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.

Old Princeton

Just a reminder that this year's Annual Lecture of the Evangelical Library is othis Monday (02 July 2012) at 6:30 pm in the Library when Ian Hamilton of Cambridge Presbyterian church will be speaking on "Old Princeton and its Theology". Be there or be square.

10 words useful for studying the Trinity

1. Modalism. Used to describe the blurring or erasing the real, eternal and irreducible distinctions among the three persons of the Godhead
2. Subordinationism. Used for the teaching that the Son and Holy Spirit are lesser beings or have a lesser status than the Father
3. Ontological. Used when thinking of God as he is in his being or existence
4. Economic. Used when thinking of God's activity in creation and salvation
5. Generation. Used for the unique property of the Son in relation to the Father
6. Procession. Used for the eternal relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father (and the Son in the west)
7. Person. Used for the Father, Son and Spirit when differentiated
8. Hypostasis. Greek for "something with a concrete existence" and the Greek alternative for the Latin "person"
9. Homoousios. Greek for "Of the same being". Used to say that the Son and Spirit are of the same being or essence as the Father
10. Homoiousios. Greek for "Of similar being". Used by heretics to say that the Son and Spirit are only of similar being or essence as the Father

Studies on the Trinity

[Key: Tim L, Tim D, Moi, Steffan, Michael, Robert
Gideon, Peter Prof Letham, Robert]
When I reflect on the fact that the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, I often think of the providence of having come to study at the LTS and then having been called to a church near to LTS and the John Owen Centre and the advantages that brings. (Proximity means that despite a heavy schedule I have still been able to be at our midweek meeting and members meeting, do some door to door and make a pastoral visit and see my family).
I have been aware of that again this week, having audited the course on the Holy Trinity, given by Robert Letham. I think I have had a number of opportunities, including the opportunity to

1. Think through a major Christian doctrine (The Trinity)
2. Read a big theological book sat on my shelves unread (Letham on the Holy Trinity)
3. Spend time learning from one of the leading theologians in our Reformed community and see them close up (Robert Letham)
4. Remember the world of scholarship where so much goes on that has relevance to my ministry
5. Learn of various scholarly books produced in recent years that I might have missed otherwise
6. Have fellowship and interaction with fellow ministers, some of whom I had not met before
7. Investigate the rather neglected world of patristics, which I am hoping I will revisit  (I have now downloaded the ante-, post- and Nicene Fathers works for e-sword)
8. Read some Owen and Barth
9. Investigate the book Basil on the Trinity, a book I didn't really know existed beforehand
10. Take advantage of the LTS Library and a nice second hand book sale organised by the administrator Nigel Redford

God is at work always

I came across this encouraging piece the other day from 2005 by Ian Hamilton and found on the Banner website.

It is only too easy for Christians to become daunted and deeply pessimistic. The world we live in is a dark, and presently an ever-darkening, place. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is increasingly and publicly mocked and marginalized throughout society, particularly in the media. Our Government passes legislation that defies the living God. Our churches, most of them, are small and struggling. Evangelical Christianity is awash with theological and moral compromise. You might well be forgiven for thinking, 'Is it any wonder believers are daunted and deeply pessimistic?'

Do we have any reason, however, for being downbeat and discouraged? Allow me to remind you of our Lord's words in John 5:17, "My Father is always working." Always! Not occasionally. Not much of the time. But all of the time. Our God is never indolent, never merely watching the world's progress from the sidelines. He is always at work; and if he is always at work, how can we ever be daunted and discouraged? I know that some who read this letter will be going through sore trials. Others will have legacies of deep disappointments. Some will be in churches where little if any apparent progress has been seen for years. And yet, "My Father is always working."

It is true that our God's working is not always, or even often, obvious. "He hides himself so wondrously, as if there were no God: He is least seen when all the powers of ill are most abroad." Nonetheless, he is always at work, fulfilling his sure, sovereign, blessed purposes. He is never idle. His working is never frantic or uncertain, but always calm, deliberate and perfectly purposeful: "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3).

