I'm in W H Smith, waiting in the queue to pay for my paper. The man in front of me says "two boxes of unbelief, please". I think to myself "it's come to this. You can even buy unbelief over the counter". Then I thought "I've probably misheard him". I had. He wanted cigarettes.
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.
The BBC website currently carries this item.
Reverend John Stott dies aged 90
The Rev John Stott, who helped lead a resurgence of evangelicalism in Britain, has died at the age of 90.
US preacher Billy Graham paid tribute to him, saying the evangelical world had lost one of its greatest spokesmen.
Dr Stott's wide-ranging influence came partly from more than 50 books which helped to explain complex theology in a way lay people could easily understand.
The BBC's Robert Pigott said Dr Stott was good at simply expressing "the complexities of theology".
Our religious affairs correspondent said: "Some regarded this key figure in a traditionalist branch of Protestantism, with its emphasis on winning souls for Christianity, as a kind of 'Protestant pope'."
Seen as a leading figure in promoting evangelical churches in the developing world, Dr Stott did not become as well known as some other leading evangelists.
He played a critical role as a Christian thinker, helping to revive evangelicalism in England after World War II at a time when this traditionalist Protestant branch of Christianity had lost almost all its influence and its followers were widely derided as uneducated.
Born to an agnostic father and a Lutheran mother, Dr Stott was ordained a minister in the Church of England.
He gained popularity as a preacher, stressing the need for social responsibility.
In 1974 Dr Stott was one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant, which laid out the beliefs on which evangelicalism was built into a worldwide movement.
However, it was his success in decoding the complexities of theology for lay people for which he will be best remembered.
Billy Graham described Dr Stott as a "friend and advisor" and said he looked forward to meeting him in heaven.
(This comes in the week that I hear that a younger veteran, the Grace Baptist missionary, John Appleby, has also gone to be with his Lord, which is far better)
I notice in my sidebar that my most popular post at present is one I did in 2008 on musicians who died aged 27. See here. No prizes for guessing why people have been looking at it. Tragically, another 27 year old musician died last weekend. There is probably nothing over significant in the number. It allows time for real success but is still tragically young. Others, like Marc Bolan, get beyond 27, but still die tragically young.
The Barnabas Fund say
It is estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 Christians in North Korea are currently in the country’s brutal labour camps. A recent report from a major human rights organisation states that according to former detainees, prisoners are forced to work in conditions close to slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruelties. All the prisoners from one of the camps who were interviewed said that they had witnessed public executions. Food is scarce, and the report refers to people eating rats or picking corn kernels out of animal waste in order to survive. Pray for all Christians incarcerated in the camps, that the Lord will strengthen them to endure their intense suffering. Pray too for a more lenient government in North Korea.
I have heard of the golden bullet but never knew it could be taken literally as Baxter once did.
Another time, having read in Dr. Gerhard the admirable Effects of the swallowing of a Gold Bullet upon his own Father in a Case like mine, I got a Gold Bullet and swallowed it (between 20 s. and 30 s.weight); and having taken it, I knew not how to be delivered of it again: I took Clysters and Purges for about three Weeks, but nothing stirred it; and a Gentleman having done the like, the Bullet never came from it till he died, and it was cut out: But at last my Neighbours set a Day apart to fast and pray for me, and I was freed from my Danger in the beginning of that day. (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1696, 1.81)
Read this by Richard Baxter today
Another time, as I sat in my Study, the Weight of my greatest Folio Books brake down three or four of the highest Shelves, when I sat close under them, and they fell down on every side me, and not one of them hit me, save one upon the Arm; whereas the Place, the Weight, and greatness of the Books was such, and my Head just under them, that it was a Wonder they had not beaten out my Brains, one of the Shelves right over my Head having the six Volumes of Dr. Walton‘s Oriental Bible, and all Austin‘s Works, and the Bibliotheca Patrum, and Marlorate, &c. (Reliquiae, 1.82)
In recent weeks I've been trying to take advantage of blogger technology by blogging as part of my daily Bible intake.
Currently available I have
Psalmeditation comments on verses from Psalm 100-150
The Book of Joshua mostly comments from Calvin on verses from Joshua
Profiting from Jeremiah the text with pictures and a pasted devotional comment
Comments on the Gospels comments from various men on verses from Matthew's Gospel, Mark just started
The main use of these blogs is for my own personal discipline but you may find something useful there.
