What Did You Expect The Outcome of Living For God Would Be?

What Did You Expect The Outcome of Living For God Would Be?
Be-Attitudes Part 8
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 (10) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
-Matthew 5:10–12 (NKJV)

These three verses deal with persecution so I have added them together. Jesus devoted quite a bit here about persecution, which clues us in that it is important. It is not “if” it happens, but when it happens. If we live the beatitudes up to this point then the natural outcome is going to be persecution. Why? Because living this way is radically different from the way the world lives and it brings conviction onto those who are not living this way; it stirs the conscious within people. In order to soothe their conscience some people are willing to go to great measures to get rid of the source that is convicting them (i.e. the Christian).

In verse ten the Christian finds out that though they may have to endure persecution (Historically persecution to the point of death.) their reward, as it were, is the kingdom of heaven; which is all the blessings that come once a Christian leaves this life and moves on to the next one.

Verse eleven introduces something new to the concept. It states that the people of the world will revile you.  This word is sometimes lost in today’s society. Other translations translate the origin word as insult rather than revile. We will be insulted by people of this world for our beliefs and our lives. The key here, however, is at the end of verse eleven it says that they will do these things falsely. So if you do something that is not in keeping with being a Christians then you are not bringing glory to God and are not persecuted for righteousness sake; no you are being insulted and persecuted justly. How could God honor you when you do something wrong and are persecuted justly? I know people don’t want to hear that, they just want the “bless me” teaching, but it is the truth.

Now Jesus, in verse twelve, addresses our response to persecution. He states that we should have an attitude of rejoicing and gladness (Tell me that doesn’t fly in the face of the world and your natural self!). He says to remember that our reward for following the laws that God has written upon on our hearts is great in heaven. Jesus also reminds us that those who came before us have endured such persecution for living their life before a Holy God. We should draw strength from the prophets of Old and remember what happened in their lives so that we can “keep on, keeping on.”

How are you today? Are you being persecuted? If not, then maybe it is because you aren’t a Christian, or one that doesn’t really live out what God asks of you. Trust me if you aren’t being persecuted for your beliefs and your life then something isn’t quite right. You need to get down on your knees and ask God to reveal to you where you are and where you should be. Will you get on track with God? The choice is yours.

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Be Weird! Make Peace Not War!: Be-Attitudes Part 7

Be Weird! Make Peace Not War!
Be-Attitudes Part 7
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
-Matthew 5:9 (NKJV)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
-Romans 8:14 (NIV)

For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
-1 Corinthians 3:3 (NKJV)

Here we talk about those who make peace. Far too often in our society (even churches) there are feuds. Humans seem to have the innate capacity for arguing with one another and holding grudges. Jesus addresses that here, but not in the way you may think.

A lot of people look at this verse and tend to think that Jesus is talking about making peace amongst nations in a formal way. But the original Greek language does not bear this out as the primary meaning. While stopping wars is not excluded in this verse, the primary focus of this verse is “reconciliation between persons and not primarily to cause wars to cease.”[i]

We should try to make peace with those we have been holding a grudge toward, those who maybe (at least in our minds) don’t deserve it. God commands us to make peace and commands us to forgive one another.  In this beatitude Jesus touches on this thought but drives it home a little later in this same chapter, Matthew 5:23–24 (NKJV) reads as follows.

  •  (23) Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Making peace with one another (speaking to Christians here) is a priority in the Christian life. Paul states this truth in Corinthians (just as one example) that if envy, strife, and division still exist in our lives we are not walking in the Spirit of God and are actually walking in the way of sinful man; but if we attempt to make peace with Christian brothers and sisters then we are walking as God desires and doing this, because it so hard to do without God, shows that we are being led by the Holy Spirit. The end result of this shows that we are becoming like Christ and our witness can go out as a person who is different from the world. Oh that people would grab a hold of this! Grabbing a hold of this individually would eventually lead to local churches (as a whole) grabbing on to this truth and practicing it! If that happens then the witness of the churches would go forth and I believe we would see many come to a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Then the church would truly be called the children of God amongst the unregenerate.