If nothing else, this great truth should inspire at least two things in our lives: First, we should never lose heart. Our God is working and nothing and no one can stand against him. History, with all its dark uncertainties and apparently uncontrolled wickedness, is overseen and punctuated by the Sovereign God who works. This is not an excuse for us to sit back and smirk at our circumstances. But it is a wonderful encouragement for Christians not to lose heart, not to become daunted and disappointed. God is at work, always. Secondly, we are encouraged to live by faith and not by sight. What is faith? At heart it is trusting God for who he is, believing his word, whatever it says. Faith says, "I believe God." So, when we read, "My Father is always working," however downbeat and seemingly bleak our circumstances, we believe God's word.

I have little doubt that it often pleases the Lord to withhold the obvious evidences of his working in order to teach us the grace of faith. This truth is put starkly and remarkably in Isaiah 50:10, "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." But faith is more than trusting reposefully in God, it is believing that God is able to accomplish whatsoever he pleases. Because our God is an ever-working God, whose power is limitless and unconquerable, there is no saying what he may well be pleased to accomplish. "You do not have because you do not ask!" God's sovereign working is not an excuse for us to sit back and drift with whatever tide comes our way. No, a thousand times no. Does the Lord himself not tell us that his Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:13). Faith lays hold of the God who always works, pleads his promises, the glory of his Son and the saving of his people.

"My Father is always working." Are these not wonderfully encouraging words? Do they not pierce our gloom and despondency? The Lord will not lose one of his own. He will present his church to himself as a spotless, perfect bride, not one missing. Take heart. The God who is for us in Christ and who rules the heavens and the earth is always working.

Ian Hamilton
Pastor Cambridge Presbyterian Church

Leprosy and blindness

Among those that OW want us to pray for in India today are two categories with staggering statistics:
Leprosy sufferers, of which there are 150,000 new cases every year. Leprosy originated in India. It still possesses the majority of the world’s cases, and there are over 1,000 leper colonies in India. Christian agencies work with them, in particular TLM (18 leprosy hospitals and around 100 projects).
[Wikipedia says leprosy currently affects approximately a quarter of a million people throughout the world, with 70% of these cases occurring in India. Cases there have decreased dramatically from 5,000,000 cases in 1985 to 213,000 cases in 2009. This significant decrease is largely due to the effectiveness of multi-drug therapy (MDT) that was developed in 1981. The prevalence of leprosy in India is now less than 1 case in 10,000 individuals, meeting the WHO criteria for leprosy elimination. Yet the WHO criterion for elimination is not met in all areas of the country; rural areas and urban slums continue to experience up to five times the number of leprosy cases as the national average.]
The blind. As many as 15 million people in India are blind (and another 50 million visually impaired) – this is nearly 40% of the world’s total. Of these cases, 70% would be preventable were there sufficient doctors and optometrists. Braille is an under-utilized tool. Agencies with ministry to blind people are Mission to the Blind, India Fellowship for Visually Handicapped and Torch Trust for the Blind. Compass Braille is an agency specializing in producing Braille Scriptures in Indian languages by means of computer. Christian audio resources such as Megavoice, Proclaimer and others are vital for reaching and discipling India's blind people.


A little while ago my eldest son signed up as an extra in Madonna's film WE. We finally got to see his important contribution the other night. It comes in a scene where the Prince of Wales, as he then was, went down to economically harsh Wales and made his famous statement that "Something must be done". 

Doctor Robert

I post this Beatles video chiefly to salute my good friend and fellow elder Robert Strivens who receives his doctorate this week. I am also planning to be listening to another Dr Robert (Letham) this week at the John Owen Centre, who I hope will be helping me to understand the Trinity. Typical of sixties rock I guess the original song is all about drugs really but it is a very pleasant pop song, nevertheless.

