowing that their faith will bring honor to God. Knowing that they have not fully received what God has promised to them here on earth, they should rejoice because they will receive the fullness of the promise in heaven. Christians must remember that the Holy Spirit that comes into you at salvation is a deposit of what will be given on the day they get to heaven. We have not fully obtained the promise, but we will.

Verses ten through twelve (in most Bibles) give a wonderful word picture, but simply means that the prophets in the Old Testament gave too many prophecies for a mere man to fulfill them all, only Jesus could fulfill them, and He did fulfill them while here on earth.  Peter says that they didn’t minister to themselves but to those who would come after Jesus arrived on earth. Peter reminds his readers that Jesus did indeed fulfill the prophecies and mysteries found in the Old Testament.

Now Peter makes a statement which seems odd and out of place. He says that the angels desire to look into these things. The first thing we need to have is some background on the matter. You see, In the original language (Greek) this literally depicts the angels looking over from high up somewhere to see this. This is like you looking over a balcony to see what is going on down in the street below. This may include both good angels and bad angels (demons) looking for the coming of Christ and His love toward man. Now why would demons seem to care? Simply put, they hate mankind; God has placed us over all angels (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:3). The coming of Christ, his death, and subsequent resurrection would make it a very important moment to God, man, and all angels. So yes, the demons and the angels alike would be looking for this moment. Peter was reminding his readers how very important we are to God, and that He is aware of our circumstances and trials, and that we should take comfort in that fact and trust that God will work all things out for our benefit. Whether we see the benefit now or not is of no consequence because we can trust that God will work all things out toward our good.

If we keep these things in our minds we know that God will give strength to handle any problem or any situation. Trust me I know it doesn’t feel that way right now, but I also know that when you look back you will find that God worked it all out. Have faith in a loving God, and remember at least you aren’t being put to death because of your faith, like the first-century Christians were.

Religion is Dead! Long Live Jesus!

Religion is Dead! Long Live Jesus!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:17-20 (KJV)

 

“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion. You would never get me interested in the old maids’ social club with a little bit of Christianity thrown in to give it respectability. I want all that God has, or I don’t want any.”
— A.W. Tozer from The Counselor

 

First let us start out this article by answering a question. Who are the Pharisees? The Pharisees were a group of people who had dedicated themselves to Jewish law. They were so meticulous in their carrying out this law they forgot about the purpose of the law, which is to draw them to a relationship with God.

Martin Luther (the guy who started the protestant movement, i.e. non-catholics) reminds me of these Pharisees! Yes I said Martin Luther, only he was born in the middle ages after Christ. You see he was a monk, and was so worried about being seen as acceptable before a Holy God that he would literally whip himself with a whip that had nine leather strands on it (also known as the Cat of Nine Tails), and he worked so hard that he put the other monks to shame! But you know what? He found that the more he did, the less Holy he found himself. Unlike the Pharisees, he realized he was still unclean. Until one day he was reading scripture and realized that no one can earn their way to heaven. Only by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can we come to a Holy God, by believing and trusting in the shed blood on the cross.

So with this background how does this relate to today? It is simple there are many people in churches across the world who have made church a religion and not a relationship. There are too many people that will claim to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior every Sunday and do works that are contrary to their “so-called beliefs.” These individuals make their lives rotate around a building or a group of people. The church was never called to be a social club but a force of change to the world. So what has happened? Christians have lost their first love! This first love is supposed to be Jesus Christ and the Bible.

So where does the problem begin in our churches? It begins with YOU! Christian are you one of these people that say you know Jesus, go to church, work for the church, and are involved in the church? You know what the key word was in that question? CHURCH! Get out of the mindset of THE CHURCH and into the mindset of MY GOD AND MY SAVIOR! All I want and all I need are in Jesus! Give me relationship with Jesus, not with a church!

So, does this give us an excuse to not go to church if there are so many not living out their faith in love? Lord Forbid! With all of its flaws and problems, there are churches out there that are trying to live in a close relationship with God. Your task, if not a church-goer, is to find one and join them in their mission, to come as close to God as possible, be changed in his presence and live in the Love of God that is supposed to be spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

May I take a moment and encourage you to pray with all that is inside of you to ask God to restore a true and living faith in your life. While head knowledge about the Bible is important, it is more important to have a living and true relationship with God

I say this, Give me Jesus and what He thinks about me, not man. I don’t want man’s accolades and I don’t care about man’s condemnation of me. I just want to know that Jesus approves of me. So that I can truly say with every part of my beings, shouting from the roof tops, “JESUS I NEED YOU AND I LOVE YOU!” This is the heart that A.W. Tozer was trying to get across to people in his book. May I suggest another book to read that he wrote? It is called “The Pursuit of God.”

