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.

LTS End of Year

I
t was good to be at the end of year service of the London Theological Seminary once again as leaving students spoke and there was a report on the year just gone. Spencer Cunnah who is the pastor of the church that meets where we were assembled chaired. Vice-Principal David Green gave the report this year and interviewed the students because the Principal Robert Strivens is on Sabbatical. Students were leaving for Germany, South Africa and other places, some not being clear exactly what was next, as ever. The preacher was my father-in -law, Geoff Thomas, who took us to Isaiah 6, very powerfully. Now entering his fiftieth year in ministry, he mentioned with pleasure the fact that I had studied at LTS and that my son and his grandson starts there next term. Unusually, the weather kept us off the lawn for tea in the main but it began to brighten up, chiming in with the good prospects next year when several new UK students join the seminary. David Green also drew attention to the new church planting course that begins in October. See more on the LTS website. There were about 160 present.

Trips to Wales

Bottom of Brynhyfryd, Croesyceiliog
The last two weeks have seen me making trips to Wales to collect two of my sons from Wales. First, it was Dylan, who's just finished at Cardiff. I stayed with my sister in Cwmbran and enjoyed being back home. Croesyceiliog has a million memories for me - where the man used to keep his goat, places where kids I remember lived, etc.
I went for a coffee in the town centre and enjoyed hearing words like skinny latte, cappuccino, Americano, etc, in a Cwmbran accent. It had never struck me before that those words aren't London words as such but words I first heard here.
I also fitted in a meet up with my old LTS friend Bernard Lewis (minister of Emmanuel) in the massive new Sainsbury's in Crindau. Crindau is where my mother grew up so it's slightly weird, it having a massive superstore in the middle of it. Dylan is now in California with friends.
Next it was Dewi from Swansea. This time I was much quicker and made a very short stay with my sister-in-law and family in Cardiff. I missed most of the England game but that was probably for the best. I brought Dewi back with his friend Tom. They were in (Welsh) Junior School together and have now linked up again on the same course at Swansea. They are at Wimbledon today.

Lord's Day June 22 2014

This Sunday morning I went over the hill to Highgate Road Chapel. Their very old building was transformed some years ago and they have quite attractive modern facilities. The auditorium is upstairs.
Things are a little transitional there at present as the present pastor, Andrew Hill, is leaving to work with SASRA next month. As it turned out Artur Piotrowski, his assistant, led and the preacher was George Platt (on 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10). The format of the service involved several leading and included a testimony from George, an open time of prayer and some more liturgical elements. The hymns were projected on to the wall and seemed to be drawn from different sources. Their youth pastor Simon played the piano and Andrew played a soprano sax from the front. We were around 30, a third being under-10s who had their own programme - a good range of people.
There was coffee to follow and a barbecue was also arranged. They have no evening service as such (though there was a 4 pm meeting) so I was glad to go along to Childs Hill where Robert Strivens was preaching on Abraham from Genesis 12. Excellent stuff. We were around 26 I think.

Father's Day 2014

Had a nice Father's Day Sunday. I got nice cards and two books, one on Dickens
(a digest of his novels which I often complain are too long) and a timely autobiography of Pele.

Lord's Day June 15 2014

So this Sunday I went along to the Kensit Evangelical Church in Finchley, next door to the LTS. In a piece of poor timing I managed to choose a Sunday when the minister Spencer Cunnah was away but Owen Jones is a familiar face (like Spencer he often leads the community singing at the Aber Conference). He and his wife are back in London working with students at Oak Hill, where their son Ashley once studied.
Owen preached straightforwardly with a three point sermon on 1 Peter 2:22 in the morning (Christ's purity, patience and twofold purpose) and in the evening from Joshua 3 on God before, beside, behind, beyond and beneath).
The congregation was a similar size to the one at St John's Wood Rd (ie around 50) but with an older demographic I guess, though perhaps the same number of children under 11. The church is also a modern building though an older one and with the hymns projected onto the wall (though you had the choice of using the hymn book - the new Christian hymns which we also use). They used a piano keyboard in the morning and the organ in the evening. There were about half the number present pm. There was coffee after that service but I was quite tired and did not hang around.