Unusual words 05 Equipollent

I came across equipollent in Smeaton on the atonement. He speaks in a footnote of two Greek words "both referring to the idea of a sacrifice, and so nearly equipollent that the one involves the other". The word, as you may guess, simply means equal in force, power, effectiveness or significance.  Perhaps Smeaton has taken it from the world of logic.
Francis Bacon uses it in an essay "Only superstition is now so well advanced, that men of the first blood, are as firm as butchers by occupation; and votary resolution, is made equipollent to custom, even in matter of blood."

Lord's Day June 24

So another good day preaching at home. We said goodbye again - this time to LTS student Christien Razafimbahiny, who returns to Madagascar this week.  We took another photo as we are aware that there are no typical congregations with us. A quick check just now reveals that we are about the same number in both pictures but about a quarter of those in the first are not in the second and a similar number in the second were not in the first.
The whole morning had a different cast this week as whereas I preached last week on heaven, this week I preached on hell (from Matthew 25). Perhaps it is the most difficult subject to handle of all. I hope I did it accurately and lovingly.
I was also trying out the use of reading glasses while leading, something I am increasingly needing to rely on. I'm not in the habit and so I found it a little distracting. Hopefully the congregation didn't.
In the evening we looked at Numbers 14 and the sin of unbelieving rebellion. I think we are enjoying Numbers and benefiting from it though it is a little difficult in some ways.

Things Seen

I was in W H Smith's today and asked to try out a pen I wanted to buy. The assistant then threw the piece of paper at the bin and missed. "You won't make the team" I said. "I'm too short anyway" he replied, obviously this being a bit of a thing with him. At 5'5" it seemed to me that he didn't need to worry. I said to him "there are bigger things to worry about than that" ....

LTS Annual Meeting

It was great to be once again at the LTS this afternoon for the annual end of year service. Some 17 students were leaving (including 3 or 4  who had stayed on to do the optional third year). It was good to hear from them all briefly and to hear Gerard Hemmings of Amyand Park preach an interesting sermon on Elijah and Obadiah. Robert Strivens also gave a report and Jeremy Marshall chaired. A number of us from Childs Hill were there and it was good to meet other old friends too. We were especially interested in hearing from Christien who heads soon back to Madagascar and Andreas who, with his family, heads back to Germany very shortly. The rain pretty much kept off until the very end of the afternoon, which was good too.

Olympic fever

I'm not that excited about the Olympics and the fact it is in London doesn't seem to be making that much difference except that whenever I see this countdown machine in Trafalgar Square I want to stand by it. Anyway I did so 18 days ago and thought about putting a photo up here. I forgot though so I've doctored it so that I will appear to be in the future for a few hours before the picture looks quite real later in the day. As I write the figure is officially

Henry V at the Globe

For some reason I haven't found time to say what an excellent time I had down at Shakespeare's Globe last Thursday (apart from the hayfever set off by the thatched roof). They were doing Henry V, not a play I'm very familiar with although some of the lines are inevitably in one's head (O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention!; Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more Or close the wall up with our English dead! ). A play almost devoid of theatrical bombast its brilliantly paced variety (soliloquy, comedy, action, etc) still stands up and this was a good if not a great production. The play inevitably raises questions of war and peace though I found the interest in language much more interesting. There is an amusing scene (mostly in French) where the French Princess learns some English from her maid. The play also features a Welshman Fluellen and that was very well done (with a few adlibs such as esgob Dafydd and Aberystwyth [why is that word so funny?] though the many look yous seem to be original). I'd love to hear Rob Brydon doing the part. Of course, archetypal Englishman as he may be, Henry V was technically Welsh (born in the same county as yours truly - Ay, he was porn at Monmouth, Captain Gower. .. I'll tell you there is good men porn at Monmouth. and that is alluded to. Henry says to Fluellen "I am Welsh, you know, good countryman". Of course, Shakespeare just loves irony and there is plenty where that came from in the play. The whole Globe project really grabs me (especially the idea of letting groundlings in for a fiver). Apart form the occasional plane passing over you might think you were back in the 17th century at times.

