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.


Review of the DVD Courageous first released at the end of last year.

If you are familiar with the work of the Kendrick Brothers and Sherwood Pictures (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof) then you will know what to expect from their current DVD Courageous. The them this time is fatherhood with the focus on four different fathers, three of whom are in the local police department. Again there is the Albany, Georgia backdrop, the focus on several different characters, the gentle and attractive humour, people praying and getting converted and the positive small town American charm. Perhaps the effort to be multicultural and multisocial is more obvious. As ever, the acting is good, the storyline well written and the production values high. The budget was up fourfold this time, to $2 million dollars (but quickly recouped many times over at the box office). However, the project was, as ever, bathed in prayer, involved many extras from the local church, relied on volunteers and has a credit list that still includes people like babysitters and caterers, again from the local church. The film actually ends with what appears to be a Father's Day service at the Sherwood Baptist church.
So, a film made by Christians with the laudable aim of drawing attention to fatherhood and what a crucial role fathers can have on the rising generation. What's not to like? Well, it was a little long I thought. It is relentlessly didactic and even if you agree with the basic premise you might find it a little irritating. The fathers in the film decide to show what committed fathers they are by signing a pledge and making a public commitment. One father gives his teenager daughter one of those purity rings that have been so popular an controversial in the States. All very American and fair enough for an American film, perhaps. My real fear, however, is that with the title courageous the film is suggesting that all we fathers need to do is to try a little harder, spend a little more time with our kids and everything will be dandy. It is difficult to say whether the problem lies in the Kendrick brothers theology or the medium itself. When you write a story or make a film then you are in a sense acting as God. There is no failure on the part of the writers to introduce conflict or to suggest that being a father is easy. Nevertheless it would be very easy to watch it and even with the closing text in your head (Joshua 24:15) to think that all we need to do is try a bit harder.
When I was at university studying English I wrote essays that chiefly aimed to convert the lecturer. I now see that was a mistake. That is not what an academic essay is intended to do. Watching and making feature films is surely not a sin. However, we must always remember that Christ conquers sin and wins hearts to himself through preaching not through feature films. Perhaps next time the Kendricks, who are undoubtedly good story tellers, will try and be more subtle and aim more at entertainment rather than trying so hard to convert us all.
(An edited version of this piece can be found in the September Evangelical Times)

Cassette 09 Haydn

Haydn wrote over a hundred symphonies and around 40 of them have nicknames. This cassette that I picked up in dearly deaprted Woolies some years ago contains the philopsher, clock and military (22, 100 and 101). Haydn is quite acessible and good fun.

Pray for Mexico

A weekend in Yorkshire

We spent last weekend in Yorkshire, leaving London on Friday morning and returning late Sunday evening. We stayed in a very nice guest house on Whitby itself.
The main reason for going up was to be at a wedding. Eleri's cousin's son was marrying a Whitby girl, the third wedding in three years for that family of five, so we will all be twiddling our thumbs rather next August. The wedding itself was in Whitby Evangelical Church, (see here especially) a former shop on Skinner Street that has been attractively converted. The sermon was given by John Perry the groom's brother-in-law and was a straight UCCF style gospel presentation. With several unbelievers present it was good to focus there. The whole service was God honouring and a joy to be involved with. That can be said  pretty much about the whole day, which continued with a cake reception at the church then a formal meal at the plush nearby Raithwaite Hotel and dancing 'til late (hopefully not too late). The several speeches were of a very high order, Daniel the groom singing unembarrassingly to his new bride and the seriously funny best man (Alex Passmore) making us all laugh but finding time to testify to God's goodness too, before rounding things off by being joined by a male voice choir to give a slightly amended rendition of Danny Boy. I'm not sure if I've been to a wedding where a wedding planner has been involved before but all sorts of things seem to have been thought of to add to the whole thing. We were sat on a table of 5 couples, most of whom, it turned out, were pastor's kids.
The following day we headed on to have lunch with friends in Carlton Minniot, attending the service at Hambleton Evangelical Church. The preacher that morning was David Owens from Milnrow Evangelical church. His sermon was evangelistic like John the day before but the two sermons could not have been more different. David used a score or more of anecdotes to back up his message, a call to repentance and faith. I guess D L Moody would have preached something like that. There was something decidedly old style evangelist in it.
It was goo to catch up with the Davies's but conscious of the long journey ahead we decided to go further south that afternoon and attend Wycliffe Independent Church, Sheffield. I have never been there before though I know one or two in the church, including the minister Ed Collier. Ed was preaching from James 1 on profiting from suffering. Not evangelistic this time, this was a careful and clear exposition of the passage and theme and for the third time a privilege to hear.
All three of these churches would be similar in that they are evangelical churches in the Lloyd-Jones tradition. They have all had Presbyterian ministers but are probably mostly made up of Baptists. Sheffield (founded 1908) is the oldest and largest with a nice airy building put up in 1994 and set in a busy part of the city. They currently have one minister and would like to increase their staffing back to the two they had until Spencer Cunnah headed this way. Hambleton (begun in 1969) is much smaller and is in the countryside. They have recently called Richard Wigham from Llantrisant, who will be inducted next month. The church in the seaside town of Whitby (formed in 1973) with its extensive refurbished property is probably somewhere in between size wise and is currently without a minister.
My knowledge of the Yorkshire Reformed scene is quite limited but it was good to get this little taste.


