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.

Board Games

Played three new board games over the holiday. When I say new I mean new to me.
1. Dixit
I liked this as it is gentle, easy to follow and calls for some imaginative skills.
One player is the storyteller for the turn. He looks at the 6 images in his hand. From one of these, he makes up a sentence and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players).
The other players select amongst their 6 images the one that best matches the sentence made up by the storyteller.
Then, each of them gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others. The storyteller shuffles his card with all the received cards. All pictures are shown face up, randomly, and every player has to bet upon what picture was the storyteller's.
If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and whoever found the correct answer scores 3. Players score 1 point for every vote gotten by their own picture.
The game ends when the deck is empty or if someone reaches 30 points.Otherwise the greatest total wins the game.

2. Apples to apples
Here you have two decks of cards: Things and Descriptions. Each turn, a different person selects a Description and players try to pick, from the cards in their hands, the Things that best match that Description. The person then chooses the Thing that appeals to him most and awards the card to the player who played it. The unusual combinations of Things and Descriptions are often humorous. Once a player has won a pre-determined number of cards, that player wins.

3. His & hers
This game celebrates our differences as seen through everyday things. Two teams split by gender, each take turns asking questions from the cards, which have different types of questions and categories of a generally trivia style. Each question also has a colour code associated with it. Should the question asked be answered correctly, the answering team's playing piece is moved on the board to the next space that corresponds to that particular question colour code. Should they answer incorrectly, the opposing team gets a chance to steal the question and possible board movement.
As they say "His and Hers is definitely not a "rude and crude" game, but please note that a few of the questions do have adult content.' So do take care.

Great Expectations

Watched the three one hour episodes of Great Expectations from the BBC last night. Gillian Anderson and Ray WInstone superb. Just brilliant! It's a great novel and this pared down made for TV version managed to keep the eseential plot and character details pretty well. Great stuff. The opening scenes were stupendous. There's a cinema version due out next year. It will be hard pushed to better this.

Gyda'r Teulu

One feature of this season's holiday break was a three day family holiday in the Haven Centre, Pembroke. Some forty gathered and we had a brilliant time talking, walking, eating, playing games, doing quizzes , singing and worshipping together, etc. I was a little fearful beforehand about whether it would work but it was a fine time with the right mix of organisation and relaxation.
The story starts over 70 years ago in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales in a Welsh speaking Nonconformist home where two sisters (one of them, Iola, being my mother-in-law were born). These two (2) both became school teachers then married South Walians, one a preacher and one a schoolteacher, (4) and moved to Aberystwyth in the middle. They both had three children, (10) now all married, (16) who in turn produced 9 (Iola's side) and 12 (Rhiain's side) grandchildren (37). Of these grandchildren three are married and one is engaged (41). Eleri's youngest cousin is married to an American serviceman currently overseas so he couldn't be there - though we saw him on skype.
We are pretty much a middle class bunch I guess but there is some variety. Of the 40, two are retired, three are preachers, one is involved in church planting and youth work and another is about to start working for UCCF; a number work with children, one drives for a living, six are tertiary students (art, drama, English, technology, medicine and science) and 17 are school age (4-17). We live in Wales (22), England (12) and the USA (6). We attend 10 different churches (two Welsh speaking, the rest English, three of which are in Wales). Of the men, five are elders and two are deacons. There are three Catrins, two Owains and potentially two Keiths.

It's a great privilege to be part of such a family. One real asset is Eleri's cousin Gwydion, a PE teacher, and his wife Catrin who basically organise the whole thing. Everyone is either a believer or not actively rebelling and that makes a big difference I'm sure. Lots of things to give thanks for as the year closes then.

Christmas Books

One of the joys of Christmas is getting books as gifts. I did well this year with about eight altogether plus a Big book of Knowlege from one of my sons. There's not been muchtime to read them so far. They are
1. Britannica Guide to India
2. The Pedant's return
3. Giles Collection 2012 (cartoons)
4. The Litigators John Grisham
6. The Lives of the novelists John Sutherland
7. The Holy Spirit Geoff Thomas
8. Ministry by his grace and for his glory in honour of Tom Nettles

Y Benfro


Part of our Christmas this year has been joining with about 40 for a family get together in Pembrokeshire. It was nice to be down by the sea yesterday.

Human trafficking

I came across this on the Operation World website today. It's disturbing.

Human trafficking is the illegal commerce in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour - a modern-day form of slavery. It is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, and tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest after the drug-trade. Today there are between 12 and 27 million people trapped in forced labour, bonded labour and sexual slavery in the world. Nearly 80% of those trafficked are used for sexual exploitation.
In 2009, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) created a taskforce on human trafficking in an effort to raise awareness on this issue. The aim of the taskforce is to prevent and combat trafficking by developing strategic and effective actions and tools that will help equip local churches and their leaders to become responsive to the victims of human trafficking.