Christian Biography

Christian biography is the theme for the July edition of the Banner magazine. It includes a stimulating commendation of the subject by Derek Prime and an introduction to the other Brainerd (John) by Mack Tomlinson. I currently have Lloyd-Jones and Archibald Brown on the go and am keen to get back to Bavinck and William Williams but would also like to get into John Blanchard but all these projects are pretty much on hold this week as I'm reading up on the Trinity. Never enough hours, eh? 

Pray for India


I heard Sir Henry Cecil, the owner of the racehorse Frankel, which won at Ascot yesterday, speaking on BBC Radio 5 live:
"It was lovely that and I'm very fortunate to be training him. He takes some pulling up too!
"He's telling us he's getting better and it's just a question how he takes the race and we're not going to run him for the sake of it. I'll just feel my way.
"He is a champion, and people can judge for themselves, but he's got a lot of followers and it's like supporting a football team. It's important for people that they have something to get involved in and people not in the racing world have latched on to him and it's like any great sportsman - Tiger Woods or Murray, it's important to have something to watch, admire and support."
Of course, what Sir Henry means is that we will only find fulfilment outside ourselves, whether we merely watch, admire and support creatures or (as we must) know, love and serve the Creator. 

E People

Imagine having a name that sounds like a letter. Yet, in China there is a tiny flower in God’s garden of humanity called the “E” people. They number only 41,500, and most of them live in China’s Guangxi Province.
A missionary doctor who died in 1927 lamented about the E: “Men and women are toiling without a Bible, without a Sunday, without a prayer, without songs of praise. They have rulers without justice, homes without peace, marriage without sanctity, young men and women without ideals, little children without purity or innocence, mothers without wisdom or self-control, poverty without relief or sympathy, sickness without skillful help or tender care, sorrow and crime without remedy, and worst of all, death without Christ.”
Today the situation is not much different; Operation China tells us that there are no believers among them.
Let us remember that we do not struggle against flesh and blood. It is our duty to pray against the deception that veils the hearts and minds of the E. Jesus has been given all authority over heaven and earth and scripture says that what we bind on earth is bound in heaven in His name.
(From today's Global Prayer Digest)

What Jesus is doing now

Les livres est arrive!

Always a good moment - then you start looking fro typos!
(it would be a lie if I said that was on purpose)

McCleod on Scots atonement theologians

Good day looking at Smeaton yesterday with the other men at the John Owen Centre. Stumbled across this list from Donald Macleod on Scottish Atonement Theology (Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology) here. Such theologians are characterised by

1. A sustained, reverent reflection on the sufferings of Christ. 
2. A perception of the work of Christ in sacerdotal terms.
3. An insistence that the sufferings of Christ were penal.
4. A portrayal of the atonement as a satisfaction to divine justice.
5. The sufferings of Christ were vicarious.
6. The setting of the cross in a covenant framework.
7. The indispensable necessity of the atonement to salvation.
8. The unambiguous portrayal as a fruit and consequence of the love of God [the Father].
9. A prominence for the idea of victory not surpassed in any other Western tradition before Gustaf Aulen.
10. A belief in limited atonement, but stated very carefully.

Lord's Day June 17

I remarked recently that an anomaly on this blog is that I rarely mention the Lord's Day activities. There are reasons why it happens but I think it gives a false impression so just to say that it was good to be with God's people in Childs Hill yesterday, morning and evening. We sat down to communion before the evening meeting. In the morning we said farewell to Andreas and his family from who return to Germany soon after two years in LTS. Alice made a lovely cake for us to enjoy after with our cuppa. We also had a church photograph. About fifty of us were there altogether.
In the morning I did the third of a series I am doing on Ultimate Realities. I have preached two sermons on heaven and this was the third. I looked at the six glorious negatives of Revelation 21:1-22:5 (no sea, no night, no curse, etc). In the evening we are in Numbers and came to Chapter 13 about the spies and their report. My plea was for a right understanding of the Christian life and a positive presentation of the gospel.