We went as a family last week to see the new Pixar movie Brave (see here). I was partly persuaded to go as the film features two songs (in English) sung by Julie Fowlis. Pixar always put on a good show anyway. The film was beautifully drawn and held interest right through. It could have done with a few more jokes, I guess. On the whole it was average for Pixar but Pixar are always above average. The story was quite fresh though as outlandish as ever. It deals with that age old question of fate or divine predestination as against free will or human responsibility. The world is unable to deal with this adequately, of course, and so the basic message here was that you have to make your own fate, which is about as close as a worldly view will get. Biblical Christians simply have to live with the tension between God's predestination and our human responsibility as typified in Newton's statement about preparing sermons as if there were no Holy Spirit and preaching as though all depended on him regardless.

Odd things in Whitby

We are in Whitby for a wedding. We had a little walk around yesterday and we saw three strange things.
1. An abandoned pair of decent black daps or plimsolls
2. Children smoking fake cigarettes (fooled me)
3. Minstrels here for some sort of folk music festival with blacked faces
[I assumed the latter two were illegal. Apparently the Morris men black face is about hiding not race.]

Today is the day

Today is the day 350 years ago when 2000 or so were ejected from the national church in England and Wales for the sake of conscience. It is right that we should give thanks for their noble stand and pray that we too may be men and women willing to follow conscience and to do what we believe is according to the Word of God regardless of what it costs.

Pretend it's not an advert

This great almost to the very end.

Ernest Kevan

I have just finished reading the new Banner of Truth biography of the London Bible College principal Ernest Kevan by Paul Brown. It is very well written and is both a challenge in that Kevan was clearly a dedicated and godly man and informative about a period which is really just before my time (Kevan died a little prematurely in 1965) but part of the whole renaissance of Calvinsim in the UK in the forties and fifties.
Far from looking for controversy, Paul Brown nevertheless doesn't duck issues such as Lloyd-Jones perceived attack on LBC in 1958 (see the chapter headed BD or not BD). He has done his best too to trace the development of the Strict Baptist Kevan's thinking over the years as he passed from Walthamstow to New Cross to Tooting to LBC in an ever changing situation. A very balanced portrait, it includes not only Kevan's leading of the college but his children's works, social involvement and, perhaps unexpectedly, his sense of fun. An appendix usefully summarises his PhD on the Law.  We really are in Paul Brown's debt.

Vlog 3 Forest of Dean

I recorded this last week

Silly puns on nations 4

1. Can Ada help us to get to Canada?
2. There's a queue ba every shop in Cuba said the Yorkshire man
3. Trinni, Dad and Toby go to Tobago
4. You is a good guy, come to USA with me
5. He was a jam maker in Jamaica
6. I saw Dom in a car in Dominica
7. Don't you just 'ate tea when its served in Haiti?
8. You're a guy I'm a girl, that's what they say in Uruguay
9. It's a little chilly in Chile
10. I'm in Peru as per usual

Aber Conference '12 Evening 5 Brian Edwards

As Brian Edwards himself observed, it might have been better if the conference had ended with Conrad Mbewe's address. Brian did his best, however, taking us to Revelation 22 but the message was somehow dissipated in a long and interesting but somewhat difficult introduction looking at God's light coming into the world. The decision to choose two hymns that the congregation did not know for the final ones was probably not wise either, as good as both were (one by Chris Idle, one by Charles Wesley). One feature this year is that we have sung nearly all 20th or 21st century hymns, apart from the Charles Wesley ones.
So another year over. Not a vintage one perhaps with numbers down and the preaching variable but full of plenty of good things. Evangelistic appeal was rather at a premium, sad to say. The conference is always more than the preaching.
Next year it's Alistair Begg and in the evenings Iain D Campbell, Vaughan Roberts, Ian Parry and Bernard Lewis.

Aber Conference '12 Conrad Mbewe 02

Conrad finished off on the second two mornings by looking at the final phrases in 1 Timothy 3:16 (was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory). Once again using a God exalting style illustrating chiefly from Scripture itself, it was fine preaching of the Word. He took the seeing by angels as taking place in heaven after the ascension and the taking up in glory as referring to the final consummation and so we ended on a very high note in what I thought was the best of the four mornings.

Aber Conference '12 Evening 4 Art Azurdia

This second time Art took us to being the salt of the earth and why we should live conspicuously Christian lives in a culture that despises Christians. The sermon on the mount demands engagement from believers in this world, we are indeed indispensable to to the world's highest welfare.
His three points included a negative insinuation (earth is decomposing), a positive declaration (seemingly insignificant we are to preserve the earth) and a devastating evaluation (if we deny our function we will lose our invalidate ourselves). Under the second heading he spoke of the tension between gospel effectiveness through intimate engagement and remaining distinct and not allowing the salt to lose its flavour.
I think this is what he was trying to get over when he was the main speaker here some years back. The devil, of course, is in the detailed working out. 

