Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings



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Hope & Promise

“By hope we lay hands on the substance of what we believe and by hope we possess the promise of God’s love.” ~ Thomas Merton

The Father reaches out to us through his great and precious promises. Hope encourages us to reach toward him with both hands, ready to grasp his love.

I hear God’s promise, perhaps through reading the scripture or listening in prayer. The promise requires something of me: to believe, to hope. When I respond with hope the promise comes alive in me, it no longer resides in a book or as an idea, it becomes a living thing.

It’s too easy to reduce the words of God to principles and precepts, as if the Father is the Great Theology Lecturer in the Sky. But no: he is personal, intimate, and close. No amount of study can achieve this intimacy. Intellectuals value learning; the desperate value hope. God's promises are not grandiose proclamations from a mountaintop; they are love-words whispered in my ear—secrets known only to him and me. His promises are not the stuff of contracts and agreements that lawyers can parse and accountants measure; they are bread and wine that sustain my body and lift my spirit.

Each promise from God is personal, even if it is given to many people. Others might hear the very same words and stand unmoved or evaluate the promise with a critical eye. Trusting this promise is a high-risk strategy, they judge. There’s no guarantee of success; the odds are against this plan. But hope is not a strategy: it is birthed when the words of loving parent are received and treasured by a trusting child. We cannot really believe the promises of God until we take the dangerous step of trusting him.

The Apostle Peter understood the dynamic power released in us when place our hope in the promises of God. “Because of his glory and excellence,” he writes in the first chapter of  II Peter , “he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” Hope leads us toward the divine nature and leads us away from the corrupting power of our own desires apart from his promises. It’s not that desire itself is bad; it’s that the promises of God are the proper object of desire. Our desires comfort, ease, security, wealth, and control actually corrupt our souls. Human desires apart from God’s promises will wear us down and break us apart—that’s what corruption is. But desire, when pointed toward God’s promises, become a life-giving tree, rooted deep within us. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” say the Proverbs, “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” When our hope is in anything other than the promises of God, we will find ourselves heartsick.

There is a modern word for this kind of heart sickness: cynicism. Cynicism is an infection that poisons the everyday blessings of life and multiplies the everyday problems of life. Despair is not the opposite of hope: cynicism is. Cynicism is anti-trust; it is the whispered voice of caution that flows from the self, a self separated from the love of God. It is the illness of our age, presented to us the wisdom of the worldly-wise, self-preservation masquerading intelligence.

Why is cynicism regarded as a useful tool for coping with life but hope is written off as wishful thinking? Hope is the more powerful force for change. Let others label hope as risky: the real risk is to live our lives as if God does not exist. The day will come when the scoffers and cynics will stand amazed that the small and the foolish were right all along: hope is the way forward.

33 Wise Sayings From My Most Trusted Teachers

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” 
C.S. Lewis

“God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“The provision is in the promises.” ~ Derek Prince

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” ~ Annie Dillard

“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” ~ Annie Dillard

“Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.” ~ Watchman Nee

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.” ~ Dallas Willard

“A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall, or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying “Why?” ~ Dallas Willard

“I'm practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.” ~ Dallas Willard

“Our failure to hear His voice when we want to is due to the fact that we do not in general want to hear it, that we want it only when we think we need it.” ~ Dallas Willard

“When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God's work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.” ~ Richard Foster

"The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it. . .” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Peace is first of all the art of being.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day's chalking.” ~ Frederick Buechner

“Only miracle is plain; it is in the ordinary that groans with the weight of glory.” 
Robert Farrar Capon

“The Christian religion is not about the soul; it is about man, body and all, and about the world of things -with- which he was created, and -in- which he is redeemed. Don't knock materiality. God invented it.” ~ Robert Farrar Capon

"It doesn't honor God to pretend everything is OK. That’s the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that he died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist." ~ John Mark McMillan

“All sins are attempts to fill voids.” ~ Simone Weil

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” ~ Simone Weil

“A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

“To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

‎"Educated Christians like myself expect God's grace to prefer people of greater natural ability, higher standards of behaviour, and superior education in the liberal arts. In fact God mocks my expectations." ~ Augustine of Hippo

"Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world" ~ N.T. Wright

"You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship." ~ N.T. Wright

"If you're a Christian you're just a shadow of your future self." ~ N.T. Wright

"I feel about John's gospel like I feel about my wife; I love her very much, but I wouldn't claim to understand her." ~ N.T. Wright

AND HELP ME, PLEASE: “Grace means that all your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” ~ I’d love to know who said this!

