Don’t be MEAN!

Don’t be MEAN!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Christians are supposed to kind hearted and tender toward one another. When someone has done wrong to us we are not supposed to repay them in kind. No, we are supposed to be above that kind of behavior. The Apostle Peter in our passage reminds us of how we are to treat one another, not as the world treats people but as God would have you to treat each other. How? Seeking forgiveness when we are wrong and pursuing peace amongst ourselves (believers).

 

(8) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (10) For

“He who would love life

And see good days,

Let him refrain his tongue from evil,

And his lips from speaking deceit.

(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good;

Let him seek peace and pursue it.

(12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

And His ears are open to their prayers;

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
-1 Peter 3:8-12 (NKJV)

 

In verse eight Peter is tying up everything he has said before (see previous) about submitting to authority. He is bringing his thoughts to a close on the subject of submission so he starts by saying ‘finally’ (depending on your translation, some say ‘in conclusion’ or ‘to sum up’).

He is addressing the whole Christian community. He gives them some commands on how they should behave toward one another. He tells them to be of one mind. This does not mean that they will not disagree on certain things that are not central to the Christian faith (i.e. peripheral issues). That will happen, but how should we treat one another? He says to have compassion and love toward one another and be tenderhearted toward each other. Too often when people disagree they tend to be evil toward one another, God tells us to not behave that way and to act the opposite way.

In verse nine Peter continues this sentiment with reminding them that while they are suffering persecution they should not repay evil with evil, but endure it as Christ endured suffering on our behalf. We are told that Christians are called to behave differently than the world behaves. Even in the midst of trials Christians must continue to behave as Jesus did, in love. We know that at the end of this present time that there is inheritance that awaits us in Christ, in heaven.

Verses ten through twelve is actually a quote from Psalm thirty-four. In this quotation there are three specific behaviors we are told to practice. (1) We must keep ourselves from speaking any kind of evil, which includes lying and gossiping. (2) We must run away from practicing and being a part of anything evil. (3) We must be peacemakers, in Christ. This does not mean peace at any cost, we cannot compromise our Christian faith and witness; but it means to keep ourselves from pointless and fruitless actions and activities that will only enrage and inflame passions that need not be stirred.  Also in these verses there are three reasons as to why a believer should keep the previous three commands. (1) The Lord takes a notice of our actions and is pleased when we honor Him. (2) The Lord hears the Christian and is intimately interested in us. (3) The Lord is against those who are wicked and is our protector.  Just remember that the last three things are conditional on the first three things. Keep in mind that chapter two verse twenty says that is not commendable to receive punishment for some evil that we have committed (been a part of), but only if we are punished unjustly. Therefore, the promises of the last three only apply to those who are practicing the first three.

How are you today? Have you repaid someone who has been evil to you, with evil? Have you not been living out of a pure heart and tenderness toward those whom you call brothers and sisters? Then you should repent and attempt to make things right. I know I can hear it now, “But Brother Joe you don’t know what they did to me!” Listen I have been around church people for over twenty five years and have been in the ministry, in some kind of way, for ten years. I know how “Christians” can be. I know the church is the only army that shoots its’ wounded (pardon the old analogy that has been in churches for years).  You know what I also know? That God has called us to act and react better. He has called us to make amends where we can and forgive in our hearts. Won’t you do that today? Won’t you do the three things that Peter says and receive the three blessings that God gives? Remember that bitterness can grow and it will turn into a cancer that will harm your soul! The Choice is yours today. Let God work in you anew.

Christians Say They are Free, but Most Are Not

Christians Say They are Free, but Most Are Not
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

What is true freedom and does someone who calls themselves a Christian achieve this so-called wonderful life? Find out today how Christians should overcome habitual sin. Will you do the hard work, or just remain a Christian in word only?

Charles Spurgeon said, “If God does not save a man by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival; In our churches, there are three kinds of people. There are spectators, anticipators and participators. The spectator is just there to observe; the anticipator is expecting real blessings but not doing anything about it; and the participator is busy singing, praying, ushering, planning and doing the work. The participators are the minority, the sacred few who are doing more than others.” Many times when a message is about breaking free of bad habits people think of someone else that needs that message. Today this message isn’t for anyone else but you. Some people are a slave to work, some people are slave to jealousy, some people are slaves to gossip, and some are slaves to anger, pornography, various drugs, and many other vices that hold us in bondage. So today I want us to take an inventory of the Controlling NEGITIVE HABITS we allow in our lives, that needs to be broken.