Aber Conference '12 Evening 3 Lyndsay Brown

Lyndsay Brown was the UCCF worker when I came to Aber as a student many moons ago in the late seventies. Lyndsay is Merthyr born and Oxford educated and both elements show. He is the former director of IFES. It was good to hear him again preaching Psalm 73. Typically full to the brim with anecdotes and illustrations it was a tour deforce of apologetic preaching that sought to help believers who, like Asaph, were finding it tough. His focus was on the God of judgement who is omnipresent, a providential carer and the one who gives hope.
That afternoon Lyndsay gave a seminar on his pet subject of world mission and that again was a very encouraging flurry of statistics about the advance of the gospel worldwide.
I must admit that I had not been sure whether these sessions would pass muster but for encouragement the two partly contrasting messages would be hard to beat.

An anonymous prayer from 1662

This prayer was prayed 350 years ago today on the Lord's Day before the Great Ejection

To thee, O Lord Jesus, we commend ourselves: To thee who judgeth rightly, thy poor Servant resigneth, and committeth this Congregation. The Lord pardon unto me wherein I have been wanting unto them: The Lord pardon unto them, wherein they have been wanting in the hearing of thy Word, that we may not part with sin in our hearts. Unto thee who judgest uprightly I commend them. The Bishop of Souls take care of them: Preserve them from the love of the World: teach them to wait on thee, and to receive from thee whatever any one or Family may stand in need of.
Provide them a Pastor according unto thine own will, only in the mean time give us that Anointing [that] shall lead us out of our own wills and ways, that we may walk in the ways of Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus say now amongst them, I am your Shepherd, you shall not want. Say to them as thou didst to thy Disciples, Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in the Father, believe also in me. So far as we are able we put thy Name upon them: we name the Name of the Lord Jesus over them. The Lord Jesus bless them; teach them to follow Holiness, Peace, and a Heavenly Conversation. The Lord make them useful to each other. The Lord Jesus be a blessing to them, and me and all ours. The God of Peace and Consolation fill them with blessings according as thou seest every one stand in need of. To thee, O Lord, we commend them, do thou receive them, that under thy counsel they may be preserved blameless, until the day [of] Jesus, where we may all meet crowned with Glory. Amen.

Aber Conference '12 Evening 2 Art Azurdia

American Art Azurdia must have Italian blood judging by his phenomenal hand gestures, which some of us remember from a previous visit to Aber. There seems to be a little less of Art than last time, which is probably good for his health. The same unusual but interesting style was in evidence too. He spoke in the afternoon distinctively but helpfully to preachers in particular from John 21 on sanctifying the failures of the ministry.
Then in the evening he preached on persecution, a strange choice perhaps but well done. Looking at Matthew 5 he sought to answer the questions, what is this persecution and why should it compel us to rejoice. The answer to the latter question being the simultaneous revelation that we belong to God's world and God's people. Good stuff.

Aber Conference '12 Conrad Mbewe 01

The main speaker at Aber this year is Conrad Mbewe from Zambia. We are focusing on the closing verse of 1 Timothy 3. He began on Tuesday morning by giving us the context saying that the church is appointed by God to know and love and defend and proclaim the truth. Its central message is Christ, his person and work. That is why we need to know and love and worship and speak of him. Taking the view that verse 16 is part of a hymn he also urged the reducing of such glorious truths to hymnody to teach and help in praise.
On Wednesday morning he looked at the first two clauses of verse 16 (He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit) and preached the central truths of the incarnation and the glorious resurrection and ascension of Christ. Presumably he will look at the remaining clauses today (Thursday) and tomorrow. 

Pray for Libya

The blood of Christ A Whyte

The blood of Christ: the sin-atoning and peace-speaking blood of Christ. I do not know, my Brethren, how it may be with you in this awful matter of the blood of Christ. There may be some of you who are not without some difficulty in receiving and in holding by the fact and the doctrine of the Atonement. But for my part, my insurmountable difficulty would be if there were no absolute fact, and no sure and certain doctrine, of the Atonement. Whether or no God could at once and for ever forgive my sin without the Atonement I cannot tell. I am not one of His counsellors. But one thing I do know and can tell. When I take counsel with my own soul about my sin, I both see and know that, to all eternity, I never could forgive myself, or endure myself, but for the all-satisfying and allobliterating atonement for all my sin that has been made by the Son of God. Neither lapse of time, nor attempts at redress and reparation, nor penances, nor self-denials, nor floods of tears, nor sweats of blood, nor solemnly sworn covenants, no, nor all these things taken together, could ever take away the awful load of my sin. But when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is ‘made sin’ by my sin: when both the fault and the stain and the guilt of my sin are all taken away from me by His blood, then a peace that simply passes all my understanding, as a matter of fact and of sure experience, takes possession of my heart and my conscience. And when I again fall into fresh sin and fresh guilt, and that is with every breath I draw, and when I again receive the Atonement, that great peace again returns to me.
I quite willingly allow you that I cannot fully understand all the divine mysteries that enter into the Atonement. I frankly admit to you that I cannot wade out into all the unfathomable depths of the Atonement. Enough for me that Almighty God fully understands and fully approves of the Atonement, and that both He and His Son and His Spirit, all Three together go down to the very bottom of it. Enough for me that the Judge of all the earth has proclaimed Himself to be well pleased with His Son’s finished work, and with any and every sinner who receives and rests upon His crucified Son for his salvation. This, then, be you sure is the right way, and the only right way, to take off your guilt and mine. And till you can show me a better way,

