Tag Archives: Jesus

23 December – Still to come…

One of the risks of an Advent calendar (video or otherwise!) is that we begin to think of Christmas as a wonderful ending. In fact, of course, it’s just a beginning. In today’s video Mary looks back on Jesus’ first year, their first year as a family – and wonders how all the things that God had said about him will happen.

You might like to listen to the song, ‘Mary did you know?’ – it’s a wonderful reflection on all the things that were still to come. But for the moment, Mary didn’t know. And finding out would be a lifetime’s journey with Jesus.

What’s ahead of you on your journey with Jesus? Like Mary, you could spend some time wondering, asking God to open the right doors for his will to be done through you.


The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

18 December – ‘His name is Jesus’

Take a moment today to pause and remember that in Jesus, God has come to save us. That’s behind his name, which means literally ‘God saves’ or ‘God to the rescue’.

Where in your life today do you need God’s rescue?


The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

Blogging the Bible 365 – Revelation 21-22 – The End

It’s taken more than the year I’d planned, but I’m there. The last two chapters of Revelation, 365 posts from ‘In the Beginning’ to ‘Amen.’

And what a way to finish. The last two chapters of the Bible bring the whole story of God’s work and faithfulness to a triumphant conclusion, with everything right in a way that hasn’t been since that first reading, and the end of chapter 2 of Genesis. 

For at the end, the separation which has been the backdrop to the whole story is over. Heaven and earth are united in new creation. God dwells once again among his people, and the sufferings which came about as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3 are at an end.

But there’s no pretence that the great span of years and pages between the beginning and the end haven’t happened, or don’t matter. The tree of life is restored to its rightful place at the heart of human existence and society. But that place has changed. It’s no longer a garden with a single couple tending it on God’s behalf. Now the Tree stands at the centre of an impossibly vast and glorious city. For human history has happened, and that matters. The hardships and sufferings have mattered; so have the joys, the creativity, the progress – the growth of human society is reflected in the new creation – things may have come full circle, but that circle is actually more of a spiral, for the world is now higher even than it was in Genesis 2.

And God is at its heart again.

Nothing has been wasted. The glory of Creation, the faithfulness of Moses, the horrors of the Judges, the wavering of kings; the questioning of exile, the flowering of wisdom, the thundering of the prophets, all have shaped the story and so shaped the city. John the forerunner and the apostles who followed have played their part. And at the centre of it all has always been Jesus – the ‘umpire’ and mediator for whom Job longed; the Word of Creation and prophet, the Wisdom of Proverbs; the Light, Shepherd, Lord – and far more.

The story began as a vision for the world. It went wrong, and more or less started again with one man and his family. It became the story of the nation which traced itself to him, and then found its fulfilment through Jesus as the story of the whole world and all creation.

It’s been one story all the way through. And I’ve seen it in a new light for reading it and for writing on it in this way. Thanks to those of you who’ve been reading, and for the words of encouragement along the way. Some of you have told me that my writing has helped you, and I’m really grateful for that. But you’ve helped me, by giving me a reason to keep going! Thank you.

By coincidence, I’m posting this last ‘Blogging the Bible’ post in the morning before heading off for a silent retreat for 3 days. I’ve got a lot to think about, and once I’ve had time to digest my thoughts I’ll blog again and say a bit more about how this exercise has changed the way that I think. 

Part of me is relieved to be finishing, and hoping to get back to playing my guitar a bit more with the time I’ll have in hand! But I’m also going to miss the discipline and the impetus to read and to think about God’s word in a rigorous way – so what’s next? I don’t know, but I can’t end this whole series better than in the words of Revelation 22:16-17.

“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “come.”

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Blogging the Bible 364 – Revelation 18-20 – The King rides out

Through all of the New Testament, it’s been a truth at least in the background that Jesus is Lord. As Tom Wright has pointed out, that’s a big claim, and it’s the one which set Christianity against all other powers and authorities, above all against the Roman Empire. For if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not.

Now, at the end, the often-hidden kingship of Jesus is made obvious at last. He rides out at the head of an army of angels; his weapon is, as it always was, his word. His authority is now beyond question and beyond misunderstanding. And that authority is shown by the robe that he wears, one dipped in blood.

Long ago, in the wilderness the tempter offered Jesus power in exchange for worship. He refused that shortcut; and his power comes through the obedience of his life, culminating in his death for the world. That was always the plan. And so the beast is destroyed and the devil imprisoned by the King who carries the power of truth, love and integrity.

With just a couple of chapters to go, we’re back to Jesus – still and always the heart of all.

Blogging the Bible 318 – 1 Corinthians 13-16 – Eternal Love, Eternal Life

Paul’s wonderful hymn of love in 1 Cor. 13 is one of the high points of the Bible, and it’s one that we often read in isolation – especially at weddings! 
In itself, it’s well worth spending time praying through. In fact, you might find it helpful to try an exercise I’ve often done with people early in their journey into the life of faith. If you’ve got a few minutes, try this before moving on – and don’t read ahead, but do each step before reading the next one!

