Kentucky Sunset

Kramer sunset

I took this picture because I have always been drawn to take pictures of sunsets periodically. I think all photographers are.

It seems like just a glimpse into God’s magnificent creation. I wonder if everyone thinks that when they photograph a sunset or sunrise?


Beyond Here Be Dragons


This is a photo by Christian Hopkins. It reminds me that whatever I face, it cannot come between the Lord and I. Only I can do that.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35

Luke 11:37-54

dirty_handsMy wife, by her own admission, is a germaphobe. I am not. For example, I find it delightfully liberating to eat food as long as it doesn’t smell or exhibit any gross pathology. I can eat a sandwich while working on a car or bike and not clean-up first. I am blissfully ignorant of my body’s ability to take in germs and remain unaffected. However, deep down I know that cleaner is better than dirtier. How? When asked if I would like to see what a Petri Dish looks like after the kitchen sink has been swabbed first, I decline. Thankfully, my daughters and I will benefit from a cleaner and healthier way of living; thanks babe.

In our text, Jesus doesn’t skip washing his hands at the Pharisee’s house because of hygiene, but because of hypocrisy (vv.37-38). The Pharisees were so meticulous about the observation of the law, that failure to wash one’s hands correctly (see perfectly) rendered the whole process ineffective (Yadaim 2.3). Jesus’ refusal to wash his hands was an in-your-face move that surprised his host and moved the conversation to the heart of the matter (vv.38-39), their hearts.

Their hearts were proud and their law-keeping precise; certainly God would be pleased with their attention to detail, right? He was not. They bowed to the letter of the law, but forgot the heart of it: To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Or how about this: If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17-18). Jesus’ unwashed hands were preparing to open a can of worms in that home that made the leaders wish they left him back with the crowd.

After metaphorically comparing the Pharisees to filthy cups that are only clean on the outside (v.39), Jesus begins pronouncing woes upon them (vv.42-44); Woe to you, Pharisees, for measuring your tithes to the micron but neglect people. Woe to you, Pharisees, because you seek the attention of men by primping and preening in public and in church; seeking the praises of men. Woe to you, Pharisees, because you are like hidden graves that ceremonially defile any who unknowingly walk over them. People who hear your words and follow your teachings are unknowing spiritually defiled; you are the ruin of many.

When an expert in the law states that the indictments against the Pharisees are also indictments against them, he was correct.

The Pharisees and the Experts in the Law were two different groups of people; the Pharisees were the religious separatists and the Experts in the Law (Scribes) studied, taught, and interpreted the Mosaic Law. The first three woes against the Pharisees dealt with their religious hypocrisy, and the second three woes dealt with the abuse of Torah.

The “experts,” some of which were Pharisees too, are now in Jesus’ sights and receive a three shot salvo against their abuses of the law (vv.46-52). Woe to you, experts of the law, for legislating God’s law so minutely that you’ve made it a burden, unbearable, and impossible to follow. You find greater fault in transgressing your interpretations of the law than in transgressing the law itself. Woe to you, experts of the law, for pretending to honor the prophets of old; you hypocrites! You no more listen to them than you listen to me, the ultimate prophet, whom you will kill too. Woe to you, experts of the law, for taking God’s Word away from the people and making it so hard to understand, that they can’t make it to Heaven; they don’t get in and neither do you.

Sin must be confronted. When it is, you and I will have a choice to make; we can listen and change or become defensive and angry. Guess which one the self-righteous leaders picked? When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say (vv.53-54).

Wrong choice. They believed their dirty hearts were more pleasing to God than Jesus’ dirty hands. One was a temporal condition while the other was eternal.

Let us (believers) be careful that we do not become closet Pharisees. Here it centers around unwashed hands, but in our spheres of influence today it could be any number of things. How I view my own stuff and the stuff of others around me will indicate if the dirt is on the outside or the inside.

Let’s not be burdened, nor burden others with traditions that, though they are sacred to some, are treated as equal to Scripture. Let’s not be angry with God or His Word when challenged, but be transformed by Him/It (Rom 12:2). Let us examine ourselves and see if our traditions are trumping the Scriptures and then move toward the abundant life where the burden is light, just as Jesus promised (John 10:10; Matt 11:28-30).

Dirty hands (here pictured as living in grace and not exacting religious formality) are acceptable; it’s the dirty heart that is not. When God changes and cleans-up the heart, the hands will follow.

Grace and Peace,

Behold His Majesty

Luke 9:28-36

transfigurationSometimes people disappoint. Leaders, family, friends, coworkers, you name it and they will disappoint you somewhere along the line. Pre-election expectations turn into post-election reality. The heir to the throne squanders what was previously gained and misery grows instead of lessens (1 Kings 12). As long as there are people in the world, there will be disappointment.

