There’s little doubt that 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is a difficult text that over the years has been interpreted and applied in many ways. But, as difficult as it is to grasp at first glance, the text must be and is there for a good reason. It seems there was a fair bit of confusion in Corinth about gender roles (is anything new?) and this seems to be at the heart of Paul’s words – which apply to us today in the realm of what you have in your heart, rather than what you do or don’t wear on your head.
The Christian Church has been long divided over whether or not the children of Christians should receive the sacrament of baptism or not. As a Presbyterian Church we believe they should, and that the covenant promises of God to Abraham still stand. While this is an important aspect of what we believe, it is still not the gospel and not worth breaking faith over. Even so, God’s promise of salvation is to ‘you and your children’ (Acts 2:39)
Psalms 132,133 and 134 are three psalms that are linked by a common theme of being part of the ‘songs of ascent’ that were sung by the people of Israel going up to Jerusalem. Psalm 132 highlights that the city of Jerusalem was the city where God’s King lived. Psalm 133 celebrates the unity of the people of God in that city, and Psalm 134’s focus is upon the worship of God’s Name that happened there by day and night. Heaven will be all this and more for God’s people upon a ‘pilgrim journey’ to that heavenly city. (First preached March 2013)
We are constantly bombarded with news, but what our world really needs to hear is truly good news! Mark wrote his gospel to give us the truly good news of Jesus the God-Man king, who came to conquer Satan, Sin and death (Mark 1:1-15). This is amazing news that when understood rightly will turn your life around. Will you believe it?
“You cannot serve God and money.” Jesus illustrates his teaching in Luke 16:10-31 with a story about a rich man and a poor man who live very different lives and come to very different lives after death. The warning is not only for those who are rich, yet poor toward God but also a warning to heed the Scriptures.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells another parable where an unjust steward—or dishonest manager—wasted his master’s possessions. This reminds us of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) where in the far county he wasted his inheritance in reckless living. Yet here the steward is commended as wise since “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light”. Our Lord would have us be exceptions to the rule by using our wealth wisely and making friends for ourselves by mean of unrighteous wealth, so that they may receive us into the eternal dwellings. Heaven cannot be bought – but we can invest for eternity.
Is that all there is? For the Christian there is more and a great hope. While we wait, how is our focus? Fixed on the distance or stuck on foreground? In 2 Peter 3:1-13, Peter warns that there will be scoffers, just as always. Are we waiting like Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13) or like the other ten?
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing.
Apart from the need for balance in the Christian life (the message of 2 John), we also need authenticity. Jesus spoke of this in the Sermon on the Mount, reminding us that ‘no good tree bears bad fruit’ and that ‘by their fruits you will know them’. John’s third letter, known to us as 3 John, also calls us to be authentic in our witness for Christ as in unfolds John’s assessment of the example of three men in the local church: Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetries, whose witness and example for Christ, both good and bad, were noted by the Apostle John and recorded for us that we also might know and imitate (or avoid) their conduct.
In this short series called ‘Postcards from the past’ we come across this short letter of John the Apostle in which the writer urges his readers towards balance. Losing your balance can have terrible consequences in life and this is true also in the spiritual life. Sometimes, even sincere believers can go to extremes and get caught up in something that doesn’t help them grow in grace. So John speaks in his letter we know as 2 John, of truth and love, of teachability and discernment, of having an open and closed door, so that his readers (including us) might grow in Christ-likeness and service.
No sooner does Christmas arrive, it very quickly goes, and is soon forgotten until it comes around again after another year. Many will fall for the trap of observing Christmas, but never knowing Jesus, the ‘reason for the season’. The gospel writer, Luke, does not want us to do that. After he wrote of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20, he added further information about the events that happened soon after in Luke 2:21-52 – particularly the events all took place in the temple where Jesus was presented, received and began to grow. And because Christmas happens at the end of one year and the start of another, these events remind us that there is an ongoing need for God’s people to be ‘growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour’ (2 Peter 3:18) with each successive change of the calendar.