Completion of Romans, James and Colossians

2022 saw the completion of Romans and James

My Romans 11:36:

Everything comes from him;
everything has him as its starting point.
Everything is
through him;
everything is accomplished by him.
Everything is
for him;
everything has him as its ultimate goal.
To him be the supreme glory,
praise and worship
now and
for ever and ever!
Yes, yes, yes! Amen!

My Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, in response to God’s gloriously generous acts of mercy and grace, I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to submit to God. Offer your bodies, in fact your whole selves – every part of your body and every area of your life – as a living sacrifice to God. Such a sacrifice is:

  • total: keep nothing back.
  • willing: gladly submit to God because you’re thankful for all he has done for you.
  • living: remember that you actively share in the resurrection life of Christ.
  • holy: cultivate the fruit of the Spirit to become more like Christ himself.
  • thoughtful: serve the Lord as an act of worship with your hearts and minds gripped by his love.

Such a sacrifice will always be acceptable and pleasing to God.
2 Although you live in the world, don’t conform to the world around you: don’t let the ways of the world shape how you live. You need to be transformed from the inside out. Your inner self needs to be completely changed, because what you do is influenced by how you think. Replace the thought patterns of the world around you by constantly renewing your mind. Take in and apply the ever-fresh word of God, and your thinking will be reshaped by the Holy Spirit. You will then be able to discern and fulfil what is the will of God, what is good, perfect and pleasing to him.

My James 5:16:

‘The prayer of a righteous person – one who leads a life of godly integrity – is powerful and effective. When you pray, God releases the power of his infinite resources. Never forget that your prayers make a huge impact.

2023 has seen the completion of Colossians and Philemon

‘Outrageously thankful’
One phrase in Colossians 2:7 kept ringing in my ears as I worked on the text: ‘outrageously thankful to Christ’. The traditional versions have ‘overflowing with thankfulness’. I searched through a thesaurus for synonyms for very and they all seemed to have negative overtones. I therefore looked for a synonym which one worked best with ‘thankful’ and came up with ‘outrageously thankful to Christ’. Thank you, Lord!

At the time of writing I am editing the Pastoral Letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus).

Highlights from Revelation

Revelation 1:4-8

4I, John, am writing to you, the seven churches in the province of Asia. May you all receive more grace – special undeserved love, kindness and favour and peace:

  • from God the Father, the eternal One, who is always present, who was in the past and who is to come in the future, and
  • from the seven spirits, the full sevenfold activity of the perfect Holy Spirit, who are in front of his throne;
  • 5and from Jesus Christ. He persevered as the faithful witness. He is the firstborn from the dead: his resurrection proves he is the most exalted One. He is the all-powerful ruler who reigns supreme over all the rulers on earth.

Praise Jesus Christ! He loves us deeply and constantly. He has set us free from the controlling power of our sins. He did this by giving up his life when he shed his blood for us in his death. 6He has made us a new people: kings and priests to serve his God and Father. Stop and realise afresh our new identity in Jesus Christ. Yes! Celebrate him in praise for his radiant majesty and power for ever and ever! Amen!

7In fact, look up! Focus on Jesus Christ.
He is coming with the clouds,’
He is coming to this earth gloriously
and visibly: ‘The eyes of every person will see him,
even those who pierced him.’
All the peoples throughout the earth
‘will mourn because they have rejected him.’
Yes! Amen!

8The Lord God himself says, ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the ultimate source and supreme goal of all things. I am the One who is always present, who was in the past and who is to come in the future. I am the eternal all-powerful One.’

Revelation 1:12-18
12I turned round to see whose voice was speaking to me. But when I turned, I first saw seven golden lampstands. 13In the middle of the lampstands I then saw a majestic heavenly being like a Son of Man present among the lampstands. He was dressed in a long robe, like the one worn by a priest, and with a golden sash round his chest. 14The hair on his head was white like wool, or even snow, showing his wisdom. His eyes were like blazing flames, having the insight of a judge. 15His feet were glowing like polished bronze as if purified in a furnace. His voice was as powerful as a roaring waterfall. 16In his right hand he was holding seven stars. Out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword of incisive judgment. I glimpsed his face shining as radiantly as the sun in its full intensity.

17This vision of the risen Jesus was so glorious and overpowering that when I saw him, I fell unconscious at his feet in awe and terror as though dead. But I felt the gentle touch of his right hand on me, and he spoke with authority and reassurance, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One. I was dead, but look! I have been raised to life and am alive for ever and ever. Be confident because I am Lord of all. I am with you always. I hold the keys of death and Hades, the realm of the dead. I exercise absolute authority over the power of death.

