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.

More Definite Article Placenames

England - there are hundreds of these, surprisingly. See here.
1. The Arms (Norfolk)
2. The Barony (Cheshire and OY Gurnosrkney)
3. The Bog (Shropshire)
4. The Marsh (at least seven in various counties)
5. The Pitts (Wiltshire)
6. The Rocks (Kent and Gloucestershire)
7. The Stoops (Lancashire)
8. The Throat (Berkshire)
9. The Twittocks (Gloucestershire)
10. The Yeld (Shropshire)

Wales - there are over 90 of these. See here. (Also here). Besides Y Bala we have
1. Y Barri
2. Y Crwys
3. Y Dref
4. Y Fenni (Abergavenny)
5. Y Gurnos
6. Y Hendy
7. Y Mot
8. Y Rhws
9. Y Waun
10. Yr Wyddgrug (Mold)

10 Country Names that can take the definite article

1. El Salvador
2. The Gambia
3. The Bahamas
4. The Argentine
5. The Congo
6. The Yemen
7. The Lebanon
8. The Sudan
9. The Netherlands
10. The Philippines
The Ukraine is another

10 Place names worldwide that take the definite article

1. Y Bala (the place in Wales that inspired this list)
2. Den Haag or The Hague (Netherlands)
3. Den Bosch (Netherlands)
4. Le Mans (France)
5. Le Havre (France)
6. La Mancha (Spain)
7. Los Angeles (USA)
8. Las Vegas (USA)
9. La Paz (Bolivia)
10. The Pas (Canada)

Banner Conference 2015 10/11

On this final morning of conference we are being preached to by two Jeffs/Geoffs. First, new Banner trustee Jeff Kingswood from Canada spoke on 1 Peter 4:12-16. In a beautifully anecdotal address he sought to help us to encourage our people when they suffer. He drew attention to the fact we should not be surprised that we are persecuted, as Jesus was and to the call to rejoice in suffering. He also spoke of the difference between sufferings Christian and in other ways.
In the final session my son Rhodri read and prayed before his grandfather, Geoff Thomas preached a strong and sifting sermon from Romans 3:23. The emphasis was on the sinfulness of sin and the plight of man but the power of God to save was also emphasised. What a wonderful conference.

Banner of Truth 2015 09

The main session tonight was Mike Reeves on faith and suffering in the life of Spurgeon. Yet another excellent session. Mike quoted this letter to fellow minister William Cuff of Shoreditch Tabernacle.
DEAR FRIEND,—I beseech our Lord to minister comfort both to you and your sorrowing wife. It must be a very severe stroke to you, and it is a sign that our Father loves you very much and thinks a great deal of you. I had a watch once which I allowed to lie at ease and never worried it with cleaning for I thought it worthless; but one which keeps time to a second gets wound up every night with a key which touches its inmost springs, and sometimes it gets taken to pieces—for it is worth it.
You will have the presence of the Comforter in this trial. You are dear to me for your work's sake and also for yourself.
May all grace abound towards you by Christ Jesus.
Your busy friend, C. H. SPURGEON

Banner of Truth 2015 08

Earlier this evening we listened to my friend Alan Davey on  helping our missionaries. He began with the Apostle Paul and moved on to Adoniram Judson to some modern examples of missionaries in tight spots. His focus was on how we can help such people. Suggestions included recognising that there is a price for them to pay and the need for us to prepare them and pray for them. Visits and sending helpful things can also be a help but we need to let them make their sacrifice.

Banner 2015 - Five Minutes of fame

Jeff Kingswood, Alan Davey, Stuart Olyott, GB, Kevin Deyoung, Geoff Thomas
(I deliberately stood between Stuart Olyott and Kevin DeYoung to impress my sons)

Banner Conference 2015 07/08

After such a good day yesterday it was hard to imagine it being bettered and yet already we have had two excellent messages from Stuart Olyott and Kevin DeYoung. First, Stuart Olyott took us to 2 Corinthians 4, neatly summing up its message under there monosyallabic heads - Wow! Owe! and Now. He spoke of the glory of the Christian ministry, its demands and how we keep going. Kevin gave a us a pretty full and convincing defence of the impassability of God.
In a great paper he argued the traditional view, closing with these five reasons why impassibility is good news.
1. We have an unchanging God who is not in the same mess we are in. This is the truth that process theology misses. Process theologians ... argue that God is immanent, so enmeshed in our world that he is bound up in all our brokenness, so that his effort to rescue us is an effort to rescue himself. God is the process of delivering himself just as we are being delivered. This sort of God is a far cry from the God who reigns in heaven, receives unceasing worship from the saints and angels, needs nothing from human hands, and always delights in his own glory and goodness.
2. This unchanging God – who is ontologically outside of our mess – is nevertheless intimately involved in our mess, which makes his presence all the more meaningful. When my son is working on Legos and getting frustrated because the boat is not coming together properly, I don‘t have to help him. I‘m not screaming my head off because the flat, 2x2 red piece is missing. But because I love him, I stop what I‘m doing (sometimes), get down on the ground, dig through the bucket and find the piece for him. Now he may not recognize it, but my love is more loving because I do not need to find the Lego piece to ease my emotional burdens.
3. God‘s love is freely given, thoroughly unmotivated by any need or deficiency in him. God does not feel inner angst, agony, or distress. He does not love in order to relieve the suffering he feels on account of our suffering. He chooses to love because he is love. In the Triune Godhead there is a constant fullness of mercy, joy, and goodness to which we cannot add and from which we cannot subtract. God always acts out of overflow, never out of want.
4. With divine impassibility, the incarnation is not a revelation of the eternal suffering of God, but rather the deepest expression of God‘s gracious character, whereby he chose, in love, to suffer as one of us. Our comfort in the midst of suffering is not that the Father suffered with the Son, nor that God continues to suffer with us. Our profound consolation is that, moved by love, God the Son, in perfect cooperation and agreement with the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, laid aside his immunity to pain so that he might suffer for us, as one of us.
The incarnation of the Son of God and his subsequent passion is more glorious, more mysterious, and more loving because God in the person of Christ was experiencing, by his own free choice, what God in himself had never experienced, and would never again experience, namely, human suffering.
5. Finally, impassibility is good news because only an impassible God who suffered as a man can truly sympathize with us. What good would it do to have a God who as God was overcome or distracted by pain? What we need is a God who knows what it is like to be a man.
Here‘s the irony: if God suffers as God, we actually lock him out of our experience instead of bringing him into it. What we need is the sure knowledge that the Son of God knows exactly what we are feeling.
So do not look to an angst-ridden, pain-stricken, eternally grieving God for comfort. Look to the cross. Carl Henry was right:
It is into the why of Calvary that we can now focus every other me of human existence. Christ is our sympathetic high priest, but he had to become this high priest. He had to be made perfect through suffering. He was not qualified to be our Redeemer or Sympathizer until he took on flesh to share in suffering with his brothers and sisters. And never forget: Christ did not suffer simply to identify with us, but to rescue us. We need someone to do more than feel our pain. We needed someone to triumph over it by conquering all that causes pain: sin, death, and the devil.
Our hope in death is that the Immortal died. And our comfort in suffering is that in the Incarnation the Impassible was made passible for us.
(See a previous version of his message in pdf form here).

