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.

Midweek Meeting April 29 2015

Another decent turn out and a good time of prayer as we carried on through Philippians 3. This time verses 4-9. Not long before leaving I checked my Facebook and found an unexpected but encouraging message from a German fellow who turned up here a while back. What he had to say chimed in perfectly with the passage. He wrote
"Hi gary, this is **** from Germany. I attended childshill Baptist church about two years ago. Just want to briefly tell you what great things the Lord has done in my life. Last year he blessed me with a really good results in my a levels ... and led me to study medicine in a town close to where i grew up that also has a small reformed congregation with faithful preaching and good fellowship. I am so thankful for that! Well and most prominently He saved me last Winter. I was finally able to trust in the finished work of Christ after subconsciously (he means unconsciously) having tried to present my 'righteousness' before the Lord. I always thought i had to scrub up before coming to Him. Now i know that I come to Him just as i am and let Him change me. Praise be to God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to redeem us from this present evil age. Hope to see you all again soon!
God's grace be with you!"

Justification Reconsidered

This book by Stephen Westerholm is a nice hundred page piece debunking the new perspective and showing that Luther had it basically right about Paul while Stendahl and others are mistaken. He has a much bigger book saying similar things (Perspectives old and new on Paul). The book is very good at sticking to its task and sets things out very well. Westerholm is the author of a number of books that look very interesting (see here).

Crazy Busy Late

I got hold of Crazy Busy by Kevin Deyoung last year but was too crazy busy to read it, although I did manage to read his book Taking God at his word (though not hole in our holiness which has been hanging around the house too). Anyway having met Mr Deyoung the other week I was stimulated to get CB read (my wife also has a copy uncompleted). I know you've all read it but I don't mind being late - I was often last boy out of school as child.
The book is pretty free of earth shattering new ideas. One book he footnotes is Ordering your private world which I remember reading years back. (I'd never heard of Tim Chester's book on the same subject). There are helpful things here on pride, using the Internet and not resting (not really my problem although the way things are no longer divided up day/night, work/leisure, etc, set me thinking). What he says about not getting too worried about your kids I'd already worked out a while ago I guess but then I am at quite a different stage to young Kevin with five (now six) kids still at home and some of them in diapers/nappies. (He also has a church of 700 so there's not much the same at all in our lives). I thought the final point about getting the quiet time right was well made. If you are busy and haven't found time for this book I would recommend it.

The Confessions A biography

Our reading group at the John Owen Centre looked at Augustine's Confessions the other week and I bought this little book in the series Lives of great religious books. First, let me say what a nice book it is to handle - a properly bound hardback with clear print. I think Mr Wills is a Roman Catholic but he seeks to be objective and so this does not intrude too much. What you get is a helpful analysis of the contents of this Christian classic, along with some idea of the history of the scholarship with regard to it and something on its origins and subsequent reception. I found this an enjoyable and stimulating work. The fresh analysis of the famous conversion was interesting. It is perhaps how surprising how evangelicals rightly or wrongly are able to see it in a light that appears to be obscure to other observers.

True Happiness

It's good to get back to a bit of Dr Lloyd-Jones every now and again. True Happiness contains four lightly edited sermons (they have been put into book form but are clearly sermons and might have been better for being left more as such) preached in January of, well, it doesn't say what year. That info is not available at the site where the sermons can be heard either (see here). It would be nice to know. I am assuming these were evening sermons as they are pretty evangelistic. More homiletic then exegetical they are very helpful. This 110 page edition is produced by CFP and Bryntirion together and is uniform with other volumes on Psalms 51, 73 and 107. There is a foreword by Tulliam Tchividjian (lost on me but worth having in there if it connects with a younger generation). Worth checking out.

