How to Cultivate Hope


Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Pet 3:15) We Christians ought to be a hope-filled people but a mixed-up gospel has made us a wishful people. We ought to be strong in the faith but religion has weakened us with disappointment. If you’ve been disillusioned and disenchanted, the good news is that God has hope for you, a good hope, the kind that lasts. Where is this hope found? In his grace: “God our Father has given us good hope by grace” (2 Th 2:16). Hope is a rope that links us to a truth not yet experienced. Your … [Read more...]

Seven Ways Religion Damages Hope


You can learn a lot about hope from watching the movies. When I was a kid I saw The Neverending Story, and for some reason one scene has endured in my memory. It’s the scene where Atreyu is confronted by Gmork, the wolf-like servant of the Nothing. Atreyu asks Gmork why he is helping the Nothing destroy the world and stirring up despair. Gmork the wolf replies: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control... has the power! Hope is a powerful weapon. Hope gives you strength and courage to endure. Hope keeps you free, and this is why religion hates hope. I … [Read more...]

10 Ways Religion is Bad for You


Every story needs a villain and the villain I most often employ is religion. Grace is good, but religion is bad. Grace promotes trust in God, but religion is all about trusting self. Grace says, “God helps you,” but religion says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Some have said that I’m giving religion a bad rap, that religion is not the evil empire I make it out to be. “A lot of good is done in the name of religion.” Others distinguish good religion from bad religion. “Didn’t James write something about pure religion being acceptable to God?” He did, but James hated … [Read more...]

Pure Religion (James 1:27)

Refugee Women

Religion is bad. By definition, religion is a kind of bondage, which means there’s no such thing as good religion. But what about James who said this: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jas 1:27, KJV) There are two ways to read James’s words: 1. Religion is good Forget grace, forget the cross, forget the blood of Jesus – what really impresses the Lord is visiting the fatherless and widows. And if you really want to impress him, keep yourself unblemished from the … [Read more...]

Married to Jesus

Wedding rings

Jesus spoke of the joy that erupts in heaven when a sinner repents and comes to believe in the good news. We might imagine they have something like a birthday party to celebrate the new birth, but in reality it’s the rejoicing that accompanies a wedding. It’s a celebration of a new life wedded in union with Christ. Many of us are looking forward to the wedding banquet yet to come, but Jesus is returning for his bride, not his fiancée. You are already married to him. Your union with Christ is not a future event but a present reality that began the moment you first said “Yes” to Jesus. Jesus … [Read more...]

The Parable of the Two Sons


From time to time people ask me to write about the parables of Jesus. This is something I enjoy doing because I love the parables. The parables of Jesus are launch pads to revelation and if we have ears to hear they reveal the wisdom of God. Especially this one: What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” “I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go. (Matt 21:28-30) Great story! I … [Read more...]

The Testing of Your Faith

Testing faith

What goes through your mind when you see men in orange jumpsuits waiting to be killed for their faith in Jesus? Do you think, “I could die for Jesus,” or “Thank God that’s not me”? The earliest Christians faced the lions of the Roman circus and persecution remains a fact of life many Christians today. But most of us are’t being threatened with torture and martyrdom. No one’s holding a knife to our throats and saying, “Renounce Jesus or die.” But what if they were? Could you go through with it? I honestly don't know the answer to that question since I've never been in that situation. … [Read more...]

Sowing, Reaping and the Golden Rule

karma v grace

From the beginning of time there have been two worldviews, two trees, and two ways live. One is karma (you reap what you sow), and the other is grace (you reap what someone else has sown). This world runs on karma: Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. But the kingdom of God runs on grace: God is good to you. Period! The old law-keeping covenant ran on karma: Obey and you’ll be blessed. Disobey and you’ll be cursed. But the new covenant runs on grace: You’re blessed because Christ obeyed. Karma vs grace Karma is about retribution and return on investment, but grace is about forgiveness and … [Read more...]

Is Forgiveness like a Debit Card?

Forgiveness debit card

Are you completely forgiven or partly forgiven? It’s a simple question that reveals whether you appreciate all Christ did for you on the cross. Recently I heard a critic of the grace message say two contradictory statements: Christ paid for your complete redemption (amen!) but you are not completely forgiven (huh?). That’s like saying you’re saved, but not really. Or you’re holy, but sanctification is progressive. It’s the sort of mixed-up message you get from a mixed-up gospel. Forgiveness like a debit card? Some say that forgiveness is like a debit card. When Christ died he made a … [Read more...]

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?


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...]