Many notable Biblical scholars now agree that Paul traveled in southern Galatia during his first missionary journey during which he visited Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts 13:1-14:28).  It is believed that Paul went through northern Galatia on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22) after passing through southern Galatia.  On his third missionary journey Paul visited the disciples in northern Galatia that had been converted on his second journey (Acts 18:23).  It is noteworthy that in the book of Acts Luke uses the word disciples rather than the word churches in connection with this visit.  The implication is that the Galatian churches were in southern Galatia and that there were only scattered disciples in northern Galatia.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
-Galatians 5:1-2 (KJV)

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
– 2 Peter 2:19 (KJV)

If we are going to overcome habitual sin then we must identify a controlling habit, find out why it is so powerful, and follow the principals of breaking free. There are Three areas that we are going to hit quickly and move along.

 

Identifying a Controlling Habit

A controlling habit is something you find yourself doing even though it is destructive ether physical, mentally, emotionally, relationally or spiritually. Or you consistently do something you wish you wouldn’t do, but you find yourself doing it any way. The apostle Paul fully understood his dilemma even though he had good intentions. He called himself a wretched man. You must understand many good people are bound by bad controlling habits. Denial is not the way to deal with the problem. Be honest, look at your life and like Paul, evaluate the things you find yourself doing that you hate. Realize the importance of the identification process and then submit your own inabilities to make the necessary changes to God. I ask you to take a moment sometime today or tonight and write down the habits in your life that you want to see absolute victory over.

 

Understand Why These Habits are so Controlling

They slowly bind you like a chain around your neck that slowly and painfully chokes the life out of you. Life controlling habits are formed at a pace almost unnoticeable. Usually the person doesn’t even know they have formed a habit in their life. And if someone asks they say, “I can quit at any time. This isn’t a problem.” Yeah, right and I can go to the moon anytime, it isn’t a problem!

Habits are like a cable. Each day we do something in a pattern, we intertwine one thread with another. As the threads are woven together a cable is formed. On any day, the threads we added were too small to be noticed. But, after many threads have been woven together, we find that together they have become an unbreakable cable. This describes a habit, daily practices over time become habits that are unbreakable.

The person who smokes isn’t addicted on the first pack of cigarettes. It takes time after time, smoke after smoke before the body becomes dependent upon nicotine. Habits are formed through willful behavior. The person has given in so many times to this thing that they are now addicted. This is the reason a habits is so powerful, because it begins so subtle.

Habits will break your strength, your will. Once you have allowed a habit to control you the Bible says, “That habit is your master.” That habit breaks you down to the point where you don’t even try to resist because you feel like you can’t break free. Your attitude becomes on of not trying to break free again. A sinful habit will break your will to fight.

Have you ever been to a circus and seen a giant elephant with a small rope around its ankle? Physically speaking, there is no way that small little rope can hold back that giant elephant! Here’s how it works. When trainers begin taming a baby elephant, they place a heavy chain around its ankle and stake the chain into the ground. Day after day, hour after hour, the baby elephant struggles to escape. But his efforts are in vain. He simply cannot break free from the grips of that powerful chain. Eventually he surrenders. He resolves in his mind that there is no possible way he can escape that chain. So he relinquishes forever the struggle to be free. Then when he has given up trying, his masters replace that giant chain with the small little rope. If the elephant ever opened his eyes to the truth, he could break free at any moment. All it would take is one try, but since the elephant doesn’t know that, he doesn’t take a step in the right direction of freedom. And so it happens that ten, twenty, thirty years later, the giant elephant remains held in bondage by something that really has no power to control him, except the power he chooses to give it.

Is this true with you as well? The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 ”It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Some of you are sitting here right now feeling like you don’t even have the will to fight, because the habit has broken your will. Once a habit has broken your will to fight you wallow in hopelessness. At this point the habit itself owns you because you have allowed it to own you. Maybe some of you feel like you have lost the will to fight because your will has been broken. That is the power of a sinful habit.

Why else are habits so powerful, they destroy your life? Sinful controlling habits will destroy you and others along with you. They destroy you in many different ways: Physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally.

 

How to Start Breaking Free

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
-1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)

To break free from the grip of a sinful habit from the least to the greatest, God lets us know that in every situation with every temptation he provides victory.

Steps to Freedom

Admit you have a problem.

Everything starts with confession and accepting the responsibility that you have a problem. They say in the Twelve Steps program, that you cannot win until you know you have a problem.

