The new Indiana Jones film came out on my birthday (it was strange to be away for once though the committee sang to me and I was kindly presented with a gift). The whole family went to see the film today. Set in the fifties it's sheer hokum on every level but good fun. That Lucas and Spielberg know what they're doing.
We are indebted to Mr Keddie for his work in bringing this information to light. The story of the rise and fall of the Scots Free Church is one full of interest and instruction for all Christians as is that of Smeaton himself.
1. Because it is an heirloom – something Christians have always done and that was originally commanded by Christ.
2. Because God and food go together. This striking biblical theological section took us through the Bible pointing out the importance of food in the way God has made us and relates to us.
3. Because it preaches about sin and salvation
4. Because in it we show that the Christians who make up the church are one
5. Because it teaches us humility and other person centredness
It would have been nice to have had a little time for discussion together but it was coffee next and then the closing sermon from Luke Jenner.
Luke took up where his father had left off at the beginning in Philippians 2, helpfully drawing our attention to Timothy and Epaphroditus who, he argued, are chiefly instances of the Christ-like humility Paul commends in the rest of the chapter – the first an example of service , the second of suffering. It was a young man’s sermon in that it was designed to leave us feeling uncomfortable with our commitment to Christ and did just that. We need to hear such sermons.
And so very quickly our time was over. We had lunch together (anothe excellent repast) and then departed. The Olivers very kindly gave Barry King and myself a lift to Derby Station – I hope they found their way home. I was on an earlier train than Barry and only made it just in time. It’s good to be back.
We spent the morning on the perennial matter of Christian unity. Before coffee Daniel Webber from the EMF laid before us four important principles
1. Belief in the essential unity of all true Christians and churches
2. The need for all Christians and churches to do what they can to give expression to the unity they have in Christ
3. In a fallen world all visible expressions of unity are subject to certain limitations
4. The use of a sliding scale approach to visible Christian unity – the more we have in common with others the greater the measure of co-operation that is possible
He then showed how these principles may be applied on the individual, church and church leadership levels.
After coffee we looked at a series of questions that arise in this area, such as how we express our unity with other churches. We talked specifically about Gospel Partnerships and Affinity as well as more general matters. John Harris chaired with a panel made up of Jack Jenner, Dr Robert Oliver, Daniel Webber and Tom Forryan from Watford. Contributions were also made from the floor. It was a decent time.
After lunch I bought some Thorntons chocolate and had a group photo on the lawn. The weather here has been quite pleasant. I then chaired the business session, which we got through okay with one or two important decisions, especially to meet again next year at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, May 19-21.
After supper Nick Needham gave his second paper – this time on heaven. Again very fresh he turned us to 1 Corinthians 13, expounded it and then focussed our minds, firstly, as a real place and the goal of the Christian life. Such a realisation would wean us from worldliness and the fear of death. Secondly, it is a world of perfect knowledge and love. He closed with a chiefly evangelistic application. The message was laced with quotes from Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, C S Lewis, A W Pink, etc.
The evening closed with a question panel. We looked at Christian education, new frontiers, etc. A good day indeed.
Anyway I reached the Hayes in good time. Dr and Mrs Oliver spotted me and gave me a lift up the long drive. We couldn’t get into our rooms until after lunch so we milled about and then ate lunch together and went to our rooms later. We have managed to get up to a hundred with day visitors so it’s a decent number. We’re rather on the grey side and pretty mono-cultural sadly but there are reasons for that.
Jack and Alison Jenner were our hosts so Jack preached from Philippians 2 for the first session. Later on we had a news reports session featuring Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute (who also did a late night session after 9.30 pm); Eric Cousins from the Particular Baptist Trust, etc; John MacDonald from GBM; Trevor Routley from Argentina, who spoke about the desperate need for Reformed teachers in that country. Also we had Barry King an American from Arkansas who has been in London for a few years now helping the Grace Association with replanting churches. He’s quite a case. His best story was of going to Watford and no-one turning up but preaching anyway. Somehow that led to someone who lived nearby coming that evening, someone who had been praying for something to happen. It is difficult to know if his optimism is down to culture, personality or theology but it is a good thing.
In the evening Nick Needham spoke on hell. There is something slightly brutal looking about Nick but he speaks with very clearly enunciated English and with subdued passion that is quite compelling. With quotations from Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, etc, he took us through the orthodox doctrine adding some fresh things and some necessary correctives. He dealt with objections to the doctrine based on both the justice and the mercy of God. His burden was evangelistic in some ways but with no emotionalism he urged believers to live in the light of the doctrine.
After Simon Calvert I caught the end of the football. Poor Chelsea.
I started writing this last Thursday afternoon in Membury Services on the M4. I was on my way back from my Uncle Frank’s funeral. Frank Hugh Evans was born in 1922, the youngest of 12 boys. A sister eventually followed (we should have kept going!). He grew up on Buck Farm near Risca and at 16 began working at the new colliery in Risca, moving on to other pits before early retirement in 1984. He met my mother’s older sister Joan when he was 21 and she was 14 and working in a café in Newport. They married in 1947 and had two daughters. Lorraine died while under a year and Marion was born in 1950. (Marion is my eldest surviving cousin on my mother’s side, followed by Gill and Alan, my Aunt Bette’s kids, then me, I think). I think Frank and Joan lived with her parents first then on the farm before moving to Cromwell Road, Risca, where we met before the funeral service.
Frank smoked and drank beer all his life, took six sugars in his tea but was always very active and I don’t remember him having any fat on him. He was on the committee of the working men’s club – responsible for bingo calling (something he sometimes would do in his sleep we were told) and booking the turns (using the phone of the lady across the road).
