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.

6.2 Solomon's Prayer

Previous Chapter
2. The incompleteness of so much in life and the need for wisdomWe are told that 'He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem.' This was early in his reign, before the temple was complete or even his palace. It is because there was no temple that (2) ‘The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places’.
This reminds us of the incompleteness of much in life and the way that we often have to work with what is less than ideal. That has many applications. Some of us find it easier to cope with this than others. However, we must all live with it. Only with the coming of Christ will everything be complete. Meanwhile we press on. With Paul we say (Philip 3:12-14) 'Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.'


3. The importance of being upright and the impossibility of being perfect in this lifeIf we were in any doubt about Solomon at the beginning of his reign our fears are laid to rest in verse 3 'Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.'
This is the counterpart to 2 Sam 12:24, 25 where we are told that the Lord loved Solomon. Solomon was never perfect that is clear. As far as the writer here is concerned he could not be anyway until the temple was complete. However, he loved the Lord (a sentiment, I believe, not ascribed to any other Old Testament saint) and showed it by his obedience, ‘by walking according to the statutes of his father David’.
What about us? Do you love the Lord? Do you show it by your obedience to him? See Jn 14:15, 23, 24; 15:10 where Jesus says to his disciples 'If you love me, you will obey what I command. … If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. … If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.'
None of us are perfect but we can endeavour to live to his praise.


4. The importance of worship and the prospect of meeting with God in this lifeWe are then told in verse 4 that 'The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.'
It was there that ‘the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream.’ It was only when he awoke that he ‘realised it had been a dream.’ We are told in verse 15 that after this 'He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.'
He also ‘gave a feast for all his court’. So both at the tabernacle, then in Gibeon, and before the ark in Jerusalem, Solomon and those with him worshipped the Lord. It was in the midst of this worship that God met with him.
What an encouragement that is – in the midst of life’s complexities and responsibilities, its impossibilities and imperfections, there is the prospect of meeting with God as we worship him. Pray that he will meet with you whenever you worship him.

 
Prayer is simple and powerful and can lead to wisdomAs we look at Solomon’s prayer it is clear that asking is a great theme here. See 5, 10, 11, 13 (also 12 but using a different word). 'Ask for whatever you want … The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. … Since you have asked for this and not (asked) for long life or (asked) wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but (asked) for discernment in administering justice … Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for.
According to D Ralph Davis, at least four things about asking come out here. We can speak of


1. The true incentive to prayer – God’s generosityThis comes out, firstly, in the very way that God says to Solomon ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ Then after Solomon has asked God says (13, 14) 'Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for - both riches and honour - so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.'
For no good reason we have our doubts about God’s generosity. We somehow suppose he is niggardly in some way, a stingy and mean God, unwilling to give us what we really need. It is a little like a child with good parents thinking they are mean because they send him to bed at a reasonable time or make him eat greens. I suppose it is the devil who gets us thinking like this. It is totally wrong. Remember Matthew 7:7-11 and James 1:5.
'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!'
'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.'
Get rid of all your doubts about God. He is more willing to give than we are to receive. He knows just what we need.
Jas 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Ps 81:10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
Growing up, both grandmothers were part of my life. We regularly visited them. Early on I was aware of differences. My dad’s mother (Nana Pidge I called her) was generous with soft drinks, biscuits, cake and comics to read. Nana Thomas was much less child-friendly in that way. She would offer tea (made with sterilised milk – yeuch!) and that was all. She was also ready to tell you off if you were naughty. Nana Pidge was big and cuddly and used to call me her little pigeon (hence my name for her) – and had a little more money. The other was thin and stern, not one for cuddles just a wet kiss goodbye. She had less money to spare. It was rather immature but you can guess which I preferred. You can also guess which one I think best illustrates the Lord’s character. All illustrations have their dangers but while there is certainly a ‘Nana Thomas’ sternness in God his main characteristic is much more a ‘Nana Pidge’ big-heartedness. That is clear here and from many other passages of Scripture.

Short Poem 17

I'd assumed this was a Hilaire Belloc poem but it was by one William Brighty Rands (1823-1882). Central heating means it's not such a big deal I guess but it can still be a pain. (I have a habit of leaving car doors open for some reason). An eccentric he was some sort of preacher. See here for more.


Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore —
No doubt you have heard the name before —
Was a boy who never would shut a door!

The wind might whistle, the wind might roar,
And teeth be aching and throats be sore,
But still he never would shut the door.

His father would beg, his mother implore,
"Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore,
We really do wish you would shut the door!"

Their hands they wrung, their hair they tore;
But Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore
Was deaf as the buoy out at the Nore.

When he walked forth the folks would roar,
"Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore,
Why don't you think to shut the door?"

They rigged up a Shutter with sail and oar,
And threatened to pack off Gustavus Gore
On a voyage of penance to Singapore.

But he begged for mercy and said, "No more!
Pray do not send me to Singapore
On a Shutter, and then I will shut the door!"

"You will?" said his parents; "then keep on shore!
But mind you do! For the plague is sore
Of a fellow that never will shut the door,
Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore!"

Favourite Puns 16

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic

Upcoming Lecture

Who's this then? If you know it's Louis Berkhof (and even if you don't) you may well want to be down at The Evangelical Library in Chiltern Street, near Baker Street Tube, next Monday evening (at 6.00 pm) to hear Geoff Thomas give the Evangelical Library Lecture on the man himself. Berkhf died 50 years ago this year.

Favourite Puns 15


Pungent

Weekly Proverb 14

Folly is found at the core of a child, a reforming rod whacks it into the wild 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him
Here is another reference to children (see 22:6) and the use of the rod (see 13:24). Here the fact that folly is bound up in their hearts is the focus. Experience confirms this. The rod of discipline could be taken metaphorically but in light of other proverbs, the use of corporal punishment is clearly envisaged. Nothing but careful discipline will effectively remove folly. Children are to be beaten not out of revenge or because they irritate us or to work off our anger. It is a matter of discipline. It is to be for their good. As divinely appointed agents we endeavour to correct them and turn them from the dangerous road of folly that they turn to by nature. Tedd Tripp’s excellent Shepherding a child’s heart deals with five common objections to corporal punishment made by parents.

I love them too much to spank them – It is unpleasant but 13:24 shows it is the loving thing to do.
I’m afraid of hurting them – 23:13, 14 comes in here. If we remain calm we will do them no harm.
I’m afraid of making them angry and rebellious – Keep the long term in view and see 29:17.
It doesn’t work – Inconsistency, irresolution, failure to hurt and hitting in rage are the real problems.
I’m afraid I’ll be arrested – Privacy and prudence are crucial factors here.