Smeaton on the atonement

I'm planning to be at the John Owen Centre today where the Theological Study Group will be discussing George Smeaton's book Christ's Doctrine of the atonement. It's been good to read a book that has sat on my shelf unused too long. It is full of excellent insights.

Pray for Hungary

Pause, my soul!

I used to like to choose from Grace Hymns this Gadsby hymn. Sadly, it didn't make the cut for Christian Hymns, which we now use. I don't think it's in many modern hymnbooks.

1    Pause, my soul! and ask the question,
            Art thou ready to meet God?
        Am I made a real Christian,
            Washed in the Redeemer’s blood?
                    Have I union
            To the church’s living Head?

    2    Am I quickened by his Spirit;
            Live a life of faith and prayer?
        Trusting wholly to his merit;
            Casting on him all my care?
                    Daily panting,
            In his likeness to appear?

    3    If my hope on Christ is stayèd,
            Let him come when he thinks best;
        O my soul! be not dismayèd,
            Lean upon his loving breast;
                    He will cheer thee
            With the smilings of his face.

    4    But, if still a total stranger
            To his precious name and blood,
        Thou art on the brink of danger;
            Canst thou face a holy God?
                    Think and tremble,
            Death is now upon the road.

Needs in Honduras

Operation World urges prayer today for Honduras, a place with many problems. They note that
Socio-economic problems are widespread and deeply entrenched. At the root of most problems lies endemic and lasting poverty, affecting up to 80% of the population. Pray for these issues:
a) Children at risk. More than half of Honduras’ population are children, the majority living in poverty. Destitution drives them to desperate measures.
i Illegal emigration. Thousands of children attempt to cross to the USA to find family members working there. Usually, they end up incarcerated in Guatemala or Mexico – in terrible conditions.
ii Pepenadores, or garbage dump children, are more prevalent in Honduras than in any nation in the Americas.
iii Street children, numbering in the thousands, are often exterminated as a nuisance by ruthless groups in the name of social cleansing.
iv Vice and crime. Many of the above groups and others get swept up by organized crime and exploited as gang members and sex workers.
b) Powerful gangs known as maras are made up mostly of youth, but have massive influence and power in Honduran society. They are becoming more violent and ruthless and are linking up with drug cartels using Honduras as a transshipment point. The government is waging an increasingly intense war against these groups for whom kidnapping, extortion and assault are the main activities.
c) AIDS has decimated the population. Honduras is home to 60% of Central America’s AIDS cases. Poverty, ignorance, a widespread sex industry, a macho culture and the Catholic stance against contraception all contribute to its rapid growth. Pray for moral courage and an educational shift among Hondurans to halt the spread of AIDS.
d) The devastation of Hurricane Mitch continues to blight Honduras. Many towns, villages and churches were virtually destroyed. The needs after 10 years are to re-establish both infrastructure and self-sustaining industries. Pray for all involved (World Relief, Tearfund, WVI, Lutheran World Relief, others).

Happy Meal

It's in the eye of the beholder, I guess

England do it again

This was a little like the old England in places but not enough to throw it away and so a win over Sweden leaves them sitting pretty. Don't blow it!

Bragg on Solomon

I'm a bit behind with me Melvyn Bragg but if you check out the website here you should be able to find the one on Solomon, which though very secular was nowhere as near as anti-conservative as it might have been and worth a listen.

Chad and Mali

Good News from Chad
Praise God that the translation of the Chad Arabic New Testament is complete. Pray that the printing will go smoothly and also for the distribution process. Surprisingly, a key element of distribution is making the scriptures accessible on mobile phones - they are very common in much of Africa. An audio version of the New Testament is also being made, for which voices are needed. Pray that the right people will come forward to be involved. (WEC International)
Bad News from Mali
These are critical times for Mali. The crisis began long before the military coup that grabbed the headlines recently. Mali is still suffering from the devastating Sahel food crisis following last year’s failed harvests and lack of rains. Extreme food shortages have led to a rise in food prices which, in turn, have led to 3 million people going hungry. Now facing a bitter ethnic and religious conflict, food prices are escalating and more than 200,000 people have fled their homes. Pray for the millions of people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, and for  leaders of the groups in Mali that they might
turn to peace rather than violence. (Tearfund)

