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.

Coats R - Redingcote

Midweek Meeting November 26 2014

I wasn't quite well yesterday but well enough to get along to the midweek meeting where a good crowd gathered to pray and to look together at Philippians 1:27-30. I made four practical points -
1. Conduct yourselves as citizens worthy of the gospel
2. Stand and fight in one spirit as one man for the faith of the gospel
3. Do not be frightened by those who oppose you
4. Count it a privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him
Lots to pray for near and far as ever.

A Trip to see Focus and my family in Wales

A short while ago I noticed that Focus were playing in Swansea on November 24 so I decided on a trip to see them and my boys. My attachment to Focus goes back to my teenage years when I was converted and wanted to find a rock band that would not corrupt me. It is a little like paying homage.
I had duties here on Monday afternoon and so didn't get away as early as I hoped and with traffic and so on did not reach the venue (The Scene) until just after Focus had started.
They were just coming to the end of House of the King when I got there. I guess they would have started with Focus 1. The first half was all the old stuff including a brilliant Eruption, including Tommy, Sylvia and so on. The newer stuff didn't get played until the second half. It is hard to put into words what a brilliant band this is. The only low point for me was at the end of a ripping Harem Scarem where Menno Gootjes was left more or less to himself. It left me rather cold. Interestingly, because it was like something out of the seventies. Focus were never like something out of the seventies but always transcended the decade.
One treat at the concert was seeing just a few people dancing at the front to the rock numbers. The flute passages were also an immense treat. During the interval I bought the new double helping of Swung where the band minus Van Leer jam. Interesting stuff. Van Leer's wife Anneliese runs the shops. She has no English (and I no Dutch). I said Thank you very Dutch. She said "What is Dutch?"!
The main set closed with an excellent Hocus Pocus, which now includes a second extended drum solo for the amazing Pierre Van Der Linden. As I watched him endlessly work his way round the kit it made me wonder have I ever preached at all? Here is a man who knows his drums better than I know any text I've preached. Surely I should be immersing myself in the texts week by week. Yes, you may not be appreciated (a Van Der Linden drum break is not to everybody's liking) but you will be thorough.
So by the end of the concert I was pretty impressed and would have been happy to leave. There was some enthusiasm for an encore, however, and the band returned with Focus 3, a beautiful number that has grown and grown on me over the years, and its partner Answers Questions Questions Answers. The flute playing at this point was beyond beautiful and I was gone. Amazing.
I then needed to find my car which I had parked in haste in a city I don't know well and head for my son Dewi's. I had a nice session with him (fresh back from a weekend away with the CU in Pembrokeshire plus a trip to Cardiff where another son was preaching). He's doing fine. We went out for breakfast the next morning and had a fry up (not a good idea). I then headed on to Cardiff where I had lunch with Dylan who is working with UCCF this year and doing fine. I also popped up to Cwmbran to see my sister as she has been in hospital for a short op. She seemed well. I also met her kind neighbour and then my nephew Will came back with tales of how a friend had here handbag stolen when they were walking in Newport last Saturday (part of a haul of 13 I understand). I did start to feel a little ill before I left but only indigestion.
Anyway on the journey home I felt increasingly unwell and eventually pulled off the M$ in Reading and headed for the A&E of The Royal Berkshire. By this time I was pretty sure I must be having a heart attack. They rushed me straight in and gave me an ecg, etc. Anyway it wasn't that and after they had given me an intravenous pain killer I was fine. After being seen by a doctor I was able to go. It was quite late by then and when I tried to rejoin the M4 it was closed. It was a bit of a nightmare getting home but I was in bed by 2 am, shattered. I'm still not quite right so I'm heading for the doctor's next.

Lord's Day November 23 2014

A good day on the whole. We started on 1 Corinthians 15 in the morning and went over some of the basics of the faith. That is always good to do. In the evening I wanted to get back to Old Testament material and so preached on 2 Kings 5:1 and the beginning of the story of Naaman. I had reworked old material and so it did feel a little stale I'm afraid. It rained all day here and that kept one or two away I guess.

Preaching at Trafalgar Square today

It was good to have another opportunity to preach in Trafalgar Square today. It was a little wet but not wet enough to keep crowds away. Our only problem really was that we were a little short of people to preach. Some of our regulars were busy. The meetings are arranged by Sebastian Mani seen above.

