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.

Two trips to the cinema

Unusually we have been to the cinema twice in the last few weeks. First, we went to see the Meryl Streep film Florence Foster Jenkins. We went expecting to laugh but there is a bit more to this film than that and we are presented with a sympathetic portrait of a woman with many advantages and many disadvantages. It raises the whole question of how we assess talent and individuals. it is not easy task.
Then yesterday we went to Britain's oldest cinema in East Finchley to see the film they are calling Love and friendship based on Jane Austen's Lady Susan an epistolary novella but named for a piece of juvenilia. I was a little nervous about the presentation at first but was won round by the approach where each character was paraded before us before the action. I would like to know if there was an American in the original plot - I have a copy of the book somewhere here but don't recall ever reading it. This is comical, light and perceptive Austen not the deeper stuff but good stuff for all that and well executed.

An anecdote from childhood

I just put this on another blog of mine.
My father was a fine sportsman. His main sports were soccer, (British) baseball and swimming. I never saw him play soccer but I did see him play baseball on the winning side in a final in 1965. I also remember watching him swimming once. It was at Maindee swimming baths in Newport and the annual Girlings swimming Gala (which we all pronounced Gayler) again some time around 1965. I can see my dad now in his green bathers lining up for the obstacle race. He was 6' 2" and had perfected an amazing racing dive so when they were started he went straight into the lead and I was sure he would win. But my mother knew better and tried to prepare me. One of the obstacles was to bite through balloons and she knew that with his false dentures (which he had from the age of 21) he wouldn't be able to go on as fast as the younger men. And so it proved. He came in third and won a set of three decorated chalice style beer glasses, which we had for years and almost never used.
(By 1965 my dad was 36).

World's most valuable children's books

I get these things form Abebooks from time to time. See this one in full here

1. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien


Top of the pile is The Hobbit - the book that launched the entire fantasy genre - and we're talking about the 1,500 first edition copies published in the UK on 21 September 1937 by Allen & Unwin. ...
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a 1937 first edition sold for £45,050 in 2003.
Affordable alternative - The Harry Abrams 1977 deluxe illustrated edition, with artwork from Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass, is gorgeous, and prices range from £25 to £310.

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Several options here. The first appearance of this book in print (2,000 copies) in 1865 was short-lived as illustrator John Tenniel disliked the print quality. Those '1865s' are like hen's teeth and have seven-figure price tags. The next edition (4,000 copies) was released in December of 1865 but dated 1866. They are also expensive and scarce. Current demand on AbeBooks is all about Salvador Dali's illustrated limited edition (just 2,500 copies) from 1969 and no (sane) parent would give their child this version of Carroll's famous tale.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a Dali copy signed by the artist sold for £13,860 in 2014.

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling


It has to be one of the 500 first editions printed by Bloomsbury in June 1997. The library system swallowed up 300 of them, so what happened to the other 200? If you have one then you have hit the JK Rowling jackpot.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a flawless 1997 first edition for £25,650 (and it wasn't even signed) in 2005.

4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


This simple children's picture book has had a remarkable impact on popular culture. To have a special copy, it has to be a 1963 first edition published by Harper & Row, and Sendak's signature will add thousands to the value. Sendak, who died in 2012, was a generous signer and often added sketches when signing a book.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a first signed sold for £17,330 in 2012..

5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


The golden ticket here is a September 1964 first edition published by Knopf that's been signed by Dahl, and has a pristine dust jacket. Only 10,000 copies were printed and they sold out in four weeks.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a first edition signed by Dahl in the month of its publication sold for £17,330 in 2015.

6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams


A lesson to all of us about being careful in what is thrown away. Both the US and UK editions were published in 1922 and you will need one of these to have something special on your bookshelf. William Nicholson provided seven memorable full-page illustrations.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a US first edition sold for £11,055 in 2013.

7. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne


Published in 1926 by Methuen, the ideal copy would be signed by Milne and perhaps also the book's illustrator E.H. Shepard. The presence and condition of the dust jacket will heavily influence the value of this book that has delighted readers for 90 years.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a copy signed by Milne and Shepard, and containing a bookplate displaying Milne's London address sold for £8,215 in 2016.

8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle


First published in 1962 by Ariel Books, this classic story was rejected by dozens of publishers because they thought no young reader would understand the combination of science, and good versus evil. Ellen Raskin, author of The Westing Game, designed the beautiful Sixties era dust jacket and your copy needs a pristine dust jacket to fetch a top price.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a first edition for £7,625 in 2015.