World Cup again

And again ... Costa Rica's turn to upset the odds this time. Not quite so stylish but unexpected (3:1!) and so the whole thing continues to fascinate. (We're not talking about rugby at the moment).

World Cup

I haven't got too excited about the World Cup until today. The Dutch impressively outplayed the Spanish to win 5-1! The win included an amazing goal by Robin Van Persie.

Titus Andronicus

Got myself down to The Globe yesterday to see Titus Andronicus. I was (as my parents would have put it) "up in the gods" this time and glad of a seat. At least three people fainted in the heat. It's an early play and not in the top half of a list of Shakespeare greats. It's not Hamlet or Lear, although you can see him groping his way there. It is a pretty gruesome affair and it is no surprise to know that it was very popular in the 1590s. If someone told me they'd seen what's in the play I'd be pretty intrigued I would think. Let's just say a lot of people die and most of them on stage. The play appears to have some humorous elements. This production certainly did and they were most welcome. It is difficult to see how such a pleasant sunny afternoon could have been so pleasant without them.

Through many hardships

I led a funeral at the church last Tuesday, the third we have had had this year, which is unusually high for us. The dear lady was a good age. She grew up in Sri Lanka and India but lived most of her life here. I was glad to be involved. I couldn't take the last one as I was unwell. I preached from Acts 14:22 and the phrase about needing to pass through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God, as this lady had gone through some real struggles for which she was not always prepared. I felt very tired after the service and the burial and so on. I guess it is emotionally draining. Death is a horrible thing even for the believer.

In praise of assistants

While at the hospital the other day I met up with someone who is a contemporary with me with regards to the heart by-pass op. We are comrades in the wars, as it were. It was good to see him looking well. At one point he said that all was well and that his assistant was dealing with it all. He is an artist and for just a moment there was a look in his eye that said "And perhaps, I'm superfluous. They can probably carry on without me for years to come."
I know the feeling. My fellow elder and my assistant at the church have got on with things through my illness in such a way that I not only have non worries but can't think of what I might worry about. I got a similar impression down at St John's Wood Road where the assistant pastor seemed to have it all in hand.
Even biblically think of a Barnabas or a Luke say.
Assistants - the unsung heroes of many walks in life.

Politicians

These are not easy times in our democracy for those who love the truth. The big topic at the moment is schools and extremism. Many things being said leave one uneasy.
For example, former Home Secretary and education secretary David Blunkett sought to end an interview on the subject on Radio 4 on Monday with a reassuring note by saying "... After all we had to take on the issue of creationism and people who wanted to set up trusts and sponsor chains whose aim was to teach a particular completely bizarre form of Christianity ..."
Meanwhile, last Saturday The Times told us that "the Conservatives will go into the next election pledging to eradicate illiteracy within a generation, ... A commitment in the party’s manifesto would ensure that all children leave school with strong reading and maths skills." It trails a speech by education secretary Michael Gove in which they say he would frame his plan as a moral crusade to “save lives which are currently wasted”. Salvation by education then. I thought that had been tried.

Lord's Day June 8 2014

As I am on sabbatical one thing I thought I might do is to visit nearby churches with whom we have a level of fellowship.
I started last Sunday with St John's Wood Road Baptist Church, a church in the Association of Grace Baptist Churches South East (though may be we would sound more strict than they do on the matter of who is invited to the table). It is just over three miles from us meets in a modern building near Lord's Cricket Ground. They are further into London than us and in a slightly more affluent area. Attendance appeared to be a little larger and younger than us and equally diverse. (Some OMers were there and other visitors which may have skewed things). Chris Hawthorne is also on sabbatical so the preacher was his assistant Simon Pethick. An enthusiastic young man led the service. The style is relaxed and informal but reverend. We sang from a screen traditional and modern songs with the music led from the front by three musicians and two singers. Simon preached a fine Kelleresque sermon on Jonah 2. Communion followed.
An excellent lunch followed and it was good to chat to a few I knew and others I did not. I would have returned for the evening get together perhaps but it was not on that day so I went to Childs Hill where our own assistant Andrew Lolley preached well from James 1 to about 15 of us.

