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.

Back in it

So Wales are back in it having beaten France 20-13 in France (fourth win over France in a row).

Affinity Study Conference 3

The fifth and sixth papers at what is proving to be a very helpful conference have been on union with Christ and justification (by David Mackay from Belfast on Thursday afternoon, chaired by Mark Thomas) and union with Christ and sanctification (by Paul Wells now retired from Aix-en-Provence on Friday morning, chaired by Colin Jones). We followed the usual format, each man presenting his paper briefly before discussion in groups and a final half hour plenary session. Dr Wells' paper was very long but not difficult to read. Paul was in our discussion group (each speaker was assigned to one group) and that may have inhibited discussion slightly, especially if we were less familiar with this last paper than with previous ones. Paul's basic point was about the need to distinguish holiness, righteousness and sanctification, which was helpful. Again, the papers were very full and so we cannot give details without going on at length.
The conference was rounded off with a useful panel discussion chaired by Stephen Clark with all the speakers present except John Fesko who had to catch his plane. In this we discussed the inevitable question of how to preach union with Christ among other matters. Again, many helpful things were said.
So all in all a very good conference. It was a great blessing to be present.

Affinity Study Conference 2

Our next two sessions looked at union with Christ historically. Bob Letham of WEST presented a paper on Calvin and John Fesko of Westminster Theological Seminary in California on the communion controversy, where one William Sherlock replied to Owen on communion with God. The chairmen were Kevin Bidwell and Mike Plant. We had a good discussion session touching on our understanding of the Lord's Supper, the Song of Solomon and various other matters. We appear to be agreed on things in general but the opportunity to sharpen up our understandings is proving useful. Sorry not to give more background but each paper is long and fairly detailed. The papers will be published in due time I understand.

Affinity Study Conference 1

I am at the Affinity Day Conference here in King's Park centre. We kicked off this afternoon (in a slight change to the advertised programme) with a paper on Paul's approach to the union of the believer with Christ by Tim Ward of the Proclamation Trust followed by Cor Bennema from WEST on the Johannine approach to the subject. The first paper narrowed down only to Galatians. Tim gave an autobiographical introduction and Cor a summarising one. Paul Spear chaired the first session then Peter Milsom. After each intro we separated into six groups of 10 or so (Ken Brownell was chairing mine) to discuss the previously printed papers with set questions before us before reconvening to round off. The subject of union with Christ is an important one that most of us seem familiar with but that we could probably all do with sharpening up on. Being a broad grouping not everyone is quite on exactly the same page but it has been good to think and to chat both formally and informally. Lots of familiar faces and lots new to me too.


Started the week at the John Owen Centre for the reading group. Under our new chairman, Spencer Cunnah, there were six of us regulars plus three students, currently on placement. We were looking at John Owen's superlative Christologia which I had dipped into previously but never read through. As ever, I left my reading a bit late so was rushing through it at the end, not the best way to read Owen. Someone made the point that you need to read for a while and once you're in the groove it gets easier, which is probably right.
It is one of his later works and so he often vaguely refers you to previous writings. He covers the basic doctrines of Christ's person and his intercessory work with warmth and precision. We were all amazed at the depth of theology on offer here, even if we all found it a little difficult to get at because of the style. It is in Volume 1 of his works (see above). There are plenty of copies online and you can get a kindle edition at  a small price. It really could do with being simplified and presented in a modern annotated and indexed form. Anyone interested?

Sounds like design to me

An item on the BBC news this morning said that scientists have recently found that eyelashes on animals all appear to conform to the same ratio (a third of the width of the eye). They didn't suggest it was due to their being designed that way but it makes you wonder, eh? (If you have an open mind that is). More here.

Lord's Day February 22 2015

We started the day with the second Bitesize Theology looking at the Holy Spirit. There were a few less than last week but it has been half term and it is still February. Numbers were down generally during the day for various reasons. I preached again from Ezra in the morning (on Ezra 6:13-20) encouraging us to press on. Sihle spoke to the children (on adoption) and read the Scriptures. We had 7 or 8 20-30s around for lunch. In the evening I preached from the Sermon on the Mount and about plucking out the right eye. Just before I was to preach I realised I had not downloaded my sermon on to my kindle so I had to send my son home to get it. I did the intro from memory. I'm not sure how much further I would have got. I should have checked earlier.

