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.

Every Chapter 04 - Colossians

The theme that comes in every chapter of Colossians is thanksgiving.

1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
1:12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

2:7 ... rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

3:15 -17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Brave New World

I got round to reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley the other day. It's another of those novels you feel you ought to have read by now. Well, there it is done. Written in the early thirties it is a dystopian novel of the future (2054) that makes a number of telling points about mass production, promiscuity, the search for happiness, etc. One of my sons has made a study of the genre and suggested to me that although Huxley's ideas are very good George Orwell (1984) is probably just a better write. I think there is a lot in that. (The title, of course, is from Shakespeare's The Tempest. The title is not just chosen at happy random).

Chris Squire death

We hear that Chris Squire the bassist from Yes has died aged 67.

The Seventeen Traditions

I was attracted to this book by its nice cover and its title. I didn't really take in that it was by Ralph Nader whose name I am vaguely aware of as a many times US presidential candidate. It turns out that he is an American political activist of Lebanese origin who has written many books. This one is partly a trip down memory lane. He picks out lessons learned form his family and sums them up in 17 chapters of what he calls traditions. The book is devoid of any Christian content but at certain points the values do match things upheld in Scripture. The utopian description he gives of growing up in New England can cloy at certain points but it is a pleasant and thought provoking effort.
The 17 traditions are as follows 1.The Tradition of Listening 2.The Tradition of the Family Table 3.The Tradition of Health 4.The Tradition of History 5.The Tradition of Scarcity 6.The Tradition of Sibling Equality 7.The Tradition of Education and Argument 8.The Tradition of Discipline 9.The Tradition of Simple Enjoyments 10.The Tradition of Reciprocity 11.The Tradition of Independent Thinking 12.The Tradition of Charity 13.The Tradition of Work 14.The Tradition of Business 15.The Tradition of Patriotism 16.The Tradition of Solitude 17.The Tradition of Civics

All Aboard The Apple Train

One of my sons had a new iphone today. The wrapper looked rather trainy I thought.

Pen Deinosaur Clai

Another of my youngest son's creations in clay

Lord's Day June 28 2015

Yesterday turned out to be a minor disaster in many respects. It's quite humbling. We have had to have underpinning work done on the chapel and we have just reached the replastering and decorating stage. The place was a bit higgly piggly therefore and there was a problem with the PA (later mainly resolved when we put the battery in the right way up!). Preaching without a mic is not actually a problem in the summer months when there is no noise from the heating.
While the engineers were working on that I put the folded July ETs on the table from where I preach and they sprang up and upset my glass of water. (I also forgot to bring my copy of the catechism for the children's address).
All these distractions meant that I didn't get a look at my kindle from which I preach until it was time to preach. When I did look at it the screen was blank. This has happened once before and if I had remained calm I could have solved it. Instead I panicked and sent one of my sons for my laptop. So I got through my message on Psalm 91 and it was appreciated although I missed things out and it didn't flow so well. It was a good congregation with a few visitors.
One would have thought I would make sure I got things right in the evening. I was amazed when I looked at my kindle and saw that I had downloaded a previous skeleton version of the sermon document I wanted and so had no real helps for preaching. I struggled through it (the golden rule of Matthew 7:12) and lasted about 20 minutes, never really settling to it.
People were very nice about it. I'm sure the right thing is on one hand not to make too much of this. It was a mistake. Try not to let it happen again. On the other hand it is sobering and a reminder to put more into preparation, to be more prayerful, to avoid all forms of pride and to remember Satan is at work. I am quite humbled.
Psalm 91 is a good psalm to have on my mind as I reflect.

Bill Withers OGWT 1972

Thought some of you may like this

LTS Annual Service 2015

The annual LTS service when the students come to the end of their course is always a special occasion and we try to get along. This year some nine students had finished the two year course and were going on to further studies or pastoral ministry. Three are UK students and six from elsewhere. In the Principal's report he reminded us that one of the factors for deciding on membership of the EU is the present ease with which such students can come and study here. He also mentioned the many books currently coming out by those connected with the seminary on one way or another. The visiting preacher was to have been Sinclair Ferguson but he could not come and so his place was taken by Mark Johnston who preached from 1 Thessalonians 2. Tea on the lawn and a chat with friends old and new is always an added bonus.

