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.

Rising Sun Live


I heard this on the radio this morning. This is a nice live version. That's not a young Prof Carl Trueman on drums is it?

Retro Abum "of the week" 40 Me Myself I

Me Myself I by Joan Armatrading was released in 1980, and this studio album became her most successful in terms of chart success, reaching No 5 in her native UK and No 28 in the USA. It was certified "Gold" in the UK by the BPI in July 1980. The title track became one of her most successful singles, peaking at No 21 in the UK (It was also used as the soundtrack to an Australian movie of the same name in 1999). One of the nice things about the track Me Myself I is that you're never sure how much irony there is in it. Maybe she is Greta Garbo redivivus. Other stand out tracks are All the way from America, Turn out the light and Feeling in my heart (for you). I need you performed with a string quartet is quite powerful and very sad.

10 words you don't hear so much these days

1. Training shoes (Trainers)
2. Continental quilt (Duvet)
3. Discotheque (Disco)
4. Pictures (as in I'm going to the ... Movies)
5. Hark (as in "hark at that guitar playing" - Listen)
6. Duffle bag (what people put things in before the holdall or sportsbag)
7. Snazzy (as in that's a snazzy bowtie - Stylish?)
8. Fuddy duddy (if you use the phrase you probably are it)
9. Wireless (ie a radio)
10. Radiogram (here the radio is combined  with a record player or gramophone)

Lord's Day November 29 2015

It was okay yesterday thought I felt that in the evening we were asking a lot by seeking to cover all the way from Judges 10:1-12:7. I didn't want to drag the story of Jephthah out over more than one Sunday. Anyway, we came though it and I hope the fairly modest evening congregation got on with it quite well. We started the day with the last Bitesize Theology Class - on the Second Coming, appropriately enough. I preached in the morning meeting from Revelation 5 and again we were in another atmosphere as we contemplated Christ the Lord of history.

O Avondrood

Just now and again you come across something you've never seen on YouTube. This is a video with the Focus track Avondrood (Red evening). I'm not sure what the live at Top of the Pops tag means.

Neo-Pentecostalism

Let me give you a piece from a recent newspaper review
 
... quoting Biblical-sounding verse and promising to change our lives, awaken our inner powers, heal ourselves.
With a hot light shining on us, eyes still closed, we are ordered to banish our pain and ailments. To feel them leaving our bodies. And then sit back down again.
Next, he asks if anyone feels different, feels ‘cured’, feels released from their pain. And, amazingly, people really seem to.
Five minutes later we watch slack-jawed as a lady with rheumatoid arthritis can move her hands and feet freely and without pain for the first time in five years. And a bearded chap called Jack with a titanium plate in his skull feels the pressure in his head ease for once.
Suddenly, a pretty girl called Emily with glasses doesn’t need them. Eleven years of chronic neck pain floats into the ether from a stocky rugby player. An Aussie girl with a frozen shoulder regains full movement.
We clap and cheer and whoop — cynics included — as he yells: ‘Praise the Lord!’ ... Even I start wondering if my sore knee is cured. It isn’t.
As Brown shouts ‘We thank you, Father, we thank you. We are surrounded by a golden light!’ volunteers are hypnotised and knocked out in seconds, lowered gently to the floor. One man levitates — I’ve no idea how.
... At one stage, more than 30 people are queueing patiently in the stalls to be ‘healed’. They volunteer themselves, but of course he already knows their names, their ailments, their brothers’ names, their mum’s back problems. Afterwards, they skip back to their seats, beaming and golden from his touch.
 
It's not Benny Hinn or anyone like that. No, it's Derren Brown. As the reviewer (Jane Fryer) concludes
 
The point, of course, is to prove Brown’s belief that faith healing and miracles are all in the mind — and the work of clever showmen like him, rather than God.
You may or may not agree, but the show (or the second half, anyway) was gripping, utterly inexplicable — however much we all picked over it afterwards — and, for a while, it really felt miraculous. And that’s not even revealing the brilliant twist at the end.
So I take it all back. No one could fail to be impressed. Other than a genuine charlatan Christian faith healer.
And, perhaps, Emily, who ten minutes later had her specs back on again.
 
Derren Brown is an atheist and a profane man but his desire to expose the charlatanism of so-called evangelicalism is perhaps something to be thankful for.
 