Midweek Meeting November 19 2014

We were a little lower in numbers tonight than of late only just creeping into double figures. We were looking at reasons to be cheerful from Philippians 1:19-26. That and the prayer time seemed to go off quite well I guess. We have a members meeting for November 20 so I tried not to keep people too late. The seven reasons to be cheerful are above.

Coats P - Puffer Coat

Excellent lecture on Hildersham

We were treated to an excellent lecture lunch time last Monday from Lesley Rowe on Arthur Hildersham. it seems to me that the best lectures have three qualities. 1. They know their subject inside out 2. They are able to produce a brief, relevant and to the point talk 3. They are able to present that material and answer any questions after. This time round all three qualities were in evidence and it was gratifying to see a larger than usual crowd present. I think Lesley managed to sell a good pile of books too. My brief review of the book is elsewhere on this blog, if you click Arthur Hildersham below. Another sidelight, the library has a copy of Hildersham's most popular work, a catechism on the Lord's Supper. It is a tenth edition but still very early.


"tambourines and elephants are playing in the band"

Coats O - Orarion

Apparently these are worn by deacons in the Greek Orthodox church

How it is these days 3 (The C of E)

It is difficult to track down the quotation but it is agreed that Charles Hodge in Old Princeton was one who took immense pride in his oft-repeated claim that there was nothing new or innovative whatsoever in his theology or in that taught at Princeton during his time at the helm.
Contrast that with Justin Welby the present Archbishop of Canterbury. He is widely reported as saying recently, in light of the acceptance of women bishops, “Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together”  and “I think it means above all that we have started a completely new phase of our existence as the church."
Of course, it won't stop there. People are already saying that it must be gay bishops next and logically, I suppose, who can blame them? And atheists too and (consenting) cannibals!!!

How it is these days 2 (funding projects)

A very nice local lady phoned me yesterday to ask if I would help spread the word about a project that seeks to turn a rather water logged part of the local park into a marsh garden for the kids. When she mentioned it would be a national lottery funded thing I said that as a church we would probably find it difficult to be involved. When I looked into it further I discovered that it is part of a thing called The People's Millions whereby since 2005 projects have been nominated and then compete against each other for (what is in this case) the £50,000 prize (prizes vary in value).
On a certain day (this one will be next Wednesday) people are encouraged to phone a certain number and the side that manages to organise the most calls (705 of calls are usually organised rather than spontaneous reactions to the TV reports) the £50, 000 (or whatever) for their cause. Calls cost 15p a time and you can make as many as 10 per person. I have tried to discover where this money goes but there is no mention of this. Presumably after BT, the provider, the lottery people and ITV go back to their den and share it out.
I discovered that on average it takes 5,400 votes to win which = £810 (plus however much you get from the losers). So it is only a thousand or so a day that is being raked off but a lot of that will be with no reward for the good hearted people who pay up. Of course, the money has already taken gained from people foolish enough to put money in the national lottery. There must be a better way.

How it is these days 1 (Punishing your kids)

The celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has recently highlighted what a mess parents are in when it comes to punishing their children when they misbehave. Oliver is quoted as saying "It is not very popular beating kids any more, it’s not very fashionable and you are not allowed to do it and if you are a celebrity chef like me it does not look very good in the paper. So you need a few options." Well, what are those options?
Oliver tells a frightening story of how his daughter once showed him disrespect and so, he says, "Five minutes later she thought I had forgotten and I hadn’t. She asked for an apple. I cut it up into several pieces and rubbed it with Scotch Bonnet and it worked a treat." His wife was understandably not happy about this. It involved deception and Oliver apparently thought it was funny.
It is easy to criticise someone for such an action but the real problem is that this child was deprived of a punishment that was just and fair because of the general opposition to such things these days. The sooner Bible based ways of discipline are rediscovered the better for all of us.

