The Unexpected

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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.

Entertain Me!

Entertain ME!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Yesterday’s article was about where evil comes from. In that article we discovered that evil is simply rebellion against God and his authority. Today we are looking at brokenness before a loving God.

    (16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;

          You do not delight in burnt offering.

    (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

          A broken and a contrite heart—

          These, O God, You will not despise.

-Psalm 51:16–17 (NKJV)

Ravi Zacharias says that Christianity today is becoming too commercialized. I would like to suggest that it is not becoming commercialized, it is commercialized. If you want to sell a book these days all you have to do is put on it “10 steps to ___” or some similar title. Now the problem with commercialization is that we forget the basic tenants of Christianity. Let me submit to you that most “Christians” wouldn’t last a month in a country that kills you for being a Christian.

No, Christians in other countries aren’t concerned about the building, the music, and the looks of the pastor.  No they want something genuine, they want true Christianity. Not a flash in the pan Christianity which fizzles out after a short period of time. Do you know what these Christians want? They want the freedom to worship without worrying if they will die when they gather. They want to draw close to God. They want nothing more than a personal Relationship with Jesus.

You know before the 1980s Christians, for the most part, knew what it was like to be broken before God. This produced a genuine walk and satisfaction with their lives. How do we regain this? Let us find out today in this scripture.

In verses sixteen and Seventeen David was not trying to abolish the sacrificial system. You see the sacrificial system, at the time, were the center of Israel’s spiritual life and were very important to them. No, the nature and heart of his sins was deeper than any action he could do to accomplish the work of God in his life.  Unfortunately, Christians today are so consumed about works and what they can do to make themselves feel better and see progress in their lives they have forgotten that it is all about grace and all about recognizing YOU can do nothing. No my friends the latest Christian book/gimmick won’t change your life! Only coming to God and saying, “God I am not broken enough, BREAK ME! Make me who you want me to be, and forgive my sin so that my life can change.” Until Christians really start to realize this again they will not see the change they desire.

So how does this relate to the commercialization of Christianity? If Christians would simply just want God and not some formula of faith, then the result would be a less corrupt Christianity. People wouldn’t be seeking power and control of others. They wouldn’t be concerned about building the mega-church or the summer programs of the church. No, they would be concerned about how they could get to church in worship, seeking God, and experiencing His presence.

I know that this topic could go on longer and deeper. The goal here is to get you to think and pray about brokenness. So what do you do? First let me ask you a question. When was the last time you went to church and EXPERIENCED God? Has it been that long? Well my friends, then perhaps you need to repent of buying into the commercialization of Christianity. Buying into the “entertain me” mentality and return, as David did, to the crying out of God in our lives with brokenness that is way down deep in you. Only then will you get the relationship you desire from a loving God.

Why is There Evil?

Why is There Evil?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This is an interesting topic that comes up time and again, so let us ponder it today. Evil is something that most people haven’t really defined. Oh we will say something is evil and have an example of evil, but to truly define it? No we really don’t try to define evil in the general sense, much less the Biblical sense.

After consulting a few Biblical Dictionaries (Naves, NBD, Harper’s etc.) I would like to put forth a simple and succinct definition, which is as follows.

Evil is simply rebellion against God and His authority.

You see the Hebrew word that we get evil from has a root meaning of “to spoil.” Which means that evil is something good that has spoiled. The Bible speaks of two kinds of evil, moral and natural. The one precedes the other. Moral evil first came into being when Adam entered into the world and sinned, so because of sin entering into the world the whole of creation is now marred by sin. 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 on our topic.

Without Adam breaking the moral law we would never know evil and have no concept of it whatsoever. Now it is all around us and we are even born into sin. This is known as original sin, we carry sin in us because of our ancestors’ actions so long ago. The question then becomes, “What is a Christian supposed to do about evil? What is our response?”

Well first we find that the Bible addresses evil a great deal. The Bible says to not do anything that would cause another person to stumble. It says to not repay good with evil, not to repay evil with evil, and says to stay away from evil. This is a tall order! But indeed how do we do this? The answer is simple, LOVE. LOVE! Yes LOVE. It sounds so simple, but often times it is so hard to accomplish. Do You know what the dirty little secret is? IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DO!

I know, I made another inflammatory statement! But follow me here. It is impossible for anyone to truly love someone because they are sinful. This makes for an interesting circle of events doesn’t it? You can’t stop evil without love and you can’t love because of evil! So what do you do? Nothing! God has already done it for you! Yes He has! How?