This will probably be the last of these
1. Genesis, the book of beginning/Apocalypse, the book of the end.
2. The Earth created (1:1)/Earth passes away (21:1).
3. Satan’s first rebellion/Satan’s final rebellion (20:3,7-10).
4. Sun, Moon, and Stars, for Earth’s government (1:14-16)/These connected with Earth’s Judgment (6:13, 8:12, 16:8)
5. Sun to govern the day (1:16)/No need of the Sun (21:23)
6. Darkness called night (1:5)/“No night there” (22:5)
7. Waters called seas (1:10)/“No more sea” (21:1)
8. A river for Earth’s blessing (2:10-14)/A river for the new Earth (22:1,2)
9. Man in God’s image (1:26)/Man headed by one in Satan’s image (13)
10. Entrance of sin (3)/Development and end of sin (21:22)
11. Curse pronounced (3:14,17)/“No more curse” (22:3)
12. Death entered (3:19)/“No more death” (21:4)
13. Cherubim, first mention in connection with man (3:24)/their last mention in connection with man(4:6)
14. Man driven out from Eden (3:24)/Man restored (22)
15. Tree of life guarded (3:24)/“Right to the Tree of Life” (22:14)
16. Sorrow and suffering enter (3:17)/No more sorrow (21:4)
17. Man’s religion, art and science, resorted to for enjoyment, apart from God (4)/These things, in their full glory, judged and destroyed by God (18)
18. Nimrod, a great rebel and King, and hidden Anti-God, the founder of Babylon (10:8,9)/The Beast, the great rebel, a King manifested Anti-God, the reviver of Babylon (13:18)
19. A flood from God to destroy an evil generation (6-9)/One from Satan to destroy an elect generation (12)
20. The Bow, the token of God’s covenant with the Earth (9:13,14,16)/The Bow, betokening God’s remembrance of His covenant with the Earth (4:3, 10:1)
21. Sodom and Egypt, the place of corruption and temptation (10:19)/Sodom and Egypt again: spiritually representing Jerusalem (11:8)
22. A confederacy against Abraham’s people overthrown (14)/A confederacy against Abraham’s seed overthrown (12)
23. Marriage of first Adam (2:18-23)/Marriage of last Adam (19)
24. A bride sought for Abraham’s son (Isaac) and found (24)/A bride made ready and brought to Abraham’s Son (19:9) See Matthew 1:1
25. Two angels acting for God on behalf of His people (19)/Two witnesses acting for God on behalf of His people (11)
26. A promised seed to possess the gate of his enemies (22:17)/The promised seed coming into possession (11:18)
27. Man’s dominion ceased and Satan’s begun (3:24)/Satan’s dominion ended and Man’s restored (22)
28. The old serpent causing sin, suffering and death (3:1)/The old serpent bound for 1000 years (20:1-3)
29. The doom of the old serpent pronounced (3:15)/The doom on the old serpent executed (20:10)
30. Sun, Moon, and Stars, associated with Israel (37:9)/Associated again with Israel (12)
I decided not to go to the Met Tab Summer School of Theology this year. (I wasn't fully conscious of this but I would guess that one reason was that there were no overseas speakers - I wonder if numbers were down). I've still been very busy though. Where shall I begin?
Last Monday we had our friends Georgina and Graham and their son Calvin here. They moved to live in Christchurch, New Zealand six years ago so had interesting stories to tell. Graham showed us this fascinating website tracking the continuing earthquakes there (see here). We know them, as Georgina was converted here many years ago (rather out of the blue) before moving straight onto Crawley (Maidenbower then Three Bridges). In Christchurch they attend an Anglican church - must be this one I think. They informed me that Australian LTS graduate Rob Harrod is now the pastor in the Grace Baptist Church, news I'd not kept up with.
We also had a visitor with us over the weekend, the son of Murray Brett and his wife Paula. I met Murray in Georgia a few years back. He is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Commerce in Georgia and is currently here preaching for my father-in-law Geoff Thomas (currently in Australia and New Zealand) in Aberystwyth and "doing" the UK and Western Europe. He is the author of Growing up in grace.
My sons and others had a nice time with Ethan Brett doing a bit more of London. It's been good to have Rhodri and Sibyl around for a while. We celebrated Sibyl's birthday with Krispy Kremes on Wednesday before the midweek meeting as they headed west yesterday.
There have been a few school things too. Yesterday night at Hampstead School Gwïon received a gold medal for Year 7 Science. He's busy on The Wiz at present. The Friday before it was Y Mabol gampau for Owain and Yr Ysgol Gymraeg (Gwïon's sports got rained off). The celebration went off quite well with a well run prize distribution and a guest speaker who was brief and to the point (contrast the graduation when Dylan also got a prize the other week).
This blog first appeared here last February
My favourite chapter in the Old Testament is 2 Kings 5. It is a brilliant story for all sorts of reasons, both literary and theological.
The chapter ends, you will recall, not on a triumphant note but on a note of warning. We do not close with the healed and renewed Naaman heading off into the sunset in his chariot but with the story of greedy Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. He is told in the final verse that Naaman’s leprosy would cling to him and his descendants forever. Then we read Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.
There are many interesting and sobering aspects to this sequel but to just focus on one for a moment, consider Elisha’s two questions in verse 26.
First, he says Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? It is a reminder of the fact that God is the all seeing God. You cannot hide anything from him. That is perhaps a fairly obvious lesson here.
