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.

Banner Reflections

So home again and back to reality! Had a nice journey home with Robert Strivens. We had a student with us and it was interesting that he had picked up some negativity among men, especially the older ones. I guess we fall into that a bit too easily. I do think generally that Calvinism can tend to put a dour and solemn edge on things. I don't think the Bible itself does that. Semper Reformanda.
I'm sorry my reports have lacked a bit of warmth. I've recorded few of the illustrations and anecdotes, which may give the wrong impression. I also should have made reference to a gathering of the Taffia and friends that took place on Wednesday night. The Heresy hunter and the Exile got it organised (I think). We put Iain D in the hot seat and learned a lot about the mysteries of Highland religious life. I should have mentioned Pastor Ismail too who is over from the Philippines and was introduced before one of the meetings.
Part of the whole conference is the joy of meeting old friends. It was great to be with Martin, Guy, Geoff, Bernard Lewis, Phil Arthur, Steve Nowak, Gerard Hemmings, Roger Lindie, Tim Field, Daniel Grimwade, Keith Hoare, etc, etc.
We were officially around 270 though it felt like more, so you can't talk to everyone. Some people you just see and nod to and that is a blessing in itself.

Banner 2010 04

Our final morning was an excellent one. Palmer Robertson took us to Matthew 24:14 and in a fairly wide ranging message considered the mystery of the gospel, which is not something secret but something once hidden but now revealed. The mysterious element is its spread (as spoken of in Ezekiel and Daniel and by Christ when he speaks of a tree growing by itself). The mystery is not simply the inclusion of the Gentiles but the spread of the gospel and the fact that the Gentiles are equal participants with the Jews in every way in the promises of the gospel. Because it is by grace alone through faith alone even wild Scots can be grafted in. It is grace not race. He suggested that Paul chosen over Peter to be the one to go to the Gentiles because he was the one who knew the OT promises best. He spoke too of undulation as the gospel spreads from one group to another.
The practical implications of this are that every promise to Abraham the believer is also to all Gentiles who believe. There are always things to be learned from other Christians. He then spoke of the promised blessing, seed (in a rather Presbyterian way) and land as including the whole world (including some strong comments against anti-Palestinian evangelicals).
His final point was that this gospel is spread by preaching (shall be preached)

Already well blessed it was delight then to hear the closing sermon on John 21:15ff from Ted Donnelly. As full of humour and warmth as ever he spoke of his mixed emotions at such a conference – so much to be thankful for (family, church, etc) yet with many regrets – over sins, failure in duties, and above all the lack of prayer. We are such mixtures. Wise/stupid, selfless/egocentric, kind/cruel, spiritual/disgustingly worldly, etc.
Peter was the same and he says to Jesus - Lord you know everything, you know I love you. And so we looked at the public restoration of Peter and considered three things.
1. The Lord is dealing with the past
It was like an echo chamber – gathered round a fire! He had boasted that he loved Jesus more than the others. The three times motif is there again (there is an eastern tradition of repeating a thing three times to solemnise). He is reliving his sins in the light of his wretchedness. Here is the Lord who turned and looked at him Jesus. Peter had cried not because it was a look of anger or disappointment but of love. Each time he had to answer Jesus some of the pain leeched away from his soul
Many things are best forgotten but it is good to say to God, you know everything. We can't be pious phonies. There's got to be total openness between us and Jesus. Rather then picking at the scab of our sins we must bring them to Christ
He quoted Question 60 from the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q. How are thou righteous before God?
A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
2. The Lord is clarifying the present
Different words are used for love - whether this is significant or not is not entirely clear (cf Hendriksen against Morris and Carson). We are far too afraid of emotion sometimes. He used a wonderful illustration of an ugly piece of plaster at home - a present from his daughter when young – not great but loved for her sake. Our work is the same to God. He knows. 1 John 3:19, 20 "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
3. The Lord is commissioning for the future
Pastoral ministry is continuing the work of Christ. Loving sheep can be a difficult task. Our love for Christ enables us to love people. We had several quoted from Matthew Henry and a good one from Calvin near the end then these to close -

George Herbert

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold ;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
J C Ryle
"‘Lovest thou me?’ is, in reality, a very searching question. We may know much, and do much, and talk much, and give much, and go through much, and make much show in our religion, and yet be dead before God for want of love, and at last go down to the Pit. Do we love Christ? That is the great question. Without this there is no vitality about our Christianity. We are no better than painted wax-figures: there is no life where there is no love"
C S Lewis
"the charge to Peter was feed my sheep; not try experiments on my rats, or even teach my performing dogs new tricks."
Some were in tears at the end of such preaching. All I am sure were revitalised and ready to try again in this vital work of feeding the sheep.

Banner 2010 3d

We had a nice question time before tea and then for his final message to us Liam Goligher, having expounded Revelation 4 and 5, stood back a little from the text and sought to make a more general application. His three points were Know God as the Creator and Redeemer, worship God as the Creator and Redeemer and Serve God as the Creator and Redeemer. He began by speaking on God's general and special revelation and at the end was very helpful on the subject of common grace and the importance of understanding it. On the way we were taught that worship should centre on God as Creator as well as Redeemer. We should see worship as the task of giving expression to the worship of creation. Of course, worship is only possible through a mediator and that is Christ (that is his role in these chapters). This Mediator is worshipped as God throughout Revelation. There were other good things too including a quotation from Luther's Large Catechism saying that if your heart "cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god."

Banner 2010 3c

Iain Campbell's second address was inevitably perhaps a less satisfying one. He chose to focus on the reference to the Lord's Day in Revelation 1. Focusing on the Apostle John he spoke of the change he witnessed, the practice he adopted, the blessing he enjoyed especially on that particular Lord's Day (with the first resurrection Sabbath it must have been a stand out one for John) and the message John received. I would doubt that such an address would convince the unconvinced but it was good to hear the importance of the law, including that of the Sabbath, reaffirmed and it certainly made me want to keep the Sabbath more enthusiastically and carefully. I appreciated this quotation from Calvin, who is generally thought to be against the Westminster understanding.
The quotation is found in Fairbairn's work on typology and is from an obscure work – Calvin's Discourse to the people of Geneva on the Ten Commandments (the fifth and sixth deal with the fourth command).
In the fifth, after having stated his views regarding the Sabbath as a typical mystery, in which respect he conceived it to be abolished, he comes to show how far it was still binding, and declares, that as an ordinance of government for the worship and service of God, it pertains to us, as well as to the Jews. "The Sabbath, then," he says "should be to us as a tower whereon we should mount aloft, to contemplate afar the works of God, when we are not occupied nor hindered by anything besides, from stretching forth all our faculties in considering the gifts and graces which He has bestowed on us. And if we properly apply ourselves to do this on the Sabbath, it is certain that we shall be no strangers to it during the rest of our time, and that this meditation shall have so formed our minds, that on Monday, and the other days of the week, we shall abide in the grateful remembrance of our God, etc ... It is for us to dedicate ourselves wholly to God, renouncing ourselves, our feelings, and all our affections; and then, since we have this external ordinance, to act as becomes us, that is, to lay aside our earthly affairs and occupations, so that we may be entirely free (vaquions du tout) to meditate the works of God, may exercise ourselves in considering the gifts which He has afforded us, and, above all, may apply ourselves to apprehend the grace which He daily offers us in His Gospel, and may be more and more conformed to it. And when we shall have employed the Sabbath in praising and magnifying the name of God, and meditating His works, we must, through the rest of the week, show how we have profited thereby."

