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.

The Top 10 novels on Abebooks since 2000

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
6. Night by Elie Wiesel
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
9. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
 (Next come Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)
I've read 1, 2, 7, 9 and 10 plus Fahrenheit 451, all worth the effort, and would like to read the other non-Potter ones. I've missed out three non-novels from the original list of 100 here)

Retro album of the week 13 - Shot of love

Bob Dylan's Shot of love, his twenty-first studio album was released in 1981. It is considered to be Dylan's last of a trilogy of Christian albums and arguably the best of them (the first two were Slow Train Coming and Saved). I had not been a Dylan fan despite my best efforts but felt compelled to check these three out. The arrangements on this one are said to be rooted more in rock'n'roll, and less in gospel than Saved and may be that's why it wins out for me. At the time of its release, it received mixed reviews. Paul Nelson (Rolling Stone) criticised the album but singled out Every Grain of Sand as a stand-out, which it is from any point of view. Bono liked it but most others didn't.
I'm not sure how Dylan's recording sessions normally go but on this occasion several stabs were made at possible songs and several songs were dropped and many re-recorded before the final selection of nine was made.
The opening tracks are not thought to be so spiritual but the title track is very 1 Corinthians 13 (and not unlike Watered down love in sentiment) and the second is founded on Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" It is about the temptation to commit adultery. Property of Jesus is much more overt. It's only fault is that Christians should not react to unbelievers like that.
The fourth track is about subversive Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce. An influential entertainer whose use of provocative language led to a famous obscenity trial, Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966. Despite the secular tone of the lyrics, the music is "anchored in the resolute cadences of piano gospel," (according to music critic Tim Riley). Often regarded as a bizarre tribute, the song portrays Bruce as some kind of martyr, even though its characterisations of Bruce have been described as peculiar and almost non-descript. When Dave Herman asked (1981) why, after so many years, Dylan chose to write about Lenny Bruce, he answered, "You know, I have no idea! I wrote that song in five minutes! I found it was a little strange after he died, that people made such a hero out of him. When he was alive he couldn't even get a break. And certainly now, comedy is rank, dirty and vulgar and very unfunny and stupid, wishy-washy and the whole thing. ... But he was doing this same sort of thing many years ago and maybe some people aren't realizing that there was Lenny Bruce, who did this before and that is what happened to him. So these people can do what they're doing now. I don't know." The first verse might, in fact, be seen to offer a subtle cut to Bruce's imitators for whom the use of profanity is a cheap "shock" gimmick, while for Bruce it was a strike for free speech: "He was an outlaw, that's for sure/More of an outlaw than you ever were." I also read a positive review that suggested he was simply saying what good he could about an unattractive character.
Reggae-tinged Dead Man, Dead Man is again more evangelical. It "is a textbook warning against the devil, if you listen as if you're reading; if you hear it, it's a poker game, and the singer's winning." (Greil Marcus) The theme is Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? and the "dead man" Dylan is addressing is himself, admitting his moral fallibility and mocking his own appearance "Satan's got you by the heel/There's a bird's nest in your hair."
The wistful "In the Summertime" is perhaps the most relaxed, upbeat song on the album. Paul Nelson - it has "a lovely feel to it, and Dylan's harmonica playing hangs in the air like the scent of mimosa." Trouble is the quintessential blues song about how tribulation is intrinsic to human existence.
Every Grain of Sand is one of Dylan's most celebrated. He puzzles over the dilemma of whether his disappointments, temptations, failings and triumphs were due to his actions alone or ordained by God's delivering hand ("I've gone from rags to riches in the sorrows of the night/In the violence of a summer's dream/In the chill of a winter light" and "I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea/Sometimes I turn and there's someone there, sometimes it's only me"). It's "perhaps his most sublime work to date" (Clinton Heylin) "the summation of a number of attempts to express what the promise of redemption meant to him personally. One of his most intensely personal songs, it also remains one of his most universal. Detailing 'the time of my confession/the hour of my deepest need,' the song marks the conclusion of his evangelical period as a songwriter, something its position at the conclusion of Shot of Love tacitly acknowledges." Paul Nelson - "The artist's Christianity is both palpable and comprehensible ... For a moment or two, he touches you, and the gates of heaven dissolve into a universality that has nothing to do with most of the LP." Tim Riley -  "a prayer that inhabits the same intuitive zone as "Blowin' in the Wind" - you'd swear it was a hymn passed down through the ages." Milo Miles - "This is the one Dylan song in ten years ... in which he examines a pop-culture paradox (that legendary stars in particular have to believe in ideals greater than themselves) more eloquently than any other performer has."
The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar was later added to the album

