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.

Retro Album "of the week" 49 - Aranjuez

In 1978 a very sophisticated collaboration between Jan Akkerman and Claus Ogerman appeared. The incredibly laid back album features the legendary guitar playing of Dutchman Jan Akkerman and the lush strings of German conductor and arranger Claus Ogerman. The programme is dominated by classical pieces. First, we have the adagio from Rodrigo's 'Concierto De Aranjuez', a piece Akkerman would play in the early Focus days but that there were some copyright issues with hence the preference for Le Clochard on Moving Waves. Other classical pieces are by South American composers Heitor Villa-Lobos and Gaspar Sanz. Ogerman himself contributes Nightwings and Akkerman a very subtle Love Remembered. The other track is Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte by Ravel. The album is not that easy to get into but once you do it is excellent stuff. The album was mostly recorded in Holland.

A Letter to Barnet Parking Dept

Barnet have let us down once again. This is the letter I have sent them. It gets it off my chest. They never listen to a word that residents say, although they were forced to give money back two or three years back when someone took them to court. The parking system in Barnet is similar in many ways I always feel to a Mafia style racket.
I have long learned by past experience that Barnet Parking Dept is devoid of human compassion or kindness but I do want to register my utter dismay that once again your money making scheme has caught us out. This time it was my wife's other sister whose car was parked on our street and we forgot to put a voucher in it. It was December 29th after all, an ordinary working day as far as parking attendants are concerned so what can I do? Yes, I suppose it might have been someone parking in our street then catching the tube to work though highly unlikely. So another £55 chalked up to the racket that you run. Add that to the £40 already shelled out by us. It is appalling and I write with no realistic hope of getting the money back but with the hope that at least someone in the department with an ounce of human kindness will read it and see that something needs to be done about this daylight robbery that causes such misery.
Why on earth would you need to regulate parking on December 29 except as a money making exercise?

Last Midweek Meeting of 2015

We often don't have a midweek meeting in this final week of the year as so many are usually away but as I was around I said there would be a prayer meeting and six of us go together for that last night. We sang a hymn at the beginning and end and I read from Psalm 20 but most of the rest of the time was spent in prayer. Everyone prayed. I'm glad we met.
Back home we played a game, ate some chocs and watched the rest of the Agatha Christie, which I was not impressed with. The new year beckons. Our few family guests from afar are all gone now.

10 Useful Mnemonics

1. Rainbows - order of colours (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain
2. Biology - order of taxonomy in biology (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach or King Philip Cuts Open Five Green Snakes
3. Music - notes represented by the lines on the treble clef stave (bottom to top: E, G, B, D, F)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. And the notes represented by the spaces between the lines (F, A, C, E) Furry Animals Cook Excellently or just the word FACE
4. Astronomy - order of planets in average distance from the Sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) My Very Easy Method: Just Set Up Nine Planets or My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles
5. Geography - the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) HOMES
6. History - what Happened to Henry VIII's Wives: Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived
7. Science - simple Machines (Pulley, Gear, Jackscrew, Axle and Wheel, Inclined Plane, Lever) Put Grey Jumpers And Waistcoats In Places Loved
8. Science - properties of matter (Mass, Density, Volume, Weight) Monkeys Dance Very Well
9. History – English monarchs (William I 1066-1087, William II 1087-1100, Henry I 1100-1135, 
Stephen 1135-1154, Empress Matilda (Queen Maud) 1141, Henry II 1154-1189, Richard I 1189-1199, John 1199-1216, etc, etc)
William, William, Henry, Stephen
Henry, Richard, John, oi!
Henry, Ed, Ed, Ed, Rich two
Then three more Henrys join our song!
Edward, Edward, Rich the third
Henry, Henry, Ed again,
Mary one, good Queen Bess
Jimmy, Charles and Charles and then
Jim, Will, Mary, Anna Gloria
George, George, George, George
Will, Victoria!
Edward, George, Edward, George six
And Queen Liz two completes the mix
10. Religion – Seven deadly sins (Sloth, Lust, Anger [wrath], Pride, Envy, Greed [avarice], Gluttony) SLAP EGG