J C Ryle on Luke 10:21-24

This is helpful
"The full significance of these words will probably never be understood by Christians until the last day. We have probably a most faint idea of the enormous advantages enjoyed by believers who have lived since Christ came into the world, compared to those of believers who died before Christ was born. The difference between the knowledge of an Old Testament saint and a saint in the apostles' days is far greater than we conceive. It is the difference of twilight and noon-day, of winter and summer, of the mind of a child and the mind of a full-grown man. No doubt the Old Testament saints looked to a coming Savior by faith, and believed in a resurrection and a life to come. But the coming and death of Christ unlocked a hundred Scriptures which before were closed, and cleared up scores of doubtful points which before had never been solved. In short, "the way into the holiest was not made manifest, while the first tabernacle was standing." (Heb. 9:8.) The humblest Christian believer understands things which David and Isaiah could never explain."

Retro album of the week 17 - Tabernakel

Perhaps my favourite album of all time this album first appeared in 1974. Recorded over a two week period in New York between Focus tours, it is a work of genius. Throughout Akkerman collaborates with the composer and musicologist George Flynn. For the aficionado of progressive rock it rarely gets as good as this. We begin with a beautiful arrangement of a John Dowland piece with lute, orchestra and rhythm section. This is followed by the first two of some six well delivered solo lute pieces that punctuate the album. Then it is back to the orchestra and rhythm section for a very fast version of the Focus hit House of the King. More lute follows broken up only by Javeh, a very carefully constructed dark mood piece featuring acoustic guitar and orchestra. The final lengthy piece, Lammy, is again carefully constructed. It is breathtakingly beautiful in places. It features orchestra, choir, bass and drum breaks, Akkerman on electric sitar and guitar and lute again (playing another Holborne piece). The whole ends with an incredibly satisfying Amen, way way over the top and yet full of integrity. The Tabernakel title refers, of course, to the House of God, hence some of the titles. The cover was the idea of the photographer and Akkerman regretted rather on reflection given the messianic way he is represented. One of my many blogs is devoted to this album. See here.

10 British soccer teams who wear red and white stripes

1. Southampton
2. Stoke City
3. Sunderland United
4. Sheffield United
5. Brentford
6. Exeter City
7. Lincoln City
8. Witton Albion
9. Leighton Town
10. Shortwod United

Lord's Day April 26 2015

We started again with a bitesize theology class - conversion this time. I then preached from 1 Corinthians 15:33-49 and the nature of our resurrection bodies. We were a little sparse with a few away for various reasons. There was a newcomer, however, who we hope will join us, an unexpected visitor and a man in need turned up once again towards the end. In the evening I preached quite a short sermon from the beginning of Matthew 6 on how we give to the needy. The congregation was not too bad. Prior to the evening meeting we had another prayer meeting for the work among the children, currently in abeyance. I took the above shot on the way home as the sun set.

Midweek Meeting April 22 2015

It was good to be back at the midweek meeting after two weeks absence. We went back to Philippians again for a brief look at 3:1-3 and the matter of rejoicing while watching out for false teachers. Someone asked me about how we go on rejoicing as believers It is not easy. A good time of prayer followed. There were 14 present. I hope people were encouraged. We finished  a little earlier than we often do. because we don't start until 8 pm it can be quite late if we are not careful.

A handful of pebbles

Something else I picked up at the Banner was Peter Barnes' little book A handful of pebbles - Theological Liberalism and the church. A useful little book it simply sets out the history of liberalism (and a little bit beyond that) and explains its insidious nature and how it is condemned in the Bible. Liberalism itself is not the threat it once was, of course, but there are always dangers and this little book succinctly warns us regarding a great number of them.
The books title relates to something Francis Schaeffer was told by Jim Pike, “When I turned from being agnostic, I went to Union Theological Seminary, eager for and expecting bread; but when I graduated, all that it left me was a handful of pebbles.” Barnes adds "Liberal theology offers us a handful of pebbles; the God of the Bible offers us Jesus Christ – ‘the Bread of life’.”