 
 

Retro Album "of the week" 39 Ekseption 3


We have referred before on this blog to Dutch band Ekseption's third album Ekseption 3 again from 1970 but not discovered by me until some time after that. The album is based around Le Petit Prince a brief allegorical work by Antoine de St Exupery.
It includes both instrumental and vocal tracks. The tracks are Peace Planet/B 612/Morning Rose/Piece For Symphonic And Rock Group In A Minor (A) Part One: Passacaglia (B) Part Two: Painting/Lamplighter/Bottle Mind/On Sunday They Will Kill The World/Another History/Rondo.
The band draw on Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff as well as the skills of leader the late Rick van der Linden. It is the rich classical vein plus the use of St Exupery (who I knew nothing of prior to finding this album) that leads me to rate this album so highly. The use of a vocalist was a one off for Ekseption and it worked well.

Midweek Meeting November 25 2015

Thanks to the presence of a visiting couple we were back up to 17 last night, which was good. We continued in this brief series on the Three Rs (Revelation, Redemption and Regeneration) with the rest of what I wanted to say regarding revelation namely to do with authority, inerrancy, perspicuity and sufficiency (I think that was the order). We had a good time of prayer too. Lots to pray about.

Retro album "of the week" 38 A Beard of Stars

A Beard of Stars by Tyrannosaurus Rex came out in 1970 but I didn't discover it until three or four years later after Marc Bolan had found commercial success with T Rex (beginning with Ride a white Swan that same year). I really discovered all four Tyrannosaurus albums at more or less the same time. Beard of Stars the fourth of them is different to the other three in that it was the first to feature Bolan with Mickey Finn as percussionist rather than Steve Peregrine Took and is the transition album in that electric guitars and drum kit feature for the first time. (On the this front, there was an electric guitar first featured on the 1969 single King of the Rumbling Spires/Do You Remember)
One writer (Mark Deming of AllMusic) says that A Beard of Stars "was the turning point where Marc Bolan began evolving from an unrepentant hippie into the full-on swaggering rock star he would be within a couple of years, though for those not familiar with his previous work, it still sounds like the work of a man with his mind plugged into the age of lysergic enchantment." The truth about Marc Bolan I think is that he was willing to do whatever it took to get musical fame. It was the times that were achangin' (and Bob Dylan especially) rather than Bolan himself. 
Four tracks from this album, including "Great Horse", were apparently salvaged from Spring 1969 sessions for a fourth album with Took in the wake of "King of the Rumbling Spires". These four tracks were overdubbed for release by Finn, Bolan and Visconti. A further four tracks from the Took sessions were rejected for the final album and only surfaced later on compilations, three ("Once Upon the Seas of Abyssinia", "Blessed Wild Apple Girl", "Demon Queen") in Bolan's lifetime, the fourth ("Ill Starred Man") posthumously.
I have always found the two instrumental openers (Prelude and Beard of Stars) particularly pleasing. Elemental Child is pretty much an instrumental and goes on far too long. Bolan is sometimes classed with the progressive music makers and these tracks give part of the reason why. Meanwhile A Daye Laye, By the light of the magical moon, Lofty Skies, Dove, etc, are all great numbers. The simple Organ blues was long a favourite.

Lord's Day November 22 2015

It was good to be back in harness last Sunday. There were no visitors (apart from a man who came and went before the sermon in the evening) but few absentees. We have now reached Revelation 4 in our morning studies and it was good to be reminding ourselves of fundamental truths then. In the evening we were in Judges 9, which is a long and quite difficult chapter but I think we got there. I sought to portray Abimelech as a false judge or savour as opposed to Christ the true and only complete Saviour. It is a glorious thing to break the bread o God's Word to the people of God Lord's Day by Lord's day.

Conversion of Dr Emile Cailliet

I don't know much about Dr. Emile Cailliet, a professor at Princeton Seminary who died in 1981, but he has a fascinating conversion story. Her eis the story as told by Ray Stedman in 1982.
In his youth he was a total unbeliever. In fact, he vehemently opposed any kind of faith. He fought in the French Army in World War I, and the terrible pain of human life and death around him confirmed his conviction that there was nothing in religion that could satisfy men. But he longed to have something that would help him in times of difficulty, so he compiled a notebook which he called, "The Book That Would Understand Me." Whenever he ran across a quotation that struck fire in his mind he would copy it down in his book. Still a young man when the war was ended, he sat down one day to read the collection that he had put together. As he read it, his heart sank. He saw that since it came from himself, it had no power to minister to him in times of pressure and stress; it seemed flat and empty.
About that time a remarkable thing occurred. Purely by accident, one day his wife wandered into a courtyard she had never seen before. She realised she was in a Huguenot church, and she saw an old man sitting at a table. For some reason, unknown to her, she walked up to him and asked, "Do you have any Bibles in French?" Without a word, the man picked up a Bible from the table and handed it to her. She was afraid to give it to her husband because he had ordered that religion not even be mentioned in their house, but she finally told him of this unusual experience. He said, "Give me the Bible. Let me read it."
For the first time in his life he began to read the Bible. He started in the Gospels, which fascinated him. For many hours he read through several of the books of the Bible. Finally he put it down, and, bowing his head, he said, "At last I have found the Book that understands me." He opened his heart to the Lord and became a Christian. Ultimately he became a professor in a seminary. He bore testimony to his dying day that he never varied from that view of the Bible: "This is the Book that understands me."

