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.

Midweek Meeting December 31 2014

I wasn't sure what to do but in the end we had a midweek meeting at the usual time in the usual place. There were only six of us but it can get like that at times. We simply sang a new year's hymn and read from the last chapter of the Bible before briefly talking through topics for prayer and then praying. We closed with a Margaret Clarkson hymn on the Second Coming. People were off to other things after the meeting, of course. I headed home with my wife and son to join our only other son still at home for some TV and a game before welcoming in the new year. So 2015 is here. What does it hold?

Lord's Day December 28 2014

It was the last Sunday of the year and although several were away the congregations were not too small. In the evening three people were there who would normally be elsewhere but I guess there was  no evening service there. I preached in the morning from 1 John 2:15-17. I thought 1 John 2:15 would make a good motto text for us this year. I have sent for postcards with it on. I did a children's talk on the candy cane, which I was not aware of before. (See here for an example of how to do it). It was good to sing a new year hymn or two. In the evening I preached from Zechariah 10:4 which I took as  a Messianic text declaring him to be our cornerstone, our tentpeg, our battle bow and the one who raises up rulers in his church. There was a lady there in the morning who we have not seen in ages since she left London. She has many troubles and she came home with us before we took her to the A&E where I left her but she did not hang around there. I hope she is okay.

Christmas 2014 - Preaching and evangelism

I decided to preach this Christmas from Paul's epistles in the mornings and the prophets in the evenings. I began with something from Colossians 1 and then moved to the more familiar Galatians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 8:9. Similarly, in the evenings it was Isaiah 60 and then the more obvious Malachi 4:1-3 and Micah 5:2. Midweek I looked at the second part of Matthew 1 and at the people in the Christmas story. On Christmas Day I went rather unusually but appropriately to Job 42:11.
I also got to speak at two gatherings for the elderly, giving a gospel message. We distributed a few hundred copies of the Christmas Evangelical Times. A Hungarian man did come in on Christmas Day interested to know more. I gave him an English Bible and a John Blanchard booklet. I hope we see him again soon.

Christmas 2014 - Music

The boys are just finishing off their Christmas video for this year. A big part of Christmas for me is the music. From around December 1 I switch my Holiday section back on on i-tunes and I play pretty much only Christmas music for the month.
I also get some extra input from the radio (Radio 2, Smooth Xmas and Classic FM). I also hear other members of the family playing music too.
The Christmas CD collection is all in the iTunes now. There are 442 selections at present. I got into the two excellent Kate Rusby albums that I began to listen to last year. I also began to explore the Keith Emerson Christmas album. I am still enjoying Jethro Tull and The Roches but my vast Maddy Prior collection (62 songs) is impressing me less than it has.
Of course, this year I went to see Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall and that was very enjoyable.
In church I try and have us sing almost all the thirty or so Christmas hymns over the month. The new Christian Hymns is a very good selection of well known (Angels from the realms, As with gladness men of old, Christians awake!, Hark! The herald angels, O come all ye faithful, Once in royal David’s, O little town, See, amid the winter’s snow, Silent night!, etc) and less known (Behold the Great Creator makes, Christ is come!, Earth was waiting, See he lies there in the manger, Thou didst leave thy throne, etc) hymns. We also sang Joy to the world and (this time) O come, O come Immanuel.
The other music thing this year is a karaoke machine someone's bought us. That's going to be used a lot over the next few days.

Chistmas 2014 - Reading

I've just finished reading Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery which is based on the Advent Calendar. I've stuck pretty closely to one door a day since December 1 and that worked well. I was surprised to see in my copy that I bought it in 2001. This is the second time of reading right through. I rarely read a book a second time.
Also this Christmas I bought The Everyman Christmas Strories and read it. It contains 20 stories of varying lengths by well known (Dickens, Gogol, Conan Doyle, Trollope, Tolstoy, Chekhov, etc) and lesser known (Cather, Bowen, Cheever, Paley, Munro, Ford) authors. I bought it for the Gogol (Christmas Night) which I didn't enjoy that much. My favourite was Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. I also enjoyed John Cheever's Christmas is a sad season for the poor and Alice Munro's The Turkey season.
I also went looking for other Christmas material and found another O Henry story The gift of the Magi a classic and the original of the Jimmy Stewart film A wonderful life which is called The Christmas gift.
We have been reading the Bible a s a family, of course, and had looked at many passages to do with Christmas in one way or another. I have also been reading J M Boice's The Christ of Christmas which varies but has many good things and little clues to other good sources.
I managed the opening chapter of Can reindeer fly? on Christmas and science but din't get any further. Another time perhaps.

HMDUK 11 How hot is the Sun?

