Here is a short video clip from a Q&A I did recently for Third Millenium Ministry. They have a goal of making Master Degree level theological education available for everyone on the planet for free. Not a bad goal. This clip answers the question, “What is realized eschatology?”

It is only a minute or so long. Hope you enjoy it.

Realized Eschatology Clip

Dan

Sermon: Truth Matters

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Truth is increasingly becoming whatever you want it to be. Tolerance is becoming increasingly intolerant. Debate and discussion on issues in an effort to discover the truth, while respecting the other person, has been replaced with subjectivism coupled with personal attacks that shut down dialogue. In the midst of all this turmoil regarding what is truth and tolerance of everything, with the exception of people who think they are right, Christianity claims to not only stand on truth but that Jesus personified truth.

This worship service and sermon at Northland deals with the importance of truth, of us believing things the way they actually are.

The sermon begins at 36:00 but the whole service leading up to that is well worth the time.

http://www.northlandchurch.net/media/truth_matters/

Dan

“if God is a loving God then why does He let bad things happen, especially to good people?” It is a question that has been asked countless times throughout history, by devout believers and angry atheists and everyone in between. It may in fact be the question most often asked about God. Why does God let bad things happen? When someone dies at a young age, when a storm kills seemingly at random, when a job is lost, a house destroyed, cancer diagnosed, a pregnancy is miscarried, the question gets asked in the midst of pain and tears, heartache and anger.

At the root of the question are three assumptions. First that God’s attribute of love trumps all other aspects of His character. Of all the attributes of God the one most and almost exclusively held to by people today is that God is love. Certainly the Bible is clear that love is a very central aspect of God’s character. John 3:16 may be the most famous of all verse in the Bible and it affirms that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for it. Yet there are other aspects of God’s character that must not be negated or swept aside by love. In addition to being loving, God is also holy, merciful, righteous, omniscient, omnipresent. all-powerful, just and much more. God’s holiness must not be allowed to wipe out the reality of God being merciful. His immanence must not negate His transcendence. God’s love must not be allowed to veto the fact that God is just. In the case of why bad things happen, God’s love must not be allowed to supersede His providence which it working out His plan for all creation over time.

The second assumption is that there are good people who should only have good things happen to them. When something bad happens to them it is believed to be unfair and that somehow God should have prevented that tragedy from happening. Jesus dealt directly with this when he said that the “rain falls on the just and the unjust”. Matthew 5:45 The point Jesus is making is that we live in a world in which the same things happen to people who live righteously and people who do not. If it is raining and the result is a flood, that rain and flood impacts everybody. You don’t become exempt from hardship in life just because you are trying to follow God. People seem to have the idea that if something tragic happens to a nice or supposedly innocent person that the cosmos is somehow out-of-order.

The third assumption is that bad things should only happen to bad people and it is somehow justified. During Jesus day there was a common theology that said if something bad happened to you, serious illness, tragic accident or even death, that you were somehow deserving of that fate because you were obviously a serious sinner. This was the point Job’s friends kept pushing. They were convinced that Job must have some secret, hideous sin that inevitably brought on God’s wrath. Jesus gave two responses to that idea. One was when he spoke of a tower falling on a group of people and killing them. His point was that they were no worse than anyone else living in Jerusalem at the time. Luke 13:4 We live in a world impacted by sin and evil and bad things happen to seemingly good people. Additionally, sometimes bad things happen so that God may do something incredible and display His glory. That was the case with the man born blind. John 9  It was a theological dilemma for the scribes and Pharisees. After all, it would hardly be right of God to blind an unborn baby because of his parents sin. Why not blind the parents? And it could hardly be the babies sin. What kind of trouble could he get into while still in the womb? Jesus makes the point that sin had nothing to do with the man’s blindness but that he was born blind and lived his entire life to that point, stumbling around in darkness, just so Jesus could eventually heal him and God would be glorified. That is not something we like to hear. It runs counter to love trumping all that God would make a man live for decades in blindness just so He could heal him and have people turn to Jesus. Yet that is precisely what Jesus says.

So what we see is that sometimes bad things happen simply because we live in a fallen world in which evil is still real. We see that the level of your holiness does not exempt you from these things. Jesus also made it clear that bad things happening are not always the direct result of you doing something bad.