Matthew Henry

I've been so taken up with the fact that 1662 was the year of the Great Ejection that I'd pretty much forgotten that it is also the year of Matthew Henry's birth. Thankfully I stumbled across Allan Harman's new biography (Matthew Henry his life and influence) and have been reading it on my kindle. It is well done for the most part with the bulk of the book looking at the life and then some essays at the end looking at his preaching, commentary, etc. These stand independently and so repeat information found elsewhere. Matthew Henry was clearly a godly and hardworking servant of the Lord in that difficult post-Puritan period and his life deserves to be as well known as his commentary is. This book does that job well.

Death of Ivan Ilyich

I was in the local library the other day and I saw a book I had never heard of by Leo Tolstoy. Being quite a short paperback, a novella, I thought I'd try it. Well, it's an amazing book! It is brilliantly written for starters. Then it deals with a vital subject that few books tackle - death. Finally, it actually deals to some extent with sin and salvation. I understand that it was the first book Tolstoy wrote after his "conversion". I hadn't realised that at all when I picked the book up so that has doubled the impact on me. It's great when something comes out of the blue like that. I also like it when someone like Tolstoy who is supposed to be brilliant turns out to be just that. Check it out. You can find it online here or buy it here.

Well done, England!

Many will be surprised at that heading but the truth is that again and again over the years I have sat down hoping England will do well only to give up at some point because of the disappointing attitude of the primadonnas that usually play. Well, this time it wasn't like that at all. How refreshing. Let's hope it stays that way.

Descendants and Sherlock Holmes II

Sat down to watch a couple of DVDs recently. The George Clooney film Descendants had seven Oscar nominations and so one expected something extra special. In fact it was quite an ordinary film really though quite watchable apart from the needless swearing, with plenty of drama and a refreshing Hawaiian backdrop. The only Oscar it won was for screenplay adaptation (it is based on a novel) and that seemed quite deserved. So, quite a good drama on a humanist level and worth watching if you can cope with the foul language.
As for Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows the less said the better. I thought they just about got away with it in the first film but this sequel is pretty useless and I gave up watching half an hour from the end. I suppose that if it wasn't called Sherlock I never would have watched a Guy Ritchie film. It does seem unfair to hijack a name like that. Surely he should be a bit like the character in the Conan Doyle books.
More here and here.

Novelists 13 Thomas de Quincey

Thomas de Quincey 1785-1859 was an English essayist and translator best known for his novel Confessions of an Englsih opium eater. I did start to read it once but put it down somewhere and can't locate my copy at the moment. He moved in the right literary circles but led a strange sort of life, reflected in the novel to some extent I believe. Money problems were never far away. Apparently he suffered neuralgic facial pain in the form of "trigeminal neuralgia" ("attacks of piercing pain in the face, of such severity that they sometimes drive the victim to suicide." according to one source)  which I mention only because my father also suffered from it until he had an operation to render that side of his face without feeling.

Unusual words 04 Mien Taciturnity

Mien and taciturnity are not so unusual but I came across them together recently in the same sentence and although I could tell you what mien is easily enough, I would struggle a little with taciturnity. The sentence is "Every one in Starkfield knew him and gave him a greeting tempered to his own grave mien; but his taciturnity was respected and it was only on rare occasions that one of the older men of the place detained him for a word." The sentence is from near the beginning of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
Mien is, of course, face or look. It's a bit of a literary word and comes up in R L Stevenson's famous book in the sentence "The middle one of the three windows was half-way open; and sitting close beside it, taking the air with an infinite sadness of mien, like some disconsolate prisoner, Utterson saw Dr. Jekyll ..."
Taciturnity derives from a word for silence and means incommunicative (I'd thought it meant obtuse or difficult to be honest). See W Somerset Maugham Of human bondage "Perhaps his taciturnity a contempt for the human race which had abandoned the great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; or perhaps these thirty years of revolution had taught him that men are unfit for liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that which was not worth the finding."

