Christians, Holy?

sad lady
“When was the last time you felt you were holy, set apart and faithful?”

 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:”
~Ephesians 1:1 NKJV~

In verse one we find that Paul (formerly Saul) is laying out his testimony to the Ephesians. He is reminding them who he is and how he was called by God. This establishes his authority as an Apostle (Find out more in Acts 9).

He tells us he was called not by man or by anyone else other than the will of God. It is not by our will that we become ministers of God. God is the one who calls and prepares His people to do the work of ministry, whether that is vocational ministry or lay ministry (ministry coming from christians who are not called by God to vocational ministry).

Paul then uses the word that we translate as “saints.” There is much misunderstanding about what saints are in our culture today. Saints are not the people the Catholic Church calls saints. The word in Greek means the Holy ones, those set apart to God. That means all Christians. But some would say that they don’t feel holy or set apart. To make matters worse Paul also describes them as faithful. When was the last time you felt you were holy, set apart and faithful? If you are honest your answer should be in the negative category. But the key to this verse comes with the words “in Christ Jesus”.

Jesus is God made flesh. It is only in his taking of our sins upon himself (imputation) at the cross that we can be seen as holy (Penal Substitutionary Work).He paid your debt to that He did not owe, so that you may be seen as holy, set apart and faithful. A saint before God. Only in/through Jesus and his work are you seen this way. You can’t work to gain or keep your salvation. It is by Christ alone, in faith alone.

Through Jesus we can rejoice that we are His separated ones. This verse should not be taken negative, but joyous! We are saved and set free from sin and alive, set apart, holy and faithful due to the work of Jesus at the cross!

God is Our Refuge

God is Our Refuge
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
-Psalm 46:1-5 (NIV)

Alright so it has been a while since I have written anything (due to some life changing events).  So I have decided, for the time being, that I will post something small every day. Perhaps a small scripture and a few thoughts.

So this scripture has been on my mind today due to some problems we have been having financially as cars are literally breaking down and as Murhpy has seemed to move into the house (Murphy’s Law roughly states that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.)!

So this scripture keeps coming to me. Also, while I have you, could you pray for God’s provisions and grace? Thanks and may God bless you!

Starting Fresh

Well it has been years since I have been on here writing (about 4). The reason it has been so long, is that I have been a senior pastor at a small church and now that God has shifted ministry opportunities away from that to other areas, I have felt a call to pick up my “pen” and write again.I believe this will be in spurts, to begin with (once a week etc.) as I am teaching as well.

What surprises me the most is that this site continues to receive visitors daily! Amazing! I have changed the design and I have to update my servers. So, if you find any links not working (pictures etc.) please e-mail me so I can get things fixed.

In Christ,
Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

Get Rid of the “Churchy” Gimmicks and Get a Revelation of God
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

(8) The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

(9) He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

(10) He does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

(11) For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

(12) as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

(13) As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
-Psalm 103:8-13 (NIV)

(21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (22) For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; (23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (25) Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
-Romans 7:21-25 (NIV)

If we get a revelation of how much we have been forgiven then we can say with our whole being as Paul did, “Oh wretched man that I am.” But this revelation does not come to us on our own, but must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. This Christian life makes no sense to the unbeliever. This concept makes no sense until it is experienced by the individual. When a Christian draws closer, and closer to God and sees just how wretched they are, then they will lament as Paul did, “Oh Wretched man that I am!”

 

Christianity is not meant to be some set of rules and regulations, but a revelation that is lived out in our lives by the power of God. How do we manifest the life that has been deposited by God in our beings? We must draw close to God. (“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8 – NIV). Drawing close to God is about a relationship (Again, this is a concept that unbelievers cannot understand until they experience it.). We draw near to Him by spending time with Him, through His word and prayer. For the person who has a relationship with God these are not static experiences, but experiences that the believer is changed. Through these experiences there is a sense of peace and drawing near to a Holy and loving God (Yet another thing that an unbeliever will not experience until they become a believer and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.) In our culture we just want to jump from one “mountain top experience” to another. These are great, but they do not produce change. Only through Study and prayer is one drawing near to God, and be changed thereby. Study and prayer is the only way to become like Him.