Lord's Day November 18 2014

It was an encouraging day last Sunday with decent numbers, including visitors, at both meetings. We had our third and last sermon for a while on 1 Corinthians 14. It has been good to work through these verses and see the principles Paul advocates. I think we are on the right lines. I hope so. We had a good communion before the evening service when I preached the last sermon in a short series on The Parable of the Sower, mostly from Mark 4 but drawing on the other Synoptic writers, as there are some interesting differences in the way Luke and Matthew express our Lord's words. We will start on some Christmas material in awhile but we'll probably spend three weeks working into 1 Corinthians 15 and look at some Old Testament (easily neglected without care) material in the evenings.

CCM Focus Day London

An excellent day at St John's Wood Road today for the focus on Christian Compassion Ministries and their work in Manila among deprived children. Paul Relf, chairman of the UK committee, chaired and John T and Virgie Sparrow led with Catherine Gacutan, currently visiting. A lot of thought had been put into the day and all sorts of things were utilised in order to make it a truly multi media, multi sensory experience. There was a mock up slum dwelling (which was even "on fire" at one stage), a scale model of the girls' home, Skype calls with Brian Ellis and others, lots of video footage and pictures, plenty of news, some prayer and worship, even a Filipino merienda or snack at one point. I do believe I even heard Susan Boyle singing. About 60 or 70 gathered. Pity there weren't more. Several of us have been to Manila but whether you had been or not, it was a real opportunity to get the experience. Hopefully this will stir people to pray and to give to the most worthy work.

Midweek Meeting November 12 2014

Everything's been behind this week for some reason. Anyway we had a good session last Wednesday meeting to pray and to look at Philippians 1:12-18. We were the usual sort of number but older and more male dominated than last week and with a newcomer, who I hope felt welcome among us. My four points were
1. Recognise that sometimes what appears to be a reverse will turn out to be an advance
2. If we take a stand for the Lord it may encourage others to be more bold3
3. Sometimes if we take a stand and are successful some will envy us and compete with us
4. If someone else takes a stand and is successful, don't envy them or compete with them

Lord's Day November 10 2014

Bit slow with this again but we had an excellent day Sunday, including lunch together following the morning meeting. It was Remembrance Day, of course, and so we began with the two minutes silence as we always do. I've never preached on the theme before but as it is the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World war I decided to go to Lamentations 3:19-23. It was a slight struggle to keep on track and not just make bland comments but I think we got there. In the evening I looked at the seed among thorns, the third in our little series on the Parable of the sower. This was the best so far, I thought. Again, what a privilege to be amongst God's people and to be preaching his Word.

The Severn Valley fog

More here

Another Geography list

1. D'you know Alaska's Near Islands in the Aleutians are closer to Tokyo, Japan, than they are to Alaska's state capital of Juneau
2. Southernmost Algeria is farther from Algiers than is London, England
3. The distance from Petropavlovsk, in easternmost Russia, to Moscow is about the same distance as from Petropavlovsk to Denver, Colorado
4. The Atlantic end of the Panama Canal is west of the Pacific end
5. Recife, Brazil, is closer to the African cities of Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Monrovia (Liberia), than it is to Cruzeiro do Sul in western Brazil
6. It's only 49 miles (79 km) from Talinn, the capital of Estonia, to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Estonia and Finland nonetheless have no common land border, thanks to the Gulf of Finland
7. The Pacific is more than half again as large as the Atlantic, but the Atlantic drains three and a half times as much land area as the Pacific
8. Venice is west of Rome
9. Alaska's Near Islands in the Aleutians are west of Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand
10. New York City is west of Lima, Peru
More here

List Which is farther north?

Which is further north?
1. Seattle or Quebec?
2. Ottowa or Bangor, Maine?
3. Letterkenny, Donegal or Strabane, County Tyrone?
4. Kelso or Newcastle?
5. Lower Egypt or Upper Egypt?
6. Helsinki or Oslo?
7. Stockholm or St Petersburg?
8. Glasgow or Moscow?
9. Milan or Ottawa?
10. Rome or New York?
PS Binzert, Tunisia, is north of Lagos, Portugal; Granada, Spain and Sparta, Greece.
Seattle; Ottawa; Letterkenny; Newcastle; Lower Egypt; Helsinki (just); St Petersburg; Glasgow; Milan (mostly); Rome.