But what about the second question? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Elisha doesn’t say “Is this the time to be greedy, to take advantage of others or to tell lies and deceive people?” What most concerns him about Gehazi, a man who up to this point has given no obvious hint that he is anything less than fully committed to the same high ideals as his master, is this matter of priorities.
These were dark days in Israel, days when idolatry was everywhere and only small remnant remained faithful. If ever there was a time to be giving oneself unreservedly to the cause of Yahweh, this was it. But what do we find in Gehazi? He is all set on money and smart clothes, on commercial ventures in olives or grapes or livestock, on having servants or whatever else it was that he planned to spend his ill gotten silver on. And Elisha is horrified. The issue is not so much how he procured the silver and clothes but the fact that this is what was filling his mind.
The verse raises questions for us too. Is this the time to be thinking chiefly about what money we can make or how good we can look? Are spacious homes, long vacations and expensive entertainments the things that should be filling our heads? Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness says Jesus. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, he says where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He warns us very clearly No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Paul Levy over on Ref21 speaks true. He says
Is someone willing to sign my petition to stop Christians from producing petitions.
A petition to support marriage, a petition against gay marriage, a petition to ask liberals to stop being mean to us, a petition to say we uphold Christian values. As far as I can tell the New Testament church didn't use petitions. It is remarkable naivete to think that petitions change minds. In both the ecclesiastical world and political world I would love to hear of petitions that have been successful and led to significant change.
My only exception to this was that I once signed a petition that Deidre Rashid be freed from prison, this was part of a calculated campaign which was ultimately successful.
The electronic version of the Banner of Truth magazine for August has just landed in my inbox so summer must be cummin in. Lots of nice articles there, mainly culled from elsewhere. Here's a quote from an article on Prayer by favourite standby Peter Barnes:
What could be worse than hearing a recording of all our prayers over the past week? And what if they were posted on the internet? Yet God hears and knows all our prayers, even before we utter them! No wonder we feel ashamed. There is no magic technique, but some suggestions might help and encourage us.
Fior the suggestions see the mag or here.
The Twelve Tests of Abraham
Abraham’s faith was tested at least twelve specific times. Some of them were not what we might call big tests, but together they establish a picture of Abraham as a person whose faith was genuine. After the last of these, God said, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12). Each of Abraham’s tests can have applications for us:
(1) Genesis 12:1-7
•Test: Abraham left Ur and Haran for an unknown destination at God’s direction.
•Application: Do I trust God with my future? Is his will part of my decision making'
(2) Genesis 13:8-13
•Test: Abraham directed a peaceful separation from Lot and settled at the oaks of Mamre.
•Application: Do I trust God with my interests even when I seem to be receiving an unfair settlement'
(3) Genesis 14:13-18
•Test: Abraham rescued Lot from the five kings.
•Application: Does my faithfulness to others bear witness to my trust in God’s faithfulness'
(4) Genesis 14:17-24
•Test: Abraham gave a tithe of loot to the godly king of Salem, Melchizedek, and refused the gift of the king of Sodom.
•Application: Am I watchful in my dealings with people that I give proper honour to God and refuse to receive honour that belongs to him'
(5) Genesis 15:1-6
•Test: Abraham trusted God’s promise that he would have a son.
•Application: How often do I consciously reaffirm my trust in God’s promises'
(6) Genesis 15:7-11
•Test: Abraham received the promised land by faith, though the fulfillment would not come for many generations.
•Application: How have I demonstrated my continued trust in God during those times when I have been required to wait'
(7) Genesis 17:9-27
•Test: At God’s command, Abraham circumcised every male in his family.
•Application: In what occasions in my life have I acted simply in obedience to God, and not because I understood the significance of what I was doing'
(8) Genesis 18:1-8
•Test: Abraham welcomed strangers, who turned out to be angels.
•Application: When was the last time I practiced hospitality'
(9) Genesis 18:22-33
•Test: Abraham prayed for Sodom.
•Application: Am I eager to see people punished, or do I care for people in spite of their sinfulness'
(10) Genesis 20:1-17
•Test: Abraham admitted to wrongdoing and took the actions needed to set things right.
•Application: When I sin, is my tendency to cover up, or confess? Do I practise the truth that an apology must sometimes be accompanied by restitution'
(11) Genesis 21:22-34
•Test: Abraham negotiated a treaty with Abimelech concerning a well.
•Application: Can people depend on my words and promises'
(12) Genesis 22:1-12
•Test: Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
•Application: In what ways has my life demonstrated that I will not allow anything to come before God'
I've just read the short American book The pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor by John Piper and Don Carson picked up at the EMA. For the background see here. See here too. Given the subject matter I, not surprisingly, found it interesting.
Both are great communicators and use enough biographical and anecdotal material to keep interest up even where it may seem slightly irrelevant. Good structure helps too. It's the sort of book to get you thinking. One odd thing, in the afterword David Mathis says that both Piper and Carson refer to F F Bruce but only Piper is referenced in the index as doing so. Presumably one of the anonymous people in Carson's paper is Bruce. Which one?