1Jn.1:9 “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” True healing starts with confession. Many people give in to a state of denial, they never admit they have a problem therefore they never break free. Alcoholics who never admit they are alcoholics won’t find freedom. People filled with anger, gossip, or any other sinful habit who won’t admit they have a problem won’t get freedom. The first step is recognizing you are bound and you have a problem.

Depend on God’s Power

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all thing through Christ which strengths me.” When it comes to being set free from habits that bind, Jesus can do more in a moment than doctors can do in a lifetime. God must become your primary source of strength. Start your day off with God, and He will help you through the day to overcome and show you a way out. The more you allow God to be part of your life the more you will see Him working in you. You have to stop trying to do this by yourself. In James 4:7 God didn’t say do the best you can, “but draw near to me.”

 

Sinful Habits Must be Replaced with New ones

God told Moses that before the Israelites settled in the promise land, they should drive out the wicked inhabitants and destroy their idols. In Colossians 3 Paul encourages us to live as Christians in the same way: throwing away our old way of living and moving ahead into our new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. We can destroy the wickedness in our life, or we can settle down and wallow in it. To have new life we must drive out the sinful thoughts and practices that are in our lives in order to replace them with good and Godly thoughts. The battle is either won in the mind or lost in the mind.

Remember you can’t do it alone. In the Garden of Eden God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Nor is it good for you when you are struggling with something, not matter what that may be. You need to find an accountability partner; someone who will ask you the tough questions to keep you accountable to God and yourself; to that end in James 5:16 we are told to confess our sins to one another for the sake of healing.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Victory very often doesn’t come all-of-a-sudden but through hard work while trusting Christ to work in you. We are co-laborers with Christ. In Matthew 6:11 it says to give us this day our daily bread. Take it one day at a time.

How about you? Want freedom, then today can be your day to head in that direction. The choice is yours.

A Bunch of Christians Have Spiritual Cancer

A Bunch of Christians Have Spiritual Cancer
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

“Do not keep company with those who have not faith: for what is there in common between righteousness and evil, or between light and dark?  (15)  And what agreement is there between Christ and the Evil One? or what part has one who has faith with one who has not?  (16)  And what agreement has the house of God with images? for we are a house of the living God; even as God has said, I will be living among them, and walking with them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.  (17)  For which cause, Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and let no unclean thing come near you; and I will take you for myself,”

– 2Co 6:14-17 (BBE)

                There is a cancer in our churches today. It is called Syncretism. Syncretism, in the Christian sense, is when an individual or groups of individuals try to take Christian Theology, behavior, and thinking and mix it with the World’s ways (secular ways). The problem with doing this is if we compromise on what God has told us then we no longer are living in God’s perfect will and thus are no longer subject to His blessings and power in our lives.

So what do you do with a “Christian Culture” that is looking more and more like the world? If you are not a Christian, you dismiss Christianity as hypocrisy and “do your own thing.” If you are a Christian then your walk with Christ becomes weak and you keep compromising until one day there is no difference between you and the average person stuck in sin. Why you may ask? Because you are both now in bondage to sin! How can you proclaim freedom from sin, when you are in bondage to it! You can’t! You have effectively turned your life into nothing!

To illustrate what I am talking about, there is a band named Since October. They proclaimed God’s music lyrically. Let’s look at some of the lyrics from 2006 from a song titled “Live to Die”.

I would sacrifice all my dreams and my loves
for eternal life
God I swear that’s enough
i live to
i live to die

i know that’s all i need
remember that you promised me
as the story reads
when perfect sorrow bleeds
and pours all over me
so much that i can’t see

Now let’s look at a song from 2010 after they had “made it big” titled “The Way You Move”

 

You walk in the room
Every eye on you
It’s and attraction for every view
For every step you prove
I watch the victims rise up just to fall for you

I’m so caught up in the wayyy you move

I know that I’ve already been here before
And I know that I promised my self no more
But there something about you girl
Something about
The way you move making me want to belive.
Maybe you maybe me we can try it and see
You got me thinking that your everything prefect for me
Cause there something about you girl
Something about the way you move
That’s making me want to believe
Just something about the way you move

Cuoristy has got the best of me
I can’t ignore that you and your mystry
It’s all or nothing now are you my destany
I preyed forever that’s the only possibility

I’m so caught up in the way you move

I know that I’ve already been here before
And I know that I promised my self no more
But there something about you girl
Something about
The way you move making me want to belive.
Maybe you maybe me we can try it and see
You got me thinking that your everything prefect for me
Cause there something about you girl
Something about the way you move
That’s making me want to believe
Just something about the way you move