Banner 2010 3b

In his second session with us Palmer Robertson introduced us to the work of William Hoppe Murray, a 19th century missionary to Malawi (then Nyasaland) born in 1866 in South Africa and the nephew of Andrew Murray. He trained as a doctor in Scotland, was a man of prayer and came to Malawi in 1894. He served there for 43 years. His cousin A C Murray was the first head of the mission but he succeeded him in 1901. Throughout the challenge was to what we might do in the light of this tremendous example. Some ten specific challenges were drawn from the varied work of this man as
1. Pioneer
2. Preacher
3. Educator
4. Administrator
5. Author
6. Farmer
7. Diplomat (knew the art of the possible but did lack theological discernment at times)
8. Doctor
9. Evangelist
10. Translator of the Bible 1903-1919
Finally we were challenged by his character - his perseverance, bravery (including rescuing a girl from salve traders), humour (gently teasing new missionaries), prayer and humility.

Banner 2010 03a

We began today with a short session where Jonathan Watson of the Banner spoke about a lesser known Free church man called John Milne. A student of Chalmers he was part of that group made up of the Bonars and M'Cheyne, etc. Horatius Bonar wrote a biography. Milne himself served chiefly in Perth (Free St Leonard's) but also in Calcutta. The focus was on the need for prayer. So for example we had something like this, among other things, For several years a few brethren in different parts of the country had been in the habit of observing some day in each month (generally, though not always, the first Monday), as a day of special private prayer, that they might seek help and wisdom in “taking heed to themselves and to their ministry.” The practice was suggested and begun by Robert M’Cheyne; and each of us in turn wrote the monthly letter, reminding the brethren of the day, and noting thoughts and subjects that might seem particularly suitable. It was a happy bond; very pleasant to look back on, though many links are now broken, and nearly one half of the original members have left us to be with the Lord. The following is Mr. Milne’s circular, of date February 29, 1844: “My dear Andrew, - I have been requested by Mr. Smeaton to write the circular for this month, putting the brethren in remembrance of our special season of prayer and fasting, on Tuesday the 5th of March. It is said, ‘When the poor and needy seek water, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear, I the God of Jacob will not forsake them.’ I do not think we have yet been brought to this. Let us therefore next Tuesday meditate on the terribleness of a barren ministry, till our hearts are wrung and broken. See how Jeremiah speaks (Lam. 3:49) of his feelings during the withdrawal of God’s power and favour. ‘Mine eye trickleth down and ceaseth not.’ And again, ‘Mine eye affecteth mine heart.’ Oh, is it not affecting to see the people flocking to ordinances, and waiting so earnestly on the word, and yet so little of the power being present to heal them! I think I feel it beginning to humble me. The apostles gave themselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word, and that continually. Is it so with us? Let us examine if there is anything wanting in our prayers for the blessing. Are we frequent, constant, fervent, importunate, special, believing, humble in prayer? Is there anything defective in our ministry of the word? Do we seek the conversion of souls? Do we seek messages from God? Do we speak with authority, in the name and through the power of God? Do we set forth tremblingly, yet affectionately, the awful condition of unbelieving, unregenerate men? Do we in Christ’s stead beseech them, ‘Be ye reconciled to God’?” When brought face to face with human evil, we feel our helplessness. It is too great for us. Outward remedies do not reach the seat of the disease. Laws restrain it; walls hide it; prisons silence it; civilisation refines it; education teaches it to keep within bounds. But there it is, notwithstanding all these appliances, its real nature untouched by either magistrate or minister. We are helpless before the evil of “this present evil world.” Be it so. We fall back on God. We ask Him to energize the word; to clothe the speaker of it with superhuman power; to do the work which He alone can do, and for the doing of which He will be entreated of us. Sword and spear and armour may have been in vain. We have still the sling and the stone. Bonar's biography is here.

Banner 2010 2de

In the afternoon we had a reports session mainly mentioning various works and projects in Africa (Sierra Leone, South Africa and Uganda). We heard from Palmer Robertson, Martin Holdt and others.
In the evening Liam Goligher took us on to Revelation 5 where the emphasis shifts to the book at right hand of God. It draws on Ezekiel 2 and Daniel 12 and Isaiah 29. The book is not the Book of Redemption.It goes beyond redemption and includes judgement. It is comprehensive in its scope. There are no gaps for alternatives. No open mike, open theism, etc. Christ holds history and the destiny of the world in his hand. The Christian then is not a cynic or a romantic but one who sees that in this world that there is both good and bad. No-one can open the book but Christ alone. His descent and conquest are both stressed here, drawing on messianic promises in the OT. The Lion is like his brothers, he is a Lamb. He emerges from the elders (the church). He conquers not by attacking but by losing – by becoming a lamb. He makes an effective ransom leading to a new Israel. There were other good things but it was a basic working through the passage in amillennial fashion.

Banner 2010 2c

Iain D Campbell spoke at the second morning session. I had been thinking yesterday that may be we were not going to get vintage stuff at this conference but this powerful message on the Sabbath was quite something. We began with Genesis 2 Exodus 20 and the Shorter Catechism. Dr Campbell declared that there is a positive perpetual moral commandment binding on all men in Scripture regarding the Sabbath. He noted the huge change in the acceptance of this truth, however, in the last few years. He gave the example of the ESV Study Bible comment on Romans 14:5 saying that the Sabbath command was no longer binding for Paul as it was a ceremonial law - so not perpetual and not moral. Dr Campbell scathingly noted that the author of the note will allow us time to rest and worship however! Such an attitude in fact emasculates, enervates, enfeebles and devitalises not just the fourth command but all the commands. It denies the need to gather for the exposition of this and the other nine.
There is discontinuity, laws that are abolished, etc but not the moral principles that are to characterise the covenant people of God. It is there for the believer (Vos) “in every age of its pilgrimage”. He quoted Erskine
When by the law to grace I’m schooled;

