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.

Day Off Week 3 2020

I thought I would try and keep some sort of record of days off once again. I am doing this because I would guess a lot of ministers are not very good at this (I wasn't myself at one time). These days off are not ideal by any means but I find it a great help simply to try. This week was especially so as I had had a bad Monday, a minister's Monday. (Weeks one or two were holiday and conference weeks).
Having read the book of reading mentioned recently (by Andy Miller) I have written a list of novels I feel I should have read by now. So I have now finished J D Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and started on Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which I have attempted before. So I know now why Salinger used the title he did and I can see why the book is given to young people. Personally, I am happier to have read it later in life. One passage stands out in the book, where the narrator says
I can't always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I'm sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, ....(p. 130)
I was also reading the book we are due to discuss next Monday at the Pastor's Academy Interpreting Scripture by Craig Carter which is proving to be both interesting and fairly easy to read, despite the sometimes arcane subject matter. I did most of my reading on the tube. As I now have free travel I thought I might just head west on the Metropolitan line. I left it a bit late and got only as far as Northwood (LST is just outside there). It was rather wet and boring. Back here in the evening we watched the documentary on Peter Kay shown over Christmas adn the news.

Lord's Day January 12 2020

 do have two series in mind for Sunday mornings and evenings but partly becasue I was away at the Carey Conference in the week and it is easier to prepare something on a tet, I decided to go that route again. Both texts were from Isaiah and are in the hundred texts of ICM (see many other references to thision this blog). So in the morning it was Isaiah 55:1, a reworking of an evangelisitc sermon I preached about ten years back. In th evening it was an entirely fresh sermon on Isaiah 8:20 more for believers. We had typical numbers am (30-40) and pm (10-15). We had tea together before the evening meeting. Most of our travellers are back but some were sick and were missed We grieve that in some cases we do not know why people are missing.

Two Welsh Popes

I enjoyed The Two Popes film recently on Netflix with my son. The film looks at the relationship between the present Pope, Pope Francis from Argentina, and his predecessor who retired, the German Cardinal Ratzinger,. Put aside the fact that these men are antichrists and that there is no way of knowing how accurate the story is, the film is still an enjoyable and well acted piece worth watching. The way the film has it Ratzinger is a cultured, remote academic, quite other worldly and humourless in many ways while the Argentinian is much more a man of the people, down market and a football fan. We get the back story of Francis and Argentinian politics but not that of Ratzinger. The success of the film is down to the consummate performances of the two Welshmen given the main roles – Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. Hopkins is particularly good. I liked the way he kept the German element very soft but definitely there. Worth seeking out. Expect oscars.

The Year of Reading Dangerously

One of my presents this year was the book The year of reading dangerously. Andy Miller, an English Lit graduate (snap) and a writer tells us something i=of his life story and how, after having gotten out of the habit of reading, he set himself the task of reading fifty books in a year. This could be potentially boring even for us eng lit types but he uses variety and is very honest about how he gets on with the different books. He also includes fan letters on two favourites Michel Houellebecq and Douglas Adams. He has interesting sections on high brow and low brow culture and is helpful in reminding us that if we want to do anything it takes a bit of determination and that not all of us will enjoy all that is considered to be great literature. There is a tendency to be seeking salvation through reading, which is a form of idolatry.

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Session 8

The speaker in our final session was the Dutch Reformation Today editor Kees van Kralingen. He took us to Acts and the references there to the kingdom (see Acts 1:3,6; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). Besides the direct references the kingdom theme is common in the book. He made three main points.

1. The Kingdom

The Book of Acts is a very encouraging book about the growth of the gospel in the early days, a growth that goes on well beyond the book itself.
1. Who is the King?
Christ is the King and he is now being crowned with glory and honour. He has sent the Holy Spirit, who is active in the world now.
2. What is his kingdom?
Besides being Lord as he is God, there is also his kingdom rule.
3. How was this kingdom established?
Through the death and resurrection of Christ.
This kingdom is the fulfilment of the prophecies in Isaiah (see Acts 1 nd 13).
2. The means used to extend the kingdom
It is the disciples who are used to extend the kingdom. It is through them that Christ's work is taken forward. The main focus in Acts is on Paul and his unexpected and extraordinary work.
3. The outcome
Despite great oppositon the word spread. The book ends with Paul in Rome and all sorts of people coming to him to hear the gospel. The way th book ends points forward to what is soemtimes called Acts 29 - the ongoing work of the gospel that goes on today.
He ended by sharing some of the encouragements in Europe today with new churches being planted in Holland, large gatherings in France adn Poland where Reformed teaching was given and advances in the Balkans with former Muslims preaching the gospel, etc.
It has been a good conference. Numbers were perhaps a little low and we lack youth and diversity but it was a good time. We meet again, God willing, January 5-7, 2021, when one of the speakers will be Conrad Mbewe from Zambia.