There something about you

I I will always remember the day
That you came a moving my way
And every piece of me want to run away
But your worth the chance to take
A prefect love that I know can’t be wrong
A prefect love is why I sing this song
Together you and me will always beat the odds
Come with meeeeee

( soft voice )
I know that I’ve already been here before

I know that I’ve already been here before
And I know that I promised my self no more
But there something about you girl
Something about
The way you move making me want to belive.
Maybe you maybe me we can try it and see
You got me thinking that your everything prefect for me
Cause there something about you girl
Something about the way you move
That’s making me want to believe
Just something about the way you move

Now you tell me? How is that last song any different then what the rest of the world is offering? It isn’t and this is indicative of how the church is operating today! This is only an example I am not singling out any group or anything else. I will tell right now of a new band that just signed a contract with a Christian label, and to celebrate one of their members decided to “spend the night with his girlfriend.” Wow! That is all I can say.

How about you today? Are you compromising your walk in any way? If so, REPENT and pray for others. If not then get on your hands and knees and ask God to bring repentance on us all, the entire “Christian Community.”

Christians Just Don’t Belong in This World!

Christians Just Don’t Belong in This World!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Christians, with all of their faults, just don’t belong here! Why? Find out today!

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
-1 Peter 2:11-12

 

Peter in verse eleven tells us that, depending on your translation, we are sojourner or aliens in a foreign land, after we have become Christians. As aliens in any land we have limited rights because this is not our home; no, our home is with God in the kingdom of God, in heaven. Peter gives us this to frame our minds for what he is about to say. You see he is about to address something that is very important; something Christians need to keep in mind, which is still important today.

Peter tells them to abstain from the lusts of the flesh. He has reminded us that we don’t belong here and as such we should not revel in debaucheries like those who belong in this world, but need to remember how we are to behave as those belonging to another kingdom. Why? Because these things go against an individual’s soul that has been regenerated (created anew) by the Holy Spirit. Now in our current culture when we talk about the lusts of the flesh we equate that with sex. But this is not the case. There are others lusts, like the lust for power, the lust for money etc. Peter is reminding us to not get caught up in the things of this world, as they are temporary. We must remember that while the body isn’t evil, it is a battle ground for satanic and self-centered lust. We are always being influenced by something, either influenced by Scripture or by the World. We have to decide which we will be influenced. How? By every choice we make. As Christians Peter warns us that we must not yield to these lusts, because doing  so will not feed our spiritual natures but the carnal parts of our beings.

In verse twelve Peter talks about how we behave amongst the Gentiles. Is he talking about the Gentile Christians? No. He uses this word to mean those that are without God. Notice he says that those in the world will speak evil of you. Not if, but when. You see the kingdom principles are pretty much the opposite of the world’s principles. We see this in our world today, and this was especially true in the first century, where Christians were belittled and killed due to their stances. They refused to bow to idols; refused to bow to Caesar (Caesar worship was common amongst the people. They had to bow to Caesar and declare Caesar as Lord.), and were called cannibals because of the Communion terminology that Jesus laid down for all Christians. If we are to be Christians then we need to remember that this is no longer our world, we are just passing through.

Now Peter also says that by Christians good works the unbelievers may glorify God. If we don’t compromise our faith then the way we live will be a great witness to the unbelievers. How can one proclaim Jesus but not even live the way He wants you to live? Unfortunately today too many Christians have compromised their beliefs. Christianity is not just an intellectual exercise but a way of life.

So, with these two verses Peter sets up what our mindset should be I our daily living. We must always keep in mind that this world is temporary and we are just passing through it on our way to heaven. Our job is to take as many people as will go with us on our way. The way we do that is by living our faith out in front of others. We should ask ourselves with every action/thought, “Does this have any eternal value?”

If you are a Christian what do your actions say about you? Are they honoring to Christ? Or will people look at you and say, “You act LIKE I DO! Why would I want to add more drama to my life?” Unfortunately a lot of Christian’s attitudes and the way they live are less than honoring to Christ. Folks if this is you, you need to repent! What will you do today? The Choice is yours.

Is the Church Really Necessary?

Is the Church Really Necessary?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Not only is this a good question, but one that at this juncture must be asked! The church (universally speaking) has a ton of faults and failures. We must ask, is the church what God really wants? You may say the church has a lot of excesses. I will concede that point (see previous articles which talk about some of the problems with the church)! That being said, is it really necessary to God’s plans? Find out in today’s article.

