Heaven and Hell – some thoughts

Note from Jon: The 14-16 year olds in my church have identified topics they want teaching on. I was asked to talk about heaven and hell. This was my ‘take’ on it.

One of the first things I learned from the book ‘How to Draw Cartoons’ was how to draw a stereotype. A man wearing a stripy jumper, an eye mask and a big sack marked ‘swag’ was a burglar. A man in the same stripy jumper, wearing a beret, with a big moustache, a baguette under one arm, and a string of onions was obviously a French guy.

In real life, people don’t dress like that. But the point of cartoons is to give you an easily identifiable stereotype that sets the scene.

It’s actually the same with what we think about heaven, whether it’s cartoons, films, TV shows, adverts, whatever. The visual clues that are used are often the same: haloes, clouds, dead people with wings wearing robes and playing harps, or perhaps the pearly gates.

Similarly when we think of hell we think of flames in an underground cavern and little demons running round torturing the damned; with maybe the devil sat on a throne and so on.

When we think of heaven or hell many of these ideas pop into our head. They make both heaven and a hell a bit less believable and a bit more ridiculous and sometimes we might even doubt whether we want to spend eternity bored out of our skulls floating on some fluffy cloud somewhere.

But what is heaven? (more…)

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8-11

Note from Jon: I was asked to present some thoughts on 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 1 to chapter 11, verse 1 at a midweek Bible Study group. The result was something like a commentary, which I’ve decided to post here. You may find it helpful to read this with a Bible open – or click this link – and quotations are from the New International Version.

Corinth has been described as ‘the Las Vegas of ancient Greece’. It was a thoroughly Greek, pagan city of much idolatry. Aphrodite — the goddess of love and fertility — was the most popular deity worshipped there. Her image appeared on Corinthian coins and at least three temples were built in the city dedicated to her.

In these temples, ‘priestesses’ would have sex with the male worshippers as part of the worship of Aphrodite, once the worshippers had given a gift to the temple. This was effectively prostitution and was one of the ways the temples made money. Approximately one thousand prostitutes ‘worked’ at the temples of Aphrodite.

Corinth was renowned for the sex trade. It was a hub of commerce and had a reputaiton for hedonistic pleasure, lavish parties and drinking.
Paul lived in Corinth for about 18 months. Acts chapter 18 tells us he lived with Aquilla and Priscilla, two fellow believers, and worked with them making tents. Every Sabbath, Paul would visit the synagogues sharing the Gospel.

So, when he wrote to the Corinthians, he knew the kind of place they were living in and the struggles they were facing. And particularly he knew the Corinthian church was facing a challenge of how to live as Christians in a non-Christian culture, where worship of other gods was a fact of life. (more…)

Ruth chapter 2 – kindness to the poor


Note from Jon: here’s a link to a Sunday sermon I preached back in April on Ruth 2.