Another objection is that it teaches violence and getting what you want by force and will encourage violence towards other children. Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, who also write on these matters, usefully differentiate biblical chastisement and cultural spanking. Cultural spanking is 'Done to the child; a reaction activated by frustration; a last resort; meant to change outward behaviour; a punishment of behaviour; frustrating for the child and without positive long term effects'. Biblical chastisement is 'Done for the child; a response activated by rebellion; an act of love; used to change inward attitudes; intended to amend behaviour; a means of clearing the child’s guilty conscience and moulds lifelong character'. They say that the latter is rare. They also believe it needs only to be carried on in the first five years of a child’s life. Tripp is also rightly keen to stress (as 22:15 establishes) that it is the heart that needs to be disciplined.

Hymn of the Week 7


We marked Pentecost last Sunday. We sang this excellent hymn by the Canadian writer E Margaret Clarkson (b 1915). See here for more on her.

For your gift of God the Spirit, power to make our lives anew,
pledge of life and hope of glory, Saviour, we would worship you.
Crowning gift of resurrection sent from your ascended throne;
fullness of the very Godhead, come to make your life our own.

He who at creation’s dawning brooded on the lifeless deep,
still across our nature’s shadows moves to wake our souls from sleep;
moves to stir, to draw, to quicken, thrusts us through with sense of sin;
brings to birth and seals and fills us - saving Advocate within.

He, himself, the living author, wakes to life the sacred Word;
reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord.
He it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray,
he whose holy intercessions rise for us both night and day.

He, the mighty God, indwells us; his to strengthen, help, empower;
his to overcome the tempter - ours to call in danger’s hour.
In his strength we dare to battle all the raging hosts of sin,
and by him alone we conquer foes without and foes within.

Father, grant your Holy Spirit in our hearts may rule today,
grieved not, quenched not, but unhindered, work in us his sov’reign way.
Fill us with your holy fullness, God the Father, Spirit, Son;
in us, through us, then, forever shall your perfect will be done.

The Bloggy Man 32


Short Poem 16


And so back to the good old metaphysicals. The very title of this poem by George Herbert (1593-1663) is full of mischief - he was an Anglican vicar sometimes full of choler (anger). Born in Wales to an artistic and wealthy family, he received a good education. At Trinity College, Cambridge, he excelled in languages and music. He intended to be a priest but he attracted the attention of James I and served in Parliament two years. After James' death, at the urging of a friend he renewed his interest in the ministry and in 1630 gave up his secular ambitions and took Anglican orders, spending the rest of his life as rector of St Andrew Bemerton, near Salisbury. He was a diligent high church pastor. Throughout his life he wrote religious poems characterised by precise language, metrical versatility and ingenious use of imagery or conceits as favoured by the metaphysical school.


The Collar

I Struck the board, and cry’d, No more.
I will abroad.
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare onely lost to me?
Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away; take heed:
I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde
At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe:
And I reply’d, My Lord.

Grace Assembly 07 Pt 2

[Pic: Keith Johns prepares the men for their grilling. Conrad Mbewe & Nigel Lacey visible; Geoff Thomas and Robert Oliver hidden]
So after lunch we had our business session. There's always something to deal with of this sort. As chairman of the steering committee that organises the Assembly it falls to me to lead this session - not my forte. Anyway around 42 churches were represented and about 80 were people were present. We were as many as 12 short - people who dropped out because of illness. This reflects, perhaps, the slightly geriatric tendency of the conference. Finance was just about okay but we're hardly flush. Anyway enthusiasm was as great as ever and once again we expressed our amazement that not more Grace Baptists want to get involved. We sometimes wonder where we are going wrong. I suppose there are so many other things happening that people don't have us at the top of their list. Nevertheless we plan to meet at Swanwick next may (21-23) and hopefully there will be a better number present.
After a decent break we reassembled at 5 pm for one of the most fascinating hours of my life. We had invited the veteran evangelist Dick Saunders, now in his eighties, to speak in our second reports session (well spotted Stephen Rees). Now I'd not kept up with what had been happening with Dick, although I'd heard of him inviting Peter Masters down to Sussex and so I knew that either he'd changed or I'd got him very wrong. The story seems to be that he started off in a loving Christian but hyper-Calvinist home. His father was a nursery man and part time preacher, his mother a most hospitable woman. his gripe that although he was always told to be a Christian he was never told how. He had some nice stories of people witnessing to him and his wife as she became. I loved the vignette of a little girl skipping down the road 60 odd years ago and asking 'Who do you love most?' her answer was 'Jesus' and the little word of witness bore its fruit in due time as both Dick and his Bette came to faith separately but at the same time through a church in Eastbourne.
It was the Billy Graham campaigns that got him into his tent crusading work - taking a 2,500 seater tent around the country to evangelise. He also told us how he got into the TWR radio broadcasting. His messages are still being used the world over now. Without rubbishing his Arminianised, altar calling days he spoke of his move away from this way of working and expressed his regret at using personalities such as Cliff Richard and not trusting the Lord more. God is sovereign after all. Two factors seem to have brought about the change. over in America he and his wife discovered books by Donald Grey Barnhouse the one time minister at Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia (not the most rabid of Reformed men but Reformed to some extent) and a realisation that because of the charismatic movement straight old fashioned preaching in a tent was not going to last. Abandoning that in the early eighties he went back to his Brethren church in Eastbourne where there was a split over the issue. He went on to pastor the church for 17 years growing in his understanding all the while. He never regretted working as hard as he did but felt he should have studied more and prayed more.
When a man is on the edge of eternity it adds a lustre to his testimony and it was a joy just to listen as this man with humour and humility told us something of his journey. It renewed ones faith in good old fashioned experiential Calvinism. Dick is working on his autobiography. I look forward to reading it. (BTW you can hear Dick preaching here).
In the evening Conrad spoke again from Matthew 5, this time on evangelism - shining the light out. He seemed to be more relaxed by this stage and gave a helpful call to go out with confidence. Whether he had exactly hit the spot could be debated but it did my soul good.
A question time followed with me in the chair. We discussed the Gospel partnership movement and other matters. Time soon went.
Our last two sessions were on the Friday morning. Graham Heaps from Dewsbury spoke out of his experience with Urdu speakers and others in Yorkshire on building a multi-ethnic (indeed multi-everything) church. It was good to hear the counterblast to "Church growth" sounded once again.
One of the highlights of the conference for me was hearing my father-in-law pray - one felt on the verge of heaven at times. Something similar could be said of his closing sermon from Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was full of fine illustrations and warm but powerful preaching.
The Caterham church behave kindly begun to put the messages on their website here. Do check it out.

