Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Your Opinion

"God will never ask your opinion, and He will mostly disagree with you, but He will always be right." - Joe Novenson

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Riptide Within

"Sometimes life hurts like heaven, which feels sometimes worse than hell, because heaven wants you to change, and hell hopes you never do."

From the sermon entitled, "The Riptide Within" by Pastor Joe Novenson given at Lee University in 2008. You can download the sermon by clicking here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Nature of Temptation by Bonhoeffer

In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is in course of being extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God…. The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us….It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall and Temptation pp116-117

Monday, August 31, 2009

You Are My Righteousness

Lord Jesus,
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.

You took on You what was mine;
yet set on me what was Yours.

You became what You were not,
that I might become what I was not.

- Martin Luther

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pragmatic Success & Spiritual Failure

Have you ever thought that you could appear spiritually successful but be displeasing to God? The book of Judges speaks to this end and is echoed by the apostle Paul in both I Corinthians 3 and Galatians 6. Sometimes sowing to our religious flesh can outwardly look the same as sowing to the Spirit.

Dale Davis writes appropriately regarding this challenge in his commentary on Judges.

"The picture Judges 1 gives us is of an Israel in substantial control of Canann, a people clearly successful though certainly disobedient. Pragmatic success and spiritual failurea strange but possible combination.

For one thing, it tells us that it is possible for the believer’s life to display the marks of success and yet be a failure in the eyes of God. Christian success (whether personal or in the form of a glossy evangelical enterprise) is not necessarily the same as pleasing God."

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Try Harder

Growing up my parents gave me plenty of opportunity to try many extra curricular activities. One of those happened to be Boy Scouts. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a scout (never made Eagle, settled for First Class) I traded that experience in for sports soon before my teenage years began. The camping and survival skills obtained benefit me to this day and leave me with lasting memories. Our motto in Troop 218 was "We Try Harder." I have the T-shirt to prove it.

As you can see that motto became the goal for most of us kids at a very early age. That goal remains the goal for many of us as adults. However, through the years I have also found this motto to be the mantra of many in their Christian life and is the motto held both explicitly and implicitly by most church leaders. The challenge for holding this view is that it contradicts the essence of the Gospel. Remember this quote? "Give God your best, and He'll take care of the rest." I fail to remember anyone rejecting this notion with the verse from Isaiah 64:6 where God essentially said, "your best is like filthy rags." Do a word study on filthy rags. Comment on what you find God saying about our best.

Don't get me wrong trying harder makes sense when it comes to our jobs, sports, etc., but not in our Christian life. Here's why. The Christian life is not about trying, but dying. It's not committing (rededicating the rededication) to try harder but dying to self-reliance. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."(Gal. 2:20) The apostle Paul reminds us of how easily we forget that living the Christian life is accomplished by the same way we received that life, by faith. "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, (by faith) so walk in Him,"(Col. 2:6). So many of us think that we live the Christian life by simply trying harder hoping we accomplish it. This takes on so many forms (quiet time quotas, church attendance, witnessing quotas, 10% tithes, etc.) Paul goes on to challenge us in Galatians 3 when he writes,

"1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law (trying harder), or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (trying harder)?"

Do we get what Paul is saying? You received eternal life by God's Spirit and the channel (Greek word 'dia' - through) was faith. You live in your new life "pleasing" God not by trying harder but by dying harder (see Galatians 2:20).

So what about pleasing God? He is pleased with you. As a son or daughter who has placed your faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross your work is finished trying to please God. That's what Jesus meant when He said, "It is finished." The work of man trying to do enough things for God to remove His wrath over their lives is over. This is the Gospel! The idea of "working hard for God" should not be to make God pleased with us but should be motivated because His is pleased with us.

Is there work to be done "for God?" Yes. Again, Paul tells us what this looks like. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."(Ephesians 2:10) How do we walk in them? By faith. How do we accomplish it? We don't but God's Spirit inside of us does. Paul again, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work (He tries harder) for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) Do you see a pattern here? It is all God! Why? So He receives the glory alone. He told us He will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 48:11). He is only impressed when He looks at us and sees Himself.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Glory of God Displayed in the Lives of the Ambiguous

I am blessed to work for a Christian organization. On many occasions I ride the elevator there with employees of a contracted janitorial service. Two particular employees from that service always bless me by their sweet smiles, positive attitudes, and uplifting comments, even though they are on their way to their next not so glamorous task. It is a constant reminder that God displays His glory in the lives of the sometimes ambiguous. It also reminds me of a group of people in the Bible who were also ambiguous, The Sons of Korah.

Several years ago I found this site that articulates their story.

The name ‘Sons of Korah’ comes from a group of Old Testament Levitical musicians to whom at least 13 of the Psalms are attributed. The original Sons of Korah were responsible for the ministry of music and song in the Old Testament worship and particularly with the musical composition and performance of the Psalms. What follows is a short account of the biblical genealogy of this family.

In the Old Testament text of the Psalms reference is made to those who were involved in the composition of the psalm. Psalms 42 to 49 as well as Psalms 84 to 88 are attributed to a group known as the "Sons of Korah" (see the small print titles under the numbers of the psalms) It appears that this family of musicians were descendants of the same Korah who led a rebellion against Moses in the desert (Numbers 16). This was a serious crime that led to serious consequences for all those involved. We read that God caused the ground to open up and swallow all those who were involved in the rebellion along with their families (vs31ff). The idea of a judgement like this that involved the wiping out of the rebels as well as their families was that the line of the rebellious should not continue in the earth. It is therefore quite surprising that in Numbers 26:11 we read the words: "The line of Korah, however, did not die out." And sure enough as we follow the genealogies through Chronicles we see that that the line of Korah did indeed continue. According to 1Chronicles 6:31ff, David, when he was organizing the different tasks for the temple worship, assigned the ministry of song for a large part to the Kohathites. The head of this group was Heman who is the writer of Psalm 88 and more significantly is a direct descendant of Korah the Kohathite. Hence the psalm is also attributed to the Sons of Korah. It seems that at some point this musical family came to be called after their rebellious forefather. Korah was an infamous historical figure in the Israelite consciousness, remembered as an example of rebellion against God. To be related to him would have been a notable thing, though not necessarily a negative thing. The continuing existence of this family line was a testimony to the grace of God who although He would be right to wipe out the memory of sinful men from the earth, is nevertheless forgiving and Whose heart is always for restoration and redemption rather than for destruction.