Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Not too bad a start from Wales

So a draw with Ireland and a win over Scotland (27-23) today. They don't fill you with absolute confidence but they remain undefeated. Next game, home to France (Friday evening, Feb 26) will be a real crunch game.

Midweek Meeting February 10 2016

There were 13 of us present last Wednesday. We were looking at one of the big texts of Scripture - 2 Timothy 1:12. As it turned out we had sung the Daniel Whittle hymn with the chorus taken from there - I know not why ... But I know whom I have believed, etc - on Sunday but I had us use the same tune and chorus (changing But to for) with the Isaac Watts hymn also based on the same verse  - I'm not ashamed to own my Lord (often sung with the chorus At the cross, at the cross). It worked well. I still use my kindle to preach from and somehow had downloaded an earlier version with one or two good stories missing. Thankfully, some interaction at the end drew them out of me. There were a hundred things to pray for and we spent a little long on gathering that material so our prayer time was a little shorter than I would have liked but there was plenty of praying, which is good.

Stott and Lloyd-Jones on preaching

Chairman Mostyn Roberts and speaker Tim Ward
It must have been busy last week as I have been meaning to write up my trip to the Westminster Fellowship last Monday. Tim Ward from the Proc Trust was the speaker and he spoke on Stott and Lloyd-Jones and their understanding of preaching. He felt a little like Daniel entering the lions' den I think as he is really living his life in a John Stott world and the Westminster Fellowship was founded by Dr Lloyd-Jones. In truth Lloyd-Jones died 30 years ago and his influence is not what it once was. I'm sure I would not be the only one there who would say that while sympathetic to Lloyd-Jones I don't really want to go all the way with him quite.
Anyway, there was a good number present (around 30) which was gratifying and good papers from Tim. There could have been more discussion perhaps. What he did was to show the many ways in which Stott and Lloyd-Jones are in agreement and then where they differed. He astutely highlighted the title of their main books on the subject of preaching and suggested they are worth pondering. Stott's book is simply called I believe in preaching whereas Lloyd-Jones's tome is called Preaching and preachers and that may subtly hint at Lloyd-Jones teaching on anointing of the man and so on.
It was very good to think through this matter and I have bought Ralph Cunnington's book Preaching with spiritual power mentioned en passant in order to further explore. I do wonder if Lloyd-Jones were both simply reacting in different ways to the Charismatic Movement, in its heyday in the sixties and seventies. Good to be there.

Lord's Day February 7 2016

It felt a little odd being at the front of the chapel today as it is three weeks since I was stood there having been away last week and in the parlour then the hall before that owing to our gas problem, now well and truly sorted. Being the first Sunday in the month we began with communion. I read from Exodus 11 and 12 about the first Passover, as I like to do from time to time. For various reasons there were only ten of us at that point so not a large number. I preached on Revelation 10 in the morning meeting. As ever there were people missing but one or two new ones had returned.
While we were having a cuppa still at chapel an interesting man turned up. His conversational style, which I warmed to, was using long words and then checking if you understood them. I was doing well until we came to neurosis. I had a bad stab at it with "mania" (wrong!) and so he suggested we ask someone else. My son went at it by contrasting it with psychosis, which was helpful but he then committed the exegetical fallacy of supposing a neurosis affects the brain whereas a psychosis affects the psyche, which almost gets you there but quite. Anyway this gentleman wanted to see that neurosis is a general term used to refer to mental distress, an illness that does not prevent rational thought or affect daily functioning. I also stumbled on latrogenesis, which can be defined as any effect on a person, resulting from any activity of one or more persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health, that does not support a goal of the person affected. He had a Welsh mother and some interaction with evangelicals in the past but had formed his own rather materialist view of life. I hope we see him again.
I also had a good chat with someone from the congregation in the afternoon at our house. He is not converted but came to both services. I wish professed believers were as enthusiastic. We looked at Judges 15 and the enigmatic Samson again. I have found it difficult to preach on him this time around. Not sure quite why.

Midweek Meeting February 3 2016

Some 11 of us gathered in the parlour last Wednesday, glad to be though our troubles with gas leaks. We carried on looking at 2 Timothy 1, chiefly in verses 10 and 11, considering God's grace, as it began before creation, with the appearing of Christ and then as declared by the apostle Paul, a herald and a teacher from God. We had a good prayer time too. May be we needed slightly longer. Lots to pray about.

Tyndale New Testament - from Matthew 26, 27, 28

He went away once more, and prayed, saying: O my father, if this cup cannot pass away from me, but that I drink of it, thy will be fulfilled. ... When the petty captain, and they that were with him watching Iesus, saw the earthquake and those things which happened, they feared greatly saying, Of a surety this was the son of God. ... All power is given unto me in heaven, and in earth. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy ghost: Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway even until the end of the world.

Preaching in Hilperton Lord's Day January 31 2016

I preached for the first time at Grace Reformed Church, Hilperton near Trowbridge last Sunday. The people who have formed the church were church officers and members at Bradford on Avon. Although there have been disagreements at Bradford that have caused this new plant, they were released with Bradford's blessing and are beginning to bear testimony to the village, meeting in the local C of E Primary School. As the website makes clear (see here) there was a Baptist Church in the village as recently as the sixties and so this is not a merely random church plant. About thirty gathered last Sunday and I preached on Matthew 11:28-30 and Ezekiel 37:1-14. I hope it was a blessing to them. The recordings are again at the website. Back here we were able to meet in the chapel I understand. Robert Strivens preached.