10 Liberal Theologians

10 guys to avoid on dark nights
1. F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834)
2. D F Strauss (1808-1874)
3. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889)
4. Charles Augustus Briggs (1841–1913)
5. Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930)
6. Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969)
7. Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976)
8. Paul Tillich (1886–1965)
9. Leslie Weatherhead (1893–1976)
10. John A.T. Robinson (1919–1983)

10 European Bible Translators

1. Martin Luther (German)
2. William Tyndale (English)
3. Robert Olivetan (French)
4. Jan Blahoslav (Czech)
5. Francysk Skaryna (Russian)
6. Giovanni Diodati (Italian)
7. Casiodoro de Reina (Spanish)
8. Jan Seklucjan (Polish)
9. Laurentius Andreae (Swedish)
10. William Morgan (Welsh)

Fesko on the Tabernacle

While I was at the Affinity conference in February where J V Fesko was a speaker I picked up his Christ and the Desert Tabernacle which I have now read. It is an excellent little resource that looks at the closing chapters of Exodus and over the course of 13 chapters gives some excellent messages drawn from the various pieces of furniture in the tabernacle and associated matters. He talks about baptism, communion, prayer, keeping the Lord's Day and various other matters in a way that is clear, uncluttered and theologically literate. As Philip Eveson notes there are no fanciful interpretations but rather a consistent biblically based exposition drawing on Genesis, Revelation, Hebrews and other relevant places with consummate skill. Loved it.

CYSK 17 Jan Blahoslav

Jan Blahoslav (1523 – 1571) was a Czech humanist writer, poet, translator, etymologist, hymnographer, grammarian, music theorist and composer. He was a Unity of the Brethren bishop. He translated the New Testament from Greek into Czech in 1568. This was incorporated into the Bible of Kralice (1588). Born in Přerov, Moravia, he studied theory under Listenius and Hermann Finck at Wittenberg from 1544. There he got to know Luther and Melanchthon. After a short period at Mladá Boleslav (1548, 49) he continued his education at Königsberg and Basle. He was a fine linguist who strove to preserve the purity of his native tongue. He was ordained at Mladá Boleslav, 1553 and became a bishop, 1557. In the following year he established himself at Ivančice, where before long he installed a printing press. Towards the end of his life he moved to Moravský Krumlov, where he died, aged 49. He wrote what is believed to be the first book on music theory in the Czech language in 1558. It is derivative, using the writings of Listenius, Finck, Ornithoparchus and Coclico but Blahoslav wrote two entirely new sections for the second edition giving critical and practical advice to singers and choirmasters, and guidance to hymn composers. He was the chief editor of the Pisně duchowni ewangelistské (1561), known as the Szamotuły Kancionál, which contains 735 hymn texts, 52 by Blahoslav, and more than 450 tunes, including a number drawn from secular sources and eight which he may have composed himself. He has been greatly esteemed for his translation of the New Testament. His work influenced Jan Amos Komenský.

John Blahoslav

While I was at Banner I bumped into a Czech brother I know (This is a description not his denomination). He passed on a copy of John Blahoslav - Sixteenth Century Moravian Reformer. It is by an American theologian based in the Czech Republic called Marshall T Brown. It is only short book and I have now read it and enjoyed it. Blahoslav is a sort of Luther or Tyndale figure. He is behind not only the traditional Protestant New Testament (as found in the Kralicke Bible) but also a Czech grammar, a book on preaching and a hymn book, to which he contributed not only on the words front but musically too. It is wonderful to hear about a Christian I had never heard of and how God used him in his own context in his own time to achieve great things, recognised by Czechs in general but especially by the believers. It would be nice to see other books on pioneer translators, certainly if they are written as well as this one, which seems to get a good balance between being scholarly and popular. The one thing that might have been nice to see (if it is possible) was some concrete examples of how Blahoslav shaped the Czech tongue. The book, though in English, might be hard to get hold of. It is advertised here in the USA and can be had from Amazon in Germany I notice. The book contains some nice illustrations at the end.

