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Archive for July, 2015

What Bugs You About This Story? -Part 4

stone-heartWe have talked about all the frustrating and strange and interesting facets of Mark 6:44-52 for a while now and it is fascinating that the thing that bugs most people more than anything is the very last verse – And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

The scary part for a lot of folks who wrote to me can be summarized in one sentence – “I can’t understand why God hardens peoples hearts?”

Well first of all the text doesn’t say that.

It says that their  hearts were hardened – it doesn’t say that God did it.

There are places in the Bible where it is explicit that God hardens hearts but not here.  The disciples hardness here it seems to me goes all through Mark.  Here is God in the flesh, the disciples seem to believe, and yet he does not want to do what they want and vice versa.  They did not understand about the loaves because they wanted to stay on that piece of land and like the others wanted their God to be a bread King.  All the way along, especially when Jesus reveals that the way to salvation is the way through suffering and death they get frustrated because that is not the kind god they want.  Jesus had to “drive” them into the boat because even these men chosen by Him to be disciples would have made an idolatrous exhibition of Him if they could have.  One of them ultimately makes the fateful choice that this is not the kind of Savior he wants either and he chooses to betray Him.  The Bible will view that as a hard heart too and indicate that Judas had no choice.  WE can harden out own hearts when we don’t want a Savior who bled out and died on a Cross so that we can be free to love God and serve our neighbor.  We have entire church bodies that have hardened their hearts because they have turned Jesus into a counselor and life coach who wants us to be all we can be.  We have an entire generation that has hardened it’s heart and admits it.  The representatives will tell you that they believe in Jesus they just don’t go to church.  They have hardened their hearts by denying the very means that Jesus uses to help them believe and to help their unbelief.

Here is the rub.  Do we have a choice?  All those who are troubled by the hardened hearts passage are really troubled by a very existential (having to do with our existence) question.  Did Pharaoh, who the Bible says had a hardened heart because God hardened  it, have a choice?  Did Judas?  Do we?

More on this………………..


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What Bugs You About This Story? -Part 3


Mark 6

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed………..

The word for amazed can mean “beside themselves” as in the reaction of Jesus family that He was “beside himself” and needed to be taken away.  It is a kind of insanity.  The disciples were temporarily insane, stupefied etc.

Why?  They should have understood who Jesus was and they didn’t.  They were still technically unbelievers.  Rev. Kurt Hering wrote this……………………….

Unbelief simply can’t get past the fear of the here and now of the belly, of the imagination, of the desires of the heart. That was the disciples problem—fear. They were amazed at Jesus as one would be at a magician. Magicians are scary—until you figure out their magic. But the disciples couldn’t figure out the magic like stuff they had seen. They were amazed—and terrified. If this man can do this with bread and fish, if he can do this to wind and wave, what could, what might, what is he here to do to me?

…While Jesus told His disciples to stop being afraid of Him, of God, their fear was indeed the Proverbial beginning of wisdom. While God does not want your fear to be the end of your thinking and understanding of God, He does want us to fear Him as the author and giver of life who has the power to give and take it away before we fear anything else, because what you fear is in reality your God.

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Dream a Little Dream

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All the talk about the Dorsey’s made me remember that I had the opportunity to sing at Peanut Hucko’s place in Denver.  He was one of the old Big Band guys.  There was a group that played the Dorseys rendition of “Dream a Little Dream ” .  They didn’t write it but it was from 1932.  Written by a trio, with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt and lyrics by Gus Kahn.  Here is my crack at it.


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Precious Lord Take My Hand.

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precious Lord

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What You Can Learn From The Hymnal



photo (30)I tell folks all the time you can learn a lot by reading your Hymnal –

I got this on my email –


Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a
little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to
St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I
didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child,
but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye,
clattered downstairs to our Model A, and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged
out of Chicago on Route 66.
However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had
forgotten my music case I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping
peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay; but
eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the
feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music. The next night, in the
steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I
finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped
open the envelope…. pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST
People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from
crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end
was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead …'”
When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between
grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little
boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I
felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write
gospel songs; I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But
then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment house first sad days, I thought back
to the afternoon I went to St. Louis.

Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had
paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when
she died. From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was
lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one
friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College, a
neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the
curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the
keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach
out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head, they just
seemed to fall into place: ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand; I
am tired, I am weak, I am worn , through the storm, through the night, lead me on to
the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’
The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that
when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is
closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power. And so I go on living for
God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently
lead me home.

– – – -Tommy Dorsey

For those too young to know who he is, Tommy Dorsey was a well-known band
leader in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Did you know that Tommy Dorsey wrote this song? I surely didn’t.
What a wonderful story of how God CAN heal the brokenhearted!
Beautiful, isn’t it?

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What Bugs You About This Story? part 2

walking on water

Mark 6 –

45″ Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.”

It is in our nature to believe that everything is about us.  The doctrine of justification is about how God declares sinners righteous for the sake of Christ and that is about us.  We sometimes forget that Christ came to reconcile all things to himself.  The whole created order will be recreated and be what God intended it to be.

As a sinful human being I am a bit put off that Jesus is praying on the mountain and he sees that the disciples are in distress and yet Mark says literally that Jesus wanted to pass them by.  Kind of offensive to my center of the universe sensibilities.  Here is a take on this from Timothy Tennant called “The God Who Passes Us By”.

“On either side of this passage Jesus is found feeding the 5,000 (6:30-42) and healing the sick at Gennesaret (6:53-56).  Yet, in the midst of these passages where God in Jesus Christ is healing us and meeting our needs, we catch a glimpse of the inner life of Jesus Christ apart from us.  We catch a glimpse into the mystery of God apart from us.  In the study of theology, this is known as the aseity of God.  It refers to God as He is in Himself, independent from us.  It was Job who declared, “He treads on the waves of the sea.”  Job, as much as any writer in the Old Testament, understood through his own trials and sufferings that God is unfolding purposes much bigger than us, and far grander than the limits of our imaginations.

