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.

Rhodri ar y radio

Rhodri is doing another play soon (Flowers of the dead red sea by Ed "Hinterland" Thomas). He has been interviewed briefly recently (with producer Izzy Raby). If you have Welsh you can hear it here. Also check here and here.

10 common metal alloys

I'm reading a book on chemistry at the moment. It has led my thoughts to alloys

1. Brass (copper + zinc)
2. Bronze (copper + tin)
3. Gunmetal (copper + tin + zinc)
4. Electrum (gold + silver + copper)
5. White gold (gold + nickel + palladium)
6. Steel (iron + carbon)
7. Stainless steel (iron + chromium + nickel)
8. Cupronickel (nickel + bronze + copper)
9. Sterling silver (silver + copper)
10. Pewter (tin + antimony + copper)

See this Wikipedia page here.

Watching films, etc

I'm not normally a great one for watching films but in present circumstances it is much easier than reading and so I have watched at least six over the last few days. They are
Citizen Kane 1941
The Searchers 1956
Treasure Island 1972
Little Women 1994
Cadillac Records 2008
The secret life of Walter Mitty 2013
I watched Citizen Kane with one of my sons, both of us conscious of how lauded the film is. Clearly, for its time this was quite something and is still worth a watch as it seeks to make head or tail of the mysteriously driven newspaper tycoon, played by the 25 year old Orson Welles. Welles also leads in Treasure Island, with a quite a different take on Long John Silver to that of Robert Newton in the Disney version of the previous year. The discovery of the treasure is a high point.
I must have seen John Ford's western The Searchers before but I can't remember sitting through it as a connected whole. One can see how the film with John Wayne (who says That'll be the day several times) in the lead role has been eventually so esteemed and influential. For a fifties film it has quite a modern feel.
Little Women with Wynona Rider and Christian Bale et al was fun. I generally enjoy literary stories of that sort. Ben Stiller's Walter Mitty was a little disappointing. It has some very good moments but doesn't quite cohere. The message - little people are important - is a bit corny and the film seemed to be aware of that and so fought shy of coming out with it strongly enough. One of the best bits is when Sean Penn fixes a snow leopard in his camera lens up in the Himalayas and decided the moment is more important than the picture.
My favourite film of these six was the history of Chess Records, which I was vaguely familiar with. It simply takes us through the founding of the company by Leonard Chess with Muddy Waters, through the discovery of Chuck Berry, Etta James (Beyonce), etc, ending with Chess's death by heart attack (an obvious reminder to me that I might not be sitting here now - which also came with the two hour biopic about comedian Tommy Cooper, Not like that, also watched recently). The often squalid and crazy lifestyles of truly talented people is always a sobering theme.
We also watched Hinterland last night, enjoying the Aberysytwyth and district backdrops.

Lord's Day April 27 2014

I was (virtually) in the Met Tab listening again this week. Dr Masters was back in his pulpit and preached from Philippians 3 to the saints and John 12:24 to sinners. It was decent stuff, though not that easy to listen to. The hymns are quite idiosyncratic (I'm sure I also spotted again a slight discrepancy between what was written and what was sung, somehow). It is still great to be able to tune in like this. (I believe that Tabernacle, Cardiff, do offer a similar facility but that was not a possibility this particular Sunday). Here in Childs Hill Robert Strivens preached again am on the Last Supper in Luke and pm Andrew King came across from Highbury to help us, for which we are very thankful.

Lord's Days April 13 and 20 2014

I actually preached on the Sunday morning of the 13th. I got out of hospital on the 9th and then learned that I needed to report to the Heart Hospital on the afternoon of the 13th. We had booked a family holiday in Hampshire for the 12-19 with our boys and others. So I had a nice afternoon and evening down in Hampshire on the Saturday and then for various reasons we had our own service in the cottage (Eleri, me, the five boys, Sibyl (plus junior in utero), Eleri's sister, husband and son). At the last minute I thought of hymns and realised that we had enough devices between us to email or Facebook three hymns out for acapella use in the service. I preached on 1 Kings 3:1-15. After a quick lunch Eleri drove me back to London and to the hospital. No evening service for ne then (I think they  used stuff from Youtube to keep them in tune and listened to Mark Raines on Sermonaudio).
I believe my elder Robert Strivens and fellow minister Andrew Hill preached at Childs Hill. I am very grateful to them.
I had the operation on Monday 14, of which I remember very little thankfully and came home on Saturday 19. Both morning and evening I went to the Met Tab - virtually not literally, of course. Dr Masters has been unwell and so his assistant Ibrahim Ag Mohammed preached. He spoke on Matthew 28:6 in the morning on the resurrection and from Mark 5 and the raising of Jairus's daughter in the evening. The two services were identical in format, the evening on being evangelistic and shorter. Both services are solid, straightforward, heart warming and carefully though out. It was a joy to be "there".
I probably haven't looked properly but I could not see anyone else in the UK offering the same public facility - not even only in audio. There must be others I'm sure.
Robert preached again in Childs hill with Halbo Chou, assistant at Kensit Evangelical, preaching in the evening. Again I am very thankful to them and to those who have arranged this.