Grace by the law will have me ruled;
Hence, if I don’t the law obey,
I cannot keep the gospel way.
The law and the gospel do sweetly comply
Having nailed his colours to the mast Dr Campbell announced his intention to use broader brush strokes in this first paper. He suggested that the Sabbath is a principle theme of biblical theology. The eschatology is in the protology. What is there at the beginning finds its flowering in the eternal sabbath. He then gave us a definition of opera - an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score, etc.
He then spoke of “Sabbath the opera” an opera in seven acts. The whole story unfolds like an opera. He called on us to follow the text, hear the music, etc.
1. Before the beginning – The sabbath rest of the Trinity. It is into this glory that God proposes to call men. Sabbath before the sabbath. The rest that belongs to God before it comes to man. Everything is driven by this.
2. This God now builds the opera house in which his great acts will be performed. It is a place in which he is worshipped and that replicates to some extent the heavens. He creates a world to his own glory that will be a place for mission. Man is made in his own image. He works then rests on the seventh day. The last day of creation is the first day of man. The first sunrise was a sabbath one. God' s Day. Man is not simply married and given work but is given a holy day – it is given to man. Adam knew it. A Nigel Lee passage was quoted describing the scene. God sets the boundaries at seven days. So sadly, though, the Sabbath is lost with Paradise itself. The planet itself is cursed.
3. But God has made certain promises about the earth until the new world comes. He is upholding and preserving the opera house. God begins to call a people to himself. He gives them the book of the covenant. Having redeemed them he then gives them the law (note the order) including the provision of rest even in this world of toil. There is a day at the end of the week so they can look forward to rest.
4. This great drama continues with the bringing of this people into the Promised Land where they find rest. Exodus 30 (cf Ezekiel 20) speaks of God sanctifying them by the Sabbath. Some say bu that is Israel. It all is. It is all for our benefit. You keep the day different and I will set you apart. Christ died to set people apart to God. The multiplication of sabbaths in Israel was all about this sanctifying work of setting apart. The jubilee is the height of this. The rest is promised to the redeemed people of God. So much is it part of the biblical drama of redemption that when exile is determined it is in order to give the land its neglected sabbaths. What is the answer to man's failure?
5. The most magnificent movement in the whole opera is when the Lord himself appears on the stage. The Word made flesh dwells among us. Cf Ruth “he will not rest until he secures rest”. The restless saviour. The Lord himself comes into his own opera house. He is the Lord – and specifically the Lord of the Sabbath. If you confess him as Lord you must confess him as Lord of the Sabbath. Jeremiah asks when the sword will rest – only when Christ comes. The whole of his life is a commentary on the sabbath. He kept the Sabbath. Are we going to say not every day was holy? No, every law finds its fulfilment in him. The God of Sinai is seen in the person of Adam. Forsakenness not in the absence of God but his presence.
6. Even in death he is Lord of the Sabbath – he rests in the grave as his followers observe the Sabbath themselves. But he is going to bring a greater sabbath with him from the grave.
Attempts to distinguish Sabbath and Lord's Day make no sense. It is the first day of the new creation. Again God has said Let there be light and it has shone from the tomb. The pattern of the first day of the week is set from the beginning. Here are God's people now not looking forward to the rest at the end of the week but living their lives in the light of the rest that began it. Then came the pouring out of the Spirit. Now to the end of the world it is our privilege and our delight to lay aside our work and worship the risen Lord on the first day of the week. The songs of Zion come into their own with the rising of Christ. The law is our delight. There is a contradiction in the life of the believer though – the law of sin in us. Christ alone can deliver us to freedom. It is not just legalism,. There is a big difference between legalism and law keeping. We are saved from sin which is to be saved from law breaking. We are saved from sin to follow Christ. There are difficulties. Certainly some sabbaths have been abolished but taking the clear passages to interpret the difficult we see the Sabbath goes on.
7. The curtain is not yet fallen. We await the last part of the performance when the Lord of the Sabbath will return to bring his people into the great sabbath rest. Then we will be perfectly holy and there will be no sunrise and sunset, Christ himself will be its light. We will be forever with the Lord. Let's labour then to enter into his rest. Let's keep the Sabbath. What do we gain by not seeking to keep it? So little. The Bride misses out if she doesn't spend special time with the Bridegroom. They are altogether. On the Sabbath we say let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, etc.
Great stuff!

Banner 2010 2b

The first main session of the morning was O Palmer Robertson speaking on Matthew Henry's little work A Method of prayer, printed 300 years ago this year. Henry broke off from writing his commentary to write this work and so never finished. In it he sets out a way to use Scripture to pray. It is what Puritans called pleading the promises. If we gave ourselves to it Professor Robertson suggested – what an impact it might have. Saturation with Scripture could be such a blessing.
Henry is distinctive in who he was as well as what he wrote we were told. He was a great expositor, a Christ-centred biblical and systematic theologian. He was first and foremost a pastor with a love for God''s people. Robertson was given the book by his mother and she had inherited it from her ancestors. He showed us the battered version. He has now updated the language and reprinted it in modern English. We can so easily get into a rut in praying. This book greatly helps us out.
He does not just take the prayers of Scripture but he blends them together. His suggestion of how to pray for “our Lord the King” was omitted in the American edition, as were similar expressions! Henry also used the KJV, of course and his punctuation and other ways of expression are now outdated. The new edition planned seeks to rewrite it in a way that suits today. Robertson has also rearranged it in a more user friendly way. The endless sub points transmuted and there are some additions – eg a prayer for the baptism of adults as well as babies. Also a prayer for the Jewish people and ancient churches of Asia is supplemented by ones for other parts of the world. At some points Henry's use of Scripture is not true to the meaning (even he acknowledges it). The revised edition seeks to avoid this. So it is not a simple revision but a reworking. The idea is that the more closely a prayer is framed to the will of the Lord himself the more likely it is to be honoured. The Scriptures are taken in a dynamic rather than a literal way.
We then prayed through the copy before us a 15 page sample selection We looked at praise and confession and Professor Robertson prayed some (rather long) sections. I had been thinking in the morning how dry the prayers were at the prayer meeting. Something like this could be a real help to us.

Banner 2010 02a

We kicked off with Bernard Lewis this morning and a brief overview of the UK scene, Bernard having been in Papua New Guinea for many years. Bernard has visited a hundred churches recently and commented on the great variety he has encountered. He focussed on the cultural diversity. We need to assess and to cross the barriers. Also we need spiritual confidence. If God is for us ....
He spoke too of the content of worship and the danger of majoring on minors. With preaching we are told there are certain extras neededbut are they? Too often it's all facts and no fire. He expressed his disappointment over the hymns controversy but was positive about using language that people understand. We must be wlling to change. He finsihed with some challenges including the need for pastoral work, wider work and to remember this is the year of the Lord.