Midweek Meeting June 24 2015

We looked at just one verse again last night - Philippians 4:9, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. In a quite wide ranging presentation I urged us all to take greater advantage of the ministry we receive. We were able to spend a good time in prayer.

Every Chapter 03 - Philippians

In every chapter of Philippians the themes of joy or rejoicing and striving together, sharing or being of the same mind are found.
Chapter 1
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 18 ... The important thing is that in every way ... Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel
Chapter 2
1, 2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
17, 18 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
28, 29 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, ....
Chapter 3
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! 
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters,
Chapter 4
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. 

Every Chapter 02 - Ephesians

In every chapter of Ephesus you will find references to the Trinity - To God, to the Father, to the Son (Christ) and to the Spirit.
Chapter 1
1-4 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God's holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world5-17 … he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, … he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, ... to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, ... you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory. For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, … I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. … 20 he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, … 22, 23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Chapter 2
5-8 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions ... And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, ... it is the gift of God - … 10-13 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance … remember that at that time you were separate from Christ ... without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you ... have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … 16 ... in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. … 18-22 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are ... fellow citizens with God's people ... built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Chapter 3
1, 2 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, … 4-12 ... you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel ... sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. … Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, .... His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities ... according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. … 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, … 16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you ... may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, ... - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. … 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Chapter 4
3-7 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; ... one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. … 11-16 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. … Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ... 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. … 21 … when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. … 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption .... 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Chapter 5
1-6 Follow God's example, ... and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. … No immoral, impure or greedy person ... has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. ... because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. … 14 ... "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." … 18-21 Do not get drunk ... be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.23-25 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … 29 ... no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – … 32 ... I am talking about Christ and the church.
Chapter 6
5, 6 Slaves, obey your earthly masters ... just as you would obey Christ. ... as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. … 9 … there is no favouritism with him. … 11 Put on the full armour of God13 ... the full armour of God, … 17-19 Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions ... keep on praying for all the Lord's people. … 23, 24 ... love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

The quest for the historical Adam

This big tome from William Vandoodewaard, a church history professor at Puritan Seminary, is a very thorough text book borne of much study that meticulously charts the history of the exegesis of the opening chapters of Genesis from the early church to the present day, seeking in particular to plot the existence of a continuous acceptance of the traditional view.
It demonstrates well Vos's contention that heresy only comes in when people deliberately raise the so-called results of science to a place above Scripture. Meanwhile a multiplicity of interpretations have grown up, especially in the last 150 years that have clearly been suspect if not actually heretical in Vosian terms. Vandoodeward cites and demonstrates encouraging evidence that there is a return to a more traditional approach but there is no shortage of candidates (Alexander and Sailhamer for example) keen to find a new way through.
It is interesting that where an institution such as Southern Baptist Seminary has faced a fight with liberalism it has tended to move into a more conservative position on creation as well as everything else. This can be seen on a smaller scale at Westminster Seminary following the Enns saga. Certainly the idea that creationism is the preserve of fundamentalists is quietly debunked in this book. Whitcomb and Morris get perhaps surprisingly little coverage and are even criticised to some extent. Oh yes, and great title! (Someone very kindly passed this volume on to me so I'm not sure if it is expensive).

Lord's Day June 21 2015

Back in Childs Hill yesterday. We looked at Psalm 107 in the morning. A number of people weren't really familiar with this late psalm that is full of good and encouraging things so I was glad that we tackled it. In the evening after communion we were in the Sermon on the Mount and that very encouraging section about asking, seeking and knocking. I was in quite a jolly mood for some reason and there were a good number present, as was the case in the morning. It's still very few, however. one hopes that the message preached gets to others in other ways as people hopefully talk about what they have heard.