Another Childs Hill Sunset

CWH with Buddy Holly and the Crickets

Understanding Welsh speakers, hardest to easiest

I was in Wales the other week and this list came to mind. Something similar could be said for other languages I guess. I was at a bus stop next to a mother and child speaking German the other day and their conversation was pretty clear to me despite my very limited German (Lola was complaining that the church was old but her mother thought it was beautiful).

1. Children (slow and clear)
2. Learners (clear)
3. Second languagers (clear)
4. Public speakers, announcers (clear and often a translation to follow)
5. People from Llanelli or Bridgend
6. Native speakers who know your Welsh is limited
7. Native speakers who don't know your Welsh is limited
8. Native speakers from the Lleyn Peninsula
9. Old people or teenagers
10. Old people from the countryside (unclear and dialect words)

Lord's Day March 29 2015

I was away this last Sunday down in Pains Hill, where I preach from time to time. Robert Strivens, my fellow elder, was preaching for me here in Childs Hill. Sadly, the Pains Hill congregation was down in numbers. Some were away but there have also been deaths, people have moved and some have become discouraged and rarely come. They are getting a dozen along to their children's meeting at least. I preached from Ezra 9 and on Philippians 2:7. One of the treats of going there is lunch with the Averys. I was in college with Jonathan. We both did English. They have three daughters so his family life has been quite different to mine.

Midweek Meeting March 25 2015

Nearly forgot this, so busy. As we've come to the end of Philippians 2 and we're coming into the holiday period I thought I'd do something else. I plan to preach from 1 Peter 2:7 at the Banner and so I thought I'd explore the text probably over two or three weeks. So on Wednesday we made a start taking just five headings under which to place reasons for counting Christ precious. There is a helpful book on the subject by the 18th century Baptist John Fawcett. See here.

Are you going to Banner?

It's the Banner ministers conference next month (April 13-16). A chance to play this video again perhaps. Certainly do check this link out here with details on what is to be happening. Here's my own blurb

‘Unto you therefore which believe he is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7).

This is the text we will turn to at the beginning of the conference. It is the first text that C. H. Spurgeon ever preached in a formal church setting. As so much in that remarkable life, the circumstances were unusual. He was asked to walk out to a village near Cambridge accompanying a young man he supposed would preach that evening. On the way he discovered that the man had no intention of preaching or any ability to do so, and so Spurgeon himself had to preach.

Writing of the text many years later he said,

"if a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would suit him. If one were dying this would be the text; if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text."

The reason he said that is

"because its teaching is experimental – its meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue. To the believer it is not a thing which somebody else has taught him; it is a matter of fact, which he knows within his own soul, that Christ is precious to him, and he can bear testimony concerning it although not always such bold testimony as he could wish."

John Newton was one who did boldly testify to it many years before, writing of Jesus as his Shepherd, Husband, Friend; his Prophet, Priest and King; his Lord, his Life, his Way, his End.

Such truths are too easily lost in the midst of busy ministries and we need to be reminded what the short-lived Andrew Gray discovered in the early seventeenth century, that ‘Christ’s preciousness to the believer is the foundation of our faith’.

Retro album of the week 12 - Cuilidh

Cuilidh (the word means place of retreat) was Julie Fowlis's second album and came out in 2007. It features several songs in Gaelic (one acapella) and some instrumentals and not a word of English! Everything is played on traditional folk ounding instruments (though the piano also gets a look in). The two singles from it were "Turas san Lochmor" (all about sea travel apparently) and the delightful "Hùg Air A' Bhonaid Mhòir" (celebrate the big bonnet) which is Puirt a beul or Mouth Music (other such items occur - on one of them it sounds just like she's saying Barry Manilow. In Oran nan Raiders I can hear the name Lloyd George!). Another favourite of mine is "An t-Aparan Goirid 's an t-Aparan Ur: Oran do Sheasaidh Bhaile Raghnaill". 4."'Ille Dhuinn, 's toiigh Leam Thu" is also vey good.