How hot is the Sun? The temperature of the surface of the sun is believed to be at least 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In such intense heat every substance known on earth would be reduced to gas. This is one of the reasons why it is thought that the sun is not solid, but is chiefly made up of various forms of gases. If the light of the sun were to be shut off from the earth we should perish from cold and starvation. If only 10 per cent of its heat was lost large parts of the earth would become frozen and desolate wastes.
(We now know it is chiefly made up of Hydrogen and Helium)

Jan Akkerman is 68 today - Gelukkige verjaardag

Christians who XL

You may have seen the articles that for some reason caught my eye today reporting a study that suggests religious people in Britain tend, on average to be, how shall we put it, on the larger side. See here for example.
Basically, researchers from the University of Coventry have concluded that people of faith are more overweight than godless heathens, with Christians likely to be most overweight of all.
In research by Dr Deborah Lycett looking at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 7,000 people, it was discovered that people belonging to a religious group were on average almost a point higher than atheists.
Similar studies have already been conducted in the US, where one found the more dedicatedly religious someone is, the greater their chances of being overweight. The study looked at those who rarely prayed and those who attended worship every week.
Lycett’s study found that while Christians were the portliest, Sikh men came in at a close second, with a significantly higher waist-to-hip ratio … seen in Christian and Sikh men.”
There are plenty of reasons why this might be the case I guess. Perhaps religious people concentrate more on their souls than their bodies. If that is the case, then wrong theology is creeping in somewhere.

HMDUK 10 Who invented red currant jelly?

Who invented red currant jelly? This is a matter of dispute between England and France. In August, 1937, the French unveiled an obelisk to the memory of Perrin Lamonthe, for whom they claim the honour, at Velainesen-Barrois. Lamonthe, they say, first made this delightful confection in 1364. On the other hand, English cooks claim that Edward I used the jelly a century before that date.

Lord's Day December 21 2014

Yesterday was the last Sunday before Christmas and so we had all our students back and a few others visiting (and some away). It made us a very male congregation I noticed when we sang the chorus to O come all ye faithful. I spoke to the children about the wise men and remembered (just about) to bring my supply of frankincense and myrrh for them to smell. I have preached this year from Paul's letters and the minor prophets. We did two very obvious texts this time - 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Micah 5:2. We had a well attended communion before the evening service and read from Philippians 2. We invited everyone back to the manse after the evening service for mince pies and mulled drinks and most came. Perhaps it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Warfield on the essentiality of the supernatural birth of Jesus

... I can only say that I have myself no doubt whatever of the fact of the supernatural birth of Jesus, as that fact is recorded in the opening chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I certainly make no question that additional evidence of tremendous weight is brought to this fact by its place in the system of Christianity, com- mended as this system as a whole is by the entire body of proof which we call the " Christian evidences." But I do not believe that it needs this additional evidence for its establishment. And I prefer my readers to understand that I proceed to the consideration of its place in the Christian system with it in my hands, not as a hypothesis of more or less probability (or improbability), but as a duly authenticated actual occurrence, recognized as such on its own direct evidence, and bringing as such its own quota of support to the Christian system of which it forms a part. ...
If, then, it cannot be denied that the supernatural birth of Jesus enters constitutively into the substance of that system which is taught in the New Testament as Christianity — that it is the expression of its supernaturalism, the safeguard of its doctrine of incarnation, the condition of its doctrine of redemption — are we to go on and say that no one can be saved who does not hold this faith whole and entire? The question is thoroughly impertinent. We are discussing, not the terms of salvation, but the essential con- tent of the Christian system; not what we must do to be saved, but what it behoved Jesus Christ to be and to do that he might save us. Say that faith is the instrument by which salvation is laid hold upon ; the instrument by which the prerequisites of the salvation laid hold of by faith are investigated is the intellect. As it is certain that the only Jesus, faith in whom can save, is the Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin Mary, according to the Scriptures, it is equally certain that the act of faith by which he is savingly apprehended involves these presuppositions, were its implicates soundly developed. But our logical capacity can scarcely be made the condition of our salvation. The Scriptures do not encourage us to believe that only the wise are called. They even graciously assure us that blasphemy itself against the Son may be forgiven. It would surely be unfortunate if weakness of intellect were more fatal than wickedness of heart. On the whole, we may congratulate our- selves that it was more imperative that Jesus, by whom the salvation has been wrought, should know what it behoved him to be and to do that he might save us, than it is that we should fully understand it. But, on the other hand, it will scarcely do to represent ignorance or error as advantageous to salvation. It certainly is worth while to put our trust in Jesus as intelligently as it may be given to us to do so. And it certainly will over and over again be verified in experience that he who casts himself upon Jesus as his divine Redeemer, will find the fact of the virgin birth of this Saviour not only consonant with his faith and an aid to it, but a postulate of it without which he would be puzzled and distressed.

A True Story

One of my deacons suggested a while ago that we might like to give out some tracts that Roger Carswell has done on Handel's Messiah (see here) outside a performance of the piece. We tracked down one such performance to the Royal Albert Hall last night (see here). Paul then said that it might be a good idea to go into the performance which the others all agreed to do. I decided against it for various reasons.
Anyway, while I was giving out tracts last night and this couple approached me and asked if I was going in, which I wasn't. They then offered me a ticket. They had hoped their grown up children would join them but it hadn't worked out and so they had two tickets spare. I was reluctant at first, of course, but they were keen and so I went for it.
It was an excellent seat and I really enjoyed the performance. That's the third time I've seen it and I have two or three parts that I regularly listen to so I was able to really enjoy it.
I chatted, of course, to the lady who had been so kind to me. During the interval we formally introduced ourselves. Her husband turned out to be a Tory Peer and a household name in the Thatcher/Major era. He was sat next to an even better known Tory Peer of the same vintage. I almost feel obliged to vote Tory next time round. We'll see. (My attitude to Mrs Thatcher is the same as my attitude to Marmite. Not a huge fan or hugely anti-).
So there's an interesting story for me to tell. I take it as yet another little reminder from God of his caring providence that is over my life at all times. As my hands Got colder giving out the tracts and I again stressed that I was not a tout I remember briefly thinking "why am I bothering?" and immediately reminding myself that God is no man's debtor. I had not expected such an immediate and obvious reassurance. If Lord and Lady D should happen to see this - thanks again.