Retro Album "of the week" 48 - Heaven and Hell

We have a had a Vangelis before in this series and I could add more but I'm limiting it to two selections. This second one appeared way back in 1975 and was the fifth solo album. Sensibly instead of trying a heaven section and a hell one, the themes are mixed. The LP contained one part on each side but originally track titles were included. These were "Bacchanale" – 4:40; "Symphony to the Powers B" (Movements 1 and 2) – 8:18; "Movement 3" (from "Symphony to the Powers B") – 4:03 "So Long Ago, So Clear" – 5:00; "Intestinal Bat" – 3:18; "Needles and Bones" – 3:22 (a favourite of mine); "12 O'Clock" (in two parts) – 8:48 (also brilliant); "Aries" – 2:05 and "A Way" – 3:45.
Apparently the album gained worldwide recognition through the use of "Movement 3" as the theme for the TV documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The album was the first composed and recorded by Vangelis in his new Nemo Studios in London, the studio he used until 1987.
The album has classical overtones, in contrast to the progressive rock of other albums. Vangelis would return to classical style work ten years later, on Mask (1985). He dabbles with choral sections (featuring the English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe; Vana Veroutis also features on "12 O'Clock") joined with his now typical electronic washes of sound, a concept he would again return to in the nineties with Conquest of Paradise and Mythodea. The album marks the first collaboration between Vangelis and Jon Anderson, on "So Long Ago, So Clear" (it came about when Yes tried to recruit Vangelis as their keyboard player and continued more fully a few years later). Heaven and Hell reached number 31 in the UK album charts in January 1976.

Retro Album "of the week" 47 - Sing lustily and with good courage

I was first aware of Maddy Prior as a youngster when Steeleye Span would occasionally breach the British charts. Later on a friend of mine saw them in concert and was thrown an artificial flower by the aforesaid Maddy. People offered him ridiculous amounts for it which he later wished he had taken. Anyway a few years later and I'm in Alan Davey's car and he is playing on the tape deck a wonderful set of hymns sung in an approximation of the 18th century Methodists. On enquiry I got hold of the details and was able to track it down somewhere on cassette. I'm not sure if I ever got it on CD. I now have it on the old iTunes (along with some few similar albums) and still enjoy although that initial impact has become a little muted. The album is By Maddy and the Carnival Band and the title refers to something John Wesley once urged on his followers.
The technical term for this is gallery songs or West Gallery music. This is sacred music (often metrical psalms but hymns and anthems too) sung and played in English parish churches and nonconformist chapels c 1700 to 1850 until church organs took over. The term comes from the wooden galleries constructed at the west end of churches during the 18th century upon which the choir would perform. Victorians did not like these Georgian galleries, and most were removed in the 19th century.
The best known precedent for this is apparently The Waterson's "Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy" (1977). This album has 16 items that were all known to me before. Indeed, these were my favourite hymns as a nonconformist teenager. As pants the hart (N Tate) and Watts's Rejoice ye shining worlds and Lord in the morning are pretty much psalms and O worship the king a more developed psalm. Monkland is an instrumental most often used to Milton's version of Psalm 136 (played here with the music to the 19th century hymn All things bright). Nearly half the hymns are by the gifted Charles Wesley (O Thou who camest from above, Lo He comes with clouds descending, O for a thousand tongues to sing, Light of the World, Away with our sorrow and care, Christ the Lord is ris'n today and And can it be?). There is also Thomas Oliver's wonderfully Jewish God of Abraham praise. As for the Baptists, there is Bunyan's Who would true valour and How firm a foundation which they attribute to Richard Keen. Also, All hail the power by Perronet and Rippon.
The album makes few pretensions to authenticity or spirituality but it is a very enjoyable album well worth a listen.

The fat lady is already singing (EMW Article 06)

