The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. 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.
We were quite a select group last night, as I thought we might be. I did thinking of doing a one off but I wanted to get on with Philippians so I just pressed on with the first five verses. You can never predict who will be there on any given Wednesday so it makes sense. Starting off on one of Paul's letters is always slightly difficult as he says similar things in most of them. There are lessons to learn, however. Perhaps the most obvious one was the need to see ourselves as Christ's servants - as Paul clearly did. A good prayer time followed - lots to pray about, as ever.
Numbers were rather down yesterday as it is the beginning of half term week here. We pressed on with 1 Corinthians, however, beginning on 1 Corinthians 14, which is difficult but full of good practical advice with regard to worship. In the evening, when we were down to about 15, I began a short series on the parable of the sower focusing on the seed on the path that gets eaten up by the birds.
Another Saturday, another induction. We were over at our neighbours Highgate Rd Chapel in Kentish Town this afternoon for the induction of George Platt. The induction was led by Robert Strivens and Chris Bennett preached. There was a good number there and a nice spread to follow. Tim Collier led the meeting and Andrew Hill the former pastor was among those taking part.
I decided this year to skip the delegates meeting and try some of the sessions so I started by listening to Andrzje and Monika Kampcenski talking about the work in Legionowo, Poland then Graham and Sally Jones of Kisumu, Kenya. I finished off with Maciek (see above) and Mary Stolarski giving a brief history of the literature work and introducing Kester Putman who is to carry on the work. I had to leave at that point and so missed the other sessions but it was good to hear what I did and to meet various people albeit briefly. I haven't been able to attend GBM's annual meetings for awhile so it was good to be there again.
I was very pleased to see these two new volumes on the church fathers. I read the one on Patrick first and was very impressed. He is not an obvious choice for such a series but he deserves a place and this study by Michael Haykin is brief, to the point and popular, yet scholarly too (c 300 footnotes in a hundred pages). There is scant reliable material on Patrick and this is a great contribution.
All this made me positive about reading the volume on Basil of Caesarea by Marvin Jones. The book is quite a bit longer which seemed a shame but I cracked on and for the first seventy or so pages was happy enough despite one or two quirks. As I got into the second half of the book, however, it became less and less readable and in the end a great disappointment. Let me give you some random examples of the Jones style.
Page 135 "There is no doubt that Basil was the first to speak of God in terms that clarified his existence. ... Basil died 1 January 379 and, therefore, never witnessed his contribution to the issue of the Trinity".
Page 149 "The account of humanity's creation within the cosmology, and the ultimate concept of humanity's destiny within the cosmology, is the central theme that occupies Basil's theme".
These are just examples. May be such slips can be overlooked in an undergraduate essay but I paid good money for this product and find it unacceptable. Who is responsible? Clearly Christian Focus need to employ a proof reader or a stylist or something. Michael Haykin is said to be series editor. Paige Patterson, Jason Duesing, Steven McKinnon and Mike Ovey commend the book. I suggest they read the latter chapters and think again.
As we were going to be in Edinburgh, I decided to try the first Rebus novel by Ian Rankin Knots and crosses. The Edinburgh setting is not crucial but there was some pleasure in picking up on the few geographical references. The book is deservedly considered a decent one. No doubt a knowledge of the whole series would add to the pleasure. Like most such novels it deal with some fairly sordid details. Perhaps the most interesting element is the idea that Rebus is some sort of backslidden Christian. It would be interesting to see how that plays out in other novels.
Robert Erskine Childers DSC (1870–1922), universally known as Erskine Childers, was the author of the influential novel The Riddle of the Sands a novel I have not read but am always intending to get round to. It has never gone out of print and is often cited in top novel lists. They say it was the first spy novel. An Irish nationalist he smuggled guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht Asgard. He was executed by the authorities of the nascent Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War. He was the son of British Orientalist scholar Robert Caesar Childers; the cousin of Hugh Childers and Robert Barton; and the father of the fourth President of Ireland, Erskine Hamilton Childers.
These jackets first appeared in the 1930s. Harrington is a nickname. This style of jacket earned it because it was worn by the character Rodney Harrington (Ryan O'Neal) in the 1960s prime time soap opera Peyton Place.