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favoured me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God,
I will praise you forever.
(Home again at last. I read this yesterday).

In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson

Some time ago I downloaded a copy of Sinclair Ferguson's In Christ alone partly because it was free. I have been reading its nearly fifty chapters mostly one by one and have now completed it. It is a wide ranging book full of rich doctrine and good practical advice. It is well written and full of gems. Most of it reads like magazine articles for style and it would be an ideal devotional aid for use day by day or as a Sunday afternoon reader. What a blessing to the church Sinclair Ferguson is. I notice he is speaking in London in the summer, at the Proclamation Trust meetings.

My operation

I have to ring the hospital tomorrow to confirm my place for a heart bypass at The Heart Hospital on Monday. Do pray for me as I face this. I expect to be in the hospital for the next week.

Novelists 39 Kenneth Grahame

Kenneth Grahame (1859 – 1932) was a Scottish writer. He is most famous for The Wind in the Willows (1908), one of the classics of children's literature. I've read that and indeed it has been hard to escape it in one form or another. He also wrote a book with a chapter called The Reluctant Dragon which is apparently a Disney film but I've not seen it.

Barcellos on the Lord's Supper

Richard Barcellos's meticulous little book on the Lord's Supper is not an easy read. He makes his point clearly and convincingly, however. Some of us are tempted to say that the Lord' Supper is only  a memorial. Barcellos argues well here that we cannot stop with that statement. Whether we are full blown Calvinists on this or not, there is something more going n and the supper is a means of grace in  which the Spirit himself blesses those who come in faith.

I'm home!

So I am home from hospital. No, I'm not planning anything silly like basketball but I am glad to be back here. They were a good bunch in the ward I was on and the professional staff brilliant but I just needed to get out after a week away. I now have to await a date for the big op. Hope it's soon. Thanks for all the emails, Facebook thingies, texts, cards, visits, etc, etc.

To kill a mockingbird Harper Lee

In my ongoing project of catching up on books I've missed I have just read Harper Lee's To kill a mockingbird. I was on the Southbank the other week and just over the millennium bridge a man was selling battered paperbacks and a picked up a copy for £2.50. I started reading it the other week and since my unforeseen circumstances kicked in have been able to complete it already. Its reputation as a fine novel is deserved. Because it is written through a child's eyes it is understandably a GCSE favourite. Set in the thirties in the southern states it first appeared in 1963. I had assumed it would be tackling the whole race question head on but is much more powerful for being very oblique. Perhaps the most powerful moment is when a racist woman denounces Hitler. The mockingbird theme is done very lightly and the Boo Radley theme keeps interest while at the same time giving the treatment of the subject breadth. A Shakespeare moment indeed.

10 interesting facts about Charles Hodge

I have tried reading biographies of Charles Hodge the Princeton professor of systematics before but not finished. The bitesize one by S Donald Fortson III is a great overview.
1. His grandfather and great aunt would have heard and appreciated Whitefield
2. Benjamin Franklin was his wife's great grandfather
3. George Muller taught him German
4. He heard Charles Simeon preach in Cambridge
5. He heard Schleiermacher (who he disagreed with but thought was a Christian) preach
6. He became a lifelong friend off Tholuck in Germany
7. On his return from Europe he developed a leg problem that left him lame. When he could walk again he had to use a cane.
8. His study door was always open to his children (and grandchildren)
9. His sons A A Hodge and C W Hodge also taught at Princeton
10. His first book was on Romans and came out in 1835 (the same year as Albert Barnes' work)

Lord's Day April 6 2014

This Lord's Day turned out to be rather different to what I was expecting. Even last Friday afternoon I was expecting to preach on 1 Corinthians 13 and Isaiah 6. That was not the Lord's will, however. Since I became a Christian in the early seventies I have only missed gathering with the Lord's people  a handful of times. This was one of those rare occasions. I didn't aim very high at keeping the day to the Lord given the circumstances. I left the newspapers for a change and read the bitesize biography of Charles Hodge that has recently appeared. There were visitors in the afternoon which was very nice. My assistant Andrew and fellow elder Robert kindly stood in for me (Andrew also took a funeral and spoke to the kids in the evening on Friday!) - providences abound. Some of the congregation were a little shocked to hear the news but are adjusting. So not a great day in some ways but pretty good considering.