9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum


The first edition was published in 1900 by Geo M. Hill but the copyright notice is dated 1899. This book was first printed with 24 colour plates by W.W. Denslow.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a first edition for £6,100 in 2012.

10. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by JM Barrie


Peter Pan first appeared in Barrie's adult novel The Little White Bird in 1902. The boy who never grows up then appeared in a successful stage play that opened in 1904 and ran until 1913. A proper Peter Pan book finally appeared in 1906, called Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Arthur Rackham provided illustrations and it's the artwork that makes this book so appealing to lovers of collectable children's books.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks - a first edition signed by Rackham sold for £4,505 in 2016.

Lord's Day, May 29 2016

A bank holiday weekend means numbers are likely to fluctuate and they certainly did. There were at least ten missing, half of them down in Cornwall on various trips. On the other hand we had relatives staying, an old friend visiting, a lovely young Nigerian family staying in the hotel round the corner found us and in the evening we had several men in London for NYL's Christian Answer weekend. One odd thing was that although there was only one child when I did my children's slot on the slough of despond, there were five by the time Sunday School came round in the sermon period. I preached a one off in the morning on Isaiah 60:1. Such a great text. In the evening we looked again at Matthew 8 and at the storm on the lake, one of the great New testament passages.

10 Malt Products

1. Malted milk biscuits
2. Maltesers
3. Malt loaf
4. Ovaltine
5. Horlicks
6. Milo
7. Malt beer
8. Malt (milkshake)
9. Malt whisky
10. Supermalt *energy drink)

A jewel by Jewel

I love this song. Nice performance by the original artist.

Banner of Truth USA

You can access the videos of the messages given at the recent Banner of Truth Conference in the USA here at the Banner website. On one you can see my fellow elder Dr Robert Strivens singing a hymn and introducing Dr Mark Jones (who makes controversial remarks about Dr Joel Beeke ;-)).

Michael Fabbri's Dyslexicon

Popped Radio 4 on this morning and caught a very funny programme about dyslexia. Funny and informative. I think this is the first in a new series. See here.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2016 Final Sessions

On the Tuesday evening Alun McNabb gave his second and final message. In what was no doubt not the first outing for this material he gave us six or seven reasons why Jeremiah would probably find it difficult to secure a pastorate these days. He instanced his God-centredness, his failure to be "seeker friendly", his seriousness, the way he exposed sin, the fact he was emotional and too repetitive and finally his lack of "musicalness". This was good old fashioned stuff.
On our final day we had a fascinating session first on the document "We believe" one of the two standards of the assembly, the other being the Confession of 1689. It being 40 years since the publication of the Affirmation it was good to hear Peter Day recount the origins of the document. Stephen Rees then compared the 1689 and 1966 documents showing how the latter is a shorter more relevant document in modern language. I have never looked seriously at the 1966 Affirmation as it includes a strict view of communion, not my position. However, that is a mistake on my part as there are many good things in it clearly.
That fist session ran over slightly but we were able to get back on track for the final session when Jonathan Chell of Ramsey preached very helpfully from Psalm 23 to close the conference and bringing us back eventually to where we started off.
Assembly plans to gather again in the same place (Hayes Centre, Swanwick) next year, May 9-11. More here.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2016 Home News

One of the great features of the assembly is the news sessions. Having done something overseas style yesterday, this afternoon we had some news chaired by Keith Johns, recently retired from Caterham. Items covered
1 Caterham (Keith Johns) which has recently called Jonathan Bailey as pastor.
2 Chatham (Paul Relf) Enon where opportunities especially with Africans abound
3 Bethersden (Ian Jemmett) the Kent church where the pastor has recently had to step down
4 Wigan (Matthew Gray) Jireh where there are some problems with young people
5 Halifax (Luke Jenner) where there are many opportunities to reach Muslims
6 Coopers Edge, Gloucester (Harold Gamston) a new church reaching out
7 Halstead, Essex (Graham Field) a still quite new work
8 Coventry, Lower Ford Street (Peter Cordle) where opportunities abound following major building works
9 Evangelical Library (Gary Brady)
Great session.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2016 02

This morning we had two messages at Assembly from Tim Curnow. The first was on the church and the state and the second on the church and the world. The first message was a very clear and helpful outline of the nonconformist, anti-establishment position as seen in Scripture. The second, more difficult message sought to outline the New Testament position on the Christian and the world. We spent some time after these messages in discussion of both messages, which was helpful. These topics are part of the bread and butter of an assembly like this but it was good to be going over it once again.