Retro Album of the week 25 - Regatta de Blanc

Reggatta de Blanc is the second and very successful studio album by The Police, first released in late 1979 and including their first two No. 1s: Message in a Bottle and Walking on the Moon. It was their first album to reach No. 1 on the UK Album Charts. The title appears to be modelled after their first album of the previous year Outlandos d'Amour (Regatta de blanc the name of one of the tracks is apparently a pseudo-French phrase meaning white reggae, which is what a lot of this is). Uniquely in this blog list, it is not currently in my collection in any form. I checked it out on Youtube, however, and it stood the test of time. I then began to wonder how I knew it so well. Had I borrowed it from someone? It was only after a while that I recalled buying it some time between 1983 and 1987 in vinyl form. By the time this album came out I was 20 and able to take a rather detached view of the popular music scene. I liked The Police because although it was a pop band, it had an excellent drummer in Stewart Copeland (brother of Miles who later tried to get Jan Akkerman and Sting together) and an excellent guitarist in Andy Summers (spotted playing with Akkerman when he was last in Holland).

10 Marian Exiles

With the accession of Mary I to the throne many Protestants found it expedient to seek refuge on the continent (in various places - Frankfurt, Geneva, Strasbourg, etc). Here are ten who did this
1. Miles Coverdale
2. Robert Crowley
3. John Foxe
4. Christopher Goodman
5. Edmund Grindal
6. John Jewel
7. William Kethe
8. John Knox
9. Thomas Lever
10. William Whittingham

Pop Cultured by Steve Turner

This book subtitled Thinking Christianly about style, media and entertainment is aimed at a younger audience than I represent but it was good just to go trough things with a man who knows his culture and (it seems) his Bible. After three chapters of introduction he looks at cinema, journalism, fame, fashion, thrill seeking, comedy, advertising, technology and photography before a final moan about how bad it is Christian-wise in the world of TV and movies and a final chapter on what to do. Each chapter ends with discussion/reflection questions, book and website suggestions and things to do suggestions. You could spend ten years on a  book like this! It's good to know that books like this are coming out.

Heresies and how to avoid them

This collection of essays edited by Ben Quash and Michael Ward is written by people outside my usual circle of writers. I saw the book footnoted in an article by Kevin DeYoung and thought I might check it out. The twelve pieces deal with well known heresies such as Arianism, Docetism, Nestorianism, etc but include less well known ones such as Theopaschitism and the heresy of the Free Spirit. It is all done with care and a little humour and is refreshing. Originally given as "sermons" the book came out in 2007.

10 Continental Reformed Pastors/Theologians who lived in England

1. Martin Bucer, German Reformer 1491-1551 (1549-1551)
2. Peter Martyr Vermigli, Italian Reformer 1499-1562 (1547-1553)
3. John Laski, Polish Reformer 1499-1560 (1550-1556)
4. Paul Fagius, German Hebraist 1504-1549 (1549)
5. Valerand Poullain, French Calvinist minister 1509?-1557 (1547-1553)
6. Immanuel Tremellius, Italian Jewish Hebraist 1510-1580 (1547-1553)
7. Francisco de Enzinas, Spanish scholar and apologist 1518?-1552 (1548, 1549)
8. Casiodoro de Reina,  Spanish Lutheran Theologian 1520-1594 (1533-1563)
9. Robert La Fontaine, French Calvinist minister 1535-1611 1572-1611
10. Pierre Alexandre, French Calvinist minister Dates unknown (1548-1553, 1559-1563)

Every Chapter 01 - Galatians

In every chapter of Galatians there is a reference to the cross or of Christ, his crucifixion
1:4 (Jesus Christ) who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father
2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
3:1, 13 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. ... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
4:4, 5 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
5:11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
6:12-14 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which he world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

10 Traditional British fare pairs

1. Fish and chips
2. Bangers and mash (ie sausage and mashed potato)
3. Pie and mash
4. Steak and kidney pudding/pie
5. Roast meat and two veg
6. Bubble and squeak (ie fried potato and cabbage or sprouts)
7. Stew and dumplings
8. Jelly and blancmange
9. Strawberries and cream
10. Rhubarb and custard