Grace Assembly 07 Pt 1


It was my privilege to be at the Grace Assembly in High Leigh near Hoddesdon in Hertfrodshire last week. I must confess that I was not over looking forward to it as I've been away quite a bit recently and the numbers attending were lower than expected and it was my duty to lead a business session half way through, a session that has been criticised in the past some (understandably) disliking my muddle through style of approach.
Anyway my father-in-law, Geoff Thomas kicked us off with an appropriate and gentle introductory sermon drawn from Romans 16. After a break in the sunshine and a chance to chat, this was followed by a reports session. This is always a good feature in the programme. Martin Leech spoke about London and Palma, Mallorca, where there has been something of a spurt due chiefly to people coming in from elsewhere. Andrew Murray spoke about the work in Soho and Covent Garden, including the recent baptism. To know of someone slogging away faithfully in a difficult situation can be a real tonic. Different again was the report from Keith Johns at Caterham where over the 24 years, with baptisms practically every year, they have seen steady but sure growth. I've been at Childs Hill about the same length of time and we have seen less growth (barely a baptism a year and lots of barren patches) so I was particularly impressed by Keith's eagerness to give the glory to God and stress that they had done nothing out of the ordinary. Encouraging.
In the evening session Conrad Mbewe from Lusaka, Zambia spoke from Matthew 5 on switching on the light. This was straight preaching of the old fashioned sort and good to hear. There was a late evening session with Mike Judge from Christian Institute but I confess that I headed to bed before that feeling rather tired. At least it meant I was able to be up for the prayer meeting the next morning.
The Thursday morning was divided between Nigel Lacey now in East London speaking (as a Baptist) on the importance of baptism and Robert Oliver, Bradford on Avon, on the importance of being a confessional church and yet uniting with others. it was clear from discussion that these topics were appreciated. There are few fora where such matters can be freely discussed.
By now I was feeling a lot less discouraged and looking forward (almost) to the rest of the time.
More to follow.

Short Poem 15

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) or e e cummings as he liked to be known, was an American poet. During his lifetime, he published more than 900 poems, along with two novels, several plays and essays, as well as numerous drawings, sketches and paintings. He is remembered, according to Wikipedia, as one of the pre-eminent voices of 20th Century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.

in Just-
in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloon man

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
it's
spring
and
the

goat-footed

balloonman whistles
far
and
wee

Favourite Puns 14

What's this? No idea

Busy Days

It's been a busy few days as ever.
Friday night: Our regular children and young people's work. Our best leader was back after a few weeks off to give a fine talk on adoption to about 20 kids. We had a quiz to follow. Then a similar number of older ones came for a talk followed by a session of 'Just a minute'.
Saturday: In the morning a few of us went out into Golders Green with a tract on 'The prodigal son'. We met all sorts - Polish labourers, an American Mormon, two JW ladies we know, a very nice Roman Catholic lady, Nigerian Catholics, Jews, some neighbours, etc, and a rather eccentric fellow, recently deported from Israel, with his own weird theories. He came along to church the next day but was very difficult to help.
In the afternoon I went along to Highbury Baptist church for the baptism of a lady called Debbie Smith who has been converted through the outreach of the Covent Garden and Soho church. Although brought up to go to church she rebelled and ended up in Soho in the late sixties involved in all sorts of things quite different to what she had been encouraged in as a girl. Without going into detail it was clear that she had sunk pretty low. Andrew Murray led the proceedings. We sang 'Amazing grace' and it seemed most appropriate. What a joy! More here.
Lord's Day: Back here I've painted myself into a corner slightly as I'm currently dealing with Ezekiel 25ff (am) and Exodus 35ff (pm) - not easy passages. The morning was okay (on judgement but with a gospel appeal at the end). I struggled more in the evening (on working and giving in the house of the Lord). A man new to the area came and two Muslims ladies who left just before we finished.
Monday morning: I was at a committee meeting arranging outreach in Trafalgar Square. We hope to be there again on November 17.
There's loads more on this week.

Short Poem 14

We mentioned the Anglican clergyman Henry Twells the other day quoting his hymn 'At even ere the sun was set'. He was also responsible for these well known lines.

Lines on a Clock in Chester Cathedral

When as a child, I laughed and wept,
Time crept.
When as a youth, I dreamt and talked,
Time walked.
When I became a full-grown man,
Time ran.
When older still I daily grew,
Time flew.
Soon I shall find on travelling on-
Time gone.
O Christ, wilt Thou have saved me then?
Amen.

Misheard



My hearing can't be right. This morning my wife said to me 'I think I'm not blinking enough'. Right. 'How do you mean?' In fact she said she was not drinking enough (water that is). Earlier this week someone spoke to me about 'Mexicans in the Library'. Actually lexicons it was. Don't worry I won't start a series.

LTS

It was my privilege to preach this morning at London Theological Seminary. Preaching is always a privilege and especially to future ministers. I took up the theme of Christian freedom again. I excised most of my appeals to unbelievers in light of the audience and, in the light of a comment I read recently, sought to emphasise my text (John 8:36) more. I know many of the students one way or another and felt very much at home there. It is a matter of concern that there are no new UK students for next year at present. LTS is not flavour of the month at present. I've preached there once or twice before. I'm one of the nearest ex-students. We began with a hymn by Andrew King another ex-student. He's in Brazil - may be the farthest away.

Favourite Puns 13



Cereal Killer

Raising the dead

Tom in the box on target once again here.

