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.

Great Conference at the Evangelical Library

We had a great conference at the Evangelical Library last Monday. This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of the great John Owen and I and others thought it would be good to have a conference specifically on reading John Owen's voluminous writings.
I was able to persuade Nigel Graham to give an autobiographical introduction (masterfully done and with time to spare) and Jeremy Walker, Robert Strivens, Guy Davies and myself to make four presentations covering the 16 volumes of Owen's Works as published by the Banner of Truth. (It was only at the conference that I noticed I'd chosen all Baptists, which was rather unthought through). I thought that everyone (perhaps excepting myself) got on remarkably well. The men were able to pick out individual works and interesting theme and present them in a useful and interesting way. In a more pedestrian manner I simply worked my way through commenting on the larger and more minor works in in Volumes 9-12.
Of course, the question all along has been whether anyone wanted to part with their money and come listen. In the end I think we were around the 25 mark and people seem to have felt it worthwhile. We had a good discussion at the end of the day on various things including the pros and cons of abridgements. I was under the impression that R K Law who has made several abridgements was no longer with us but that appears to be wrong.
So a big thank you to the men who spoke, those who came, the Library staff who provided hot drinks and especially to Dr Ian Densham who kindly recorded the whole thing in audio and video. Do contact the Library for details of these recordings and their availability.
I would also like to publish the papers in written form so do watch this space.

God's not dead 2

This new release from Pure Flix directed by Harold Cronk is a very watchable court room drama with high production values and excellent acting. With great skill a number of themes have been woven together in order to provide what is both an enjoyable movie and a thought provoking piece of Christian apologetics.
Reflecting on more than twenty cases against Christians that have gone through the American court system in recent years, it presents us with the fictional case of a state school teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) who runs into trouble when she talks about Jesus in the classroom. The court room provides the opportunity to have the apologists Lee Strobel and former homicide detective J Warner Wallace take the stand as expert witnesses. We also have brief cameos from Gary Habermas and Rice Brooks on a show with Senator Mike Huckabee.
On the matter of cameos and similar elements, older viewers will no doubt appreciate the role played by Pat Boone, now 82 years old, and may be younger viewers will appreciate the presence of rock band Newsboys who perform the song My God's not dead.
As a product of the Arminian decisionistic-tending side of evangelicalism, thoroughly committed to evidentialist apologetics, the film makes as strong a case for Christ as one can imagine.
As for it making a dent in the world it is aimed at, Rotten Tomatoes described it, not entirely unfairly, as “Every bit the proselytizing lecture promised by its title, God's Not Dead 2 preaches ham-fistedly to its paranoid conservative choir” while Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that while the underlying issues presented in the film are relevant in today's world, it lacks subtlety and “comes off as a two-hour, jazzed-up movie version of a sermon.”
As for the idea that Christians are not really under pressure in the public square, that is certainly not the case. It may be that this film will do most good in raising awareness among professing Christians of such issues.
This article or something similar is in the current edition of Evangelical Times

Our Boys

We all met up in Cardiff last Saturday for Gwïon's eighteenth. I was keen to have our five boys snapped together, something that we haven't done for a while.
Eleri obliged as I'm not great with a camera. I love them to bits. God is so good.

Lord's Day September 25 2016

I'm behind with this as I was at a conference most of the day yesterday at the Evangelical Library. It was a good day Sunday I guess, however, although attendance in the evening was pretty low. I spoke from Galatians again in the morning. It is so full of gospel, it is almost inevitably very refreshing. In the evening we looked at the rest of Matthew 10 and considered further principles of discipleship (including taking up the cross another fundamental matter). I was fairly discouraged by the end of the day by the general lack of progress in the work here. Very few with a real interest in the gospel were present, several were away or will be leaving us soon. Even with some of our own members I wonder if I'm getting through. I question my own level of genuine commitment too. It is always difficult to know when it is right to be discouraged. If it is, it must lead to a fresh leaning on the Lord.

Prayer - Drawing near

In Hebrews 4:14-16 the writer says Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 10:19-22 is similar. There the writer says Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
In Hebrews 7:19 we have the phrase a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God and 7:25 talks about those who come or draw near to God through him (Christ) and 10:1 those who draw near to worship.
In James 4:8 there is a well known verse that says Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you.
Here is a way of speaking about prayer then – coming or drawing near to God.

1. Prayer involves movement or change
The very fact that prayer is spoken of as coming to or drawing near shows that we cannot pray simply by staying as we are. There must be a movement, a change, a drawing near to God. We need to move from where we are. We need to stir ourselves up to action. This movement is clearly a spiritual movement or change nor a physical one.
2. We are responsible to move
In all the references it is clear that we are responsible to move towards God not just him to us. Now James does say Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you. That is there to encourage us. Only a little effort is needed and God will do the rest. We must bear our responsibilities, nevertheless.
3. Our prayers must centre on God
Perhaps this is too obvious to need saying but we need to draw near to God. God must be the object of our prayers. We must focus on him. We must seek his face. To set our minds anywhere else is to fail to pray.