Retro album of the week 8 - Oceanic

Oceanic appeared at the end of 1996 and was Vangelis's seventeenth solo studio album. By this time he was in quite a new age groove, which is not to everyone's taste but I really like this instrumental album, which is more of a classical album in style than a rock thing. The theme is the sea (with tracks such as "Bon Voyage" - 2:33 "Sirens' Whispering" - 7:59 "Dreams of Surf" - 2:43 "Spanish Harbour" - 6:42 "Islands of the Orient" - 7:24 "Fields of Coral" - 7:44 "Aquatic Dance" - 3:44, etc). The sound effects of the sea between tracks that turn it into one continuous track are done seamlessly. They even lifted a single from it (the gloriously Shadows-inspired "Song of the seas"). This album will not be to everyone's taste but I just love it. Interestingly, it did best in Hungary, where they have no sea. I'm not a sea lover a such myself. Appropriately enough the US version came out on the Atlantic label.

10 oft searched for books

Abebooks have produced a top hundred most searched for books list here
Here are ten from the list
1. The Jerusalem Bible Reader's Edition with illustrations by Dali
2. Racing Toward Judgment - David Wilkerson
3. History of Art - H W Janson
4. Ilsa - Madeleine L'Engle (novel)
5. Airport - Arthur Hailey (novel)
6. 102 Favorite Paintings by Norman Rockwell - Norman Rockwell and Christopher Finch
7. Sisters - Lynne Cheney (historical novel set in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1886)
8. The act of creation - Arthur Koestler
9. The Holy Bible - Rev. Thomas H. Horne, Rev. Wm. H Munroe, Rev. Samuel Cox, Rev. G. F. Maclear, Rev. F. W. Farrar, Rev. John Eadie, Rev. Wm F. B. Jackson, Prof. A. L. Rawson, Rev. Wm Smith, Rev. Alfred Nevin
10. On the Psychology of Military Incompetence - Norman F. Dixon (number I on the list)

10 Shakespearean Pop Songs

A question on the recent University Challeng e got me researching this.
1. Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits
2. The Tempest, Mike Oldfield
3. As you like it, Adam Faith
4. A winter's tale, David Esses
5. Cymbeline, Loreena McKennitt
6. Richard III, Supergrass
7. Henry VIII, Herman's Hermits
8. What you will* Humble Pie
9. Miss Macbeth, Elvis Costello
10. Hamlet (pow pow pow), The Birthday Party
*Alternative title of Twelfth Night

Midweek Meeting February 18 2015

Over these three weeks I have an LTS student with me on placement. Sihle Xulu is from South Africa. In the morning we went to the fortnightly meeting I take in nearby sheltered accommodation. In the evening he gave the message at our midweek meeting. He spoke from Numbers 11 on the danger of grumbling (which followed on from what had done in Philippians last week). We had our usual prayer time after the message. We were 11 altogether, some being away over half term.

Lord's Day February 15 2015

We started using our new NIV Bibles yesterday. We have taken our time over this and are not entirely happy about having to change but the 1984 Bibles are wearing out and only 2011 Bibles can be had. The 2011 edition seeks to be gender neutral but has also made other changes from the 1984 edition, mostly for the good. Another thing yesterday was that all our Filipino friends came to the morning service at once, which was nice (many of them work in care homes and cannot come every week). We started the day with the first of a series of sessions on Bitesize Theology looking at the doctrines of God and Jesus. About 8 came. I wish there had been more. I preached from Ezra 5:1-6:12 in the morning and carried on in the Sermon on the Mount in the evening, looking at the sixth commandment. We also had communion before the evening service when we looked at John 12. That was a blessing. So a good day all in all. It's half term this week so some were ill as they began to take the foot of the gas.