Local induction

It was good to be in Finchley on Saturday for the induction of Spencer Cunnah to the pastorate at the nearby Kensit Memorial Church, oops Kensit Evangelical Church that should be. Former pastor Philip Eveson chaired and the preacher was my father-in-law Geoff Thomas, who preached (having escaped the floods of the Aber area) an excellent sermon (see the basis text here). So it was a rather Welsh affair Spencer and his wife Wendy, like myself, being Welsh and Aberystwyth University graduates. The Finchley church, despite being on the same site as the LTS, has been without a pastor for several years and they are very grateful to have found another Welshman (Andrew Davies was the previous pastor). Despite the rain we've been having Saturday afternoon proved to be nice and sunny in North London and so we enjoyed an excellent tea on the lawn. We'll be having deja vu when the LTS end of year takes place in a fortnight's time.

Me, eating an oyster

The things you can do in London, eh?

Quotations on election and purpose

Never confuse election with partiality. Partiality is favoritism that is corrupted by a willingness to pervert justice for the sake of the favored few; election chooses certain people out of God’s free decision and nothing else, and even then justice is not perverted: hence the cross.
Don Carson

Man' s chief end
The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives. or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. They are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?
Jonathan Edwards

Anniversaries 2013

I've just been looking around to see what anniversaries are coming up next year, especially of a Christian sort. Perhaps most obvious is the anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone 1813-1873. Then there is the Heidelberg Catechism, the anniversary of which  coincides with the completion of the Council of Trent the same year. That latter event was marked 400 years later by Vatican II, now fifty years back itself. 1963 is also the year when not only Kennedy died but also A W Tozer and C S Lewis (the latter on the same day as the assassination).
Significant Puritan anniversaries include the death of Isaac Ambrose 1604-1663 and the birth of Cotton Mather 1663-1728. In Scotland they will no doubt be marking the birth of the theologian George Gillespie 1613-1648 and the death of the theologian David Dickson 1583-1663. (Jeremy Taylor was also born in 1613). The Christian man's calling by George Swinnock appeared in 1663.
Given the subject, it is perhaps worth noting that Eusebius the first church historian lived c 263-339. In 313 the Edict of Milan was passed giving freedom to Christians in the Roman Empire.

Camus L'Etranger

Alan Davey put me on to the fact that Albert Camus' novel sometimes known in English as The Stranger and sometimes as The Outsider was being commended to Christians by Leland Ryken. See here. It is a book I have long been aware of and so I got hold of a copy (a Penguin paperback) and found it an easy enough read as the book is short, well written and quite gripping. I guess you are supposed to sympathise with the protagonist, which I did not but that did not spoil it. It is quite an old book now (from 1954) and lacks the impact it might have had because such existential thinking has become more common. It is still a though provoking and interesting book and worth a read. I enjoyed it so much I got straight on to The Plague but that's a longer book and I am taking it at a more leisurely pace.

Gwent Archive Ebbw Vale

I made a brief trip to South Wales last week. I'm not sure I've ever been all the way to Ebbw Vale before  but that was my main destination. That's where they keep the Gwent archive these days in the old general office of the former steel works. I was checking out Micah Thomas there (see my blog here) but also had a chance to say a quick hello to my sister and kids (they were busy playing rounders down by the boating lake). I also went to Abergavenny where Thomas ministered.

Namesake with a bee problem

Of mild interest perhaps 
Busting a hive of bustling bees
It started with a dead bee found inside the house and it ended with a hive of 15-thousand bees safely moved to another location. Gary Brady found the bee in the house and after further investigation realized that he had a been problem in his wall. Brady relied on Tony Sandoval of BBE Tech in Omaha to apply his expertise in safely removing bees and relocating the hive. This project was also a John At Work assignment in which Sandoval and a rookie serving alongside for the removal. My job was to mellow the bees on cue with puffs pine needle smoke from a billow-like contraption. The hive was located on the side of the house where the air conditioning pipe entered the building. ....