Midweek Meeting November 18 2015

I forgot to report on last Wednesday for some reason. We had 13 there and another good prayer time. Sadly, our Bulgarian friend was not there but perhaps she will come next week. We pray so. I decided that before the end of the year we could fit in a little series on the three Rs - Revelation, redemption and regeneration. I was thinking in terms of three sessions but I had so much material for the first message I only did about half what I intended. Not to worry. I finished with the striking story of the conversion of Emile Cailliet, brother of the composer Lucien, and professor I Princeton Seminary. It's a story worth knowing.

Evangelical Library Lecture on William Brock


We just managed to scrape into double figures this afternoon at the Evangelical Library. I spoke on William Brock 1807-1875 Devon-born minister of Baptist churches in Norwich and Bloomsbury. There are two main biographies, one by C M Birrell and a shorter one by George M'Cree. I emphasised how much Spurgeon liked him as I think he was basically one of the good guys. All the liberal emphases of the 19th century were brought to bear on him, however, and how unscathed he remained I don't know. He wrote once to his son, also a minister.
How well I understand your difficulties about election. I knew them at your age - I have known them ever since - I know them now. But there they are; and if you give up all belief in election there will be other difficulties of equal intricacy and force. Semblances are not always realities. To our ignorances there are perhaps actual contradictions: let us get rid of the ignorance, and the contradiction disappears. To leave a man, you think, is to reject him. Then 'men are rejected,' you infer; 'not being chosen of God they are surely doomed.' But so far from dooming men, God beseeches them to return to Him and live. As it thus appears that none are doomed, 'what follows,' you ask, but that 'none are elected'? Logically the case appears to you complete. But then, in come Scriptures in abundance to disturb the conclusions of your logic. There are men who have been chosen to salvation (2 Thess. I 3): and all men are invited to salvation (John vi. 37). What remains but that we put up with the difficulty reverentially; and expound God's Word according to its meaning text by text.
I hope to get the full text of the lecture out into the wider world soon.

Lord's Day November 15 2015

So not preaching today or in Childs Hill. Up in Aber listening again to Joel Beeke and in the afternoon in chapel, first for a family lunch and then a church tea with a lovely cake and a short speech and the gift of an apple picker as we again marked Geoff and Iola Thomas's fiftieth year in Aber. Joel preached on the Hebrews 12:1, 2 in the morning on how to endure, considering our mission, the manner of it negative and positive and the motives to it - in Christ himself (what he endured, what he rejoiced in and what he despised) and the saints around us past and present. In the evening it was that interesting text Luke 22:31, 32 and the one who can meet all your needs - Christ our Prophet, Priest and King. Great day.

Aber Jubilee




Three or four hundred gathered in Bethel Chapel, Aberystwyth last Saturday to celebrate Geoff Thomas's fifty years as pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church. Geoff gave a God honouring account of himself (mentioning among other things what a blessing the students have been and attempting to list those who, like myself, have gone into the ministry after being in AP - Austin Walker, Chris Peggington, Graham Heaps, Keith Underhill, Keith Hoare, Alan Davey, Tim Mills., etc, etc. New Zealand got forgotten somehow [Stephen Turner, Dafydd Hughes, Geoff Lloyd] but we can forgive a few senior moments). It was good to worship God with hymns old and new.
In recent years Geoff has become good friends with Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids and it was good to have him present to preach from 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 on "Recognising the paradox of ministry"; "Not rejecting the paradox" by either attempting to escape the insignificance of ministry by self vaunting efforts or by denying your real greatness and "Rejoicing in the paradox" that comes in knowing that God has called you to be his servant and to "minister the simple Gospel to simple people in simple truth." It did me good and many others I hope.
We then adjourned to Alfred Place for a cuppa and cake. This was managed extraordinarily well by a family connected to the church. This was in the basement. After an hour we headed upstairs where several spoke. Austin Walker from Crawley began by  recalling what help he had received from Geoff as a student before heading off to Westminster. He was the first of several to choke a little. David Griffiths of OMF was very emotional describing what a help Geoff's little booklet on dealing with remaining sin had been for Filipino suffering with AIDS. Gareth Edwards spoke on his own behalf and the EMW (who as he put it are very thankful to be able to hold their conference as a sort of add-on to his own!). Meirion Thomas spoke again on his own behalf and the family's. Richard Holst was another who could speak with gratefulness of Geoff's help in student days. Robert Strivens had a brilliant story of Geoff jump starting his car at  Banner Conference when a young and diffident minister. He also brought a book of Calvin's sermons on Titus from the Banner trustees.
We were always in danger of exalting the man I guess but both he and we were always careful to give the glory to God and to recognise that a pastor is only any good if there are people to listen and to pray.
Celebrations continued the next day but I will old that over for another post.