Good Friday, 2017

Even in suffering and death Jesus is our model. The New Testament accounts of Good Friday are his grace-gift to us, that we might see how a godly man faces injustice, suffering, and the end of life.

Good Friday shows Jesus facing punishment and torture. It does not turn away from the reality of suffering and it reminds us that Jesus, the divine Son of God, was also fully human. He was beaten; he bled. He was whipped; and his flesh opened up. He was stripped naked before others; he felt the shame. He was pierced; he felt the agony. Though weakened and dying from his injuries he spoke to his family, he encouraged those beside him, he cried out to God, and after he was sure is work was finished, then—and only then—did he himself give up his life.

Human suffering is made noble for only one reason: that Jesus, the Son of Man suffered. His holiness forever sanctified all suffering. Jesus did not “taste” human suffering, rather it is we who taste his. Good Friday teaches us that the Son of God wanted no separation between his life and ours. He drank the cup of humanity down to the dregs.

Even in suffering we hear him speak. The Lord used his voice to forgive and to comfort his family. He uses his voice to share his need and discomfort. He uses his voice to connect with one more human soul, the man crucified by his side.

And he used his voice in one final way: Jesus asked God “Why?” and in so doing he gave us permission to do the same. If he can ask God “Why?” so can we. What’s more—just moments later—the same One who felt forsaken and cried out “Why?” then said: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus moved from asking God why to trusting everything to the Father. In these two statements he taught us a final lesson: even when we do not understand why, our surest choice is to commit ourselves into the loving hands of the Father.”

"Discovering Hope" ~ A New Book ~ Via Kickstarter!

Friends: I'm so happy to announce the pre-lease of my next book, Discovering Hope, which is available only through a Kickstarter project:

This Kickstarter runs until March 30th, and I'd be so grateful if you'd take a look at this two-minute video that explains the vision of the book, scheduled for release in September (2017).

Be sure to check out the REWARD LEVELS (scroll down the right-hand side of the Kickstarter page), which include small Group packages for your church or organization, as well as personal rewards and special (small) thank-you's from me.

Peace: Ours to Receive -- and Give

In church we say things so often it’s easy to forget they are true. More than true: some liturgical phrases have the power to change the world. Like children reciting E=Mc2 we are unaware of the power on our lips. Consider the simple greeting, “Peace be with you” and the group response, “And also with you.” It’s a simple exchange, offered and returned where God’s people gather.

Peace is a gift, ours to receive, and then ours to give. On what was perhaps the darkness night in history Jesus said to his friends, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus saw the betrayal and violence that would arrive before sunrise. He saw the hopelessness of midday. He wanted to equip his friends. He offered peace, capable of overcoming troubled hearts and abject fear. The same Jesus who could sleep on a boat during a violent storm said to his friends, "My peace I give to you." His words were not a command, they were a gift. He did not offer Biblical clarity, nor strategic insight. Indeed, what he offered passed understanding. He offered something from another world. He offered the in-breaking of a kingdom characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy. On that sacramental night, the high priest gave not only bread and wine. He gave peace as well.

And yet peace is a strategy as well. Jesus trained us to offer peace: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. (Luke 10:5-6) Peace is something a disciple carries without benefit of a bag or purse. Peace is a gift we give to anyone who shows hospitality. Peace is the starting point of all ministry, the axis of the good news. Peace is tangible: it is given and received—yet peace has a mind of its own, choosing whether to stay or return.

In the Kingdom of God is peace is more than a platitude. Peace is something other than a high-minded ideal. Peace is how God equips his people. Peace is so real it can be carried and offered to others. What if the antidotes to uncertainty and fear are not knowledge and courage, but peace: freely received, and freely given?

What if peace has been God's gift to you from the very beginning, and he is waiting for you to both receive it and give it to others?

Peace be with you.