Pastors and Persecutors (EMW Article 03)

The third article on 1 Thessalonians is now in the Evangelical Magazine. It is more or less as follows,
It all happened in just three weeks. Paul came to Thessalonica, preached, many were converted, persecution hit, Paul had to depart. Acts 17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-3:5 tell the story. Maybe you know little of persecution personally but you do not go far in the Bible without reading about it.
1 Thessalonians 2:14, 15 speaks of the Thessalonians becoming imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus. The Jews in Judea persecuted the earliest Christians. The same thing happened to the Thessalonians. Later (3:3b, 4) Paul says they know quite well that we were destined for this. He had warned them to expect it.
This is how it has always been. The Jews persecuted their prophets, the Judean churches, Jesus and the apostles. We believe the same things so we can expect persecution too. John 15:20, If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Paul told the Thessalonians - if you become Christians, expect persecution. And it turned out that way!
To this day believers experience it.
June 2013, Uzbekistan. A Christian is violently assaulted by a police chief. When he lodges a complaint, he is himself charged. He is stopped by the police chief, taken to a police station and a portable data drive containing Christian materials is confiscated. The officer beats him with a book, punches and kicks him. He is taken home and other Christian resources and his laptop are seized.
Is my lack of persecution today due to failing to live as I should? Not to be persecuted, is abnormal.
In 2:15, 16 Paul turns to the persecutors and says
  • They displease God and are hostile to all men as they try to stop them hearing the gospel. They displease God who hates such persecution and as for men, they are hostile to all. Persecutors in one way or another oppose God and man, keeping people from hearing the message and being saved. Some are driven away by fear of persecution. Others see the truth and believe, regardless.
  • In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. They will be judged for their sins and even now God's wrath is coming on them. Sin is like liquid filling a cup, drop by drop. Eventually it fills and God's wrath is unleashed. Paul is thinking of the Jews and the evidence already seen of God's wrath. We should be glad that one day all persecution will end.
2:17, 18 Paul says when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you - certainly I, Paul, did, again and again - but Satan stopped us. Knowing the Thessalonians were being persecuted Paul's sympathies went out to them. He had to move to Berea but did all he could to see them again. He longed to come to them but was stopped by Satan – no detail is given but Satan always wants to separate Christians. A good question is whether our hearts go out to the persecuted. That should be our response.
July 2013, Turkmenistan. Police raid a children’s summer camp. With medical personnel they swoop on the event, organised by a church on its own premises. They question the children, make parents collect them and take extensive video footage of children and the meeting place. The Christians are fined for holding an unregistered religious meeting and not complying with sanitary norms, charges they strongly reject.
Our hearts should go out to them.
Pastor and flock
  • How pastors should regard their flocks, flocks their pastors. 19, 20a what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. The relationship between pastor and flock should be such that the pastor sees the people as his hope, joy and future glory and the people recognise it. The pastor hopes the best for them; for them to truly believe and live to God's praise is his joy. When Jesus returns the Thessalonians will be Paul's crown. He will glory in Christ's presence over them. As it was with Paul and the Thessalonians so it should be today. Perhaps pastors fail to make this clear or maybe people are slow to believe it.
  • Sometimes pastor and flock are parted. Paul describes how he went alone to Athens (3:1). Imagine him – separated from his hope and glory. That is never easy for a pastor but it happens. Joseph Alleine, imprisoned in 1663, greatly missed his flock and wrote many letters. He says “Very pleasant have you been unto me, and your love to me is wonderful; and as I have formerly taken great content in that my lot was cast among you, so I rejoice in my present lot, that I am called to prove my love to you by suffering for you; for you, I say; for you know I have not sought yours, but you; and that, for doing my duty to your souls, I am here in these bonds, which I cheerfully accept through the grace of GOD that strengtheneth me. O that your hands might be strengthened, and your hearts encouraged in the LORD your GOD by our sufferings!” For pastor and flock to be separated is bad. The shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. Yet sometimes it happens. If it does not, be thankful.
A pastor's fears
3:2, 3a, 5 Paul confesses his fear that in some way the tempter might have tempted them and his efforts have proved useless. It was not sinful fear as he did something about it, sending Timothy to them, his brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel. Paul wanted Timothy to strengthen and encourage their faith, so that their trials would not unsettle them. Good pastors do what they can to see strengthen and encourage the flock as best they can. Unable to stand it any longer Paul sent to find out about their faith. He wanted information; any true pastor would, anyone with genuine concern.
Finally, Paul explains how Timothy returned with good news of their faith and love and their pleasant memories of and longings to see him (as Paul longed for them). How encouraging! Their progress and devotion meant a lot, as with any pastor. Growth in faith and love is vital despite persecution, which should drive pastor and people together. Even if there is none, they should be united.