That may have been Peter, James, and John’s sentiment as Jesus provides more information about his expectations of them (and ultimately all disciples). Riding high on Jesus’ accomplishments, the disciples witnessed Jesus calming a storm (Luke 8:22-25), exorcized the demoniac of the Gerasenes (8:26-39), healed a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (8:40-48), and raised a twelve year old girl from the dead (8:49-56). Jesus gave the disciples power to cast out demons, heal the sick, and cure diseases (9:1-6). With five loaves of bread and two fish, over five-thousand people are fed (9:10-17). Finally, Jesus accepts Peter’s proclamation that he is indeed the Christ of God (9:20).

This is all good stuff. However high the disciples may have been, they are quickly sobered when Jesus says that he will suffer many things, and the power-holders (elders, chief priests, teachers of the law) will reject him and kill him (9:22). Oh yeah, and if you want to follow me (Jesus), you must deny yourself and daily pick up your own cross. You are not to be ashamed of me and cling to your own life as if it’s the most important thing you have (9:23-27).

In about a week, the disciples go from victory to despair. But as Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain with Jesus to pray, they will behold the majesty of the Lord. Jesus is transfigured (Matt and Mark use the word metamorphosis; which means to change into another form) and the disciples don’t know what to say. Luke says that his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening (9:29). Matthew says His face shone like the sun (Matt 17:2). For a moment, the outer person of Jesus was set aside and his true glory shone through. WOW!

On the mountain in a blaze of glory, Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah about his death. These representatives of the Old Testament and all it stood for discussed how Jesus would tie all of their history together and bring to fulfillment God’s plan of redemption (9:30-31). As the Shekinah glory (the cloud) descended upon Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, the voice of the Father said, this is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him (9:34-35).

Listen to Jesus. Listen to what he says. He says that he is the Way the Truth and the Life; no one gets to the Father accept through him (John 14:6). Open your ears. He states I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). Pay attention. He proclaims, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).

Peter, James, and John followed Jesus despite the hardships that would come to pass. Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down. James was killed by Herod and John was exiled until he was an old man. They were transformed, willing to suffer because they saw what was behind the veil of Jesus’ flesh. They knew that no matter what happened in their earthly life, because of Jesus, their eternal life was secure. And the same thing can be said about you. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then all the Gospel promises are yours. The transfiguration proclaims from the mountaintop that Jesus has the authority to keep you secure, even if this life seems like Hell.

John says about Jesus, we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son (John 1:14).

Peter says, For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain (2 Pet 1:16-18).

Eyewitness accounts of the glory that was to come.

That is the glorious good news of the Gospel. God came wrapped in human flesh to live a perfect life we could not live to meet His holy requirements we could not attain. Our faith; our belief that Jesus did all that was necessary to secure our forgiveness by God is a beautifully simple plan for us. It cost Him dearly; it cost Him His Son. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, sent by God to atone for your sins? Jesus will not disappoint; believe him and live.

Grace and Peace,

Luke 9:1-11

legoThe purpose of Ministry Practicum is to allow students in ministry to gain valuable and practical experience by serving in the local church. It is getting out of the classroom and actually doing the things one is learning; and that’s where we find the twelve disciples/apostles.

Here for the first time in Luke’s Gospel, the disciples are called to do something. Class is over, for now. Time to take what you’ve observed, heard, and been taught and take it to the people. Jesus would say, I imagine, that they have seen him minister to many people in many circumstances and it was now time to learn how to do it themselves. The Gospel will be entrusted to these men and it was time for some OJT while the Teacher was still around.

Jesus trained these men to send them out. He equipped them with power and authority to cure diseases, heal the sick, cast out demons, and to preach the kingdom of God (vv.1-2). It is interesting to note that Judas would have been one of the twelve. He would have the same success stories and God would have used him mightily, but none of that penetrated down into his soul. I wonder if those of us in the church look at others who are doing great things for God, and are jealous, but are unable to see that they may be far from Him (Matt 7:21-23).

Let us concentrate on our own faithfulness and not be stargazers (comparing ourselves to others). Let us dig deep within our own souls and pinpoint what thing/s keeps us from fully trusting God. The disciples were told to bring nothing with them and to trust in other people for their provision. What a way to learn to be dependent on God. Will you trust Him thoroughly with your care so that the Gospel may be preached and heard by many? Will you risk believing it is worth the cost? Will you get out of the classroom and apply what you know to a world that needs to know that the kingdom of God is at hand (v.3)? Kent Hughes says, Comfort-seekers have never done anything for Christ and his kingdom. A committed life is an uncomfortable life. It sometimes is a tired life too because it will put itself out for others. It is often inconvenient, even taken advantage of (Luke, vol.1, p.325).

