Tag Archives: Larry Norman

Why Does The Devil Have All The Good Music?

After sitting in a local pub and comparing the music in church with that sung by the minstrels, Martin Luther posed a great question: “Why does the devil have all the good music?” This is a paraphrase, but it’s the gist of what he said.

Five hundred years later, legendary Christian music pioneer Larry Norman put Luther’s words to music, which you can watch in the above video.

But Martin Luther understood the power of music and more importantly, the power behind the music.

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Job 1:1-7:21
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Psalm 37:12-40
Proverbs 21:25-27

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Job 1:1-7:21. The book of Job is one of the Bible’s most mysterious books. We don’t know who wrote it or when it was written. Most scholars date it to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1800-2000 B.C.). If the Pentateuch was penned by Moses, then Job predates the second oldest book(s) by approximately 500 years.

Except for the first two chapters and the epilogue at the end, everything in Job is written as poetry.

Job has also been heretically misinterpreted by certain teachers who believe that pain and godly living are mutually exclusive. They can’t explain how God can allow “bad” things to happen to good people. But he does—which is why Job is such a helpful book. “Job was the biggest fool in the Bible,” I heard one well-known television preacher say.

But the bigger fool is the one who believes Job was a fool. From the outset we read that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Furthermore, no one on earth was like him (Job 1:8).

Most amazing about him is his response to deep tragedy, which included the loss of his children, servants, and possessions: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

These aren’t the words of a fool, but rather a man terribly out of touch with reality, or perhaps, incredibly in touch with reality. I believe the latter.

The bigger fools were Job’s three friends. We’re first introduced to Eliphaz. He can’t believe that bad things happen to good people. “You must need a little discipline to fix some problems in your life” he seems to be saying (Job 5:17). “Just be patient and everything will work out.”

Eliphaz represents the people who cannot enter our pain because they have never experienced it. They look at us and say, “Just hang in there and everything will be okay. Just learn what you need to learn and then the pain will stop.”

Sometimes—oftentimes—pain and loss happen without any good explanation. Rather than sit with Job in his pain, Eliphaz stood at a distance and offered shallow platitudes.

For good reason, Job refused to accept it. After responding to Eliphaz, Job then directs himself to God. The New Bible Commentary makes an excellent observation here:

For the moment, [Job] asks of God nothing except that he should leave him alone so that he can live out his remaining days free from pain. But of course there is more to this than meets the eye; for in the very act of begging God to desert him he is in fact approaching him.

1 Corinthians 14:1-40. Over the last hundred years, countless churches have gotten hung up on the subject of speaking in tongues. At the risk of continuing this practice, I will admit that I see no evidence that proves the gift of tongues has ceased. Yet the point Paul is making is this: tongues aren’t the point. Love is the point (see Eugene’s excellent post from yesterday) and after that, we need prophecy.

According to Paul’s definition in verse 3, prophecy is a word spoken from God for our “strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”

This doesn’t mean that tongues should be ignored over more “important” gifts. All the spiritual gifts are equally important, but they all play different roles. In a corporate worship setting, prophecy is most important.

Paul concludes this discussion with these helpful words: “Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Good advice!

Psalm 37:12-40. I won’t expound on this passage because this blog post is on the long side, but it offers some great insights into Job’s suffering.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Zoroastrianism purports that God and Satan are equal adversaries, engaged in a cosmic battle. Taking their cues from this ancient Persian religion, many well-intentioned believers believe that Christianity works the same way. God and Satan are engaged in a cosmic battle, with the deciding factor boiling down to the actions of Christians around the world. If the Christians could just get their act together and pray and legislate righteousness around the world, then God will win.

“Christianity is one generation from extinction,” I’ve heard many preachers say.

Really?!?

At the beginning of Job, we read that Satan enters the presence of God along with the angels.

The word “Satan” means “adversary” or “accuser.” In fact, the literal translation in the first two chapters of Job refers to Satan as “the accuser.” Revelation 12:10 tells us that the accuser stands before God day and night, charging us with any and every sin. His intent? To disarm us. To prevent us from understanding the authority and power that God has over him.

Yet today’s reading clearly shows us that God is greater than any power in heaven and on earth.

Like Job, we may experience pain and loss or unfair accusations. But God is still stronger, still greater, still wiser. This is the message of Job.