How about you today? Have you really grabbed a hold of making peace? If not then ask God to help you to grasp it not only intellectually but way down in your inner being. Having this beatitude active in your life will cause revolution to happen in you. Living this out will cause many people to ask you why you are so different from everyone else in the world! What an amazing opportunity that would be to share Jesus with them. Will you ask God to really reveal this to you deep down today? The choice is yours.

 

 

 


  • [i] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (502). New York: United Bible Societies.

Are you Spic and Span Clean?: Be-Attitudes Part 6

Are you Spic and Span Clean?
Be-Attitudes Part 6

Rev. Joe Kramer

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
-Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

 3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.,
-Psalm 24:3–6 (NIV)

 

This beatitude speaks to purity of heart. Here we find an interesting problem for mankind. Who can be pure? You see man is born into sin; this is inherent in mankind, so who can be pure? Remember that Jesus was talking to an audience that was familiar with what we call the Old Testament. As such this statement would have drawn upon their knowledge of the scriptures. They would have said the same thing! Only they had a problem with no true solution (Jesus had not yet been crucified and raised again for mankind yet.). Since they did not have an answer they most likely experienced guilt at this statement because they knew the law. Paul says in the book of Galatians (Gal. 3:24) that the law was our school master that shows us how truly imperfect and sinful we are, but God made a way that we can become right with Him and see His miraculous hand.

Keeping in mind Jesus’ audience we find that the second half of this verse, that those who are pure shall see God, is one of intrigue. These Jews knew about the temple. In the temple there is a place called the Holy of Holies. In this place it was said that God’s glory dwelt and only the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies on man’s behalf to offer sacrifice for our sins. This priest would have to go through a litany of ceremonies to be seen as clean and pure in heart in order to offer sacrifice to God without being killed in His Holy presence. These folks knew this and as such I would think they would have understood this statement and been intrigued by it.

So what does this mean to us today? One can become clean by letting go of sinfulness and pride and letting God cleanse them from the inside out. I am not only talking to those who don’t know God, but I am speaking to those of you that are Christians as well. Christians must stay in a place of humility in order to continue to walk in pureness of heart. The promise for this is that we will have fellowship with God. God is no longer behind a veil in the temple that can only be gone behind once a year for worship and sacrifice, but for the Christian God dwells in us and so long as we stay surrendered to Him we will see His mighty hand in our lives. God has decided to make His abode in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. This ought to make us think twice before we react in an impure manner in situations in our lives.

How about you today? Are you walking with a loving God? If not then ask God to change you from the inside out. Ask Him to come and make His abode in your life. If you are a Christian then ask God to show you where you are in life and in Him. When He does, if you are not in the right place, ask Him to help you through the trials and circumstances you are in. If you make your abode a place of prayer and humility then you will see God working this life and will see God face-to-face in the life to come. The Choice is yours.

What This World Needs Is For You To STOP Being Merciless!: Be-Attitudes Part 5

What This World Needs Is For You To STOP Being Merciless!
Be-Attitudes (Part 5)
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
-Matthew 5:7 (NKJV)

This is one of the most interesting of the beatitudes. Notice that it says to obtain mercy on must show mercy. The interesting thing for a Christian is that Christians stand between the two halves of this verse. Christians must show mercy, compassion and love in order to obtain it from others. This goes back to the principles of sewing and reaping (which we find throughout scripture). You reap what you sew; if you sew hatefulness then that is what you will reap. If you try to show mercy you will ultimately receive mercy (Though it may not seem like that at all times, God is our judge and vindication. He will you show you mercy).

Mercy is yet another term that most people think they understand. But our understanding in our culture is not necessarily the understanding of the first century Christians. The following is an excerpt from Eerdmans Bible Dictionary.

  • It is within family relationships that human mercy was most experienced and expected as a duty by the people of the Old Testament (cf. Amos 1:11; Zech. 7:9–10). But human mercy was to extend to neighbor and even stranger, especially the needy and oppressed (Prov. 21:10; cf. Job 19:21; Ps. 72:12–14; RSV “pity”; Exod. 22:21–22 [MT 20–21]), just as does God’s mercy (cf. Deut. 10:18–19). In the New Testament also, God’s mercy is to be the model of the human mercy of his people (Luke 6:36; cf. Eph 4:32).
  • A significant aspect of Jesus’ ministry was his active compassion toward the suffering (Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:41; RSV “pity”; Luke 7:13; RSV “compassion”) and toward the leaderless (cf. Matt. 9:36). He developed a reputation for his healing powers, so that those who were suffering often took the initiative in seeking his merciful help (e.g., v. 27; 15:22; 17:15).