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion

A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

“The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling

And a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:4–10 (NKJV)

 

 

This section of scripture is all about being a living building. The mindset of the Jew was on the temple where they would worship God, but God was done with temple in Jerusalem. God was and is building something new. He is building a people who will be the temple. Not only are we (individually) His temple, but the group of people (the Church) is the place of His dwelling. The place where is presence and glory dwells. No longer is it in buildings built by men, but men have become the place where His glory will now dwell.

In verse four it states that Jesus, the chief cornerstone, has been rejected by man. Indeed He was rejected by man, primarily the Jews at this time and subsequently by many today.  The Jews continued to reject Jesus and hardened their hearts toward God. The continued rejection of Jesus today causes spiritual blindness amongst those that are rejecting Him. The rejection today is not just among Jews, but among many people from many nationalities.

Peter then makes the contrast between those that have rejected Jesus and the people he is writing. He is writing to Christians and states that they have not rejected Christ and therefore their hearts are open to God and are a part of the Spiritual temple that is being built.

Now in verse five Peter talks about this spiritual house that is being built.  He is talking about the Church. The Bible uses many metaphors to describe the church. Among them are a body, a family, and a city. Continuing his metaphor of a temple, Peter relates the church to each of us by saying that we are a holy priesthood, solely dedicated to God.  The job of a priest is to stand between God and needy individuals. This is what a priesthood was designed by God to do in the Old Testament. While it is true that we have no need for someone to go to God for us, this metaphor was not used for this meaning. This metaphor means that Christians are supposed to stand between God and the unsaved in the world and bring them to God. That is the intent of the metaphor as it is used in this passage.

Now in verse six there is a quote from Isaiah chapter twenty-eight verse sixteen. Notice that Jesus is called a cornerstone. Without going into too much detail, a cornerstone is the primary stone of a building. This stone must be laid as perfect as possible so that as things are built on top of it the building stays sturdy and does not collapse. Jesus is our perfect and Holy Cornerstone. This verse also says that the individual who believes in Christ will not be put to shame. Notice that this is an open invitation to everyone, not to the Jews only but to everyone.

In verses seven and eight it says that to the Christians (those that have accepted Him) He is precious to them, but to the ones who rejected Him he has become a stumbling block to their faith. This was undoubtedly a reference to the Jews of Peter’s day because of what they had done to Jesus. To come to Christ they had to admit that their action is what lead to His crucifixion and because of that many continued to reject Him. At the end of verse eight Peter writes that they, the Jews, were disobedient to the Word, but they were also appointed to the word. What does this mean? It means that the Jews were given the promise of the Messiah (Christ) and were to be the ones that He was coming to bless, but having the Holy Word (Old Testament Scriptures) they still rejected Him! How ironic that the ones that were the keepers of the Word of God, would end up rejecting Him!

With verses nine and ten Peter ties his thoughts together. In verse nine, Peter is moving on from those that rejected Christ and he does this with one phrase, “but you.” He says that Christians are chosen people. They are called to do ministry and are called to be the informers of God’s Word and proclaim the good news of Christ.  In verse ten we find that Christians were not always God’s people, but they are now His people through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken many people from all nations who had no affiliation with each other and builds a spiritual church on the earth to proclaim who He is and what He has done for the world. These people will be His witnesses throughout the world. It is because of this marvelous transcendent organization that people will be brought to salvation and cleansing so that they can be put right with a Holy God.

So in this text we have seen that the church is not only necessary but the primary way in which God has decided that the world should come to know about His marvelous plan, even with all if its’ faults and failures. So the question is what are you doing right now in your church? Are you one who is causing some of these failures? Or are you one who is going to co-labor with Christ to try to spread the good news of what God has done for us? The choice is yours.

Church, One of the Most Prejudice Places Ever!

Church, One of the Most Prejudice Places Ever!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

There are a lot of churches out there that are doing God’s work and not playing games. That being said, there are even more who destroy people and run them out of the church!

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
-Matthew 9:10–13 (NKJV)

15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31–32 (NKJV)

 

I have received a comment that I tend to write too harshly. Why? Because the truth needs to be heard! People need to understand that as Christians we have problems and we must address our problems in our own lives and personalities if we want to see the church (by church I mean no specific church) advance instead of flounder, like it has been doing for years, we need to get right with God! Now that I have said that, let us move on.

What did Jesus intend for Christians to do and churches to be? To be a place for the broken hearted to be healed (seen in our first scripture)! Unfortunately too many churches shoot their own! This is a sad state of affairs! So what has church become? The Pharisees! The church has become a place of Pharisees saying, “How dare you hang out with that sinner!” This is a shameful practice folks and needs to be changed! Remember Jesus desires mercy and not sacrifice, desires righteousness not self-righteousness, he desires sinners to repentance! Including the sinners that are already in the church! Who are they? Christians! We need to have more mercy, respect, and love for each other than what we have! No, too many Christians are full of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and gossip! It has been said that the church is the only hospital in the world that shoots its own wounded! How despicable!