6.1 Solomon's Prayer

Solomon was a king. There are not many kings left in this world and the rest of us may be tempted to think that there is not so much to learn from such a life. However, there is a sense in which we are all kings. Man was made to rule over creation. We all have kingly responsibilities of one sort or other – to churches, Sunday School children, employees, wives, children, at the very least to ourselves. We may also find ourselves in a position where we need to instruct others in kingly duties and so it is good for us to know about these things.
Perhaps one of the best-known things about Solomon is his wisdom and the fact that he gained it by praying to God. God told him that he could have anything he wanted, he had only to ask. Very wisely (God was already making him wise before he asked) he asked not for riches or honour but for wisdom. On the very face of it then there are lessons for us here –
1. Our greatest need is not riches or honour but wisdom to make the right use of what we already have
Several proverbs bring this out
4:7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
16:16 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!
17:16 Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?
2. God is a God who hears our prayers even before we ask
Before we call he will answer. He says as much in Isaiah 65:24 ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.’ Remember how it was ‘while he was still a long way off’ that the prodigal’s father ‘saw him and was filled with compassion for him’ and ‘ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him’.
3. If we go to God in faith and ask him for anything we truly need in his name, he will give it to us
‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 Jn 5:14, 15).
First we will look at the verses that precede Solomon’s famous prayer for wisdom. They are in 1 Kings 3:1-5.
Life is complex and incomplete and so we need wisdom
We are told that ‘Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt’ and married his daughter and that ‘He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem.’ later on, in 1Kings 9:16 we learn that
Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.
Solomon then proceeded to build up Gezer. Back in 1 Kings 3:2 there is a note that ‘The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD’ and that (3)
Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
We then read of how God appeared to Solomon at Gibeon and of their famous conversation. There is disagreement on how to take these preceding verses. Are they condemning Solomon from the start or can we take a better view of him from them? Are they somewhere in between? They certainly have lessons to teach us about how complicated and imperfect life is and the constant need for wisdom. We need to consider
1. The relationship between believers and unbelievers, the dilemmas this poses in life and the need for wisdom
We read in verse 1 of Solomon’s alliance with the King of Egypt sealed by marriage to his daughter. We know from elsewhere that he had already married Naamah, an Ammonite princess. Those who condemn Solomon here do so on the grounds that he should not have married a pagan and was entering into a worldly alliance with Egypt to bolster his kingdom. They also remind us that it was Solomon’s pagan wives who eventually lead him astray.
On the other hand, there was no specific prohibition against marriage to an Egyptian and it is possible to view the move as a wise step in securing and establishing the kingdom inherited from David. In light of the rest of the story this would seem to be the correct view.
This well illustrates the dilemma for the Christian as far as involvement with unbelievers is concerned. On one hand we know that, as Jesus says, (Jn 15:19) we ‘do not belong to the world, but’ he has chosen us ‘out of the world.’
On the other hand (Mt 5:14-16) ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’
The Corinthians were a little confused over this. Paul says (1 Cor 5:9, 10) ‘I have written to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.’
Christians tend to swing to extremes on this, personally and generationally – from monasticism to worldliness, from asceticism to indulgence. Neither extreme is right. Somehow we need to be in the world but not of it – we must ‘use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.’ (1 Cor 7:31).
Solomon was right to make an alliance with Egypt but if it did lead him into sin, as some suggest, then it was not good. We must get to know all sorts of people but we are to be an influence for good on them, like salt and light, not the other way round, being corrupted and benighted.

Short Poem 13

How about something from our good friend Anonymous. I think this rhyme is from the Mother Goose Collection originally. How old it is I don't know. One source suggests it might have originated in the words of Elizabethan author John Fletcher (1579-1625) - a contemporary of Shakespeare. The quotation "Deeds, not words" can be found in his Lover's Progress (Act III, sc. 6). It appears to be written out of bitter experience. Its initial jauntiness draws you in until you realise just how horrible the ending is going to be - a bit like words without deeds.


A MAN OF WORDS AND NOT OF DEEDS
A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds;
And when the weeds begin to grow,
It's like a garden full of snow;
And when the snow begins to fall,
It's like a bird upon the wall;
And when the bird away does fly,
It's like an eagle in the sky;
And when the sky begins to roar,
It's like a lion at the door;
And when the door begins to crack,
It's like a stick across your back;
And when your back begins to smart,
It's like a penknife in your heart;
And when your heart begins to bleed,
You're dead, and dead, and dead indeed.

The Bloggy Man 31


Favourite Puns 12


Deep rest

Weekly Proverb 13

Oppose the Lord - you lose 21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD
Chapter 21 ends as it begins with references to the Lord and especially to his sovereign power. Derek Kidner sums up the two closing verses as warnings not to fight against the Lord (30) or without the Lord (31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD).
Verse 30 is very striking with its triple negative. There is no wisdom, insight or plan that can beat the Lord. He cannot be outmanoeuvred, though many have tried. There have been football teams and boxers and grand chess masters who have been labelled as unbeatable but their day has come at last. The ship The Titanic was famously thought to be unsinkable but it sank. The Lord, however, is different. He is genuinely unbeatable and unsinkable. Nietzsche declared that God is dead. As one wag put it after his death, ‘God is dead –Nietzsche. Nietzsche is dead – God.’ Mark Twain is said once to have observed that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. The same can be said of God and will continue to be said. Despite all the best laid schemes ‘o’ mice an’ men’ they have all ‘gang agley’ and no future scheme can succeed either, despite the many boasts that atheists and others have so often made. He is sovereign and his will must be done. The corollary here is that no-one who opposes God is wise, bright or smart, even though they often claim to be. The truth reaches its height in Acts 2:23, 24 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. And then But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Down in the dumps

Not much coming out here I know. I'm a bit down that's all (not as bad as the picture might suggest thankfully). Doing too much perhaps (or not enough).

Bathroom reptile


I saw this in our bathroom just now. I asked around. I don't think anyone set it up. May be my eldest. He's not in. I think it just fell like that.