I for my part am to take Paul’s way, and Luther’s way, and John Bunyan’s way, and William Cowper’s way, and I am to sing with him in this way:

Dear dying Lamb! Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

So right, and so alone right, is this redemption-way of taking off guilt, and so absolutely convinced of this is John Bunyan that according to thePilgrim’s Progress even Christ Himself cannot take away a sinner’s guilt short of His cross and His sepulchre. Spurgeon somewhere blames Bunyan for making Christian carry his burden of guilt so far and so long. For even after Goodwill had admitted Christian into the Strait Gate, and had pointed him into the Narrow Way, he still sent that pilgrim on his upward way with his burden on his back. As thus:

‘Then I saw in my dream that Christian asked the keeper of the gate if he could not help him off with his burden that was upon his back. For as yet he had not got rid thereof, nor could he by any means get it off without help. But Goodwill told him: As to thy burden, be content to bear it until thou comest to the place of deliverance. For, there, it will fall off thy back of itself.’

Then, still with his burden on his back, Christian comes to the House of the Interpreter, and is entertained by the Interpreter in a way we will never forget:

‘Then I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall is called Salvation. Up this way, then, did burdened Christian run. But not without great difficulty, because of the load that was upon his back. He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending. And upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed off his shoulder, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad, and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death. He looked at the cross therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. And then he went on singing:

Blest cross! Blest sepulchre! Blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me.’

That is the Gospel of our Salvation in a puritan allegory. And we have the same Gospel in apostolical doctrine in that greatest of the Epistles where it is written:

‘Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.’

Now, we must have faith in absolutely everything connected with Christ. We must have faith in his Godhead, and in His Manhood, in His coming in our flesh, in His whole life on our earth, in His death, in His rising from the dead, and in His ascension home to heaven again, and we must have faith in all His heavenly offices both toward God and toward man. But always as we are guilty and condemned sinners, it is to faith in His blood that we are invited and commanded. We are justified, not by our faith in His being made flesh, but by our faith in His being made sin. Not by His being made our example, but by His being made our propitiation. We are justified, and we are accepted, not by anything in the Father, or in the Son, or in the Holy Ghost, but by our faith alone, and that in the blood of Christ alone. If the Apostle Paul had any insight given him into the mystery of Christ, that is it. The greatest of Christ’s apostles has nothing to preach to us compared with the sin-atoning blood of Christ. That is Paul’s one Gospel, first and last, both to himself and to us. The bare thought of any other Gospel being preached to sinners puts Paul beside himself with scorn and with contempt and with indignation.

Now, having I hope seen somewhat clearly the right way to take off guilt, let us also see the right way to keep it off. John Bunyan, like all other great authors, is his own best annotator and interpreter. And when we raise this question with him; this question as to how he kept off both his old guilt and his new guilt, this is his clear answer made both to Prudence and to ourselves:

‘When I think of what I saw and came through at the cross, that will do it. And when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it. And when my thoughts wax warm about the place to which I am going, that will do it. Things and thoughts like these will keep off sin, and will thus keep guilt off my conscience.’

And, then, this was our own Halyburton’s way.

‘Here,’ he says, ‘in my opinion, is one of the greatest secrets of practical godliness, and one of the highest attainments in a close walk with God. That is to say, to know how to come, daily and hourly, to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. Never to be for long; or, indeed, ever at all, away for a moment from that fountain: that is the only sure way to keep off guilt.’

Now to these two masters I will only venture to add this, — singing and saying to yourselves, day and night, the great evangelical and experimental psalms and hymns will greatly help to keep off returning and recurring guilt. Especially the hymns in the hymn-book collected under the heads of Faith and Penitence, Love and Gratitude, Joy and Peace.

Another good and indeed indispensable lesson is to get your new guilt taken off immediately. Even before it is well on get it taken off on the spot. If it is a sinful word that you have spoken, before that sinful word has lighted on your neighbour’s ear, before it has had time to enter your neighbour’s heart, and before the recording angel has had time to get his pen into his inkhorn, be you beforehand with him. Be you back at the cross in the twinkling of an eye. Be you prostrate in soul before the mercy-seat. And so with all your other sins that so easily beset you, and that so continually load your conscience with new guilt. God is said greatly to love certain of our adverbs. And no adverb more than the adverb immediately; unless it be the kindred evangelical adverbs vicariously and believingly. Well, then, as soon as you again fall into any sin, go to God alone about it; and go vicariously, and believingly, and immediately.

And then for the absolutely greatest sinner hiding in this house of God tonight there is this tremendous but most glorious lesson. It is not only the blood of Christ, and the blood of the Lamb, it is this: ‘The Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.’ The Blood of God: the tremendous bareness, so to speak, and the tremendous boldness of the words: the astounding and overwhelming grace of the words, will surely bring them home to every specially guilty conscience and to every specially corrupt heart. Times and occasions without number, when every other scripture has threatened to fail myself, this supreme scripture has been a house of refuge and a high and heavenly tower to me. The Blood of God has a specially inward and a specially personal and a specially experimental evidence to me, and I recommend that most wonderful of all the scriptures to them that need it; I recommend it to them with all my heart.