Skivers, Moochers

I have a clear memory of the first time I heard the word skiver. It was my first year, the first weeks probably, in Grammar School. Our class (1E) was in a demountable classroom near the woods - out of bounds, of course. From the woods we heard singing it was Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep by Middle of the Road. A helpful voice said "Skivers miss". I wasn't a hundred per cent sure what the word meant but no doubt it referred to what I had until then known as moochers (everyone else says mitchers). I think I assumed that skiving from Junior School was mooching and mooching from big school was skiving. Mark Twain called it playing hookey I later discovered.
I see mooch is listed here
mooch Verb. 1. To idle away time, to loaf around. E.g."The kids were just mooching about the streets looking for something to do." 2. To amble along, to walk casually. 3. To play truant. [Welsh use] Noun. 1. The idling away of time. 2. The act of ambling or walking casually. E.g."I'm going for a mooch around the shops."
I'd meant to put this on my Proverbs and sayings blog here, which I have now.

On Sabbatical

In was at The Heart Hospital yesterday and they seem quite happy with progress made. My Sabbatical leave officially started last Lord's Day and so I have spent the week reading and writing. I have various projects on hand including a little local church history and a book for pastors as well as further research on 19th Century Baptists, the period 1660-1689, etc, etc. I've mad a good start and hope I can keep it up.

10 Rules for self-examination

Someone sent me seven from A W Tozer. As you know I like tens so I've added three more of my own Rules for Self-Examination

1. What do we want most?
2. What do we think about most?
3. How do we use our money?
4. What do we do with our leisure time?
5. What company do we enjoy?
6. Who and what do we admire?
7. What do we laugh at?
8. What do we talk about most?
9. When we think of the future what do we think about?
10. What do we pray about in private?

"For where your treasure is - there your heart will be also!" Luke 12:34

Charles Wesley

I had to go down to the Heart Hospital and I noticed that the grave and memorial for Charles Wesley and his family is in a memorial garden in Marylebone High Street near the Parish Church. I've seen John's grave (at the back of the Wesley museum near Bunhill Fields but never this one of his brothers - although I know that area a little - Chiltern Street where the Evangelical Library used to be is nearby).
At the base of the memorial, on its east face, is inscribed:
In 1950 this monument was
removed from its original
position in the graveyard
and finally placed here in
1952
Above this, on the main body of the plinth, is inscribed:
Here lie
the remains of
the Revd
Charles Wesley, MA
who departed this life
the 29th March 1788
aged 80 years.

With poverty of spirit blessed
Rest happy saint in Jesus rest.
A sinner saved through grace forgiven
Redeemd from earth to reign in heaven
And labours of unwearied love
By thee forgot are crownd above.
Crownd through the mercy of thy Lord
With a free full immense reward

On the south face of the main body of the plinth is inscribed:
In memory of
Sarah
wife of the Revd
Charles Wesley, MA
who departed this life
the 28th of December 1822
aged 96 years.

Blessed are the dead which die
in the Lord for they rest from
their labours and their works
do follow them
.
On the west face of the main body of the plinth is inscribed:
This monument was erected
ADMDCCCLVIM
by the Methodist Conference
to replace the stone
originally covering
this grave
and which has decayed
In token of their
reverence and respect
for the memory of the Revd
Charles Wesley, MA
brother of the Revd
John Wesley, MA
the founder under God
of the Methodist Connexion
On the lower part of the north face of the plinth is inscribed:
Also of
Samuel Wesley Esq
The eminent musical composer and organist
their second son
who died in October 1837
aged 74 years
Above this on the main body of the plinth is inscribed:
In memory of
Charles Wesley Esq
son of
the before mentioned
Charles & Sarah Wesley
who departed this life
the 23rd of May 1834
aged 77 years
.

It pays to complain

By nature I am a grumpy old man who always complains about big organisations ripping you off. I had two bits of better news recently. Without going into details Microsoft were very understanding (when I finally got through to the right person) about some payments that I wished to see refunded and so were the War Records people who had taken advantage of an auto renewal system. So it's not all bad news if you are willing to persist.

