Too Many Christians are Out-of-Order

Too Many Christians are Out-of-Order
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Today we go around being so busy that we tend to compartmentalize everything. We allot so much time to watch TV, so much time to work, so much time for dinner and so much time for God. Did you ever think that maybe God doesn’t want to be put into some kind of allotment of time? Perhaps God wants more than that from you!

11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
-Deuteronomy 8:11-14 (NKJV)

Today Christians have become guilty of this very thing. We are told to beware in verse eleven to not forget God. It means by not living out what we say we believe. How does this happen? We find that in verses twelve and thirteen we find that this happens because people begin to get blessings and are doing well and they feel as though they don’t need Him. So when that happens, in verse fourteen, people become prideful and forget God, who gave them all that they have.

To put this into perspective, in America we have wonderful churches! They are beautiful and clean with power, water, electricity, and (in most cases) computers with internet access. Now go overseas. Most of the churches in Africa, for example, don’t have all these amenities. They are lucky to have buildings with some kind of water. People walk for miles to come to church. If people in America today had to walk for miles, they just wouldn’t go! What does that say about you and I? Perhaps we need to thank God for what we have and give Him a priority in our lives.

Israel became guilty of this time and again. You know what happened? God allowed hardships to come upon them so that they would recognize Him. Do you think that this could not happen in our country today? In our state? In our personal lives? Yes, while God won’t purposely send evil to you, He may just remove His hand of protection to get your attention. If you get rid of God’s hand you can find yourself in a world of hurt!

Now let us turn our attention to something Jesus said.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
– Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

We tend to not only forget God when we are doing well, but we forget that everything we have came from Him and it is temporal, meaning He can allow it to be taken away it is not permanent. We should be like the Apostle Paul. He stated that he had learned in all things to be content. We need to remember that the most important thing in our lives today is not what we have. It is not even what we have in our churches! It is what we have in our Bibles. God’s Word is the only thing that brings true and truly satisfying life to our lives. We must remember to keep Him first, and in so doing we will stop things from being out of order in our lives. What is the proper order for life? (1) Our Personal relationship with God is first. (2) Our relationship to our families is second. (3) Our relationship to our daily work is last. This includes “your ministry.” If you keep this in mind you will find God’s blessing in your life.

How about you today? Have you forgotten God? I can hear it now! People yelling at me, “NO!” Really? Remember that actions speak louder than words! What do your actions say? Perhaps you have forgotten where all good things come from? Perhaps because of your attitudes today your life is out of order. If this is the case then you need to repent! If this is you, ask God for forgiveness today. The choice is yours.

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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!

Praying Never Helps! Really?

Praying Never Helps! Really?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

A lot of people have some misconceptions about prayer; about what it is, how to do it, and when to do it. Some people feel silly praying! But what does the Bible say about it? We will hit a few points in this article. The reason for this is that many volumes have been written about prayer and we just don’t have the time to discuss it in its depths today.

 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
-Hebrews 10:22 (NKJV)

Prayer must be a communication between you and God, a conversation. It can be done out loud or mental.  Easton’s Bible Dictionary says that prayer can be:

A “beseeching the Lord” (Ex. 32:11); “pouring out the soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15); “praying and crying to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20); “seeking unto God and making supplication” (Job 8:5); “drawing near to God” (Ps. 73:28); “bowing the knees” (Eph. 3:14).

But what should our inner being be like when come to prayer? In Hebrews 10:22 it says that we should draw near to God with a true heart. Stop there for a moment. This means that prayer must be with a true heart and not something that is memorized or insincere. How many Christians do you know that can say a great, theologically correct prayer but have absolutely no feeling or honesty? Me, I know quite a few of them! Perhaps you yourself are guilty of this at times? Let’s move on.