 

Through drawing near to God we begin to manifest His attributes in our lives, albeit dimly at first and then more brightly. We are like the moon reflecting the sun, we manifest God’s attributes, even at our best, very dimly. This is not done by sheer will, but by a relationship with a Holy, loving and powerful God.

 

Christianity is the only religion that does not depend on pure will to reach some kind of reward in the hereafter. This is the only religion in the world that says, “Come as you are and Let God do the changing of your life. He will forgive and cleanse you; not because of your will, but because He loves you.”

 

Now some people won’t even initially come to God because of the so-called “hypocrites in the church.” I like to say that just because the messenger is a mess, doesn’t mean the message is any less valid. The message is important. Now the messenger may have to do some “drawing near to God” to get their life cleaned up a bit, but the message is still valid.

 

When the church (universally speaking) gets a true sense of what God has done and draws near to Him and sees how wretched they are, only then will people come to Christ in droves. This simple message, amongst all the “Christian gimmicks,” has been lost in modern day Christianity. When we get back to just drawing near to God, then people’s lives (believers and unbelievers alike) will be changed forever.

How about you today Christian? When was the last time you drew near to God and began to reflect His “Resplendent Glory”? If it has been a while then take this time to get on your knees (spiritually, showing humility) and ask God to forgive you and cleanse you so that you can reflect His light to a lost and dying world. The Choice is yours.

What Does a Wise Person Look Like?
By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

-James 3:15ff (NIV)

19 For it is written: 

         “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

         the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 

 

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

-1 Corinthians 1:19ff (NIV)

 

The scriptures are replete with words of wisdom and talking about wisdom. However, I just want to focus on these two passages. First lets us get a definition of wisdom.

 

What does wisdom look like in action?

wise 1

  1. having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement.
  2.  (wise to) informal aware of, especially so as to know how to act.

■ verb (wise up) informal become alert or aware.[1]

When we think of a wise man what is the first image that comes to your mind? For most people it is an image of some old monk with a long white beard sitting in a lotus position giving out words of wisdom that will change people’s lives. This image is WRONG.

We must remember that there are really two kinds of wisdom that the Bible speaks about. The first is “Worldly Wisdom” (i.e. wisdom not given by God) and the second is “Godly Wisdom.”

Worldly Wisdom

We do have to recognize that worldly wisdom is of some value. Time and experience is a teacher. However, we must recognize that worldly wisdom is often wrong. Why? Because God has set into motion principles in His word that run contrary to worldly wisdom. The New Bible Dictionary says, “Worldly wisdom is based on intuition and experience without revelation, and thus has severe limitations.[2]” Proverbs 14:12(NIV84) puts it this way; “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Godly Wisdom

What is Godly Wisdom? James gives us a definition of “Godly Wisdom” in James3:17 (NIV84) “17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

James gives us some characteristics of what wisdom in action looks like. He says it is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, has good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Notice that all of the actions listed are not aggressive. But they show love and mercy.

Warren Wiersbe puts wisdom like this.

The wise person uses gentleness and persuasion with patience; he or she does not threaten or accuse. “Easy to be intreated” (v. 17) suggests a willingness to yield, or to be reasonable. Wise people are full of mercy, not quick to judge or condemn; their lives are full of good fruits. There is no wavering (“partiality,” 1:6 and 2:4); though they are willing to yield, they are not willing to compromise with the truth. Finally, true wisdom will not allow for hypocrisy; the truth is spoken and is backed with a true motive.[3]

Conclusion

With this in mind we must remember how we respond to situations and circumstances is up to us. Will we respond out of God’s wisdom or out of worldly wisdom? When you are about to respond to a situation do you do it with the characteristics that James shows us here?

When responding to any situation or circumstance we know that we can seek God and He will give us wisdom. How does He do this? He does this through the Bible. If we don’t study the scripture, bathed in prayer, how in the world do we think we will respond properly? How about you today? Are you purposefully seeking God about situations and circumstances or are you trying to handle problems in your own strength. The choice is yours.


[1] Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Hubbard, D. A. (1996). Wisdom. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (1244). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (729). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

What is the Core of Christian Belief?