Retro Album of the Week 16 - Modern Vampires of the City

Just to show that not all my tastes go back to the last century, here I include Modern Vampires of the City by American indie rock band Vampire Weekend. Their third album, it was released in 2013 and I became aware of it through my sons. I understand that it is quite different to their previous album, Contra. It is very much a studio album with many samples and other special effects. The cover art is a 1966 photograph by Neal Boenzi of the smoggiest day in New York City history, on which the air pollution killed at least 169 people. It was the singles that first came to my attention - "Diane Young", "Step", "Ya Hey" and especially "Unbelievers" (the words of which intrigued me). Next came "Obvious Bicycle" and "Hannah Hunt". The album was very successful and was acclaimed by critics. Several publications named it best album of 2013 and it has been called sixth "Best Album of the Decade So Far".
The album is good pop music but the musical and lyrical layers add greatly to the interest. This quotation from Barry Lenser gives you an idea of why it might be of interest to someone like myself "Modern Vampires of the City is indeed a deeply God-haunted work ... [Ezra] Koenig doesn't give any indication he himself is a believer (more often just the opposite), but there is a recurring sense of engagement with God throughout the album, a sense of wrestling with the implications and impossibilities of faith. By accident or, more likely, by design, this builds and builds until Koenig puts everything on the table and addresses God directly."

10 Good men not made bishops

1. John Knox c1514-1572 (... Dudley, who saw Knox as a useful political tool, offered him the bishopric of Rochester. Knox refused, and he returned to Newcastle ....)
2. Bernard Gilpin 1517-1583 (... When the Roman Catholic bishop was deprived in 1560 he was offered the see of Carlisle; but he declined this honour ....)
3. Thomas Sampson c 1517-1589 (... he wrote again, signifying that a bishopric had been offered him, but he had refused to accept it; for which, he desired Peter Martyr not to censure him, till he became acquainted with the whole matter. He rejoiced that Parkhurst was made Bishop of Norwich. And Norwich, it seems, was the bishopric offered to him. This illustrious divine, therefore, refused the offered preferment, because he was thoroughly dissatisfied with the episcopal office, the popish habits, and the superstitious ceremonies .... see here)
4. John Rainolds 1549-1607 (... So contented was Rainolds himself with his position, and so ‘temperate,’ according to Wood, ‘were his affections,’ that he declined a bishopric which was offered to him by Queen Elizabeth .... see here)
5. Daniel Cawdry 1588-1664 (... At the Restoration he was recommended to Lord Clarendon for a bishopric. Instead he refused to submit to the Acts of Uniformity 1662, and was ejected ...)
6. Edmund Calamy 1600-1666 (... He was assiduous in promoting the return of Charles II, travelling to the Netherlands as one of the negotiators. After the Restoration in 1660 he was offered the bishopric of Coventry and Lichfield, but declined it ....)
7. Robert Baillie 1602-1662 (... He was, by Lauderdale’s interest, made Principal of the College of Glasgow, upon the removal of Mr Patrick Gillespie. About which time, it is commonly said that he had a bishopric offered him, but that he refused it ... see here)
8. Richard Baxter 1615-1691 ( ... He had been made a king's chaplain, and was offered the Bishopric of Hereford, but he could not accept the offer without assenting to things as they were. After his refusal, he was not allowed, even before the passing of the Act of Uniformity, to be a curate in Kidderminster ...)
9. Joseph Hill 1625–1707 (do not confuse with Joseph Hill 1667-1739 ... In London he went to Charles, who rewarded him for his pamphlet with a sinecure, and tried the offer of a bishopric if he conformed ....)
10. John Stott (... There was talk of his becoming Bishop of Manchester, but the Dean and Chapter took fright and nothing came of it ... see here)
Quotations from Wikipedia where not otherwise indicated)