Banner Conference 2015 05/06

So on Tuesday evening we had reports. Ten men spoke about various works around the world - Albania, Nigeria (Ani Ekpo), Pakistan, South Africa, Portugal, France, SASRA and two missions working in Muslim areas. including MERF. Also Paul Wells spoke about a new theological magazine coming out soon.
Later that same evening Kevin DeYoung again spoke well on suffering in the ministry, looking this time at Mark 14 and Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. The Taffia had a good little session with Mr DeYoung later finding out about his church and his books and so on.

Banner Conference 2015 04

Our second morning session was Mike Reeves on the Puritans and suffering. What was to take three Puritans (Flavel, Bunyan and Goodwin) and draw out some of their teaching on suffering and stressing (in the first two cases that they were men who knew what they were talking about).
Flavel says that
"The wisdom of God is much seen in the choice of his rods. It is usual with God to smite us in those very comforts which stole away too much of the love and delight of our souls from God; to cross us in those things from which we raised up too great expectations of comfort. These providences bespeak the jealousy of God over us, and his care to prevent far worse evils by these sad, but needful strokes. It is a good sign our troubles are sanctified to us, when they turn our hearts against sin, and not against God."
Flavel points us to Scripture, to God and to the future.
When in prison, Bunyan found comfort in Jeremiah 49:11 and in 1 Corinthians 11.
Goodwin expounded Hebrews 4:11 in his Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth.

Banner Conference 2015 03

We began this morning with Stuart Olyott on 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Stuart was his usual lucid and compelling self but with more humour than usual. I guess a difficult subject like suffering needed a light touch to some extent. His three key words were Restraint (a reminder to be restrained about talking of our sufferings), Reflection (Paul's sufferings and our so much lighter ones) and Refusal (refusing to be overwhelmed but looking to the Lord).

Banner Conference 2015 02

Our second session here in Leicester featured the lesser known Kevin de Young from the USA.  The theme is the ministry and suffering and going to Mark 15 and focusing on the subject of our shame in the ministry he helpfully gave us a good perspective on the subject by showing how Mark's focus is on how our Saviour was shamed on the cross. So a decent start. We have a good day ahead tomorrow.

Banner Conference 2015 01

Well, the first session kicked off with yours truly preaching on 1 Peter 2:7. You can see the text of the sermon here.

Retro Album of the Week 15 - American Pie

There was a lot of talk in the media about the song American Pie last week. When I was a young teenager it was hard to find a record collection that didn't include the album American Pie by Don McLean (along with Bridge over troubled waters by Simon and Garfunkel). I eventually bought a copy myself having already fallen for the title track and Vincent played on the radio as singles.
American Pie was McLean's second studio album. It was recorded and came out in 1971 and was a great success. The album comes out of a folk background but was dedicated to Buddy Holly, whose 1959 death kicks off the ten year history that informs the fascinating title track.
The album is evidently supposed to be a unified whole but it has great variety - from the banjo backed multi vocal version of Psalm 136 through the stark Vietnam protest song The grave to the jaunty and ironic Everybody loves me. I like pretty much all the tracks, especially Empty Chairs said to have inspired Killing me softly the song about McLean sung by Roberta Flack (the composer Lori Lieberman denies this).

Lord's Day April 12 2015

Started the day with the Bitesize Theology. Great subject (Grace) but a bit of a low turn out. I then preached from the next part of 1 Corinthians 15 (21-28) on Christ's resurrection and ours. We then had lunch together following the meeting. That was well attended at least. In the evening I took a rather unusual text, Exodus 38:8. I noticed it reading through Exodus recently and decided it would be a good text for a one off sermon, which it proved to be (see our church website for it - should be up some time this week). Our Romanian friends arrived again. One of them was desperate to minister to us somehow so he gave me a series of texts to read out, which was probably worthwhile. We gave them a cup of tea and some produce (we'd given them money last week). We had other needy souls in during the day. It is hard to know how best to help.