We may not be able to heal people as Jesus did, but we can show compassion toward others; we can do “what we can do.” If we are truly walking in all the beatitudes, up to this point, then we will be moved by God and our broken spirits to show mercy. When is the last time you were moved by a homeless man who needed food (as an example)? Yes I know we have all heard the horror stories where these guys make more money than we do, but there truly are homeless people out there. Why not offer them some food from a fast food restaurant? If they are hungry they will eat it.

Too often we become desensitized by the pure grossness of this world, but if we get on our knees and allow God’s power to move through our being then we will find ourselves being touched by the “down and out” of this world. We (speaking as Christians) will begin to poor out mercy to others and God’s mercy will be made manifest in our lives by the actions of others to us. This is a reciprocal process. God uses others to manifest mercy in our lives; this is a promise. However this promise has a condition that needs to be met; one must show mercy to receive mercy.

How about you today? Will you continue in your apathy? Will you allow your heart to remain calloused? Or will you allow God to change you from the inside out so that mercy becomes a natural outpouring in your life by the Holy Spirit? The choice is yours.

 

________
Sources Quoted

  • Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (710). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Are You Soaked In God?: Be-Attitudes Part 4

Are You Soaked In God?
Be-Attitudes (Part 4)
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
-Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.
-Psalm 119:20 (NIV)

 

Please notice that in this beatitude we find two things that are at the very base of humanity; that is hunger and thirst. In the United States even the poorest amongst us don’t understand what hunger and thirst is in its’ extreme; we, for most of us, have never experienced it. During this time there was no safety net, no food stamp programs. People literally starved to death and some had no way of getting nourishment.

Jesus uses these very basic needs to describe how a person should be seeking God. He says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. But what is righteousness in this context? In our society we see righteousness as a kind of abstract thought or way of thinking. In the Bible it is different. It is a way of acting and righteousness is shown by actions. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary has a great example of God’s righteousness, it reads as follows.

  • God is, above all others, the righteous one (Isa. 24:16), the one who preserves the covenant relationship by delivering his people with righteous deeds (Judg. 5:11; RSV “triumphs” l Sam. 12:7; RSV “saving deeds” Mic. 6:5; RSV “saving acts”). God also upholds the cause of the oppressed (cf. Ps. 9:7–12 MT 8–13]; 103:6; Prov. 22:22–23), gives justice to the innocent (1 Kgs. 8:32; cf. Isa. 50:8–9), and hears the suit of those in need (Ps. 7:9–11 MT 10–12]; 35:23-24; Jer. 11:20; 12:1).

If God is to be our example of righteousness and we look at the other “Be-Attitudes” that we have covered so far, what we find is that righteousness (our actions to others) is a natural outpouring of one who is truly seeking God. Our righteousness needs to exceed those of the average “religious” person. Our righteousness (check out the book of James) needs to be shown in our works toward others and the works we do for God. Now keep in mind that we are talking about righteousness not self-righteousness and righteousness is a natural outpouring of a heart that is surrendered and crying out to God.

Imagine this if you will. You have a person who is crying out and praying so hard that their sweat and tears are mixed together, they are literally laboring to God! This is the imagery that is going on in the beatitudes up to this point. This is what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we come to God keenly aware of our poverty in spirit, with true mourning, and with true meekness we will hunger for God’s righteousness in our lives and other people’s lives; we will want to convey God’s righteousness in our interactions with others.

So now we come to the promise. God says you will be filled. Now this is not the kind of full you feel after a good meal, no this scripture holds the connotation of just being saturated with God’s righteousness, His Love, and His grace. His righteousness, promises, grace, and Love (to name a few) will saturate every minute thing that makes up the person that is you; He will make you thoroughly soaked in His righteousness. You will receive His righteousness and be a receptacle for others. You will live it out before a decaying world, bringing others to Him. Who wouldn’t want that?

The question I have for you is this. Will you come to God coupled with these three
“be-attitudes?” or will you just gloss over God’s power to change a life that truly seeks Him and His righteousness in their life? You know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing and expecting new results. Will you continue to live in insanity? Or will you say to God, “I don’t know how to get there, but I want to be there; God will you help?” The Choice is yours.