His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood avails for me:

so sings Charles Wesley.

‘Let it be counted folly, or phrenzy, or fury, or whatsoever,’ says Richard Hooker, in what is, perhaps, the greatest sermon in the English language, ‘it is our wisdom and our comfort. We care for no other knowledge in the world but this: that man hath sinned and God hath suffered: that God hath made Himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God.’

Aber Conference '12 Evening 1 Neville Rees

So EMW's Aber conference has swung into action with the first evening message. Veteran of the 50 plus conferences so far Neville Rees from Morriston spoke on the Gadarene demoniac from Mark 5. Taking the phrases in verse 15 (sitting at the feet, clothed, in is right mind) he spoke of total commitment, confession and Christ's compassion in a very warm and evangelistic way. Very straightforward, he spoke of various contemporary events, quoting the Times more than once and gave us several quotations from Billy Bray, Christmas Evans, Hendriksen, Lloyd-Jones and Don Carson. I liked one from DC "We never know who we are until Jesus saves us".

Aber Mini Conference 3

Directives regarding mortification
The five main points were

1. Keep your heart fuelled with gospel motives not legal ones
especially love for Christ
1 Make use of the means of grace public and private
2 Beware of anything that bleeds away the reality of gospel principles
3 Beware of falling back to legal principles  

2. Keep your conscience sensitive to sin
1 Bring specific sins to the light of the Law in its inward meaning
2 ... to the light of the Word
3 ... to the light of the gospel

3. Avoid dangerous occasions of sin
If you are allergic to cats you will avoid them and so we must be with sin

4. Strike at the first risings of sin
Beware of sin's friendly approach

5. Look consistently to Christ for the killing of your sins
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus"

Wheelchair Acrobatics

I am sat watching the local news. A woman has just said "every time you want a new wheelchair you have to leap though hoops". Great metaphor but open to misunderstanding perhaps.

Welsh Medal Record

I was glad to hear of Fred Davies getting a silver in boxing. Apparently the full haul was seven medals (three gold, three silver and a bronze) a record. The complete series was as follows. (More here)

  • Geraint Thomas, cycling, gold
  • Tom James, rowing (coxless fours), gold
  • Jade Jones, taekwondo, gold
  • Freddie Evans, boxing, silver
  • Chris Bartley, rowing (lightwt men's four), silver
  • Hannah Mills sailing (470 class), silver
  • Sarah Thomas, hockey, bronze