Mr Turner at last

One of the nice things about living in London is that even when you've pretty much missed a film there is still a chance of seeing it (as a price). Mike Leigh's Mr Turner came out at the end of October. I was aware of it and eager to see it from the time of its nomination and victory in Cannes back in May but just had not been able. Anyway, I had to be in town yesterday and discovered it was still on in Covent Garden and so I went.
I must be honest I was rather disappointed. The film is well acted, beautifully filmed and does give an idea of Turner's life. Timothy Spall is very good as a sort of 19th century Russell Brand figure minus the charisma. However, it deals only with the last 25 years of his 76 years with mere nods to what went on before and is rather impressionistic. It also comes over rather sordidly and I'm not sure on what evidence. Now I know that to complain of its impressionism is ironic given that it is this sort of approach that Turner so often takes in his paintings. However, I would have preferred a film with a definite storyline and some obvious drama and character development. I think may be the problem was that the film assumed you already knew the story, which I must confess I don't. That Peter Ackroyd biography has been sat on my shelf for some time now unread.
His housekeeper Hannah Danby is shown to be suffering from psoriasis but what that has to do with Turner is not clear. In my ignorance I was not entirely clear which John Ruskin was which.
Another problem with the film is presenting the paintings, especially when they want to show Turner in action. That failed miserably for me.
So okay but not quite the amazing film everyone seemed to be saying it was.

HMDUK 9 What is the difference between beer and ale?

What is the difference between beer and ale? Today, virtually none. Lager beer is never called ale, nor are stout and porter, which technically are black beers, but other ise the term beer is taken to include ale. Only at one period, the fifteenth century, was the distinction clear cut. The English in England before the Norman Conquest drank both ale and beer, but what the difference was is not known. During the fourteenth century the terms appear to have meant strong and weak beer, as better beer cost four pence a gallon, penny ale only one penny. Meanwhile, German brewers were beginning to use hops in the making of beer, and it is though that English soldiers fighting on the Continent during the hundred years' War brought home the taste for this new liquor, for which apparently the name imported into England before 1400, and the ensuing century saw beer breweries of which latter at least seven were established in London by 1436. The struggle came to a climax or was ended, in 1483, when the use of hops in the making of ale was prohibited.

Midweek Meeting December 17 2014

We had a good turn out last night with two or three extras present. We sang Angels from the realms then thought about the many characters mentioned in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke and what we may learn from them, my main point being that the seemingly important people (Augustus, Herod) play a small role compared with people like Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. A good prayer time followed. I should have let it run a little longer.

HMDUK 8 What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's?

What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's? Various theories have been put forward. Some say that it was a warning to printers apprentices when sorting type, the letters p and q being almost identical in form, others that it was used in inns, the amount owing being chalked on a board in order that customers should not order more than they could pay for when settling day arrived.

From the mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson

Sinclair Ferguson's latest book is well worth reading whatever level you might be at. Its 11 chapters in four parts deal with many matters relating to the Bible - its authenticity,  its origins, its inerrancy,  hermeneutics, application, etc. it is an excellent help to trusting, reading, and applying the Bible. There are useful appendices by John Murray and John Owen. It also contains a bibliography and a Bible Reading Plan.

HMDUK 7 Where is Spring cleaning compulsory?

Where is spring cleaning compulsory? In Hungary, where in 1937 it was made compulsory for all lofts, garrets and cellars to be spring cleaned, inflammable material removed, and cloth and paper stored in fireproof receptacles. The fine for non-compliance with the order was 30 pounds in towns and 10 pounds in county districts.

Lord's Day December 14 2014

It's the Christmas season here in Childs Hill and so in the morning we looked in the morning at eight reasons why we can say Jesus came in the fullness of time and in the evening at the prophecy at the very end of the Old Testament, in Haggai 4, that the sun of righteousness would rise with healing in its wings. We had tea together before the evening service and that was very well attended, which was nice. Some of us also nipped over to the flat of one of our more elderly members to get his flat ready foir new carpets the next day.

Five interesting facts

1. The Sun makes up 99% of the solar system mass See here
2. The Sun is large enough that approximately 1.3 million Earths could fit inside (squashed in)
See here
3. In most species of bird, it is the male who sings not the female See here
4. The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers See here
5. Sound travels much faster through steel than it does air (sound travels at 5100 m/s through steel, 1480 m/s through water and 330 m/s through air) See here

Loos and pews

Huw Edwards the Welsh newsreader has been writing about toilets in churches and how important they are. We have had one here for the minister since way back when and about thirty years ago we added a public one. I am amazed at how busy it is during the service and the lack of awareness of some that it is not sound proofed. We have to take special steps to prevent people coming in off the street and using it. Read more of what Mr Edwards has to say here. He has recently written a book on London's Welsh Chapels. We have a signed copy and I have checked it for references to Dr Lloyd-Jones (there are a few) but must give it more attention some time.

