TOO Many Christians are Shallow in Their Beliefs

TOO Many Christians are Shallow in Their Beliefs
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority….

-2 Peter 2:1-10

 

Peter has just completed talking about the prophets in chapter one. He points out that there were false prophets back then as well. He is warning his readers that there are and will be false teachers in the church (universal). These individuals will, and have, introduced heresies into the church. His readers must be careful of these teachers.
In verse two Peter tells us the sad outcome for those Christians/people who follow these teachers. That is, people will be lead away by false teaching. But why? Because they do not actually study the Scriptures and are not rooted in its’ teaching, no they think they are alright, but they deceive themselves and thereby follow corrupt teachers who are deceiving others. By doing this they give the church (universal) a “black eye.”

False teaching often is mixed with truth. Many people then (and today) think they can pick out the truth from error, but such thinking is in itself error. Being around subtle false teaching spoils the whole teaching because it changes the meaning of what is written (i.e. improper application to an individuals life). False teaching very rarely starts outside of the Christian church. No, it usually originates within a fellowship and then evolves into blatant heresy; by the time anyone notices the false teacher usually has a following, and thereby splits the fellowship and creating their own based on heresy (a good example is false sects that call themselves Christians).

In verse three Peter tells us their character. He says they are greedy. In our Americanized culture we associate greed with financial greed, but this is not always the case. Greed can be more than for money. Many false teachers seek sexual pleasures, places of honor, money, and many other things. The point here is that these people are very self-centered and self-focused. The outcome, according to Peter, is that false teachers will exploit you. They will use you until there is nothing left (i.e. you are burned out). Peter has already pronounced false teacher’s judgment. He states that though they may seem to be getting away with their false teaching, in reality God’s judgment is hanging over their heads. When this judgment is metered out to them (either in this life or the life hereafter) we may be assured that it will happen.

Verses four through ten are Peter using examples from scripture to prove his point. Christians who have read the Old Testament will recognize these events. To the first-century Christian, who was mostly Jewish at the time of this writing, would definitely have understood these analogies as they were familiar with the Torah (Old Testament writings).

The angels that Peter speaks of in verse four are fallen angels. There is a passage in the Old Testament where angels left their abode in heaven and had “relations” with women (c.f. Genesis 6). Now there is a debate, albeit small, in the “church-world” about who these angels are. However, most Biblical evidence would seem to point to these angels who had “relations” with women.
Now Peter continues his thoughts on the judgment of some of the Old Testament history. He brings up the destruction of the world and Noah’s family being the only survivors (c.f. Gen 6); Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed and brought down (c.f. Gen 19:24-28).
In verse nine he concludes his final thoughts on God upholding the righteous and eventual punishment on the wicked. In verse ten he tells us that this kind of judgment is especially true for false teachers. This is because these teachers follow their corrupt and sinful nature, though they hide it in self-righteousness and piety, and despise the authority of God and those God has placed above them (i.e. The Apostles).

How about you today? Do you know enough of God’s Scripture to know if something is false? The Bible says we are supposed to study the scriptures diligently. It isn’t addressed to just clergy, but to everyone. Will you come and allow God to deepen your walk today? or will you stay in the shallow end of the pool and possibly be deceived and hurt due to false teachers? The choice is yours.

Olive Tree Bible Software – Review

A while ago I did an article about different Bible software. I skipped one that used to be, in my opinion, “not so great.” I have re-examined this software and have changed my mind.

OLIVE TREE BIBLE STUDY SOFTWARE 

My last experience with this company was back in the PALM OS days (for those of us that remember). Since that time they have definitely made great strides.

Their apps are available for MAC/Windows/iPad/iPhone/Android 

They have sync ability between devices and backups of your books. You can tag and have annotations in your material, Search features and highlighting.

From Their Website

Helping over 2 million people connect with God

“Olive Tree BibleReader is my default mobile Bible. I use it for devotions every day, usually from my iPad… The split window lets me keep a Greek and Hebrew window open as I read, and the pop-up lexicons fill in the gaps in my memory. The copy-and-paste features let me copy and paste easily to Twitter if I want to create a tweet out of something moving from my devotions.”

“Never before has the Bible been so easily accessible. Go there over and over again through the day. It is the voice of God.”

John Piper
“I’ve just been in a warm cafe looking out over the Mediterranean, reading BibleReader 5. Actually, marveling more than reading.”

“While there, I emailed friends saying that the world had just changed. Bible-study-wise, there was the world before BibleReader 5 and the world after BibleReader 5. This software is the stuff we dream of, on a phone, in my pocket.”