10 Good Bishops or Archbishops

1. Ambrose of Milan 339-397
2. Augustine of Hippo 354-430
3. Anselm of Canterbury 1033-1109
4. Hugh Latimer of Worcester 1487-1555
5. Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury 1489-1556
6. John Hooper of Gloucester and Worcester c 1495-1555
7. James Ussher of Armagh 1581-1656
8. Daniel Wilson of Calcutta 1778-1858
9. J C Ryle of Liverpool 1816-1900
10. Marcus Loane of Sydney 1911-2009
(Other possibles: Nicholas Ridley of London 1500-1555, Edward Reynolds of Norwich 1599-1676, Reginald Heber of Calcutta 1783-1826 and Handley Moule of Durham 1841-1920)

Lord's Day April 19 2015

It was one of those red letter days yesterday when I baptised my fourth son and the daughter of two Nigerian members of the church. We started the day with a Bitesize Theology lesson on regeneration. I then preached on 1 Corinthians 15:29-32, which are difficult verses but I think we made some progress. It was good to have someone there who has not been in for a while and a member currently in Nigeria visiting. The baptisms were in the evening and it was gratifying to see the congregation greatly swollen by numerous family and friends of both candidates. One of our elderly members who rarely makes it was also present, which was good. I preached from Acts 16 on Lydia and the Jailer. Before the baptisms the two young people spoke, seeking to explain how they had come to this point in their lives. The baptisms themselves, as ever, were very brief, over in a moment. This last week or so has been a good one for me. Speaking at the Banner on Monday was a great honour. The next day was the first anniversary of my heart op and a cause for much thanksgiving. On Thursday my father-in-law gave the closing address at Banner and they asked my eldest son to read and pray, which he did well. It was around this time some 43 years ago that I first came to know the Lord. How very good God has been.

More Definite Article Placenames

England - there are hundreds of these, surprisingly. See here.
1. The Arms (Norfolk)
2. The Barony (Cheshire and OY Gurnosrkney)
3. The Bog (Shropshire)
4. The Marsh (at least seven in various counties)
5. The Pitts (Wiltshire)
6. The Rocks (Kent and Gloucestershire)
7. The Stoops (Lancashire)
8. The Throat (Berkshire)
9. The Twittocks (Gloucestershire)
10. The Yeld (Shropshire)

Wales - there are over 90 of these. See here. (Also here). Besides Y Bala we have
1. Y Barri
2. Y Crwys
3. Y Dref
4. Y Fenni (Abergavenny)
5. Y Gurnos
6. Y Hendy
7. Y Mot
8. Y Rhws
9. Y Waun
10. Yr Wyddgrug (Mold)

10 Country Names that can take the definite article

1. El Salvador
2. The Gambia
3. The Bahamas
4. The Argentine
5. The Congo
6. The Yemen
7. The Lebanon
8. The Sudan
9. The Netherlands
10. The Philippines
The Ukraine is another

10 Place names worldwide that take the definite article

1. Y Bala (the place in Wales that inspired this list)
2. Den Haag or The Hague (Netherlands)
3. Den Bosch (Netherlands)
4. Le Mans (France)
5. Le Havre (France)
6. La Mancha (Spain)
7. Los Angeles (USA)
8. Las Vegas (USA)
9. La Paz (Bolivia)
10. The Pas (Canada)

Banner Conference 2015 10/11

On this final morning of conference we are being preached to by two Jeffs/Geoffs. First, new Banner trustee Jeff Kingswood from Canada spoke on 1 Peter 4:12-16. In a beautifully anecdotal address he sought to help us to encourage our people when they suffer. He drew attention to the fact we should not be surprised that we are persecuted, as Jesus was and to the call to rejoice in suffering. He also spoke of the difference between sufferings Christian and in other ways.
In the final session my son Rhodri read and prayed before his grandfather, Geoff Thomas preached a strong and sifting sermon from Romans 3:23. The emphasis was on the sinfulness of sin and the plight of man but the power of God to save was also emphasised. What a wonderful conference.