Thomas Goodwin on our nothingness

After God had decreed to make thee, and to give thee an existence and actual being, yet thou wert in reality still nothing, pure nothing in entity. Thy pedigree is from nothing; thy ancestry, and that not far removed, is nothing. Job, in the view of his own rottenness and corruption, humbles himself, chap. xvii. 14 : I have said to corruption. Thou art my father ; to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. But in rehearsing thy original from whence thou camest, I may say that nothing, pure nothing, was thy great grandmother. Thy body was immediately made of dust, that was thy next mother by that line; but that dust was made of the first rude earth, without form, and that was thy grandmother  but that earth was made purely of nothing; so then nothing was thy great grandmother. Thus of thy body.
Then for thy soul, that was immediately created by God out of nothing, and so by that line thy next mother was nothing. And what was thy soul twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, and so many years upwards? Plain nothing. It is observable how, in the Scriptures, when God's confounding the creatures is expressed, the threaten ing runs in these terms, a bringing them to nothing. So in 1 Cor. i. 28, he takes things that are not (that is, are as if they were not, as to such an effect as God useth them for), even to bring to nought things that are, that is, to nothing, as the opposition shews. In these terms the sentence of confusion, and the destruction of things that are, is penned, as thereby reminding them, how that their first root and original was nothing; and so does speak in a way of reflection upon what once they were; even as when he threatened Adam to turn him to dust: Out of dust thou earnest, says he; in a way of debasing of him, minds him of his descent and original. And in like phrase of speech Job utters their destruction: aheunt in nihilum, they go away, or vanish to nothing; that is, they perish. ... we are like those small green flies that creep upon leaves in summer; we men cannot touch them so gently but they die. The whole creation is built upon a quagmire of nothing, and is continually ready to sink into it, and to be swallowed up by it, ....
Humble yourselves therefore in the apprehension of this, and look, as in point of sanctification, although God giveth so great a measure of it to his children, and maketh them very holy, yet in the point of justifying them he would have them for ever to look upon themselves as ungodly, because once they were such, as Rom. iv. 5. And Paul, whilst he did never so much, saith, Yet I am nothing. Thus here, though he hath given us a being and existence, yet because we once were nothing, and that was the state (if a state) he found us in, he would ever have us account our selves as nothing, though now by his grace having all things, as the apostle says.

Retro Album of the week 24 - Bonaparte's Retreat

Bonaparte's Retreat is the sixth album by the Irish band The Chieftains. It appeared in 1976 when I bought it on vinyl - a magnificent gatefold affair that I thoroughly enjoyed. I had to the harder stuff that the Chieftains represented by way of the softer Horslips output. I liked the fact that they were the most unfashionably dressed bunch you could imagine.
The Chieftains by this time consisted of Paddy Moloney - uillean pipes, tin whistle, bodhrán, Seán Potts - tin whistle and bodhrán, Martin Fay - fiddle, Michael Tubridy - flute, concertina and tin whistle, Derek Bell - harps, oboe and tiompán and Seán Keane - fiddle plus the shortly to be regular Kevin Conneff. The uilllean pipes and the bodhran were genuinely new instruments in my experience as was the tiompán. I remember seeing this line up in Aberystwyth at the Great Hall and thoroughly enjoying it.
This was the first album to feature singing, though not much of it. The singers were Paddy Moloney himself (on Round the house and mind the dresser) and Dolores Keane (mainly with her acapella version of The bonny bunch of roses in the ambitious title suite).