Jools, Malta
“I have appreciated OliveTree daily as I read my devotions in the thru the Bible in a year program. I have used it for the McCheyne reading program and the simple thru the bible program. I also use it when I am sitting in church taking notes listening to a Bible Study. Being able to add notes through the Bible having the Bible commentaries right along side the Bible is great for study.”

Don
“Using BibleReader 5 with iPad for sermon prep has allowed me to spend far less time tied to my PC, and more time with my family. Thank you. 9 years using @OliveTreeBible and its always improving. Now w/ BR5 and iPad, its my primary Bible software.”

 

A Video Review on Olive Tree Bible Software

This was not done by me, but give a good feel for the app on iPad. The Android version is very similar, just with an Android style.

Truth is Truth! Stop Compromising!

Truth is Truth! Stop Compromising!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[a] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
-2 Peter 1: 12 – 21

Peter says in verses twelve and thirteen that he will remind them of the things they already know intellectually. Most people, even though they know, must be reminded about how they are supposed to behave and how they are supposed to “be.” Our sinful nature always rears its’ ugly head at inopportune times. So we must be reminded of these things (1 Peter 1:3-11) in order to live these truths experientially. He says that as long as he remains on the earth he will remind them/us about these truths. These verses often get overlooked by readers today. He uses this to show that he fully expects to be martyred. Paul uses the same phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 referring  to his body and his predicament when he expected the same outcome.
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In verse fourteen Peter uses the title of Jesus. He calls Him our “Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV 1984). This would have brought through multiple theological issues to the first century Christian mindset. The first is that Peter calls Jesus Lord. This meant a whole lot more to the Jewish/first century Christian mindset than it does to us. To us this can simply mean “mister” or “master,” but this term to them came to be used for God because the ancient Jews tried to avoid using the proper name of God. They did this because of the commandment to not use the name of God in an improper manner; so they decided to avoid it by using the Hebrew word that we translate as Lord.
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He uses the name Jesus in this phrase. The name Jesus can be used in the place of YHWH (Hebrew name of God), which meant to brings us salvation (As a side note, early Hebrew writing never used vowels, they were just supposed to be known by the reader). YHWH was meant to bring with it the thought of bringing salvation to the world. This was fulfilled in the life of Jesus, the Christ.
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Peter uses the term Christ, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah. Generally speaking, means ‘the anointed one’. The term anointed conveyed the image of power. So it could be said that Christ means that Jesus is the one who is ordained and empowered by God for a task that needs completing. In the Old Testament, Kings, prophets, and priests went through an “anointing ceremony.” To show that they were empowered by God for their tasks that they were to perform.
Peter says that Jesus has made clear to him the teachings of scripture and Christianity. So in verse fifteen Peter says that he will make every effort to make sure that these teachings are before the Christians of his time, and before us, in order that false teaching may be combatted. He knew that after he was martyred the Holy Spirit could bring these teachings up to Christians minds in order to aid them in their walk through an evil world. God has done this by allowing his writings to make into our hands two-thousand years later (roughly dating).
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Now we come to verse sixteen where we get to his first purpose for writing his second book. Peter has already set up his (1) greeting, (2) who Christ is and (3) his authority in writing. Now Peter tells us that He is writing due to false teachers/teaching in the church (universally). Many “teachers” can come up with clever ways to put the Bible together that violates the study of scripture in order to make it whatever they wish it. Why? Some have differing motivations but it all boils down to sinful Greed. Greed for notoriety, power, and even money. This was a problem then and it is a problem now.
Without going into a lot of detail, the question is asked, “How does one study the Bible?” A tried and long time method (called Biblical Hermeneutics) is to study the Bible by looking at its’ Historical context, Cultural references (what was the culture like that it was written) and in context of the surrounding text, and indeed context of the rest of Scripture.
In verses seventeen and eighteen Peter reiterates both the divinity of Christ and His humanity. I will not spend a lot of time here, but Peter re-affirms what is called the Dichotomy of Christ; that is He is 100% God and 100% man existing as one. To go any further only degrades this truth and to take away from this statement will only cause false teaching and heresy. Peter gives his eyewitness testimony of the Glory of Christ in these verses.
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In verse nineteen Peter again shows that his testimony and revelation from God is true. He asserts his authority as an Apostle of Christ. He tells us that He has the very revelation of God and that we should pay attention to it. If we allow the Word of God to take hold in our lives we will find that it will shine in the darkness and set our actions, even our very lives, right before a loving and Holy God.
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In verses twenty and twenty-one we find why Pete has taken the authoritative stance. Remember that the only Scripture at the time the first century Christians had was the Old Testament (known as the Torah). It is a very real possibility that the false teachers of the time were taking the Scriptures and adding their own twists on things; taking them out of context, either by ignorance or on purpose. Whether it was done innocently on their part or not, it had the same effect; it shipwrecked people’s faith and caused them to live a lie. Unfortunately many teachers who are “popular” do the same things. Only they water down the message of the Bible and make it palatable to the listeners so as to not offend them. These kinds of teachers can build big meetings/churches by doing this, but the message of the Gospel (good news) is not proclaimed and lives are not changed by the power of God.
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We must remember that truth is truth, and it must not be compromised. Just because you believe it or not, does not change the fact that it is truth. Two plus two will always equal four. Will you compromise with people? Or will you explain the truth, in love, and allow God to do His work? The