Do you know who this preacher was?

If you don't know who this man was (or if you do) you are very welcome to come and find out at the Evangelical Library next Monday when (at 1 pm) I will be lecturing about him.
 

Midweek Meeting November 11 2015

We had a very good turn out on Wednesday and again an excellent time of prayer. I decided not to do any more on trees and so we just looked at a psalm, Psalm 11, where David is recommended to flee but he determines to trust God and take his stand, encouraging words. A lady we'd not before joined us, a  Bulgarian lady who is searching. She works on Sundays but can come midweek. She found us through the website. I hope she will come regularly. Her presence perhaps stirred us to pray more earnestly for two who were there last Sunday but who rarely come twice in a row We prayed too for Sihle Xulu who is preaching for us on the Lord's Day.

Lord's Day November 9 2015

Yesterday was a full day as we started with a Bitesize Theology Class on election and then after the morning service there was a fellowship lunch. After lunch we took opportunity to hear testimony from two members. The first has been in the church nearly as long as I have. She was converted in Boarding School when she was 16 through the witness of Chinese Malaysian friends. The second was only five when he first believed. Brought up in a Christian home he was baptised at 14. he and his wife moved to London in the last two years or so. The preaching yesterday was perhaps a vindication of systematic preaching in that in the morning we looked at the church in Laodices, the last of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, a church that was in major trouble and then in the evening we looked at Judges 8 and the success of Gideon followed by the failures of his latter year and beyond. You would not choose to preach on two such difficult subjects (lukewarmness and the danger of fading a the years go by) on the same day but we got through it. It was sobering and challenging and drove us (I hope) to Christ. One thing I failed to do in the morning was to expand on how it is that we can refresh Christ - such a remarkable subject. it is easy to assume too much.

The Honey Makes the Gold Stick

Tucked away behind Oxford Street, the main shopping thoroughfare in London's west end, is Hertford House, a stately home packed with beautiful items from pre-revolutionary France. The collection was gathered by Richard Wallace and his ancestors and gifted to the nation early in the twentieth century, hence its name The Wallace Collection.
Among the many attractive objects found there are cabinets of early Sèvres porcelain, from the 1750s and 1760s. Widely regarded as among the finest ever produced anywhere, the factory that produced it, which still exists, flourished chiefly due to the efforts of the French Sun King, Louis XV, and especially his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, whose own residence, the Château de Bellevue, was near the factory.
It is not to everyone's taste but one cannot but admire the craftsmanship involved. Hand painted by artists, each piece is unique and would have taken several weeks to produce. After firing and glazing, the pieces were painted their various colours one by one and fired in the kiln each time a new colour was added. The very last addition was the gold leaf edging on the cups, saucers and other pieces. This gold was applied by a method known as “honey gilding”. The gold leaf was mixed with honey and laid thickly over the glaze before firing. It was the honey that made the gold stick.
Now many of us cannot hear of gold and honey without thinking of Psalm 19:10, where David says of God's laws, as found in the Scriptures, not only that They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; but also that they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. Verses 72 and 103 of Psalm 119 have the same thoughts. Scripture is profitable and pleasant. David speaks out of his own experience and many another reader has found that what he reads in the Bible is not only solid, precious and valuable, like gold, but also sweet to his soul, very sweet indeed.
The concoction used at Sèvres was both precious and sweet and it brings these verses to mind. Of course, at Sèvres the honey was not used because it is sweet but because it is sticky. It was the means of sticking the gold to the porcelain.
Perhaps there is a lesson here. We know that we ought to read the Word because it is precious. Sometimes, however, that is not enough for us. Often it is the sweetness of Scripture that draws us, rather than its preciousness. If somehow, like the artists of Sèvres, we could connect the preciousness of gold and the sweet and sticky honey-like character of Scripture, it would stand us in good stead.
Certainly preachers should be seeking somehow not only to impress on congregations how pure and precious and reliable Scripture is but also how sweet it is. Congregations need to hear not only about Law and justice and judgement and hell but also about God's grace and mercy and loving kindness, about the delight of his presence and the glories of heaven. To gild it all with Bible-sucked honey would be a good method for making the gold stick.