Revelation 2:4-5
4‘But although I praise you for your zeal for the truth, I also criticise you. I have this against you: you’ve abandoned the first love you had for me and your brothers and sisters when you started to follow me. Your passion for God has grown cold. You no longer serve others from a heart of love. 5So remember how far you have fallen! Turn back to God and change your ways. Rekindle the fire of your devotion for the Lord. Go back to doing the works that you did when you first followed me. Find practical ways to show your compassion towards others. But if you don’t turn back to me, I warn you, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This church will stop being a source of light to your community.

Revelation 3:20
20Listen! Recognise that all you need is me. I’m standing outside the door of your lives and am knocking. I invite you to open the door. Take down the “Keep out” sign and let me in. If you hear my voice and respond by opening the door, I promise that I will come in and eat with you, and you with me. We will enjoy each other’s company and share a meal together as close friends.

Revelation 4:8-14
8Each of the four living creatures had six wings and were covered with eyes all around, on the inside and outside of their bodies. They never stop singing. They worship God continually 24/7, singing together:

‘Holy, holy, holy,
He is completely holy, full of pure, perfect and majestic holiness.
He is the Lord God Almighty,
He is the greatest Lord, the infinite all-powerful God.
He was in the past, is always present and is to come in the future,
He reigns eternally over time and history.’
9The four living creatures and the 24 elders were completely captivated by the Lamb. They sang a fresh and glorious song of worship to the Lamb:

‘You are worthy –
only you, Lamb of God, have the right –
to take the scroll
and break open its seals,
because you were killed,
and with your blood
you paid the price to set people free from slavery to sin
and present them to God,
people from every tribe, every language, every people and every ethnic group.
10You have made all of them in their diversity to be one kingdom, kings and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.’

11Then I looked and I heard the voice of countless millions of angels. They surrounded the throne, the living creatures and the elders. 12They were filled with an all-consuming passion for the Lamb and burst into a loud song of adoration:

‘The Lamb who was killed is worthy!
Only he has the right
to receive all power and wealth,
wisdom and strength
and honour, glory and praise!’

13Then I heard every creature throughout the universe, in heaven, on earth and under the earth and even in the sea … and everything in them … singing joyfully:

May the glorious One who sits on the throne
and the Lamb
receive all praise and honour and glory and power
for ever and ever!’

14The four living creatures responded with a grand ‘Yes! Amen!’ and the elders fell on their faces and worshipped.

Revelation 5:9-10
<9>The four living creatures and the 24 elders were completely captivated by the Lamb. They sang a fresh and glorious song of worship to the Lamb:

‘You are worthy –
only you, Lamb of God, have the right –
to take the scroll
and break open its seals,
because you were killed,
and with your blood
you paid the price to set people free from slavery to sin
and present them to God,
people from every tribe, every language, every people and every ethnic group.
10You have made all of them in their diversity to be one kingdom, kings and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.’

Revelation 7:9-12
9After this I had a further vision. I saw a huge crowd of people … in fact, a countless number … from every ethnic group, every tribe, every people and every language throughout the world. They were all standing in front of the glorious One on the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing pure white robes and were waving palm branches of victory in their hands. 10They cheered loudly and excitedly in celebration:

‘Salvation comes only from our God!
We give honour to the glorious One
who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb!’

11Then all the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell on their faces in awe and joy in front of the glorious One on the throne and worshipped him, 12saying:

‘Amen! How wonderful God is!
May all praise and glory;
wisdom, thanksgiving and honour;
and power and strength
be given only to our God
always and for ever and ever!
Amen! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Revelation 7:14-17
He said to me, ‘They are the ones who are coming out of the terrible suffering. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Their trust in Jesus’ death brings forgiveness of their sins and cleansing.

15‘Therefore they stand as priests
in front of the glorious One on the throne of God
and worship and serve him day and night in his temple.
The One who sits on the throne
will protect them with the shelter of his glorious presence.

16He will take away all their suffering:
“They will never again be hungry
and never again be thirsty.
Neither the sun nor any scorching heat
will strike them.”
They will be kept safe and secure.
17This is because the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will take care of them as a shepherd looks after his sheep.
“He will guide them to ever-fresh springs of living water,”
“and God himself will wipe away every tear of grief or pain from their eyes.”’
Those who have remained faithful
will be filled with pure joy;
their deepest longings will be satisfied for ever.
They will fully enjoy the closest presence of God himself.

