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.

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Which Bible Study Software Should I Choose?

Which Bible Study Software Should I Choose?
Be-Attitudes Part 8
Rev. Joe Kramer

I got asked a question as to what software is best to use for Bible Study. Well here are my top 6 software choices for Bible study. This will be broken down into 3 categories. Top 3 Paid, Top 3 Free and my Top 2 recommendations. I will then give you my overall recommendation.

Top Paid

Logos 4 Bible Software
www.LOGOS.com

Depending on what you are looking for it has 9 different packages which range from $150 for a Home edition to $4,290 dollars for the Portfolio edition (has every major work in Christendom throughout history!). I won’t tell you which one I got but it wasn’t the most expensive by any means!

This is the program that I bought while doing my Master’s Degree. Logos is my all-time favorite computer program. It is multi-platform. This works on Windows (XP and Higher), Mac OSX, iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets. The best feature is that if I am studying on PC when I open that resource on another computer or iPad/Android device it picks up where I was reading aut-magically.

This program has multiple layers on which to choose. It is great for the novice and the scholar alike! It may seem a little steep but they offer no interest payment arrangements that make it affordable for just about any student. [Click Here] For a comparison of the different base packages

LOGOS Research Systems just came out with an app called faithlife (http://faithlifebible.com) which has an amazing interface and extensive commentary. For those who have LOGOS you can get it for free right now. When it is fully released it will cost about $30.00. The Best thing is that the app integrates all of your LOGOS material into its interface. This has become the way I study on the go on my android phone and iPad.

The following review video explains in a lot more detail

WordSearch 10
https://www.wordsearchbible.com/ws10

The cost of this program is currently around $350 for the preacher’s library. The problem with this program is that their website doesn’t have specific bundles listed in an easy to find manner. A quick search on the internet will result in different bundle prices. You can get additional books and resources from their website. It is a windows and Mac software.

Next to LOGOS, WordSearch is one of my favorite programs. It has an amazing feature that allows you to type in a range of verses and it pulls all materials (lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries, etc.) and produces them for you to go over and study. You don’t have to even do a search through the electronic resources. It does it for you. This is the one feature I miss having in LOGOS.

This has a lot of material for use within it and it is a good value at its price point.

The following is a good video that overviews the product

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KYnwlHmlGc]

YouTube Video (Click Here if you can’t view, Having issues with embedding)

Bible Explorer 4.0 Limited Edition
https://www.wordsearchbible.com/products/24602

This is a windows only program it is produced by the same company that does WordSearch, but this program only Costs $14.95. While it is by no means expensive it does offer you some great classic commentaries and study tools with a good mix of contemporary materials for devotions and spiritual growth.

It features 14 Bible Translations and 121 hand-picked reference works

Please see their website for more details.

Top Free

e-Sword
www.e-sword.net

e-sword is by far the best program available for free. It is only available on windows, but it has an intuitive interface with a lot of out-of-copyright works. If you are going to go free, this is the best one by far. I love that this has the original Webster’s dictionary with the scripture references in it.

The following is what the maker of this program has to say

  • “e-Sword is feature rich and user friendly. This combination is what I pursued, and as such there were decisions I had to make when implementing various features. If a feature became too complicated for anyone other than a software engineer to use, then I abandoned the design in favor of keeping things simple. The $500.00 software packages might be able to do more “things”, but does the average user know how to take advantage of them? No!”

 

Xiphos
www.xiphos.org

This program is available for both Linux and Windows. It integrates into the SWORD project. This is a project that seeks to take all of the out-of-copyright materials and makes them available for developers to integrate into their programs.

This program has a great way of getting content. You simply go into the download manager, select what resources you want and it downloads and integrates them into the program “auto-magically.”

The following is a snapshot of features from their website

  • Tabbed display
    • Show each version in a separate tab, or create tabs just to hold images, maps, or to read books. Tabs are remembered each time you re-open Xiphos, and you can even save a particular set of tabs and open them at a later time.
  • Built-in module manager
    • Install, remove, archive, and index modules with the module manager. You can install modules from a variety of sources, including the Crosswire and Xiphos repositories. Video Help Online Help.
  • Fast indexed search
    • Once you have created an index with the module manager, you can do extremely fast (almost instantaneous) searches over entire books. Search features include searching for Strong’s numbers, wildcard search, specified range search (eg, Old Testament), and many more.
  • Multi-book search
    • With Xiphos, you aren’t just limited to searching Bibles. Commentaries, dictionaries, and all other modules are searchable. In addition, you can search multiple books at the same time. You can set up sets of books that you can later use in your searches. Read more.
  • Map and Image support
    • Xiphos has great map and image support. Images are resized automatically to fit in the space allotted them. If you need to see an image full size, you can click on it to open it in an external viewer. Like many other things in Xiphos, the resizing is completely optional. If you don’t like it, simply go to Edit->Preferences and turn off the option.Editing Preferences
  • Pseudo-interlinear display
    • With the mozembed rendering engine, Xiphos arranges text with the Strongs Numbers and morphology directly below each word, rather than following the word as many programs do. This creates a clean, easy-to-read interface.
  • Read Aloud
    • With the Festival speech engine installed (we package it by default on Windows), Xiphos will read aloud the text to you. You can have it read every verse as you change verses, or you can select a region of text for it to read. This can be nice for those with hearing difficulties, or those who simply want to have the Bible or some other book read to them while they are doing something else.
  • Localized interface
    • We have translations of the interface in 11 different languages. We have particularly good support for Right to Left languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, and Farsi. If your language is available, we’d be glad to have your assistance in translating the interface into your language. It is a small commitment of time, and will be beneficial to many other people around the world.
  • User-created modules (journals, prayer lists, commentaries)
    • Xiphos allows you to create your own modules in the form of prayer lists, journals, and commentaries. You can keep these for your personal use or share them with friends.