Favourite Puns 11



Sarkozy

Acts 17:11 B R Haydon

On page 95 of one of these books of anecdotes (on Acts 17:11) I read this from the pen of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846).
Wikipedia says about him that
Readers of his autobiography were struck by the frequency and fervour of the short prayers interspersed throughout the work. Haydon had an overwhelming sense of a personal, overruling and merciful providence, which influenced his relations with his family, and to some extent with the world. He had many enemies, actuated by motives as unworthy as his own were always high-pitched and on abstract grounds laudable.
Of his three great works — Solomon, Entry into Jerusalem and Lazarus — the second is generally regarded as the finest. Solomon shows his executive power at its loftiest, and is of itself enough to place Haydon at the head of British historical painting in his own time. Lazarus is a more unequal performance, and in various respects open to criticism; yet the head of Lazarus is so majestic and impressive that, if its author had done nothing else, we must still pronounce him a potent pictorial genius.
BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON'S ADVICE TO HIS SON ON READING THE BIBLE DAILY.—The famous English painter, Benjamin Robert Haydon, wrote this excellent advice to his son, at a very critical time in the boy's life :—" Read your Bible daily. There is no more interesting book in the world, and it is becoming more necessary to read it and study it, because I already perceive a tendency among our scientific men, in all their pride of knowledge and what they call discovery, to set the Bible aside as an Oriental legend. Do not believe them. The Mosaic account of the Creation is the most simple and the most natural, and will be found, you may rely on it, confirmed by science, when science has got down to the real facts. Generalisation, founded on our present knowledge of the laws of nature,is the very thing which our present acquaintance with these laws does not justify. I am convinced no thoroughly established and settled scientific theory will be found to contradcict the truths revealed in the Bible. But you are too young yet for me to enter further upon this subject. I only tell you you of it to oput you on your guard. You will find many men, old and grown-up men, who will laugh at the Bible. Don't believe them. Mathematics are all very well ; but the differential calculus, my dear boy, can never prove or disprove the existence of God. Read your Bible, do your duty, and leave the rest to God. Ever your affectionate father, BENJAMIN HAYDON.

North Yorkshire

On Thursday and Friday this week I was in unfamiliar territory up in North Yorkshire. I had been asked to preach at a monthly North Yorkshire Bible Rally. On Thursday afternoon I left by coach from Golders Green and went all the way to Thirsk (it was going on to South Shields). We have friends very near Thirsk and they kindly put me up for the night (I deprived their 17 year old of his bed for the night) and got me to the meeting which was in a small church in Northallerton.
I suppose about 50 gathered in the small chapel . The chairman was the pastor at Geneva Road, Darlington, Mark Rowcroft, who we got to know when he was a student at LTS. It was good to be among friends - several I'd met before, others I'd not and one or two in between (!). I preached on Christian Freedom, a fresh sermon I'd felt led to preach that arose out of studies in the Confession. It was sound and helpful stuff but lacked power I guess. (I'd been reading about unction all the way up and so that was on my mind).
So after good fellowship back in Carlton Minniott, a good night's rest and a brief look around Thirsk (picked up two nice old books of anecdotes - on Mark and Acts - in Oxfam) I was soon back on the coach again. A very friendly Nigerian lady I'd sat next to on the way up, a professing Christian, was on board again and we ended up chatting most of the way home which was very pleasant. I passed on a copy of my sermon. I arrived home just as everyone was coming back from school. Good to be home again. It was then off to the clubs for children and young people. Lots to do now before Sunday.

Bayeux Tapestry

History brought alive as they say

Bloggy Special 11

It looks to me as though the Bloggy man has had a turn in this one

Weekly Proverb 12

[Sorry we missed last week]
The barterer boasts about a bargain buy 20:14 It’s no good, it’s no good! says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase
Now we are in the market place. The bargain hunter is pointing out the faults of the item he wants to buy. He is apparently very unimpressed with the salesman’s claims. When he gets the item home, however, he boasts about his bargain buy. The retail system in this country is not favourable to bartering but I remember how my mother would always ask for something to be knocked off the price if she found a shop-soiled item and there is a little leeway for barter even in the High Street.
This is an observational proverb and so we are not given any firm help on where such shrewd practice becomes sinful (deliberately damaging goods is an obvious no-no). No doubt the seller is well aware of what is going on and has purposely set his original price high. The main lesson is again not to be superficial and not to take everything people say at face value. Perhaps we can more specifically learn that criticisms are often made from envy. An English proverb says that he who speaks ill of the mare would buy her. It is sometimes in a man’s interest to downplay something in order to manoeuvre himself into a position to take it. It is not unknown for a company to talk down the share price of a rival company only to swoop in and to buy it. It is also one reason why unbelievers at one and the same time both oppose and desire Christian faith. 'It's rubbish' they say 'but I really admire your faith'!
From the other side, there is the warning to professing Christians of Hebrews 12:16 See that no-one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

Akkerman in Chester






I'm just back from a 400 mile round trip to Chester - a birthday treat. I left Monday afternoon by car to meet up with lifelong friend Chris and see the Jan Akkerman Band in Alexanders Jazz Club. We arrive in good time to be near the front of the queue when the doors open at 8 pm. The band who I know a little bit mingle with the punters - not more than a hundred all told I guess so there's plenty of chance to chat. Wilibrand's a friendly young man. I remind him of a well known Dutch novelist he told me once. Jan's very willing to listen to the prattle of fans like me and their endless questions. He tells me he got his first sitar at 13 (and a sarod, I think, or was it a santoor). I mention the present Focus. He complains that Van Leer uses riffs from their old demo tapes. He obviously keeps up with what they do a little. We talk about his RSI. I try to get onto spiritual matters but it's not easy. We agree we are sinners, which is a start.
There's no smoking inside Alexanders now so that was pleasant. Jan coped. I like the venue but a constant background buzz somewhere in the system that could not be rectified spoiled things just a little.
The concert itself began around 9.30 pm with 40 minutes mostly of rock (which surprised me a little). They did 'I'm in the mood' (from CU) and then 4 old Focus numbers in a pretty brief and seventies style (A?Q!Q?A!, Focus 2, Anonymous, a very eastern House of the King), finishing off with Tranquiliser and the Paul Weller number.
After a half hour break they launched into a more jazzy hour beginning with "Wheatstalker", some blues (Blues route with dance the blues away) and Slowman. We then had the obligatory Hocus Pocus and Sylvia (or Sylvia's grandmother to be more accurate) with lots of tremelo arm. Superlative stuff. For an encore they did Urban String now subtitled "More air for a G-string" that included a tremendous drum solo from Marijn with a tape loop backing him and a very interesting variation on the theme.
It was all over by midnight and after thank yous, autographs on the new CD they were flogging and a quick photo, Chris and I headed for Pentre Halcyn and bed. Chris works for the N Wales Constabulary, is church secretary at Mold Evangelical and a great guy. We're quite similar, especially in our love for music and it's wonderful to be able to speak so openly about so many things with another human being. I admire how he faithfully visits a faithful old minister we've known since boyhood days. The dear man believes he probably only has about a year to live on this earth. He's not had an easy pilgrimage.
So home today to London. The band are here on Friday but that's our night for children and young people's work so I won't get to see them. Ah well.

Short Poem 12

A friend in college had this poem by Dylan Thomas on his wall I seem to remember. The nostalgic quality of it is quite powerful. Some of the lines are breathtakingly beautiful. I have a son called Dylan (we just like the name, we would have used it for our first son but had already decided his second name would be Tomos and we didn't want to have a Dylan Thomas/Tomos Brady).