Why Do Bad Things happen?

Why Do Bad Things happen?

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

I saw a question today of someone who has a wonderful special needs child, asking why this happened to them when there are so many rotten parents out there. Hey, I have been there. I used to ask this question a lot because my child has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (which falls on the Autism Spectrum), but we aren’t going to delve into that in this article.

This question basically asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not going to placate this parent with the standard, “God chose you for this child.” While God did look down the corridor of time and saw this happening and He can strengthen us to go through these situations there is a much more simple, albeit colder, answer to this question.

With this question we must first realize that there are no good people in the world anymore. This ended at the Garden of Eden when man left God. Thereby sin marred the entire creation and nothing is as it should be. Romans 3:23 tells that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s standard which is perfection, this why He made a way through Jesus Christ to come to Him to begin the process of repair. We must remember that the cross of Christ is not the end, but the beginning, this world, and our bodies, are still marred by sin. Our hope, however, is in the resurrection that is promised to come later. So without spending too much time here let us continue.

Technically the question is why does bad things happen for no reason or why do decent people suffer? So let us focus here a minute shall we. Remember what we said earlier, that sin entered into the world and nothing is as it should be, not genetics, not morals, ethics etc. I thought about this long and hard and came across Matthew 5:45 which states that it rains on good people and bad people alike.  To borrow a story from a writer I like, *Matt Slick, he talks about a grenade that is thrown into a crowd, some people get hit and others don’t. Some people get bad stuff happening and others don’t. This may seem cold but sometimes the truth is the truth.

Now this leads us to the next logical question. Why doesn’t God stop it?  (1) Man was given free will and Adam and Eve used their free will to turn against God and mess up the creation. God setup free-will and He doesn’t violate it. So here we are in the predicament (like I said earlier, simple answer but a cold one for sure). (2) Also, who makes the decision that it is bad? Using our example, when all is said and done would I change my son’s Asperger’s Syndrome? I don’t know, I can’t answer that because to change it would make him an entirely different individual wouldn’t it? Sure it is frustrating and heartbreaking at times, but I love who he is and it is a part of him.

In a more general sense of this question the answer could be that what may be bad for one person may not be bad to another person.  The more we look at this question the deeper we go and the more mind-boggling it becomes.

So we come to an inescapable conclusion that sin entered the world and bad things happen. The bad things are not what we should focus on, but how we respond to them. Does it make us better? Or bitter? Do we trust God to see us through the storm? Or do we look at the storm and fall into a pit of despair? God says to trust Him and He will give us the power to walk on water like Peter did. The key is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so we don’t drown in the middle of storm like Peter almost did when he took his eyes off of Jesus.

While I know every bit of what I said is true it sometimes doesn’t make it feel any better, but knowing it and getting my eyes back on Jesus is what I must do in order to walk through the storm. God says in Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” So I know that ultimately God will make me better through these trials and will use me to help others going through them too.

What do you think? Constructive comments and questions are always encouraged.
____
*Matt Slick is an author at CARM.org (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)

What Are We To Do in Times of Joy and Despair?

What Are We To Do in Times of Joy and Despair?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

Luke 5:16 (KJV)

16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

 

Luke 22:39–46 (KJV)

39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. 40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. 41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

 

 

 

In Luke 5 we find that Jesus is teaching and He is becoming wildly popular with the crowds, but in the middle of all the frenzy and fervor over Him we find an interesting scenario. Verse sixteen states that He withdrew for prayer.

Today if we are becoming popular (whether it be in ministry, work, or whatever the case may be) we tend to stay right in the thick of it, lapping it up and being changed because of the fervor and frenzy.

Now look at Luke 22:39-46. We see another scenario in which Jesus withdrew for prayer. He was physically, mentally, and spiritually tormented by what was about to happen and we find that He withdrew from everyone to seek the Father in prayer.