10 Longest Psalms

My blog of the shortest psalms done some time ago has proved quite popular. Perhaps this one will too.
1. Psalm 119 (176 verses)
2. Psalm 78 (72 verses)
3. Psalm 89 (53 verses)
4. Psalm 18 (51 verses)
5. Psalm 106 (48 verses)
6. Psalm 105 (45 verses)
7. Psalm 107 (43 verses)
8. Psalm 37 (40 verses)
9. Psalm 69 (36 verses, 708 words AV)
10. Psalm 68 (35 verses, 680 words AV)
[Psalm 104 (35 verses, 598 words AV); Psalm 22 (32 verses)]

Ron Clarke

I don't follow athletics but I saw today that the Australian distance runner Ron Clarke has died. The name actually meant something to me. I was surprised to learn that despite breaking many world records he never won a gold medal. There is this great story though (some of the detail here may be incorrect but the basics are apparently right).
In June 1966, Clarke was invited to an athletic meeting in Prague by Emil Zatopek, the great Czech distance runner of the 1950s. Zatopek was to distance runners what Sir Edmund Hillary was to mountaineering - the first man through the barriers for all the others to follow - and he had long been an admirer of Clarke's style. After the meeting, the four-time Olympic gold medallist and national hero, guided the young Australian around Prague for the day, showing him fine hospitality throughout, talking about this and that, and the art of running in particular. That afternoon, he took Clarke to the airport, took him past the guards, right up the steps of the plane, before warmly shaking his hand and pressing a tiny package into his palm and whispering a few words. What ...?
Zatopek was gone. The plane door closed on him and Clarke was more than passing nervous. What on earth had Zatopek just given him? Was it drugs? Was it contraband? Was it some sort of message or something he had to take to the free world? Microfilm maybe? Clarke sat in his seat, perspiring a little. He determined that under no circumstances would he open the small package until he was back on the ground in London, at least on friendly, familiar territory, where he would be able to cope with whatever it was. But somewhere over the English Channel he could resist no longer. Looking surreptitiously over his left and right shoulder to see no one was watching, he fished the package out of his pocket and opened the little box inside. It gleamed back at him. It was an Olympic gold medal, the very same that Zatopek had won in the 10,000m at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. It was even newly inscribed, To Ron Clarke, July 19, 1966, with Zatopek's final words on the plane steps coming to him, "Not out of friendship, but because you deserve it".
Great story, eh?

Midweek Meeting June 17 2015

We were rather down in numbers last night. Not sure why. And it was such a good text - Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. How vitally important is our thought life. The prayer time was fine. We have a meal and message tonight with Roger Lindie from Brentford. Hope we get a good turn out.

Lord's Day June 14 2015

I was preaching in Alfred Place Baptist Church on Sunday. My father-in-law was away preaching in Yorkshire. My Son, Rhodri, preached here. I stayed with Eleri's uncle and auntie, who are members of the Welsh speaking church in the town. Others kindly gave me a lift and fed me. Many moons ago I was a student in Aber and it is like a second home to me so it is always good to be there. I preached on Psalm 23 and Philippians 4:4-7. The congregations were a little smaller than usual as most students have gone home by now. I had a lovely time though and hopefully brought some blessing to those present. I had a nice time too on the train as far as Birmingham with another member of the Welsh speaking church, on his way to Newcastle.

Gareth Day

The Welsh government has declared today Gareth Day to mark the overnight success of two Welsh Gareths.* First, the legend that is Gareth Edwards (who played 53 times for Wales at rugby) has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen's honours list and then secondly Gareth Bale (on his fiftieth appearance) has scored the winning goal against Belgium that has put Wales top of their table in the European Championship.
*If they haven't they could.
** One of my sons has Gareth as a middle name
*** I have been called Gareth on occasion in jest but it is not my name

His love endures forever

The new book by Garry Williams on the love of God, His love endures forever is a great read. Its twelve chapters are characterised not only by an unsurprising theologicality but also by a good deal of devotion, very important for such a subject (each chapter ends with a meditation of varying length and a short prayer - rather Anglican then but okay). Garry also has a nice way with his illustrations and supporting stories, some covering several pages. Not an academic book there are plenty of footnotes and a measured tone. The burden of the book is that we understand God's love as it is set out for us in God's Word rather than in terms of any merely human understanding. Few people will find it difficult to read and it is commended to all and sundry as an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in what is a central and vital doctrine. The bibliography at the end is also useful. I thought the chapter on The love of an ever-present Father was particularly well handled.