We travelled over the mountain to Risca. I’d arrived at my sister’s in Cwmbran late the night before after our midweek meeting in Childs Hill. It’s always strange coming back as I see places I don’t often see and forgotten memories return. I haven’t been to Risca in ages. Things flooded back though – the fire station at the back and being there when the alarm went off once; fishing for tadpoles in the canal further up; Uncle Frank giving me a safety helmet that I played with for years, etc.
The family have had a long attachment to Moriah Baptist, Risca. Marion married David there in the seventies. Originally a Welsh speaking congregation it began to use English in order to reach more people coming in. The present large well kept chapel was built in 1893. It is a BU church. The present minister, John Hayward, has been there since 1976. He led the service well and in an evangelical way. We sang three verses of Bread of heaven and six of Abide with me. About 50 gathered – friends and family. I enjoyed talking to Frank’s brother-in-law (I think it was), a Pentecostal believer from Cwmcarn. I managed to get lost between the chapel and the crematorium trying to get through Newport (I have no sense of direction) but made my way back to the Top Club in Risca where we had a nice buffet lunch with plenty of black pudding and other delicacies available.
It was nice to talk to the family – my dad and sister Gail, of course (I saw my nieces at home briefly before leaving); Joan and my Uncle Raymond (there are two brothers still living but neither copes very well with things); Marion and Gill; second cousins, Tracy, Julia and Joanna, Marion’s daughter. Joanna is married to Cai. They have two boys. Elliot is three and suffers from lissencephaly. He has had a gastrostomy tube fitted. He is a lovely little boy and the family love him. Seeing him when Parliament is about to debate abortion and related issues once again reminded me of the reality of all this.
Dylan spent most of the day in Brighton with friends. Eleri and Gwion popped up to see the wedding, which was in Finchley. I watched half of the FA Cup and was sad that Cardiff lost. Eleri, Rhodri, Sibyl and Dewi went to a twmpath (barn dance) organised by the school so weren’t in until late. Somewhere along the way I’ve been preparing for the Lord’s Day.
Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him
All we are and have.
Jesus is the Name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us;
Nothing moves and nothing harms us
While we trust in Him.
Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never;
Neither force nor guile can sever
Those He loves from Him.
Keep us, Lord, O keep us cleaving
To Thyself, and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving
Promised joys with Thee.
Then we shall be where we would be,
Then we shall be what we should be,
Things that are not now, nor could be,
Soon shall be our own.
Sikh and Telegu grammars and ten Bible versions were gone ... volumes of the Ramayana translation destroyed for ever ... worst of all was the loss of the Polyglot Dictionary of all the languages derived from Sanskrit which would have perpetuated Carey’s name in the first rank of philologists. (Smith 197)
Carey’s response was typical of the man. He wrote to John Ryland:
The Lord has smitten us, he had a right to do so, and we deserve his corrections. I wish to submit to his sovereign will, nay, cordially to acquiesce therein, and to examine myself rigidly to see what in me has contributed to this evil. (Smith 198)
Carey’s first sermon after the event was based upon Psalm 46:10 dividing his material under two headings - 1.God’s right to dispose of us as he pleases and 2. Man’s duty, to acquiesce in his will.
Had a nice day in the West End Tuesday. I wanted to be in Soho at 10 am and at the Astoria 2 near Tottenham Court Road tube at 7 pm. I could have gone home in between but I thought I'd spend the day in town so was out from 9 am until gone 11.30 pm. As I've reflected on the day I've realised how much I enjoyed it and what a Londoner I am.
So I got the 13 bus to kick off. I was running late so took the tube from Finchley Road to Bond Street (actually on Oxford Street) then walked. I got lost a little but found myself in Hanover Square where a street map showed the way to Berwick Street, where the Soho church have their Fair Trade shop. We had an LIP meeting there, which I chaired. That went off okay.
There was a lot of rain in London that day but for much of the afternoon it was dry. I can't remember quite the order I did things in then but I bought a headphone jack adaptor in a big electrical shop, had an overdue haircut at Mr Topper's on Charing Cross Road from a nice young Colombian fellow (£6, which is good for Central London) and bought my ticket for the Focus gig in the Astoria 2. I had lunch in a Caffe Nero somewhere and a cuppa later in a McDonalds. I was looking for Handel's house, which I thouight was open to the public, but couldn't find it (need to plan better). Then I saw a sign for Somerset House. I remember my mother telling me that was where all the birth certificates were kept (as was once the case). That was one of the things she thought all young boys should know. I'd never been there, however, so it was nice to have a little look around and then head down onto the embankment where I came to a garden full of interesting statues and flowers. I had a nice time there reading (mainly I Can Plod, John Appleby's excellent new book on Carey, which I practically finished) and praying. I also looked at my passages for Sunday, read the paper and did the crossword and sudoku.
On my travels I bumped into a young Scots girl reading her Bible in the Caffe Nero. She was an actress or dancer, waiting on an audition. She'd been given the Bible by an LCMer I've met. She attends a church I know of (not a Reformed one). Outside Charing Cross station a young man asked me for the bus fare to Golders Green. I was a little cautious but watched him onto the 13 bus (you can easily sell a ticket). Daniel is an Israeli from Jerusalem. He'd apparently had his wallet stolen. I told him I was helping him because I was a Christian and to come to church. His English was not great, though, and I came over rather aggressively. Both those encounters were interesting and quite striking in that I must have seen hundreds of people that day. Watering with prayer is the hard thing now.
Anyway I got to see Focus, which was great. I didn't hang around afterwards but came straight home by tube. It was raining hard but I was happy. As I approached the house I saw a fox but it soon ran. I like London.