Taking God at his Word

Kevin DeYoung's name is one you hear a lot of at the moment. Born in 1977, he is an American theologian and author (he has a number of books out at the moment, several of them award winners). A pastor in the Reformed Church in America and a member of The Gospel Coalition, he was born in South Holland, Illinois and grew up in Michigan, where his parents were involved in Christian radio. He has an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Seminary and is currently working on a history PhD on the theology of John Witherspoon (John Coffey is his advisor).
His Taking God at his Word came out in April this year and I bought  it in Aber over the summer and read it last month. It is a short basic introductory book good as a starter, a refresher or a guide for a short series of sermons, perhaps. The subtitle gives a lot away - Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Written in a very engaging way, it covers the reliability, sufficiency, clarity, finality, necessity and a last chapter on Jesus and the Bible plus an appendix with further reading and two indexes.

10 Fictional Horses

1. Black Beauty (Black Beauty - there are many others)
2. Boxer (Animal Farm)
3. Bree or Hwin (The horse and his boy - there are Molly and Clover too)
4. Joey (War horse)
5. Shadowfax (Lord of the Rings - there are many others)
6. Dobbin (Wooden Tops)
7. Bulls eye (ToyStory)
8. Artax (Neverending Story)
9. Silver (Lone Ranger)
10. Hercules (Steptoe and Son)

10 Famous Horses

1. Seabiscuit
2. Red Rum (as seen above and who I once met, he was opening a fete)
3. Shergar
4. Bucephalus (Alexander the Great's favourite)
5. Desert Orchid
6. Black Bess (Dick Turpin's horse)
7. Frankel
8. Incitatus (made a Senator by Emperor Caligula)
9. Copenhagen (Wellington's horse at Waterloo)
10. Champion (Gene Autrey's horse. I watched Champion the wonder horse on Saturdays as a kid)

Midweek Meeting November 5 2014

The fireworks outside were not too disturbing and we had a good time together. We were 12 again plus me, although we could have been more - six men, six women, six under 30 and six over, I guess. We carried on with Philippians, looking at 1:6-11 and talking about confidence in each other and praying for each other. I really feel at this stage that I am getting it grips with Paul's letters. For a long time it has seemed to me that the various letters are quite distinct but as I keep going over them I have begun to see that the same man is clearly behind them all and he has the same concerns always but expresses himself in different ways in different circumstances. We seemed to have a tone of things to pray for and made good progress on some of the items.

Coats N - Norfolk Jacket

Lord's Day November 2 2014

By definition, if you preach twice on the Lord's Day, one sermon will be better than the other. That seemed to be the way yesterday certainly. Preaching through the second half of 1 Corinthians 14, I wisely decided to hold some of my principles and applications over to another time and that was a help as well as the fact that we got on to the very germane matter of what preaching is all about. To quote Lloyd-Jones in his famous book on preaching Preachers and preaching
"What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence. ... I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel."
The evening was more difficult as I spent quite a while going over previous material on the parable of the sower before getting to what I had to say about the stony ground hearer.

How to be a successful preacher (EMW Article 2)