D-Day Veterans Lucky or spared by God?

As I listened to the D-Day celebrations today one word seemed to be coming up with depressing monotony, the word luck. They nearly all seem to think they were simply lucky to survive. Look at these examples
  • “I’m glad I’m here. Because I’m lucky to be here,” William Roberts said. He will celebrate his 102nd birthday next month.
  • Fred Morgan says he only survived because of "luck", telling us "I did get sprayed with shrapnel a couple times but not serious enough to evacuate me."
  • D-day veterans each have unique stories to tell. Each feels lucky to have survived. They are thankful for the recognition given them Friday. Harry Evans “I had a lot of luck, there was no doubt about it,” he said. “I do appreciate that now. Times like these trigger your memories, but at the time there were so many people killed, all that was in your mind was getting through.” Harry, who later married Maud and had two sons, Graham and Peter, made a return trip to Normandy on his 80th birthday to show his family where he had fought. Today the former Co-op manager will remember his comrades privately at home in Kingsfield Care Centre, Ashton.
  • Edgar Bedard "I was one of the lucky ones," he said of his wartime service.
  • "All my friends are dead now,” says Mr. Jock Hutton. “We would go to gatherings together but now I’m on my own. But I’m happy. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a different life.”
  • "I was lucky," said Frank Agoglia, a retired NYPD detective, recalling his D-Day crash. "I'm fortunate to be here today. I know that."
  • One British veteran, 89-year-old Ken Godfrey, was applauded by well-wishers who shouted “bravo” and “thank you” as, medals clinking on his chest, he walked the mile-long path to Bayeux cemetery. “My main memory is wading through the sea with water up to my chest,” he said. “But I don’t like to talk about the fighting. If people ask, I just say we had a hairy time. But I’m lucky that I survived.”
And then with a little search I found something more like it from American Henry Langreher. "They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but I was one," he said. "But my wife prayed for me, and I came to know God, and ever since then I've tried to please him." Langrehr was awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his service. In Washington, D.C., in 2007, he and six others received the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, for their roles in liberating France from the Nazis. "Henry Langrehr, you are a hero," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said as he pinned a medal to Langrehr's lapel. Langrehr brushes off that label. "Not a day goes by but that I don't think of my friends killed in France," he said. "I'm not a hero. They are, because they gave their lives. I don't know why, but God spared me, and I'm grateful for every day."

Set a Sproul Free

 
How do I pray? How do I study the Bible? How do I worship? How do I serve? How do I become a good steward? These are the questions every Christian should be asking. The answers are what every Christian needs to know. In Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow, acclaimed theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul guides his readers through the basic training of Christianity and reveals the five most vital fundamentals of the Christian faith: Prayer, Worship, Service, Study, and Stewardship.

Don't Cross The River


Once again, simple, sweet, melodic. Great take.

Novelists 41 H G Wells

H G Wells (1866 – 1946) was a prolific English writer in many genres, including the novel, history, politics, etc, etc. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels, and is sometimes called the father of science fiction, though the same claim is made for Jules Verne and others. His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. I've read the third of those and had a go at the others. His earliest specialised training was apparently in biology, and his thinking on ethics was very Darwinian. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist and often a pacifist. His later works became increasingly political and didactic. Novels like Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, which describe lower-middle class life, led to the suggestion, when they were published, that he was a worthy successor to Dickens!

200 Sermons

I am pleased to say that I now have 200 sermons posted on my blog Preached Sermons - see here. I have tried to post sermons on less obvious parts of Scripture and there are series on Ecclesiastes, Job, Ezekiel and I am nearing the end of one on Numbers. Check it out!