Retro album of the week 7 - Long Player, Late Bloomer

Long Player, Late Bloomer by Ron Sexsmith came out in 2011. I was vaguely aware of Sexsmith and then sat down to watch a documentary on the making of the album (Love Shines) which really drew me somehow. Any way I bought it and really enjoyed it, though it didn't lead me to go through the previous 11 albums he has produced or the subsequent album of 2013. The album is notable for being produced by heavy metal producer Bob Rock, best known for his work with Mötley Crüe and Metallica (not like Sexsmith at all). It spent a total of three weeks in the UK official album chart, peaking at no. 48. Believe it when I see it is my favourite track but I like the whole album. The use of auto tune is a debatable asset. He was recommended to use it by fellow Canadian Michael Bublé.

Midweek Meeting February 11 2015

Numbers were down just a little but we had another good time of prayer and we looked at the next bit of Philippians 2, that is 14-16a, which includes one of the hardest verses in the Bible - Do everything without complaining (or grumbling) or arguing! It is surprising what an emphasis Paul puts on it. As it is something of a national pastime several of us felt quite convicted. Nearly everyone prayed. What a great thing a prayer meeting is!

Retro Album of the week 6 - Blue on Blue

Away from the seventies for a moment to give a nod to the 2006 album Blue on Blue by Leigh Nash. I came across this not because I knew about her band Sixpence None the Richer (about whom I remain fairly ignorant) but because an interest in the artiste Jewel led to a recommendation from one of these online radio stations that I may also like, which I did. Blue on Blue is a beautiful pop album, professionally done and with the great voice of Leigh Nash.
The album apparently met mixed to positive reviews on release. Nash's vocals, lyrics and music direction were quite rightly praised. People didn't think it was as immediately appealing as the ones released by Sixpence None the Richer but that was obviously not a problem for me. Collaborators on the album were Sixpence's Matt Slocum, and the songwriting/production team of Rick Nowels and Billy Steinberg. Commercially, the album did not performed well. This is probably due to a lack of promotion and airplay. There were bonus tracks on the Japanese that I must get round to seeking out.

Lord's Day February 8 2015

It was a good day yesterday. A few were away (for good reasons) but their places were mostly taken by various visitors, who, as ever, we are hoping to see again. We'll see. A South African LTS student is with me on placement for three weeks so I had him lead in prayer and read the Scriptures. We had lunch together, as we do every other month, and (taking a leaf from Nigel Graham at Warboys' book) I took opportunity to interview him briefly.
The preaching continued in Ezra (on outside opposition) and the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:17-20 is a controversial passage and not easy but I hope I nailed it. Perhaps I should have taken on the first of the antitheses too by way of illustration.
One fly in the ointment was the no show of one woman who has been quite often in the past but for whom it is now rather difficult to be present and another who I bumped into the day before. She is a troubled soul and wants to come but also didn't make it this time.

Midweek Meeting February 4 2015

Another good session with around 15 present. We just looked at two verses, Philippians 2:12, 13. It is one of those rare places where the sovereignty of God and human responsibility are highlighted in the same place. I took opportunity to quote Jim Packer and others on the subject as well as expounding the text as best as I could. Always lots to pray about on the local and worldwide stages.

10 Cognomina of English Monarchs

We've all heard of William the conqueror but what about,
1.  "Edward the Confessor"
2. "Ethelred the unready" or "No-Counsel": Ethelred II (OE: Æþelræd Unræd; ME: Ethelred the Redeless)
3. "Edmund the Magnificent" Edmund I (OE: Eadmund Glenglic)
4. "Edmund Ironside”: Edmund II
5. "Harold Harefoot": Harold I
6. "William the Red": William II (Latin: William Rufus)
7. "Henry Beauclerk" or "Beauclerc" (French, "Good Clerk"): Henry I
8. "Henry Curtmantle" (ME, "short cloak"): Henry II [or “Henry Fitzempress"]
9. "Richard the Lionheart": Richard I (French: Richard Cœur de Lion)
10. "John Lackland": John (French: Jean sans Terre)

Paul Johnson on Winston Churchill

There's been a bit recently about Churchill as it is the fiftieth anniversary of his death. I am old enough to remember the funeral being on the TV and have some general idea about Churchill, including the fact that he was not very popular in Wales. Paul Johnson writes nicely (my father-in-law is a fan) and when I saw this brief biography in our local bookshop the other week I grabbed it (and paid of course) and then read it quite quickly. It is thorough, well written and with a few personal anecdotes and just one or two digressions. Great stuff. Johnson is a big admirer of Churchill (not just as  a politician but as an artist and as a writer and really as a man) but not entirely uncritical .There is a lot to admire but others would be much harder on him.