Midweek Meeting June 10 2015

We were a good number last night as we carried on in Philippians 4 looking at verses 4-7. These are well known verses against downheartedness, harshness and anxiety and calling for rejoicing in the Lord, gentleness and prayer. A good prayer time followed. I tried not to end too late as we have a church members meeting tonight. We start at eight and end around 9.30 pm usually. Perhaps 9.15 pm would be a better time. I need to be a bit more snappy with the prayer requests maybe.

Something must be known and felt

I have recently been reading Stuart Olyott's book Something must be known and felt and last Monday led a discussion group on the book up at the John Owen Centre. We were a good number (about eight). I had been a little nervous as although I'm a big fan of Dr Olyott I found myself disagreeing with things he says in this book quite a bit. We are a fairly diverse group and I thought maybe someone would have been more enthusiastic than I am. As it turned out we were pretty uniform in our reaction. We all agreed that this book or something like it needed to be written and we did accept that it goes some way to setting out some of the things we think are being forgotten. However, we were also agreed that this is not quite the book we have been waiting for. The book is written in a fairly generalised way not wanting to get bogged down in detail and ends up making sweeping statements and assertions that are hard to substantiate (for example, the idea that Luther was clearly mistaken and taught that the Word does it all). No-one was entirely happy with the Edwardsean understanding of the soul and none of us were happy with the penultimate chapter about the prayer of faith. So, a flawed book but inching towards some sort of a defence of Calvinistic Methodism or Experiential Calvinism, whatever you want to call it.

Retro Album of the Week 23 - Close to the edge

No surprises here as in Yes we have the only progressive band to even remotely challenge the superiority of Focus (given that we label the latter that way). As a kid, money was tight and so my Yes intake was minimal but I re-educated myself over the years and this album certainly is a masterpiece. Close to the Edge is the fifth studio album from Yes. Released in 1972, it followed the success of Fragile (1971) which I might have chosen instead and marked the zenith of Yes's success. This album has only three tracks (the title track occupying all of one side of the original LP). "And You and I" and "Siberian Khatru" were on side two. The album was apparently a commercial and critical success. "And You and I" was even released in single form. The gatefold sleeve opened on a pleasing piece of work by Roger Dean. The bubble logo on the front was surprisingly appearing for the first time. The title is said to have been given by Bill Bruford as descriptive of where he thought Yes were at. On the album's release he left.

Lord's Day June 7 2015

It was the first Sunday of the month so we started with communion as we usually do. We always sing unaccompanied. I love that, especially when I manage to pitch them right. I then preached on Psalm 139 to quite a large congregation including a nice little group of five kids who I talked to beforehand on the first commandment. There were several visitors including one or two new ones. We were  a much smaller group in the evening and it was tempting to get discouraged but I sought not to and afterwards one or two had things to say following on from the sermon (on Matthew 7:1-6) and that always helps.

Retro Album of the Week 22 - Come away with me

Come Away with Me was the debut album of pianist and singer Norah Jones. It was released by Blue Note Records on February 26, 2002 and I must have bought it six months later after first becoming aware of her when she first appeared on British TV on Parkinson (before I knew she was Ravi Shankar's daughter thankfully). The album was recorded in New York in 2001. It was a great success and won eight Grammy Awards, etc. (At the Grammy Awards she said "I felt like I went to somebody else's birthday party and I ate all their cake. Without anybody else getting a piece. That's how I felt.")