We had a good turn out last night and a good time of prayer again as we covered the last section of our little series on Spiritual Growth. Our final point (via Joel Beeke and Colossians 1) was that to grow spiritually we need to be increasingly thankful. This is not an obvious point but it is true. The more thankful we are, the more we love God and serve him. We are thankful for having been delivered the way we have.
I took books to Scotland, of course, but I also brought some new ones home. We found this very quaint bookshop in Edinburgh that had a second hand section so I bought a little volume for Bible Classes on the Holy Spirit by Dr R S Candlish. The bookshop is near the Elephant Café where J K Rowling sat and worked once upon a time. I's not far from the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.
I also bought a Scots English dictionary in The Works. At Waverley Station they had free copies of a little book on Walter Scott. I bought the volume by Bonar on Milne of Perth in a Christian Bookshop in Perth itself. I remember Jonathan Watson giving a paper on the man at Banner a few years ago. I had a fruitless search for Bonar's grave while in Edinburgh.
So we ended up in Edinburgh on the Lord's Day. I have heard many times of Charlotte Chapel (no doubt because this is where Graham Scroggie, Alan Redpath and Derek Prime ministered in the past). The current senior minister is a man called Paul Rees, originally from Cardiff. He and his wife are good friends of my sister-in-law and her husband so he heard that we were in town and very kindly invited me to join him for breakfast (I went for salted porridge as we were in Scotland, very nice. I'd had an Irn Bru the night before as I like to get the feel of a place). Paul grew up Brethren, came to London and attended St Helen's was a dentist then studied at Moore, Sydney and led a church in Spokane before coming to Edinburgh. His wife Shiona is Scots. He showed me the massive old St George's West which they have purchased and plan to move into (the present chapel is on something of a side street and the main auditorium is up a flight of stairs).
I'm not often in a large church. One is always impressed by how efficient they are getting people in and giving them coffee after, etc. It's like having a conference every week I guess. There was an eight piece band in the organ loft who were good musicians and not over conspicuous though some of the song choices were a little weak I felt. The apprentice Ross led very well. The assistant Matt Round preached a very thorough sermon on Matthew 11:25-30, a bit too much to the will rather than the heart I felt. Everyone was very friendly and warm and welcoming. There must have been 600 and more of diverse ages and backgrounds. It was good to be there.
We had to travel back to London before the evening service so I downloaded a sermon for us on the train. People always speak well of the preaching of my former assistant Mark Raines so I got hold of his sermon on Proverbs 26, which he did indeed preach very well.
We passed Raith Rovers ground today on the train. It is in Kirkcaldy. If you've ever been into football then you know names like Raith, Fife, Stirling, Forfar, etc, even though you know nothing about them.
Wikipedia reveals that the modern Raith Rovers were founded in 1883 in Kirkcaldy. Though there were other teams who incorporated the town name, such as Kirkcaldy Wanderers and Kirkcaldy United, Raith became the most successful of the local teams, winning five trophies in the 1890s. There had been a much earlier (unrelated) Raith Rovers which merged with what is now Cowdenbeath in 1882. Although it lends its name to many entities in the region, Raith is not itself a settlement. A Raith Rovers victory in the 1960s led to a famous BBC commentator's blunder that the fans would be "dancing in the streets of Raith tonight". (Commonly attributed to David Coleman, it was actually said by Scotsman Sam Leitch.) Raith (Scottish Gaelic: rath, "fort" or "fortified residence") as an area once stretched from south of Loch Gelly as far as Kirkcaldy and the Battle of Raith is said to have been fought here in 596 AD. Raith House and Raith Tower sit on Cormie Hill to the west of Kirkcaldy and several parts of the town are built on land formerly of the Raith Estate, although the modern housing estate bearing the Raith name dates from long after the origins of the team.
It was a great joy to be with our friends Andrew and Jill Lolley today for Andrew's induction to the pastorate of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church, Perth. About 70 gathered from all over Scotland and England. We had a history of the call in three parts taking us from Tinshill, Leeds through Childs Hill, London to CRBC. Then there was the induction (led by Barry Garth of Penicuik) and preaching from Robert Strivens my fellow elder and LTS Principal. We had the service in the M'Cheyne Rooms elsewhere in Perth and then in the church's own building. Great day.