10 countries named after people

1. America (Amerigo Vespucci)
2. Columbia (Christopher Columbus)
3. Israel (Israel aka Jacob)
4. Marshall Islands (John Marshall, a British sea captain)
5. Philippines (Philip II of Spain)
6. Mauritius (Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange)
7. Saudi Arabia (Muhammad bin Saud)
8. Solomon Islands (King Solomon)
9. Bolivia (Simon Bolivar)
10. El Salvador (Jesus Christ)

10 Countries or Territories named after "saints"

1. Georgia (St George)
2. Saint Kitts and Nevin (St Christopher)
3. Saint Lucia (St Lucy)
4. St Vincent and the Grenadines (St Vincent of Saragossa)
5. San Marino (St Marinus)
6. Sao Tome and Principe (St Thomas)
7. Dominican Republic (St Dominic)
8. Martinique (St Martin of Tours)
9. Sint Maarten (St Martin of Tours)
10. St Helena, Ascension and Tristans da Cunha (St Helena of Constnantinople)

Meetings, TV Shows, etc

I've been meaning to a sort of general update for a while now. Various things have been taking up my time as well as the regular Sunday and midweek meetings and reading, etc. About 12 days ago I had an ultra-sound scan. I'm still waiting for the results from that.
The day after that I had an officers meeting (which went on a little long) followed a week later by a church members meeting where people were reporting back on no less than four potential new members - two by profession and two coming from other churches. I welcomed in the latter two the following Sunday but the other two will need to be baptised first so we will be arranging that soon.
Then there was a Grace Magazine Trustees meeting at the chapel as we discuss whether and online attempt is feasible. I also have an LTS Board meeting tomorrow.
On Saturday we were giving out tracts in Golders Green. It was rather wet for that sort of activity. I met an old man who claimed to be an atheist. He was quite convinced this was because he knew so much but when I told him he was sadly deluded and asked him if he knew everything he got quite irate. Atheism seems quite fashionable at present. it is difficult for an atheist to show humility, which makes them immediately suspect to anyone who has thought much about these things.
As for TV shows, we have been watching Wolf Hall, of course. I thought the first one was stunning, the second less so but the series looks set to be a classic. I have also been enjoying some BBC4 documentaries - the one on Mike Oldfield and Tubular Bells, the three on recording popular music by Neil Brand (Sound of Song), one on early rock 'n' roll, and the anniversary re-recording of Please Please Me. We also enjoyed the documentary on The secret world of Lewis Carroll fronted by Martha Kearney on BBC 2.
In the midst of all this it was nice to have Dylan around for his birthday. He was in town for an interview.

HMDUK 14 - When did wallpaper begin to be used?

WHEN DID WALLPAPER BEGIN TO BE USED ? Wallpaper had been in use among the Chinese long before it was known in the west. It may have been introduced into Europe during the sixteenth century, but for long after it was both crude and little used. It was made in small which necessitated many clumsy joints and must have been far inferior to the tapestry, fresco or wood-lining it was meant to replace. Not until the eighteenth century did wallpaper become common in England; then, largely because it cheap, its use spread rapidly. The variety of designs included landscapes, pictures of classical statues and buildings, pictures and flowers, as well as imitations of marble and embossed leather. For long, however, the wallpapers most in favour were the beautiful patterns imported from the home of wallpapers - China.

Lord's Day February 1 2015

It's a new month and so we began with communion, thinking about the earthquake and the splitting rocks at the time of the crucifixion. We then turned to the next instalment of Ezra - Ezra 3. We considered the centrality of Christ's atonement and of the church. It was quite fresh and people enjoyed that. They seem convinced that Ezra really is a good book to be exploring. I hope so. We had a good number there and six children, which is a lot for us. In the evening we were back to the Sermon on the Mount, this time the salt and light section, which I tried to deal with in a fresh way again, sticking close to the text and not relying on pat commentary too much. I should have said too that we were welcoming in new members at the communion. That is always encouraging.