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Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

Both Joseph and Mary were given strict instructions regarding the name of the Christ-child (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31). Angels had to come – they moved heaven to earth! – just to tell them the vital importance of being “Jesus.” Think of all the advice these first-time parents might have received… “You’re bearing the Son of […]

O wretched man that I am!

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 present […]

The wages of sin is death

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! It serves […]

God forbid

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 of the […]

Crown of thorns

What does it mean for Jesus to be Redeemer? What does it mean that He is Saviour of the world? You see many people have a gospel that depicts the Son of God swooping down to snatch a lucky few from damnation.  Souls are saved and saved out of the world into another realm.  The […]

Crucify Him, Crucify Him

In 1963, Stanley Milgram’s experiment asked anonymous participants to deliver increasingly severe electric shocks to subjects in the next room.  Unbeknownst to the participants, the shocks were not real.  But had they been, they may have been fatal.  The great majority of participants delivered the shocks, even though there were screams of great pain from […]

The fatted calf

When the prodigal came home, they killed the fatted calf. From the father, it was the most lavish gesture of reconciliation.  He would publicly welcome, celebrate and eat with his lost son. For the younger son, it was the most incredible token of the father’s forgiveness.  The father from whom he had only taken, now […]

Prodigal Son

The world divides into two camps – sinners and slaves. The sinners love freedom.  The slaves love respect.  The sinners opt out of the system to discover themselves.  The slaves opt in to prove themselves. When sinners are upset they riot or hold protest rock concerts.  When slaves are upset they write stern letters to the Daily […]

Lost sheep

Kevin’s mother might complain to her friend: “I’m afraid since his girlfriend left him, Kevin’s been completely direction-less.  A bit of a lost sheep really.” But it’s not just Kevin.  The Bible puts that label on a much broader constituency.  Often the people of God are called “sheep without a shepherd” (e.g. Numbers 27:17; 1 […]

The head of John the Baptist

TS Elliot said “human kind cannot bear very much reality.”  This story plumbs the violent depths of that truth. John the Baptist was a shining light.  He was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  Jesus called him the greatest man born of woman (Matthew 11:11).  As the summation of all the prophets who preceded […]