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.

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Teachers Need to be Careful!

Teachers Need to be Careful!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

The interesting thing is that we see a lot of teachers (both inside and outside the church) getting into a lot of trouble! They say their information is accurate. This may be true, but a lot of teacher’s lives are far from God.  Too often churches that need teachers throw just any person into the classrooms. Often times these individuals are not spiritually mature or knowledgeable enough to be teaching! Let us look, albeit briefly, today about teaching.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
James 3:1 (NKJV)

 

Today we are starting out the subject by looking at a stern warning from James. You see a Rabhi (teacher) was supposed to be one who was given respect because of their life and their knowledge. In the fledgling church of the New Testament era there were many who would go out and proclaim themselves teachers of God’s Word saying half-baked things in order to draw a following (kind of like today). So James issues this warning. He says, “Hey! Be careful if you want to be a teacher, because God is going to hold to a pretty HIGH STANDARD!”

There are far too many people in Christianity today who live like they want to and then come to church and teach! I personally knew of a ministry student in seminary who had no problem going out on Saturday and having “a little too much to drink” and then would go to church on Sunday and not only worship and serve, but teach! He would even teach against what he himself had just done the night before! There was a minister who was very popular in the 1980s that fell due to his constant railing about righteous living and staying away from the dangers “of the flesh” and got caught going to strip clubs! Not only did he apologize for his behavior, but he continued going and got caught again. I have heard of testimonies of ex-strippers who say that preachers and teachers of God’s Word would come into the clubs on a regular basis! Folks this is shameful! These kinds of things give Christianity a bad name! God forbid that we become teachers if we are going to not just undo the work we have done for Christ, but destroy some people’s chances of ever coming to Christ because of our actions!

Now the attitude in the church is not merely about these hypocritical situation, no the new attitude is far more insidious. We have people out there who get a tickle up their leg and they say that God has called them to start a church. Well, if they are called of God then perhaps they should get some training. Paul was very well versed in the Word of God before he was ever a Christian and even he spent three years studying with the new spiritual eyes God had given him before he started ministry! How much more should we who are called today to start a church?

So what is the problem with starting a church or entering into ministry before you are prepared? Simply put, you will end up hurting people. How? Through false teaching or not being spiritually prepared to handle what is coming your way. Only a stubborn individual would say that this is incorrect. If you have been in ministry (or in the church) for any time at all you know you have seen this happen.

Now I would like to switch gears for a moment (since our time is running short). What happens to a teacher who has prepared himself but stops going to conferences and learning opportunities? Well this person has said to himself that no one can teach him anything! How awful is that! Often these teachers won’t listen to the people they are teaching and become cold to God’s presence and moving in people’s lives.

So what does this mean to you? You need to decide, if you are a teacher, if you are becoming cold. If this is the case maybe you should re-evaluate. Or if you are one who is honest and is not prepared you need to evaluate whether or not you should still be teaching and you need to get on your knees before God in prayer. If you are a person who is being taught by someone who is immoral, unprepared, or cold how you want to approach them about the issue and hopefully, through prayer and love, bring it to their attention for correction. I pray God would bless you this day as you attempt to teach and be taught God’s Word.

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.


Most Christians Are in Essence an Atheist

Most Christians Are in Essence an Atheist

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Many people run from place to place, and job-to-job going through the motions of life without having a purpose or a will to guide them. Christians are supposed to be fortunate enough to not worry about that. But this is not the case. Too many people that call themselves Christians don’t know enough about the Bible to apply any of its principles. This is a sad state of affairs! How defeating it is to say that you believe in God, but don’t know anything about God! This kind of individual is in essence an atheist (at least in their actions)! Why would I say that? Because they have no idea what they believe and have no idea how to make choices biblically, so their choices are dependent on the world’s ideas.

 

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
-James 4:6-10

 

Let us break this down. Verse six says God resists the proud but gives grace to the Humble. Those walking in humility are those who willingly submit to God in a pure heart, one who understands they are nothing without God. The proud are those that insist on doing things the way that seems best to them, those that don’t care about what God’s principles are about, much less try to make choices by them.

Verse seven is a command to submit to God. If we are doing things our own way we can’t hope to stand against the Devil’s ways, which lead to death (remember sin is fun for a season but it always ends in destruction). We are either doing nothing, or doing what the devil wants. Either way the devil is happy. Satan became proud and wanted to do things his own way. He made a choice to ignore what God had said, and you know what? This is exactly what you are doing when you ignore God’s Word and don’t know anything about it! To make right choices we need to know what God’s Word actually says.