Egyptian Reggae


This is a pleasant song from the seventies (Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers)

Happy Valley

I have refrained from mentioning the recently finished BBC series Happy Valley as not everyone who sees this blog is necessarily happy to watch such dramas and as I never find people going on about TV series much fun (it's not like a film where you can go out and watch it). However, this is the second time that writer Sally Wainwright has impressed so I thought a little note might be okay. You might even want to get the DVD of the six one hour programmes. Happy Valley is near Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. The series focuses on a police woman and her family and a crime that quietly insinuates itself into several lives. All the characters are flawed, some more than others and they all think they are innocent more or less. This is Wainwright's best insight - our utterly flawed nature and our point blank refusal to see it. Each one of them is crying out, if only they knew it, for a biblical understanding of themselves and of sin and guilt and forgiveness. It moved me and made me want to pray.

Whitefield Elegies Footnotes 1 and 2

George Whitefield's grave in the crypt of Old South Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts between Jonathan Parsons and Joseph Prince
1. One of the things that came up the other night was the fact that Whitefield died at the age of 55 (which I had forgotten). I turned 55 the other week. There was a time when it was thought his problem was asthma but it is now agreed that it was probably angina pectoris, ie heart problems. I can confirm that such heart problems do present with breathlessness, which could be misconstrued to be asthma.
2. The other things follows Dr Atherstone saying that he had difficulty finding Baptists who had preached or written elegies in memory of Whitefield. At the back of my mind I recalled that Benjamin Francis of Shortwood, Horsley had written something and when I checked I found that to be the case, though I can't see anything online. John Fellows was quoted briefly and though some doubt it he was a Baptist. So no problem there then.
 

Elegies for Whitefield

We had a very good meeting at the Evangelical Library last night. Dr Andrew Atherstone took us through some of the many elegies composed and sermons preached at the time of George Whitefield's death in New England in 1770. These appeared first in New England and then in England when the news reached there. Sermons came first then poems, not all of the best quality.
This material has been rather neglected but is worth examining it was argued. Dr Atherstone highlighted the way they focus on five main things. They all lament the loss of such a great man. They note his powerful preaching and his ecumenical spirit. They also often give an evangelistic call and often contemplate life without Whitefield.
Dr Atherstone gave copious examples without being at all tedious and the printed paper will be worth seeing.
Here by way of example
1. Lament
"He died like a hero on the field of battle. Thousands in England, Scotland, and America have great reason to bless God for his ministrations." (Edward Ellington)
"Shall I a momentary loss deplore. Lamenting after him that weeps no more? What though, forbid by the Atlantic wave, 1 cannot share my old companion's grave, Yet, at the trumpet's call, my dust shall rise. With his fly up to Jesus in the skies. And live with him the life that never dies." (Charles Wesley)
2. Preaching
"What an honour it pleased God to put upon his faithful servant, by allowing him to declare his everlasting gospel in so many various countries, to such numbers of people, and with so great an effect on so many of their precious souls! Have we read or heard of any person since the apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God through so widely wended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world? Have we read or heard of any person, who called so many thousands, so many myriads of sinners to repentance!" (John Wesley)
"fired with a flaming zeal for his Lord and Master; filled with bowels of tender compassion to immortal souls; and favoured with more than Ciceronian eloquence - he soon became the wonder of
the world as a preacher." (James Sproat)
3. Ecumenism
Preachers of many different denominations praised him and many picked up on this.
"Though long by following multitudes admired
No party for himself he e'er desir'd.
His one desire to make the Saviour known,
To magnify the name of Christ alone" (Charles Wesley) 
This emphasis meant that Calvinism was downplayed. The one exception here was a sermon by Richard Elliott.
4. Evangelistic call
...
5. A future without Whitefield
"O had he dropped his mantle in his flight!
O might his spirit on all the Prophets light!" (Charles Wesley)
 
 
 

Lord's Day June 1 2014

I am happy to say that I am now officially off the sick list. I am not preaching yet, however, as I had already arranged to have a sabbatical from yesterday. Yesterday was the Lord's Day, of course, and our preacher was Dr Robert Oliver the retired pastor of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. We had an excellent say with him and I was only sorry there were not more of us to hear him with at least four families away and others absent. As it was Ascension Day recently he chose to preach on the ascension in the morning and on repentance (Acts 11:18) in the evening. I particularly appreciated Dr Oliver's prayers. We began the day with communion led by one of our deacons, as it is a new month. It is always a privilege to be with God's people.