10 Famous Ambulance Drivers of WW1

Walt Disney (notice the cartoon he has drawn on his ambulance)
1. E E Cummings (writer) - volunteer Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps
2. Jerome K Jerome (writer) - French Army ambulance driver
3. W Somerset Maugham (writer) - volunteer British Red Cross ambulance corps
4. Maurice Ravel (composer) - volunteer ambulance driver or truck driver
5. Ralph Vaughan Williams (composer) - Royal Army Medical Corps
6. Jean Cocteau (dramatist and filmmaker )
7. Stafford Cripps (politician)
8. Walt Disney (Animator and film producer) - volunteer American Red Cross, but served after the armistice ending WWI was signed.
9. Ernest Hemingway (writer)  - volunteer American Field Service
10. John Masefield (writer) - served as hospital orderly in British hospital for French soldiers in France

HMDUK 6 How did surnames begin?

How did surnames begin? Hereditary surnames were unknown among the Anglo-Saxons. It was not until the twelfth century that these came into use, and not universally even then. Many of them were formed by adding son to the father's Christian name, such as Johnson, Ferguson, and so on. Others sprang from localities as Attwood, Byfield, Green, Abbey, Townsend, who were domiciled respectively at or by the wood, field, green, abbey and town's end. More important people took the name of the village or township in which they lived, for example John of Derby would later be plain John Derby. A very large class ofsurnamess recall the occupations of their original owners, as Smith, Miller, Baker, Tanner, Fuller, Mason, Dyer, Abbott; while a vast number arose from nicknames and epithets (not always complimentary) given to their original bearers on account of their personal appearance or characteristics. A few taken at random are Hogge, Fox, Short, Swift, Longman, Rich isself explanatory; but not to Power; which means the exact opposite and was originally poor. Not all English surnames are English in origin. Russell for example is Anglo French and means red haired.

10 Mediterranean Islands

1 Sicily (Italy) 25,460 5,010,000 Palermo
2 Sardinia  (Italy) 24,090 1,656,000 Cagliari
3 Cyprus  (Cyprus, Turkey, UK) 9,251 1088503 Nicosia
4 Corsica  (France) 8,681 322,000 Ajaccio
5 Crete  (Greece) 8,312 624,000 Heraklion
6 Majorca  (Spain) 3,640 846,000 Palma
7 Rhodes  (Greece) 1,398 117,000 Rhodes
8 Corfu  (Greece) 592 108,000 Corfu
9 Ibiza  (Spain) 577 111,000 Ibiza Town
10 Malta  (Malta) 246 409,259 Valletta
There are well over 150 islands all told. Other well known examples include Lesbos, Chios, Minorca and Elba.

Coats Z - Z-flex aluminised heat resistant coat

CYSK 16 D L Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody (1837 – 1899), also known as D.L. Moody, was an American evangelist and publisher, who founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts (now Northfield Mount Hermon School), the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and Moody Publishers. Ira Sankey was solo singer/music director for their evangelistic campaigns in both the United States and Great Britain. He came to Britian in 1867, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1881/2 and 1891/2. An evangelical ,he was controversial in some quarters but received the support of Spurgeon and other sound preachers.

Novelists 45 - W Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965) was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. After losing both his parents by the age of 10, Maugham was raised by a paternal uncle who was emotionally cold. Not wanting to become a lawyer like other men in his family, Maugham eventually trained and qualified as a medical doctor. The first run of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), sold out so rapidly that Maugham gave up medicine to write full-time. During World War I, he served with the Red Cross and in the ambulance corps, before being recruited in 1916 into Secret Intelligence, working in Switzerland and Russia before the October Revolution of 1917. During and after the war, he travelled in India and Southeast Asia; all of these experiences were reflected in later short stories and novels. He wrote many novels including Ashenden: Or the British Agent, Cakes and Ale, Catalina, The Magician, The Moon and Sixpence, Mrs Craddock, Of Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Razor's Edge, Then and Now and Up at the Villa.  I've not read any of them. 

HMDUK 5 What is the origin of nicknames?

What is the origin of nicknames? Primitive man's habit of regarding his real name as his own private property and so rarely if ever to be used. To his companions he was therefore known by what was formerly called in England an eke (ie added) name. Slovenly pronunciation turned this into a nickname.

Midweek Meeting December 10 2014

We went for a Christmas theme last night - looking at Matthew 1:18-25. It was  little long for an evening meeting but of interest I hope. We were about our usual number and people prayed pretty readily. We began with the hymn All poor men and humble.

Coats Y - Yelek

Last Issue of Grace Magazine

I received the last issue of Grace yesterday. It is sad to think that the magazine is coming to an end. I am glad to have been part of the story (as editor c 1999-2004). The cover reflects the original design of the first (smaller sized non-glossy) issue under the leadership of John Doggett. 

Coats X - X-ray coat

Calvin available online

HMDUK 4 What Does Goodbye Mean?

What Does Goodbye Mean? Goodbye is a shortened and corrupted form of "God be with you". The expression has had in its long life many spellings, of which "God be why you" and "Goodbye" are representative. God became good probably by association with Good morning, Good evening, and Good day which were probably themselves shortened forms of "God give you good morning, etc". The suggestion has been made that Goodbye is a corruption of "God buy you" but the earliest forms of the salutation show that this is not the case. Many common exclamations, such as bless you, save us, and preserve us used formerly to begin with God. Mercy on us is an abbreviation of "God the Lord have mercy on us".