And what will be the effect of a Christ-infused, Gospel sharing life? People will take notice. Herod took notice. The people took notice. Imagine twelve Jesus’ going from city to city doing the things that only Jesus could do; healing, curing, and exorcizing. There was excitement and awe in the works and words of the disciples, while at the same time people wondered who these people were. For whom were they speaking? Where did they get their power and authority? Who is this Jesus and what was he about must have been a common refrain.

And that’s O.K. Those questions are to be encouraged. When speaking to anyone about Christ, I desire all inquiries to be about Jesus. I don’t need to elevate myself, but if questioned, I merely tell what Christ has done for me (1 Cor 2:2). I point to him. The apostle Paul, points to Jesus when he writes, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4). The Scriptures tell us about Jesus, and we tell others what the Scriptures say. The two men walking to Emmaus listened as Jesus told them that from Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

The good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the cure for mankind’s problem. The problem is that everyone is affected by sin and guilt and none of us are spiritually alive. We stand condemned before a holy God. However, in grace and mercy, with no good in us, according to His good pleasure, God has provided a way for sinners to be reconciled to Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ. The apostle John writes, For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17 NLT).

And we as broken people get to take this message to a sin-sick world and God will save whom He will through our efforts. What a privilege. What an honor. Stop complaining about not being fed and take what you know and GO! Let God do His thing through you, or in spite of you, but get out of the hypothetical and embrace the practical and watch people take notice.

Grace and Peace,

Luke 8:40-56

jairus-daughterYou know the feeling. In the airport or on the runway, desperately checking the seconds and wondering if you’ll make that connecting flight. You can already see yourself running faster than O.J. in a Hertz commercial to your gate and getting there as they are about to close the door. You’ve convinced yourself that you can make it, as long as everyone does their job and there is no emergency. Then your heart sinks as soon as you hear the crackle of the speaker announcing a delay. What do you feel? Anger? Resentment? Indifference?

A synagogue leader by the name of Jairus had a lot more than a missed flight on his mind the day he sought out Jesus. Little did he know, on that day of all days, someone else would seek Jesus’ help and ruin everything for him (or so he thought). Three lives converged at just the right time for a divinely timed, miraculous display of God’s power; changing forever the lives of two very different, but desperately needy people.

The respected man is Jairus and his 12 year old daughter is dying (vv.41-42). Jairus knows that Jesus has performed miraculous works in the past and humbles himself in front of Jesus because he believed that Jesus could (if he was willing) help him (v.41). Jesus is willing to help and as he begins the journey to Jairus’ home, he stops in his tracks because someone has touched him (vv.45-46). That’s like being at the starting gate at Churchill downs during the Call to the Post and saying, “hey, someone bumped me.” Ludicrous!

Peter, of course, can hardly believe his ears. In essence he says, are you kidding me? Look, everyone is pushing in on you (v.45). But Jesus knew that there was one touch that was different than the rest. The throng wanted to make sure they didn’t miss a thing; Jesus’ reputation as a wonder-worker preceded him. The exorcising, miracle worker was here and everyone wondered what he would do next. But one woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, cut through the crowd and only wanted to touch his cloak; she believed that would be enough to heal her. Her faith, however superstitious, saved her.

Picture the scene. Jairus is hurriedly talking to Jesus as they go to his home and he looks over, and Jesus isn’t there; he has stopped to interact with an unclean nobody (v.45). Jairus can’t believe this is actually happening. The miracle worker is actually coming to his home and there is hope that his daughter will make it, but now precious time is wasting. How would you feel if you were Jairus? Would you be angry with the woman? Angry with Jesus? Would hopelessness and fear overcome hope? Would you be confused that he would stop while a twelve year old girl’s life hangs in the balance?

This interaction between these three individuals is providential and serves a purpose.

Humanly speaking, we have on the one hand a woman who was considered a nobody; a social outcast, unclean, and excluded. On the other hand, we have a popular, respected, and accepted man; a man of influence and power. However, in God’s economy, we have two helpless individuals in need of God’s grace, both equal in their puny faith and in desperate need of healing. Isn’t it in suffering we notice that there is not much difference between the prince and the pauper?

Jesus, not playing favorites, calls out the woman who touched him for two reasons. One reason was so she could be publicly declared clean/healed. She could be restored to fellowship. Her physical pain was ended and so was her loneliness. The second reason was so she would know that it was Jesus who healed her and not his garment. Jesus’ power and not magic was the cause of her restoration.

Hooray for the woman. What about Jairus? His situation was about to go from bad to worse and this delay isn’t helping. In the midst of all the commotion, news comes that the daughter has died, don’t bother the Teacher anymore Jairus is told (v.49). Jesus has other plans as he hears the news also and challenges Jairus not to fear; only believe and she will be well (v.50). Jairus must bring to bear whatever he believes to be true about Jesus, coupled with what he just witnessed, in able to have any hope whatsoever. The very fact that they still went to the house testifies that Jairus still held onto some hope (v.51). Dismissing the detractors, Jesus enters the house, speaks lovingly to the dead girl and brings her back to life, admonishing the parents not to tell anyone what they witnessed (v.56).