Retro album "of the week" 37 Pictures at an Exhibition

I love the idea of this record, perhaps more than the album itself. A live album, it originally came out in 1971 but I didn't get a copy until some years later, first on vinyl then CD. What I like is the fact that this is classical music played live in the rock idiom to a raucous northern crowd.
Recorded at Newcastle City Hall the opening track of the album is played on a pipe organ installed in the City Hall in 1928. The drum roll connecting the opening track to the next was apparently there to give Keith Emerson time to get back to the main stage to perform.
The record company was understandably reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and at first insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. For this reason it was shelved a little while but after the success of their second album, the label agreed to release it as a budget live album. There was also a video, which I've not seen but must check out. This is of another live performance in 1970 in the Lyceum (see here).
Being a live album, sometimes Emerson's voltage-controlled Moog oscillators went out of tune, due to humidity and temperature. The vocals are sometimes a bit shaky too.
The original album cover, commissioned William Neal who designed and painted every canvas, used a gatefold sleeve (much beloved of big seventies albums), depicting on the outside blank picture frames labelled with the titles of the pieces: "The Old Castle", "The Gnome", etc. The paintings were huge oil paintings full of ELP symbolism, like the Tarkus background in the "Hut" and the white dove embossed into the titanium white oil paint in "Promenade" (visible only on the original painting). On the inner sleeve, all of the paintings were revealed, but one remains blank: "Promenade". The musical piece by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky is not about a picture but represents a walk through a gallery. ELP do only four of the original 10 pieces.
All of the paintings were later hung at the Hammersmith Town Hall, London, and photographed by Keith Morris and Nigel Marlow.
I knew a boy in school, a Londoner who pronounced his surname Proe-bert. He was such an ELP fan he called his cat Emerson!

Midweek Meeting November 4 2015

Another well attended meeting last night. We are still looking at trees and last night it was the sycamore-fig. There are only six references in the Old Testament and one in the New and so we just concentrated on the story of Zacchaeus, which is always a breath of fresh air. I managed to keep my time on that down to about half an hour and so as there was a good half hour for prayer people gladly filled the time. When the time is less, often people are slower to pray. I don't know if they just think there's not enough time or if with the longer time available they ought to pray. Anyway, a good prayer time. There is no reason why I can't give a full half hour to Bible study, a full half hour to prayer and still fit everything into an hour and a quarter or so. It does need a bit of disciplines, however.

Adrian Brake on Baxter's Saints Everlasting Rest


I was at the Westminster Fellowship again last Monday. Once again we were a rather small number and a bit on the old side for the most part. Yet again we were treated to fine fare. Adrian Brake from South Wales firstly preached to us (from Revelation 7) and then spoke winsomely on Richard Baxter's first great work The saints everlasting rest. This was more than an extended book review as it sought to commend to us Baxter's conviction that regular meditation on the glories of heaven will do us a great deal of earthly good. It is good to know that there are young men immersing themselves in the riches of Puritan literature and who are able to share their enthusiasm with others. As to how we can encourage other ministers to take advantage I really do not know.