Two recent deaths

Two recent deaths in America caught my eye. Firstly, Bob Montgomery a music producer who worked with and wrote for Buddy Holly in Texas in their early days. Secondly, Ralph H Baer, who was a pioneer in video games including The Simon. I have fond memories of being a student and playing Simon at the manse where my future wife was resident. I'm sure we've featured it on the blog here before.

My favourite new band

These two are going to be the new Everly brothers I would guess

10 Interjections

I was checking to find the spelling of ow! the other day and found these. These are the a and e examples. See more here.
1. Aah! aaah, aaaahh "Help!" "Aaaah! It's eating my leg!" Fright, shock. Sometimes it means "ahh" instead.
2. Aha or a-ha "I understand" "Aha! So you took the money!" Understanding, triumph (can also be used as "ahh")
3. Ahem "Attention, please!" "Ahem! Swearing is against office policy." The sound of clearing one's throat. Used to get someone's attention, especially if they don't know (or apparently forgot) that you're there.
4. Ahh ahhh "Ok, I see" "Ahh, yes, I understand now" Realisation, understanding. Sometimes it means "aaah" or "eh" instead.
5. Argh augh "Damn!" "Argh, the car won't work!" Annoyance, anger, frustration
6. Aww aw, awww "How sweet!" "Aww, what an adorable puppy" Shows sentimental approval (also see next entry)
7. Aww aw, ohh, ahh "That's too bad" "Aww, it hit him right in the face!" Feeling sorry or pity for someone
8. Aw oh "Come on!" "Aw, don't be like that!" Mild disappointment or protest
9. Eh? Huh? "What?" "Eh? I didn't hear what you said." Misunderstanding.
Eh? huh?, eyh? "Is that right?" "So she dumped you, eh?" Stereotypically overused by Canadians
10. Eww ugh, ewww "Disgusting" "Ewww, this apple is rotten" Disgust, dislike

HMDUK 3 Who introduced the potato?

Who introduced the potato to Europe? No one knows for certain, though the credit is usually given to Hieronymus Cardan, a monk. Sir Walter Raleigh was not its introducer. He planted potatoes on his Irish estates in 1586, but the vegetable had been known to the Spaniards for many years previously. Both Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake have been credited with its introduction into England, the former in 1563, the latter in 1580, but it is now held that they brought home the "sweet potato," not the ordinary variety. Drake's claim is upheld on a statue of the navigator at Offenburg, in Germany. An inscription on the base reads: "Sir Francis Drake, introducer of the Potato into Europe in the year 1580".

Lord's Day December 7 2014

At this time of the year I like us to sing the carols and to preach messages broadly in line with the Christmas message. What I though I would do this year is to take my messages from Paul's letters in the morning and from the prophets in the evening. So this last Sunday we looked in the morning at Colossians 1:15-20 and in the evening at Isaiah 60. That went okay, though it would have been nice to have some fresh visitors. As ever, some were missing, lots of colds about. We began the day with communion. I referred to the Saviour's bones being unbroken as prophesied.

Coats W - Waistcoat

And Back to Wales Again

Here I am with three of the wonderful women in my life, two of my nieces and my daughter-in-law. We are in the grounds of St Fagan's enjoying mulled wine and mince pies. It was part of an early celebration with my sister and her kids and ours and including Eleri's sister and family. There was some fluctuation but we were as many as 20 at certain points. The weather was good for December and we had a lovely time.

CYSK 15 J Hudson Taylor

[James] Hudson Taylor (Chinese: 戴德生) (1832–1905) was a British Protestant missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM) (now OMF International). He spent 51 years in China. CIM was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who were used to bring some 18,000 to faith, as well as establishing more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in all 18 provinces and beginning 125 schools. He was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for evangelism. He adopted wearing native Chinese clothing, rare among missionaries of the time. Under his leadership, CIM was singularly non-denominational in practice and accepted all sorts of people. Primarily because CIM's campaign against the Opium trade, Taylor has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to visit China in the 19th Century. Historian Ruth Tucker summarises the theme of his life: No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor. Taylor was able to preach in several varieties of Chinese, including Mandarin, Chaozhou and the Wu dialects of Shanghai and Ningbo. The last of these he knew well enough to help prepare a colloquial edition of the New Testament written in it. He was from a Methodist background but after being converted at 17 he espoused many principles of The Brethren.

Novelists 44 - Zane Grey

[Pearl] Zane Grey (1872–1939) was another American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that were a basis for the Western genre in literature and the arts; he idealised the American frontier. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book. In addition to the commercial success of his printed works, they had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. As of 2012, 112 films, two TV episodes, and a TV series (Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater) had been made that were based loosely on Grey's novels and short stories. Wikipedia lists over 90 of his books mostly westerns. He was one of the first millionaire authors.

HMDUK 2 Why do we shake hands on meeting?