Answers to Prayer
Compassionate men and women have created businesses that offer a future and a hope to people who need a means to support themselves. Vocational training and the development of businesses which embrace God's purposes - and the women and men He has created - are key to prevention and an essential part of restoration for those vulnerable to and victimized by human trafficking.
There is an increase in anti-trafficking legislation in countries around the world. Pray for the just and consistent application of such legislation, adequate training for officers of the court and the political will and courage to see prosecutions to trial. Trafficking rings are often connected to very powerful and influential organized crime rings.

Challenges for Prayer
Human trafficking is accelerating globally. The trade in human beings has now surpassed drug smuggling as one of the most profitable businesses in the world. A disproportionate number of women are involved in human trafficking, not only as victims but also as traffickers. Female offenders have a far more prominent role in present-day slavery than in most other forms of crime. Pray for both the trapped and the traffickers, especially former victims who have become perpetrators. Pray that God would frustrate the efforts of those who make a living from the suffering of others.
Labour exploitation. Men are victims of trafficking, too. Many countries allow employers to seize the passports of their employees, increasing vulnerability to human rights and labour violations. Also, up to 10-15% of those working in prostitution in Thailand are men, a number of whom have been trafficked for such purposes.
Internal trafficking is growing inside many countries, making it much more difficult to identify victims and prosecute offenders. China is particularly culpable in this area; true figures for internal trafficking are substantial but undocumented, but most of the girls have been trafficked from other areas in China. Traffickers themselves report that it only usually takes one month to keep a girl under tight restrictions and then she is broken and surrenders herself to her captivity. There are currently around seven million prostitutes in China alone, and research has found that 80% of them were trafficked or forced in some way when they first started. A new trend is the appetite for girls 14-15 years old. The trade in virginity is very profitable in much of Asia. Traffickers employ handsome young men to bring the girls in; this lover then gets a cut from the girl’s income. A large part of the overall problem faced is corruption. Traffickers and brothel owners will be arrested but face small sentences and, with the right connections, can pay themselves out. Those who perpetrate such exploitation often have no understanding of just how wrong what they do is.
Sex tourism is burgeoning as the global financial crisis makes travel to some areas of the world a bargain at the same time that unemployment and growing desperation make women, children and families even more vulnerable to exploitation. Pray for the following specific situations.
Girls and sometimes boys in India are married to gods at an early age and end up in brothels. Many contract HIV/AIDS and die very early - by age 15 or 16. Is it another form of human sacrifice? Pray for the spiritual dimensions of this destructive practice to be broken by God. Even 8-year-old girls are for sale now in places. Pray for rescue of the children involved.
The demand for prostitution in Thailand must cease. Thailand draws vulnerable women and girls into its borders to satisfy Thai men, foreign sex tourists and "expatriates" alike. Contrary to what is most visible, the vast majority of prostitution in Thailand (over 90%) caters to Thai clients. Presently most ministries reach out to those women and men working as prostitutes who service foreign clients. Pray that God might raise up ministries, especially Thai-led, to those men and women servicing Thai clients. Pray that the Church would take a stand for sexual purity. Pray that public policy makers would implement justice and effective policy that addresses those who use prostitutes, and not just the sex workers themselves. Widespread corruption within the police and government helps to perpetuate this ubiquitous structure of wickedness.
Eastern Europe and the Central Asian states situated on the Silk Road are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. A combination of poverty, lack of moral grounding, strong organized crime rings and weak governments work to exploit tens of thousands of women. While every Eastern European country struggles with this challenge, it is mainly though Kyrgyzstan that trafficking of girls from the whole of Central Asia occurs to the Gulf States, Turkey and Europe. One large problem faced is corruption in state structures which prevents their effectiveness in combating trafficking. Churches are young and unaware of the problem, and they are not ready, able or willing to actively press for solutions. The political situation in the country does not currently allow for government collaboration on this issue.
The hidden nature to prostitution and trafficking in the US, Western Europe and other developed nations needs to be brought into the light. There is a lack of awareness regarding the connections between prostitution and trafficking, as well as the degree to which most cities and neighbourhoods house trafficking activity. Western culture has become so accepting of the exploitation of sex and sexuality that the danger exists of making prostitution and sexual degradation normative.
Praise God that more churches, organizations and even governments are beginning to combat the global demand for commercial sexual and labour exploitation. Pray that God would change the hearts of those who commodify others for their own gain.
Victims returning to their homes and countries of origin experience ongoing difficulties in reintegration. Leaving prostitution and trafficking is not only incredibly difficult but complex and often requires a huge amount of support. Pray that families would not shun daughters that society tells them are ruined. Pray also that the Church would become a family to those feeling without help or hope. The global Church, operating locally, can be a powerful force in the battle against human trafficking, and for the restoration of its victims. Pray for the faithful Christians who leave their homes to visit dark streets and give hope and help to women forced to sell their bodies, and for the believers committed to walk and work as their companions on the long journey of restoration.
Christian response to the issues surrounding human trafficking and the people involved varies by country. Pray for the following specific situations, which are just a few prominent examples among many:
Spain. Thank God for evangelical Christians in Spain who approached the major political parties in their country to ask what they were planning to do about prostitution. "If you will draft a legislation that is good for women in Spain," the Christians were told, "we will bring it to Parliament." Pray for continued governmental co-operation and for legislation that bears good results.
India. Christians and churches in India are making conscious efforts to address issues related to prostitution and human trafficking, but it has been a struggle at every stage. While there are positive signs of redemption and rehabilitation for victims, there is still a struggle to help the Christian community accept these rehabilitated people and especially arrange marriages for the young adults. The Indian Church has not fully welcomed them into fellowship in many places.
United Kingdom. We praise God for those churches - particularly the emerging ones - that are making conscious efforts to fully accept those formerly caught in trafficking rings and to disciple them. There are over 60 church-based projects that provide this and other support across the UK. Despite the increased awareness of the problem, however, many of these projects are laying off staff due to lack of funds. Please pray for a well-equipped and sustainable Christian outreach to flourish.
Philippines. Pray for more labourers to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of women, men and children trapped in prostitution in the Philippines. Pray also for the few Christian organizations already working there: Kalinga Ministry, YWAM-Olongapo, RENEW Foundation, FOCUS, Samaritana, Sinalikway Outreach, Christian Cultural Development Foundation and Sinag.
We follow the Son of Man, who came to seek and to save the lost. As we pursue His purposes in these dark places, we can be confident that the darkness has not, and will not, overcome Him.
With thanks to contributing author, Jennifer Tunehag.