Revelation 11:15
15Then the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven. They shouted out their affirmation:

‘The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord God and of his Messiah.
He will reign for ever and ever!
Our Lord God and his Messiah
now at last exercise supreme sovereign authority.

Revelation 12:11-12
11Our brothers and sisters have overcome him because
they trusted in the blood of the Lamb,
that Jesus gave up his life for them
when he died on the cross.
They trusted that Jesus had forgiven all their sins.
They faithfully declared the word of truth
the message of their testimony.
They did not cling tightly to their lives
but were willing to be persecuted
even to the point of death.
12Because Satan has been defeated and
the Messiah’s powerful reign has now arrived in its fullness,
come on and celebrate!

Take delight, therefore, you heavens
and everyone who lives there!
But disaster will come on the earth and sea
because the devil has gone down to you.
He is furious
because he knows
that his time is short!’

Revelation 19:6-8
6Then I heard what sounded like the roar of a vast cheering crowd, as powerful as a roaring waterfall and booming thunder bolts, shouting out this joyful song of thanksgiving and worship:

‘Praise God
because our Lord God, the All-powerful One,
reigns over all.
7Let’s celebrate!
Take delight in him, jump for joy
and give him glory
because the time has now come
for the wedding of the Lamb.
His bride has made herself ready.
8She has been given the privilege
of wearing radiantly pure fine linen clothes,
(because fine linen stands for
the righteous acts of God’s holy people).’

Revelation 20:1-4
1I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding in his hand the key to the Abyss and a heavy chain. 2He grabbed hold of the dragon – that ancient snake called the devil or Satan – and put him in chains for a thousand years. 3The angel threw him into the Abyss, locked it up and sealed its entrance over him. This was to restrict Satan’s power so that he might no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed. After that he must be set free for a short time.

4I saw thrones in heaven, and those sitting on the thrones were given authority to rule and judge. I also saw the souls of martyrs, those who had been persecuted and beheaded because they had remained faithful to the testimony of Jesus and the word of God. These martyrs had been vindicated by God and rewarded for their faithfulness. They had not worshipped the beast or its idol and had not been branded with the mark on their foreheads or on their hands. They came back to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 21:1-7
1Then I saw an incredible vision of a completely transformed creation. I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea of evil no longer existed. 2I saw the pure and holy city, the new Jerusalem, joyfully coming down out of heaven from God himself, prepared as a bride dressed beautifully for her husband on their wedding day. 3Then I heard a loud voice coming from the throne. The voice called out triumphantly:

‘Look at this glorious city,
full of life, full of God himself!

God’s home is now among his people.
He will make his home among them;
they will enjoy his immediate presence for ever.
They will be his one people,
from all the world’s diverse peoples, tribes, languages and ethnic groups.
God himself will be with them and will be their God.
4Be encouraged!
He will care for them so much that

he will personally wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
neither will any form of grief, crying, suffering or pain exist any more.
All evil will be excluded,
because the old order of things has passed away
to be replaced by the new order of perfect peace, love and joy.

5Then the glorious One seated on the throne said, ‘Look! I am making all things radically new. Nothing will be the same; everything will be changed.’ He added, ‘Write this down, because you can trust these true words. He will certainly fulfil his word.’ 6Then he spoke to me personally, ‘It is done; everything is completed. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I am the ultimate source and supreme goal of all things. To those who sense their need and are thirsty, I will freely give water from the ever-fresh spring of living water. As they drink that water, their deepest spiritual longings will be satisfied. 7Here is a challenge to remain faithful! Those who have been victorious throughout life will inherit all the privileges of the promised blessing that I will be their God and they will be my children.

Revelation 22:1-5
1Then the angel showed me the river of ever-fresh living water, sparkling brightly as crystal. This river flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the main street of the city. On both sides of the river stood the tree of life, which produced thriving crops: twelve kinds of fruit, one fresh crop each month of the year. The tree’s leaves bring the healing power of God to the nations of the world. 3No longer will there be a curse on anything. The judgment of humanity’s original rebellion will be taken away and the glorious presence of God – the throne of God and of the Lamb – will fill the city. His servants will worship and serve him. 4They will even see his face with their own eyes: this is the highest possible privilege! His name will be on their foreheads; they will enjoy his security and protection. 5There will never be any night again; it will always be light. They will not need any lamp or the light of the sun, because the glory of the Lord God himself will shine on them, and they will reign joyfully with him for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:17-21
17The Holy Spirit together with the church, the Bride,
urge Jesus, ‘Come soon!’
May those who listen to this
also say, ‘Come!’
May those who are thirsty come,
and may those who want to
freely take the gift of living water.
As they drink that water,
their lives will be sustained
and their deepest spiritual longings will be satisfied

18I warn everyone who is listening to the words of the prophetic message of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the punishment of the plagues described in this book. 19Similarly, if anyone removes anything from the words of this prophetic message, God will remove from that person any share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. This revelation must not be tampered with or distorted in any way. Respect this book; obey its contents. Do not alter, ignore or turn away from its message at all.