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Session 7

The final session with our main speaker, Jeffery Smith, was on the cross - the pattern for our ministry. This was based on verses from 2 Corinthians 4. His two headings were
1. The paradox that Paul describes (7-9)
Spurgeon says "When it is forced home upon us, that we are less than nothing and vanity - when our very soul echoes and re-echoes that word, "Without me ye can do nothing." - then it is that we are strong."
Spiritual pride will ruin us if we are not careful. We need Io remember we are clay pots, no more.
2. The pattern that Paul embraces (10-12)
There is a cruciform pattern that is essential to faithful Christian ministry. It is important to note how Paul's death leads to life for the Christian - that is the life of faith. We die, they live. This is the pattern of authentic, fruitful Christian ministry. This is what Jesus speaks about in John 12:24 and elsewhere.
Our duties as pastors were laid out honestly and challengingly. We must expect our lives to be moulded to the pattern of the dying and rising again of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He took Calvin and Bunyan as examples. We might daydream that to be Calvin would have been great. Yet the reality was not attractive. Think of how he came to Geneva in the first place and then how he was exiled and then had to return. He once wrote ‘I am entangled in so many employments that I am almost beside myself.’ There were many sicknesses too and troubles at home with an adulterous servant who stole from him.

Bunyan famously was in prison for 12 years. How concerned he was for his family and especially his blind daughter. He wrote how he "was made to see, that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can properly be called a thing of this life; even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them."

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Q&A and Session 6

After an afternoon off we gathered again for a useful question and answer session with most of the main speakers. Then after dinner David Magowan spoke on growing in our love for Christ mainly from John 21. He had some nice illustrations including that of a marriage that may cool and need to be rekindled and of a dying fire being brought back to life. There was also the cruise control state we can too easily be in as ministers and the circle of concrete that used to be found at RAF stations, where pillots would check that their compass was correctly calibrated before flying off - we too need to get back to the cross and recalibrate on a regular basis.
There was also a helpful brief quote form Paul David Tripp's Dangeroous Calling. The fuller version is as follows.

You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry (p. 64).

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Session 5

Our fifth session, our second men only one, was led by Luke Jenner on preaching the Gospels from 
His outline (kindly supplied) had four headings
1. The 'Irreducible Plurality'* of the Gospels (*Stephen Barton)
The view was put forward that the fourfold witness is not merely serendipitous.
Under this first heading he said something like this - 
The author Richard Burridge begins his work on the four biblical gospels by describing a visit to Chartwell, the country home of Sir Winston Churchill. The house contains many portraits and photographs of Great Britain’s war-time Prime Minister.
One picture is a photograph of Churchill, the statesman, sitting looking grim-face and determined with President Roosevelt. He is wearing a dark suit and tie. Serious and fateful work is afoot. The weight of the world is upon his shoulders.
A second picture is a painting of a happy family gathering entitled “Tea-time at Chartwell.” Here Churchill is dressed casually with friends and family around the table. It is his family enjoying tea together and the cares of the world do not impact in anyway.
A third picture shows Churchill riding in a camouflaged car surrounded by uniformed men. Churchill is also in uniform. He is “with the troops”, giving his “V for Victory” salute, the signature cigar is clamped between his lips. The men are smiling, war machines are pictured flying overhead. The picture propagates confidence and is intended to breathe life into weary hearts.
The final picture is a photograph of Churchill at rest. He is surrounded by easel and pots as he paints. He is on holiday in Switzerland in 1946. The election a year earlier has been lost and so he now has time to himself. Churchill appears relaxed and at peace.
Four pictures, all different, each evoking their own response yet each of the same man. Each displays the skill and aspect of the photographer or painter. Each gives us a distinctive icon of the same man.
We should not be surprised that the four gospels provide us with four distinct impressions of the same man, Jesus Christ. Four portraits are never the same, and through their diversity we can see different aspects of the one person. One would never superimpose these four images of Churchill one upon another, for it would create nothing but a blur. The gospel writers never intended us to do that either with their distinctive portraits. Each should be allowed to speak from its own frame.
We were also tested on where we will find the details of the Christmas story in the different Gospels.
2. The implications for 'Harmonistic Homiletics'
Stephen Barton says "That there are four gospels standing side by side in the canon, none of which has been subordinated to another, is an ... is irreducibly plural without being either incoherent or completely elastic."
"If each author has a unique story to tell, and the Holy Spirit inspired different aspects to be included in each, then we should respect the integrity of each story." (Mark Strauss)
3. The Spirit-dependent application of a 'Synoptic Reading'
Here he contrasted synoptic reading with harmonistic. We had helpful references showing how Mark stresses the humanity of Christ and Matthew the fact he is the divine king.
4. The inevitability of some unanswered questions