The following article (or something similar) is in the current edition of the EMW mag
The fat lady is already singing
Words with which to encourage each other
Gary Brady
Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians refers to the Second coming, especially the last two chapters.
Today we are used to Christians dying but imagine a converted Thessalonian pagan. He loves the brotherhood but after a while, one dies, then others. This is unexpected. He thought Christ would come and take them all to be with him, sooner rather than later. Now he is unsettled and it is most understandable.
We are unsurprised when Christians die but may be we are unclear on certain things about Christ's return.
Christians have hope
Paul says (4:13) he does not want them to be ignorant about believers who die or grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. His subject is Christians who die before Christ returns. He is concerned that those who remain should know what happens to such people. When unbelievers die, other unbelievers have no certainty about them. Some vaguely hope for a better afterlife. It is a forlorn hope.
Only Christians have a solid hope, Though it is sad when believers die, it is not the end of the story. It is a temporary parting that ends with Christ's return. We grieve when believers die but not like those with no hope. We genuinely hope to see them again. This we must not forget when faced with death.
The resurrection has begun
Paul then says (14) something about that hope. We believe first that Jesus died and rose again. That is fundamental. Jesus lived and died, more than that he rose again - not mere resuscitation but a real rising in a new spiritual body, in which he ascended to heaven and with which he will return. We believe the end of the world is already here and the final resurrection begun. So far, only Jesus is raised but because of that we believe that one day God will bring with him every Christian who has died, ready to receive new resurrection bodies.
There is a phrase “it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings”. It references stereotypically overweight sopranos of Grand Opera such as the buxom valkyrie Brünnhilde, who sings in the last part of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Her 20 minute aria leads directly to the opera's end. She sings of the world's end (or at least that of the Norse gods) so as it is all over “when the fat lady sings" so we can say that with Christ's coming the world is at an end, though, as in opera, there are still things to happen before the very end.
Christ is risen and will soon return. When he does, every true Christian who has died will come with him and be reunited to his newly raised body. This is the Christian hope. When we see our brother in his coffin we are sad but not despairing. Our hope is his resurrection when Jesus returns. We look forward to seeing not only Jesus but also all who have died in him.
Leading features of the Second Coming
So Paul can say (4:15) we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord certainly will not precede those who die. A generation of Christians will be alive at Christ's return. The Thessalonians hoped they would be that generation, a misplaced desire. There is no advantage in it. The generation left … will certainly not precede those who died before his coming. There is no real difference. Remember:
1. The coming itself. First, Jesus himself will come down from heaven where he now is. We learn elsewhere that every eye will see it. Three phrases speak of the signal that will go out summoning the dead to rise - a loud command, a general leading his army speaks; the voice of the archangel the battle cry of Michael to angel bands: with the trumpet call of God as when a signal calls an army to battle. So Christ will come with loud command … archangel's voice and trumpet sound, calling people to leave their graves. Once on earth Christ cried Lazarus! Lazarus rose. A day is coming when he will call and all will respond.
2. The resurrection. So the dead in Christ will rise first. The first thing that will happen is that the bodies of the dead in Christ, Christians, will rise from their graves, the sea, wherever. There is, of course, a general resurrection; all bodies will rise. There is also the matter of what happens to those still alive when Christ returns but first there is the resurrection of the righteous that the Bible speaks of many times in both Testaments. The dead in Christ will rise.
3. The transformation of believers still alive when he comes. Paul goes on According to the Lord's own word, the words of Jesus himself we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. It is only After that, that believers still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. There is an order, as we might expect from the God of order. First, Christ comes from heaven, then the dead in Christ rise, then believers on earth are transformed. Their bodies become spiritual, without dying. What is the interval between the resurrection of the righteous and this transformation? Some try to introduce large amounts of time but there is no argument for that. The gap is the matter of a twinkling of an eye. Something similar could be said of the resurrection and transformation of unbelievers. Paul does not talk about that. He wants to assure the Thessalonians that those who had recently died would not miss out but share in the resurrection and transformation as much as those who remained.
4. Eternal bliss. Finally, do not miss his point that those alive at Christ's coming and those who die in the Lord will be with the Lord forever. We will all know his presence throughout eternity. What bliss! What joy! What a glorious day lies ahead for us and all who die in the Lord.
Words with which to encourage each other
Finally, Paul says Therefore encourage each other with these words. We have a duty to keep these teachings alive and speak to each other about them so that we all take courage from them. Obviously at Christian funerals this is an obvious text. It is a part of our New Testament that we ought always to remember. Informally, we ought encourage each other with these truths too – not just when people die but always.
Sports psychologists say things like “Develop a team mission. This could be your goal for the season. It could be a motto to encourage team unity.” Churches sometimes have mission statements and such things. Here is a great statement with which to encourage each other.
When will Christ return? The question comes up in Chapter 5. Meanwhile, be clear what will happen and encourage each other with these truths as much as you can.

The Little Boy Who Had Four Uncles

Book titled 'The little boy who had four uncles'One of the fun things I did for Christmas was to make this book for my grandson made on StoryJumper

Last Lord's Day of 2015

So the last Lord's Day of the year has come and gone. We had decent congregations morning and evening as although there are many away at the present time we do have students back and some visitors. At the beginning of the new year I like to take a text that will act a sort of motto text fro the year ahead. This year I have chosen John 10:28, 29 a very comforting verse for believers teaching the perseverance of the saints. I found that there was not so much to say about the verses but it was good to underline the threefold assurance found there and I hope it will be a help to us in the year that lies ahead. In the evening I took the text Hebrews 10:23-25, an exhortatory passage ideal for the turn of the year though not one I had looked at before at such a time. There was a little more to say this time and illustrations came easier. I tried not to turn it into a mere call to do the right thing.

Christmas Books 2015

It was nice to get books for Christmas. They included
Slightly foxed: the real reader's quarterly No 48; Revolver: How the Beatles Re-Imagined Rock 'n' Roll by Robert Rodriguez; The Big Bang Theory Trivia Quiz Book; Round the Christmas Fire: Festive Stories (Vintage Classics) and London Stories in the Everyman's Pocket Classics series. no Christian books there. I'm buying those all the time and so people tend not to get me them as Christmas presents.