Christians Need to Have Character

Christians Need to Have Character
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductivein your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
-2 Peter 3:1-11 (NIV)

Now Peter moves on with his exhortation in Godly living. He shows us the majesty of God. He reminds us that God is a triune being (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) yet He is one God. He does this by reminding us that God the Father and the Son are one. He shows us this with his statement about God’s divine power.

Peter shows us in verse three that through our experiential knowledge of God, we are called to Him by His own glory and goodness; not by anything we have done, but what God has done in us. It is not in our own hands and works that we can come to God and have a true relationship with Him, but by his mercy and grace. This reiterates Peter’s opening in verses one and two.

In verse four we are actually given a promise. Peter states that because of what God has done through His power and divine nature we can escape the evil that permeates this world. We can be made right with God and walk out that righteousness, by submitting to God in everyday life (The technical terms for this is Justification and Sanctification). We can participate in the divine nature because of the gift of the Holy Spirit (indwelling of the Holy Spirit which comes at the point of salvation).
In verse five Peter says that due to this gifting of God we are to make every effort to add to our faith. Faith here has the idea of trustworthiness. This trust that we place in God is how we receive His free gift of salvation. This word also brings with it the sense of being faithful, right living before God. It brings with it the sense of continued growth in the Christian life.

Because of this growth that is supposed to happen Peter reminds us that we should be adding goodness to our faith; which is a fruit of the Spirit. Goodness can also be translated as ‘moral excellence’. To that we are to add knowledge; this knowledge is not a hidden or hard knowledge (like what false teachers proclaim), this knowledge is an experiential knowledge in our relationship to Christ. We are also supposed to have self-control; which keeps us from being pulled down by the sinful nature that is inherent to all humanity. God can give us self-control and help us to resist our evil nature. We are also supposed to have the characteristic of godliness. Godliness means that in our actions we are to be like Jesus, not that we become a god or divine ourselves; but that our actions reflect God’s nature.Brotherly love is also supposed to be a “staple” of our lives, which is a genuine love toward our fellow Christians and mankind in general. These, though listed in order, should exist in some measure in our lives as Christians and can be grown. They exist at the same time and are connected to each other. These characteristics must exist in Christians and through regular study and prayer should grow in our lives.

If we have these qualities at work within us they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive as Christians (i.e. Our lives will match what we preach). There are too many Christians who proclaim a message they do not live. This is a sad situation and it must be rectified one life at a time, within ourselves. We must seek and ask God for these qualities to be evidenced within us. This is why churches do not grow today; there are too many Christians who do not have/display these characteristics.
If we do not have these (verse 9) Peter tells us that we don’t know what we think we know, we are blind and have forgotten what Christ has done for us. Maybe we didn’t forget intellectually, but experientially. We do not live as one who lives in the revelation of what God has done for us.

Because of all of these characteristics and continual growth (verses 10 & 11) we should be eager to make sure we are walking in God’s will and Word (i.e Biblical principles). We don’t want to come to the end of our lives and realize we got into heaven, but did nothing with our lives; that are works amounted to nothing because we did not live and grow in our faith and character.

How are you today? How is your character? Where are you in your relationship with Christ? Perhaps now is the time to draw close to God and make your relationship with Him (i.e. faith) deeper. Maybe doing this will show the world that we really believe what we say we believe. The Choice is yours.

Tired of Chaos? Get Some Peace!

Tired of Chaos? Get Some Peace!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

(1) Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
(2) Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
-1 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV 1984)

These first two verses show us how we can obtain and live in true peace. If you put this into practice I promise you, you will experience peace.