Adrian's book brought this passage to mind. Not sure why he did not add it in (though the gist is there in his book). I must have read this when I was 15 or 16. It has stayed with me ever since.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF SLEEP
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He giveth His beloved sleep”. [Psalm 127:2]
How often is it now lost sight of that the Lord cares for the bodies of His saints as well as for their souls. This is more or less recognized and owned by believers in the matter of food and clothing, health and strength, but it is widely ignored by many concerning the point we are here treating of.
SLEEP is as imperative for our physical well-being as is food and drink, and the one is as much the GIFT of our heavenly Father as is the other.
We cannot put ourselves to sleep by any effort of will, as those who suffer with insomnia quickly discover. Nor does exercise and manual labour of itself ensure sleep: have you ever lain down almost exhausted and then found you were “too tired to sleep”?
Sleep is a DIVINE GIFT, but the nightly recurrence of it blinds us to the fact.
When is so pleases Him, God withholds sleep, and then we have to say with the Psalmist, “Thou holdest mine eyes waking” (77:4). But that is the exception rather than the rule, and deeply thankful should we be that it is so. Day by day the Lord feeds us, and night by night He “giveth His beloved sleep.” Thus in this little detail - of Elijah’s sleeping under the juniper tree - which we are likely to pass over lightly, we should perceive the gracious hand of God ministering in tenderness to the needs of one who is dear unto Him.
Yes, “the Lord pitieth them that fear Him,” and why? “for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). He is mindful of our frailty, and tempers His winds accordingly; He is aware when our energies are spent, and graciously renews our strength. It was not God’s design that His servant should die of exhaustion in the wilderness after his long, long flight from Jezreel, so he mercifully refreshes his body with sleep. And thus compassionately does He deal with us.
Alas, how little are we affected by the Lord’s goodness and grace unto us. The unfailing recurrence of His mercies both temporally and spiritually inclines us to take them as a matter of course. So dull of understanding are we, so cold our hearts Godward, it is to be feared that most of the time we fail to realize WHOSE loving hand it is which is ministering to us. Is not this the very reason why we do not begin really to value our health until it is taken from us, and not until we spend night after night tossing upon a bed of pain do we perceive the worth of regular sleep with which we were formerly favored?
And such vile creatures are we that, when illness and insomnia come upon us, instead of improving the same by repenting of our former ingratitude, and humbly confessing the same to God, we murmur and complain at the hardness of our present lot and wonder what we have done to deserve such treatment. O let those of us who are still blessed with good health and regular sleep fail not daily to return thanks for such privileges and earnestly seek grace to use the strength from them to the glory of God.
[Quoted from A.W. Pink’s ‘Life of Elijah’]
I read this week Adrian Reynolds little book on sleep - And so to bed. It is the right length and covers most of the ground (the only ommission I spotted was Elijah and may be a blast against the idea of psychopannychia). His book suggests that quite a few people suffer with lack of sleep (not my problem I have to confess) and the first thing to help them is to think of it in a biblical way. There is also practical advice here and an acknowledgement of the fact that sometimes there may be a medical problem. Very nicely written. Thanks ever so much Adrian.
The penultimate in the series on spiritual growth tonight. We were speaking about growth in experience and especially the need in our lives for God's power - a subject we . Lots of good stuff from Beeke, John Newton (see here) and focusing on the fascinating story of Annie Johnson Flint and here lovely hymn He giveth more grace, which we ended up shining twice. See a nice overview of here life here. A good turn out again and a good time of prayer. What an oasis the midweek meeting can so often be.
Over the summer I bought and later read Jim Thompson's book Healing and healers today which is an excellent enquiry into New Testament healing, overwhelmingly specious modern claims and the matter of whether we should expect miraculous healings today. This book led me to his shorter related book Prophecy Today which came out a few years ago. This well argued little book sets out the cessationist argument. I couldn't go with him on the argument from 1 Corinthians 13 in the end but that is not an essential interpretation for the cessationist case. I think every Christian, whatever view they hold to or if they are unsure, would benefit from a perusal of these two books. They are clear, through and irenic. I for one am very thankful for them. (Not sure why EP didn't come up with more uniform covers. Hope they sell out of both soon and bring out a combined version).