Hodge to the Pope

This masterful letter appears in the current Banner and here. One wonders if anyone today is capable of writing such a letter with such lucidity and theological acumen.
The text of a letter written by Charles Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary on behalf of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, explaining why the Pope's invitation to Protestants to send delegates to the first Vatican Council of 1869-70 was being declined.


To Pius the Ninth, Bishop of Rome,
By your encyclical letter dated 1869 you invite Protestants to send delegates to the Council called to meet at Rome during the month of December of the current year. That letter has been brought to the attention of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Those Assemblies represent about five thousand ministers and a still larger number of Christian congregations.
Believing as we do, that it is the will of Christ that his Church on earth should be united, and recognizing the duty of doing all we consistently can to promote Christian charity and fellowship, we deem it right briefly to present the reasons which forbid our participation in the deliberations of the approaching Council.
It is not because we have renounced any article of the catholic faith. We are not heretics. We cordially receive all the doctrines contained in that Symbol which is known as the Apostles' Creed. We regard all doctrinal decisions of the first six ecumenical councils to be consistent with the Word of God, and because of that consistency, we receive them as expressing our faith. We therefore believe the doctrine of the Trinity and of the person of Christ as those doctrines are expressed in the symbols adopted by the Council of Nicea AD321, that of the Council of Constantinople AD381 and more fully that of the Council of Chalcedon AD451. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are the same in substance and equal in power and glory. We believe that the Eternal Son of God became man by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, and so was, and continues to be, both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever. We believe that our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the prophet who should come into the world, whose teachings we are bound to believe and on whose promises we rely. He is the High Priest whose infinitely meritorious satisfaction to divine justice, and whose ever prevalent intercession, is the sole ground of the sinner's justification and acceptance before God. We acknowledge him to be our Lord not only because we are his creatures but also because we are the purchase of his blood. To his authority we are bound to submit, in his care we confide, and to his service all creatures in heaven and earth should be devoted.
We receive all those doctrines concerning sin, grace and predestination, known as Augustinian, which doctrines received the sanction not only of the Council of Carthage and of other provincial Synods, but of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus AD431, and of Zosimus, bishop of Rome.
We therefore cannot be pronounced heretics without involving in the same condemnation the whole ancient church.
Neither are we schismatics. We cordially recognize as members of Christ's visible Church on earth, all those who profess the true religion together with their children. We are not only willing but earnest to hold Christian communion with them, provided they do not require, as conditions of such communion, that we profess doctrines which the Word of God condemns, or that we should do what the Word forbids. If in any case any Church prescribes such unscriptural terms of fellowship, the error and the fault is with that church and not with us.
But although we do not decline your invitation because we are either heretics or schismatics, we are nevertheless debarred from accepting it, because we still hold with ever increasing confidence those principles for which our fathers were excommunicated and pronounced accursed by the Council of Trent, which represented, and still represents, the Church over which you preside.
The most important of those principles are: First, that the Word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Council of Trent, however, pronounces Anathema on all who do not receive the teachings of tradition pari pietatis affectu (with equal pious affection) as the Scriptures themselves. This we cannot do without incurring the condemnation which our Lord pronounced on the Pharisees, who made void the Word of God by their traditions (Matt. 15:6).
Secondly, the right of private judgement. When we open the Scriptures, we find that they are addressed to the people. They speak to us. We are commanded to search them (John 5:39), to believe what they teach. We are held personally responsible for our faith. The apostle commands us to pronounce accursed an apostle or an angel from heaven who should teach anything contrary to the divinely authenticated Word of God (Gal. 1:8). He made us the judges, and has placed the rule of judgement into our hands, and holds us responsible for our judgements.