Strict Baptist Historical Society 2015

It was good to be at the annual meeting of the Strict Baptist Historical Society in Bethesda, Kensingtion Place, last Friday. There was a good turn out to hear the speaker, Dr Crawford Gribben, who spoke on the subject of Owen and the Baptists. Gribben is a John Owen expert, well read in the great man's works and his careful, erudite paper was something of an encouragement to Baptists, given how highly respected the Congregationalist theologian is. The basic idea was that Owen generally avoided the baptism question  and especially so as he matured and actually met Baptists such as Henry Jessey. He appears to have moved from an advocacy of baptismal regeneration to a more middle of the road infant Baptist position. A posthumous work that appears to look at the subject is probably spurious. Sadly, Dr Gribben was unable to cast any light on the relationship between Owen and Bunyan. The lecture can be seen and heard on Vimeo here.

Lord's Day March 22 2015

Busy day yesterday starting with a bitesize theology class on the atonement. We had a bumper turn out. I then preached to a decent sized congregation, including some visitors, on the last chapter of Ezra (10 points all beginning with C and about dealing with sin). We have enjoyed the series on Ezra I believe. At 6 pm we had a prayer meeting about our currently defunct children's work. We have planned to meet monthly for prayer. In the evening meeting we looked at Matthew 5:38-42 and the verses about and eye for an eye and how we are to understand it. Again, decent numbers. To be honest I'm not entirely happy about this series from Matthew 5 - something missing somehow I fear. It probably needs to be more convicting.

Dave Gorman Too much information

I was in a charity shop the other day and I saw a signed copy of Dave Gorman's Too much information (published 2014) which I picked up for very little. Gorman is somebody I am only vaguely aware of but this book, mostly about the Internet, was informative, fascinating, amusing and enjoyable to read. Gorman started as a comedian but has settled into this sort of analysis approach, which is full of mild humour but appears to have a higher motive. I was very interested in a piece near the end that gives some insight into how things are promoted on Google.

Spurgeon and depression

I recently came across American Zack Eswine's Spurgeon's Sorrows a book for those who suffer from depression. I don't suffer from depression thankfully but I feel like I do sometimes.
I thought the book might be more biographical but in fact what it is a pulling together of Spurgeon's many, many references to depression and how to cope with it. The book looks at trying to understand depression, learning how to support those who suffer and learning helps to cope daily. So much of it is fairly conventional but with this very fresh look at Spurgeon's take on it. It is a short book (143 pages) but helpful for any Christian with depression or who is trying to help such a person.
The decision to refer to Spurgeon as Charles was probably not the right decision but the general style is okay once you get used to it (and no typos -well done Christian Focus!). This is a book packed with wisdom that is really worth checking out. Eswine  himself says "the melancholy life thrives when it marathons instead of sprints, or when it sprints often, only to rest often." That on its own is a great seed thought.

Wonderful day of rugby

So Ireland it is. But above everything else what a day of rugby. An incredible 221 points, including 27 (yes, 27) tries! Amazing! 

Amazing Wales 61-20

An amazing second half performance by Wales. Hopefully it is enough. We'll see.

My Brother Jake

We heard this week of the death of Andy Fraser co-writer of my favourite pop track of all time, My Brother Jake. This is a live version from the time (Fraser is on piano). For a more modern (much less satisfying) version try

HMDUK 16 What is the origin of hot-cross buns?

WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF HOT-CROSS BUNS? The custom of making bread marked with the sign of a cross for consumption at festivals is both ancient and widespread. There is no ground for supposing that the custom originated with the early Christians; they merely altered its significance by associating it with the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

HMDUK 15 Why do we have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

WHY DO WE HAVE PANCAKES ON SHROVE TUESDAY? This day was formerly one of universal merrymaking and all kinds of amusements, being the last day before the start of the austerities of Lent. In Roman Catholic countries it is still a day of carnival. After having made confession, or shrift (whence 'Shrove') in preparation for the morrow, the faithful are allowed a brief interval of feasting, of which they take full advantage. As eggs and fats are forbidden during Lent, it is customary to use them up on Shrove Tuesday in fritters and pancakes, which thus become particularly associated with this day. The French call it "Mardi Gras," (Fat Tuesday) because of the fat oxen led in procession through the streets.