Aber Mini Conference 2

The second message was on the necessity of mortification and the main element in it was a series of four possible scenarios where mortification must be exercised.
1. A man who struggles with alcohol
2. A Christian who has been unfaithful to his wife
3. A widow who has stopped coming to church
4. A man who has problems with internet pornography
In each specific case Geoff suggested ways that the right hand and right foot could be amputated and the right eye gouged out.
He finished with this story from here
A few years ago a pastor brought a troubled man to me for counselling. When I asked him about his problem, he replied, 'I want to serve the Lord but I am having a terrible time.' 'What seems to be hindering you?' I asked. 'Everything and everybody it seems,' he said. 'Let's get down to particulars,' I insisted. This is his story. 'I have a smoking problem. I know I shouldn't be smoking. It is harmful to me and a blight on my testimony but I am having a hard time giving it up. Then there is my wife. She thinks I am a fanatic and she says if I insist on living a Christian life, she is going to leave me. She wants to have some fun, and I don't want to go back into that kind of life; but I don't want to lose my wife. Then there is my business partner. He is not a Christian and we are having a conflict over some unethical business deals he wants to pull. He says I am holding back the business with my stupid morals and if I don't shape up he is going to force me out. Then, last week I was down in Tucson in a restaurant feeling sorry for myself and this young divorcee approached me. She liked me and made some obvious suggestions and approaches. I almost fell into what she was proposing. But, I don't want to live like that. I'm just in a terrible mess.' 'You surely are,' I said, 'but maybe I can help you get some things settled. It seems to me you have about four options here. You can only take one of them so you may as well eliminate the other three. Let's find out which ones you can take and which ones you cannot and then see what we have left. Here is your first option. You can walk out that door the same way you came in with nothing changed and nothing settled. Can you do that?' 'I don't want to.' 'But can you?' 'If I had not wanted help I would not have come here.' 'But can you leave without it? Are you willing to walk out of here the same way you came in? Can you do that? Can you go on living the way you are now? Think about it. Because if you can, you will. There is no use of me wrangling around here with you for two or three hours only to have you refuse to do what you must and leave the same way you came in. If you can do that, then go ahead and do it now. Let's not waste anymore time.' He looked at me, saw I meant it, thought about it a bit and then said, 'No, I can't do that. I have got to have some help. I cannot live any longer the way I am. Something has to be settled.' 'Then we can eliminate that option. It no longer exists. Something has to be settled before you leave here tonight. Now we have only three left. Here is your second option: Forget about being a Christian and serving the Lord. Put the thought of it out of your mind and go ahead and do what you like. If you want to smoke, stop feeling guilty about it and puff away. If your wife wants you to go out and get drunk and raise hell with her, go ahead. If your partner wants to pull some fast deals that can make you rich and won't get you in jail, go to it. Take advantage of anybody you can, make as much money as you can, do what you like and live it up. If you see that divorcee again, take her up on the proposition. Whatever you feel like doing, help yourself.' He stared at me incredulously. 'Can you do that?' I asked. He shook his head, 'No, I can't do that. I can't live that way.' 'Are you sure?' 'I'm sure.' 'Think about it now, and settle it. If you can do that then you ought to go ahead because you will sooner or later. But if you can't, then settle it in your mind that you can't and forget about it. It's no use you ever thinking about it anymore. It is an utter impossibility.' 'I can't do that.' 'All right, that eliminates two options and two more are left. Here is your third one: Go home. If you do not have one at home, stop off at a pawn shop and pick yourself up a pistol. Get out in the yard so that you won't make a mess in the house for someone to clean up, take good aim so that you don't miss and put a bullet in your brain.' He jerked his head back and stared at me. 'I can't do that. I'd go to hell.' 'Probably so,' I said, 'but at least you wouldn't have to live in this mess till you get there.' 'No, I can't do that.' 'Then it looks like you have only one course left. Follow the Lord. Obey Him. If your wife leaves you, follow the Lord. If you lose your business and all your money, follow the Lord. If it costs you all your pleasures, follow the Lord. You really don't have any other option. You cannot do anything else. Live, die, swim or sink, you must follow Him.' He thought awhile, then lifted his head and slowly as the truth began to dawn upon him, a relieved smile spread across his worried face. 'That's right isn't it? It's really very simple. He is my only hope of life. There is nothing else to do.' I prayed with him, shook his hand and dismissed the meeting. Nearly two years later I was back in the same city and this man came to the meeting. His wife was with him, clinging to his arm. They had been, it seemed, through the greatest difficulties. His faith had been tried in the fire. The devil had exhausted his resources in his attempt to shake him from the commitment he made that night. But when he had left that counselling session, he was a single-minded man with only one place to go. His eyes were steadfastly fixed upon God as his deliverer. He and his wife both wore the broad sweet smiles of a victory that endures. They had learned indeed that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Such as these can give unerring testimony that God is indeed worthy of our trust.
There is a divine solution to every problem. You can change. There is hope for life that is more abundant right now. The misery of living sinfully can be alleviated. When anyone has truly come to Christ everything is made new.

Aber Mini Conference 1

We are now in Aber for the EMW conference. For many years one of the features of the week has been a sort of mini-conference where my father-in-law Geoff Thomas preaches three themed sermons on the Sunday morning and evening and the Monday morning. The sermon takes place in the Welsh Baptist Chapel Bethel, diagonally opposite Alfred Place and used because it is larger. Half the conference people come to the mini conference and the other half hear the official conference preachers elsewhere (Tim Gill and Pete Campbell this time).
This year Geoff's theme is mortification or putting sin to death. On Sunday morning we had
1. The nature of mortification
A misunderstood and neglected doctrine it needs to be taught in this the "age of addiction".
Biblical propositions:
1 Every unbeliever is by nature dead in sin (See Eph 2)
2 Every believer has died to the dominion of sin and death (see Col 3:3; Rom 7, 8) Geoff called it definitive mortification
3 The Christian has to deal with the living presence of the flesh.(Gal 5:16, 17)
He warned against the myth of perfectionism and recalled a question asked of Cornelius Van Til about it getting easier as you get older which the professor thoroughly squashed.
Other refs were then made including  Psalm 51, Mark 7, Matthew 5, etc, ending with Hebrews 12:1-3 and the observation that mortification is not everything. We need also to look to Jesus. 

Vlog 2 Bourton

Blodwen and Mary

My wife likes this. I looked for it on Youtube some time back and couldn't find it but it is there now. I remember watching Ryan and Ronnie (in English) as a boy. They were very funny.

Interesting Welsh Music List

There is an interesting list of top Welsh songs here
What's missing? Certainly Racing Cars They shoot horses and Tich Gwilym's version of the national anthem. Also something from Yr Hwntws perhaps. How about Blodwen and Mary by Ryan Davies? Maybe things from Blodwyn Pig, Man, Heather Jones and Edward H - I'm not well up on Welsh pop.

Olympic Pictures

Here we appear to have a man with jam on his front, a woman with a bra on her head and a man with gum stuck to his back.

Olympic Pictures 3 blokes

These blokes appear to be Ken, Sam and Ned

Silly puns on nations 03

1. I was hungry in Hungary
2. There's a lot of grease in Greece
3. I land in Ireland then fly elsewhere
4. I mulled over the problems of Moldova
5. I decided not to got to Romania but to remain here
6. They're all tall in Ukraine so you crane your neck to see over them
7. I ate a swede in Sweden
8. This is my son Marino who lives in San Marino
9. They've built a nice shopping mall, ta very much, in Malta, said the northerner
10. Ann, Dora and I live in Andorra

Welsh Gold

Wales wins gold in Tae Kwon Do. Well done Jade Jones!