Why do we shake hands on meeting? Students of folk-lore trace the origin of handshaking to primitive magic; the physical contact of the hands symbolised that each of the parties yielded himself up to the power of the other and united with him in peace and friendship; or signified the ratification of a compact or pledge. We still clinch an agreement or a business deal by “shaking hands on it.” This element of contact is clearly seen in the Roman marriage ceremony, in which – as also among the ancient Hindus – the clasping of hands by the bridge and bridegroom was a prominent feature.

Coats V - Vicuña Coat

(A Vicuña is an alpaca like animal)

The death of Sir Fred Catherwood

See here

CYSK 14 Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson, Jr. (1788–1850) was an American Baptist (formerly Congregationalist) missionary, who served in Burma for almost forty years. At the age of 25, Judson became the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma. His mission and work with Luther Rice led to the formation of the first Baptist association in America to support missionaries. At times mistakenly referred to as the first missionary to Burma, he was in fact preceded by James Chater and Richard Mardon (both arrived in 1807) as well as by Felix Carey. However, since none of them remained long, and Judson also translated the Bible into Burmese, as well as establishing a number of Baptist churches in Burma, Judson is remembered as the first significant missionary in Burma, as well as one of the very first missionaries from America to travel overseas. When he died, he left the Bible (his translation remains popular), 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers. In large part due to his influence, Myanmar has the third largest number of Baptists worldwide (behind the USA and India). The majority of adherents are Karen and Kachin. Each July, Baptist churches in Myanmar celebrate "Judson Day". Judson compiled the first ever Burmese-English dictionary. The English-Burmese half was interrupted by his death and completed by missionary E A Steven. Every dictionary and grammar written in Burma in the last two centuries has been based on ones originally created by Judson.

Novelists 43 Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) was an American author. Prolific throughout his short life, he apparently wrote notable works in the Realist tradition and early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognised by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation. The eighth surviving child of Methodist parents, he began writing at four and had published several articles by 16, leaving college in 1891 to work as a reporter and writer. His first novel (1893) Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, is generally considered by critics to be the first work of American literary Naturalism. He won international acclaim for Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895), which he wrote with no battle experience. In 1896, he endured a highly publicised scandal after appearing as a witness in the trial of suspected prostitute, Dora Clark. Late that year he accepted an offer to be a war correspondent in Cuba. En route, in Jacksonville, Florida, he met brothel madam Cora Taylor, with whom he began a lasting relationship. His ship to Cuba sank off the Florida coast, leaving him and others adrift for several days in a dinghy. He describes the ordeal in "The Open Boat". During his final years, he covered conflicts in Greece (accompanied by Cora, the first woman war correspondent). They later lived in England. He was befriended by writers such as Conrad and H G Wells. Plagued by financial difficulties and ill health, he died of TB in a German sanatorium aged 28. Considered at his death an important figure in American literature he was nearly forgotten for two decades, before interest revived. I first became aware of him doing American Studies at University. His writing is apparently characterised by vivid intensity, distinctive dialects and irony. Common themes are fear, spiritual crises and social isolation. Recognised primarily for The Red Badge, an American classic, he is also known for his poetry, journalism and short stories ("The Blue Hotel", "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky", "The Monster"). His writing made a deep impression on 20th-century writers, most prominent among them Hemingway, and is thought to have inspired the Modernists and the Imagists.

Coats U - Ulster

Midweek Meeting December 3 2014

We had a change last night. Our friend Henikaja from Madagascar who has been studying at the John Owen Centre this term spoke to us about the work of the gospel in Madagascar. We have known about the situation for some years now, three students having been based with us while the studied at the LTS. It was good to get this clear overview of the situation among the Baptists, which is generally very encouraging with many men preparing for the ministry. There are needs, of course, such as translations into the local Malagas language. We were about 12 of us present, including my parent-in-law, up for the conference. I arrived late having been at another meeting in town before coming. We had a good prayer time, praying especially for Madagascar and our Meal & Message with Brad Franklin tonight.

HMDUK Why is the sky blue?

Why is the sky blue? The rays of the sun, in striking the earth's atmospheree, are scattered by the countless tiny specks that fill the air, the blue rays being scattered farther than the red. It is thus the blue rays which we see, and which lead us to believe that the sky is of that colour. If the air were free of all particles of dust, the sky would be quite dark, relieved only by the brightness of the sun and the moon and of the stars which would then always be visible.
(When I was a boy we had a little book from my dad's home called How much do you know? By a man called Harold Wheeler, it came out in the thirties and is a fascinating read. I saw an edition in a second hand shop this morning and bought it. This is the first question in the general knowledge section).