The people who do these things often hide behind Paul’s words on dealing with those who are in sin in the church, and they need to deal with it! But they forget what their attitudes and motives need to be! They forget what Paul said in First Timothy! He says that Christ came to save sinners, of which he is the chief of all of them! If Christians would stop gossiping and beating each other up and realize what they truly were, sinners. Perhaps they would show mercy and grace, instead of hatred and bitterness toward those that need mercy and grace. If our pastors (me included) would remember this, then perhaps our churches would be packed to over flowing! Do you know what these kinds of people often say? They say, “I am here to please God and not man.” But they are doing neither when they don’t remember restoration and mercy in their rebuking and correction! No these people tend to make churches that are social clubs, full of self-righteous people who must not who any descent; because if they do, they are kicked to the curb! God forbid this in our lives!

So what should a Christian/Church do when they find themselves going down this path? Well that brings us to our third and final scripture. We need to put away all that bitterness, anger, gossip, slander, politics, manipulation etc. and be kind hearted toward one another, showing each other grace and mercy! We need to be honest with ourselves and ask God to show us where these things exist in our lives and attitudes!

How about you today? Will you be brave enough to ask God to show you where these things exist in your life and attitudes? Or will you go on being who you are and continuing to allow the churches in America to flounder because of their own selfishness, self-righteousness, and pride? You may be asking, “How am I doing that?” What are you doing in prayer about it? Are you letting those around you do it, and not stopping them? If so, then you are contributing to it! Will you turn around and ask God to show you so that you can confess it to Him and stop doing it in your life? The Choice is yours!

Too many Christians are Too Busy Being Judgmental

Too many Christians are Too Busy Being Judgmental
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Here we are looking at Paul at the end of his life. He is coming to the end of his race of faith. Unfortunately not many Christians can say what Paul said, at least not with a clear conscience. No they are side-tracked and being judgmental toward each other.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6–8 (NKJV)

 

In verse six Paul says he is being poured out as a drink offering (He also makes reference to this in Philippians 2:17). Now to the Jewish mind this would have seemed a normal part of the offertory system, before Christ. A drink offering was often found to be done with the offerings of meat (Numbers 15:5). A drink offering was to be done in the “holy place” (Numbers 28:7). So what is Paul trying to tell us here? Well I tend to depart from most of the commentators here. The drink offering was considered to be a lesser offering in the minds of the Jews. The greater offering was the meat or grain offerings. So why was Paul calling himself a drink offering? He is trying to say that Jesus is the major offering for us and the church and he is telling us that he is being poured out as an offering for the people and the church as well, but he is a lesser offering! He is telling us that his sacrifice is nowhere near as important as Christ’s.

Now in verse seven Paul says some things that I don’t think there are many Christians today who can say what he says. He says that he has fought the good fight; he has finished the race, all the while keeping the faith. Most Christians today are too busy fighting the good fight amongst themselves! They take sides in all matter of things that have no eternal value! They want to divide the churches and continue the lifelong battles between denominations.

Too many Christians today continue to look at the temporal and not the spiritual. If they would just realize that God loves them and continue to look to God, He will take care of temporal (food, money, clothing, shelter)! These same Christians who are so concerned about the temporal things in life are the same ones (to borrow a song lyric) who pick and choose who should come! How ridiculous it is for Christians to fight amongst themselves and shun the hurting! When Christians get their eyes off of things that have eternal value (i.e. helping the broken hearted) they end up hurting people and themselves. They end up playing too much politics and not spending enough time bandaging the hurting, spiritually speaking.

Now look at verse eight. Verse eight talks about his reward in heaven being a crown of righteousness. This crown will be bestowed on him when he gets to heaven. You know what, when many of these carnal Christians, who are wrapped in self-righteousness, when the get to heaven what will they hear God say to them? Well, the Bible talks about those that will make it in as by fire; by the skin of their teeth. You know what they may hear? “Well, you made it.” Not, “well done my good and faithful servant,” that is for sure!

So the question I have for you today, can you say like Paul that you are running the race? That you aren’t sidetracked in temporary matters? That you aren’t looking around at man and the splinter in their eyes, and not the 2×4 in your own? Choice is yours! Will you repent? Or just keep on pretending everything is alright and God is blessing your messes?