Moreover, we find that the teaching of the Holy Spirit was promised by Christ not to the clergy only, much less to any one order of the clergy exclusively, but to all believers. It is written, 'Ye shall all be taught of God.' The Apostle John says to believers: 'Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things . . . but the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him' (1 John 2:20,27). This teaching of the Spirit authenticates itself, as this same apostle teaches us, when he says, 'He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself (1 John 5:10). 'I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth' (1 John 2:21). Private judgement, therefore, is not only a right, but a duty, from which no man can absolve himself, or be absolved by others.
Thirdly, we believe in the universal priesthood of all believers, that is, that all believers have through Christ access by one Spirit unto the Father (Eph. 2:18); that we may come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water' (Heb. 10:19-22). To admit, therefore, the priesthood of the clergy, whose intervention is necessary to secure for us the remission of sin and other benefits of the redemption of Christ, is to renounce the priesthood of our Lord, or its sufficiency to secure reconciliation with God.
Fourthly, we deny the perpetuity of apostleship. As no man can be an apostle without the Spirit of prophecy, so no man can be an apostle without the gifts of an apostle. Those gifts, as we learn from Scripture, were plenary knowledge of the truth derived from Christ by immediate revelation (Gal.s 1:12), and personal infallibility as teachers and rulers. What the seals of apostleship were Paul teaches us, when he says to the Corinthians, 'Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds' (2 Cor. 12:12). As for prelates who claim to be apostles, and who demand the same confidence in their teaching, and the same submission to their authority, as that which is due to the inspired messengers of Christ, without pretending to possess either the gifts or signs of the apostleship, we cannot submit to their claims. This would be rendering to erring men the subjection due to God alone or to his divinely authenticated and infallible messengers.
Much less can we recognize the Bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ on earth, clothed with the authority over the Church and the world which was exercised by our Lord while here in the flesh. It is plain that no one can be the vicar of Christ who has not the attributes of Christ. To recognize the Bishop of Rome as Christ's vicar is therefore virtually to recognize him as divine.
We must stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. We cannot forfeit our salvation by putting man in the place of God, giving one of like passions with ourselves the control of our inward and outward life which is due only to him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.
Other and equally cogent reasons might be assigned why we cannot with a good conscience be represented in the proposed Council. But as the Council of Trent, whose canons are still in force, pronounces all accursed who hold the principles above enumerated, nothing further is necessary to show that our declining your invitation is a matter of necessity.
Nevertheless, although we cannot return to the fellowship of the Church of Rome, we desire to live in charity with all men. We love all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We regard as Christian brethren all who worship, love and obey him as their God and Saviour, and we hope to be united in heaven with all who unite with us on earth in saying, 'Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen' (Rev. 1:6).
Signed on behalf of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the US of America
Charles Hodge

Carols with uses 5

One more go at this then before the big day tomorrow. In Once in royal Mrs Alexander pulls no punches at the end of verse 3 with her

Christian children all must be mild obedient good as he

(As a Baptist I used to baulk at that Christian children but I think it is a legitmate term for those growing up under the gospel. Once you allow Christian bookshop or Christian worldview why not Christian children?).

The one I want to finish with though is from Edward Caswall's See aamid the winter's snow. The last two verses say

Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was thine,
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
by thy face so meek and mild,
teach us to resemble thee,
in thy sweet humility.

Arthur Christmas and the Hebrew Kings

Just checking details on IMdB I came across this note about the film Arthur Christmas

Grandsanta says that he is 136 years old. But if he were 136 years old, he would not have been able to be Santa for 70 Christmases and then see his son, the current Santa, complete 70 Christmases as Santa. However, as mentioned in the story, Santas traditionally take their sons with them as young boys. So it would definitely be possible for Grandsanta and Santa to have both made 70 trips since some of those missions would have included both father and son.

In 1951 Edwin R Thiele produced his Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings dealing with similar questions with regard to dates given for Hebrew kings in Scripture. His solution was similar to this one. Obviously the example is a film and the writers could simply have made a mistake but it may rather be the explanation given. What is true of that fantasy is probably true in a similar way in Israel's history.