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Favourite puns 10

She's on her roan

Hymn of the week 6

We sang this 1868 Henry Twells hymn yesterday evening. (We had a spiritualist faith healer in. She only comes occasionally. The last line of the hymn made me nervous!).
I love the hymn and the fact that it was written while Twells was inviligating an exam just adds to the interest. The story goes that there was only one stu­dent and Twells had to stay while he finished. It was late af­ter­noon, and the sun was be­gin­ning to drop be­low the hor­i­zon. As Twells gazed out the win­dow, his thoughts turned to the story of Je­sus heal­ing the sick, and in that set­ting he wrote these words.

At even, ere the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
O, with how many pains they met!
O, with what joy they went away!

Once more ’tis eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thyself we cannot see?
We know that Thou art ever near.

O Saviour Christ, our woes dispel;
For some are sick, and some are sad;
And some have never loved Thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.

And some are pressed with worldly care
And some are tried with sinful doubt;
And some such grievous passions tear,
That only Thou canst cast them out.

And some have found the world is vain,
Yet from the world they break not free;
And some have friends who give them pain,
Yet have not sought a friend in Thee.

And none, O Lord, have perfect rest,
For none are wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within.

O Saviour Christ, Thou too art man;
Thou has been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.

Thy touch has still its ancient power.
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.

Bloggy Special 10


Favourite Puns 09

Shakespeare

Archive 6c Chapel Names

Then there are the mountains: Ararat, Carmel, Hermon, Moriah, Nebo, Pisgah, Tabor, Zion, even Horeb or Sinai. Bethesda and Siloam were pools in Jerusalem connected with healing miracles of Jesus. Antioch is inspired by the New Testament church of that name. Of the seven churches mentioned in The Revelation, only Sardis and Smyrna are usually used, for obvious reasons. (Philadelphia is known as it means brotherly love). The story is told, however, of a church in the southern states of America that left a great deal to be desired and was a great discouragement to its faithful pastor. They decided they wanted to give a name to their chapel but could not fix on one until some mischievous or ignorant soul suggested Laodicea. When they came to the pastor for his opinion he had to admit that it was a most appropriate name for that particular church to choose! And so it was given the name Laodicea.
There is evidence that as the 19th Century wore on our Victorian fathers tired of this naming game. They would sometimes resort to the practice of calling chapels after influential figures of the near or distant past, as in Latimer Memorial, Chalmers Memorial, Martyrs Memorial, Carey Baptist or Kensit Evangelical. Others simply looked for more unusual names. Some went to Isaiah for Hephzibah and Beulah. Galeed means ‘Heap of witness’. Lebanon looks like a topographical reference but refers more to the cedar of Lebanon, symbolic of God’s strength. Similarly, Sharon refers to the Rose of Sharon mentioned in Song of Solomon and long accepted as a title for the Lord Jesus.
Some common names today among the more conservative are Grace and Christ Church. Trinity continues to be used too. Church on the rock is an attractive name.
Some people can get hot under the collar on this subject but it is not really one to get het up about. Provided we remember that the church and the building are two different things and that there is nothing in the New Testament about chapels as such, we should not go too far wrong. Meanwhile let us not forget this largely incidental but interesting part of evangelical and Nonconformist culture which has its own lessons to teach.
May each of our Bethels and Zions and Temples truly be the houses of God; may the prophets of Baal be challenged at Carmel; may we not forget the Lord’s past help at Ebenezer. And if your chapel does not have a specific name remember that he who walks among the candlesticks has a white stone with a secret new name for all who come to him. The names of all his churches are indelibly written on the palms of his hands.

Archive 6b Chapel Names

In some instances you learn something about a chapel from its name. Enon has to be a Baptist church. Enon you recall was where John the Baptist baptised because there was much water there. Tabernacles, like God’s house in the Old Testament, are relatively large as are the rarer Temples. Babell Apostolic in Aberdare, South Wales, gets its name from the Welsh word for tent not the place where the tower was built! Bethel means house of God and Zoar (meaning ‘Little place’) should be smaller, just as Rehoboth should be larger, or an extension work, as the name means ‘Room’. It was the name given to a well by Isaac following a time of strife. Perhaps in some instances that thought is in the background. Zoar is, of course, where Lot fled from Sodom and Gomorrah and so suggests a place of refuge from wickedness.
The idea of refuge is also there in the popular Elim, ‘Place of rest’, and the unusual Cave of Adullam, where all in distress, debt or despair resorted to David. The Ark clearly suggests a welcome for all creatures great and small. The name Lighthouse or Beacon, like The Bridge, though not directly from Scripture, make similar points. The name Hebron was probably selected with a similar thought. It was a city of refuge. City of Refuge spells out the point. Gilead, of course, is the place for soothing balm. Welsh Noddfa, like the French L’Abri (used by Francis Schaeffer), both mean shelter or refuge.
The name Elim, the name of an oasis where Israel stayed in the desert, is one of many examples where biblical place names have been adopted. Use has been made of Bethany, where Jesus loved to stay; Bethlehem, perhaps with the thought of its meaning, house of bread; Calvary, Latin for the place of the skull, where Christ died; Emmaus, where after his resurrection he broke bread and Jerusalem, Caersalem (in Wales) or Salem, which means peace. Galilee and Gethsemane also exist. Gilgal, interestingly, is where the Israelites rededicated themselves to God in Joshua’s time. Peniel is where Jacob met God face to face yet lived. Nazareth and Goshen are understandable choices too, as is Eden for there Adam and Eve met with God. Why Ramah or Shiloh should be chosen is not immediately clear, though the latter was where the Tabernacle used to be.
Last part to follow.

Cessationism

Cessationism (the belief that supernatural gifts have ceased to be given to the church) is not a subject we've touched on in these pages but I am a cessationist and the recent post on it by John Kilpatrick here is worth casting an eye over whichever side you are on.