Gwyl San Steffan 2015

A Boxing Day Walk is a good tradition and we sort of managed it last Saturday (not officially Boxing Day I understand but still the day after Christmas). We started with ambitious ideas but in the end we strolled round Waterlow Park in Highgate, somewhere I'd not been before. I had a smart phone for Christmas so I was able to execute my first real selfie. Back home there was preparation to do for Sunday but we found some TV time for Agatha Christie (so so) and Dickensian (which is looking really good - the combination of snow and Victoriana is just magic).

Captain Starship Christmas

This is a great original Christmas song by Keith Emerson

Christmas Day 2015

It was a good day yesterday. We were up at a reasonable hour to open some presents and seemed to spend much of the rest of the day on similar projects. I've had some lovely books. I snapped two of the boys at some point busy with their colouring books. We were glad on the whole that our second grandson decided not to appear. We've got that to look forward to.
At church we had a surprisingly good turn out. Besides returning students and other visitors a Tanzanian family paid us a visit. I preached from 1 John 1:1-3 on the incarnation. It's not a traditional Christmas text but it's bang on the subject. Back here it was food and chocolate and games until about eight. We then wound down - the boys on the PS-4 and Eleri and I watching a very pleasant (but believable) Downton finale. I also read a bit more of Trollope's Christmas day at Kirby Cottage finished this morning. It was gone midnight before we headed for bed.

Retro Album "of the week" 46 - We Three Kings

I wasn't going to include any Christmas albums in this retro list but I'm still in the Christmas mood so how about this wonderful 1990 recording from The Roches, We Three Kings. The Roches are three Irish-American sisters from New Jersey (Maggie, Terre and Suzzie) from one of those musical families (like the Corrs, the Carters or the Brennans). They pack 24 tracks on to this album (helped by the fact seven of the tracks are under two minutes) - all traditional favouritGod rest hye merry, Adeste FIdeleses. We have carols like Away in a manger, We three kings, The first nowell, etc; Christmas songs like Frosty the snowman, Winter Wonderland, etc; and some Bach and Bach, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light and For unto us a child is born. Christmas passing through looks to be an original track. Nine of the tracks are done a capella and these make an excellent album within an album. They are Angels we have heard on high, Here we come a carolling, Star of Wonder, Winter Wonderland, Joy to the World, Jingle Bells, The First Nowell, God rest you merry, Adeste Fideles.

Revival at Christmas

This report appeared in The Methodist Times of January 5, 1905
Reports from all the districts in South Wales affected by the revival show that the Christmas holidays, so dreaded by new converts who formerly devoted the whole of the time to drink and revelry, have passed by without the defections from the faith loudly prophesied by the unsympathetic and unbelieving. South Wales has never known such a quiet and peaceful Christmas.
In Cardiff alone, as yet only slightly moved by the revival, police reports show that drunkenness has diminished 60 per cent, whilst on Saturday last the Mayor was presented by the Chief Constable with a pair of white gloves, there being no case at all on the charge sheet — an unprecedented fact for the last day of the year.
The same thing happened at the Swansea County Court on the previous Saturday, and the magistrates said, All the years I’ve been sitting here I’ve never seen anything like it, and I attribute this happy state of things entirely to the revival.
The streets of Aberdare on Christmas Eve were almost entirely free from drunkenness, and on Christmas Day there were no prisoners at all in the cells.
At Pontypridd, mirabile dictum  [ie wonderful to relate], there were no assaults on the police, and throughout the mining area generally drunkenness was the exception and not the rule.
At Abercarn Police Court, responsible for a population of 21,000, there was not a single summons on Thursday — a thing unknown since the court was formed fourteen years ago — and here, too, was enacted the ceremony of the white gloves.
Bridgend Station, usually the scene of much debauchery on the part of drunken excursionists going to and from Cardiff, has never known such orderly behaviour, and the streets of the town, too, have been free from rowdyism. Similar reports come from Carmarthen and other important centres, such as Merthyr.
Many of the miners in Glamorganshire come from small towns and villages in North Wales, and the trains conveying them to their old homes for Christmas were jubilant with revival song. At Machynlleth, on the Cambrian, where the Aberystwith and Barmouth portions of the train had to be divided, the passengers from both congregated on the platform and held a prayer meeting. Throughout the holiday season the chapels in most places were open for prayer and praise meetings morning, afternoon, and night, and to these places the people thronged with delight, and spent their time and their energies in strengthening the weak and rescuing the tempted. Railway returns show that the excursion holiday traffic has been reduced by one-half, the people evidently preferring to remain at home to pray and sing in company with those recently reclaimed.
There has been a correspondent reduction in public-house takings and in attendances at low-class places of amusement third and fourth rate theatrical touring companies, who usually reap such a rich harvest in these regions at Christmas, have found it advisable to keep clear of the Rhondda this time.
Restitution still holds a prominent place in the revival program. One conscience-stricken traveller hands over 1s. 7d. to the Rhymney Railway Company, in payment of a nineteen miles journey some time ago without a ticket. A Rhymney business firm acknowledges the receipt of £5 from an anonymous person in payment of an old debt, long disregarded. A collier, who has formerly spent his money on all kinds of sinful pleasure, has removed his younger brother from an orphanage, and has decided to support him with his savings till he is old enough to provide for himself.
At one service a man with a tear-stained face rushed from the gallery to a pew downstairs, and, clutching passionately the hand of another man, entreated to be forgiven. It was evidently a request not easily granted, so the two repaired to the vestry, where the wrong was satisfactorily rectified, and then the two men newly-reconciled returned to take a happier part in the service. …
The change in the language of the crowds has been just as marked this Christmas as the change in their drinking habits. This change cannot be more suitably expressed than in the two verses which have now disappeared from that well known hymn, No. 366, in our new book (Glory to God whose sovereign grace by Charles Wesley):
Suffice that for the season past Hell’s horrid language filled our tongues,
We all Thy words behind us cast, And lewdly sang the drunkards songs.
But, O the power of grace divine! In hymns we now our voices raise,
Loudly in strange hosannas join, And blasphemies are turned to praise!
Whilst bands of enthusiastic workers have paraded the streets, arresting the attention of the careless by joyful song and earnest invitation, homely meetings have been extemporised in cottages, and here some of the most precious experiences of the revival have been obtained. The church in the house is very precious in the sight of the Father. At one of these family gatherings no less than five conversions were recorded on the evening of Boxing Day. For such it was a happy prelude to the Crowning Day, which all true believers anticipate. ...