Let's draw near to God.

Prayer - Lifting up the soul

In Psalm 25:1 David says In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. He uses a similar phrase in Psalm 84:4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you and in Psalm 143:8 Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. More literally in each place he is talking about lifting his soul to God. The same idea is in Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: …. Hannah uses a different idiom when she says (1 Samuel 1:15) I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.
To you I lift up my soul and similar phrases say at least three things about prayer.
1. Prayer is a spiritual affair – it is a soul matter
The use of the word soul (an heart elsewhere) suggests that we are talking about an essentially spiritual matter. When we talk of our souls we are talking about us, the essential us, the essential me. Merely saying prayers is a waste of time. That is one reason why written prayers rarely work. If you write it out yourself that is a but different I guess but merely to read prayers is a sure fire way to make it unlikely that you will be lifting up your soul.
2. Prayer is our responsibility – I must do it
The phrase is To you I lift up my soul. There is no suggestion of God lifting up our souls for us. This is not to deny that we need help from on high if we are to pray but there is a responsibility on us to lift our souls to God and not simply wait for him to do it for us.
I remember hearing Eric Alexander speaking about prayer once. He put it this way We're not to wait until we get a tingle in our spine. It's a matter of moral obedience and duty. It is not a glandular condition where one does not pray until he feels like it”.
No, with prayer we simply have to get on to it.
3. Prayer involves effort – it is hard work
That leads on to the last point. It takes effort. I know the soul weighs nothing and so lifting it to God should not be difficult but sometimes it seems my soul is very heavy and lifting even an inch is hard work. Lift it up though. Pour it out. That's what it is to pray. That effort makes all the difference.

Midweek Meeting, September 21 2016

Midweek meeting was a little bit different this week. We are having a week of prayer meetings. We had the first one on Tuesday morning when four of us gathered to pray and this was the second. We have a members meeting on Thursday and we will try to spend time in prayer then. There will also be prayer meetings for three days after that. I think a week of prayer is a good means of reminding us of the imprtance of prayer adn getting us all re-focussed. I spoke very briefly on lifting our souls to God.

Lord's Day September 19 2016

I preached yesterday on Galatians 1:11-2:10 and on the next part of Matthew 10, from verse 16. There was communion in the evening. I preached on the Galatians passage years ago. I'm not sure what I said but I felt like I'd got hold of Paul's point this time - the supernatural or divine origin of the gospel. I'd never really seen Paul as so significant in confirming this fact. With Matthew I drew out eight principles for today. There were lots of encouragements with visits from London Seminary people and a colleague in the ministry and his wife in London for the morning. A Polish lady who promised to come again actually did - always encouraging. We started with our Sunday School on the church. Numbers were down a bit but we'll press on with one more next Sunday before I am away for two Sundays.

10 More Animal Similes

1. As quiet as a mouse
2. As sick as a dog
3. As slippery as an eel
4. As slow as a snail
5. As strong as an ox
6. As stubborn as a mule
7. As high a kite
8. As greedy as a pig
9. As black as a raven
10. As a mad as a (March) hare

10 Animal Similes

1. As hungry as a horse
2. As dead as a dodo
3. As bold as a lion
4. As happy as a lark
5. As sly as a fox
6. As busy as a bee
7. As free as a bird
8. As playful as a kitten
9. As wise as an owl
10. As proud as a peacock

Another bit of Rev Gary Davis

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a help-ing hand
That I may firm, the firmer stand,
Give me the prayers of the Lord every day.
Give me that saving power,
Filling me every, every hour
Give me the strength for all of my way.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a might to do,
As long as my strength endure,
Give me a heart to be honest and true.
Give me a song to sing,
Praising my hol- , the holy name,
Give me a life to live for you

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

A brief trip to Yorkshire

I'm on my way back to London after preaching last night in Thornhill for the Pennine Bible Witness. I've been looked after very kindly and was glad of the opportunity to be in this part of the country once again. I decided to preach on faith from Matthew's Gospel, looking at three incidents in Chapters 8, 9 and 15 (the centurion and his servant, the Canaanite woman  and her daughter and the woman with the issue of blood). I had been concerned that that might have been too much but in fact it was about right and seemed to have been appreciated by the fifty or so who gathered, mostly people I don't know, though there were some familiar faces. I notice from the blog that I was last there in December 2007. This time I stayed with the Lavers who I know through Grace Magazine. The marmalade lady was not able to be there but there was a bookstall and I picked up two books on church history. Once again, someone very kindly stepped in and paid for my purchase. What kind folk.

The Hollies 50 years ago

Midweek Meeting September 14 2016

There were twelve of us out last night as we carried on through 2 Timothy 4, looking at the next three verses (3-5). These cautious verses acted as a good balance to last week's more optimistic message. There seemed to be loads of things to pray for and we couldn't get through all of it but we made a start. I probably should have allowed a bit more time for prayer.

Rev Gary Davis in fine form

Fascinating bit of footage featuring the Rev Gary Davis and Pete Seeger on banjo. I wouldn't think the Rev is claiming direct revelation here.