You see there are three different words we translate into love in the English language. (1) The first is eros. This is a fleshly sensual kind of love. I love you because of how you make me feel. Enough said on this one… (2) The second is Philos. This is a kind of brotherly love. One that says I love you because you love me. (3) The third, and highest, is AGAPE. This kind of love is unconditional. I love you regardless of what you say, do, or think of me. I love you period. Many a paper/book has been written about love, but I think we now understand the basics, so let us move forward.

God says He loves AGAPE. As roman 5:8 tells us, while we were still far from Him, He loved us enough to put a stop to the cycle of evil (rebellion) in our lives. He came down and took your punishment on the cross, a punishment that you and I dissevered, in order to stop the cycle of evil for all time. He then rose on the third day to show us that there is hope and only by surrendering our lives to Christ and trusting Him for our salvation can we truly be made right with God.

Only because of what God did can evil be broken. So only by coming to Him can we stop the cycle of evil in our lives. The question is why do you still dole out evil to others in your life? You say to me, “I Don’t!” Really? You truly have not done this since you came to Christ? I think you better ask God to show you an instance in which you have doled out evil, and trust me He will. You want to stop evil in the world, first stop it in your actions. Then one by one, Christian by Christian, not only will our churches start to fill up again we will see the world improve as well. Until you start asking God to help you stop the evil in your life and start drawing near to Him, then you won’t see the results of evil diminish in your life. The choice is yours. Will you truly draw near to God on a daily basis or will you just go on doing your own thing?

Did Jesus Descend into Hell?

Did Jesus Descend into Hell?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This question came in via e-mail and is a very common and appropriate question to ask.

This is a question that has haunted theologians throughout New Testament History. I have heard many people teach/preach on this subject (based on 1 Peter 3:19). Some see it as allegorical, others literal, and still others a combination of the two. So I will attempt to answer this question from a comprehensive stand point looking at the Jewish concept of Hades.

The Jewish mindset

I had a Professor once explain it the following way, which is one of the oldest explanations. This is also the way the M.R. DeHaan (a prominent theologian) has explained it in his book “Studies on Revelation” One thing to remember is that the early Christians were all Jews and their mindset was used when writing and speaking of Hades. You see what the KJV translates as hell in 1 Peter 3:19 is Hades, Which to the Jew was the place of abode for the dead. In this place there is Paradise and the placed of the damned (what we refer to as Hell).

Paradise and Hell
Paradise and Hell occupy, for lack of better accuracy in wording, a side of Hades. Paradise would be on one side and Hell on the other side (See the parable of Lazarus and the rich man).

Paradise only existed during the time before Christ. Here you will find where all the Old Testament Saints are kept. Jesus (Ephesians 4:8) leads them to heaven after his crucifixion.

Now when we look at Hell (the other side of Hades) the folks that are in the “holding chamber” (what we refer to as hell) are still waiting for the Great White Throne of Judgment, where once they are judged will be cast into the lake of fire where they will burn for all eternity. This is known as the “final Hell” or “second death”

The “final Hell” (second death as the Bible refers to it) will be the resting place of the damned for all eternity. We don’t know when it was created, only that it was created.

Conclusion

So where did Jesus go during those three days? He descended into Hades, specifically into Paradise. He said to the thief that he would be in paradise on that day of death on the cross (Luke 23:43). Then Jesus leads all that were in paradise to heaven (Ephesians 4:7-10).

 

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

You Might Look Good, But You May Be Fake!

You Might Look Good, But You May Be Fake!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Are you cursed! Maybe you are, maybe you look like a Christian but Jesus has nothing to do with you. Too many Christians are nothing but a bunch of fakes.

18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”

21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
-Matthew 21:18-22

Our society is all about being a fake. We have makeup, plastic surgery, liposuction, and all the things, that if you have enough money, you can look awesome! However, it is all an act of fakery. Our Churches are just as plastic, filled with fake Christians. So why are we looking at the cure of the fig tree? Let’s find out.

In verses eighteen and nineteen we find that Jesus had a need, he was hungry. We find the same problem in our churches today. People come into our churches and are spiritually hungry, but when they try to take a bite as to what that Church is offering they find nothing there! I am not talking about the Gospel message here; we tend to be good at that message. What I am talking about is substance beyond the message, people who profess loving behavior but fall short. Many churches when you walk through the door don’t even greet you! How sad is that! That is usually just the tip of the iceberg. In a church like that it is usually eaten up with gossip, misplaced anger, and religiosity where the leadership picks there favorites and no one else is allowed in, or if they are it is so they can get something out of them and then when the individual has nothing left, toss them aside. So what happens to these people that aren’t the “right” kind of people? Usually they never darken the door of a church again! You think God is happy with this behavior? NO!