Hear him carefully

I was slightly disappointed with this new 143 page biography of the veteran evangelist as it almost completely lacks analysis or any criticism whatsoever.  Rather, it simply catalogues the evangelistic travels and publishing story of a very successful evangelist under God indeed. I understand the laudable aim of the book but in the end to read of "masterful and comprehensive" (73) "a brilliant defence" (78) "a superb booklet" (96) "the best talk I have heard" (97) so often becomes a little wearing. Brian Edwards travel book for Day One is a better place to turn. There is also a reference to the Grove Theatre in Aberystwyth on page 99 - not a place I am aware of. 

Spoilt Rotten

I recently came across a reference to Theodore Dalrymple (a pseudonym) and his 2010 book Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality at the Christian Institute so I got hold of it and read it.  Dalrymple writes well in a conversational style and holds interest. Dalrymple is British and is a retired doctor and psychiatrist and now author. The book argues that sentimentality has become culturally entrenched in British society, with harmful consequences. A number of examples are given from the worlds of education, politics and the media with references to UK policy on African development, the death of Diana, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the work and life of Sylvia Plath. Dalrymple is not a Christian although he appears to accept the doctrine of depravity. It was good to hear someone articulating several concerns that one has about society today. I'm now seeking out other volumes of his.

Silly puns on nations 02

1. You get all weathers in Bahrain, everythng bar rain
2. She was from Bhutan, she was a beaut an' all
3. The Scotsman said he got rather broon, aye, in Brunei
4. The American said, I ran from Iran
5. Is rail travel good in Israel?
6. I think you wait a while for things in Kuwait
7. Me an' Ma had a nice time in Myanmar
8. Oh man, what a place is Oman
9. In Singapore they sing a poor song
10. Be ye men, ye men of Yemen

Face in the Forest

John Mortimer

This was in the Daily Mail yesterday and is from a new book by Graham Lord
When John [Mortimer] died in 2009, one starry-eyed obituary after another hailed him as a champion of free speech, whose defence in court of obscene and blasphemous books and magazines had allowed the British to throw off the repressive shackles of the past.
But, in reality, his campaign to sweep away our long-held standards, and his contempt for the law as it was then, infected British life with a disastrously selfish, anything-goes philosophy. Thanks to Mortimer, and others of the liberal intelligentsia, many of our old standards began to crumble.  Fathers increasingly abandoned their children and refused to discipline them or accept responsibility for them — as Mortimer did himself when the married actress Wendy Craig gave birth in 1961 to his secret love child, Ross Bentley, whom he proceeded to ignore for 42 years, lying disgracefully when the truth came out that he’d had no idea of Ross’s existence.
Of course he knew: it was common knowledge for decades in the theatre world. Three people told me about it in just one day, among them two of his ex-mistresses.
Mortimer’s part in this corruption of our values began in 1968, when he successfully defended in court a revoltingly sleazy American novel, Last Exit To Brooklyn. This book described in graphic detail the brutal, degraded lives of teenage prostitutes, homosexual rent boys, transvestites, rapists, drug addicts and the like in the slums of Fifties New York. ...
In his warped defence of the book, Mortimer argued brilliantly that it could not possibly be described as obscene, because no normal reader would be depraved by it but would, instead, be disgusted — thus strengthening their sense of moral repugnance. Weasel words, of course, logical only to a lawyer. ...
Sadly for those who were really close to him, Mortimer’s lifelong refusal to accept any standards of decency led him to behave astonishingly badly towards many of them. ...
Yes, Mortimer was a delightful man to know. But his immature refusal to understand that some behaviour is quite unacceptable led him to live a life of extreme selfishness that hurt many of those close to him.

Rare admission of guilt

Two senior Labour figures have admitted that their party got it badly wrong in government when it liberalised gambling laws.
The party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman admitted that it was a “mistake” and has ruined people’s lives. Meanwhile former Home Secretary David Blunkett said he had never supported the relaxation of gambling laws.

Speaking about the clustering of betting shops in an interview with Channel 4’s Dispatches programme Ms Harman said; “If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have allowed this. It’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.” She told the programme she had received heartrending letters, emails and calls saying; “Please do something about this. It’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous and the problem is it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law to be changed so that something can be done about it.” She concluded: “Well, I think we were wrong, we have made a mistake and this result is the consequence and we need to do something about it.”

“I’ve always been a social conservative”, Mr Blunkett noted. “If the present government tightened up on all this, it would be a good thing.” He added: “Anything that lets people do activities that they wouldn’t normally engage in – and can’t verify the age – is bad, and the danger is that it will lead to misery for a lot of people.” It has been shown that bookmakers make more than £1 billion a year profit from casino-style fixed odds betting machines.

Critics say the machines – which are so addictive that they have been branded the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling – enable people to build up enormous debts. Currently bookmakers are only allowed to install four of the controversial machines. But last month a committee of MPs argued that betting shops should be allowed to install more high-stake gambling machines.