  • Read 13:4-7 slowly and carefully. What does this show you about love? It’s not the ‘carried away by emotions’ idea of love, but a love that comes from actions and attitudes of heart and life. What would this kind of love look like? How does it change your understanding of what it means to love?
  • St John tells us that ‘God is love’. We see the character of God most clearly in Jesus. So read those verses again, preferably aloud – but this time, wherever the text says ‘Love’, read the name ‘Jesus’ instead. How does this feel, and does it change how you see Jesus?
  • Now for the tough one. We’re called to become more like Jesus in our character. So read those words again, preferably aloud, but at least under your breath. And this time, instead of the word ‘Love’ say your own name. I know, it’s hard – unless you’re either perfect or blind to your own faults. But please try, and reflect on how it feels. and if there’s one of those statements that’s particularly hard to read aloud with your name in it, ask God for help to make it feel more true. Then make a note somewhere, and do this exercise again in a few months’ time – all three steps! When you get to your name, does it feel a bit more true this time than it did before? If so, it’s probably a good sign that you’re growing with God! If not, then check that you’re not being too hard on yourself, and ask God’s help to grow again. It’s a lifetime project, not a week’s work.

As I said, this passage is powerful enough to stand alone. But in the setting of the whole letter it’s even more. It’s the climax of the whole thing. Paul goes on to write about behaviour in church worship, in a way which is meant to help us to think of each other more than ourselves. He ends with a wonderful chapter on our hope of resurrection and eternal life.

But this chapter, this call to love more fully and deeply, is the high point to which he’s been building through what he’s said. It’s the foundation for what he’s going to say next. Love remains. Love, deep self giving love, is at the heart of eternal life. Let’s ask God for strength to love more deeply and widely.

Blogging the Bible 301 – Acts 10-12 – Christians

…it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:19)

Perhaps the order of events in these passages is significant. First, Peter is led by the Holy Spirit to welcome Gentiles into the church. Arguably, Cornelius is not the first Gentile Christian – that honour belongs to the unnamed Ethiopian eunuch. But this is still a key moment in the spread of the gospel. Through Philip, some Samaritans have already come to faith, and Peter and John have helped to teach them. But the Samaritans were seen as heretical Jews more than as Gentiles. Now God is taking the church a step further, and he has to make it very clear to Peter that this is the way things are to be. The vision of all foods being declared clean has to come to him four times before he’s ready for the knock on the door from Cornelius’ servants.

It’s hard for us to imagine now what a momentous step this was for Peter. His whole religious background before meeting Jesus was based on the special status of Israel, and the need to keep her boundaries strong. Now he found that God accepts and loves people of all nations who fear him and do what is right. Admittedly this is early in the developing understanding of the gospel, but the natural reading of the text seems to imply a very broad vision of God’s accepting love, not one that depends on particular belief.

Anyway, we never find out, because God sends the Holy Spirit before Peter has finished the sermon, and the gospel is now moving out to the nations – and to most of us.

Saul may have changed completely since he held the coats of those who killed Stephen, but the effects of that day are still ringing out – Christians have scattered, and though they fled for safety, they carried with them a message of God’s love through Jesus.

When that message takes root in Antioch, Barnabas brings Saul to teach with him there. And there the disciples are first called by the name we are honoured to bear – ‘Christians’. The church is no longer a Jewish sect. It is now a community open to all, in the name of Jesus. And we bear his name with pride, not just because we follow him, but because we share in his life and relationship to God. We are not just those who remember and honour Jesus, we are, together, Christ to the world.

We are Christians. And we delight in that name!

Blogging the Bible 295 – John 18-19 – What is truth?

I wonder why Pilate went into politics.
Perhaps he thought he could do some good, bringing the clarity of Roman government to the benighted provinces. Perhaps it was that he liked the idea of life and death power over little people. He probably never thought he’d be remembered throughout history as the place-holder for authority who was too afraid of the consequences to do what he knew was right – to set Jesus free.

Pilate’s problem was that he was so used to the practical realities, the deal-making and careful compromises that are needed from politicians and those in government, that he was at sea in the black and white world of Jerusalem. Before this moment, he’d already been forced to back down from what he must have felt were reasonable demands (placing a Roman standard in the Temple, and using some of the Temple tax to build an aqueduct to bring clean water into the city). He was defeated by his lack of understanding of people who were willing to die for their beliefs rather than compromise, and by religious leaders who were perfectly happy to let others die on a point of principle so long as they won.

So when Pilate sneers ‘What is Truth?’ – while Truth, the underlying Truth of the world as we saw in John 1, stands before him with bound hands – he shows how far he is from understanding the conflict in which he’s playing a part. To him, truth is negotiable, along with everything else, to keep things running smoothly.

So as he sees the disproportionate hatred the priests have for Jesus, and as Jesus refuses to be reasonable and give Pilate a way out, Pilate’s sophisticated shell begins to crack, until the educated Roman stands in fear of the Galilean carpenter in front of him – not the other way round.

No water can wash away Pilate’s guilt – though God can, and perhaps has. Pilate was keen to tell Jesus that he had the authority to let him go free – and he did have that authority, though he was afraid to use it. He sent the one truly innocent man in all human history to a death Pilate knew he did not deserve. And in doing so he demonstrated that the official power of a governor can do little in the face of those who live by the absolutes of another ruler.

As Jesus stands before Pilate in this scene, he is completely secure in who he is and in what he is called to do. He knows his Father’s love for him, though on the cross he will lose the experience of that. He is truth.

How sure am I of who I am, within God’s love? Without that core knowledge, I will always be at the mercy of those who can use diplomacy, persuasion or force to fit me into their plans. With that sure knowledge, and the help of God, I can stand.