Banner of Truth 2015 09

The main session tonight was Mike Reeves on faith and suffering in the life of Spurgeon. Yet another excellent session. Mike quoted this letter to fellow minister William Cuff of Shoreditch Tabernacle.
DEAR FRIEND,—I beseech our Lord to minister comfort both to you and your sorrowing wife. It must be a very severe stroke to you, and it is a sign that our Father loves you very much and thinks a great deal of you. I had a watch once which I allowed to lie at ease and never worried it with cleaning for I thought it worthless; but one which keeps time to a second gets wound up every night with a key which touches its inmost springs, and sometimes it gets taken to pieces—for it is worth it.
You will have the presence of the Comforter in this trial. You are dear to me for your work's sake and also for yourself.
May all grace abound towards you by Christ Jesus.
Your busy friend, C. H. SPURGEON

Banner of Truth 2015 08

Earlier this evening we listened to my friend Alan Davey on  helping our missionaries. He began with the Apostle Paul and moved on to Adoniram Judson to some modern examples of missionaries in tight spots. His focus was on how we can help such people. Suggestions included recognising that there is a price for them to pay and the need for us to prepare them and pray for them. Visits and sending helpful things can also be a help but we need to let them make their sacrifice.

Banner 2015 - Five Minutes of fame

Jeff Kingswood, Alan Davey, Stuart Olyott, GB, Kevin Deyoung, Geoff Thomas
(I deliberately stood between Stuart Olyott and Kevin DeYoung to impress my sons)

Banner Conference 2015 07/08

After such a good day yesterday it was hard to imagine it being bettered and yet already we have had two excellent messages from Stuart Olyott and Kevin DeYoung. First, Stuart Olyott took us to 2 Corinthians 4, neatly summing up its message under there monosyallabic heads - Wow! Owe! and Now. He spoke of the glory of the Christian ministry, its demands and how we keep going. Kevin gave a us a pretty full and convincing defence of the impassability of God.
In a great paper he argued the traditional view, closing with these five reasons why impassibility is good news.
1. We have an unchanging God who is not in the same mess we are in. This is the truth that process theology misses. Process theologians ... argue that God is immanent, so enmeshed in our world that he is bound up in all our brokenness, so that his effort to rescue us is an effort to rescue himself. God is the process of delivering himself just as we are being delivered. This sort of God is a far cry from the God who reigns in heaven, receives unceasing worship from the saints and angels, needs nothing from human hands, and always delights in his own glory and goodness.
2. This unchanging God – who is ontologically outside of our mess – is nevertheless intimately involved in our mess, which makes his presence all the more meaningful. When my son is working on Legos and getting frustrated because the boat is not coming together properly, I don‘t have to help him. I‘m not screaming my head off because the flat, 2x2 red piece is missing. But because I love him, I stop what I‘m doing (sometimes), get down on the ground, dig through the bucket and find the piece for him. Now he may not recognize it, but my love is more loving because I do not need to find the Lego piece to ease my emotional burdens.
3. God‘s love is freely given, thoroughly unmotivated by any need or deficiency in him. God does not feel inner angst, agony, or distress. He does not love in order to relieve the suffering he feels on account of our suffering. He chooses to love because he is love. In the Triune Godhead there is a constant fullness of mercy, joy, and goodness to which we cannot add and from which we cannot subtract. God always acts out of overflow, never out of want.
4. With divine impassibility, the incarnation is not a revelation of the eternal suffering of God, but rather the deepest expression of God‘s gracious character, whereby he chose, in love, to suffer as one of us. Our comfort in the midst of suffering is not that the Father suffered with the Son, nor that God continues to suffer with us. Our profound consolation is that, moved by love, God the Son, in perfect cooperation and agreement with the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, laid aside his immunity to pain so that he might suffer for us, as one of us.
The incarnation of the Son of God and his subsequent passion is more glorious, more mysterious, and more loving because God in the person of Christ was experiencing, by his own free choice, what God in himself had never experienced, and would never again experience, namely, human suffering.
5. Finally, impassibility is good news because only an impassible God who suffered as a man can truly sympathize with us. What good would it do to have a God who as God was overcome or distracted by pain? What we need is a God who knows what it is like to be a man.
Here‘s the irony: if God suffers as God, we actually lock him out of our experience instead of bringing him into it. What we need is the sure knowledge that the Son of God knows exactly what we are feeling.
So do not look to an angst-ridden, pain-stricken, eternally grieving God for comfort. Look to the cross. Carl Henry was right:
It is into the why of Calvary that we can now focus every other me of human existence. Christ is our sympathetic high priest, but he had to become this high priest. He had to be made perfect through suffering. He was not qualified to be our Redeemer or Sympathizer until he took on flesh to share in suffering with his brothers and sisters. And never forget: Christ did not suffer simply to identify with us, but to rescue us. We need someone to do more than feel our pain. We needed someone to triumph over it by conquering all that causes pain: sin, death, and the devil.
Our hope in death is that the Immortal died. And our comfort in suffering is that in the Incarnation the Impassible was made passible for us.
(See a previous version of his message in pdf form here).

