The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

Parable of the Talents 504

Once upon a time there was a man who went on a journey and before he left he entrusted three servants with his money. When the man returned, he praised the two servants who had doubled his money, but the third servant, who had done nothing, was thrown outside into the darkness. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) is used by some to say, “Jesus paid a great price for you. If you don’t work hard to give him a return for his investment, he will toss you into the outer darkness. So get busy for Jesus.” This resonates with those who see themselves as servants rather than sons of God, … [Read more...]

What Makes the New Covenant New?

Homer_New Covenant

There’s a classic scene in The Simpsons where 8-year-old Lisa is offered a large check. Monty Burns has made a $120 million from an idea that Lisa gave him and he wishes to give her a ten percent share. But the money represents ill-gotten gains from harvesting the sea, so Lisa says no. Lisa later apologizes to her dad for not taking the money. Homer replies, “I understand. But we really could’ve used that $12,000.” When Lisa explains that ten percent of $120 million is a great deal more than $12,000, Homer has a heart attack. Homer’s bad maths makes me think of Christians who don’t … [Read more...]

What about Ananias and Sapphira?

Thenardier

Recently in Connecticut, a pastor stood in front of his church and confessed to the sin of adultery. Then the pastor fell down dead, right in front of everyone. This proves that God expects his people to live holy lives and if they don’t, he’ll kill them. Of course, that’s complete nonsense. The story is true - a Connecticut pastor really did die - but the interpretation is all wrong. The fact is, God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. But what are we to make of Ananias and Sapphira who, like the poor pastor, dropped dead in a church (Acts 5:1-11)? The bizarre deaths of Ananias and … [Read more...]

The 9 Lies of Religion

Truth v lie

“I came into the world to testify to the truth,” said Jesus. “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). These are strong words. If Jesus put them on his Facebook page he’d get roasted. “Jesus, how dare you claim to have the inside track on truth? Why must we take sides? How ungracious. How divisive. What gives you the right? Who do you think you are?” Jesus testified to the truth because only the truth can set you free. Religion, on the other hand, keeps you bound with half-truths, bent-truths, and damnable lies. By religion I mean the universal quest for … [Read more...]

Continue in the Grace of God

cycling uphill

In the New Testament we are exhorted to continue in God’s kindness (Romans 11:22), continue in the faith (Colossians 1:23), continue in the teaching of Christ (2 John 1:9), and continue in what we have learned and been convinced of (2 Tim 3:14). In short, we are to continue in the grace of God: When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Act 13:43) In the mind of the secure believer, these are healthy exhortations that lead us in the path of life. But … [Read more...]

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1–8)

Unjust Steward

The strangest parable Jesus ever told was about a man who cheats on his boss and is then praised for doing so (see Luke 16:1–8). The parable of the shrewd manager (or the unjust steward) is puzzling. What is Jesus trying to tell us? That it’s okay to cook the books, diddle the figures, and engage in white-collar crime? No, Jesus isn’t encouraging dishonesty. He’s telling us how to plan for the future: And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. (Luke 16:9, NKJV) The punchline of the parable is “make … [Read more...]

Conditional Acceptance? (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

grubby kid

“God loves you just as you are and not as you should be.” That’s the gospel of grace in one sentence! Manmade religion says you have to clean yourself up before you approach the Lord, but grace shouts, “Come as you are!” So how do we explain this passage which seems to say something different: Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:17-18) This sounds like conditional acceptance, as though we have to purify ourselves before … [Read more...]

Believing in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:2)

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“How do I know if my belief in Christ is in vain?” When a reader asked me this question recently, she was referring to Paul’s warning here: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Cor 15:1-2) What you look through determines what you see. Read this scripture through works lenses and you will see an exhortation to “hold fast or die!” The message you get will be, “I’ve got to believe and … [Read more...]

Some Honest Answers for Michael Brown

Brown and Prince

CharismaNews has just published an article entitled “Some honest questions for Joseph Prince.” In it Michael Brown puts 11 questions to “Pastor Prince and those who embrace the modern grace message.” Unlike Pastor Prince, I’m not a busy man. I don’t have to preach four or five times this Sunday. So I have taken it upon myself to respond to these questions on behalf of all who embrace the gospel of grace. Regular readers will know that this is not the first time I have responded to something Michael Brown has written against the grace message. “Paul, why do you keep taking the bait?” Because … [Read more...]

Jesus and Divorce

Second Marriage

In the past year I’ve had a couple of friends go through divorce and each time it has torn our hearts. I won’t go into details, but what has struck me is how some in the church have responded to these divorces. Let’s just say there has been an aroma and it has not been the fragrance of Jesus. Divorce seems to bring out the ugly in some people. In a recent post I asked the question “Can divorced people remarry?” By the grace of God they can! (Whether one should remarry is a separate question.) While some may wag their fingers in judgment, the message I want divorced people to hear is … [Read more...]

Can Divorced People Remarry?

broken_heart_by_starry_eyedkid

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Let me see. Can sinners be forgiven? Can runaways come home? Can crooks get a second chance? Can the broken be made whole? No, it’s not a tough question. It’s an easy question. Of course divorced people can remarry! These questions are only tough because religion has told us that divorced people are unforgiveable sinners. They’re lepers who blight our perfect little churches. As long as they sit quietly and help with our programs, they are welcome. But the moment they start looking for love, they’ve crossed the line. They had their shot at love and they messed … [Read more...]

Labor to Enter His Rest (Hebrews 4:11)

Migrant-Mother-Dorothea-Lange

The other day a strange man approached a young girl and offered her candy if she would get in his car. Thankfully, the girl knew all about stranger danger and quickly walked to a shop where she was safe. I know you’ve heard this sort of story before but this was different for us because it happened on the street where we live and the girl was a classmate of one of my daughters. She was walking home when it happened so you can guess what every parent in our school is now thinking. That could’ve been my little girl! I mention this story because a few years ago this incident would’ve sent … [Read more...]