Nobody understands ministers

“Nobody understands ministers”. It's not a statement that you often hear spoken but it is one that does go round the minds of some. Not non-ministers, of course, and not young ministers for that matter. They are too busy working out what a minister does to be thinking that no-one understands.
No, it is usually after one has settled down into ministry, perhaps seven years or ten years in, that the thought may begin to arise - “Nobody understands ministers”. What is it all about?
The minister doesn't have a job like anyone else for a start. It's not just that it isn't a 9 to 5 thing – plenty of jobs aren't that. It's something more.
The minister is directly responsible in his work not so much to the congregation but to God. Yet at the same time he doesn't want to alienate the congregation if he can help it. The minister knows he cannot work all the time. He has to relax at some point. The bow needs unstringing, as Spurgeon once put it. Yet, at the same time, he is conscious that his whole life must be dedicated to this one thing.
The minister, if he is in an independent church, will be used to the (hopefully regular) habit of stepping outside the church meeting while they discuss his stipend (it always takes longer than you expect!).
In most cases he knows that if he should offend the congregation too much then he is likely to be without a roof over his head in a short while.
Another problem he faces is the varied nature of his calling. When he is studying, he often feels he should be praying and when he is praying, he feels he should be studying or preparing or visiting and when he is visiting he feels he should be doing more evangelism and when he is evangelising he feels he should be studying or visiting or praying or preparing or spending time with the family. And if he does relax with the family ... well, you can see why it's not as easy as it may seem.
You can understand then perhaps why this thought will sometimes go round his head. “Nobody understands ministers”. Of course, it's utter bunkum. Okay, may be sometimes church members do find it hard to get and may be they say insensitive things that they shouldn't, at times. But ministers understand and so do ministers' wives to some extent. There's not a minister reading this who isn't saying “Yeah that's how it is” (as well as, “it is, although he hasn't quite described my situation!”). This is part of what makes a ministers fraternal such fun for the most part. I'm with people who get it!
And these are not the only ones are they? Jesus himself understands. After all he is also a minister or servant, to use another term with the same meaning. In Mark 10 he says of himself that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. That is why he says to his disciples whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant or minister. The minister's life is unique and sometimes we can feel rather sorry for ourselves but there really is no reason.
Another one found in the system and never published, as far as I can see. Perhaps I need to change the blog title.

At Darwin's Motel


Here's a favourite of mine with some nice visuals.

Kippered Wineskins

Normally my communion with the people of the past is of a sedentary, close your eyes sort of character but on this occasion it was a little more surreal. I had a little bit of an idea of what it might have been to be like Blake or Bunyan. The man I saw was obviously from a past age and he clearly wanted to show me something. I had no choice but to accompany him. I'm not quite sure how we got there but there was some morning mist and the next thing I knew we were before an ancient campsite and at the entrance to one of the tents the man ahead of me swiftly ducked inside and I followed him. Inside it was quite warm and smoky. It made my eyes smart a little. A small pot hung over an open fire in one corner and something was cooking. In another corner hung what was obviously an animal skin. The skin, he told me, was full of wine. He didn't offer me anything to eat or drink but simply encouraged me to look at the wineskin and to observe how dry and cracked and shrivelled it was and to see that it was covered in soot and smuts. Most of the trouble seemed to be caused by the smoky atmosphere, which suddenly seemed a whole lot worse when I saw what it had done the wineskin.
The man spoke to me briefly and said “Do you see this wineskin?” I nodded. “Don't you feel just like that wineskin sometimes?” Well, I'd never thought of it in those terms, of course, but yes I certainly do feel rather dry and besmirched at times, rather grimy and neglected. “When you get back” he continued “take the Scriptures and look at Psalm 119 and find the bit about the wineskin”. Psalm 119 is a big psalm, the biggest, and I couldn't honestly recall any reference to wineskin. I do remember thinking, however, “I wonder what that's got to do with the Word of God?”.
Anyway, when this rather strange experience was over I got my Bible out and started looking for the verse. Eventually I found it. It's in verse 83. Once I read it I immediately saw the point. There the psalmist says Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. The picture is not a familiar one to us today but having made my trip (or having let my feverish imagination work overtime at least) I could picture what in days gone by must have been quite a familiar sight. It certainly is how I feel at times. The psalmist was determined, even at times like that, however, not to forget God's decrees. We must be determined to do the same. The psalmist was not going to make his troubles an excuse for forsaking God's law and nor must we. Rather, like him, we must be determined to look to the Lord and his word at all times. Actually not published anywhere until now (I think).

Lord's Day November 1 2015

Numbers seemed to be down rather yesterday for various reasons. I'd tempted to be discouraged but I was preaching on Philadelphia, a weak church but a blessed one and on Gideon, who, as we all know, was told to reduce his numbers and victory followed. We even had David and Goliath for the kids in case anyone missed the point. We began with communion, of course, as a new month is here. I quoted part of Nick Needham's article on Luther in the current Banner mag, where he says that Luther would urge us to see the sacraments as what God does for us not vice-versa. It was a good day all in all, if difficult. One of my members kindly looked after me and my son as the rest of the family was away. I always like going to her flat as you can see for miles from the twelfth floor, even when it's foggy, like it was yesterday.