Martin Luther once wrote, “The devil is God’s devil.” Like we read today in the book of Job, Luther knew that Satan’s power was no equal to God’s. He found that music was an effective vehicle to not only teach about the power of God over the devil, but also to mobilize people in their resistance to him.

“Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful…The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

In addition to appreciating music, he also wrote perhaps the most well-known Protestant hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The first verse of his hymn is familiar among many, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight the third and fourth verses, which accentuate our reading in Job:

Verse 3:

And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us;
The prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Verse 4:

That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’
Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Our world is filled with evil and the influence of the Accuser. But even in the midst of pain and loss, God is still in control. Satan may buffet us, but God will win because he’s God.

So why did God allow Job to suffer? We’ll discuss that as we work our way through Job.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does your reading in Job tell you about God and Satan?
  3. How might our reading in Psalm 37 inform your understanding of the righteous who suffer?
  4. What has been your experience with prophecy and tongues? Why do you think these two gifts have been particularly divisive in the church? Is that a valid reason to avoid them? Why or why not?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Revolutionary

Larry Norman was in many ways the mouthpiece, instigator—and agitator—of the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Jesus Larry Norman proclaimed was anything but safe and nice. In fact, his “revolutionary” music would probably find few Christian radio stations today willing to air it.

And like 40 years ago, we still encounter sanitized versions of Jesus. Nice. Safe. Soft-spoken. Weak. Non-offensive.

In the video above, Larry sings a song about Jesus entitled The Outlaw. It’s a fitting tribute to the greatest revolutionary…whom you’ll learn more about in today’s reading. To read the lyrics, click here.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 35:10-36:38
Matthew 27:32-66
Psalm 34:1-10
Proverbs 9:7-8

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Matthew 27:32-44. The fact that Simon’s name is mentioned in this passage likely means he became a follower of Jesus as a result of carrying the cross.

Jesus was offered gall to drink (verse 34), which consisted of wine and some sort of pain-killer. Despite his reluctance to be crucified, once he began his journey to the cross, Jesus refused to dull the pain.

Matthew 27:45-56. Again, Jesus was offered a pain-killer (wine vinegar) and again he refused. The New Bible Commentary points out that verse 46 is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus doesn’t refer to God as his father. Carrying the sins of the world caused a break in his intimate relationship with his father.

Also notice that verse 50 says Jesus, “gave up his spirit.” Jesus was in control and willingly laid his life down for you and me.

Yesterday, our reading in Exodus demonstrated the separation between us and God. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies—only once a year. But we read in verse 51 that the moment Jesus died, the curtain separating humanity from God’s presence was torn from top to bottom. Now all of us can enjoy intimacy with God—without fear of separation.

Psalm 34:1-10. In 1 Samuel 13:14 we read that David was a man after God’s heart. Well, here’s what his heart looked like in distress. This psalm is an acrostic poem David wrote while on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Out of desperation, David fled to Gath. Because he was a well-known soldier, he knew the people there would be concerned that we was spying on them. So, he acted as if he had lost his mind. You can read more about it in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

Proverbs 9:6-7. Since I was a little fuzzy on the definition of a mocker, I looked it up in one of my Hebrew dictionaries. It says mockers are people who “speak words which show no respect for the object, and make fun of the object, with a possible focus of speaking in the situation with confidence and authority.” Here’s the Klassen paraphrase: Mockers make fun of people without thought about how they might hurt their feelings.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Any time I read the Bible, I must assume that every detail is included for a reason. Like we learned yesterday, Barabbas symbolized the scapegoat in the Day of Atonement sacrifice.

While researching today’s post, I stumbled on this insight in The Bible Background Commentary: “The word for ‘robbers’ [in Matthew 27:38] is the standard term…for revolutionaries; presumably they had been colleagues of Barabbas.”

So Jesus, the true revolutionary, was executed between two lesser revolutionaries.

What was the nature of his revolution?

Rather than give you my take on Jesus, I’m going to turn it around to you.

In what ways was Jesus a revolutionary?

Let’s get the conversation started!

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How would you answer the question “In what ways was Jesus a revolutionary”?
  3. If you were to follow Jesus’ revolutionary footsteps, what would your life look like? What prevents you from living like this?
  4. In Psalm 34:1-10, David recognized that his salvation came in the form of humiliation. Have you ever experienced a time in your life when your salvation came in the form of humiliation? If so, please share what happened and what you learned from the experience.
  5. Mockers are criticized 16 times in the book of Proverbs. Why do you think the book criticizes them so repeatedly?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Are You Ready?