Midweek Meeting December 23 2015

We were about 12 last night, half of them family members. We sang three carols we have not sung yet and I spoke for the last time in the series on the three Rs (Revelation, Redemption and Regeneration). I spoke about church and about revival, which may seem rather ancillary but when a person is regenerated he ought to find fellowship with fellow believers and a revival is when many in one place and at one time are born again. I tried to give Christmas examples. I will share that in another post. We had a good time of prayer with nearly everyone praying. Lots to pray about as ever, including friends in Poland, France, Madagascar and the Philippines.

Xmas Foods Countdown 25 - Roast Goose

I saved this until last as this is one of the meats we are expecting to have tomorrow and I don't recall ever trying it

Xmas Foods Countdown 24 - Toffee with a hammer

This is a bit of a nostalgia thing for me

Jan Akkerman House of the King

Jan Akkerman is 69 today

Xmas Food Countdown 23 - Stollen

This has become more popular here in recent years. It's the lump of soft marzipan in the middle that I love (and the chance to make a poor pun)

Xmas Foods Countdown 22 - Turkey Sandwich with Chutney

Technically this is a post-Christmas joy but I'm running out of savouries to mention enthusiastically

Retro Album "of the week" 45 - Les Deux Amis plays Focus Classics

In 1985 Les Deux Amis (German classical guitarists and teachers Ansgar Krause and Thomas Müller-Pering) released a collection of 15 tracks arranged by themselves taking Focus tracks (sometimes more than one track) and giving them an attractive classical treatment. This sort of approach always holds the danger of producing muzack but that does not really happen here with quite inventive arrangements and brilliant music to draw on. You can hear Sylvia here.
The LP cover includes these words:
We have ... long been excited by the ideas of the Dutch group FOCUS which has succeeded in creating a symbiosis of classical and rock music. Ansgar Krause's adaptations prove the vagueness of the borderline between so-called U and non-U music. This is partly due to the fact that Krause makes use of the opportunities offered by polyphony and harmony (imitation, canon, repetition of themes, augmentation, etc.) created some 500 years ago in the Low Countries and further developed in the so-called Franco-Flemish School.
FOCUS has always fallen back on the use of classical or Renaissance themes and forms for their compositions. This gave us the idea of re-adapting their works back into classical guitar music. This musical encounter of various eras and styles, reaches its high point in the "Variations on Happy Nightmare". This amusing title encouraged us to include in our arrangement the well known Bourréé in E-Flat of perhaps the greatest composer of all time: Johann Sebastian Bach. We did this during the recording session which happened to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Bach's birthday, 21 March 1985. So FOCUS REMEMBERED is also a tribute to the great composers and to their world of sound, and for whom every living composer feels gratitude.
It also includes a comment from Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer
"When we first heard our two friends playing FOCUS we were touched by this discovery. No superlatives are good enough to describe their virtuosity, their musicianship and their arrangements. It sounds so easy but we know what hard labor went into these microphones. We are extremely proud that they have chosen our songs which more than ten years ago were able to move millions of people around the world. This digital recording will get a place of honor in our homes."