Five Christmas films

1. Arthur Christmas (2011)
2. Elf (2003)
3. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
4. Millions (2004)
5. Nativity (2006)
I seem to have watched more Christmas movies than usual this year. BTW the whole subject area is problematic and I have no time to discuss theology or the baneful influence of the Father Christmas myth. Meanwhile let me say
1. Yesterday it was Arthur Christmas with two of the (older) boys who hadn't seen it either at the cinema. Highly competent it was a fine film though it could have benefited from being 10 or 20 minutes shorter. As is so often done the Christmas myth has been taken up and adapted to produce a heart warming and fun story in impossible cartoon style. If only life was so simple. No high spots in this film but quite a spectacle in some ways.
2. A couple of weeks or so back I watched our Elf DVD with two of the boys. It's often been on in the background but I'd never watched it until then. It's an excellent comedy exploring the oft visited theme of an innocent abroad, an elf in New York on this occasion. Great fun. I love Will Ferrell's reaction when told that his father is on the naughty list. Arthur does show a similar spirit with his "A child's been missed!" but not as funny.3. More recently I joined the boys watching Christmas with the Kranks on DVD. I have a soft spot for this as I read the book first - John Grisham's Skipping Christmas and on that basis we all saw it in the cuinema when it came out. It's okay and very Christmassy with the usual Hollywood optimism thrown in but hardly a great film, I guess. It got panned at the time. I liked Tim Allen's botox scene.
4. Then this afternoon Dylan was looking for a film and found Danny Boyle's film Millions on BBC iplayer. This is technically not a Christmas film but no doubt was on TV for its Christmas content. Coming out of a Roman Catholic milieu and raising various ethical issues it was a great alternative Christmas film and as a comedy is as good as anything in this list. Well worth seeking out. Apparently the screenplay was written in response to an interview remark by Martin Scorsese about reading the lives of the saints. The book "Six O'Clock Saints" from the fifties is very much at the heart of the story. (Perhaps the worst scene in the film features St Peter supposedly giving that old liberal rubbish about the feeding of the 5000 being just a matter of sharing).
5. Nativity has been on TV today. We may have the DVD somewhere. I've never watched it all the way through. It looks like fun.

Carols with uses 4

Christians awake! by John Byrom is a straight 3 or 4 verses if narative (though the very first line is an exhortation of course) then two verses of application

Oh, may we keep and ponder in our mind
God's wondrous love in saving lost mankind!
Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
From His poor manger to His bitter cross,
Tread in His steps, assisted by His grace,
Till man's first heavenly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, th' angelic hosts among,
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song.
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display.
Saved by His love, incessant we shall sing
Eternal praise to heaven's almighty King.

Jesus born at night

Back in 2008 I did two posts suggesting Christ was born at dead of night (see tag carols). I pointed out how it comes out in many carols and can probably be supported from Scripture. I noticed this year that other hymns say things like

Christians awake! Salute the happy morn
On which the Saviour of the world was born

Hail Thou ever blessed morn!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given; ....

How can they write in that way? I suppose the simple fact is that they are thinking of the new dawn with Messiah's coming


Carols with uses 3

The final verse of Thomas Pestel's Behold, the gret Creator makes is all application

Join then all hearts that are not stone,
and all our voices prove,

to celebrate this holy One,
the God of peace and love.

New Book on the Holy Spirit

FYI more details here

Carols with uses 2

In As with gladness men of old William Dix makes applications as he goes. So at the ends of the first three verses we have

So, most glorious Lord, may we Evermore be led to Thee.
So may we with willing feet Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
So may we with holy joy, Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Then in the penultimate verse he writes

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

Carols with uses 1

We like to sing all the carols over Christmas. This time round one thing I've noticed is how amny will come to an application. So in James Montgomery's Angels from the relams of glory, after we have sung of angels, shepherds, sages and saints we have this verse to close

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you, break your chains.