In 1969, Larry Norman released his first solo Christian music album, Upon This Rock. The back side of the album–pressed in vinyl!–featured a song that became the rallying cry of the burgeoning hippie-driven Jesus Movement.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready (you can watch it in the video above) foretold the day when the world comes to an end and Jesus escorts his people home. Across the country, hippies raised their index fingers in the air and proclaimed, “There’s only one way, to Jesus,” and “Jesus is coming soon.”

So what happened? Did Jesus return? And what does the Bible say about Jesus’ coming back?

Join me as we explore this subject in today’s reading.

Note: An acquaintance of mine, David Di Sabatino, recently released a documentary on Larry Norman’s life entitled “Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman.” For more information go to http://www.fallenangeldoc.com/

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 21:22-23:13
Matthew 24:1-28
Psalm 29:1-11
Proverbs 7:6-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Exodus 20:20. I know this goes back to yesterday’s reading, but it really speaks to me: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Taking God seriously can keep us from sin.

Exodus 22:2-3. This seems like a precarious law: If a person robs you at night, you can kill the person. But if it happens after sunrise and you kill the person, you’re guilty of bloodshed. What’s the difference? The Bible Background Dictionary explains, “When a burglar enters a house at night and is killed by the homeowner, this is considered a case of self-defense…That changes, however, if the break-in occurs during the day, because the homeowner could more clearly see the degree of threat and could call for help.”

Exodus 22:21-24; 23:6,9-11. Of the litany of laws in today’s reading, the command to be kind to the alien, widow, and orphan speak to me the loudest. Roman Catholic theologians espouse the “preferential option” which means that all things being equal, God sides with the poor. Because of this, we must side with the poor.

Exodus 22:28. The command “Do not…curse the ruler of your people” is selectively obeyed today. Seems to me that most people obey it when their candidate is in office and invalidate it when the candidate they opposed in the last election is in office.

Matthew 23. In the chapter, Jesus gives the religious leaders of his day a whuppin’, which pretty much sealed his fate. His message? Appearance means nothing. Motives mean everything. And what motives is God looking for? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness (sounds reminiscent the comments made from Exodus 22). It’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t against the Law (see Matthew 5:19). This is a good lesson for churches that get caught in the business of ministry–or stuck  following the rules and then neglect the true intention of our faith: loving God and loving our neighbors.

Matthew 24:15. A great deal of conjecture exists regarding the meaning of the “abomination that causes desolation.” First, it’s a reference to Daniel 11:31 and 12:11. Some historians believe it occurred in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes placed a pagan statue in the Temple. Josephus, the first-century historian believed it was fulfilled when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 66 AD.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

In my childhood, I listened to sermons on Matthew 24 nearly every week for two years (at least that’s how it felt). Line-by-line, we were shown parallels between Matthew 24 and the present: rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines and earthquakes, people turning away from the faith, an increase in wickedness.

And I drank the Kool-Aid. In Sunday School I told my friends they needed to repent because Jesus was coming soon. I pored over books about the last days. Surely, I thought, I’ll never get my drivers’ license or get married.

But Jesus never came back—at least not in the way that I expected. In my seminary studies, I discovered that for two thousand years, preachers have pointed to sections of this chapter as evidence that they were living in the last generation. And up to this point, all of them have been wrong.

Nevertheless, people still flock to Bible prophecy conferences and feed on novels like Left Behind.

True confession: sometime, I’d like to attend one of those prophecy conferences and stand up in the middle of one of their general sessions and yell, “If you really believe it, run up your credit cards as high as you can so that after Jesus comes back, you’ll bankrupt the Anti-Christ!”

So how are we to respond to passages like Matthew 24?

We read them closely and take them seriously. Jesus could return any day now. Of course, he could return much differently than any of us expect. We also live as if we’re ready to go: keep our accounts short in our relationships and in our walk with God.

But beyond that, we keep on living.

Isn’t that how Jesus wants us to live anyway?

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Read Exodus 21:23-25 and then Matthew 5:38-40. The first passage instructs people to live by the rule of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But in the second passage, Jesus directly contradicts it. How do you reconcile the two passages? Should one overrule the other? Why or why not?
  3. What would your life look like if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? What prevents you from living that way right now?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? In light of Psalm 29, what do you think God is saying to you in response to it?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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