Grace Baptist Assembly 2016 01

It's good to be at the Grace Baptist Assembly again in Swanwick with around 120 others. The committee kindly asked me to chair this year and so I opened with a sermon from Revelation 7 emphasising the everlasting rest that is ours in Christ.
After that Micky Mollalegn from Amyand Park spoke in our first news session on the work of the gospel in his native Ethiopia. It was a well informed introduction to the history of that nation. We also had a short report from Ian Jemmett regarding a man they are seeking to support in Zimbabwe.
The third section of the day was a preaching session which I chaired with Alun McNabb who spoke powerfully and in a challenging way on John 13:34, 35. We had hoped to hear Mr McNabb two years ago but he was unwell. It was worth waiting. A full day tomorrow. If you want to hear today's messages they can be downloaded from the website here.

Lord's Day, May 22 2015

It was my birthday Sunday so I decided to preach a birthday sermon in the morning. I preached from 2 Corinthians 4:5. about not preaching ourselves but preaching Christ as Lord. In the evening we carried on in Mat8 and looked at two principles of discipleship. We were pretty low in numbers morning and evening. People were travelling elsewhere, ill, busy or (as is increasingly the case among unbelievers) working. There were no new faces either which is fairly unusual for us. No-one responded to the tracts we gave out the day before (which is more typical). So it was a little flat I'd say. You never know what happens on those Sundays, however.

10 People who died at the age of 57

(above Cook and Corbett)
1. Prince (1958-2016)
2. Patrick Swayze (1952-2009)
3. Ian Dury (1942-2000)
4. Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999)
5. Peter Cook (1937-1995)
6. Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
7. Harry H Corbett (1925-1982)
8. Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)
9. Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)
10. Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)

I like to make lists like this one around this time of the year. Sobering lists.

Midweek Meeting, May 18 2016

So there we were back to it last night to consider the Scriptures and to pray - yet another variation on the number 12 or so. Why people come or don't come I'm never really sure. Anyway we tackled a big text, 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. I hope I handled it correctly. It certainly was a challenge to me and I hope to others as well. Then (nearly) everyone prayed.

June Banner

This is just to alert you to the June Banner of truth mag which includes an article by yours truly - God's sheep, as safe as safe can be. Do check it out. The boy on the cover is J C Ryle.

Genesis 35:4

We read Genesis 35 yesterday including verse 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. You wonder what the problem was with gold earrings but then may be the earrings were on the idols (as above).

Lord's Day, May 15 2016

Last Lord's Day was interesting and varied. I preached two fairly brief sermons on Revelation 22:6ff and Matthew 8:14-17. We were slow to fill up in the morning. I was pleased to see two visitors who have not been for a while but they did not make it to sermon time for some reason, which is disappointing. There were others missing too, including two children with chicken pox, poor things. We were a decent number in the evening. That was preceded by the Lord's Supper. Part of you feels you're getting nowhere and part feels there's yet hope. The sermons are here and here on our website.

International Quiz Evening

We had our international quiz evening last Saturday and it was an encouraging time. We had a good turn out with about 30 present, including good number of outsiders. The quiz went okay (though the questions could have been easier). Robin Asgher spoke well. There was a lovely spread of food and just about enough of it. Lots' of people worked very hard. We had been finding that midweek meal and message was not working so well perhaps this new approach will be the way forward.

Comics as a kid

One of the perks in our house was that we were allowed a weekly comic. As best I remember these were the ones I took from the ages of about 5-11.

Incongruously

I just blogged this over on one of my other blogs:
Because I love words so much I can sometimes remember where I first came across a word. As a teenager I was a big fan of T Rex. In May 1972, aged 13 or 14, I bought a music magazine called Cream because it contained a long article about my favourite group (and a free poster I now recall having found the cover on the Internet). It was by someone called Charles Shaar Murray, a name that would have meant nothing to me at the time. The one thing that struck me about the article's style was that he was trying to be objective, something I was not really used to. You can find the article here I believe, including the bit where he says that Cosmic Dancer is "a fine song, spoilt by incongruously heavy-handed drumming by Legend". He has a point but I still find it hard to accept. (The comment about "Visconti's saccharine string writing" was lost on me then and now).