Banner Conference 2015 05/06

So on Tuesday evening we had reports. Ten men spoke about various works around the world - Albania, Nigeria (Ani Ekpo), Pakistan, South Africa, Portugal, France, SASRA and two missions working in Muslim areas. including MERF. Also Paul Wells spoke about a new theological magazine coming out soon.
Later that same evening Kevin DeYoung again spoke well on suffering in the ministry, looking this time at Mark 14 and Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. The Taffia had a good little session with Mr DeYoung later finding out about his church and his books and so on.

Banner Conference 2015 04

Our second morning session was Mike Reeves on the Puritans and suffering. What was to take three Puritans (Flavel, Bunyan and Goodwin) and draw out some of their teaching on suffering and stressing (in the first two cases that they were men who knew what they were talking about).
Flavel says that
"The wisdom of God is much seen in the choice of his rods. It is usual with God to smite us in those very comforts which stole away too much of the love and delight of our souls from God; to cross us in those things from which we raised up too great expectations of comfort. These providences bespeak the jealousy of God over us, and his care to prevent far worse evils by these sad, but needful strokes. It is a good sign our troubles are sanctified to us, when they turn our hearts against sin, and not against God."
Flavel points us to Scripture, to God and to the future.
When in prison, Bunyan found comfort in Jeremiah 49:11 and in 1 Corinthians 11.
Goodwin expounded Hebrews 4:11 in his Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth.

Banner Conference 2015 03

We began this morning with Stuart Olyott on 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Stuart was his usual lucid and compelling self but with more humour than usual. I guess a difficult subject like suffering needed a light touch to some extent. His three key words were Restraint (a reminder to be restrained about talking of our sufferings), Reflection (Paul's sufferings and our so much lighter ones) and Refusal (refusing to be overwhelmed but looking to the Lord).

Banner Conference 2015 02

Our second session here in Leicester featured the lesser known Kevin de Young from the USA.  The theme is the ministry and suffering and going to Mark 15 and focusing on the subject of our shame in the ministry he helpfully gave us a good perspective on the subject by showing how Mark's focus is on how our Saviour was shamed on the cross. So a decent start. We have a good day ahead tomorrow.

Banner Conference 2015 01

Well, the first session kicked off with yours truly preaching on 1 Peter 2:7. You can see the text of the sermon here.

Retro Album of the Week 15 - American Pie

There was a lot of talk in the media about the song American Pie last week. When I was a young teenager it was hard to find a record collection that didn't include the album American Pie by Don McLean (along with Bridge over troubled waters by Simon and Garfunkel). I eventually bought a copy myself having already fallen for the title track and Vincent played on the radio as singles.
American Pie was McLean's second studio album. It was recorded and came out in 1971 and was a great success. The album comes out of a folk background but was dedicated to Buddy Holly, whose 1959 death kicks off the ten year history that informs the fascinating title track.
The album is evidently supposed to be a unified whole but it has great variety - from the banjo backed multi vocal version of Psalm 136 through the stark Vietnam protest song The grave to the jaunty and ironic Everybody loves me. I like pretty much all the tracks, especially Empty Chairs said to have inspired Killing me softly the song about McLean sung by Roberta Flack (the composer Lori Lieberman denies this).