Westminster Conference 2014 Day 2

Dr Robert Strivens on his feet (back to us) to ask a question following the paper by Dr Mark Jones (seated). Chairman Jeremy Walker stands pensive while Phil Arthur looks on (in profile). We can also see the backs of the heads of Gavin Beers and Dr Robert Oliver.
Yesterday was good but today was, if anything, even better. Numbers were perhaps slightly lower but 120 have attended, most of them on both days. The Oxford Street venue is proving ideal.
Today we had three excellent papers. Mark Jones kicked us off with his paper on the law, dealing with antinomianism (do see his book on the subject). Robert Strivens then gave an excellent overview paper on the enigmatic but godly Richard Baxter, author of 60 volumes. Both papers were followed by good discussion times well chaired by Jeremy Walker and Ken Brownell. In the Baxter session we discussed why we think N T Wright is much more dangerous than Richard Baxter, whose view of justification was defective. The final paper is traditionally a biography with no discussion and Andy Young of Cheltenham served us well in this respect with a well nuanced paper on the great John Knox concentrating on his international career. These papers would be well worth reading when published next year.
  • Mark Jones (in his book page 114) There is today a great deal of talk about ‘grace.’  It is described as scandalous, liberating, shocking, counterintuitive, unpredictable, dangerous, etc.  But when an emphasis on grace eclipses a focus on Christ, as it sometimes does, then grace is not being preached; rather, a sort of cheerleading experience takes place, in which very little is actually said about grace because it is divorced from the riches of Christ’s person and work”.
  • Richard Baxter (Christian Directory) Becasue God hath made the excellent, holy writings of servants, the singular blessing of this land and age; and many an one may have a good book, even any day or hour of the week, that cannot at all have a good preacher; I advise all God's servants to be thankful for so great a mercy, and to make use of it, and be much in reading; for reading with most doth more conduce to knowledge than hearing doth, because you may choose what subjects and the most excellent treatises you please; and maybe often at it, and may peruse again and again what you forget, and may take time as you go to fix it on your mind: and with very many it doth more Than hearing also to move the heart, though hearing of itself, in this hath the advantage ... lively books may be more easily had than lively preachers.
  • John Knox - "Grant unto us, O Lord, that with such reverence we may remember thy benefits received, that, after this, in our default, we never enter into hostility against the realm and nation of England. Suffer us never, O Lord, to fall to that ingratitude and detestable unthankfulness, that we should seek the destruction and death of those whom thou hast made instruments to deliver us from the tyranny of merciless strangers. Dissipate thou the counsels of such as deceitfully travail to stir the hearts of the inhabitants of either realm against the other. Let their merciless practices be their own confusion; and grant thou, of thy mercy, that love, concord, and tranquillity, may continue and increase amongst the inhabitants of this isle, even to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose glorious gospel, thou, of thy mercy, dost call us both to unity, peace, and christian concord, the full perfection whereof we shall possess in the fulness of thy kingdom." (Old Scottish liturgy)
We are due to meet again December 1 and 2, 2015 when papers will be given, God willing,  on  Erasmus, Isaac Watts, John Owen (2), Andrew Fuller and Jonathan Edwards. The new website can be found here.

Westminster Conference 2014 Day 1

It was a good day today in Oxford Street at the Westminster Conference. Today had a very Welsh flavour with three Welsh speakers (Stephen Clark, Adrian Brake and Andrew Davies) and three Welshish subjects. Welshmen seemed thicker on the ground than usual too.
The first paper was called holy worldliness (almost the same name as this blog). After a laudatory introduction concerning Whitefield we moved to the way he and Harris were less than perfect in their approach to marriage. Certainly the Harris, Whitefield, Elizabeth James affair is bizarre and Harris's obsession with Mrs Griffith wrong but I felt it was harsh to criticise Whitefield's unsuccessful letter of proposal to Elizabeth Delamotte. Failures by two men in one area does not justify the accusation of dualism. Anyway we had a half decent discussion following the paper.
We then had an excellent introduction to Thomas Charles who died in 1814. His Bible Dictionary had an incredible impact. It makes you wish you spoke Welsh. It begins
"The Holy Scriptures are a treasure house of all profitable and essential knowledge ….. Since they have all been given by the inspiration of God, they must partake of his perfection, and befit it. Because of the perfection of his knowledge, he cannot err; and because of the integrity of his nature, he will not deceive us in any matter; therefore, the knowledge given to us in the Scriptures is lofty, certain and complete. There is nothing which pertains to our condition and our blessedness in another world; nor anything which pertains to our circumstances and our duties in this world, that God, in his holy word, has not given us full instruction, how to behave in all things, in all situations, and towards everyone. The great plan of salvation, through a Mediator, shines clearly and fully in it, before a world of sinners."
You can get one in leather on ebay for around £60-70. There appear to some volumes available online.
The final paper was on Calvinistic Methodism and so the focus was on Wales again but it went well beyond that. The discussion after limped along a little.

Coats T - Tail Coat

Lord's Day November 30 2014

So the last day of November proved to be another silent Sabbath for me. My problems started last Tuesday when I was in such pain that I headed in to an A&E en route home from Wales. The pain abated (with some help) before I left there but flared up again several times over the next few days necessitating another trip into A&E. It was late on Thursday that I decided I would not be able to preach and that more or less proved to be the case. I managed to get to church Sunday evening but until the middle of Sunday morning I was feeling pretty rotten and have been recuperating today.
Thankfully, my fellow elder Robert Strivens kindly arranged for my son, Rhodri, to preach in the morning, and my fellow Welshman and neighbour Spencer Cunnah, to preach in the evening. In the morning I stayed home and listened to a sermon from online (myself as it turns out, that's who I'm used to listening to). in the evening I was there to hear Spencer on Revelation 10. You really appreciate church when you've been deprived of it.

Coats S - Smoking Jacket