This verse also says that we must have full assurance of faith. First, what is faith? Well to give a quick answer we must say that faith is an assurance. Faith is a sincere trusting. For example, I trust that when I sit in my recliner that it will hold me up. I have faith in my recliner. Now I know that my faith will wane in my recliner as it gets older. With God however, because he is the self-existent one who exists only within himself and as such is a perfect being, I can trust Him no matter what happens. Just because I don’t understand everything in my life doesn’t mean I can’t trust Him fully for my life (I know this is somewhat of a simplified answer, but it is effective and accurate nonetheless).  When we draw near to God, based on His Word and our experience with God’s goodness, we need to be fully assured that He hears us. A lot of times when I look at this verse I think of myself as the man who cried out to Jesus saying, “I have faith, Lord help my faith!”

Now the rest of this verse can seem very hard to understand, but then most of us reading this are probably not Jewish. Remember this book was written to those of Jewish descent so they would have understood the imagery better than we do in our culture.  The part about having our hearts sprinkled would have appealed to those converted Jews who understood the temple sacrificial system. The altar was sprinkled with the blood of animals to cover over their sin. The part about being washed is symbolic of purity.

So when we look at this verse in its entirety what is the author of Hebrews trying to convey to us? We no longer need any mediator between us and God. No temple sacrifice, no bringing of goats, bulls etc. Just you and Jesus, he is our mediator. Because of what He did on the cross we can come to Him for this cleansing and approach the throne of God Himself!  If we come with a true heart and full assurance of our faith then we know that God has made us worthy to ask Him directly what we need in our times of joy and times of sorrow.

So how is your prayer life? When is the last time you cried out to God and saw Him move in your life? Have you come to Him in the full assurance of faith out of a true heart? Perhaps you are the one today crying out to God, “I have faith, Lord help my faith!” I know I cry out quite often in this manner! If you haven’t seen God move in your life lately could it be because you haven’t been sincere and placed your faith in Him? Do it today and let the miraculous work of God change you! The Choice is yours.


Man, You Are Ugly!

Man, You Are Ugly!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

In our lives as Christians we make lots of judgments about people, whether we know it or not. We should stop this behavior. Today we are exploring what the Bible says about Favoritism.

(2:1) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (2) For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, (3) and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” (4) have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

(5) Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? (7) Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

(8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; (9) but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
–James 2:1–10 (NKJV)

Today is all about clicks. It is about favoritism.  Favoritism seems to be a part of life and you see it wherever you go. The “haves” and the “have nots.” In business and in life we have come to expect it and have even come to accept the attitude. Unfortunately in our churches this shouldn’t be the case. Too many people in churches tend to play favorites.

James rails against this in our passage today. He says that this should NOT be the case. James uses two different people that couldn’t be more apart. He uses a rich man who dressed wonderfully in fine clothes (surely he will bring us a lot of money) and a beggar walks in as well. Now, the one with the better clothes (money) is given preferential treatment and the beggar is tolerated. James says in verse four that these Christians have become judges with evil thoughts! How to the point James is when he calls them out on this!

The interesting thing is that in verses five through seven James brings to their attention that the poor often live by faith more than the rich (they tend to trust in their money, not all rich folks but perhaps a majority?). He says they have dishonored the poor man!  Now during that time only the rich really dragged people into court. This still happens today, but more than likely the rich (i.e. money, popularity, clout) drag people before the court of public opinion. They can ruin your reputation in a heartbeat. I have seen this happen many times in our Christian circles and it shouldn’t be that way.

In verses eight through ten, James reiterates that if we show partiality to people we commit sin before God, because we aren’t showing love.

But most of you are saying that this doesn’t happen today. Really, are you sure? I would disagree. If someone walks into a traditional church without a suit or tie, then they get upset at that person! I have seen people talked bad about because they don’t have money, or because they used to be a drug addict or whatever the case may be. The argument usually goes, “I don’t want to be near _________ because _____ and they used to do ________. I know they say they are a Christians, but you know…” This is still the sin of showing favoritism folks. They aren’t a part of the click. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?”

How about you today? Is there a Christian brother or sister that you have judged? Then you need to do two things. (1) Apologize to God and (2) start getting to know that brother or sister. Maybe all they need is love and they will grow out of your mentoring them in Christ?  Maybe you just need to get rid of that pride and love of money/power/clout in your heart and start loving God and the people around you? What do you think?

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

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 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.