Midweek Meeting May 11, 2016

Ten of us met last night to look at just one verse from 2 Timothy 2 - verse 14. I made two points - that ministers are to remind you of certain things, which I did, and that they are to warn you against word wars. I backed up what I was saying firstly with quotations from several hymns a secondly with several anecdotes. I was quite and we got down to praying quite speedily. Most people prayed, if not all. We finished with a hymn. There were people missing sadly. Not sure why.

Lord's Day May 8, 2016

We looked at Revelation 21 in the morning all the way through to 22:5. It was a little long and I wonder if I might have split it up. It would have to be three I guess not two. Anyway wonderful subject matter and I hope a blessing to all. In the afternoon we had tea together and that was a nice relaxed time. I really enjoyed preaching in the evening on Matthew 8:5-13 as it took us into various areas including what faith in Christ is really all about. As for attendance, it was all a bit random with people missing and others there who I'm not sure how they are getting on. It is hard to keep up.

Lookalikes

Another interest of mine. My wife said that Ray Davies looks a bit like the Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, with which I agree (though it is hard to show). The Internet I notice goes more for Pryce and the current Pope.

I gotta move

Careful readers of this blog will have noticed that a minor obsession we have is spotting the rich and famous out and about.
I try to walk over to Highgate twice a week these days and having never seen Victoria Wood about I had almost given up spotting anyone, when who should walk into the coffee shop but the legendary Ray Davies of the Kinks, who has lived in the general area all his life.
These days it's a joy just to see celebrities in their seventies still alive, of course. Then you have to decide what to do and say. I didn't think an autograph was appropriate. I didn't even think of a selfie. I said "huge fan" but even as I said it I thought to myself "depends what you mean" (I heard someone once say I think rightly that having several Bob Dylan records doesn't make you a big fan). I've only ever bought a greatest hits collection and we had All of the day and all of the night at home in single form. What I meant was that the Kinks of been part of my life all my life. I remember getting hold of an A4 ledger book as  kid and writing down all the bands I liked. The Kinks was high on that list, even though I would have known little about them.
I decided to add "Heard Victoria on the radio for some reason this morning". Again, I suppose with DAB and so many golden oldie stations that's no big deal. What I meant was that I'd heard them using a bit of it on Radio 2 for some advert or trailer. Anyway, he was very pleasant and wished me a nice day.
The encounter gave me a warm feeling for a while after.

10 English words for a wooded area

1. Forest
2. Wood(s)
3. Grove
4. Spinney
5. Coppice or copse
6. Hurst
7. Thicket
8. Brake
9. Boscage
10. Chaparral (US)

Christ's Second Coming (EMW Article 07)