So what is Jesus’ response? Eventually He curses that ministry/church. Does that mean that the doors shut? Not necessarily. A lot of churches go on life support and become great social clubs, and if Jesus were to walk in the front doors? Nothing, these people would toss Him out too.

Now in verse twenty, the disciples see the tree (which was probably the next morning) and it was withered! Amazing! This happens to a lot of people’s churches and personal spirituality. They start out looking like they are going to bear fruit and then they don’t and end up withering away. The question is what do you do about it? Do you let it happen? Or do you get on your knees and ask God for change in your life and your churches?

Look at verses twenty-one and twenty-two, they show that faith can do a lot of things. If YOU (yes you reading this article) get down on your knees and pray, then you can have your church and your spirituality restored, but this takes true faith through humility before God, confessing that you have messed up your life. Will you pray to God to restore you? Or will you just wither away spiritually? Maybe you are in one of these country club churches, will you pray for a true heart of restoration, or will you just let it happen all around you, until one day you aren’t welcome anymore because you hold up the cross of Christ unwaveringly? The choice is yours today, what will you chose?

You Sure are a Hypocrite!

You Sure are a Hypocrite!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Today we are talking about those that say they are Christian, and may even hope to be one, but are not. Are you one of these? Read this article and find out!

 

 (8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
-1 John 1:8–10 (KJV)

 

Verse eight talks about making sin personal. You have sinned, you are not alright. All of humanity is born into sinfulness. I love these people in Christendom today who say that they don’t sin. This is not the case. We all sin every day and in many ways. But what is sin? Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfection. “Wait a minute,” some of you are saying, “you mean God wants perfection?” That is right! God’s standard is perfection and we can’t meet that standard. That is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

We need to start a relationship with Jesus by asking Him to come into our lives. But is this the end? No! This should be the beginning of a great life in Christ, but like everything in this world it isn’t going to be any easy life, but a rewarding one nonetheless. The problem with Christianity today is easy believism (not an official word, I know). You see we have made Christianity so palatable to people we have skipped over the whole part where a person is supposed to count the cost in their lives for following Christ! Too many times we tell people to come to the altar and pray to receive Christ and all will be sunshine and lollipops, but you know what? This isn’t the case! A lot of the time life gets worse (usually in the short-run) before it starts to get better. You know what? Christianity is supposed to be about a deep change brought on by the Holy Spirit and continued throughout our actions. Our actions should be an outpouring of the inward change that happens by the Holy Spirit. Let me just say that if you think you are a Christian and there has been no change in your life, then you aren’t one. You have been deceived by someone, or possibly self-deception.

Verse nine says that if we confess our sins God will forgive us! But Joe you just said you don’t believe in prayer as a way to salvation. No, you missed the point. I said that in the churches today we don’t talk enough about truly surrendering all of our life to Christ and His teaching and just teach that we can say some prayer and continue on our way in self-deception. Listen, you need to make confessing your sins to God (right after you realized you have sinned) a high priority. People want to walk with God, but don’t realize that making your relationship right with God is important. You wouldn’t get into a fight with your wife and have all that tension and then try to have a “date” with her and not discuss it and make it right! Or maybe you would…. But how healthy does that make your marriage? Well, that is a discussion for another article…

When we come to verse ten we must remember that verse eight is talking about sin in the general sense between you and God. Verse ten is referring to specific (definite) sins. A good example of this is a man cheats on his wife, according to God’s Word this is wrong. However, this particular man says that it wasn’t wrong because his wife doesn’t “fulfill his needs anymore.” You know what I say to something like that? IT IS SIN! PERIOD!  I know this seems like a “duh” example but I have seen this happen before. A pastor once divorced his wife and married another woman and said God told him to do it! How terrible this was! Especially since it goes against God’s Word!

What about you? Where have you said that you haven’t sinned? Speeding? Telling a white lie? Exaggerating what someone said to you? Gossip? Being a hypocrite? Well guess what? It is time for you to do a little praying before God! Do you want to be just another one of these hypocritical people that give Christianity a bad name, or will you get down on your knees and actually poor your heart out to God! Your Choice.