The Jewish people identified the sea with the primordial chaos out of which the world was brought into order by the creative act of God.  The sea is a symbol of chaos.  This whole miracle is surrounded by the chaos of the Fall.   Before and after this passage we find people who are sick, ill and oppressed by demons.  Mark does not shy away from giving us a full glimpse into the horrible plight of the human race.  But Jesus is not consumed by these tragedies or by the enormity of the Fall.  He was about to pass by them because this miracle was not about them.  It was much grander than that.  Jesus was asserting His very reason for coming to earth at all.   He was asserting His divine prerogative over the weight of human sin, the Fall, and the chaos of our existence.  To walk on the water or, to use the words of Job, to “tread on the waves of the sea” is to demonstrate Jesus’ authority over the entire chaos of human existence.”

He meant to pass them by and in my center of the universe sensibility I think maybe it was so he could get ahead of them and lead them as a Shepherd “on quiet waters”.  Anyway Mark says he meant to pass them by.

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What Bugs You About This Story? Get Into the Boat!!!!

Mark 6 part 2

When we visited our partners in Kenya and would stop at some site or visit some folks that we enjoyed talking to, or spent too much time eating our guide and friend John Halake used to literally scream at us to “get into the caw”.  He meant car but it sounded like “caw” to me.  Jesus seems to be doing something like that to the disciples.

Mark 6 –

45″ Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

I am always a bit stunned at the things that people get upset or frustrated or bothered about when I preach or when we read a section of the scripture.  Truth be told there is a lot to be bothered about in this one little section of the Gospel of Mark.  There is more that enough to provoke us poor human beings in this portion of Scripture so for fun let’s do this – we will find all the troubling aspects (at least the ones that trouble me) figure out why they are troubling, and then I will tell you which of them bothers the most people.  I had several responses to Sundays sermon and I will reveal the one that bugs the most.  But first ………

Here is number one – “He made His disciples get into the boat”……

The word “made” really has the force of compelling or forcing.  I get the image in my mind of John Halake, or a policeman forcing a group of people to get out of a place or venue by kind of herding them along like cattle.  Why is Jesus doing this?  This was the scene of one of his greatest miracles?  He is going to hang around after he “dismissed the crowds”.  He constrains or drives the disciples onto the boat and He dismisses the crowds and it seems to be all of a piece.  He needs to separate the disciples from the crowds and the crowd from Him.  Why?

We have to go to John’s Gospel to understand this rather strange action of Jesus. If Jesus has to force them into the boat the implication is that they don’t want to get into the boat. John explains that the crowd was so excited by the miraculous feeding they wanted to kidnap Jesus and carry them to Jerusalem and make him king and the disciples seem to be only too happy to go along with this plan.  This is all a part of the Devils game to try to destroy Jesus ministry and work. This is a continuation of the temptations that began at the beginning of Jesus public ministry. Stepping back and looking at what happened before this event, and what will happen in the next few days, we realize this was a turning point in Jesus ministry.  This
seemingly simple event begins what to our eyes appears to be the beginning of Jesus publicity failures. The next day so many people run away from him, that he will ask his own disciples if they want to leave him too.

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Jesus Savior Pilot Me.

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He Sees!

Mark 6

One of the names for God in the Old Testament is the “God Who Speaks and Things Happen”.  Another name for God in the Old Testament is the God who sees.  Sunday’s Gospel lesson in Jesus walking on the water to get to the disciples who are terrified in a storm (again).  I heard this in a sermon when I was traveling one Sunday long ago and I have no idea who the preacher was but I thought this was interesting.

Mark tells us that even though the boat was in the middle of the lake, Jesus  could see the disciples. John’s Gospel says it was dark and they were between three and three and a half miles from the shore (John 6:17,19): Jesus would not have been able to have seen them with natural eyesight.

In the Old Testament Abram’s wife, Sarai, was pretty mean to her handmaid, Hagar, so she ran away. The angel of the Lord (we believe this to be the preincarnate  Son of God) appeared to her and told her to go back. He also told her what would happen in the future to her child yet to be born.

Hagar said, ‘You are the God who sees me  – I have now seen the One who sees me (Gen 16:13).’ The names of God in the Old Testament describe him: he is the God who sees us—no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing.

Some might see that as scary but I find it indescribably comforting.  He sees me.


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Project 24 Moves Forward

camelsWe started the Mary Okeyo scholarship trips to send young people to Kenya to see the way our partners love their faith in other countries and how they witness to Christ in ways that we cannot “get” unless we see it.  I went on the first of those trip and had the privilege of meeting Pastor Benjamin up in Wamba.  You can see those posts of our trip to Samburu by searching and using those names in the search feature of this blog.

Anyway Pastor Benjamin’s family has camels  and we got to milk them.  Pastor was lately elected to be the General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and I consider him to be my friend.  He is receiving reports from John Kissinger about the work and progress of Project 24 and he wrote me a note.

Dear Rev. Bernie Seter 

I greet you in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ . I take this chance to
thank you and the team for welcoming the Project 24 director  mr . John Kissinger .
Kissinger has reported to the Church concerning his meeting with you , we
appreciated  and look forward to receive the coming team on the month of August . My
camel's are okay .Hope to hear from you. 
May God Shower His abundant blessing upon you . 

Yours Servant of Servants . 
Pastor Benjamin Lemosi 

Rev Benjamin Lemosi Learka
General Secretary 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya

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