Let me pose a different question that I think is the one that we should be asking far more often than we do. It is simply this. “Why does anything good happen at all?” Since we are all sinners and none of us is truly good or innocent, not something we readily acknowledge, what we should be amazed at is that anything good happens at all. The standard cartoon joke is that when someone does something particularly rotten they immediately get struck by a bolt of lightning from on high. Fortunately n real life that just doesn’t happen. If it did I would be a crispy critter many times over. And so would you! Given that reality I think the real puzzle is why anything good happens. Given that I deserve God’s wrath because of my rebellion against Him, why has he not struck me, and you, down? It is all because of mercy. God is a long-suffering, meaning extremely patient God. He continues to put up with our sin and rebellion in an effort to demonstrate His kindness and love for us and lead us to Him. Paul tells us in Romans 2:4 that God kindness towards us is intended to lead us to repentance and following Christ. The problem Paul addresses is that we presume upon that kindness. We come to expect it as an entitlement. We think we are better than we are and that we deserve only good things and not bad things. When we have that attitude we miss the blessing of the good things that happen to us and we grouse and complain about the bad things, as if it is somehow unfair that we don’t get the good things we thing we deserve. The opposite is the case. We deserve the punishment but in His grace and mercy God keeps throwing blessings our way, blessings that we think are a birthright.

Rather than being miffed or angry or tormented when bad things happen, we need to be in awe, humbly grateful, always thankful, for the undeserved blessings that God gives us. Those blessings should drive us to live a life of utter devotion to God and a willingness to trust Him even in the bad times.

The Book is Here!

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

The Provocative God: Radical Things God Has Said and Done, is now available. You can order from this website and get the book for $10 plus shipping. Just click the link below.

The Provocative God

Hope you enjoy!

Dan

I recently answered a series of questions for Third Millenium Ministries covering topics related to Biblical Theology. Here is the first of the videos to be posted.

What is the Kingdom of God? 

It is a a couple minutes long. Hope you enjoy it and have your understanding of God expanded.

Dan

The Provocative God – Introduction

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.

 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

 And one called out to another and said,

         “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,

         The whole earth is full of His glory.”

 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

 Then I said,

         “Woe is me, for I am ruined!

         Because I am a man of unclean lips,

         And I live among a people of unclean lips;

         For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Isaiah 6:1-5 NASB

What ever happened to a God who was bigger than our wildest imaginations, more grand than our greatest accomplishments, more perplexing than our deepest scientific theories? What ever happened to the God Isaiah trembled before, certain that he would literally be undone by the very presence of such overwhelming holiness and majesty? Whatever happened to that God of mystery, of power, the God before whom we were compelled to fall on our faces and declare; I am ruined?

Nearly sixty years ago, J.B. Phillips wrote, “Your God is Too Small”. It was an attempt to stem the growing tide that viewed God as a being we could fully understand and with whom we could be totally at ease. In essence it was an attempt to keep us from putting God in a box that we could control and open and close at our own discretion. Phillips wanted people to understand that God was far more than the comfortable caricature that many had made Him to be. Certainly He is a God in whom we find comfort and peace. But He is also a God who at times challenges us, befuddles us, provokes us out of our comfort zone  into a wild and wondrous relationship with Him. Sadly from the look of things, Phillips failed badly. For many people, Christian and Non-Christian alike, God has become even smaller, more manageable, subject to our ever changing and shrinking notion of what He is like and what He can and even should do.

What is desperately needed is a God who is anything but tame and controllable. We need a God who shakes us out of our malaise. We need a God who provokes us. We need a Provocative God. In our highly sexualized culture the word “provocative” normally brings up images of the window at Victoria’s Secret, or worse. For something to be provocative it simply needs to get a reaction out of us. You can certainly be provoked sexually. But you can also be provoked into action because of the injustice of human trafficking. You can be provoked to anger like Jesus was when confronted with the thievery that was taking place in the Temple in the name of God. (Luke 19:46) You can also be provoked into breath-taking wonder when standing at the pinnacle of Pikes Peak gazing out over the snow capped mountains below. You can be provoked into a state of confusion and bewilderment when your preconceived notions smacked in the face by overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we really understood God we would know that He is nothing if not provocative. God says and does things that should get some kind of reaction out of us. The very fact that God declares, “My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8 NASB) should tell us that our encounters with God should be provocative. They should provoke us to think and live in ways we had never before considered. Or if we had considered them, we too easily discarded them as unreasonable, uncomfortable or unnecessary.

When we look closely at the Bible, not simply skimming through, or looking only for the proof text that makes us feel better, we are confronted by a God who said and did some rather radical, extraordinary, strange, disturbing and at times frightening things. They are things that challenge us and make us uncomfortable and at times confused. They are things that we often ignore because the implications of what God has said or done are implications we don’t want to face. But face them we must if we are ever going to have the kind of relationship with Him that God intends. We need to face them because those who would oppose God point to these provocative statements and actions and twist them into accusations against God.

It is my hope that what you are about to read provokes you. Sometimes it will cause you to wonder at your view of God and hopefully cause you to reconsider and maybe even discard the box you have Him in. Sometimes it will cause you to repent of attitudes and actions. Sometimes it will cause you to have a better understanding of what God expects of you. I know I have had all those reactions and more. Certainly there will be things you read that you disagree with, maybe even passionately. I’m okay with that. In fact I am more than okay with it. I welcome it. Because that means you are engaging with God on a head and heart level that will result in God being bigger in your life than He was before and your relationship with Him being deeper than ever.