Archive 6a Chapel Names

[This article originally appeared in Grace Magazine]

[amazing and apt alliteration]
What’s in a name?
If your church meets in a chapel, does it have a name? I have belonged to two or three Baptist churches in my time, each named after its location. However, many chapels do have names, especially where there is more than one in a town. Some have quietly dropped these names in recent times, feeling their work is not helped by issuing invitations to ‘Come to Ebenezer’ or ‘Join us at Zion’. Most, however, continue to use these ancient, and often well loved, names. Some new churches have even incorporated a name into the title of the church itself, such as Cornerstone, Immanuel, Gateway, Grace, Lifeline, Trinity, Vineyard or Church of the Good Shepherd. Meanwhile, Rehoboths, Hopes and Providences continue to abound.
Until 1689 Baptists had no chapels as such. Before the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 they had made use of parish churches and other public buildings where possible and then, under threat of persecution, had resorted to using private homes. This arrangement created its own difficulties and so where possible, like other Nonconformists, they built or bought chapels in which to meet. Sometimes congregations would share facilities but more often each church became identified with one specific building. From the 1740s at least the practice began of identifying these buildings with names. As Nonconformity flourished in the 19th Century so each new chapel erected often bore a particular name to distinguish it from others. Soon potentially confusing phrases such as ‘I belong to Hope’ or ‘I’m going to Emmaus’ became common place.
Parish churches have for long ages been traditionally connected with the names of saints, as in St Luke’s, St Philip and St James’s St Michael and All Angels or All Saints. At least one church in Wales bears Peter’s Aramaic name (Cephas) but most Nonconformists in England and Wales eschewed this practice and struck out on different paths. In America they, unimaginatively, speak usually of First Baptist, Second Baptist, Ninth Presbyterian, Tenth. Here names were chosen, mainly from the Bible, for usually obvious reasons. Bethel is ‘House of God’; Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. Providence acknowledges God’s provision of a meeting place, Jireh is ‘The Lord will provide’ and Ebenezer ‘Up until now the Lord has helped us’.

To be continued

Grace Magazine May 07


The current edition of grace Magazine is now out and looks at the biographies of several women (mostly by women writers). How many of the nine women on the cover can you name? There is also an interesting title - Will there be computers in heaven?
I am a trustee of the magazine and will be meeting with the other trustees here in Childs Hill this month. It's a privilege to be involved.

Beddome Sermons

Over at my Benjamin Beddome blog I have started to add some sermon outlines from the good man. See here.

Short Poem 11


I first discovered the poetry of Emily Dickinson doing an American Studies course at University.
Though virtually unknown in her lifetime, she has come to be regarded, along with Walt Whitman (not my cup of tea at all), as one of the two quintessential American poets of the 19th Century. Although she wrote around 1,789 poems, only a handful of them were published during her lifetime, all anonymously. Some may have been published without her knowledge. She wrote short poems with lots of dashes that pack a punch. This is one of the best known. More here.

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The Carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality.
We slowly drove - He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility -
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess - in the Ring -
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain -
We passed the Setting Sun -
Or rather - He passed Us -
The Dews drew quivering and chill -
For only Gossamer, my Gown -
My Tippet - only Tulle -
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground -
The Roof was scarcely visible -
The Cornice - in the Ground -
Since then -'tis Centuries -and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity -

Favourite Puns 08


2B or not 2B, that is the question

10 Things about Wilberforce

This may be a little old hat by now but I stumbled across this just now and thought it worth repeating here.
It was provided by Tearfund (2/23/2007) and is here.


1. He became England’s youngest ever MP. Aged 21 he was elected MP for his native Hull. During an election campaign he was pelted with a snowball as he tried to pacify a mob from a bedroom window in the opulent family home. Today the city is twinned with Freetown, Sierra Leone, which Wilberforce helped to found as a colony for free Africans.
2. His childhood vicar wrote Amazing Grace. His Methodist aunt introduced him to John Newton, a slave-trader-turned-cleric. William spent two spiritually seminal years with an uncle and aunt in Wimbledon after his dad died. But his mother called him back up north, worried about the influences on him.
3. He became a playboy second only to William Pitt, learning the finer points of gambling and drinking with the future prime minister at Cambridge University. An about-turn came later on a holiday to the south of France, when he felt touched by ‘the unspeakable mercies of my God and Saviour’. Now an MP, he quickly sobered up, applying himself to improving conditions for factory workers.
4. He had a defining moment (while chatting to William Pitt) under a tree near Croydon. William Pitt, now prime minister, persuaded him to read an exposé of the slave trade. Merchants denied accounts of overcrowding, sickness and sub-human misery on ships, spinning yarns of comfortable journeys to new and exciting lives.
5. He rendered Nelson “armless.” Admiral Nelson didn’t like ‘the damnable doctrines of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies’. Wilberforce was assaulted outside the Houses of Parliament and faced death threats. Later Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square would be built more than a third taller than the almost identical Wilberforce Memorial in Hull. But slavery-wise, victory had been Wilberforce’s.
6. He was the best-selling author of ‘Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity’. It was reprinted five times in six months and translated into French, Italian, Dutch and German. And it’s one of the longest titles you’ll find on Amazon.
7. He had a nervous breakdown at 37. Getting the Abolition Bill through Parliament was hard graft despite his endless, eloquent speeches. Wilberforce’s poor health was not helped by Parliament defeating his Bill 20 times in 30 years. John Newton likened his fight against the slavers to the biblical story of Daniel in the lions’ den. The reformer and preacher John Wesley was also supportive. He urged him, ‘Go on, in the name of God.’
8. He got Josiah Wedgwood to design an anti-slavery brooch. Here was the top pottery designer of his day creating a brooch with a black figure in chains and the line ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ It became a must have. Wedgwood also sent a few to an appreciative Benjamin Franklin. A founding father of the USA, Franklin became a keen supporter. Wilberforce also commissioned the poet William Cowper to write verse exposing the slave trade.
9. He thought Clapham was really cool. He was part of a group of wealthy evangelicals called the Clapham Sect and nicknamed ‘The Saints’. They campaigned for Abolition alongside remarkable former slaves such as Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano and Ignatius Sancho. They also helped to reform the penal system, and founded of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Church Missionary Society. Oh, and Wilberforce co-founded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
10. He was cheered in the House of Commons – illegally. On February 23, 1807, the House of Commons debated abolition – again. This time speech after speech praised Wilberforce. The House of Commons gave him a loud standing ovation, even though applause is forbidden there. Wilberforce bowed his head and wept with emotion. That night MPs voted to abolish the slave trade by a vote of 283 to 16. Prime Minister Lord Grenville described Wilberforce’s victory in 1807 as "a measure … for which his memory will be blessed by millions yet unborn." On March 25, 1807 the act became law. But Wilberforce hadn’t finished: he needed to secure the release of slaves throughout the British Empire. After another 26 years’ of work, he lived to see this second act passed – and died three days later.

