Ten of us gathered Wednesday night for the second instalment on James, looking at Chapter 1 verses 4-8. It went so well last week it was difficult to repeat that but it was okay and we had a good prayer time too. Most of us were conscious of the political situation, which has been unfolding more obviously since. It is hard to pray on such matters when there are such sensitivities, however.
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.
This week's day off went better as I was a bit more organised. My main task was to read a hundred pages of a book on John Cennick I am reading - I managed about 80. I also took Alffi for a walk and had a coffee - should have taken a longer walk. I also did some blogging and worked on a Christmas project I have in mind. Did some research for one of the blogs in the evening.
|My autographed copy|
I have had opportunity now to listen to the new Focus album several times. It is difficult to review a Focus album early on as their stuff usually repays many, many plays and it is often not until the umpteenth play that the full subtleties of a recording are sometimes appreciated. So far one is very positive certainly.
There are appropriately 11 tracks on the album. As usual, most track are entirely instrumental but with one vocal track. This time it is How many miles? a sort of pop song with fairly juvenile English lyrics but s good track. Two tracks were previewed on the previous stop gap album Focus Family - Clair-Obscur and Winnie. I think they are exactly the same as on the previous album. The other retreads are the opening track Who's calling? a reworking with a nice opening riff of the final track on the 1985 album called Focus and featuring Akkerman and van Leer. The second track, Heaven, will be familiar to some as a reworking of the original version of My sweetheart. This track is on the final Focus Akkerman album Mother Focus but first saw the light of day coupled with Love Remembered in 1974 in a concert in Japan.
The other seven tracks appear to be brand new. The stand out at the moment is Focus 11, the closing track, which keeps up the strong tradition of excellence those tracks all have. All the tracks on the album are van Leer compositons except for Mare Nostrum by the new bass player Udo Pannekeet. Palindrome appears to be a musical experiment that might well have come off. Mazzel (=is a rare reference to things Jewish. In general, the tracks feature the usual mix of bass, drums, guitars, organ, flute, lots of piano and some occasional vocalisations from van Leer.
We began, of course, with the two minutes silence. On this occasion I pointed out the two plaques in the church in connection with the Great War 1914-1919 (sic) - one in memory of those who served an one put up by a group of Belgians from Antwerp who found refuge in the church during the war. Sadly, our memorial for those who served in the Second World War never got put up properly.
I preached on the next part of Acts and the conversion of Lydia. We were a good number with various visitors. A good number stayed for a lovely lunch after the meeting. There seemed to eb a lot of children around. I spoke to them about what the church is.
We were about twelve in th evening when I preached on Matthew 22 and the question about paying taxes to Caesar. About twelve of us were there. We've now reached the eighth century in our little series on Church history.
This is ancient history now but I would have put it up had I not been so busy last Satruday. It is an excellent result. Hopefully we can beat Tonga and South Africa over the next two week and end the Autumn with four wins out of four. There's then a two month break before we play France at the start of the Six Nations.
Saturday's conference at Highgate Road Chapel on singleness was a worthwhile effort. Some 90 people gathered (60 women and 30 men) - mostly singles I guess but not exclusively by any means. It was good for singles to meet and for all of us to look at the subject and simply to meet other Christians. Most present were fairly local but some had travelled a little distance (Southport, Wolverhampton, Portsmouth, etc). We are grateful to the organisers for putting this on.
George Platt from Highgate Road started us off with a biblical theology of singleness.
There probably isn't a biblical theology of singleness but there may be one of marriage and so one is able to extrapolate. George, a good Baptist, appeared to want to emphasise discontinuity between the Testaments more than most of us. It is difficult to be positive about singleness (which we should be) without sounding slightly negative towards marriage.
Chris Bennett spoke on the gift of singleness taking the view that not all people who are single have this gift. Chris is very persuasive (from Matthew 19 if not from 1 Corinthians 7) but the view is fraught with difficulties. One wonders what married people who lack the gift of being married are to do, for example. We would prefer the view that sees singleness itself (like marriage) as a gift from God.
We men had a good session with Peter Law and Neil Richardson (while the women had a session with Vicki Gardner and Christine Sherwood). I liked Peter's frankness about his singleness. This session could have been longer. There was no real time for discussion. Keith Berry was also very helpful from Philippines as was Andrew King on singles in the church.