Now in verse eight we are told that we should have fellowship with God through Scripture reading, study, application and prayer. This is the only way we can know what the principles in God’s Word are. The problem is that when most Christians do learn some principles they tend to not apply them because it would require CHANGES! Most so-called Christians don’t want change, even though it will improve their lives in the long run, because it might hurt, they may have to give something up! But James pulls no punches, he says to basically stop living contrary, make the changes, deal with the fallout, and be blessed by God in the long run!

Notice also in verse eight he calls Christians that won’t make the changes double-minded. The scripture says that a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways and should not think that he receives anything from God. A person who does not have their thoughts and motives pure will not receive what they ask for because they will do something selfish with what they have gotten and will mess their lives up even worse.

Verses nine and ten show us that we tend to become so busy about life that we forget, as did those whom James was writing to, to examine ourselves, how we think, act, and live, before God. Later in this book it is talked about the man who looked in the mirror and who saw what he looked like and went away and forgot what he saw, never fixing the problems that he saw. This is a sad individual for sure; someone who will look into God’s Word and not make the necessary changes. He lives just as the world does. He has no effect for Christianity and sits in a pew and makes no changes in his life. This person is an affront to God! Perhaps he shouldn’t come to church? Wow!! Why would I say that? Because these people are one of the ones giving Christianity a bad name, or worse no name.

The Bible speaks over and over about judging ourselves so that no one would have a need to judge us. In Hebrews 12:5-6 (NKJV) “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” If we do not correct our lives confess our sins, then what are you hear for? Why aren’t you doing what God asked you? The Bible says that if we don’t judge ourselves as Christians, God will judge us. When He does, it is tremendously much harder than it would have been had we repented and sought Him to change us, that is if we are truly Christians.

How about you? Will you make the Choices it takes to be who you say you are? Or will you just continue in your fake Christianity where you are out only for yourself and don’t truly care about anyone else. Where you give Christianity a bad name and turn people away from God instead of toward God. The Choice is yours, which will you make?

God Doesn’t Care About YOU!

God Doesn’t Care About YOU!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

This is a provocative title to say the least, but follow me in this thought.  When I use the word “YOU” I mean the “I” syndrome, where everything is about YOU. God doesn’t care about YOUR ego, YOUR pride, YOUR perception in front of others. All God wants is for you to be honest before Him, yourself, and others. The subject of honesty is one that we seem to talk about a lot as Christians but can fall short. Honesty is very important to God, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter much today. While there are a lot of passages that talk about this, I want to highlight just a few of them in this article.

Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one.
– 2 Corinthians 7:2 (NKJV)

 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume.
– Leviticus 19:35 (NKJV)

Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. -Hebrews 13:18 (NKJV)

Honesty in Our Words

The first scripture is Paul writing to the people at Corinth, he says that he has “wronged no one,” hasn’t corrupted anyone and has cheated no one. This is a bold statement in today’s Christianity. Too many Christians are not acting in accordance with the morality of the Bible. They tell half-truths, lie, and cheat people, but they won’t go and rob a bank. No, they act more subtly than that.

I have an example from my own life. Do you know how many ministers will go into a business (barber, mechanic etc.) and demand a discount? Or say something like, “What is the Pastor Price on that?” When I was in seminary I used to see these “seasoned” ministers do this all the time, and not to other Christian business men they knew, to people who wouldn’t darken a door of a church. You know what? The business owners would usually say, out of earshot of the minister, “That is exactly why I won’t go to church, they are all money grubbing.”

This is an example from my personal experience, but what about you? Take a minute and ask yourself, “Where in my life is my morality just a little off?” Now ask God to forgive you and guide you into honest living. This brings us to honesty in our deeds (actions).


Honesty in Our Deeds

The second scripture we are looking into talks about honesty in business and how a person should not cheat someone. What first comes to our minds is “big business” but every day we have different things that goes on in our lives that can be considered “deals” and we think nothing of trying to extort an unfair price. What I find interesting is that there are a lot of “Christians” out there who will cheat someone in business! This individual would say that stealing is wrong, but will deal dishonestly with others.

Here is a question that should make you stop and think a minute. How many times have you told someone a “white-lie?” There is no such thing as a “white-lie.” A lie is a lie, nothing more and nothing less. We must deal honestly with each other, not as the immoral deal with people; we must deal with people in honesty and fairness.


Conclusion

Our last scripture comes from Hebrews and starts out by saying “Pray for us.” Why pray? Well the writer states that they have a good conscience and that they desire to continue the trend of being open and honest with people. The writer is asking for prayer so that they don’t fall into the traps of pride, ego, and perception. They don’t want everything to be about themselves! This unfortunately is where too many “Christians” find themselves!