Banner 2010 01

I've had a little trouble getting online so this report on the first evening of the Banner Conference here in Leicester is a little behind. I had a nice journey up from London with Robert Strivens LTS Principal and a student (25 students here altogether). We picked up vice-principal David Green en route.
Wyn Hughes from Cardiff spoke first on Romans 1:16. Asked to be brief and encouraging, he certainly was. He turned our attention to the gospel itself – our raison d'etre as preachers. As he said, we are Reformed no doubt but is it the gospel that thrills us? In Romans we have a taste of Paul's preaching as he outlines the panorama of the gospel. Is preaching the gospel what we want to be better and better at?
He addressed the question of what made Paul so enthusiastic about the gospel (which he clearly is – he is using litotes). How was the manna as fresh at this point as when he began? Why was he like this? Wyn suggested 3 reasons
1. It's about salvation – Believers don't talk enough about salvation, being saved. Unbelievers speak of salvation in mere earthly terms. We often lack a sense of eternity. Death is a reminder of how short life is. It is an awesome thing to preach. How thrilling to know there is a way to be saved.
2. The power of God – Salvation is not just escaping hell but much more and yet people are very sceptical. We had a nice illustration at this point from the propitiation tiles (as they are called – they tun away the tremendous heat) on the space shuttle.
3. It's for everyone who believes – Here we had one or two more illustrations including Spurgeon offering his gold watch to anyone in the orphanage who would take it and one ragamuffin going for it.
May our default position be the gospel. If Christ crucified is at the centre the rest will fall into place. So a nice gentle start.
Liam Goligher from London announced that he plans to preach on Revelation 4 and 5, beginning tonight. He spoke of the church then and now being in much trouble. Revelation starts with the church as it is and ends with the church as it will be. Its purpose is to encourage. He quoted from 1689 Confession Chapter 26 (3) "The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name."
He summed up the book as being the revelation of God about Jesus by the Spirit to John in symbols for churches.
In Chapter 4 John is caught up to heaven to see who is on the throne. By the end we see Christ rules the world for the sake of his church. At the end of Chapter 3 Christ is sitting on his throne offering participation in it. Typically for Revelation the final idea of that previous section is then exploded and expanded in the section that follows. After this points to it being the second vision. 3:8 mentions an open door and it is here again in the timeless dimension of God's holy counsel. In the spirit means like the prophets of old. Here we have one vision in two parts – God the Creator and our Redeemer in Christ.
1. Heaven's throne. The focus is not on God himself but on what is all around him. The Temple idea is in the background. The answer of the throne is that God is sovereign. John uses revealed language to describe what God is like. When we speak about God we must use the language God has revealed about himself. He has given us the very language to use. God is at the very centre. Everything else centres on the throne. We see here God's glory, his beauty, the unapproachable brightness of his being. The rainbow is a sign of common grace. His justice is signified in the thunder, etc). Ultimately we can only use God given vocabulary. A book like The Shack is problematic because it replaces scriptural imagery, which we are not free to do.
2. The throng around the throne. These are either angels or symbols of (not God's people) but those representing God's people. 24 is symbolic of the OT and NT Church. This is the way into the church. This is what the prophets and apostles preach. These heavenly representatives are “keeping our seats warm”. The main emphasis is not on the elders but the four living creatures. The order is church then creation. They represent the cherubim and seraphim and ultimately creation (fallen as it is).
The creatures are doing what all creation should do. When we gather with God's people we are joining in this heavenly worship. We are involved in covenant renewal before God and we echo this picture. We should begin our worship with worship of God as Creator. God's holiness is his separateness from us and the fact is so much higher. His holiness sets him against us by nature. He is infinitely worthy. In the presence of God all worldly plaudits are nothing. Everything else is nothing.
Go to the throne and remind yourself who you are serving. The greatest blessing is to see God. In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy and her friends discover the wizard is a sham. What John sees is so very different. Dr Goligher closed by quoting the hymn "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath etc."


I was in town again today. They were celebrating St George's Day with a concert in Trafalgar Square where a crowd had gathered to watch musical acts. Meanwhile a few hundred Armenians and their friends were marching and handing out leaflets calling attention to the genocide of 1915, apparently still unacknowledged by Turkey. The UK (unlike many others) in the last 40 years or so has never formally acknowledged it either. Read more here.

A girl of Armenian background aged around 10 or so gave me a leaflet, which I thanked her for. I asked her if she knew which was the first Christian nation. She did not know and so I told her. It struck me as an oddity that she knew about 1915 but not about what happened in 301 AD. I suppose we teach our children what we think to be most important.

Dominic Holland

I was on Oxford Street catching a bus today and I saw a bloke and I thought I recognised him. So I said "we don't see you on TV these days". He explained that he was still doing stand up but TV has rather dried up (not completely I see from youtube). I remembered his name was Dominic, which he found gratifying. I wanted to say Dominic Crossley Holland but I knew that was wrong - that's someone else. This man is plain Dominic Holland. I knew he had kids but I'd forgotten he has four and all boys like us (though we have five). I read somewhere that one of his is appearing as Billy Elliot. Most of Mr Holland's web details appear out of date. I have no influence as regards who is on TV but if I did I'd give him more exposure. Nice example here. A reminder again that talent is not enough.

Whitefield's skull

I've been reading about the forgotten Andrew Reed. He made a trip to America and wrote about it in 1836. In a fascinating and understated passage we read as follows.
We had a conference with the pastors here; and afterwards went to the church, which is enriched with the remains of Whitefield. The elders of the church were present in the porch to receive us. We descended to the vault. There were three coffins before us. Two pastors of the church lay on either side; and the remains of Whitefield in the centre. The cover was slipt aside, and they lay beneath my eye. I had before stood in his pulpits; seen his books, his rings, and chairs; but never before had I looked on part of his very self. The skull, which is perfect, clean, and fair, I received, as is the custom, into my hand. I could say nothing; but thought and feeling were busy. On returning to the church, I proposed an exercise of worship. We collected over the grave of the eloquent, the devoted, and seraphic man, and gave expression to the sentiments that possessed us, by solemn psalmody and fervent prayer. It was not an ordinary service to any of us. More care should be taken to preserve these remains, and less freedom used in the exhibition of them.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 11

Alfred the Great appears to have been something of a Christian King. He has been described as a "man who did more than any other to fight against the spiritual decay within the English church as well as against the Vikings". This piece from the Ashmolean bears an inscription 'Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan' or 'Alfred ordered me to be made' around its edge.

Toplady on assurance

Got this by a retweet from here.

It has long been a settled point with me, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith and the full assurance of faith.

1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ's righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.

2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith's finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.

Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the doctrine of assurance than he, and yet I find him expressly declaring as follows: "What I wrote, concerning a firm faith in God's most precious promises, and a humble trust that we are the objects of his tender love, is what I desire to feel, rather than what I actually experience." The truth is, as another good man expresses it, "A weak hand may tie the marriageknot; and a feeble faith may lay bold on a strong Christ.