We finished with a question panel. Again, all very helpful.
|Click for detail|
This last Saturday and Sunday has been jam packed and would normally take up at least five posts in their own right so what I'll do is give you the highlights and then we'll see what else I get round to doing.
Saturday began nice and early with a trip to Tesco's for breakfast items. Five of us gathered in the chapel at 8.30 am for a men's breakfast and a discussion of Chapter 6 of Disciplines of a godly man by Kent Hughes. It was good to discuss reading and related issues.
My wife then gave me a lift over to Highgate Road Chapel for their day conference on singleness. Some 90 people were there for what was a useful day of teaching and sharing.
That finished around 4 and I was back for tea around 5. I then headed into town and meandered through the rain to a the home of a good ministerial friend in Soho. Providentially I arrived just as the Wales match was coming to a close and so I saw Australia draw level with a kick and then Wales take them in the end with a final penalty. So 9-6 and o far so good for Wales. The game I think was a tense but grim battle.
We then headed out the the 100 Club on Oxford Street. There we heard a Finnish vocalist and blues guitarist Erja Lyytinen who was worth hearing but nothing compared with the mighty Focus who once again blew us all away (including my friend who I was glad to see suitably impressed).
Seeing Focus is always a joy but as an added bonus they also chose to release their new album that day and so I now have a signed copy (the first really in six years).
It was midnight before I was home but I got off to sleep quickly enough. I don't like late Saturday nights as I am always afraid it will interfere with the Lord's Day but I had prepared well in the week and things went fine - although I did doze in the afternoon. It was Remembrance Day, of course, and we had lunch in the church - more on that anon.
I kept the new Fous album for today. It's sounding very good.
I had meant to write this up earlier but there has been some catching up to do. I spent last week (October 27-November 3) near Beirut in Lebanon. The main reason for my visit was to give a series of lectures on Old Testament introduction under the auspices of Carey Outreach Ministries. This is the first time I have worked with them. I lectured to between 13 and 25 people from Lebanon, Iraq, etc, over five nights, working our way through the 39 books of the Old Testament and ending with an exam and leaving them a project to complete on Christ in the Old Testament. I have no Arabic and so everything was through a translator (thank you Sara and others).
I left London on October 27 on a direct MEA fight to Beirut. There I was picked up, after ages coming through Passport Control, by Elie and his wife Micheline, who looked after me for the week. I was accommodated in a state of the art apartment owned by the church in a Maronite area called Zouk Mosbeh. I shared with a lovely retired Canadian pastor called Bruce, who is doing a two month stint as a substitute TEAFL teacher in the school the church runs, mostly made up of Syrian refugees. The lectures took place in a lecture room next door to me.
On the Sunday morning we were in the old church building (they hope to transfer operations to the new one this month). I preached on a difficult passage as reported in a previous post. See here. I think my efforts were appreciated.
Later that day I was taken to Byblos, which is a fascinating place to see, full of history. There is a fish fossil museum there. I had an interesting discussion with a young student not used to meeting creationists. There was opportunity to see one or two other tourist spots during the week and to dine at Lebanese restaurants but much of the time I was left to my own devices. There was plenty to do. The excellent wi-fi was a help.
On weeks like these you earn more than you can possibly teach and it was privilege to be there in a Middle Eastern setting, to hear people praise God in Arabic and to know that the gospel is slowly moving forward in Lebanon, despite opposition, as it is here.
There were only six of us last night and we were rather slow turning up. However, it went well. I decided to start a series on James, just looking at the opening three verses. He mentions various trials we face and so several of my prepared prayer points wove their way into the exposition, which calls us to count it pure joy when these trials come. Having mentioned physical illness, floods and persecution, others added mental illness and other things in the prayer time. There was plenty to pray about and we had adequate time. There were encouraging things too, such as a successful women's meeting the day before and news of young people being baptised from a family we know, as well as acoming induction.
This week's day off didn't go too well I felt. I think the problem was that even for a day off you need plans and aims, which I lacked. I did finish the book by Simon Garfield Timekeepers which as an excellent book on watchmaking, recorded music, film, time management, etc. Only an unbeliever could write a whole book on time and fail to mention eternity. He mentions death but not eternity. I also started a big new book on the history of 17th century Dorchester which looks hopeful. I also took the dog out and had a coffee, of course. Should have walked a bit further. I also got one or two other things done, including starting something I want to get done in preparaton for Christmas. We have Amazon Prime at present so I watched two episodes of Homecoming with Julia Roberts. Looks to me like a dud. File it next to ITV's recent Strangers which was an effort to watch through to the end and yielded nothing satisfying in the end. Golden age of TV?