20The One who declares these things says, ‘Yes, I repeat this promise, I really am coming back soon.’

We respond with deep longing, ‘Yes! Amen! Lord Jesus, come back as quickly as possible.’

21May the Lord Jesus generously pour out his grace – his special undeserved love, kindness and favour – on you all. Yes!

Highlights from Acts

Acts in my paraphrase (extended translation) is published is now available in digital editions

Some highlights:

Acts 1:8
‘You will receive power from heaven when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Only when you’re brimming over with the energy of the Holy Spirit will you be equipped to take the initiative and be effective witnesses for me. The Holy Spirit will mobilise you to boldly declare the good news. You will go out in ever-widening circles, first to Jerusalem, next to all of Judea and Samaria and then eventually to the furthest corners of the earth.’

Acts 2:2-4
Suddenly, something absolutely unexpected and extraordinary happened. They heard a loud roar like the noise of a gale-force wind that came from heaven and spread throughout the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what appeared to be bright flames of fire over them all. The flames divided above them, so that a single flame came to rest on each of them, but without burning them. They were all filled, brimming over, with the Holy Spirit. The promise of Jesus was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit came on them all. Each of them experienced an overwhelming sense of the presence and power of God. They began to speak in other languages that they did not know, as the Spirit equipped them.

Acts 2:42
They all committed themselves actively and wholeheartedly to:

  • the apostles’ teaching and training, and
  • fellowship, meeting with, sharing with and supporting one another;
  • the breaking of bread, including as Jesus did at the Last Supper, to remember his death and
  • different kinds of prayer, showing their constant dependence on God.

Acts 3:19-21
The time has now come therefore: have a complete change of mind and heart; make a decisive U-turn in your lives. Turn back to God and trust only in him so that all traces of your sins will be wiped out. You will then enjoy the gentle breezes of the Lord’s presence. He will then send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time comes for the restoration of all things, when everything that has been spoilt by sin will be completely renewed in the world to come, which God declared through his holy prophets a long time ago.

Acts 4:12
You must respond to Jesus, because salvation is not found in anyone else. There is no other name given under heaven to humanity by which we must be saved. God has provided Jesus as the unique way of salvation for the whole world.’

Acts 7:22
Moses was then trained in all the great wisdom of an Egyptian education and he became a force to be reckoned with in both his words and actions. God was preparing him for his future leadership role.

Acts 8:4
So the followers of Jesus who had been driven out of Jerusalem took every opportunity wherever they went to talk naturally about Jesus in their normal everyday conversations.

Acts 10:28
Peter said to them, ‘You yourselves are very much aware that it is against our law for a Jewish man to associate with, or even visit, a Gentile. If we do so, we become defiled, ceremonially unclean. However, God showed me in the vision I saw that I could eat any food and not become defiled. I realise now that I am therefore allowed to associate with Gentiles because I should not write off anyone as impure or unclean.’

Acts 12:9
Following the angel, Peter left the prison cell. He didn’t know whether what the angel was doing was real. In fact, he thought he was dreaming or experiencing a vision; everything seemed surreal.

Acts 14:22
As they went, they strengthened the hearts of the believers, encouraging them to continue to trust in the Lord. Their message was realistic: ‘As you follow Jesus, you will definitely experience difficulties. We have to go through many troubles to enter the kingdom of God.’

Acts 17:22
Then Paul stood up in the meeting of the city senate and said, ‘People of Athens, I notice that you have a great sense of God in every aspect of your lives. You realise there must be more to life than what you see and experience…’

Acts 20:24
However, I don’t regard my life as valuable to myself. My aim is to complete the race – and it’s a marathon not a sprint – and fulfil the service that I received from the Lord Jesus. I simply want to tell the truth about the good news of God’s extravagant love.