Moreover, assurance after it has been vouchsafed to the soul may be lost. Peter no doubt lost his assurance, and sinned it away, when he denied Christ. He did not, however, lose the principle of faith; for Christ had before-hand prayed, concerning him, that his faith itself might not fail: and Christ could not possibly pray in vain. -- A wife may lose her wedding-ring. But that does not dissolve her marriage relation She continues a lawful wife still. And yet she is not easy until she find her ring again.

3. Full assurance I consider as the brilliant, or cluster of brilliants, which adorns the ring, and renders it incomparably more beautiful and valuable. Where the diamond of full assurance is thus set in the gold of faith, it diffuses its rays of love, joy, peace, and holiness, with a lustre which leaves no room for doubt or darkness.While these high and unclouded consolations remain, the believer's felicity is only inferior to that of angels, or of saints made perfect above.

4. After all, I apprehend that the very essence of assurance lies in communion with God. While we feel the sweetness of his inward presence, we cannot doubt of our interest in his tender mercies. So long as the Lord speaks comfortably to our hearts, our affections are on fire, our views are clear, and our faces shine. It is when we come down from the mount, and when we mix with the world again, that we are in danger of losing that precious sense of his love, which is the strength of saints militant, and the joy of souls triumphant.

But let not trembling believers forget that faith, strictly so called, is neither more nor less than a receiving of Christ, for ourselves in particular, as our only possible propitiation, righteousness, and Saviour: John i. 12. -- Hast thou so received Christ? Thou art a believer, to all the purposes of safety. -- And it deserves special notice that our Lord calls the centurion's faith "great faith;" though it rose no higher than to make him say "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.'.' Matt. viii. 8-10.

The case likewise of the Canaanitish woman is full to the present point. Her cry was, "Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, thou Son of David!" And, a little after, -Lord, help me!" Jesus at first gave her a seeming repulse: but her importunity continued, and she requested only the privilege of a dog, viz., to eat of the crumbs which fell from the master's table. What were our Saviour's answer and our Saviour's remark? An answer and a remark which ought to make every broken sinner take down his harp from the willows: -- "O woman, great is thy faith." Matt. x. 22-28.

5. The graces which the blessed Spirit implants in our hearts (and the grace of faith among the rest) resemble a sun-dial; which is of little service except when the sun shines upon it. The Holy Ghost must shine upon the graces he has given, or they will leave us at a loss (in point of spiritual comfort), and be unable to tell us where-abouts we are. May he, day by day, rise upon our souls with healing in his beams! Then shall we be filled with all joy and peace in believing, and abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Rom. xv. 13.

6. Are there any weak in faith who come under the denomination of bruised reeds and smoking flax? Let them know that God will take care of them. The former will not be broken: the latter shall not be quenched. Bless God for any degree of faith; even though it be as the smallest of all seeds, sooner or later it will surely expand into a large and fruitful tree.However, stop not here; but, as the apostle advises, covet earnestly the best gifts: and the gift of assurance, yea, of fullest assurance among the rest. The stronger you are in faith, the more glory you will give to God, both in lip and life. Lord, increase our faith! Amen.

Four Views

I'm not quite sure whether the following books are part of series or one offs but they fit the genre we have have been listing.
1. God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Modern Government by Smith Scott Gary (Paperback - July 1989)
2. Science & Christianity: Four Views by Richard F. Carlson (Paperback - 1 April 2001) Six Christian scholars sort through the issues and present four views on the relationship between science and Christianity.
3. God and Time: Four Views by Gregory E. Ganssle (Paperback - Nov 2001)
4. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views by James K. Belby and Paul R. Eddy (Paperback - Nov 2001)
5. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem by Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer (Paperback - 30 May 2005)
6. Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, the by James K. Beilby, Paul R. Eddy, and Gregory A.(Ed Boyd (Paperback - 1 Nov 2006)
7. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews by Gareth Lee Cockerill, Buist M Fanning, Randall C Gleason, and Herbert W Bateman (Paperback - 31 Mar 2007)

Two Robert Clouse books
1. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views by Robert G Clouse (Editor) Robert G. Clouse brings together four scholars to debate various views on the millennium: George Eldon Ladd, Herman A. Hoyt, Loraine Boettner and Anthony A. Hoekema.

2. War: Four Christian Views by Robert G Clouse (Editor) Robert Clouse presents four different viewpoints on war: Herman Hoyt on biblical nonresistance, Myron Augsburger on Christian pacifism, Arthur Holmes on just war, and Harold O.J. Brown on preventive war.

Three others (no dates sorry)

1. Psychology & Christianity: Four Views by Stanton L Jones (Editor), Eric L Johnson (Editor)
2. Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom by David Basinger (Editor), Randall G Basinger, Ph.D. (Editor) Four different answers to the question "If God is in control, are people really free?" Contributors include proponents of foreordination, foreknowledge, self-limited power and self-limited knowledge.
3. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views by Dr. H Wayne House, Th.D., J.D. (Editor)


The Perspectives series currently has * titles I believe
1. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views (Perspectives (B&H Publishing)) by Paul Helm, Bruce A Ware, Roger Olson, and John Sanders (Paperback - 15 May 2008)
2. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views by David Alan Black, Darrell Bock, Keith Elliott, and Maurice Robinson (Paperback - Nov 2008)
3. Perspectives on Your Child's Education: 4 Views (Perspectives (B&H Publishing)) by Mark Eckel, G Tyler Fischer, Troy Temple, and Michael S Wilder (Paperback - Oct 2009)
4. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views (Perspectives (B&H Publishing)) by Randy Stinson, Paul Renfro, Brandon Shields, and Jay Strother (Paperback - Oct 2009)

Counterpoints 02

The Counterpoints series has a parallel component on church life.

1. Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Steven B. Cowan (Paperback - 1 Sep 2004)
2. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Elmer L. Towns, Craig Van Gelder, Charles Edward Van Engen, and Gailyn Van Rheenan (Paperback - 1 Oct 2004)
3. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Paul E. Engle and John H. Armstrong (Paperback - 1 Feb 2007)
4. Exploring the Worship Spectrum: 6 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Paul F.M. Zahl, Harold Best, Joe Horness, and Don Williams (Paperback - 1 April 2004)
5. Remarriage After Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Gordon J. Wenham, William A. Heth, and Craig S. Keener (Paperback - 1 May 2006)
6. Understanding Four Views on the Lord's Supper (Counterpoints: Church Life) by Russell D. Moore, John Hesselink, David P. Scaer, and Thomas A. Baima (Paperback - 19 Oct 2007)

Counterpoints 01

The biggest collection of Christian books where differing views are discussed is the Counterpoints series. The Bibkle and Theology one includes these titles:
1. Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by John Hick, Clark H. Pinnock, Alister E. McGrath, and R. Douglas Geivett (Paperback - 1 Aug 1996)
2. Three Views on the Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-tribulation ? (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter (Paperback - 1 Sep 1996)
3. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by R. L. Saucy, C. Samuel Storms, Douglas A. Oss, and Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Paperback - 1 Oct 1996)
4. Five Views on Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Greg L. Bahnsen, Walter C. Kaiser, Douglas J. Moo, and Wayne G. Strickland (Paperback - 1 Oct 1996)
5. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Melvin Easterday Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M. Horton, and Robertson McQuilkin (Paperback - 1 Oct 1996)
6. Four Views on Hell (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by John F. Walvoord, Zachary Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock (Paperback - 1 Jan 1997)
7. Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Kenneth L. Gentry, Sam Hamstra, C. Marvin Pate, and Robert L. Thomas (Paperback - 1 April 1998)
8. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Paul Nelson, Robert C. Newman, Howard J. Van Till, and John Mark Reynolds (Paperback - 1 Mar 1999)
9. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Craig A. Blaising, Kenneth L. Gentry, and Robert B. Strimple (Paperback - 1 Mar 1999)
10. Five Views on Apologetics (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by William Lane Craig, Gary R. Habermas, Paul D. Feinberg, and John M. Frame (Paperback - 1 Feb 2000)
11. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints) - Paperback (1 Jun 2001) by Craig S. Keener, Linda L. Belleville, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Ann L. Bowman
12. Four Views on Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Michael S. Horton, Norman L. Geisler, Stephen M. Ashby, and J. Steven Harper (Paperback - 1 May 2002)
13. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by C.S. Cowles, Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard, and Tremper Longman (Paperback - 1 Mar 2003)
14. How Jewish Is Christianity?: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by William Warner, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, David H. Stern, and John Fischer (Paperback - 1 Nov 2003)
15. Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Bradley Nassif, Michael S. Horton, Vladimir Berzonsky, and George Hancock-Stefan (Paperback - 1 Nov 2004)
16. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by James R. Beck and Craig L. Blomberg (Paperback - 30 Sep 2005)
17. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Stanley N. Gundry, Walter C. Kaiser, Darrell L. Bock, and Peter Enns (Paperback - 1 Nov 2008)
18. Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) by Daniel M. Doriani, Walter C. Kaiser, Mark L. Strauss, and Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Paperback - 1 Nov 2009)

When Christians Disagree

In the eighties IVP in the UK produced a series called When Christians Disagree. These are out of print now I guess.
1. The Role of Women (When Christians disagree) by Shirley Lees (Paperback - 15 Oct 1984)
2. Pacifism and War (When Christians Disagree) by Oliver R. Barclay (Paperback - 5 Nov 1984)
3. Creation and Evolution (When Christians disagree) by Derek C. Burke (Paperback - 21 Jan 1985)
4. Signs, Wonders and Healing (When Christians Disagree) by John Goldingay (Paperback - Jan 1989)
5. The Church and Its Unity (When Christians Disagree) by Alan F. Gibson (Paperback - 16 Oct 1992)
6. Politics and the Parties (When Christians Disagree) by Jonathan Chaplin (Paperback - May 1992)

Ending of Mark

I like the perspectives series and similar works that give you four (it's usually four) views on a subject. They are set up in different ways and I think there must be a number of such series. This one (arising out of a conference and written by Southern Baptists) first gives four straight views - Daniel B Wallace argues for the short ending (ie end at 16:8), Maurice A Robsinson for the longer one (include 9-20), J Keith Elliot for the shorter ending as the longer was lost early on and David Alan Black (who also writes the preface and is the editor) for 16:9-20 as an early Markan supplement. Darrell L Bock then gives a summary essay to conclude. By the way, no-one argues for the ending that closes with verse 9 (one or two other options are mentioned in passing).
Anyone who preaches through Mark must come to some sort of conclusion about this matter and this book contains enough material to make some sort of intelligent decision. The world of textual criticism is a whole world in itself and here we get to consider lengths of scrolls and how they were unrolled, codices and gaps in them, the witness of versions (such as Armenian and Georgian) and the fathers, etc - subjects that most of us are not thinking about on a day to day basis. As is pointed out no great doctrine hangs on what we conclude on this matter, which is not one that can be solved simply by an appeal to the texts themselves. Some sort of decision has to be made, however, and one is thankful to the writers and to the publisher for making this material available for our consideration.
As for my decision, I have tended to the shorter ending view but I really liked David Black's flight of fancy that has Mark as a series of lectures by Peter in Rome using the prior works of Matthew and Luke. If only ....

Garlic and Magnets

In a book I am currently reading (more anon) attnetion is drawn to a strange statement in one of the standards of the Lutheran church. In the Epitome of the Formula of Concord we read (See here)
5. Also, that original sin is only an external impediment to the good spiritual powers, and not a despoliation or want of the same, as when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, its natural power is not thereby removed, but only impeded; or that this stain can be easily wiped away like a spot from the face or pigment from the wall.
The idea that garlic destroys magnetism was a popular superstition that began with the Greeks. In the 16th Century sailors were not allowed to chew it around a compass - just in case. By including this idea in their formula the Lutherans have made themselves look rather silly, though at the time it seemed so helpful. Easily done.

EL Opening

It was standing room only today as over a hundred gathered for the opening of the new Evangelical Library in Bounds Green. We began with a short ceremony outside in the glorious sunshine as Wendy Sheehan unveiled the sign outside. Wendy is the widow of former chairman Bob Sheehan for whom the room where we met later is named.
Upstairs, I led the meeting in which we first heard from David Philpott. David is the grandson of Geoffrey Williams who founded the Library and it was useful to have some of the history of how the library was started and then moved to London - first to Gloucester Road then to Chiltern Street for many years before this latest move.
The main speaker was Robert Strivens, Principal of the LTS, who gave a fascinating message on reading. Having underlined that the Bible must be our chief book he went on to speak about why, what and how to read. Reading is a human activity and one that Christians especially should want to be engaged in. We should read in order to edify ourselves, to educate ourselves, to encourage ourselves and for sheer enjoyment. He also called on us read in order to expand our areas of knowledge and understanding, where our interests lie, being concerned more about quality than quantity. He warned us against simply reading books we know we will agree with, without immersing ourselves in heresy, and to seek balance and variety. He also reminded us of the usefulness of book reviews.
We had excellent quotations throughout. When it comes to this subject it is difficult not to quote Francis Bacon's famous dictum that “Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” There were principles too - be discerning, disciplined but let reading be your servant not your master (we were all relieved to have it suggested that not finishing a book is not a sin). We were urged to read with questions, in a prayerful spirit and keeping a brief record of it. There were lots of other good things.
We had a lovely cuppa and cakes to follow and enjoying further fellowship. It was a great afternoon.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 10

Crosses such as this one (probably from a box or some other piece of furniture) give evidence of the widespread existence of forms of Christianity in Europe throughout the medieval period.