Xmas Foods Countdown 19 - Chocolate Father Christmas

Xmas Foods Countdown 18 - Stuffing

Stuffing is great any time especially at Christmas - sage and onion, sausage meat, etc, etc

Lord's Day December 20 2015

We had quite full congregations morning and evening with one or two visitors, students at home, etc. Sadly, we have been unable to persuade any visitors to come in this season. We looked at some of the words of Simeon in Luke 2 morning and evening - first, at verses 30-32 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel then, in the evening at verses 34b and 35 This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. We made seven points altogether, all arguments as to how we should think about and worship Jesus. We also had communion in the evening.

Xmas Foods Countdown 17 - Candy Canes

We didn't see many candy canes when I was a kid; more an American thing it was then. It is claimed that the idea goes back to 1670 and a choirmaster in Germany keeping his choirboys quiet. One has to be sceptical with these things. Getting a good children's talk out of a piece of candy shaped like a shepherd's crook and with white for purity and red for blood should not be too difficult for most.

Xmas Foods Countdown 16 - Pigs in blankets

Pigs in blankets are little sausages wrapped in bacon - not to be confused with devils on horseback where tea soaked prunes are inside the bacon (or angels on horseback where the inner delight is an oyster) I only ever seem to get these on my plate at Christmas

Midweek Meeting December 16 2015

I forgot to say that we had our meeting on Wednesday as usual with a decent number present though one or two were missing. We looked again at subjects around the three Rs - Revelation, Redemption and Regeneration. The week before we looked at regeneration and evangelism and this week we came on to assurance and sanctification. We got to those from the fact that, like regeneration, these are works of the Spirit that follow on from his initial work of regeneration. That still leaves me with two subjects to tackle next time, hopefully. The prayer time was fine too.

Yr Iaith Gymraeg yn Hanwell

It was a proud moment to be (for the first time I confess) at the new building of Yr Ysgol Gymraeg Llundain, the school all my children attended and for which my wife is chairman of governors. The first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, was there to do the honours and the children sang beautifully. The building is light and airy and an ideal spot. Good day.

Retro Album "of the week" 44 - Revolver

Revolver is the seventh studio album by The Beatles and my favourite. It was released in August 1966 when I was 7 years old. It marks a progression I guess from the previous year's Rubber Soul also a favourite. It was followed by the allegedly seminal Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (not a particular favourite). On release, it was widely recognised by critics as innovative. Certainly "Tomorrow Never Knows" and its tape loops, the strings on "Eleanor Rigby" and the Indian instruments used on "Love You To" are quite trendsetting (although Yesterday had strings too). What makes it strong really is the diversity it exhibits, even stretching to include the children's novelty song "Yellow Submarine" with Ringo's vocal and various sound effects.
The cover art was quite progressive for its time and the punning title very clever. Apparently the sessions led to the invention of automatic double tracking (ADT), a technique soon adopted throughout the recording industry. The sessions also produced the non-album single, "Paperback Writer" backed with "Rain".
Revolver spent 34 weeks in the UK Albums Chart, for seven of which it held the number one spot. Three tracks were missing from the American release. This was the last time that policy was followed. The US release coincided with the Beatles' final concert tour, during which they refrained from performing any of the songs live. In the USA it still topped the Billboard Top LPs listings for six weeks.
Good day sunshine and And your bird can sing are two of my favourite songs of all time. I also love I'm only sleeping and For no one.

Xmas Foods Countdown 15 - Gingerbread

You can have gingerbread any time, of course but it is a popular winter and Xmas food. I think it's a Scandinavian thing. Gingerbread houses are getting more popular perhaps.

Mild at Christmas

I read these lines in a novel recently
"It was one of those mild indefinite days, which we now associate with Christmas in England, a day which had in its clouded sunlight nothing of autumn and nothing of winter, but seemed rather to suggest the spring — a feeble spring seen in a looking-glass. ... These meteorological reflections of mine were prompted entirely by the feeling that I was perhaps wearing too thick an overcoat. ..."
Sounds bang up to date? This C H B Kitchin in Crime at Christmas first published in 1935!
Apparently, the idea of Christmas being snowy can be traced back to the fact that eight of Charles Dickens' first Christmases were white. It is suggested that he associated snow and Christmas in his successful Christmas novellas and we all followed suit.