Bonus fact‘Wilberforce’ was the name given to the cat at 10 Downing Street from 1973 to 1987. It served tirelessly as chief mouser under four British Prime Ministers: Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher.

10 Scots Christian Biographies

I am currently reading Iain Murray's new book A Scottish Christian Heritage and so was interested to see over at Highland Host there is a series that begins here - Free St. George's - on Scottish Christian biography. The ten are

1. John Knox
2. Richard Cameron
3. James Sharp
4. John Brown (Haddington)
5. Haldane Brothers
6. William Hanna
7. R M M'Cheyne
8. John Kennedy
9. 'Rabbi' Duncan
10. Principal Rainy

How blessed are the Scots in this respect. A Welsh list would be much more difficult to compile.

Akkerman Tour

The inimitable Jan Akkerman arrives in the UK this week for a short nine day tour of the UK. I'm hoping to catch him. You can hear him doing Paul Weller's 'You do soemthing to me' over on the website here. (What do you think Guy?). This one's with the band. In July he comes for an even shorter solo tour.

Short Poem 10

John Masefield (1878-1967) was an English poet and writer, Poet Laureate from 1930 until his death. He is remembered as the author of the classic children's novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, two novels "Captain Margaret" and "Multitude and Solitude" and a great deal of memorable poetry, including "The Everlasting Mercy" and "Sea-Fever", from his anthology Saltwater Ballads. See more at Wikipedia.
 
Sea-Fever
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like
a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

The Bloggy Man 30

Easter with a bang

I'm not making any point here except that it is weird world in which we live. This article is the beginning of from yesterday's Times and can be accessed here.
Once a year during Greek Orthodox Easter, on the night of the resurrection of Christ, the parishioners of two churches in the town of Vrodandos on the picturesque eastern Aegean island of Chios become for a short time, opponents in a war like no other. It is called the Chios rocket war – a friendly battle between the churches of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani.
The rocket war is a tradition that dates to the early 19th century at the time of the Ottoman occupation. Although its origin has been lost over time, the most popular legend is that of seafarers from the island, who used to battle pirates with cannons on their ships. When they returned home they brought their cannons, and began a custom of firing them at the Easter holiday. In 1889, the Ottoman occupiers banned it and confiscated the cannons, fearing they would be used in a revolt.
This resulted in the locals replacing the cannons with homemade rockets. The parishioners of the two churches, who always had a friendly rivalry, added the competition that has evolved and continues today.
As Easter mass takes place to mark the resurrection of Christ on the Saturday evening, rival gangs from the parishes fire thousands of homemade rockets across a valley at each other’s churches. The objective is to hit the bell-tower of the “enemy’s” church. What ensues is a spectacle of streaking lights whizzing toward each other across the sky, filling the valley between with smoke.
Air raid sirens wail across the town to inform the inhabitants, churchgoers and spectators of the approaching rockets, and thousands of people gather to watch as the rockets strike the churches.
Inside, the Easter mass takes place and churchgoers light candles despite the smashing of rockets against the walls. The devout run to reach the church for mass and watch the opposing side’s rockets approach from behind protective fine wire mesh that has been wrapped around the church.
The climax comes as church bells ring to announce Christ's resurrection at midnight, immediately drowned by the whizzing sounds of the barrages of rockets and exploding multi-coloured fireworks.
However, the tradition does not come without its dangers. Small fires can break out in the valley between the two churches, and the island’s fire brigade rushes to smother any fires ignited by stray rockets. Firefighters and volunteer watch teams spend the evening patrolling the area as stray rockets can set fire to trees, bushes and homes.
The rocket war has also caused injuries in the past, such as the loss of eyes or limbs and even deaths during production of the rockets, etc.

Another chance to see 03

This was the first post in our long running series on King Solomon. It first appeared December 07 2006.
Solomon is one of the great characters of the Bible. His name is well known. He had a very important role in the story of God’s people. He is quite familiar to some but ought to be better known to more people. There are many, especially Jews and Christians, who know Solomon’s name but are largely unacquainted with the facts about him. He is a figure to whom certain legends have attached themselves, especially in regard to his vast wealth, his great wisdom and, in particular, the fascinating story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to him, a subject which has spawned at least one Hollywood film and endless legends.
Why the shortage of studies? However, take a look along the shelves of your local Christian Bookshop or evangelical library and the section marked Bible Biography. What do you find? You will probably see plenty of material on Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and New Testament characters such as John the Baptist or Paul. You will even find books on Job, Jacob, Elisha or Luke. What you are unlikely to find, however, is a biography of Solomon. Why is that? There seem to be a number of problems. 1. Solomon lived a rather pedestrian life. He was not in the habit of going out to fight wars. He made no great journeys. He had no difficult rebellions to put down and was confronted by few real crises that we know of. As for inner struggles, we know very little about them. On the face of it, Solomon’s life may seem a little dull, a little mundane. It does not seem to be the stuff of adventure or excitement. 2. It is true to say that Solomon’s greatest achievement was probably the building of the Temple that bore his name. Although this was certainly a great accomplishment, unless we have a bent for architectural detail, the descriptions of it in Scripture do not immediately strike most of us as gripping literature. The difference between reading such passages and the narrative, say, of David fighting Goliath or on the run from King Saul or Absalom could not be more stark. It is a little like the difference between the front or back page of the newspaper and the stock exchange listings tucked away in the business section. For most people there is no competition. 3. Another problem for many is the way Solomon presided over what came to be a divided nation. Shortly after his son Rehoboam succeeded, the nation was permanently split into southern and northern factions, precipitating war and idolatry for years to come. Many see the seeds of this destruction in certain of Solomon’s policies and so aspersions are cast with regard to his worthiness to be thought of as a truly great king. 4. The major problem, however, seems to be whether Solomon is a man that we want to encourage people to emulate at all. There is clear evidence that at a certain point he lost his way and fell into idolatry under the influence of his many pagan wives. Evidence of his repentance is not easy to come by and some are convinced that he continued to follow these misguided ways and was never recovered for the truth. With such a black question mark hanging over him many prefer simply to move on to other characters. Abraham, despite his faults, was clearly a man of faith. Moses may have lost his temper with the people but what a man of God. David, for all his iniquity, certainly knew all about repentance. Elijah was a sinner like us but he knew how to pray. As for Solomon, as far as many are concerned, the jury is still out.
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