Volcano books

Those eneterprising people at Abebooks sent me this today. Double click to read. The actual interactive page is here.

Ancient riot

Churches are notorious for harbouring people who don’t like the way things are going and who want to voice their opinion about it. They don’t like the music or the carpet or how the money is spent or they think communion should be more often, or whatever. In F F Bruce's 1998 book The canon of Scripture he describes how Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote to Jerome (346-420) in 403 and encouraged him to learn Hebrew and to make a new translation of the Bible into Latin. There was a general concern among the bishops of the time at the multiplicity of other versions circulating. Jerome's translation, of course, became known as the Vulgate. Bruce tells how "a riot broke out in one North-African church when the bishop, reading Jonah 4:6, called the plant which shaded Jonah from the sun an "ivy" (Latin: hedera), in accordance with Jerome's new translation, and not a "gourd" (cucurbita), the term to which they were accustomed. The bishop was forced to change the rendering so as not to lose his congregation."
(Source: F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Grand Rapids: IVP Academic, 1998), 94)

Ash Thursday

I don't know how much the ash was contributing to this sunset in Childs Hill last night. My poor father-in-law is still stuck in Birmingham, waiting to fly to Kenya. Sometimes God just reminds us who is in control of it all.

Holiday Bible Club 2010

We've been having our Children's Holiday Bible Club this week in the church. We held it on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a Thursday evening prize giving. Around 30 children came over the week, a little down on revious numbers - but we had a good opportunity to present the gospel once again, from the life of Gideon, and made anumber of fresh contacts as well as bolstering older ones. We have a great team of willing helpers and when people are back from college, etc, we can cope quite well with the numbers.

C S Lewis

C S Lewis Clarity and Confusion by Andrew Wheeler is a helpful little book that came out in 2006. Mr Wheeler is clearly a big Lewis fan but like other evangelicals can see that there are problems with his theology. What he does, therefore, is to outline what is positive and negative in the man's writings, from the perspective of evangelical belief. He is perhaps a little hampered in this by apparently having no formal training in theology but he is clear enough and well able to do what he sets out to do.
After a brief sketch of Lewis's life he first sets out his sound credentials as a genuine Christian who knew conviction of sin and salvation through Christ's death and had a correct view of God (though spoiled by his willingness to condone the use of images and pictures) and a right understanding of the resurrection.
Having given us some glimpses of God's grace in Lewis's life with ample and apt quotations from his works, he goes on to some areas concern. These concern Lewis's understanding of the Bible, creation and evolution, other religions and the Christian world (his belief in purgatory is highlighted).
Some may object to such a box ticking approach but it is done with some understanding and is very useful to evangelical Christians who sometimes feel they are in something of a love hate relationship with the work of C S Lewis.
The work is enhanced by three appendices - some great quotations, a quite thorough chronological list of his writings and (most useful of all) a Scripture index to the works (necessarily excluding the fiction - I wonder, has anyone ever attempted something of that sort?).

EL Saturday

This is a final reminder of our grand opening at 3 pm this Saturday at The Evangelical Library, 5/6 Gateway Mews, Bounds Green. The plan is for a brief opening ceremony and then a service at which Robert Strivens will speak plus a cuppa. Do come if you possible can. No problems with parking on Saturday. Alternatively, tube it to Bounds Green then walk for 15 minutes.

John Langford

I recently came across a name unknown to me before - that of an 18th century minister called John Langford. He was apparently connected with the early Methodists but afterwards joined the Baptist Church in Eagle Street, London, under the pastorate of Dr Andrew Gifford. From 1766 he was pastor of several London churches, especially Blackfields in Southwark. He died about 1790. He preached a sermon on the death of Whitefield (1770) that was printed. It was called The exalted state of the faithful ministers of Christ, after death, described and considered. He also published a hymn collection (1776), which included his own hymns (A collection of hymns and spiritual songs). He was long remembered as a man of great spirituality and Christian meekness.


We were looking through the pictures at the Evangelical Library recently and we cam eacross a portrait of one John Langford VDM. What is VDM?
VDM is apparently a religious initialism variously derived from the similar Latin expressions verbi dei minister or verbum dei minister or verbi divini minister or even verbi divini magister, typically appended as a name suffix to a person's full name to denote his status (sometimes self-determined) as a "minister of the divine word". The typically informal designation emphasises the holder's acceptance of responsibility toward the Bible and preaching it.
The appellation can be used practically, by a person who acts as a minister or a lay minister despite not having an actual university degree or situationally, to momentarily emphasise that a minister holding a DD or something similar is or was not distracted by a wish for prominence or by merely esoteric concerns or conscientiously, as an alternative for those who sincerely believe terms such as "Reverend" are unwise or immodest (!).

Baptism and a wet handshake

We had a baptism on Sunday evening, a young man who has grown up in the church and is now in his final year in Southampton. Lots of family and friends were visiting and it was a great evening. I preached from the close of 2 Timothy 3. One of the possibly unique features of the evening was that I welcomed him into church membership immediately after the baptism. We normally do this at the communion table but this will not be possible.

Yng Nghymru 02

The rest of the family had gone on down to Eleri's sister's in Cardiff and I joined them that evening. The next morning Eleri's other sister and husband arrived and they all trooped off to St Mellon's to hear Ian Parry. I half wish I had gone but having been ill the previous Tuesday I thought it wiser to stay at home and read and prepare myself for the evening. In the evening I was preaching in Bethlehem, Sandfields, Aberafan. I had a lovely time with the minister Jeremy Bailey (who I know through the Westminster Fellowship) and his wife Jenny beforehand chatting about Port Talbot and sundry other things then preached in the evening to about 40 something based on Don Carson's chapter on the ironies of the cross. I then headed back to Cardiff where we stayed overnight before heading back to London the next day.

Yng Nghymru 01

I got ill last week so there was no report on my trip to Wales the week before. We headed down the day before Good Friday and I spent most of it with my sister in Cwmbran putting all my dad's phtos in two fat albums. We needed to do it together to ascertain who was who, what few could be thrown and to agree to put my parents's annual holiday snaps in a box. Nice time, though a bit taxing by the end.

Ev'ry time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I've got is a photograph,
And I realise you're not coming back anymore.