It is in this story of two daughters that we see the grace, love, and healing of God miraculously revealed to those who believe. For twelve years, one daughter was let down by her body, her religion, and her community. However selfishly she approaches Jesus, he declares her clean because of her faith. Her faith, and not her superstition, has made her whole.
The second daughter lives because of the faith of her father. However selfishly he comes to Jesus (to heal his daughter), he will witness God’s grace to his family in an amazing way. His simple faith in Jesus’ ability, bolstered as he witnesses a miraculous healing in a poor woman, is the avenue God will use to restore his daughter.

Here is a truth; all hemorrhages are not healed and not all who die early or unexpectantly are raised. When faced with the calamities of life, we are to act by faith like the unnamed woman and Jairus; we go to Christ by faith. The woman took a risk, she hoped beyond hope that Jesus would help her, and instead of settling for a secret touch of his garment, Jesus brought her into the light. Jairus, knowing that the specter of death has already visited his home, still leads Jesus there to do something. Small faith? Imperfect faith? Yes, but it’s all God needs to do magnificent things for those who believe.

And why the special treatment for those who believe? Because they are children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:14-17). Whatever your sufferings may be, know that you have a Father (Abba) who cares for and loves you. He will do what is right even if your faith is puny and you find it hard to believe. Christ is the Lord over nature, demons, and death (Luke 8:22-25, 26-39, 40-56); he is Lord over all. Bring to him your mustard-size seed of faith and trust him to do what’s right.

Grace and Peace,

Luke 8:4-15

Johnny_Appleseed_1972_post_card-470x260Reading the parable of the soils reminds me of the story of Johnny Appleseed; a story I heard growing up in Cleveland. I always believed there was a real person named Johnny who planted trees wherever he went, but I think it was just a childish belief in the larger than life tale of some guy. I lumped that story in with other early stories such as Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, and Samson and Delilah. Older, and a little wiser, I believe the Bible stories to be true, and so too the exploits of Johnny Appleseed.

Until recently, the connection between the Sower and Johnny was (for me) in the way they haphazardly threw their seed on the ground. No self-respecting farmer would be so careless and then expect a crop. Well, Johnny didn’t plant like that, and the Sower in our parable did do it, but it was for effect. Maybe there was even a chuckle as the hearers pictured a farmer tossing seed everywhere he could imagine.

Regardless, Jesus tells the agricultural parable because the hearers would readily understand the picture; unfortunately, most would not understand its meaning. The seed goes from the farmer’s bag, to the farmer’s hand, to one of four different soils that are representative of the condition of the heart and its receptivity to the Word of God (the seed). The main emphasis is on the soil, not the Sower.

The soils (heart) listed, into one of which we all fall, are hard, shallow, weedy, and good. The Message explains these meanings as good as anyone, so let’s let God’s Word speak for itself.

“This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved. “The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone. “And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun. “But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest (Luke 8:11-15 MSG).

Pretty straight forward. However, most of the hearers missed it.

The hearts of those first hearers can be characterized by one of the four soils and that goes for us today as well. The Word of God will pass through our ears and fall on one of the soils described here. That begs the question; what soil describes the condition of your heart?

These four soils are descriptive of those who hear about the kingdom of God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether standing in a group listening to Jesus speak these truths personally or millennia removed from the scene, the question is still the same; what soil are you?

Hard: This is the one who hears and immediately rejects the truth. The devil takes the truth from their hearts and they never believe, nor are they saved. These may not be notorious sinners, however, there is zero interest in God or His Word (v.12).

Shallow: These joyfully receive the Word immediately for reasons of their own, but when things don’t go according to their plan, they fall away. These are those who make an emotional response to the Gospel. Maybe a revival, a message, or some tragedy draws a person to God, but emotions alone can’t keep them true when afflictions hit (v.13).

Weedy: This person cares too much for the world and its stuff. Because of worries, riches, and pleasures found in this life, their faith is eventually smothered and falls by the wayside. Someone has said that it is not knowledge that they lack; it’s commitment (v.14). No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).

Good: These are those who bring forth fruit (v.15). The seed of God’s Word falls on this soil and its roots dig deep and strong. These true believers endure and bring forth good fruit (Eph 2:10; Gal 5:22-23).

This parable is about perseverance. I desire to have a heart like the fourth soil; the root of God’s Word dug deep into my soul enabling me to persevere through thick and thin. When that day comes, at the end of my race, I long to be found faithful (1 Cor 9:24; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 12:1-2).

The first three soils are unacceptable. Use this parable as a template to check your own faith and adjust accordingly.

Grace and Peace,