Great subjects again - faith, hope and love from 1 Corinthians 13:13 and the perseverance of the saints (from Philippians 1:6, etc). Somehow one does not feel as excited as one should be. We're so few and there were people missing and the preaching could have been better. I think that one also feels one is so far short of what is preached. Where is the faith, the hope, the love? Where's the confident perseverance? Mind you I did find looking at hope a great help. I am very pessimistic and it is only the Bible that keeps me going. I know it is incorrect to say it is optimistic. What it is is a book full of hope. It drives you from despair. We had tea together before the evening meeting and that was nice.
Some time in the early 1990s I attended for the one and only time the Bala Ministers Conference. I did not like it. In fact it is hard to think of any aspect I liked (the ministry was fine and the food okay). I didn't like the way we were all squashed into the lounge at Bryn-Y-Groes. I didn't like the noisy prayer meetings or the noisy singing. I didn't find the discussions at all helpful. The emphasis on revival seemed counter-productive to me. To cap it all, sharing a dorm with five snoring men is no joke when you're the last to sleep. So I never went again. I am aware that some of my dislikes have been addressed and I found this new book by Eryl Davies charting the long history of the conference and its distinctives mollifying as it sought to explain and sometimes apologise for some of the failures. Even if you know nothing about the Bala Conference it is worth a read as its apologia for Lloyd-Jones and the things he stood for is winsome, persuasive and well argued and even concessive at some points. I liked the quote from Sulwyn Jones explaining how difficult it is for some men not to refer to Lloyd-Jones when speaking of certain things. It was also good to consider the whole word and Spirit matter again. The reminder about revival was timely for me. It is an odd book in some ways, a hybrid as Dr Davies explains. It would be nice to see a similar book on the Banner of Truth Conference perhaps. Do check it out.
We were a few more last night owing to various factors. We looked at the final set of disciplines for spiritual growth, what Joel Beeke calls neighbourly disciplines. He goes to the end of Matthew 9 and so calls for evangelism, service, compassion (without worldliness) and worldwide intercession. These are soul searching topics and I sought to do them justice. Probably one more session to go Spiritual growth and experience. A very good time of prayer to follow.
Southern Baptist professor Bruce Ware has been lecturing at LTS this week and yesterday afternoon there was an open meeting where he very helpfully presented material on the debate over what is now known as complementarian and egalitarian thinking on men and women. His summary of the two positions can be seen here. What I cannot find on the net is the excellent diagram that he gave us setting it all out for us. I have it in a notebook but no time to set it out here. I did bowl Dr Ware a googly in the question time but it was a genuine question (on women reading Scripture in public). I hope to meet him soon and we can talk further perhaps. Some of us met in fraternal for lunch before the event and that was good. I also spoke briefly to Gavin Peacock, currently over from Canada, who was in Cardiff last week giving much the same sort of material I guess (see here). My two Wales based sons were at that.
(PS If you think my pictures are improving I'm afraid not. I'm getting them here)
So yesterday we were back to our studies in 1 Corinthians 13 in the morning and we continued in the five point of Calvinism in the evening. By now all hope of keeping well ahead with sermon preparation (weeks rather than days or hours) is gone and so we are into more of a routine in the good sense. We started the day with communion. I spoke about Barabbas briefly and a decent number were there. In 1 Corinthians we had reached verses 8-12 where decisions had to be made about interpretation. As a cessationist I find the cessationist view of the passage attractive but ended up going for the view of James W Scott expounded in the Westminster Journal a little while ago. I spoke to the children for the last time on Hezekiah. In the evening we were on to irresistible grace. Grace is such a great subject, especially irresistible or effective grace. I was only sorry there weren't more to hear it.
It was good to be there on Saturday in Cranford with perhaps 50 others for the annual thanksgiving service for Robin and Muno Asgher and family. I chaired, representing the support group. Other members taking part were Andrew Heron who prayed and Richard Underwood who preached a fine sermon from Ezekiel 37 reminding us of preaching, prayer and the powerful grace of God. David McGowan gave a brief report on our behalf too and Robin himself spoke about the work, which continues to be tough going but not without its encouragements. Do pray for this work, which is a genuine outreach to Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc.
A new series and what an appropriate one to begin with (Strictly speaking, Wikipedia says, an anorak is a waterproof, hooded, pull-over jacket without a front opening, and sometimes drawstring at the waist and cuffs.)