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November 2016

Stumblingblock

1 Corinthians 1:1-2:5 What would convince the world to believe in God? I once asked an atheist the question:  “What would convince you to believe in God?”  He answered: “Until god appears before me as a burning bush or I see his picture on the front of popular science magazines I will remain a non-believer.” […]

The powers that be

Romans 13:1-14 Romans 13 has introduced two phrases to the world that seem to pull in different directions – at least in the way they are used. On the one hand we have “the powers that be.”  We commonly use this phrase to describe nameless authorities handing down impersonal judgements: –  “Apparently, in their infinite […]

Vengeance is mine

Romans 12:1-21 Belief in a God of vengeance will create vengeful people, right? On the other hand, if we want to pursue peace ourselves, we must dispense with the view of God as some Settler of scores, right? Actually the Apostle Paul argues precisely the opposite.  He begins by enjoining an incredible level of pacifism […]

O wretched man that I am!

Romans 7:1-25 It was Jesus who coined the phrase “the Spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.”  It was Paul who explored the idea in chapter after chapter. According to the Apostle Paul there are three tenses of salvation.  There is the past tense: “According to God’s mercy He saved us.”  (Titus 3:5) There is […]

The wages of sin is death

Romans 6:1-23 Driving across my wife’s home town of Belfast, it’s difficult not to come across this verse emblazoned on some billboard or other: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23) And it’s usually in the King James Version too! […]

God forbid

Romans 5:1-6:14 It’s a far from literal translation, but it traces all the way back to Tyndale and even to Wycliffe before him. “May it never be” would be a stricter rendering of the Greek, but “God forbid” has endured as a statement of indignant resolve. It occurs 26 times in the Bible, the majority […]

Hope against hope

Romans 3:21-4:25 It’s the hope you have when there is no hope. Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah 90 when they were promised a miracle child (Isaac).  As Genesis 18:11 put it:  “Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” […]

A law unto themselves

Romans 2:1-29 He’s his own man.  A ‘loose canon’, a ‘live wire’, ‘off the radar’.  Or in other words “a law unto himself.”  That’s the way we tend to use the phrase nowadays. Question:  What would God prefer us to be?  Would He rather we lived ‘under the law’ or would He rather we be […]

Saints

Romans 1:1-17; Colossians 1:15-23 “You’re a saint!” they exclaim.  And it feels nice to be called that.  Though obviously we bat away the compliment.  Because we know it’s mock praise for a minor act of kindness.  We know they don’t really think of us as a saint.  You see in most people’s understanding saints are unapproachable, […]

It is more blessed to give than to receive

Acts 20:13-38 Jesus’ version of it is probably the most famous – but everyone says “it’s better to give than receive.”  All the religions say it.  Even the atheists say it. Last year, UCLA life scientists released a study showing the health benefits of providing support to others.  There are many such studies around.  They […]