Lord's Day April 12 2015

Started the day with the Bitesize Theology. Great subject (Grace) but a bit of a low turn out. I then preached from the next part of 1 Corinthians 15 (21-28) on Christ's resurrection and ours. We then had lunch together following the meeting. That was well attended at least. In the evening I took a rather unusual text, Exodus 38:8. I noticed it reading through Exodus recently and decided it would be a good text for a one off sermon, which it proved to be (see our church website for it - should be up some time this week). Our Romanian friends arrived again. One of them was desperate to minister to us somehow so he gave me a series of texts to read out, which was probably worthwhile. We gave them a cup of tea and some produce (we'd given them money last week). We had other needy souls in during the day. It is hard to know how best to help.

Thomas Charles and Mary Jones

We went today to Byd Mary Jones World just outside Bala. When St Beuno's church closed a while ago the Bible Society ought it up and have put a nice little exhibition together in the church. I noticed that the head of the Bible Society these days is James Catford, a fellow student in Aber many moons ago (see here, especially this one). Above I have included a pic of the statue of TC in Bala.
For Thomas Charles see here. His grave is next to the church building. The inscription reads as follows (I particularly liked the note on his wife Sally).
Underneath lie the remains of the REV. THOMAS CHARLES, B.A., of Bala. Who died Oct. 5th. 1814, aged 59. By his indefatigable endeavours when in London (A.D. 1804) to procure a supply of the Holy Scriptures for the use of his native countrymen he became the' means of establishing The British and Foreign Bible Society. He was the reviver of the Welsh Circu lating Charity Schools, and a most active promoter of Sunday Schools both for children and adults and North Wales (the more immediate field of his ministerial labours for 30 years) will probably retain traces of his various and strenuous exertions to preach the Kingdom of Christ till time shall be no more.
Also Sarah, relict of the above, Died Oct. 24, 1814, aged 61. She was possessed of every natural endowment and divine grace, and was a helpmeet indeed to the man, the Christian, and the minister.  

Yn Y Bala

Having a nice family holiday here in Bala. Good weather.

Retro Album of the week 14 - Hopes and fears

Hopes and Fears is one of few albums that our whole family would appreciate. The debut studio album of Keane, it came out in 2004 and was the second best-selling British album of that year and was still popular the following year, becoming the 11th best selling album of the 2000s and the 9th biggest-selling album of the 21st century (in 2011). Some five singles were taken from the album ("Somewhere Only We Know"; "Everybody's Changing"; "Bedshaped"; "This Is the Last Time" and "Bend and Break") and it is these that we have listened to rather than the album itself to be truthful, although the whole thing is not without merit. It came along with Coldplay and Snow Patrol at a time when white guitar bands were knowing something of a renaissance (although uniquely Keane have no guitarist). The band were unable to keep up their initial success but have produced good material since.

Lord's Day April 5 2015

It was Easter Sunday yesterday so we were glad to sing resurrection hymns and in the morning we returned to 1 Corinthians 15, which we had left off near the end of last year. We began with communion and then in the service I preached on verses 12-20. There were people away but they were replaced by various visitors including local people who we hope to see again. One was a little boy who made his mark. In the children's talk I asked him, by way of introduction to the talk, if he could run and he did! In the evening we were less in number as usual but not very low. We looked at the last 10 verses of Matthew 5, those demanding verses on loving your enemy. 

Retro Albums - The story so far (01)

Midweek Meeting April 1 2015

We were a little down in numbers last night as we come into the holidays but we were still in double figures. We looked again at 1 Peter 2.7 making a further series of points regarding why Jesus is precious to the believer. There was plenty to pray about as ever.

Gary - Extinction looms

Apparently there were only 28 Garys born in England and Wales last year. Most of us are in our fifties and sixties. Extinction is predicted. See this article here. They are discussing it today on the Jeremy Vine Show (Radio 2). See here.
Also see here.