A Spell in Hospital

So, where were we? I was having these mild chest pains when I walked which seemed to me must be indigestion. Then on the evening of March 14 I had what I thought was a really bad bout. I was able to preach on the Sunday (see this blog) but was then convinced a visit to the GP was wise. So I got here last Wednesday to the clinic for an ecg. Anyway they were not pleased - they think I have had a heart attack. So it was from there to A&E and on the ward where I have been ever since. They gave me an angiogram and it confirmed the worst. So I am sat here with three other blokes (all very different and very interesting Londoners) waiting for one or two procedures and then a trip to the heart hospital for a bypass. It was a bit of a shock at first but the mind adjusts. So I am trying to look to the Lord and not be too apprehensive. Thank you to everyone who has been in touch. Much appreciated. Sorry it's bad news but it helps us all to think about eternity I hope.

Long lost Beatles album out today

I notice these two interesting articles on the net, one in Rolling Scone and the other in MNE.
By April Foles
01.04.14 01:04 AM ET

A long-lost Beatles album will see the light of day today, some 47 years after it was first recorded. The Beatles own Apple Corps will be releasing Four sides of the circle, an album they recorded in 1965 that was never released and has never been heard before, The Associated Preps reports.

The Beatles recorded  Four sides of the circle  between February and September 1965 at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. The producer was George Martin. Parlophone never released the recordings and Apple never tried to acquire them. It was George Martin's son, Giles, who discovered the forgotten tapes in a cupboard deep in the vaults of the Abbey Road studios, having been tipped off about their existence by surviving band member Ringo Starr..

The Beatles were under some pressure after the release of Beatles for sale at the end of 1964 left some fans disappointed. Several months were spent in the studio when time would allow working on a projected new album that, it was hoped, would strike in new directions. Half the album had been completed when Help was released in August 1965 as a stop gap. The project was finally abandoned at the end of September 1965 when work began in earnest on the acclaimed Rubber soul.

"We were looking for a new sound," Ringo Starr told the AP. "We really wanted to extend the boundaries but we finally felt it was a step too far and that our fans would not be ready for such a radical departure”. The group were also under pressure from EMI to be more commercial and when initial recordings were leaked to the suits doubts were expressed.

Although Parlophone never saw fit to release the recordings, Giles Martin claims there is something special about the 12 tracks, which include George Harrison playing koto (in his little known Japanese phase), a guest appearance by Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and a fully orchestrated number with Paul and Ringo sharing the vocals. Martin says that the album is not the Beatles at their best but it is full of interesting material that fans will want to hear.

Four sides of the circle is due out today.

These 12 "forgotten" recordings are not demos or outtakes, according to a press release. They were unearthed by the Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, at the end of last hear after a tip off from Ringo Starr. The album includes George Harrison playing koto with Japanese musicians, a guest appearance by Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and a fully orchestrated number with Paul and Ringo sharing the vocal (Train back to Liverpool). The track Resolution #19 is highly experimental and anticipates later experiments. Two tracks are credited as being written by Starkey (Ringo Starr) "Baby take it easy" and "Train back to Liverpool".

Produced by Giles Martin, the material was recorded at Abbey Road in London over several months in 1965. The restoration of the album was handled by Giles Martin with the full co-operation of the surviving Beatles and of Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, as well as his father George.

Four sides of the circle:

01 Four sides of the circle (Lennon McCartney)

02 Baby take it easy (Starkey)

03 She used to love me more (Lennon McCartney)

04 Haiku for one (Harrison)

05 Sunrise sunset (Bock)

06 Freight train (Cotten)*

07 The man with the passive fist (Lennon McCartney)

08 Train back to Liverpool (Starkey)

10 Rock and Roll Shoes (Willis)

11 I found a girl (Sloan, Barri)

12 Resolution #19 (Lennon McCartney)

* With Captain Beefheart