This is a sermon on John 13 and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. Betrayal is one of the most painful experiences we go through because it can only come at the hands of someone close to you. Anyone can hurt you but only someone close enough that you trust them can betray you.

The Certainty of Betrayal

Dan

If Houston Subpoenaed My Sermons

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

A recent news report dealt with a controversy in Houston Texas. The short version of the story is that Houston passed an ordinance that dealt with access issues for transgender people. There was an effort to overturn the law that included the gathering of thousands of signatures on petitions in order to get the issue on a ballot. The concern people have is that the law would allow a man to dress up as a woman, claim to have gender identity issues and then have the freedom to go into any womans restroom, locker room, sauna, you name it and stare at women and young girls.

A coalition was formed to gather the signatures which according to reports were more than enough to get the issue on the ballot. However the city attorney in cooperation with the mayor tossed out the petitions. The coalition then filed suit against the city. The cities response was to subpoena the sermons and a host of other material from four pastors who were also part of the coalition. The Attorney General for Texas made it clear that the city had overstepped its bounds and the subpoena needed to be withdrawn. Fears of free speech, freedom of religion, government intrusion, and even corruption were quickly fanned into flame. The mayor’s office has since backtracked on the issue and is going to limit the scope of the subpoena to documents, emails, text messages and other communication related to the ordinance and petition.

You can read more about the issue here. Houston Sermons

I don’t want to get into all the constitutional issues, the fact that the ACLU has expressed their concern in favor of the churches speaks to how significant these issues are. I look at this from the point of being a local pastor who preaches and teaches. My response is simple. How many copies would you like? Do you want printed only or audio and video? Anything sermon I preach is available for anyone who wants to read it, watch it, listen to it. Why would I not want them to have them? I understand that it feels like government bullying. But didn’t Jesus say this is what we should expect? Didn’t he also say that we are blessed when people treat us this way?

For me this just looks like a win/win situation. It is a win because some government official would be taking in the content of the Gospel that I preached and you never know what could come of that. It is another win because Jesus says I just got blessed by having someone come against me and the Gospel.

I am kind of thinking I might want to move to Houston and expand the reach on my audience to City Hall. ;-)

The Last Stand

Posted: August 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have found that one learns a great deal about people, their strengths, fears, prejudices and virtues by reading military history that focuses on the people more than the strategies and tactics of a battle. To that end I have been reading The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick.
A common practice among plains Indians was to in some way desecrate the bodies of their dead enemies by mutilating them. The Little Bighorn was no different. Everyone of the nearly 200 U.S troopers to die with Custer near Last Stand Hill was desecrated in some way. Usually this was through making large slicing knife wounds to the legs and arms.
There was one notable exception. Captain Myles Keogh’s body was left untouched in the midst of dozens of other mutilated troopers. The obvious question is why? Keogh was noted for bravery during the fight by the very Indians he fought against and that might seem like an answer since bravery was highly regarded in that warrior culture. But others were also noted for bravery and that did not spare them being desecrated.
There was something that stood out to the relief column that arrived a few days after the battle. Conspicuous around Keogh’s neck was a medallion know as The Agnus Dei or Lamb of God. When his body was found the Agnus Dei caught the attention of those who saw him.
Christian symbols were know among the Cheyenne, Sioux and other plains Indians. Sitting Bull, for example, wore a crucifix for many years after it was given to him by a missionary when Sitting Bull was a young man. Even though they would not have been followers of Jesus they respected what they saw as spiritual power. Because of that respect, it is speculated that they left Keogh’s body intact. This becomes even more fascinating once you realize that the desecration had a spiritual purpose. It was believed that when the body of an enemy was desecrated, that enemy was denied an existence in the afterlife. It was considered the final triumph over your enemy. By not desecrating Keogh’s body, they were in effect allowing him to enter the afterlife. That was an extremely unusual and significant act.
All of that got me to wondering about respect. The warriors under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse would not have agreed that Keogh’s Christian faith was correct. In fact there is enough evidence to show that major parts of Christianity did not sit well with Native American religious beliefs. Yet at the same time it seems that, at least in this case, they could respect that Keogh believed in an afterlife and they were not going to do anything to interfere with that once he died.
That leads me to ask, if these Native Americans could show that kind of respect to an enemy, an enemy that had come intent on killing their women and children, an enemy whose faith they did not hold, how should Christians, who are called by Christ to love our enemies, show respect to others who we are certain have incorrect beliefs?
I will just leave you with the question to think about as I do.

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