 

Eloquent (formerly MacSword)
www.macsword.com

For my Mac OSX folks out there in the world, I like Eloquent. This, in my experience, has been the best software for Mac OSX that is free. It is simple intuitive and free!

Here are the features they list.

  • “Eloquent (formerly MacSword) is a free and open-source application for research and study of God and His Word. Eloquent (formerly MacSword) is developed specifically for Mac OS X, and is localised in French, English, German and Swedish. Eloquent (formerly MacSword) allows you to read and browse many different bibles translations in different languages from Hebrew to Albanian. As well as reading devotionals, commentaries, dictionaries and lexicons, it also supports searching and advanced features such as services so that you can access the Bible in any program.”

 

My Recommendations

  1. By reading my quick notes on LOGOS you know that I recommend this program simply because they are constantly updating it, works on multiple devices, and is very polished no matter what your study level happens to be.
  2. This one would have to be e-sword. Though e-sword can be harder to get content to put into the program (simply because each book is its own installer that has to be downloaded and installed) it is very easy to use and polished. Xiphos lost this in my mind because it just isn’t polished enough in my opinion. It is almost like it can’t get out of its’ own way so that we can just do some study.

 

Overall Preferred Program

LOGOS Bible Study Software

For more free Bible study Software please go to http://www.crosswire.org/

If you have one that you think should be added to this list, please place it in the comments section.

What Do Christians Mean by the Inspiration of Scripture?

What Do Christians Mean by the Inspiration of Scripture?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This topic is very intensive, however today we are going to briefly explain this and what it means.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
-2 Peter 3:14-16 (NKJV)

When we say that scripture is inspired what we mean is that it is “God Breathed.” The Greek word used here for inspiration literally means “God Breathed”. Most Christians will tell you that this means that God breathed into the men who wrote scripture in order to make sure that the Scriptures are inerrant (without error).

Most people get it in their mind that it is like these men were secretaries and wrote down exactly what God said. This is a wrong concept. God used man’s understanding, intellect and personalities to write the Scriptures. They injected a lot of themselves into these writings, but God made sure that what they wrote was applicable to their time in history and ours as well. God also made sure that no errors were written down.

The process of inspiration is sometimes thought that these individuals just wrote automatically through some kind of trance, like the occult does. This is wrong. These men were free to write how they wanted (speaking of their intellect and personalities). They were protected by God from error.

It is also sometimes thought that the church gave us the Scriptures. Though the church did agree upon a Canon (selection of books) of Scriptures they didn’t write them. All the church has done is recognizing the Scriptures as being from God. Christians believe that when the Canon of Scripture was being formed that God the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers, guided the process and helped the church to recognize the Canon of Scripture. This Canon is what we refer to as the Holy Bible.

For example, the Apostle Peter recognized Paul’s writings to be equal with the Old Testament Scriptures, which is why Paul’s writing take up 2/3 of the New Testament. Seeing as how Peter was one of the original twelve Apostles, the church chose to go with Peter’s recognition of Paul’s writings as Scripture.

I hope this quick answer, answers this question pretty simply for those that have been wondering. There is a lot more that goes into understanding the details of how we got the canon of Scripture. I hope you do your own study as you seek to understand God’s ways and His words.

__________
Books for Further Study

Inerancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible

Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning

Why Do Bad Things happen?

Why Do Bad Things happen?

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This question keeps coming up, so I figured we would revisit it today.

I know 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)

Why Did God Create Us?

Why Did God Create Us?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-9 (NKJV)

 

The question that I often hear asked goes something like this, “If God is so self-sufficient then why did He create us? If He is so perfect and holy why do this?”  This is a question that has been answered several different ways over the years. So I am not going to try and go into all of the intricacies that are involved, but I will attempt to answer the question in a simple way that will bring enlightenment.