Ancient Cassette Tape 1


I came across a pile of cassette tapes the other day. It included this home made tape, which I wasn't sure of at first. What it appears to be is a series of recordings mostly of 7" singles of mine or that were in my parental home. I must have done it in 1992 or so. Before throwing it away I thought I'd note what was on it.
An eclectic set indeed covering the years 1959-1992 it contains nearly twenty tracks as follows:
1. Autobahn Kraftwerk 1974 (bought it second hand off a boy called Glenn Harris)
2. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen 1975 (Christmas present from my parents) 
3. Laser Love T Rex 1976 (bought this new)
4. Wuthering Heights Kate Bush 1978 (my sister's I guess, not mine anyway) 
5. Time after time Cyndi Lauper 1984 (Christmas present from my sister)
6. If you're looking for a way out Odyssey 1980 (Christmas present from my sister too, a great favourite)
7. Where she goes The La's 1990 (not sure where this was from)
8. The TV theme tune to Thirtysomething This 4 season series ran late eighties early nineties. Eleri enjoyed watching it. I had a favourite trick of coming into the room when it was on and asking innocently how old she thought a certain character was. If I could get her to say thirtysomething, which she did more than once I was happy. I wrote some words to the song which I must dig out some time.   
9. The TV theme tune Cheers Both Eleri and I watched this series (there were 11 seasons) which ran throughout the eighties and into the nineties
10/11. Who's gonna ride your wild horses and Paint it Black U2 1992 (I bought this in Aberystwyth)
12/13. With a little help from my friends Wet Wet Wet and She's leaving home Billy Bragg 1988 (these must be from a copy of the album Sgt Pepper Knew My Father - my sister's no doubt - not sure why I recorded them).
14/15. She loves you and I'll get you The Beatles 1963 (I can't remember a time when that single was not in our house at home)
16. Keep Searchin' We'll follow the sun Del Shannon 1964
17. House of the rising sun The Animals 1964
18. Lovesick Blues Frank Ifield 1962
19. Only Sixteen Craig Douglas 1959
(Those last four would be part of the collection of singles that were in our house - they came from two main sources: my older cousin Gillian and a man in the street who worked with jukeboxes. All four would be from the previous collection.)

Pray for Vietnam

New Foundations Journal

We note that issue 61 of the Affinity journal Foundations is now out. See here.  It features the substance of Dan Strange’s paper at the Affinity Theological Studies Conference in February 2011. John Legg provides a provocative exegesis of the parable of The Good Samaritan. Thorsten Prill identifies key issues in world mission today and challenges churches, missions and missionaries to be caught up in a missionary movement with God. Ralph Cunnington provides a critique of the views of Francis Turretin on the authority of Scripture. Eryl Davies provides a detailed review of a number of recent books dealing with the doctrine of the Trinity. There are also a number of other book reviews.
The new edior is Ralph Cunnington, a fresh faced young man with a previous background in law and with a keen theological mind. We wish Ralph every blessing in this new venture and in his work as assistant minister in Aigburth.

Pop goes the Bible!

There's a porgramme on Radio 4 this Saturday that sounds like it's up my atreet. The blurb says
As the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into English draws to a close Paul Gambaccini picks out some of the 100's of pop songs that have been inspired by the Old and New Testaments. The stories, characters and text have led to a huge catalogue of songs ranging from Elvis Presley ('Adam and Evil'), to Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited), Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice ('Joseph' and 'Jesus Christ, Superstar'), The Byrds (Turn! Turn! Turn!), Leonard Cohen ('Hallelujah'), and U2 ('40' and 'Yahweh').
Paul talks to Tim Rice about his early schooling which laid down for him an intimate knowledge of Bible stories. One of his favourites was that of 'Joseph' and the musical that evolved became the foundation of the Rice/Lloyd-Webber partnership. His fascination with the stories and characters took Rice not only on to 'Jesus Christ, Superstar' but more recently to the story of King David and Saul. He talks about his continued absorption in the people within the pages of the Bible.
Diana Lipton, an Old Testament scholar, shows how many popular song treatments refresh the ancient stories by setting them in an entirely different and often contemporary context. She cites Bob Dylan's treatment of the story of Abraham and Isaac in 'Highway 61 Revisited', but also finds a connection in Tom Jones' hit 'Delilah'. Although the only Biblical connection is the name 'Delilah', the blind passion of both the character in the song and Samson provokes the same disastrous outcome.
U2, with their song '40', took much of the lyric from Psalm 40, and rock critic Neil McCormick points to the close connection between Bono and his religious upbringing, a connection which - as in many of the songs in this programme - feeds into popular song culture.

Snowgates

I'm sure they've mentioned them before but there seems to be a lot on the weather news this winter about the closing of snow gates. I'm niot entirely sure what these are though I suppose thye are designed to keep people from putting temselves in danger. The above picture is on a B road somehwere north of the border.

Praying for Saudi Arabia

From Global Prayer Digest
Saudi Prince Al-Saud was making a strong appeal to some of the Council of Ministers in his father’s Kingdom. “The lesson to be learned from the recent upheavals in the Middle East is that Arab governments can no longer afford to take their populations for granted, or to assume that they will remain … subdued. Nor can the soothing instruments of yesteryear which were meant to appease serve any longer as substitutes for meaningful reform. For any reform to be effective, it has to be the result of meaningful interaction and dialogue among the different components of a society, most particularly between the rulers and the ruled. It also has to encompass the younger generation which, in this technologically advanced age, has become increasingly intertwined with its counterparts in other parts of the world.”
Saudi Arabs make up the majority of Saudi Arabia’s 25.7 million people. However, almost 35 percent of the inhabitants are from outside of the country. Officially Saudi Arabs follow a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. No faith other than Islam is permitted among Saudi citizens. However, there are nearly a million Christians from foreign countries in the land.