Acts 28:31
He continued to declare the good news of God’s reign breaking into the world in Jesus. Full of boldness, he taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing and no one could stop him from faithfully making Jesus known … so the good news of Jesus would eventually reach the furthest corners of the earth.

Luke 15: Extravagant love and two lost sons

11Jesus continued, ‘There was once a man who had two sons. 12The younger son said to his father, “Father, give me my share of your estate that will come to me when you die.” [In this way, the son was basically saying, “I wish you were dead.”] So the father divided up his inheritance between the two sons.

13‘Soon after that, the younger son cashed in his inheritance, packed up all his belongings and left home. He travelled to a country far away, where he spent his new-found wealth on a binge of wild, reckless living. Boy, did he have a good time! 14But after he had got through all his money – down to the last penny – a severe famine devastated the whole country, and he was left with nothing … absolutely zilch. 15So he went and linked up with a local farmer, who sent him out into the fields to feed slops to the pigs. (Because Jews considered pigs unclean, this menial work would have been deeply humiliating for him.) 16He became desperately hungry: he even longed to eat the pods in the swill that the pigs were feeding on, but there was no one he could turn to who would give him anything to eat.

17‘But when the son hit rock bottom, he finally faced up to reality. He came to his senses and recognised his own guilty wretchedness. He said to himself, “How many of my father’s servants, who are paid a pittance, are better off than me? They’ve more than enough food to eat, while here I am starving to death! 18I’ll get up and go back home. I’m going to turn back to my father. He’s my only hope. I’ll not put it off a moment longer. I’ll throw myself on his mercy. I’ll confess to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. 19I no longer deserve to be called your son, but because I know that you’re generous even to your paid servants, make me like one of those.’”

20‘He knew that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so he acted on his decision, got up, left the distant country and went back to his father. But while the son was still a long way from home, his father saw him. His father had been in anguish ever since his son had left home. But now he saw his son – this thin, weak, dirty, smelly, miserable figure – but nevertheless still his son! – walking along the lane. The father threw all caution to the wind big time and jumped for joy! He felt the deepest mercy and compassion for his son, ran out at breakneck speed to meet him, gave him the biggest hug in the world and kissed him tenderly over and over again!

21‘The son began the confession he’d rehearsed, saying to his father, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son …”

22‘But the Father interrupted his son, telling his servants to welcome him back home, “Quick, we’ve got to honour my son! Fetch the best robe and put it on him. Of course I take him back and accept him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet to restore his full dignity as my son. 23Bring out the fattened calf, the one we’ve been keeping back for special occasions … well, if this isn’t special, then what is? Pull out all the stops! Let’s have a party and celebrate his homecoming, 24because we thought this son of mine was dead but he’s now alive. He’s come back to life again! Once he was lost, but he’s now been found! I’m going to give him a fresh start.” And they began to celebrate.

25‘But the elder son was out working in the field, and as he came close to home, he could hear music and dancing as he caught the smell of roast veal wafting through the air. 26He called one of the servants and demanded to know what was going on. 27The servant told him, “Your brother’s come home, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he’s got him back safe and sound.”

Matthew’s Gospel: now complete!

I have just completed Matthew’s Gospel: something of a marathon. Here is my draft of the final few verses:

18Then Jesus came up and encouraged them. He declared to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. My resurrection confirms that I am the unique sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.

19Because this is so, I command you to go out now and make disciples in every people group. Be bold and step outside your comfort zone. Train people throughout the world to follow me. As you go, baptise the new followers in the one name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Wash the new followers with water as a sign that they have abandoned their old way of life and are committing themselves to follow me.

20Teach those new followers to not just listen to, but also to put into practice, everything that I have commanded you. As you do all these things, never forget my promise that I am present with you always. I will equip you with my personal resources of power and encouragement. Remember that I am close to each of you every moment of your lives, wherever you are, right to the very end of this age.’

I wanted to include “Be bold and step outside your comfort zone,” as that seems necessary for many of us, not least me. The further challenge was: am I only a disciple of Christ or am I making disciples?

Progress on Matthew

I’ve been beavering away through recent months and am currently drafting Matthew 13.

Readers have appreciated my version of Matthew 9:35-38:

35Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages in that area, teaching in their synagogues, declaring that the good news that God’s reign had now come in him. He also healed all kinds of diseases and disabilities that people were suffering from.