Midweek Meeting March 18 2015

Rather behind with this but we did meet on Wednesday - about 15 of us all told. We had a decent time of prayer and I spoke from the end of Philippians 2 on Timothy and Epaphroditus as outstanding examples to us. It is quite a challenge. I asked seven searching questions
1. Do you have a genuine concern for the welfare of your fellow Christians?
2. Do you put Jesus Christ's interests above your own?
3. Are you proving yourself by serving with others in the work of the gospel?
4. Are you ready to be a co-worker and fellow soldier to your brothers, caring for any in need?
5. Do you long for other believers and are you distressed if they are anxious at all?
6. Does it gladden your heart to see your faithful fellow believer and do you honour such people?
7. Are you willing to risk your life for the good of your fellow believers?
Our lives are so cosy it is hard to enter the spirit of these questions.

OGWT Faster than the hound

Retro Album of the week 11 - The Tain

The concept album The Tain by the Irish band Horslips came out in 1973 and has given me a great deal of pleasure ever since I first heard it. The band's second studio album it was recorded in Wales and is loosely based on the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), one of the most infamous legends of Early Irish literature, dealing with the war between Ulster and Connacht over a prize bull. The songs tell the story from the points of view of Cúchulainn, Queen Maeve of Connacht and Ferdia, among others. Horslips continued their Celtic Rock style of fusing traditional Irish music and rock, using traditional jigs and reels and incorporating them into their songs. For example, Dearg Doom is based on O'Neill's March, while The March of the King of Laois forms part of More Than You Can Chew. Dearg Doom was arguably the most popular track on the album, along with Faster Than The Hound it was performed by the band on BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test.
The album is great fun but is presented in the most serious of tones. I avidly read all the sleeve notes, including the quotation "We Irish should keep these personages in our hearts, for they lived in the places where we ride and go marketing, and sometimes they have met one another on the hills that cast their shadows upon our doors at evening." W.B. Yeats. March 1902.

Lord's Day March 15 2015

Yesterday we looked at Ezra 9 and how to confess our sins, in the morning and at Matthew 5:33-37 and the important matter of honesty, in the evening. We started the day with one of our bitesize theology classes (on sin) and we had communion before the evening service (thinking about the Good Shepherd and how he laid down his life for the sheep). There were quite a few missing for various reasons but others were there who would not be at other times - an former church member and his daughter; relatives of a member; a young lady usually away at boarding school; an Iranian gentleman who comes from time to time, a Romanian from Brasov with no English newly arrived; a needy Portuguese lady who we haven't seen for ages, etc. It is hard to keep everyone in mind.

Dr Strivens on William Perkins at the Library

Monday seems a long time ago now but back then we had a lunch time lecture from Robert Strivens on the Puritan William Perkins. We had a good turn out and Robert helpfully took us through Perkins' relatively short life and introduced his works to us. Joel Beeke's RHB imprint has just published the first of a projected 10 volumes of Perkins' works. I've sent for my copy from ICM. This looks like a worthwhile project. 

Retro Album of the Week 10 - Shepherd Moons

Shepherd Moons by Enya 1991
This album was a massive follow up to the first distinctively Enya album Watermark. Although the whole thing has the Enya sound, there is some variety. Lothlorien and No holly for Miss Quinn are instrumentals, the latter featuring only the piano. The track Shepherd Moons is also an instrumental but does feature Enya's voice. Caribbean Blue is classic Enya with a beat and Book of Days is similar. Ebudae is chanted and has an ethnic Native American sound, Evacuee features a rain sound effect and a brass band. Marble Halls and How can I keep from singing are covers of a sort, the first being a Victorian Music Hall favourite and the latter a Shaker hymn. Smaointe is in Irish and is almost an acapella piece except for the Uillean pipe solo. Afer Ventus is in Latin and features perhaps more multi-layered voices than any other track on the album. The Irish and Latin and Gregorian influences are perhaps the most easily discernible but Lord of the Rings and the New Age movement are clearly represented. No holly for Miss Quinn is clearly inspired by a story by the quaint modern writer whose pen-name is Miss Read. Perhaps it is the calming precision craftsmanship that makes this such a satisfying album.