The Victorian Sunday

I saw this book (The rise and fall of the Victorian Sunday by John Wigley) in the Evangelical Library recently and brought it home to read. It is an academic study dealing with a huge influence on nineteenth century English life. It begins with the history of Sunday before the Victorian period before dealing with the period itself, which it argues was hugely influenced by English Sabbatarianism, an idea deeply rooted in history, as well as other factors.
Wrigley argues that the Anglican LDOS did not enjoy Sundays themselves and sought to stop others enjoying it too. This is a pejorative way to state the case but it is done with some justification as we survey various attempts to curb what was allowed and what was not allowed on a Sunday, especially when church services were taking place.
Among his surprising conclusions are that the Sabbatarians were not chiefly Nonconformists or part of the temperance movement. It was a movement rooted in Scripture but it is clear that many decisions made regarding Sunday laws are not easily traced back to that source. The claim that a desire to suppress Sunday entertainment rather than Sunday labour predominated in LDOS circles is probably a fair one.
The book deals with England only (appendices talk about Scotland and Wales) and carries the story on only as far as 1980. I am Sabbatarian rather than Dominical in my understanding but this book makes often uncomfortable reading and only strengthened my view that trying to impose Sabbath rules on the general populace is hard to justify or make work. 

Midweek meeting June 3 2015

So it was back to Philippians last night. We looked at the first three verses of Chapter 4. 4:1 in many ways concludes Chapter 3. I notice that the old NIV sets it out in that way but the new NIV puts verses 1-3 together under their own section as I did. It seemed to me that Paul is speaking very personally in these verses and so I sought to speak very personally too about standing firm and being united and working together, pastor and people. As ever there were a stack of things to pray for and we did our best. 

Cheap at the Pryce

I availed myself of the opportunity of seeing The Merchant of Venice down at The Globe on Tuesday (still only a fiver in the yard). It stars Jonathan Pryce and his daughter Phoebe as Shylock and his daughter Jessica. Their surname gives just one tiny extra layer to a play full of interesting ideas about property and wealth and cost. I was not really familiar with the play and so it was good to see, especially in this well executed performance. Though a tragedy (I assume) there was plenty of comedy and all done very well, especially by Stefan Agdebola as Lancelot. The programme notes explain that this is really two stories (that of the Jew Shylock and that of Portia) sewn together. It's not that well done really but Shakespeare is able to give the audience what they want and get away with some quite amazing stunts in the mean time. As ever there are famous phrases (The devil can cite scripture for his purpose; all that glisters is not gold) and speeches and it is good to hear them in their proper context. I did not know that Shylock's question "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" is followed by "if you tickle us, do we not laugh?". The speech beginning "The quality of mercy is not strain'd,: It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven" really is quite something.

Evangelical Library Lecture 2015

It was great to be at the annual lecture last Monday. It was good to have so many along (around 40 I guess) and to hear such an excellent lecture. We had originally asked Dr Peter Beale to speak but he has been struggling with ill health and so had to decline, although it was nice to see he and his wife Lucy at the meeting. Dr Digby James kindly stepped in late on but was able to give us a well informed and informative and interesting life of Richard Baxter, who was born in 1615 (and died in 1691) bringing out very well both his strengths (his work in Kidderminster, his eagerness for Christian unity, etc) and weaknesses (some of his doctrinal views) and some of his idiosyncrasies. There was alkso a helpful section on his writings. A recording was made of the lecture and can be had from the Library. We hope to publish the lecture in the next In Writing in the Autumn.

Lord's Day May 31 2015

Every Sunday is different at Childs Hill. Fifth Sundays are perhaps more different than others. We had a good turn out in the morning though we were quite low in the evening. There were a five or six regulars away for various reasons. We had hopefully encouraging sermons that sort of matched. I am not planning to begin a new series in the morning until after the summer so we looked at Psalm 73 in the morning, which I know best from Dr Lloyd-Jones's book The Triumph of Faith. I didn't check out Lloyd-Jones to remind myself of his approach but I'm sure it is there subliminally. In the evening we looked at worrying from the Sermon on the Mount. Previously I have gone through verses 25-34 over two or three weeks but it seemed better to take it all in one go. I ended up quoting three pop songs for some reason (Three little birds, Hands and One day at a time sweet Jesus). I would not be happy with any of those songs but each has snippets of truth - Don't worry about a thing, worry is wasteful and the need to live one day at a time.