Tyndale New Testament - from Matthew 23, 24 , 25

Woe be unto you scribes and pharises, for ye devour widows' houses, and that under a colour of praying long prayers, wherefore ye shall receive greater damnation .... Ye shall hear of wars, and of the noise of wars, but see that ye be not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and realm against realm: and there shall be pestilence, and hunger, and earthquakes in all quarters. All these are the beginning of sorrows .... For unto every man that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. And from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that he hath.

Midweek Meeting January 27 2016

There was  a good turn out last night with 15 present. We looked at the next two verses in 2 Timothy 1 and considered not being ashamed of the gospel, suffering and holiness - all vital subjects. There was a lot to pray for, including our ongoing problem with the gas leak. We hope it will be fixed by next Lord's Day. I took opportunity to summarise a lengthy definition of holiness J C Ryle once gave
1. Holiness is the habit of agreeing with the mind of God, in accordance as we find his mind described in Scripture.
2. A holy person will endeavour to turn away from every known sin, and to keep every known commandment.
3. A holy person will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. A holy person will pursue certain things
  • meekness, endurance, gentleness, patience, kindness and control of their tongue
  • self-control and self-denial
  • love and brotherly kindness
  • a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others
  • purity of heart, the fear of God
  • humility, faithfulness in all the duties and relationships in life
  • Last, but not least, spiritual mindedness

The Eccentrics Conference 2016

After an absence of more years than I had realised I got myself down to Swansea this week for the famous Eccentrics Conference, the brainchild of the unique Steve Levy and now based in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. The conference's distinctives (apart form being Reformed and very Welsh) are its brevity (only a day and a half), no singing, a great deal of informality, plenty of humour and lots of time for informal chat. None of the messages are taped - probably freeing people up to speak in a more relaxed and open way. They also make a big effort to look after us (day one included an afternoon trip to Joe's for ice cream, followed by scones and cream, with a slap up meal a short while later).
The programme changed last minute as one speaker was unable to come. It worked out okay in the end. We had four speakers who gave six messages.
Paul Mallard is a well known and popular speaker (currently pastoring in Bath) and he gave us two expositions from the life of Elisha. Warm and thorough they were good messages to hear. Steve's good friend Paul Blackham (now based in Neath) took us to Isaiah 11 and gave us a very stimulating exposition of the return of Christ. Refuting Aquinas's super-spiritual beatific vision he argued for a much more biblical bodily resurrection and participation in the life of the new world.
Steve has also struck up a friendship with Peter Greasley of Christchurch, Newport and he was given opportunity to speak. He spoke very warmly from the heart from Philippians 2 and Romans 5 firstly pleading for honesty and humility and then to expect trouble and to help one another in it, which involves seeking out fellowship. It was interesting to hear later of Pete's journey.
It was agreed by all present that the highlight of the conference was Chris Rees from Narberth speaking on what he wished he's been told before he entered the ministry. There were three things - to trust no-one but love everyone; how important it would be to watch over yourself; how hard it was going to be (spiritually, mentally, physically). Full of wonderful stories it is not possible to convey what a blessing it was to ear so I won't try.
It was great to see Mike Leaves, Jonny Raine and Steve Tucker, Dave Gobbett, Jeremy Bailey, etc, etc and to meet people I'd not met before. It was good to catch up with my Swansea based son and his housemates too.

Lord's Day January 24 2016

A little late with this as I have been away. The gas leak saga continued but by last Lord's Day they had been able to restore a gas supply to the flat between the chapel and the hall and the hall so we met in the hall. The hall is a little tatty but it served us quite well. The Sunday School met back in the parlour with (a little inadequate) electric heat. We brought hot drinks through to the hall after the meeting. We had good congregations morning and evening. Some were missing as ever but there were visitors including two new people, a Romanian man and a Nigerian woman. I hope we see them again. We must pray. Sunday School must have reached double figures as a girl who lives locally brought her two friends who were with her on sleep over and we had the two Tanzanian children around for their last Sunday, as well as the more regular six or seven who come most weeks.
I preached from Revelation 9 in the morning - not an easy passage to preach but I sought to drive home the message of repentance as best I could. In the evening we carried on with Samson. Lots of insights into the structure from good old D Ralph Davies. We had a prayer meeting about our currently non-existent children's work before the evening meeting.
After church I drove to Cwmbran as I planned to be in Swansea the next day. I arrived at my sister's around 11 pm.

Tyndale New Testament - from Matthew 20, 21, 22

But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief, let him be your servant. Even as the son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister: and to give his life for the redemption of many. ... When the lord of the vineyard cometh: what will he do with those husbandmen? They said unto him: he will evil destroy those evil persons, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall deliver him his fruit at times convenient; ... As touching the resurrection of the dead: have ye not read what is said unto you of God, which sayeth: I am Abraham's God, and Isaac's God, and the God of Iacob? God is not the God of the dead: but of the living.

Midweek Meeting January 20 2016

There were a few missing but we were a good number on Wednesday but rather cold as the gas problem has still not been sorted out. We carried on with 2 Timothy looking at verses 5-7 on cross-generational faith, stirring up the gift and the nature of the Spirt in us. A good time of prayer followed. We were all rather cold by the end though.

Gary Brady - a name with snags

I was amused to see this web page suggesting Gary Brady as a good combination of names for a baby. What struck me was the advertising in the left sidebar. Here's a good name for your baby, it seems to say, but do realise he will go bald!