A childhood memory

I grew up in a street in South Wales on a housing estate that was built in the fifties. If you walked around the corner from where we lived along another part of the same street you came upon what was to me always quite an impressive sight - a Baptist chapel that had been raised over a hundred years before and surrounded with a low walled graveyard and with a huge cedar tree. As a young child I never went there on my own but as I grew older and was allowed to roam a bit more, I would go with friends to look at it.
I have a vivid memory of a summer's day, a Saturday in 1969 when I was 10 and being there with a friend or two. There were obviously some big meetings going on in the chapel that day and we wondered what it was all about. Apparently, it was a valedictory service, what ever that meant. I cannot remember who our informant was exactly but - and this was the thing that struck me - a young man was going to go as missionary to Peru and he was going there because God had told him to go. I remember thinking at the time what a stupendous thing this was. I had already worked out that we were in a bit of a backwater in Croesyceiliog and it was not the happening place that one might read about, yet here we were and God himself had spoken to a local man and told him to go all the way to Peru. Incredible! I'm sure my ideas of how God speaks to people were very fanciful but there it was. It was happening in my own back yard.
I don't think that moment had any fundamental affect on my attitude to spiritual things over the next few years but it was one of my earliest contacts with real live Christians and one of the first hints of an amazing world which I have been exploring by God's grace ever since.

Le Tango

Another of these Youtube videos of mine.

Home Schooled

One of the things to come out in the obituaries for Malcolm McLaren was that he was home schooled to the age of 10 by his grandmother. That set me thinking about famous home schooled people. There is a little room for argument over what home schooled means but I think the following lists are interesting adn hopefully accurate.
1. Ten famous Christians
John Owen
Matthew Henry
Jonathan Edwards
John (and Charles) Wesley
John Newton
John Witherspoon
William Carey
Dwight L Moody
Hudson Taylor
C S Lewis
2. Ten Authors
Hans Christian Anderson
William Blake
Robert Browning
Pearl S Buck
Agatha Christie
Charles Dickens
Sean O'Casey
George Bernard Shaw
Mark Twain
Phyllis Wheatley
3. Ten composers and artists
J S Bach
Anton Bruckner
Felix Mendelssohn
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Francis Poulenc
William Blake
John Singleton Copley
Evelyn de Morgan
Claude Monet
Andrew (and Jamie) Wyeth

Streets song

This is the intriguing song by the Streets used at the end of the documentary mentioned last time.

Are we being persecuted?

There is still time to see the thought provoking BBC documentary "Are Christians being persecuted?" here.

Finchley and Golders Green

So the election is on us. I found this useful info at for the Finchley and Golders Green constituency.
Sitting MP: Rudi Vis, Lab, standing down
Alison Moore, L
Mike Freer, C
Laura Edge, LibDem
Majority Election Result 2005: 741 Lab (1.7%) Majority Election Result 2001 3,716 L (8.5%)
2005 Swing: 3.4% L to C

Constituency info:
Pop c 106,000 constituency covers Finchley, GG, Childs Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb in London Borough of Barnet (N London). NW of Hampstead, SE of Mill Hill and SW Friern Barnet.
Following a review, Boundary Commission modified constituency. It gains part of the Woodhouse ward from Chipping Barnet and small parts of GG, Finchley Church End and Garden Suburb wards from Hendon constituency, while it loses most of the Coppetts ward to the Chipping Barnet constituency.
Early medieval period - Finchley sparsely populated woodland. From 12th century farming began. Edgware, Highgate and London Railway (later GNR) reached here 1867. 1905 tram services established in Finchley, eventually replaced by trolley buses. 1933, Underground New Works Programme (35-40) announced. Lines through Finchley electrified and connected to Underground, Archway to E Finchley via new tunnel.
After WWII, introduction of London's green belt undermined pre-war plans for Underground here, and upgrading between Mill Hill E and Edgware abandoned. Line used by steam freight trains until closed completely, 1964.
GG has been place in the parish and manor of Hendon since c 13th century. Building of Finchley Rd (1827) resulted in development of a hamlet and by late 19th century around 300 people in the area.
1907, transport links improved by opening of GG tube station, leading to development of area west of Finchley Rd. Establishment of Hampstead GS brought major changes to area east of Finchley Rd. Temple Fortune Farm demolished and a retail district established along front of the road.
Finchley and GG constituency has a large and well-to-do Jewish population. Represented by Margaret Thatcher and a safe Con seat until Vis's unexpected victory 1997.
Lab's tiny majority certain to be overturned by Con gain in 2010. Possible an exceptionally good result for Cons could give them a share in excess of 50% here, as though national figures indicate this is unlikely, the swing to the Cons is sure to be above average here, looking at the nature of the voters.
Demographics: Housing: Owner-Occupied 63.1%, Social Housing 11.9%, Privately Rented 21.6%, Homes without central heating and/or private bathroom 6.4%
Education: Full time students 7.3%, Graduates 16-74: 44.6%, No Qualifications 16-74 15.8%
Ethnicity: Not born UK 35.9%, White 74.2%, Black 5.2%, Asian 12.3%, Mixed 3.2%, Other 5.1%
Faith: Christian 40.0%, Hindu 6.8%, Jewish 19.6%, Muslim 6.0%
Gender: Male 47.3%, Female 52.7%
Age: Under 18 21.0%, Over 60 19.0%
Local issues:
Taxation, 'Static screening unit for Finchley Memorial hospital' campaign, Post office closures

Previous election results
2005 General Election:
Turnout 61.9%
Rudi Vis L 17,487 40.5%
Andrew Mennear C 16,746 38.8%
Sue Garden LibDem 7,282 16.9%
Noel Lynch Green 1,136 2.6%/Jeremy Jacobs UKIP 453 1.0%/Rainbow George Weiss Rainbow Dream Ticket 110 0.3%

2001 General Election:
Turnout 57.3%
Rudi Vis L 20,205 46.3%
John Marshall C 16,489 37.8%
Sarah Teather LibDem 5,266 12.1%
Miranda Dunn Green 1,385 3.2%/John de Roeck UKIP 330 0.8%

1997 General Election:
Turnout 69.7%
Rudi Vis L 23,180 39.7%
John Marshall C 19,991 39.7%
Jonathan Davies LibDem 5,670 11.3%
G Shaw Referendum 684 1.4%/Ashley Gunstock GreenPlaid Cymru Alliance 576 1.1%/D Barraclough UKIP 205 0.4%

We Them Getaways

My second son Dylan spent last Friday and Saturday recording some demos with a band he is in called "We them getaways". You can check them out here.
The phrase "Green Eye of the Storm" will be familiar to some readers of this blog (Tell it not in Gath. Get your inspiration where you can I say).
As you can see these boys are having a great deal of fun. It's the sort of thing I'd love to have done as a kid. We only got as far as recording a long lost track on a cassette player (a track called Mrs Jones by a boy called David Watkins and featuring the fiddle). We were called "Puncture Kit". I had a stack of songs that my mother threw out one day. I can still remember one or two. Don't hold your breath.

Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren, who claimed to have invented punk rock, died today aged 64. Whatever else may be said about him he understood pop music as this 1983 offering under his own name would suggest.