Lord's Day March 8 2015

I have been in Aberystwyth this week and so I am behind with blogging. We began last Sunday with a  fairly well attended bitesize theology class on the Trinity. The morning sermon was from Ezra 8 and felt a little apprehensive about it again, though not as much as the previous week. I was able to make what were hopefully helpful points about church life in exegetically defensible ways. I spoke of a church preparing itself to serve by gathering the people and their leaders, of the need for humiliation and prayer and a fresh consecration of ourselves and all we have, assuring of protection and safety as we serve and worship. A couple in the church kindly entertained us for lunch and then we all got together before the evening service for our regular tea time. For various reasons we were mire than usual (I counted 18 - we are rarely that many). We are having a week of prayer this week and so we spent  a short time in prayer until we were interrupted a little sooner than anticipated by the arrival of some visitors. In the evening we looked at divorce from Matthew 5:31, 31 - always a difficult subject but hopefully I said something sound and sensible.

Midweek Meeting March 4 2015

A good number gathered last night for prayer and further studies in Philippians 2. We looked at verses 16b-18 and the rewards and demands of the Christian ministry. I always feel a little awkward when we come to these sort of verses. Paul was very frank, however. Perhaps it is a failure to think biblically about judgement and other matters that is the problem. My two main points were
1. Christian ministry has its reward – future boasting but it demands great effort
2. Christian ministry demands great sacrifice but it has its reward – present gladness and joy

10 non-test teams who have beaten the All Blacks in the British Isles

1. 1935-Swansea
2. 1953-Cardiff
3. 1963-Newport
4. 1972-Llanelli
5. 1972-North-Western Counties
6. 1972-Midland Counties (West)
7. 1979-Northern division of England
8. 1983-Midland division of England
9. 1978-Munster
10. 1973 and 2009-Barbarians*

*What is often considered to be the greatest try ever was scored by the Barbarians in 1973. You can see it here

Teulu ar y Teledu (unwaith eto)

The family have been on TV once again, this time for a documentary in Welsh comparing education in England and Wales. It is currently available here.


EMW article 4: How to pray for each other

My latest article on 1 Thessalonians is in the current Evangelical Magazine. It is similar to this
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 we see five helpful rules on how to pray for each other.
Keep informed
In verses 6-8, having spoken of his concern for them, Paul explains how Timothy had arrived with good news of their faith and love. Paul learned of the pleasant memories of him and his team they had and their longing to see him as much as he longed to see them. This was not a complete surprise. In all his distress and persecution Paul had been encouraged by the thought of their faith. However, now he lives. They really are standing firm in the Lord!
Paul prayed for them all the time they were apart but was anxious – afraid he says that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. Timothy has now reassured him on that score. What a relief! Paul always found faith in others encouraging, especially in distress and persecution, so he was greatly cheered to know of their progress.
We are all the same. One thing we can all do to help ourselves to pray better is to try and be better informed about one another. We must pray for fellow believers whether we hear of them or not but, generally speaking, it is easier if we keep informed, one of the things this magazine seeks to do.
Give thanks
Paul asks (9) How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? It is clear that he often gave thanks. Why was he so thankful? Because of the joy it gave him, in God's presence, to know others were saved and were demonstrating that in their daily lives. He finds it difficult to see how he can be as thankful as he ought to be, so much joy have they given.
At the start of the letter, he wrote how he always thanked God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. It is a note often struck in his letters. It is usually the place to start when praying for believers. How lonely without them! What joy to know that they also are saved. Are we giving thanks for them? Do our thanks equal the joy they give us by their Christian living? At the very least, we ought to be regularly thanking God for one another.
Request fellowship opportunities and growth
Paul constantly prayed for them. He says (10) Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. He gives the prayer - Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. Besides giving thanks Paul makes a specific request – to see them again and preach to them. His prayer is that our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus will clear the way for him and his companions to come to them again.
We should make specific requests to God. More importantly, we should often pray for fellowship. That is what Paul longs for with the Thessalonians. His specific desire, as a preacher, is to supply what is lacking in their faith but we should all long for fellowship with each other.
Pray too for the supply of what is lacking in people's faith. Give thanks for faith but recognise that no-one has perfect faith so we ask for growth and increase. People don't do it so much now but there was a time when a woman would sit and darn the socks. Our faith often has holes and needs repair. Pray for faith to be “darned”.
Pray for each other – for opportunities of fellowship, the supply of what faith currently lacks.
Request increased and overflowing love
Paul prays May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you (12). He prays not only for an increase in faith but also love. The CEV has - May the Lord make your love for each other and for everyone else grow by leaps and bounds. It's like faith – every Christian believes and every Christian loves but there is room for growth. Let's pray for each other that our love will grow in leaps and bounds. In particular pray that we may have
Love each other more and more. Brotherly love is a basic Christian trait but too often we are found wanting. Pray for a real increase in love to one another.
An increasing love for outsiders too. Love is to extend beyond us to all sorts of others. Pray it will.
The pattern is the same as Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Request strengthened hearts and blamelessness when Christ comes
Having spoken of faith and love one expects a reference to hope. That is not what follows but there is an emphasis on the future hope. What Paul prays is (13) May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. The prayer is interesting as it requests God to strengthen their hearts. The end of this is seen as increased holiness so that they will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
So here's another thing to pray for each other – a strengthening of the heart so that, in light of Christ's return, we may become more and more holy. We tend not to think of holiness as a matter of being strong in heart but Paul saw that is often the issue. More strong heartedness would mean greater separation to God and more holy living. Pray that will increasingly be the case with all of us. Then those we pray for will be among the holy believers who return with Christ when he comes.
The very mention of Christ's return, a subject Paul keeps returning to in this letter, reminds us that if we would pray, we must set our minds on Christ's return. It is in the light of that event that we must always pray.