The Frost is all over

Kate Rusby has done it again with her new album The Frost Is All Over. It is the third Christmas album by the English folk musician on Pure Records. It is similar to the previous Christmas releases, Sweet Bells (2008) and While Mortals Sleep (2011). The main source for the album is South Yorkshire (I love the way she pronounces here o's and u's) but there are others such as the Cornish Wassailing song. The songs are mostly carols and winter songs plus one slightly bawdy but moralistic song The Christmas Goose. I love the Dilly Song a version of "Green grow the rushes" featuring banjo. Nice to hear the brass band again, sparingly used. Little Bilberry gives another alternative tune for Hark the herald and Mount Lyngham for While shepherds watched. Winter wonderland is a slight surprise but it works.

Retro Album "of the week" 43 - All that you can't leave behind

I wanted to include a U2 album here. I like some of the early albums (War, Boy, etc) and especially The Joshua Tree which nearly got the vote. Instead I've gone for the 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind the tenth studio album. Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it gets back to what they do best afte rhaving lost themselves for a while. The critics and the fans liked this album and it sold over 12 million copies. Four successful singles were taken from the album, the superb "Beautiful Day" plus "Walk On", "Elevation" and the classic "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of". It 2won seven Grammy Awards. It is the only album in history to have multiple tracks win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year: "Beautiful Day" in 2001 and "Walk On" in 2002.
Early versions of the cover released to the press show a departure sign that reads "F21-36", however, this was changed to J33-3 in reference to the Bible verse Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto me and I will answer thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not." Bono referred to it as "God's phone number". Grace is an interesting song and Peace on earth a sort of alternative Christmas thing.

Xmas Foods Countdown 14 - Brussels Sprouts

We've already had some of these here. This is my least favourite food of Christmas. The one way you can make them taste nice is by frying them with bacon and nuts.

Xmas Foods Countdown 13 - Mince Pies

You get to eat these all through December. They can vary but are nearly always nice.

Lord's Day December 13 2015

We started on our Christmas sermons proper today. What I decided to do was to preach four sermons from Luke 1 and 2, two this week and two next. This week we looked at Luke 1:1-4 in the morning and Luke 1:32, 33 in the evening. I had hoped for some locals to come in but that didn't really happen although it was nice to have visitors in the morning and some students were back. We were a little sparse in the evening as we looked at Christ who is great, the Son of the Most High, heir of David and everlasting Lord. We had tea beforehand and that was nice. One can easily get discouraged here in Childs Hill but we must keep looking to the Lord.

Xmas Foods Countdown 12 - Ham

This is a staple, often glazed with honey or marmalade

Retro Album "of the week" 42 - Tracy Chapman

A single and radio airplay are traditional ways of finding an audience for an album and that is how in 1988 I discovered the first album by the American artist Tracy Chapman. The single was Talkin' 'bout a revolution the second single from her self-titled debut album. Like most of the albums I have been listing, I bought this initially on vinyl. Apparently, many were not keen to record this album but it eventually got done in Hollywood, California in only eight weeks.
The lyrics are pretty political or to do with social issues but it is the music itself that is the attraction. people generally liked the album, especially its simplicity and her vocals. The socialism is noted too. It was a Number 1 in the UK, the US and many other places. Millions of copies were sold.
Three singles were eventually released from the album, the most commercially successful being the first Fast Car (one of the last songs recorded for the album). It was performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute. The third single was Baby can I hold you?
I always thought Revolution sounded rather dated and it is no surprise to learn that it was written in the seventies. If not now... is a favourite track as I think this is a universal question applicable to all sorts of areas.

Xmas Foods Countdown 11 - Panettone

You see more of this Italian favourite these days. It's not much of an alternative as it is still full of fruit, but it is quite light in colour and texture.

Xmas Foods Countdown 10 - Bread Sauce

Nothing to get excited about but often on the plate at Christmas

Midweek Meeting December 9 2016

We had a bumper turn out yesterday and a very good time of prayer. I began on our third 'R' - Regeneration, looking at both regeneration and evangelism. I also showed a video reminding us of the work of Caring for Life in Leeds, a work we try and support. Visitors included a refugee from a health and wealth church who have met before.

Xmas Foods Countdown 9 - Tunis Cake

This is another alternative to Christmas cake using Madeira cake. It only goes back to the thirties and is not Tunisian.