What is the Core of Christian Belief?
By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

-John 3:16–18 (NIV84)

I recently received an email with a whole list of questions. I have been wondering how best to respond. The reason is that all of the questions are in the form of one question with multiple parts. So I will attempt to answer them simply and concisely, as each question that was proposed you could literally write a doctoral thesis about.

Someone has asked what are the core beliefs amongst Christians?

What we have to remember when answering these questions is that Christians believe in an objective truth, not a subjective one that has been accepted by many in our world today. I could spend a lot of time talking about this subject, but suffice it to say that the statement that truth is subjective is an objective claim and there the statement falls apart. The Bible, and all of life, is based on an objective reality. We must come to this understanding first before we can answer what Christians believe.

So how do you answer this question simply? It is very hard! We must remember that there are issues that Christians disagree about and ones that are essential to our faith. The core of Christianity is summed up in the following statement, taken from the Apostles Creed (I updated it in modern English and updated it to be more accurate).

 

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son the second in the Trinity (God become man), our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Universal Church established by Jesus Himself, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.

While this is a bit different than the Apostle Creed, I believe it is very accurate. That being said, we must keep in mind that a creed (while helpful) is not scripture but a guide to what our faith means. All of this (which I have modified above) is the core belief of a true Christian.

So the question is not what do Christians believe that make them Christians, but what have you done about Christ. He is not some figure that cannot be known, but is living and wants to have a relationship with everyone. This can only happen as one yields control of their lives to Christ and accepts Him as their personal Lord and Savior. We must believe John 3:16 in order to be seen as a Christian.

Out of this belief and the change that is wrought by the Holy Spirit does one’s life begin to line up with right living before God (Sanctification).

A good thought to ponder is the following, As a Christian I am not perfect, but am being perfected. Someone once said, “I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”

How about you today? Have you had a life changing experience that can only be explained by the life changing work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in your life? If not why not? We aren’t promised tomorrow. Would you cry out to God to receive you as a son? If so it is simple, it is not about the words you say, but the cry of your heart. You can say a prayer like this; “Jesus I know I am a sinner and I know my sin separates me from you. Come into my heart and be my master and savior. Thank you Jesus, Amen.” Or, you could just say “Jesus come into my life!” Again, it is not about the words, but your heart.

I hope this has answered the most important question in your life. That is, what have I done about Jesus Christ? What have you done? Have submitted? The Choice is yours today.

Sometimes, Christians Need to Be Quiet!

Sometimes, Christians Need to Be Quiet!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

So it has been a long time since I wrote anything. Mainly because life has been very demanding over the past couple of months. My wife’s dad died, I got a new job (YEAH!), and I started volunteering to do some Sunday School Directing (God is really moving amongst our 35+ teachers!).

So here we are. I don’t have a lot to write today, just some thoughts about churches in general.

3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

-James 3:1-12 (NIV)

 

Now this is specifically talking to people who teach/preach God’s word. However, we can all receive some direction here. As I think about everything that goes on in churches, I wonder how much time our leaders spend putting out fires? By fires I mean gossip and “wrong words.” These are the kind of words that should never, ever be spoken. However, our church leaders spend a ton of time, that should be doing God’s work, trying to make church members get along with one another, trying to “hold the boat together.”

In the first century this terminology about fire (verse 6) would have been widely known and understood. You see these people had braziers (fires) in their homes for cooking, warming, and light. Now if they were to open a window and a breeze came in, it could be a very bad thing indeed. The fire from a small spark could spread and burn the home, and everything in it, down. This could happen due to the fact that most things were made of flammable materials (i.e. Wood). The problem with a fire during this time is that it was almost impossible to stop in that day, and could easily spread and hurt people, as well as damage property.

James uses this understanding to communicate to us what the untamable tongue can do to a body of believers. How many times have we seen splits from churches over someone who can’t keep their mouth shut? This is an insult to God. We are to tame our tongues and make sure we are doing God’s work and not our own.

How about you today? Are you guilty of this? If so, then it is time to repent! Do you know someone guilty of this? Maybe they don’t even know they are doing it, let them know (in love!) so that they can be restored to a proper fellowship with God and their fellow believers. The choice is yours.