This is the substance of an article ublished in the current EMW Magazine and part of the series on 1 Thessalonians
We know that every chapter of 1 Thessalonians refers to the Second Coming, the longest sections being in Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 reminds us Christ will soon return with a loud command ... the voice of the archangel ... the trumpet call of God calling people from their graves. First, the dead in Christ will rise, then Christians alive at the time will be transformed. All will enter eternal bliss. We should encourage each other with these words. Chapter 5:1-11 continues to speak of Christ's return - of times and dates and the practical implications.
Times and dates
Unexpected
Wikipedia has a page of failed predictions of the Second Coming including Ronald Weinland and Jack Van Impe. Weinland set the date at September 29, 2011. When his prediction failed he tried May 27, 2012 then May 18, 2013. Convicted of tax evasion in 2012 he went to prison. Van Impe has predicted many dates. He no longer claims to know the exact date, which is good to hear in light of 5:1-3 about the day of the Lord coming like a thief in the night and as people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction coming on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, so that they do not escape. Paul gets across the suddenness and unpredictability of Christ's return using pictures. He expected Christ's return in his own lifetime but always bore in mind that it may be later and that the date was unpredictable. The point of the thief is not that he is wicked or causes problems but that he is unexpected. Thieves do not put cards through the letterboxes of proposed victims with dates of planned visits. No, you have no idea when he will come. Similarly, we do not know when Christ will return. He is definitely coming, the day is gets nearer every day but we cannot know when. Paul also says that while people claim there is peace and safety destruction will come on them suddenly so that they do not escape. It is like labour pains coming on a pregnant woman. The gestation period for a baby is about nine months. The actual period cannot be timed to the moment so exactly when labour pains will begin is unknown. Wise people make plans to be sure they will get to hospital in good time once contractions start. So with Christ again. We know he will return, we know the count down gets lower every day but we cannot be sure when the end will come so we need always to be ready.
No surprise for Christians
Having laid down that general rule Paul says (4, 5) his brother Thessalonians are not in darkness so that this day should surprise them like a thief. They are all sons of the light and sons of the day. Christians do not belong to the night or ... darkness. If you are always ready for the thief, he cannot get in. If you are always ready for labour pains, you will get to hospital in good time. We live today in the time of darkness but soon the day of light will dawn. As sons of the light or day not belonging to … the night or … darkness we are potentially ready for Christ to return when he will. Having repented from sin and trusted in Christ we say “Let him come when he will”.
Practical implications - Alert, self-controlled, full of faith, love and hope
Paul makes his application in verses 6-8. He says we must not be sleepy but alert and self-controlled. Those who sleep, sleep at night; those who get drunk, get drunk at night too. Since we belong to the day, we ought to be self-controlled, arming ourselves with faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. Taking up the night and day picture he applies it saying that as sons of the day, those who belong to the coming day, we ought not to be asleep (spiritually) as others are or indulging in sins like drunkenness but alert and self-controlled. With this call to be alert and self-controlled he uses another illustration, picturing faith, love and hope as armour. Romans 13:12 is similar - The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. In 1 Thessalonians he develops the idea a little (and Ephesians 6 even more).
Two practical things then
Be alert and self-controlled. Somehow we need to develop a mindset that is ready, watchful, prepared for Jesus' return whenever it may happen. We must be self-controlled or sober. Paul contrasts it with drunkenness. Drunks cannot control themselves, saying and doing things they should not. As believers we need to be awake and sober minded – calm, level headed, wise. We know Christ is coming again so we can have a right perspective on life. We must live in the light of that day always. Have faith, love and hope. Verse 8 speaks of all three. Faith first. Be full of faith in Christ, believing he will return, as you go into the battle that is this life. Love must be there – love to God, who we will one day see in the person of Christ, and love for people too. On our heads, as it were, protecting us all the while – hope in God too, longing for Christ's return.
Appointed to be saved through Christ
Continuing his argument, Paul says, by way of urging us to alertness, self-control, faith, etc, that God has not appointed us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through Christ, who he says died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Not our future - suffering wrath. That is what we deserve because of our sins. That is the future for all who do not trust in Christ. We will not suffer wrath, however – not now nor when Christ comes again. Our future – receiving salvation. The Christian can say he has been saved in the past (though he may not know when), that he is being saved in the present and he will be saved in the future when Christ returns. As Paul says here - God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation. When Christ returns, we will receive salvation, rescue or deliverance. How this happens - through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has died so that dead or alive we may live together with him. Through Jesus Christ God's is removed and salvation is received. Paul ties together Christ's death and return. It is because he died in our place that when he returns he does not need to show us wrath but mercy and grace because he himself has absorbed the wrath of God at Calvary. This is true whether we die and are raised by him or are alive when he returns and are transformed. This is why believers can face Christ's return with magnanimity. We know that then, because of Christ's death, all will be well.
Encouraging and building each other up
Finally, in verse 11, Paul calls on us to encourage ... and build each other up, which is what the Thessalonians were doing. Back in 4:18 he spoke of encouraging one another with these words. Now, more generally, he calls for them to encourage and edify each other. They are doing it but he wants no slacking. Hopefully we are doing it too but it is good to be reminded of the need.

Midweeek Meeting May 4 2016

We were back almost to full strength last Wednesday with some 14 present. Carrying on with 2 Timothy 2 we looked at the trustworthy saying of verses 11-13, which a was a challenge and a blessing I guess. Our LTS students reported back briefly on their time in City Church, South Birmingham and Carey, Reading, which was interesting. I didn't allow as much time for prayer as I might have but the prayers flowed for the elections, Sunday, needy members, etc, and most people were able to pray. What a delight to be with the Lord's people.

Lord's Day, May 1 2016

We're rather behind with things here at present. I failed to report on last week's midweek meeting which was on 2 Timothy 2:8-10 and I hope was helpful. The praying went well. Last Lord's Day was the beginning of a new month so we started with communion. I read from Psalm 22. Church was packed as there was a wedding the day before in the church and several had stayed over. We were looking at Revelation 20, a potentially difficult chapter. I took a modified amillennial view. I think the thousand years is the time from the first to the second coming but I also think the short time is the same time, which is a difficult concept to hold in your mind. It was the view taken by Loraine Boettner. In the evening we went back to Matthew and to Chapter 8, looking at verses 1-4 and the leper there. We had lots of different people in during the day, including unconverted people. We long for them to come regularly and to be saved.