A lot of people tend to gloss over the opening of books of scripture. However, the opening of this book sets our expectations in just two verses.

 Peter opens up with his proper name followed by what Christ called him (i.e. Peter). His given name is Simon, but Christ called him Peter. Peter is “Petros” in Greek and it means large rock. That being said, Jesus regularly spoke Aramaic, not Greek or Hebrew. The term used by Jesus was probably “Cephas” in Aramaic, which means the same thing.

Why is this important? Because Jesus asked him who he thought He was. Jesus answered with the following, “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, NIV 1984). At this point Jesus named him “Peter” because of this rock of the revelation of who Jesus is, the church was/is built.

Peter now tells us for whom this letter is sent. He states it is sent to those who have a like faith; who have received Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. He says this is a precious faith. This gives the connotation of someone who holds their faith “close to the chest.” I always think of an image of a mother who would protect their child close to her chest in times of terrible danger. A mom will not let go of their child for any reason. This mom will give their life for their child. If we hold the revelation of Christ like this, then we are truly one of God’s children. This is the faith that we are supposed to have, to give our lives for the love that we hold in our hearts for Jesus Christ.

In verse two Peter gives us a great opening. He conveys  grace and peace to the readers in abundance through their knowledge of God and Jesus. Grace refers to our standing before God. It reminds us that through Grace are we saved and that is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God (c.f. Ephesians 2:8). Because of what Christ has done Grace comes before peace. We can only obtain peace with God, and with each other, because of the Grace that comes from Christ that has been conveyed to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Due to the revelation of Christ, we can increase in our knowledge of God and Jesus. Now in the  Greek text (which is what this book is written) the term translated knowledge carries with it the connotation of an experiential knowledge. Through God’s grace and peace we can experience Him because of what He has done for us through Jesus Christ.

How about you today? Are you tired of being in Chaos? Maybe you need to start a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, maybe you should spend some time in prayer and study and getting to know God. Because of what He has done you have this ability. The Choice is Yours.

Get off Your Lazy Butt!

Get off Your Lazy Butt!

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; 

consider its ways and be wise! 

7 It has no commander, 

no overseer or ruler, 

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer 

and gathers its food at harvest. 

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? 

When will you get up from your sleep? 

10 A little sleep, a little slumber, 

a little folding of the hands to rest— 

11 and poverty will come on you like a thief 

and scarcity like an armed man. 

-Proverbs 6:6-11  (NIV)

I don’t know about most people, but I am sick and tired of people who could be productive members of society sitting at home and doing nothing with their lives. God expects us to be productive! He expects us to be active members of society!

I know this seems like a rant, perhaps because it is, but I don’t think I am wrong here. I think there are too many illegitimate  cases of people in our society “riding the system” and taking advantage of the “safety net.” The problem with people who are riding the system is that they are taking up valuable space for those who need ACTUAL HELP.

How do we stop this kind of thing? Well, only when churches stop being big temples of man and actually help the trodden down and the people who need help. The government was never supposed to take care of people. This job was supposed to be done by the church (c.f The book of Acts). The church wasn’t doing the job, so the government stepped in, the problem is that the government never gets anything done fast, properly, and at budget. The government spends way to much money and wastes resources.

What can we do individually? Well we need to start praying and humbling ourselves before an almighty God and ask Him to intercede in our churches and then in our society. Not the other way around. God starts judgment with His people first. What will you do today? The Choice is yours.

People Need to Remember to Confront Each Other

People Need to Remember to Confront Each Other
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
-Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV 1984)

The scriptures are replete with examples of how someone we are supposed to treat one another. Unfortunately it seems far too often that this doesn’t happen.  This scripture is but one of many, however it holds a truth for us. My comments will be brief but I hope you will take them to heart.

I know of a situation right now that is going on that is NOT RIGHT. Too many organizations (secular and religious) fall apart because people just won’t take responsibility for their issues. What do I mean by this? Well when you have a problem with someone you should go to that person and talk to them not someone over their head, not everyone else, but to that person. By doing this you minimize a situation and, hopefully, it can be resolved without too much fuss.

When we don’t act like Christian adults (adults, period) we cause break down in our communications with each other and it causes a breakdown in our organizations (workplace, church etc.).

Now you have to ask yourself something. Are you contributing to the breakdown? Or are you handling conflict appropriately? Handling it appropriately will cause you to prosper in your interactions, thereby causing your organization to prosper in return.  If you are guilty, then you need to stop talking to others (or going over their heads) and start talking to one another. The Choice is yours.