I have an article in the current Evangelical Magazine something like what appears below
There is a sort of preacher likely to succeed with God's help. Preachers, all who pray for them and all who witness should know what they are like. Paul was very successful in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 we read how.
Preaching can make little impact. We may think it will never succeed. Let's try something else! But what happened in Thessalonica? Paul reminds them. His visit was not a failure. Previously, in Philippi, he and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. Every convert was hard won. No doubt it was tempting to be discouraged on coming to pagan Thessalonica. But with God's help (that is important) they boldly evangelised despite strong opposition. They kept preaching regardless and did not tone it down. We must be bold, not letting opposition deter. Look to God and evangelise. Let people know. It is their only hope. Only certain preachers will succeed, like Paul in Thessalonica.
Some things to avoid
Paul avoided deceit, impurity or tricking people. There are apparently successful preachers who are false, impure in motive, mere tricksters. On the contrary, we must be true, genuine, honest, preaching God's Word. It is one reason expository preaching is important - to be sure it stays true. Preaching must not be motivated by desire for applause, money or merely winning the argument. Gimmicks are a distraction. The best preaching, the sort God most often uses, is straightforward, unvarnished, plain. That is what pleases him. Successful preachers see they are stewards entrusted with God's Word. They want not to please men but God, who tests our hearts. They seek his approval. Like the best translator they aim not to show off or add anything but to give the true meaning. Pray for such preaching. The ASA expect adverts to be legal, decent and honest. Try to be true, genuine and honest when you witness. Pray preachers will do the same.
It is good to identify with an audience but flattery is inconsistent with faithful preaching. Somehow preachers must spell out the bad news – our utter sinfulness, our hopeless state without God. Born in sin, we are totally depraved and, religious or not, outside Christ, without hope. Preaching must not be a cover up for greed. Never think of what you will get out of it. Faithful preachers seek the good of their hearers. To adapt Kennedy's words - “ask not what you might get out of evangelism, ask what you can do for others through your evangelism”! We need preaching that exalts God and humbles people. Paul did not look for human praise, he was not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. Inner sincerity is vital. The late Bob Sheehan, as a student out preaching, was once told “if an old man at the back leaves in the last hymn, don't worry Dr Lloyd-Jones always does that”. How unnerving! But Bob thought a bit and saw the real challenge is to preach before God. That is who we should be most conscious of. Pray for that sort of preaching. Preach Christ without flattery or selfishness; for God's glory, not to please men.
A lifestyle that backs up the message
Paul goes on to speak of his lifestyle. He compares himself to a mother (literally a nurse, perhaps with her own children) and a father. He explains (6-8) how he and his team avoided being a burden and were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. He refers particularly to his decision not to expect financial support. Admittedly, it was only a short time but he acted from concern for the people. He showed motherly gentleness and care, not wanting to burden them. Preachers must preach and live like mothers, who have God-given authority over their children but are tender and gentle. Faithful preachers must not be harsh, frightening away those who are genuinely interested. They should be winsome. Children, especially when afraid, run to mothers not from them. Paul tells them further he loved them so much that he was delighted to share with them not only the gospel …. but his life as well, as were others, because they had become so dear to them. So it is in successful, God wrought preaching. A bond builds between preacher and people that cannot be easily broken.
Being holy, righteous, blameless
At the same time, like all faithful preachers, Paul was a father. He reminds them (9-12) of his toil and hardship, how they worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached … For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children … His life was marked by holiness, righteousness and blamelessness. Part of this desire not to burden them made him careful to be pious, upright, faultless in his approach, fearing to do anything burdensome. Often unbelievers hearing the gospel are sceptical, ready to seize on anything to oppose the preacher and deny his message. Paul would not allow that but worked hard to avoid it. Then there is his fatherly encouraging, comforting and urging all to live God-worthy lives. In a fatherly way, he did all he could to encourage and comfort, to urge them to lives worthy of God, who calls such people into his kingdom and glory. Again he piles up words. He got alongside them, doing all he could to help them, promoting a life worthy of God, calls people out of Satan's kingdom of darkness into God's glorious kingdom of light. Again, it is the gold standard but we need such preachers. Pray God will raise them up. Pray to be like it yourself.
Received as God's Word
Finally, Paul says he thanks God continually (13) for how his message was received - not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. Here is the piece de resistance. The Thessalonians had never heard anything like it. They knew it was not man's word but God's at work in them by his power and grace. That is the amazing thing about this sort of preaching. We hear so much bad preaching and preach so many bad sermons we doubt if it can be effective but how wonderful when the Word comes with power and people see by faith it really is God's Word.

10 Fictional Foundlings

(All foundlings are orphans but not all orphans are foundlings, which refers to abandoned babies)
1. Tom Jones (History of)
2. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
3. Eppie (Silas Marner)
4. Oliver Twist
5. Tarzan
6. Mowgli
7. Superman
8. Quasimodo (Hunchback of Notre Dame)
9. Prince Shasta (The horse and his boy)
10. Oedipus

10 Literary Orphans

1. Philip Pirrip, Pip and Estelle Havisham (Great Expectations)
2. Harry Potter (and Voldemort)
3. Jane Eyre
4. Tom Sawyer
5. Kim*
6. Heidi
7. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
8. Bruce Wayne, Batman (and Robin)
9. David Copperfield
10. Jude Fawley (Jude the Obscure)

* Rudyard Kipling's

Coats M - Mackintosh