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Session 4

For our fourth session and the second from our main speaker Jeffery Smith we went to the end of 2 Corinthians 5 and a consideration of the free offer of the gospel. If we follow the New Testament pattern we are to make a sincere and well meant offer and we are to plead with all to repent today. He quoted Joseph Alleine who wrote "The God that made you most graciously invites you. His most sweet and merciful nature invites you. O the kindness of God, His boundless compassion, His tender mercies!". Fear of decisionism must not hold us back from begging and pleading with sinners to act immediately. Sometimes our doctrine of total depravity holds us back. We know it is only God who can save. We are in danger in some cases of making conviction of sin a warrant for faith but the warrant is outside the sinner - in Christ. He also quoted Robert Traill who warned against the idea that a man can obey God too soon!
A fire alarm went off part way through the message but it didn't distract us much We all need to give ourselves sounding the alarm of the gospel in our day more urgently.

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Sessions 2 and 3

Our main speaker this year is Jeff Smith, a pastor from Florida. He spoke for the first time this evening very helpfully on penal substitutionary atonement.
It was good to be reminded of the anecdote in Iain Murray's biography of Lloyd-Jones where (Vol 1, pp 190, 191) he writes of how in the late 1920s a fellow minister who heard Lloyd-Jones preaching at a service in Bridgend, South Wales and spoke to him about it saying ' talk of God's action and God's sovereignty like a hyper-Calvinist, and of spiritual experience like a Quaker, but the cross and the work of Christ have little place in your preaching.'
Lloyd-Jones (speaking at a later date), spoke of how he was like George Whitefield in his early evangelistic preaching, strongly emphasising sin and the rebirth. 'I assumed the atonement but did not distinctly preach it or justification by faith. This man set me thinking and I began to read more fully in theology.'
Murray comments that this remark 'was to prove of considerable importance in the development of Dr. Lloyd-Jones' ministry.' To remedy this Lloyd-Jones sought the guidance of Rev. Vernon Lewis (who regarded the Doctor's preaching as similar to Karl Barth's). Lewis recommended the works of P. T. Forsyth (The cruciality of the cross|), James Denney (Death of Christ) and R. W. Dale  (Atonement).
After dinner Lewis Allen spoke pastorally and helpfully on Christ's intercession in heaven. Inevitably he quoted Robert Murray M'Cheyne “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me." We also had John Owen's "Most men have only general and confused notions and apprehensions of the present state of Christ with respect unto the church." For a good book on the subject I suggest looking here.

Carey Ministry Conference 2020 Session 1

Our first paper was from Mostyn Roberts on Roger Williams (1603-1683). He picked up these seven aspects of Williams' approach

1. Liberty of conscience
2. Separation of church and state
3. Respect
4. Persuasion
5. Civility
6. Tenderness
7. Being adventurous

Christmas Books 2019

A good number of books to reas, as wver at this time of year.
Big thank you to my family for their kindness.

Lord's Day January 5 2020

We began the new year with two new year texts - Deuteronomy 31:8 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I was glad they were so encouraging but then feared they lacked bite. W ehad communion first (John 13a). Both congregations were modest. There are still a lot away (Germany, Ghana, Brazil, Jamaica, India, The Philippines) but one or two who had been away were back. Plenty of others missing. Both deacons are ill. I can't remember when that happned last. We should be thankful that the three of us keep so well.

10 Songs with the word Angel in the Title

  1. Angel (Eurythmics)
  2. Angel Fingers (Wizzard)
  3. Angel on the Mantlepiece (Charles O'Connor)
  4. Angel Wings (Focus)
  5. Angel Watch (Jan Akkerman)
  6. Angel Tonight (Leigh Nash)
  7. Angel Eyes (Roxy Music)
  8. Precious Angel (Bob Dylan)
  9. Fallen Angel (Gabrielle)
  10. Free Angel (T Rex)

10 Songs with Devil in the Title

1. Lucky Devil (Frank Ifield)
2. Devil in her heart (The Beatles)
3. Devilgate drive (Suzy Quatro)
4. Suzanne beware of the devil (Dandy Livingstone)
5. Devil went down to Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band)
6. Why Should the Devil have all the good music (Larry Norman)
7. Devil woman (Cliff Richard)
8. That old devil called love (Billie Holiday, Alison Moyet)
9. (You're the) Devil in disguise (Elvis Presley)
10. Better the devil you know (Kylie Minogue)