Which Side Are You on?

Which Side Are You on?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

There is a problem in Christendom! Christians/Churches are (generally speaking) split right down the middle of emotionalism and intellectualism. What do I mean by this? Some are interested in what they can learn, others are interested in what they can feel, but both are just going through the motions.

 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
-2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
– John 4:24 (NKJV)

In our first scripture we are told to be diligent in the study of God’s Word. Yes we should! We definitely need to study God’s Word and apply it! I am not saying we shouldn’t. I am saying that there are entire churches so devoted to Bible Study that is all most of them will do; they won’t witness, they won’t minister, they won’t show up for anything at the church except for Bible study.

When music is being played in service you have to ask them to stand. They won’t worship God through music. They constantly use the excuse that the Bible is our authority, SOLO SCRIPTURA is their mantra (Solo Scriptura basically means that the authority of the Bible trumps all other authority)! They are right about the Bible and its authority, but they neglect the other parts of Christianity. They have become similar to the Pharisees! They study the Word so diligently but neglect Justice and Love. As Christ said to the Pharisees, I say to them, “You should do one and not neglect the other.”

What these people need is a little dose of the Holy Ghost (to borrow a cliché). They need to remember what it was like to have a passion for the indwelling presence of God in their lives! They need to let go and let God (to borrow yet another church cliché)! They need to be brought to their knees under the presence of God that makes them remember that God is powerful, loving, and personal. These people talk a talk about a personal God and remember fondly the presence of God from years gone by, but they need a fresh anointing (anointing, meaning the power and presence of God, it is a churchy word)! They need a fresh touch from God.

Now let us turn our attention to the churches that are all about feeling. These churches are exciting! There is a lot of feeling and passion in them. These people love Jesus and they are going to whoop and holler and let you know it! Their favorite verse tends to be our second verse. They say they are going to worship Him in SPIRIT! Yet they forget about the second part, TRUTH. One of the major problems with these churches is that they don’t want to hear about the history of the church, how we got the Bible, how theology is formed or any other thing. All they want to know is how God is going to bless THEM. These Christians also won’t show up for anything other than what they are going to feel. They aren’t against Bible study so much as they are really into experiencing God.

These people’s Christianity is often marked by drama and, to a lesser degree, selfishness. What these Christians need is more Bible and less emotions, less about them and more about Jesus! They need to learn what scripture tells them to do. They need to be about the Lord’s ministry and helping others.

So what is the result that both of these groups have in common? They both are weak on witnessing! They both believe they are doing things God’s way. The problem is that they are, for the most part, ineffective! You can tell by how many of these Christians/Churches are committed to telling other people about the good news of Jesus Christ! If Jesus is soooo good, why aren’t they sharing Him with others? The whooping and hollering crowd will point to their numbers, but those aren’t new Christians they are people from other churches. A lot of the time this crowd is just stealing sheep (another cliché, I know). The other crowd will point to their intellect and point to how many people they have taught, but how many are new converts (This is generally speaking, not every church ignores witnessing)?

Our God is a God of balance. Both of these types of Christians/Churches need to meet in the middle. We need both to truly serve God.  We need to remember the following passage of scripture. Some churches are so descent and in order, they order God out of the service and others are so wild, God wouldn’t join in anyway (yet another churchy cliché, I am on a role today)!

(26) How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (27) If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.( 28) But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. (29) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. (30) But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. (31) For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (32) And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. (33) For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
-1 Corinthians 14:26–33 (NKJV)

How about you today? Are you on one extreme or the other? Are you just going through the motions of either group, not being effective in your witness? Maybe you need to make it a matter of prayer. Maybe God wants you to be stable and well balanced. What do you think? I think this is one of those times when you need to sit down and do a true inventory of your spiritual life and make the changes that need to be made. The Choice is yours.

Watch Out! You Could Fall!

Watch Out! You Could Fall!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

The thing that is interesting to note is that most people today don’t believe in a devil. They see him as some kind of scape goat for man’s evil and cruelty. Today we will be looking at this, and more.

 

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

-1 Peter 5:8–11 (NKJV)

The thing that is interesting to note is that most people today don’t believe in a devil. They see him as some kind of scape goat for man’s evil and cruelty. You know what, they are right to an extent. We have definitely done this, so that someone else will receive the blame. The thing is that there truly is an evil and malevolent force out there called the devil that we must be on the lookout for.