36As a result, crowds of people flocked to him. When he looked at them, he had deep compassion on them. His heart went out to them and he felt intense sympathy for them because he saw their desperate need. They were stressed out and struggling to cope with life, wandering round with no one to look after them or lead them, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he told his apprentices, ‘I see a bumper harvest that is ready to be gathered in, but at the moment there are only a few workers. Many more workers are needed. 38So co-operate with the Lord who owns the harvest. Pray urgently to him that he will thrust more workers into his harvest field – workers who will roll up their sleeves and gather in the crop.’

Readers have appreciated my version of Matthew 11:28-30:

28‘Come to me, all of you who are worn out, overwhelmed and weighed down by the stresses and strains of life. I will relieve you of these heavy burdens. 29Submit to me; live your life harnessed to me. Follow me and become my apprentices. Let me teach you and train you because I am sensitive and humble in heart and you will find spiritual strength and refreshment 30because following me is pleasant and a joy, not a chore or heavy burden.’

To listen to a message I preached on Matthew 11:28-30 click here.

The Beatitudes

Jesus teaches on the hillside

1When Jesus saw the crowds following him, he went and sat down on the hillside. His apprentices came to him, 2and he started to teach them.

The challenge of true Christian character

Jesus told his followers that they were to be distinctive, radically different from the people around them. The attitudes and actions of his followers could become like this only because God’s power was at work in them. If they lived in such a way, they would enjoy the privileges God would give them now and in the life to come.

Jesus taught them:

3‘Other people say, if you’re self-confident, you’ll be happy. But I say to you, it’s those that humbly recognise their spiritual need who are truly happy and fortunate. They will draw on God’s resources, so the kingdom of heaven already belongs to them.

4‘Other people say, don’t worry about sin. But I say to you, it’s those that mourn and grieve over their sin and failures who are truly happy and fortunate. God will comfort and encourage them.

5‘Other people say, it’s the arrogant that are successful. But I say to you, it’s those that humbly trust God who are truly happy and fortunate. They not only enjoy the blessings I give them now but they also look forward to inheriting the new earth that God will create.

6‘Other people say, if you do your own thing, you’ll be fulfilled. But I say to you, it’s those whose deepest desire is to lead lives that are right with God who are truly happy and fortunate. They long to see justice prevail throughout the world. Their appetite for God will be satisfied.

7‘Other people are successful by bullying their way to the top. But I say to you, it’s those that are merciful, kind and generous towards others who are truly happy and fortunate. God will be merciful towards them and forgive them.

8‘Other people say, it’s OK to deceive others and see what you can get away with. But I say to you, it’s those that are fully devoted to God and let him clean up their inner life who are truly happy and fortunate. They catch glimpses of God’s glory now and are ready to see him in all his fullness in the life to come.

9‘Other people fight and make war. But I say to you, it’s those that seek and make lasting peace who are truly happy and fortunate. God will recognise them as his children, because they reflect what he is like.

10‘Other people say, don’t get too committed to God. But I say to you, it’s those whose lives are so right with God that they provoke hostility who are truly happy and fortunate. They will suffer persecution but the kingdom of heaven already belongs to them. 11You’re truly happy and fortunate when people insult you viciously, persecute you and make false accusations against you because you follow me. 12Don’t be miserable but feel on top of the world at such times because a great reward is waiting for you in heaven. That reward will more than make up for the suffering you’re now going through. Remember that the prophets who went before you were also persecuted.

How did ‘Word Come Alive’ originate?

The story began in June 2014: I meet with a Christian friend who is a former bank manager and we discuss business and other matters every few months. At our meeting on June 12, 2014, we had finished the main business and he and I discussed motives in Christian service. As a follow-up to our meeting, I thought I’d look at 1 Thessalonians 2, in which I knew Paul discussed motives.

I looked up 1 Thessalonians 2:1-10 in all the Bibles and commentaries I have. I focused particularly on 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and the three verbs that Paul uses to refer to how a father treats and deals with his son. The verbs are translated variously as ‘encourage’, ‘urge’, ‘plead’, ‘comfort’, all of which are fair but I don’t think they had much impact on me. One book even suggested ‘stimulate’ but that word is completely inappropriate today. I then thought, ‘What do fathers do?’ They seek to motivate their children and then the thought occurred to me, why not put verses 1 to 12 into contemporary English? I also knew that the best way to see if you’ve really understood a passage is to explain it in your own words to someone else. So I did that and then I felt there was something almost pulling me to continue. I then did the whole of 1 Thessalonians, showed that to friends and they encouraged me to do more.

A further friend then urged me to work on John’s Gospel, and that is what I worked on from late 2014 to end 2015. That has just been published digitally and is available on Kindle and other digital outlets.