UQ App

EP have just done their first app. It is free.
Details:

Ultimate Questions Mobile Application

Android Platform – Initial Release 22 November 2011
Searching for the App from a standard PC (Non-Tablet/Mobile Device)
By navigating to the following link, key information about the app is displayed*
(*They are aware that the wording on the main page requires an update, the current wording is a bit clunky and needs some work). https://market.android.com/details?id=com.ultimatequestions.app

Pray for the USA

Westminster Conference 2011 Day 2

Another excellent day rounded off an excellent conference.
1. We began with Lewis Allen on why Puritanism failed.
First there was the history - the opportunity before 1660, the upheaval from that time and the obsolence following it. We then had two concerns expressed. Firstly, with regard to ecclesiology, the Puritan's chief concern and secondly to do with heresy which came in with a vengeance the further on from the Reformation time moved. Finally, the two lessons emphasised were the importance of unity and the battle for truth and integrity in the local church. It was good to hear a church planter calling for doctrinally distinct churches to be founded and yet at the same time calling for unity with all who are orthodox in their teaching.
2. We then went to the 18th century with Robert Strivens.
He very helpfully charted the descent into heresy with regard to the Trinity that marked many of the nonconformists in that century, helpfully seeking to differentiate subordinationism, unitarianism, etc. Focusing on Doddridge and Watts as the defenders he pointed out how they too were defective in their defence, the problem stemming, he suggested, from the huge but often overlooked influence of Samuel Clark (1675-1729), whose heterodox theology Doddridge was unwilling to condemn and their attitude to creeds and confessions. He helpfully finished the paper by outlining Doddridge's objections to creeds (he much preferred for a minister to write his own confession. His objections were regarding
1 Ethics - imposing someone else's words on a person.
2 Conscience - its liberty
3 Language - the insistence on one set of words when ideas can be expressed in more than one way (Aristotelian Watts called it)
4 Scripture language - surely being preferable
5 Unity - a desire for greater Christian unity
6 The Bible - a desire to let it speak for itself.
it was this subject that we spent our time debating. Most appeared to be opposed to Doddridge.
3. Finally, Hugh Collier gave us the biography of the great missionary to the native Americans or Indians, John Eliot (1604-1690) a wonderful story a real a challenge and yet an encouragement to see what one man can do and a reminder to pray for those toiling in the lonely work of pioneer mission today. I liked the way that Mather pointed out that the secret of Eliot's success is found in his name spelled backwards (toile!).

God willing we will be meeting again next year at the same place on December 4 and 5 looking at 1662, Pascal, Henry Martyn, etc.

Westminster Conference 2011 Day 1

We are at a new venue for the Westminster Conference this year. The Salvation Army Hall on Oxford Street is centrally located and well kept, light and airy. We had a little problem with acoustics but nothing that could not be overcome. Numbers were a little disappointing as we did not reach the hundred mark this time. We had good papers though and decent discussion.
1. Bob Letham on Christian Liberty and the Westminster Confession.
Bob began by pointing out two major factors influencing the Westminster Confession's statements regarding Christian liberty - the repression in the archepiscopate of William Laud and antinomianism. he also confessed that there is not much regarding Chapter 20 in the extant minutes except for the fourth and final section where Independents questioned the role of the magistrate. The location of the chapter is significant, coming as it does after the chapter on the law and before that on worship.
He then worked through the four sections under the headings - the basis, heart, boundaries and defence of Christian liberty, finishing with a section on the practice of Christian liberty and considering the Assembly debates on the logistics of The Lord's Supper, days of thanksgiving, etc. 
2. Knox Hyndman on the covenanters
He began by explaining how after the Reformation Scotland uniquely entered into covenant with God as a nation on the Old Testament model of Israel in 1581 and 1638, not forgetting the Solemn League and Covenant with England in 1643. Under four headings he outlined covenanter principles and practice, the demands of absolutism that led them in the direction they went, the Restoration period in particular when a third of the clergy were ejected and the legitimacy of revolution. They eventually split on  protester, resolutioner lines (differing over how much power should be given to the King in the ordering of church affairs) but were all disappointed in part with the settlement of 1689.
3. Stephen Rees on Obadiah Holmes
We reported on Stephen's paper on this man at the assembly some time ago. This fresh paper illuminated the subject well. It was especially helpful to have the differences between the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies explained in detail.
So a good day on subjects increasingly relevant to us today.