Do you know what people desire more than anything else? I mean they desire this one thing more than Biblically accurate sermons/teaching. They desire it more than great praise and worship! The desire it more than flash and a good feeling running up their legs! HONESTY! They want true openness and honesty from Christians in churches today. They want people to be genuine and they want people to genuinely care about them! The sad thing is that there are so many in churches today that don’t care about others; they just care about what they can get out of the church. This ugly situation can be changed, and starts with just one individual. So the question for you is where are you? Are you self-absorbed? Or are you walking in Honesty in your words and your deeds? Maybe, if you find yourself in this situation, you should ask God to forgive you and ask God to give you a true heart that isn’t self-absorbed, but is more concerned with others. The choice is yours. What is the Holy Spirit putting in your heart?

If, however, you find yourself in the situation where you say to yourself that you aren’t being dishonest, I would ask you to pray to God to show you where you might be faltering in your honesty. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you and I know He will show you. A lot of the time people won’t truly seek God and just go on. This attitude is a detriment to Christianity. It keeps the same old rut going. We need change in our churches and the only way we will get it is by being honest! Will you join me in asking God to show you where you are being less than truthful? The choice is yours.

I AM a Christian! I AM Just as Selfish as the Next Person!

I AM a Christian! I AM Just as Selfish as the Next Person!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
– (1Ki 11:1-8 ESV)

Solomon was the wisest king that ever reigned in Israel’s history. However, he married foreign wives which were forbidden by God. Does this make God a racist? Absolutely not! It was God’s decree so that idolatry (the worship of false objects) wouldn’t take over people’s lives and turn their hearts from God. You see Israel was never to bow down to anything other than God. Because Solomon allowed worship of false gods in the kingdom, Israel from this time forward was caught in the grip of worshiping of false idols. Some people will probably ask, “What is wrong with that?” Have you ever seen what some of these religions require of their followers? Take a look at just one of these idols.

Milcom/Molech was a god that Israel loved to worship. This god is throughout the Old Testament and is considered one of the most evil of them all. You see this false god required that you sacrifice your children on an altar. But not just any blood sacrifice, no this ‘worship’ entailed heating a bronze statue to tremendous temperatures. When the pre-heating was complete, it was up to the parents to place their little ones in the idols loving hands and watch as their child writhed in pain and was literally cooked to death, slowly. The thought amongst these people was that if they sacrificed to these kinds gods they would get what they wanted.

Today many people would say that they would never do these detestable things! Really? You know you are probably right. We just sacrifice at the altar of our jobs, volunteer hours, and other things, while our children are being raised by television and music. No, we are more civilized we sacrifice our time with our families and allow our marriages to fall apart which only hurts the family unit more. Because of this God’s will is not being done in our lives, and worse, our children’s lives.

But why have we done this? It all boils down to selfishness. We have become selfish, self-centered and self-deceived. People will do anything they can to get ahead of the rest of the pack, putting their wants first and everyone/everything else last. Today our “Christianity” is paralyzed in the face of one simple question, “Why would I want to be a Christian when you do all that I do, except I don’t have the drama?” This is a sad state of affairs for Christianity. Christians are walking in selfishness and self-centeredness. We may not kill people anymore physically but we cause just as much damage by derailing them from God and destroying each other spiritually and mentally because of our idols (anything we put before God). Yes even today, because of putting things before God, we can travel a road which takes us down the wrong path and do things we never thought we would do. Do you think the Secretary to a church starts out by saying they are going to embezzle funds? No! Do you think the pastor, deacon, board member etc. starts out looking to cheat on their spouse? No! But little by little as they begin to put things in their lives ahead of their relationship with God, they travel down a road which leads to destruction.

The sad part is that when a person first comes to Christ they are genuinely loving and genuine toward other people, but as Christians begin to put idols up in their lives they become selfish, self-centered and self-deceived! Do you know what the problem is with being self-deceived? It is that you don’t recognize you are in self-deception until someone points it out, and then you don’t believe them! Only the Holy Spirit can truly point this out to anyone. Will you ask Him to point it out to you? Or does that just make you too uncomfortable? Perhaps you won’t, because you like your lack of true conviction and the true power of the cross in your life.

If you are a Christian today then perhaps you need to ask God to show you that you are setting up Idols in your life and ask Him to show you where you are walking in self-deception. Only when Christians begin to ask God to reveal to them these problem areas can “Christianity” become the Christianity of the Bible again and not just some political group of organizations that are self-serving and self-seeking. No, we need Christians to be Christians again. To have a heart that hurts when people hurt and seek to help people when they need help. Christians need to be a people after God’s own heart, a people that are not always on the lookout to get what is best for them. Will you be that person? Will you draw near to God and let Him truly show you your idols? Will you love the unlovable again? The choice is yours, which will you make?