REDEFINING “RADICAL”

The subtitle to this book about our provocative God is; Radical Things He Has Said and Done. The word radical has been thrown around a lot lately. David Platt has written a very popular book by that title. The media refers to radical fundamentalists of various religious stripes. On the political scene the far left and right are viewed as unreasonable radicals who are threatening the democratic process. And when we think about radical things that God has said and done, our first thoughts most likely concern things that are far out on the extreme, unreasonable, on the edge of rationality if not over it. That is not the understanding of radical that this book presents.

Let’s take a look at some dictionary definitions of “radical”

rad·i·cal   [rad-i-kuhl]  adjective

of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.

thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.

favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms:radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.

forming a basis or foundation.

existing inherently in a thing or person: radical defects of character.

1 footnote; From dictionary.reference.com

Of the five definitions given for radical as an adjective, only numbers two and three fit the common usage mentioned above. Numbers one; four, and five collectively define what I mean by radical. Something that is radical is something that goes to the root or core. It should come as no surprise then that we get the English word Radish, from the root word for radical. No pun intended but it makes the point. Something that is radical should be something that is at the root, heart, core, and foundation of who and what we are.

In speaking of a radical God, what we are really talking about are things that God has said and done that should be at the root of who we are and what we believe. They are things that as definition five says, are “foundational” to who God is. If they seem radical by our common usage, meaning extremist, then it is not because these things are on the edge and we are at the core. Rather, the radical things God has said and done seem extreme because we have moved far from the root and core of who God is and who He has made us to be. We are the ones who, in our modern and post-modern world, have moved far from the root. We have moved far from the core of where we were created to be. We have drifted ever so slowly to the extreme edges. It is like my friend Pete Geiger sings in his song Hallowed Ground. “We’ve wandered so far of track we didn’t know that we were lost”. God is still at the center. We are on the edge. We have wandered far off course in our thinking and our actions.

God seems extreme in so many ways because our self-centered perspective has the world revolving around us. We all see ourselves as average, middle of the road, stable and reasonable. When God does things and says things that are consistent with His character, when He is radical in the foundational sense, He seems extreme and outlandish to us. We grow uncomfortable with this extreme, radical God. So we marginalize and ignore Him and become functional agnostics. Some of us become angry Atheists who cry out against a God we don’t even believe exists. Some of us turn our back on our radical God and remake Him in our own image. He is safer that way. We can control and understand such a god. But such a god is no God at all. Such a god is a tame, manageable, cosmic security blanket, who never meddles in our personal affairs and never challenges our self-centered thinking. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, such a god is “safe, but not good”. We need a God like Aslan who Lewis describes as “good but not safe”. We need a God who will pull us back to the root, the core, the center of who we are made to be.

The God of the Bible is much like the majestic Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, who is strong, powerful, demanding, yet gracious, sacrificial, and merciful. Instead we have a God who is the lion from the movie, Second Hand Lions. He looks like a lion, seems powerful and frightening, initially provoking fear, only to find out that it is an old, worn-out, tamed lion, who just wants to lay in the shade and eat dried lion food from a bag.

Make no mistake. In the Bible there are lots of very uncomfortable things that God has said and done. Asking you to forgive someone seventy time seven when they sin against you is extremely provocative. Requiring you to love your enemy, the person next door who constantly blares their music at all the wrong times, shoots of fire works till well past midnight on every conceivable holiday, and lets their trash blow into your yard, is radical and provocative. Saying that the only way to get to heaven is through a relationship of faith and trust in Jesus Christ is as counter-cultural as you can get these days and provocative in the extreme. With these and many other things that God has said and done, we have softened them, reinterpreted them, explained them away, and outright ignored them. In doing so we have attempted to tame our provocative God. But he refuses to be tamed. His Word stands for all time and continually calls us back into a relationship with Him that is unsafe, and uncomfortable, but is good beyond our wildest dreams.

 

You can preorder a copy of the book here.

It has been a long time coming and many of you have asked about it. I am thrilled to be able to let you know that the book, The Provocative God: Radical Things God Has Said and Done, is ready to go to the publisher. We are planning for the book to be in your hands by October. However that depends on having a successful kickstarter campaign. We are 20% towards the kickstarter goal after just one day so things are looking good. It would be great to have you check out the kickstarter link and get in on the first orders for the book. So why not do something provocative and help make a book available to others so that they encounter our amazing and provocative God.

Provocative God Kickstarter Link

Thanks so much for all you comments and encouragement and for helping make this dream a reality.

Dan