Christmas Convictions

(This article is in the current edition of Grace Magazine)
Christmas Convictions
Gary Brady
No not the results of the government's latest drink driving offensive but a look at one man's personal convictions about celebrating Christmas
I am sometimes involved in interviews at a theological college. We ask most of the questions but at the end they can ask what they want. I remember an occasion when one student asked about celebrating Christmas and Easter. He had come to the conviction this is something he did not want to be involved in and knowing that not all Christians take the same view he wanted to flag up his viewpoint. We assured him it would be no problem.
He is not alone in his convictions. I know of a minister with similar convictions who regularly goes on holiday at this time of year knowing that most of the church take a different approach to the season. The late Professor John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, apparently used to really enjoy having the place to himself each December 25, which was for him an ordinary working day.
At the other extreme are Christians who keep Christmas as enthusiastically as anyone. Some will have a crib in their front room, pipe endless Christmas carols through the house and send cards with nativity scenes and texts. Some even talk of celebrating Christ's birthday and the idea of not being in church on Christmas day of all days make them rather nervous.
What about you? Did you tut a little when you saw that the magazine theme was a Christmas one? Or were you pleased that the subject has been raised again? Whatever your reaction you need to hold firm convictions on this vexed subject but you need to hold them with grace recognising that not all will hold the same convictions as you.
What I want to do here is to set out my own convictions so that if you are undecided on the issue it may help you to come to firm convictions, which we all need, and if you are decided you will have a good opportunity to test your convictions and consider whether there might be need for change.


Conviction 1 The New Testament does not require believers to keep any particular festival
Talking about Jewish customs in Colossians 2:16 Paul says do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. In Romans 14 he says (6, 7a) One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.
Obviously the Lord's Day is to be kept special as it is part of the moral law but with everything else it is up to the individual. If you wish to celebrate Passover or Israeli independence or your birthday or Christmas or (to a limited extent) Ramadan for that matter, you are free to do so.

Conviction 2 Christmas or the midwinter festival as some want us to call it is a pagan festival
It is certainly possible that Jesus was born on December 25 or thereabouts but the truth is that we do not know, we cannot know and we do not need to know if that is so. It is true that large numbers of people celebrate his birthday at this time of the year but that is undeniably tied into the pre-Christian traditions that existed in communities in the northern hemisphere long before they heard the gospel.
Wherever Christians have gone they have attempted to transform pagan customs into something more Christian. There is some evidence, for example, that Boniface the sixth century missionary to the Germans tried to stop pagan tree worship but still encouraged the custom of cutting down a fir tree and bringing it into the house in winter.
We may feel that pagan customs are better abandoned rather than adapted but the fact is that year by year we are confronted by pagan traditions, often with but increasingly without a Christian veneer, and we need to decide how to react. To do so we must try not to confuse what is allowable for a Christian to do with what it is necessary for him to do. It is allowable for a Christian to put a tree in his house and decorate it or eat plum pudding or wear a paper hat and blow a party puffer. It is allowable for him to celebrate Christ's birth with songs and readings and sermons any day of the year. None of these things are necessary for him to do.

Conviction 3 Christmas or the midwinter festival is a good idea for many
If you live in the northern hemisphere winter is long and dreary. Splitting it up with a celebration in the middle makes good sense psychologically. If at the same time lots of people want to say it is a time to celebrate Christ's birth then rather than complaining about it take advantage of the opportunity to talk about his birth, his life and his death too and how to come to him.
Having said that it is a pagan festival, if we are going to celebrate it then we must nevertheless be careful to celebrate it in a Christian way. Can we justify the amount we are spending albeit on other members of the family? Is slumping in front of the TV for more than a few hours a good idea? What about all that food and drink – is it right to so indulge? Are we just being swept along with it all and not thinking about how to glorify God? These are the sorts of questions to ask.
More positively, many will want to go further and not simply seek to shun the commercialised and pagan Christmas that is so common but really celebrate the fact of our Saviour's birth. When he saw Christmas trees Luther would famously speak about how Jesus the Light of the World has come into this dark world. That fact beats anything the world has to offer.

Conviction 4 No celebration should be allowed to unduly interfere with the Lord's Day
I do not know how you celebrate Christmas Day. For many people it includes a number of things that they would not normally do on the Lord's Day. It is important not to let anything interfere with keeping the Lord's Day as far as possible and so when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, as it will this year, it is wise for those who mark it to think ahead and consider how best they can handle possible conflicts. For many of us it will be wisest if, this year at least, we do many of the things that we normally do on December 25 the day before or the day after.

New Live Horslips Album


Back on St Patrick's Day last, the legendary Horslips performed in Belfast with the Ulster orchestra. It has just been released as an album and it's on my Christmas wish list. The above video was shot by someone in the audience on the night.

Good Jews Week

Providentially we have had two Jewish people speaking at the church in the last few days about the work of the gospel among their people. First Andreea came to our midweek meeting to speak about the work she has been involved in over the last 18 months adn then yesterday evening David Zadok was with us speaking about the work of HaGefen publishing and preaching from Psalm 121. Living as we do in an area that is 15% Jewish it was good to be reminded to pray and to know that many Jewish people are showing an interest in these things and coming to know Messiah for themselves in many cases too. For more info check these sites here and here.