So what is the principle we can learn here? No matter what the issues of life, we need to withdraw sometimes and pray. We can let seemingly good situations puff us up in pride and ego and we can let bad situations destroy us, but we have a choice in both situations. If we withdraw and pray we will find that we can become better only in God’s power.

The key to life no matter what the situation is to realize that WE ARE NOTHING! Once we come to terms with this we can start our journey to become better. The problem is that far too often, unlike Christ, we don’t stop to do an inventory of our lives before God, and because of this way we tend to fall into self-deception and think we are alright, whether good time or bad, and this is a dangerous place find yourself! Where are you today? Have you done this inventory in your life? If not, start now. I guarantee God will show up and you won’t fall into the trap of pride or the trap of despair. Before you brush this off let me remind you of the nature of self-deception. The problem with being deceived is that you don’t know you’re deceived until it is revealed to you. Draw close to God now. James 4:8 promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Lost Your Faith in Things, Religion or God?

Many people have lost their faith! I know this is a bold comment and is one that will make some people uncomfortable, but they have! But did they lose it in God?  Or did they lose in other things, perhaps in their fellow man? One thing is for sure. We can draw comfort from God’s Word. In the following article I have attempted to explain this scripture in such a way that we can realize that our reliance is not on any man, object or desire but on God.

 

Introduction

The books of 1 & 2 Peter are often glossed over by readers. People tend to just read through them without stopping to understand the implications of what they are reading. Many people will just say to themselves “well that was good” and not stop to think how to apply what they just read to their lives.

As with all scripture we must remember that there are layers to what we read (like an onion). We must begin to peel back the layers. Think of this book as a way to pull back the first layer of these wonderful letters that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to Christians. Think of this article as the beginning of a foundation. As Jesus said in Luke 6:46-49 in the parable of the man who built is house upon a rock. That man had to dig down to the rock. Consider this book a part of the beginning of building upon the rock, the digging portion of the construction.

Luke 6:46-49 (KJV)
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1-2(KJV)

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

 2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Peter opens this book by telling his readers who he is. These first words “Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ” are filled with meaning to the people who first read this letter, just as it is to us today. This statement shows his authority and what he has been called to do for God. He writes as one having authority. He is someone who transcends an expert, but one who has been touched of God to deliver and important message to God’s people. It is as if he saying LISTEN UP! God has something to tell you! We know that because of this authority, in these words we will find the literal keys of life, if they are applied through prayer and practice in humility before a Glorious God.

Now Peter moves on to whom the letter is addressed. These are known as the churches of Asia Minor. What one must remember is that the early Christians were made up of converted Jews. Jesus was the Jewish savior (Messiah).

Peter uses phrases that would be familiar to them and reminds them of their standing before God. He calls them the elect of God because God foreknew them. This simply means that he looked down the hallway of time (being that God is outside time and space) and knew who would receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. He is writing to them, God’s people (Christians).

In his introduction he uses a term that we will address. He says these people are being sanctified by the Spirit while being obedient to Christ. Sanctification is a large word that we sometimes use in churches that can confuse people. Sanctification is a process in which the Christian, through the power of the Holy Spirit, continually walks in obedience to scripture. The Christian is to continually clean their lives up before a Holy God. We are not left alone in this task, we are given the Holy Spirit and that is why Peter talks about the Spirit here.

He also makes a reference to having our hearts sprinkled by the blood of Christ. This would have been a familiar reference for his audience. They were used to animal sacrifices, in which the animal’s blood was sprinkled on the altar for the remission of sins. This is in reference to what Christ did for us on the cross by making us right with God. The animal sacrifices had to happen continually because they did not get rid of sin, but rather, only covered the sin. Unlike the animal sacrifices Christ did it once for all. What He did never needs to be done again. It was a one-time event. The only thing we are required to do is surrender ourselves to God. There is no longer any need for animal sacrifice because of what Jesus did for us.

For readers going through persecution the first two verses would have brought great hope and comfort to them, knowing that God loves them and has gone through the cross just to bring them closer to Him. We should also find hope and comfort in these first two verses. No matter what we are facing we can face it in the power of Jesus Christ aided by the Holy Spirit. The key is not to put or faith in the wrong things. Our Faith needs to be in God not anything else. Where is/was your faith when you lost it? Was it in God or something else?

In Christ Jesus,
Joe Kramer