Scripture revolves around some themes that will answer this question. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. John 3:16 proves this by telling us that Jesus came into this world to save us from sin, because He loved us. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says that we are called to be in close relationship with Jesus.

When we look at all of these, and many more, we find that God created us to have a relationship with us and lavish His love upon us. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden did they seek out God? No! God sought them out because He loved them. There are many other people God walked with in the Bible, not just Adam and Eve. For example, the Bible talks about Him walking with Enoch; so much so that He spared Enoch physical death and took him to be with Him so Enoch would not experience it. God desires us!

Remember that in 1 Corinthians 13 (written above) talks about love. If we take love out of that passage we could interchange it with God. Love is in God’s nature. We must remember that if God had never created us, He would not be lacking. God didn’t create us because He needed us; He created us because He wanted us, to lavish His love on us.

If God did this to be with us, and we as descendants of Adam have pushed God away, then perhaps we as Christians should share the good news with those who haven’t heard it. Perhaps you should share with others the salvation experience in order that they might start to walk with Him and in His love. Will you do this today? The choice is yours.

What is The Unpardonable Sin?

What is The Unpardonable Sin?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

What is this sin that God gives no forgiveness for? This is called the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This sin is the only sin where there is no forgiveness and today we will be looking at it in its context.

 

“22Then there was brought to Him a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, and He healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. 23And all the multitudes were amazed, and began to say, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.” 25And knowing their thoughts He said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand. 26″And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand? 27″And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. 28″But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29″Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30″He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. 31″Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32″And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come,” (All Scripture quotes are from the NASB).
-Matt. 12:22-32 (NASB)

 

There are a lot of thoughts on this subject, but Scripture, in context, gives us this answer. Look at verse 22. In this verse Jesus heals a man who was blind and could not speak. The Pharisees (the religious leaders of the time) state that Jesus does this by the power of Satan! Jesus responds stating how illogical that is because a kingdom that is divided can’t stand (we could go into politics here, but I won’t).

Now here is something you won’t hear every day. In the context of the passage we are dealing with miracles and who gets credit for them. Blasphemy against the Spirit is crediting the miracles of Jesus to Satan. But why is this case?

Well we can find clues in Jesus’ baptism. At His baptism He was baptized so that he might fulfill all righteousness. At this event the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. Now the priests of the day would anoint with Olive Oil and allow it to be poured on their heads and it would fall to around their feet. This was representative of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; here we have the Holy Spirit actually descending on Jesus. This shows that He is the anointed of God and that His miracles come from the Holy Spirit.  This would have been well-known by these Pharisees before they ever made their statements.

These miracles were done to validate what Jesus was here on earth to do (i.e. die and rise again for our sins). To attribute these miracles to Satan attributes the work of redemption to Satan as well. These Pharisees knew better in their minds and hearts and not only resisted Jesus in themselves but maligned all that He stood for. By doing this they not only resisted Him till death, but tried to lead others to do the same!

So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when an individual, knowing full well what they are doing (i.e. the redemptive work of Christ), resists Him till death while leading others to do the same. They attribute His works to Satan and mar what Christ has done for us.

A true believer would never commit this sin, because they have surrendered their hearts and lives to Christ. So if anyone out there is truly distressed as to whether or not they have committed this sin should not worry about it. This distress is evidence that they have not. Why? Well, the reason is because someone who has committed this sin wouldn’t be distressed at all over their choice. They have hardened their hearts to such a point that it would not bother them in the slightest.

I hope this has helped those who were wondering about this sin, and that it has placed some fears at ease with Christians.

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This is a question that has perplexed people, but has an honest and quick answer to it. So let us examine it some today.

 

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.
-Genesis 1:16-17 (NKJV)

A lot of people assume that Cain and Able were the only two people, besides their parents, in the Bible. This is simply not the case. Adam and Eve had other children. We find that in Genesis 5:1-4.

 

5 This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.
-Genesis 5:1-4 (NKJV)

So, you see Cain had to have married a sister or a niece.  Seeing as how Adam and Eve were around for hundreds of years there were plenty of people to choose from for marriage. They would marry and then their children would marry etc.

At this point many people will bring up inbreeding issues. Most Bible scholars believe that the genetic purity of that time (believing that we are more impure now than we were then) was so much more pure that inbreeding wasn’t a problem. The prohibition on marriages didn’t come around until the book of Leviticus chapter eighteen.

So why is there so much detail about Cain and Abel and not the other descendants? The story of Cain and Abel is not about the children of Adam and Eve, but about the first murder that had ever occurred. Cain was enraged because God accepted Abel’s offering and not his own. Abel gave God the best he had out of a pure heart, but Can gave God what was left over. This was not acceptable to God.

I hope this answers some of your questions, from a Biblical standpoint, and if you need to know more or have other questions please submit them using the link above for submitting questions. Thanks.