In verse eight we are told to be sober, which simply means to be on the alert. Why? Because we are told that the devil is out there seeking whom he can devour. This is interesting imagery. What does this mean? Well the book of James tells us that man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own evil desires. But who puts those desires in your path? You see our enemy, the devil, will arrange things to subtly and gradually tempt you to do wrong. For example, dissension in a church doesn’t happen overnight or all at once, it is something that takes time. A temptation here and a temptation there can turn your life into one big mess if you fall for it. You job is to not fall for it. Your job is to rest in God and be on your guard so you don’t miss the subtle temptations that will inevitably come your way.

Verses nine through eleven says to resist our adversary to be steadfast in your faith knowing that these things are happening to everyone; that you are being tempted just like everyone else and persecution is happening as a result of the adversaries meddling. We can trust in a good God and powerful God who will walk you through the problems and mistakes that you and others have made. The sufferings you go through because of no fault of your own or the ones you go through because of some fault that is yours. Your job is to resist him and submit to God, resting in His good grace.

So how do you do this? Be alert, look for situations that just don’t seem right. Test what you see from others by the Word of God. Let His Word illuminate your paths. But you can’t do that if you don’t know God‘s Word. So are you going to fall for the tricks of the devil? Because if you do, you are the one who makes the choice, you are the one who will end up paying the price. Remember it is not his fault that you fall for his junk. You are the one who will ultimately make the decision. What will you do today? May I ask you to do something for me? Please question all of your decisions today and don’t make any knee jerk reactions. Let the Word of God illuminate your decisions today. Pray that God will show you what you should and shouldn’t do today.

Tip Your Hat Toward God?

Tip Your Hat Toward God?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

As I sat and pondered (no this isn’t going to be an Edgar Allen Poe poem! lol) about Christianity and my own spiritual walk with God, I came to a realization. “Christians” today tend to kind of tip their hats toward God. Let us explore this thought in today’s article.

 

and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
 -Matthew 18:3 (NKJV)

and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
 -Ephesians 4:23 (NKJV)

 

Today People tend to add church onto their lives. They want to do all that they used to do and then just tack Jesus onto the side. They lull themselves into a false sense of security. They have an emotional experience, but never get beyond that. They want to simply live their lives and have their consciences salved over and bandaged.

In our first verse it says that we must become as children in order to enter into the kingdom. This verse does not just speak about conversion but speaks about the way we look at our morality. The way we look at Christianity. Christianity should not be something that is tacked onto our lives, but it should change our lives, it should make us completely different than who we used to be, to become something new. By that I don’t mean that you aren’t you anymore, I mean you are becoming someone different, you see the world differently.

Now this brings us to our next verse which commands us to be renewed in our minds. How does one accomplish this task? Well, the answer is simple but hard to practice. Are you ready? Take what you find in God’s Word, the Bible’s principles, and put them into practice! Novel, new concept… I know (gee that one will sell books right? See yesterday’s article to understand this joke)! Here is the rub. If you aren’t reading the Bible, digging out the principles, and maybe attending some kind of Bible Study (either in person or online) then you aren’t really renewing your mind. Renewing the mind, which means pulling the truths out and practicing them, is invaluable to us; it helps to deconstruct our old ways of doing things, which are of dead works and selfishness and allows us to, at the same time, establish the Bible’s ways of doing things! Does this mean you will wear a suit and tie everywhere? No. Does this mean you will stand on a street corner yelling, “Turn or burn!?” NO (I hope not as that is more ineffective than it is effective)! It simply means that you will not set out to intentionally lie to someone, hurt them, or anything else. You won’t go out of your way to make them absolutely miserable, just because you can. Remember it is about our heart, out of which flows our conduct. Do you want to know what is in a person’s heart? Then look at the way in which they speak to people, treat people, and act. Only then will you know who a person is and what they are about.

You know there is an old saying that floats around in preaching circles, albeit somewhat of a cliché. If you want to know what a man is like, talk to their wives. Don’t look at their accomplishments or their stature in power and money. Talk to their wife; get to know what she has to say about the man, or vice versa for you ladies out there. Is this a 100% true way of learning things? Of Course not, but it tends to be a good place to start.

So what should you do? Let me ask you some questions. Do you have a time that you set aside on a daily basis for just you and God? Do you even try to put into practice what you find in the Bible? Or are you just another pew warmer trying to get some salve for your conscience so you can feel better about yourself. The choice is yours! What are going to do? Turn completely around and give your heart back to God and allow Him to change you through His Word, knowing that as you come you can trust Him as a child does to do what He said He would do? Or will you just sit in the muck and mire like some kind of pig and enjoy the crud of life.