10 Great English Classical Composers

1. John Dowland
2. William Byrd
3. Henry Purcell
4. George Frederic Handel (actually a German, but resided in England for a large portion of his life)
5. Edward Elgar
6. Frederick Delius
7. Gustav Holst
8. Ralph Vaughan Williams
9. Benjamin Britten
10. Malcolm Arnold

Westminster Fellowship session on the law

It was good to be back at the Westminster Fellowship yesterday. About thirty were present at Westminster Baptist Church in Horseferry Road to hear Robert Strivens from LTS speak on the law. Robert helpfully guided us through both the Reformed view and the New covenant view of the law, especially noting differences among the Reformed and the latter group (highlighting the views of Wells and Zaspel, Moo and Schreiner, which are not exactly the same).  Although the differences are many in practice the issue seems to be the fourth commandment and how that is understood. Mostyn Roberts chaired what was a very good time of discussion.

Lord's Day March 1 2015

I was a little out of sorts heading off to church on Sunday morning (I'm not sure what it was - tiredness, knowing certain people would be missing including an unwell son, not preaching in the evening, pressure to prepare being away three days last week, lack of illustrations in the sermon??). Anyway we started with communion and that was okay (I focused on Mark 10:45). The morning sermon was on Ezra 7 and it seemed to be okay. There were people missing as I expected but we were great full and there was a new local couple there. Nice to have all my sons home at different points in the afternoon. Numbers were lower in the evening. Sihle Xulu preached competently, looking at the transfiguration. An Albanian man tuned up. he appears to have been baptised by the Mormons. I gave him an English Bible and a copy of Ultimate Questions in Albanian (I was glad  to find one around. Our church paid for the first printing many years ago I believe). There is no point in letting feeling down interfere with the work. It does make it harder though.