They also said that councils should be given greater discretion over the location of casinos. John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Gambling is now widely accepted in the UK as a legitimate entertainment activity.”

An old minister's complaints

This was found among the papers of Horatius Bonar after his death.
An old minister, speaking of some things that have troubled him in his congregation thus writes in the way of sorrowful complaint.
I. I complain that many of my people are not so prayerful or so earnest, or so spiritual as Christians ought to be. They seem to pray very little, for their minister, for their fellow-worshippers, or for the revival of the work of God in the midst of them.
II. I complain that so few attend the prayer-meetings. Not a sixth part of the regular worshippers come to it, as if it were no business of theirs, as if they had something far more important to do. They go to public meetings, scientific lectures, parties of pleasure, but neglect the prayer-meeting.
III. I complain that some, of whom better things might have been expected, are only half-day hearers. What they do on the other half of the Sabbath I do not know; but their seat in Church is empty each afternoon.
IV. I complain that some are not punctual to the hour, but come in late, missing the first Psalm and the first prayer.
V. I complain that some are, during service, not so reverent in prayer or praise or hearing as worshippers of God should be.
VI. I complain that some do not observe the Sabbath as it ought to be observed, and as it once was observed in Scotland. Their conversation, their employments are inconsistent with the holiness of that day.
VII. I complain that our workers are so few, that of a large congregation only a handful should devote themselves to the active service of the Master.
VIII. I complain that our Office-bearers and teachers are not so earnest and self-denying and prayerful as they ought to be; taking their work too easily, not as a matter of life and death for souls.
IX. I complain that our liberality is poor and stinted; our givings upon a low and narrow scale; God getting the least, self and the world getting the most of what we have.

Rules for preachers

Nice link to four rules for preachers here

Silly puns on nations 01

1. I've often be'n in Benin
2. You can go to the Congo
3. I want to go to Togo
4. I live here in Libya
5. There are more issues to be dealt with in Mauritius
6. I've gone to Uganda - you gone der too?
7. You sing in Tunisia, getting the tune is ya thing
8. He was in Somalia somewhere living under some alias or other
9. I collected sea shells in the Seychelles
10. May 'ot weather be your experience in Mayotte
(I did this a while ago but forgot about it until the Olympics brought it all back)

The Hollow Crown

I'm a bit behind with this but I've now had chance to see all four of BBC 2's series of Shakespeare history plays (Richard II, Henry IV Pt 1 and Pt 2, Henry V). These were excellent productions. (See more here). They take the plays out of the theatre (making for some difficulties in Henry V which is very much written for the theatre with a chorus [John Hurt this time]). These were not lavish productions for today I suppose but a good deal of time time and money was invested in scene setting, costumes and extras that far from detracting from the plays themselves added greatly to the interest. The idea of featuring the same hollow crown in all four plays was inspired and added to the whole. I'm not sure why the continuity preserved by having one man play Henry V (Tom Hiddleston) could not have been followed in the case of Henry IV (Rory Kinnear is replaced by Jeremy Irons). All four plays featured well known actors (Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, Julie Walters, etc) and lesser known ones too. Although all four presentations made for a gripping 8 hours of TV, the first was the outstanding one for me. Ben Whishaw in the lead role is just magnificent. The decision to present him as a Christ figure worked brilliantly visually. A stunning performance. It is not easy to get to see this at this stage but it is worth seeking out.

Vlog 1 Door to door

I've often thought of a vlog but have never been sure how best to do it. Anyway, here goes. I recorded this last week.

Noachide laws

In a letter from a man seeking to witness to Jews that I read recently he say that in conversation with a Jew he was asked if he kept the Noachide laws. He explains
"The seven Noachide laws prohibit the worship of other gods, blaspheming the name of God, cursing judges, committing murder, incest and adultery, theft, and eating flesh with blood in it. A number of scholars have concluded that the regulations for Gentile believers laid down by the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:19,20 are very similar to the Noachide laws."

Fascinating videos

I thought the two videos with the article here were very interesting.

Lord's Day August 5 2012

Yesterday was a little different in that I was listening rather than preaching - a useful thing to do from time to time. (Pleased to sit next to my wife for a change but she was on Sunday School so it didn't last). LTS student Andrew Lolley was preaching on Jonah 1. I preached in the evening on the buried treasure adn the pearl of great price. We began the day at the communion table. I quoted Horatius Bonar who wrote that the communion should strengthen our faith, display the truth and nourish our souls. Two or three visitors in, all believers.

Pray for South Korea

Interesting kindle list

There is an interesting kindle list here showing the most highlighted quotations by kindle users.

Richard III at the Globe

Down at the Globe again this week to see Richard III. With an all male cast and the most basic staging, the play relied very much on the actors, especially Mark Rylance in the lead who played the part rather unconventionally as an undoubtedly evil man but one who first let us into his confidence and then bumbled his way through countless atrocious acts in an almost disarming way. The play mentions conscience several times and that is one of the keys to Richard. He always seems to answer his conscience somehow. His final reference to it is "conscience is but a word that cowards use". It was nice to see some actors I recognised from TV (Samuel Barnett and Roger Lloyd Pack). I'm sure I saw Julian Sands in the crowd at one point.