Deaths of Bible Commentators

A recent post listed the main evangelical whole Bible commentators. Few individuals have managed to work their way through the whole Bible preaching or commentating, though some have. Most fail part way through.
Matthew Henry, the most famous of them, preached through the Bible but his commentary only goes to Acts 28 which he reached April 17 1714, dying on June 22, 66 days later. He had done quite a bit of work on the rest, especially on Romans and Revelation but other hands had to finish it.
In his diary he sometimes noted when others died seeking to do something similar. On November 17 1707 he wrote "November 17. 2 Kings xi. to v. 16. I find that just here Peter Martyr [Vermigli] was in his learned Expositions when he fell sick and died. Lord, our times are in thy hand." I've not found any other references to this.
Calvin got to Ezekiel 20:44 in his lectures on February 2, 1564, and died shortly after, on May 27th. (He managed to finish the chapter before his death).
Matthew Poole got as far as Isaiah 58 before his sudden death on October 12, 1679.

La du du

Not far from home there is a Vietnamese restaurant called La du du (how would Chandler from Friends cope? It means papaya leaf). Ever since it opened I've been longing to take my daughter-in-law and son there, a she spent six months in Vietnam in her gap year. We finally got round to it last week and had an excellent time. I think it brought back a  lot of good memories for them and I enjoyed seeing that and enjoying a great meal (Sauté beef or Bò lúc lắc). Sibyl went with Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng (Char-grilled pork & spring rolls with noodles) and Rhodiri with Crispy skin chicken (Cơm Gà Da Giòn)

Pray for Greece

Bounchan Kanthavong

There is a remarkable interview with the recently released Laotian believer Bounchan Kanthavong here.

Lancaster Free Grace

This week has whizzed by so quickly I haven't had opportunity to say what a good weekend I had last weekend in the Free Grace Baptist Church in Lancaster. To celebrate their 30-something anniversary they had  a mini-conference on the Saturday and Sunday. The main speaker was Erroll Hulse on holiness but I also spoke on both days. The pastor Phil Arthur also gave us a presentation on Tyndale and one of the deacons spoke about the history of the church. I know Phil a little and it was good to meet other church members including his co-elders Clement and Jeff. An excellent time all round. More here.

Tolstoy on death

This is from the novella The death of Ivan Ilyich
And suddenly the matter presented itself in a quite different aspect. "Vermiform appendix! Kidney!" he said to himself. "It's not a question of appendix or kidney, but of life and ... death. Yes, life was there and now it is going, going and I cannot stop it. Yes. Why deceive myself? Isn't it obvious to everyone but me that I'm dying, and that it's only a question of weeks, days ... it may happen this moment. There was light and now there is darkness. I was here and now I'm going there! Where?" A chill came over him, his breathing ceased, and he felt only the throbbing of his heart.
... Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair.

In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it.

The syllogism he had learnt from Kiesewetter's Logic: "Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," had always seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as applied to himself. That Caius — man in the abstract — was mortal, was perfectly correct, but he was not Caius, not an abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others. ... 
"If I had to die like Caius I would have known it was so. An inner voice would have told me so, but there was nothing of the sort in me and I and all my friends felt that our case was quite different from that of Caius. and now here it is!" he said to himself. "It can't be. It's impossible! But here it is. How is this? How is one to understand it?"

He could not understand it, and tried to drive this false, incorrect, morbid thought away and to replace it by other proper and healthy thoughts. But that thought, and not the thought only but the reality itself, seemed to come and confront him. ... He would go to his study, lie down, and again be alone with *It*: face to face with *It*. And nothing could be done with *It* except to look at it and shudder.

More Doc Watson

Just one more, okay.

Doc Watson

With the death of the blind singer and guitarist Doc Watson the other day (May 29)  I thought we should have something up here to mark his passing. he was 89.