It was good to be at the Westminster Fellowship on Monday where we had a bumper turn out to hear my father-in-law speak on the fellowship's founder,the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Geoff spoke very openly and helpfully, his advantages being a personal acquaintance with the Doctor adn the length of time since his death. It is now more than 35 years since his death. Geoff spoke very admiringly of his godliness and his preaching power. he spoke clearly on his doctrinal oddities - his view of Romans 7, his belief in baptism being best administered as effusion for believers, his Congregationalism and lack of elders, etc. It was a treat to hear this description of such a significant servant of God. It was good too to have opportunity for discussiion. There was no official recording of the proceedings.
In The Methodist hymn book, illustrated with biography, history, incident and anecdote George John Stevenson says of the Charles Wesley hymn Come, sinners to the gospel feast based on Luke 14:16-24.
This is one of Charles Wesley's finest compositions, offering to all a free and full salvation. It was first published in 1747, and forms No. 50 of "Hymns for those that seek and those that have Redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ;" a tract of 68 pages, containing 52 hymns. The original has 24 stanzas, only nine of which Mr Wesley has selected, and of these he has made various alterations in four of the verses, some of which are undoubted improvements. Mr James Nichols printed an edition of this hymn, with notes from the author's MS in 1842. The first edition of the Redemption Hymns appeared in 1747; the fourth edition in 1755; the seventh edition in 1765. The hymn which immediately follows this in the original tract is the well-known Pilgrim's Hymn, "How happy is the Pilgrim's lot!"
The tune here affixed (Invitation) is that used in the "Great Festival Hymns," by Mr Lampe.
Early in the year 1879, a chair of historic interest was presented to the Preachers' Meeting at Boston (in the United States of America), belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Three years previously, the great historic elm tree on Boston common was blown down during a heavy storm; the Boston preachers and their friends resolved to have a large arm-chair made of some of the wood of the tree, to be preserved as a memorial of the introduction of Methodism into Boston, in July, 1790, by Jesse Lee, who, finding all church buildings closed against him, borrowed a table of someone living near the common, and, carrying it himself to the friendly shade of this huge old elm, mounted it and began singing lustily that grand old invitation hymn of Methodism - "Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast, Let every soul be Jesus' guest," and thus struck the key-note to a new Gospel to Calvinistic New England.* On this occasion between two and three thousand persons assembled in his congregation, and at the close he announced himself to preach at the same place on the following Sabbath. On that occasion a much larger congregation assembled. The chair constructed from one of the large spreading branches of this famous tree is large enough to comfortably accommodate any bishop; it is constructed in the most substantial manner, and elegantly carved by hand. The back panel contains a representation of the tree, beautifully carved, and faithfully representing the appearance of the tree the day before its destruction. On the day of its presentation to the Preachers' Meeting, an able historical paper was read by Dr W F Mallalieu, and an historical poem by Rev W S Studley, DD
Sarah Baker, of Culmstock, Tiverton, lived more than forty years ignorant of God and unconcerned about her soul's salvation. In the year 1799, she was going one Sabbath afternoon to church. Mr. Rouse, a local preacher, was preaching in a house on her way; from curiosity, she stayed to listen at the window, and it pleased the Lord to apply the word spoken with power to her heart, and to give her to feel the need of a Saviour. As the preacher was giving out the words of the hymn - "This is the time, no more delay," etc she resolved to accept the offered mercy; she sought the Lord, and found Him, to the joy of her heart. She never lost her confidence in God ; and, though poor in this world's goods, she was rich in faith, giving glory to God. In great peace she fell asleep in Jesus, 29th June, 1838, aged 82.
* Shame he expresses himself in that way
1. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)
2. Henry Jones Sr (Indiana Jones)
3. Abraham van Helsing (Dracula)
4. George E Challenger (Conan Doye stories)
5. Charles Xavier (X men)
6. Digory Kirke (Narnia)
7. Henry Higgins (My Fair lady)
8. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
9. Cuthbert Calculus (Tin Tin)
10. James Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)