________

Sources Quoted

  • Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (888). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Are You Meek and at Your Peak?: Be-Attitudes Part 3

Are You Meek and at Your Peak?
Be-Attitudes (part 3)
Rev. Joe Kramer

 

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
-Matthew 5:5 (NKJV)

This is one that gets a bad rap a lot of the time. Meek does not mean weak. As a matter of fact meekness is not about someone’s physical characteristics but their spiritual and mental characteristics. A good example of someone who is displaying the characteristic of meekness is one who is walking in humility and gentleness. But this is not the end of meekness. Someone who is meek walks in righteousness as well. These three characteristics make up what we call meekness.

The individual who walks in meekness, when they are wronged does not seek vengeance. They do not retaliate, but they leave it to God to deal with. While they are going through trials they are true to God. They do this without defense of their character, but display humility and the gentleness of God’s Spirit.

God gives us something for those who walk in His righteousness who are not seeking to vindicate themselves. He says they shall inherit the earth. I do not see the inheritance of the earth now; that is here at this present time. I see this as happening in the millennial reign (The time when the saints will reign for a thousand years with Christ on earth. This is found in Revelation 20:1-6).  So, we see that those who display meekness now, in this life, will inherit the earth in the future. They will be vindicated, ultimately, by God in the future. Some scholars will disagree with that statement, but I believe it to be accurate.

The problem today is that a lot of people will gloss over this article and will say in their minds that they don’t need this teaching. They are humble, gentle, and righteous. In actuality those who gloss over words like this tend to be rash, abrasive, and self-righteous. The question is which are you? You see when I read something like this, I ask myself a question “Am I truly walking in the characteristics of meekness, or do I just think I am?”

This would be the time to truly examine your heart and see where you stand. Will you do that today? I pray you do. The choice is yours.

Unloading to a Loving God: Be-Attitudes Part 2

Unloading to a Loving God
Be-Attitudes (Part 2)

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Some people caught this; some didn’t/ Notice I called it the Be-Attitudes instead of the B-attitudes. This is done on purpose. I used this as a subtle reminder that the B-Attitudes speak to our whole being and our relationship with God. It is how we are supposed to BE. So I will continue to refer to it this way. Hope you enjoy.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
-Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)

 

The First of the “be-attitudes” flows into the second one. The first speaks to recognizing and understanding our true spiritual poverty. This one takes that recognition and shows us that we should be in mourning throughout our being. With the first comes the second.

If one says they have topped the intellectual mountain with a revelation from God about their true spiritual decay, but never experiences the gut wrenching mourning of the second then they really haven’t come to an understanding of their spiritual poverty. These two work in tandem on an individual in order to bring them to the throne room of grace where they can receive mercy (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The person who has experienced this emotion of their poverty has a wonderful promise from God. It says they shall be comforted. How does this comfort come? Only through the releasing of the heart and mind to Jesus Christ. This is often thought of as something that happens at salvation, but in reality we come to this point many times in our lives, if we are seekers of God and His will. If we are true followers of Christ then we should become keenly aware of our poverty, both intellectually and emotionally.

Now, some people will object to emotions in our following of Christ. They say an emotional response is not lasting. This is true, if one has not been made intellectually aware of their sin and is not counting the cost of what it is to follow Christ, then yes the individual had an emotional experience but nothing lese. Too often people come to God in a state of emotional susceptibility (saved and unsaved alike) and have not been told what it really means to follow Jesus, have not counted the cost and so they end up just another statistic in a sea of people who no longer go to church. When we come to God in emotions and know what God’s Word says then we are promised God’s comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding; we understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” -John 14:27 (NKJV). Without coming to God with your whole being (mind, will and emotions) over situations that arise in your life, then nothing happens and the promise of comfort is not fulfilled. The key is to poor out your soul in your poverty with the whole of your emotions so that God can change you from the inside out.

How about you today? Have you ever come to Christ and asked for something, coupled with the knowledge of God’s Word and poured out your soul to a loving God? If not, why not? Maybe you should do so right now. Maybe God wants you to unload on Him and take comfort in His Word and His presence. The choice is yours.