Westminster Conference 2015

So another two days of conference have come and gone. And very good it was too. Apologies that I have not been able to report until now. Anyway, we had six excellent papers and good times of discussion after them too. The last paper is always without discussion.
So we started with Jeremy Walker on Andrew Fuller and his pastoral theology. We mainly discussed pastoral visitation and its benefits and the question of what can be done to train ministerial character.
After lunch, we had the first of two sessions on John Owen. Originally Sinclair Ferguson was to have spoken but instead Crawford Gribben, whose OUP book on Owen comes out soon (John Owen and English Puritanism) spoke on his eschatology, which appears to have undergone some changes over the years - firt thinking Satan was bound, then that he was not. It was good to discuss a subject I don't recall us looking at before.
We closed the day with David Pfeiffer on Owen's doctrine of definite atonement and his preaching of the free offer. A good free flowing debate on the free offer followed, where some differences were discernible.
This first day was one of the best we have had in my memory. Good papers, good discussion. Day two was fine as well but different. We began with an unusual but highly relevant subject for the conference - Erasmus and the Greek Testament. Peter Hallihan gave us a very interesting and illuminating life of Erasmus focusing on his Greek Testament and his Latin translation. A good natured and helpful discussion followed.
The nest paper was different again as Paul Helm guided us through the bulk of Jonathan Edward's Religious affections pointing out its Lockean subtext and its politically nuanced presentation of Christian experience. Again very illuminating.
We closed the conference with an excellent and succinct lecture from Benedict Bird. He gave us seven points on Isaac Watts' life, touching delicately but clearly on his aberrant Trinitarian views and then seven further points summarising his Guide to prayer.
About 120 attended the conference both days the make up being slightly different each day. This included some new attendees and younger men. The sessions were well chaired I thought (I chaired David Pfeiffer's session hence the lack of a live shot above, the session didn't need too much chairing) and over forty must have contributed from the floor. The quality of the contributions was good too I thought.
Some quotations
You are to be a " faithful" servant. Faithfulness is absolutely required of a servant of Christ. You are not required to be successful: your Lord and Master was not very successful: but he was faithful, and so must you be. There is great need of faithfulness. (Andrew Fuller, Works p 408)
Men are busy, and not so far concerned, I am sure, in me, nor (I am almost persuaded) in you, as to trouble themselves with the perusal of what belongs unto us personally. For my part, I know it is my duty in all things, especially in those that are of such near concernment unto his glory as are all his truths and worship, to commend my conscience unto God, and to be conversant in them in simplicity and godly sincerity, and not in fleshly wisdom, not corrupting the word of truth, nor lying in wait with any subtle sleights to deceive. And this, through his grace, I shall attend unto, whatever reward I may meet withal in this world; for "I know in whom I have believed, who is able to keep that which I desire to commit unto him." (John Owen, end of Fiat Lux)
“Consider the infinite condescension and love of Christ, in his invitations and calls of you to come unto him for life, deliverance, mercy, grace, peace and eternal salvation. Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in Scripture… In the declaration and preaching of them, Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto him.
This is somewhat of the word which he now speaks to you: Why will ye die? Why will ye perish? Why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong, in the day of wrath that is approaching? ... Look unto me, and be saved; come unto me, and I will ease you of all sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls … eternity lies at the door…do not so hate me than you will rather perish than accept deliverance by me.
These and the like doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead and urge upon the souls of sinners…He doth it in the preaching of the word, as if he were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you…” (John Owen in “Meditations and Discourses Concerning the Glory of Christ and Applied unto Unconverted Sinners and Saints under Spiritual Decays” in Works Vol 1, p 422)
Let us pray then, that when God has prepared our heart for worship, he would also teach our tongue to answer the thoughts and desires of the heart and to express them in words suitable and answering to all our inward spiritual feelings. A fitting variety of expression, and holy oratory prayer, is one of these good and perfect gifts that come from above, from God, the Father of lights and Knowledge. (Isaac Watts, Guide to Prayer, p 75)

Xmas Foods Countdown 8 - Nut Roast

Not being a vegetarian I'd not tasted one of these until recently. They are brilliant. Of course, vegetarians eat them all year round I guess.

Lord's Day December 6 2015

And so we're in the last month of the year already. We began with communion as we do each month. In the morning I preached from Revelation 6 - the six seals, including the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse. I have preached this before and followed Hendriksen's argument that the white horse is Christ's horse but this time around I was persuaded by Greg Beale that it represents what is often a malevolent power  - conquest. We had a good congregation including some 11 Nigerians we know but who are not always with us. They all decided without collusion to turn up at once for some reason. I hope the sermon was helpful to everyone. It was 13 minutes longer than the one on Revelation 5. In the evening I was eager not to make it too difficult for people so I preached on the them Better than Christmas .... from Ecclesiastes 7. Both sermons are already up online I see on this page here.

Xmas Foods Countdown 7 - Dundee Cake

This is an alternative to Christmas cake but as we love icing we rarely see one of these

Xmas Foods Countdown 6 - Cranberry Sauce

I'm trying to alternate sweet/savoury more or less and this is a savoury though very sweet. We didn't used to have it when I was a kid. We nicked it from the Americans.

Xmas Foods Countdown 5 - Christmas Pudding

Great set on fire with brandy butter, white sauce, custard, cream or ice cream (or all five!)