Retro Album of the week 9 - Moving Waves

Moving Waves by Focus, 1971.
Observant readers may have noticed that we haven't mentioned Dutch prog rock giants Focus so far. Well, let's put that right now.
I have written on this subject elsewhere under the heading "On first listening to Moving Waves. I wrote
The first Focus album I ever heard was their second. Moving Waves, as it was called in the UK, appeared towards the end of 1971. It was initially on the Blue Horizon label (the label my first copy bore). I must have first listened to it in 1973, the year I turned 14. I had heard the single version of Hocus Pocus on TV but the rest of the album was unknown to me. Before buying it I borrowed a copy from my friend Gwilym Evans, already a fan. The cover looked good for the time with a nice purple colour and a small picture of the group on the front and a mainly red, black and yellow set up on the back. There were quite a few words on the back but not much information.
I guess I started with Hocus Pocus knowing I liked that already. At 6' 42" the album version is quite a bit longer than the single version and it was amazing to have it there pumping into the room, this really wild rock music and yet with these weird, sometimes quite primitive, bits and that crazy yodelling. Then after the blistering opening track it goes quiet and you get a Rodrigo style classical guitar and what sounds like an orchestra (actually mellotron) and I know we have gone really classical. Nice though. The third track is Janis and we're off somewhere else this time - somewhere very eastern. I like it but it's difficult to compare it with anything. The track after that is Moving Waves and now I really don't know which way is which. This weird piano and vocal piece sounds like something in a Dutch eisteddfod or something. The last track on the first side of the vinyl album is Focus 2. It is at this point that I am hooked. This is jazz - the sort of thing Michael Parkinson would come on stage to - and yet it's a rock band playing. What have I got here?
So I flip the thing over and now I'm anxious. Here is a piece that takes up the whole of one side. It is broken up into sections according to the cover but you can see by looking that there are no gaps between tracks. This is 23 solid minutes of music! So we listen and it is mostly jazz again, although at one point the guitarist does go quite wild (the Bridge, etc) and I like the ethereal voices that remind you of something from Holst. Eruption really did take several listens to get into and I would often get lost in one passage or another. I knew instinctively that this was good stuff though and worth persevering with. As soon as I had the money I trundled off to the shops (can't remember if it was the local independent retailer Sounds or the chain store Boots or did I buy it from friend?) and bought my own copy.
Wikipedia notes that the Hocus Pocus single was Focus' biggest hit and gained them international popularity. It likens the song to the riff-driven hard rock of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and anticipatory of many aspects of 1980s heavy metal, especially the guitar work of Yngwie Malmsteen with Akkerman's use of the harmonic minor and Hungarian minor scales, uncommon in rock music then. It then says that radical departures in musical styles follow - Le Clochard ("The Beggar" in French), also entitled Bread is a melancholy classical guitar piece by Akkerman with van Leer on Mellotron strings. Janis, another Akkerman-penned ballad, becomes a flute showcase for van Leer with multiple tracks on that instrument. Moving Waves, a piano and vocal solo by van Leer features lyrics by Sufi poet/master musician Inayat Khan. Focus II features the entire band in a classical-jazz fusion instrumental with graceful changes of time signature. Eruption it claims is a hard rock version of the tale of Orpheus and Euridice and an updated and more modern version of Jacopo Peri's opera Euridice. An uncredited melody from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo opens the suite, and a later segment includes the haunting Tommy (after its author Tom Barlage of the Dutch fusion band Solution). The Zappa-inspired The Bridge is a heavily syncopated jam session, culminating in some solo guitar riffs reminiscent of Hocus Pocus . Euridice, penned by Eelko Nobel, is a classical lied which segues into the Gregorian Dayglow, then van der Linden's drum solo, Endless Road. The suite ends with a return to its opening themes, uniting them with Euridicewith van der Linden's freeform percussion effectively evoking the sound of fireworks for the finale.

William Perkins at the Evangelical Library

A warm welcome to our next lunch time lecture at 1 pm next Monday (March 9) when Dr Robert Strivens of the LTS will speak on  “William Perkins and how to live happily forever”. This promises to be a very good opportunity. Do come and join us. Details on location here.

London Welsh

I was in central London yesterday (the day after St David's Day) and it was a joy to see the Welsh flag flying over Westminster Abbey. My wife is in the nearby St Margaret's today for the annual St David's day service of the Houses of Parliament (she was celebrating last Friday at the London Welsh Centre and last night at the Guildhall - you can't over do it).

Affinity Study Conference 2015

Tim Ward
 Paul Wells
The panel with Stephen Clark in the chair
Apologies again that my reports on the Affinity conference were rather general. Union with Christ is a big subject and it is difficult to know what to include and exclude from the papers and discussion. As I noted before, it is hoped that the papers will be printed up. They will be worth having.