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.

Lord's Day, August 28 2016

Not bad congregations yesterday for August. We were over thirty in the morning and over 15 in the evening. I did the third and last of three messages from Acts 12. I didn't think my opening was particularly stunning but our stand in recording operative forgot to record it, which rarely happens. He remembered in the evening when I preached from 2 Chronicles 20 on Jehoram, another one off. Most people were quite relaxed and not rushing off today, which was nice. Some missing, as ever. By preaching from these two passages I inadvertently set up a painful death by bowel disease theme (Jehoram and Herod Agrippa I died in similar ways as did the persecuting Roman Emperor Galerius, who I also mentioned).

The Slider

This is one of my favourite Marc Bolan tracks, the title track of the second T Rex album.

Midweek Meeting August 24 2016

We were very few last night but it was good to meet and to look at the opening verses of Deuteronomy 31. This includes the verse about God not leaving or forsaking his people. I drew on other similar verses to flesh out the idea. It was meant to encourage and I hope it did. We didn't pray for long being not many but we sought the face of the Lord. 

Lord's Day August 21 2016

I am often not here in Childs Hill for the third Sunday in August so it was a change to be preaching yesterday. As expected, many were way, including all the other officers (for evening communion I served the seven or eight present myself - we read the parable of the talents). We ended up around 30 in the morning and about 12 in the evening, I think. I turned again to Acts 12 in the morning, looking this time at the opening verses and looking at persecution, providence and prayer. In the evening we turned to John 14:2, always a great verse to consider.
As a footnote I add that there was a pigeon present in the morning. We knew one had got in the day before but couldn't get it out (someone had already got one of them out). It roosted in the eve above me for most of the service but then moved early in the sermon. Then suddenly toward the end of the sermon it decided to leave through the door. I asked the steward to quickly close it before it decided to return.

Copa Cader Idris, Pengader

I like to do a bit of walking in the holidays and I persuaded two of my sons yesterday to accompany me up Cadair Idris, which I had not climbed before. We got up and down in the recommended five hours but I did find it a real struggle I confess. Unlike Snowdon, Cadair is uphill practically all the way and there are no cafes en route or at the summit. We took the Pony Path (Llwybr Pilin Pwn), which beginning in the north near Dolgellau. It is the easiest but the longest of the main trails. Its length from the mountain's base is 3.1 miles (5 k) with a 2,000 feet (600 m) climb. You start in  a wood with a stream nearby but it is soon more exposed. It was a perfect day for it. The cool breeze was much appreciated as we ascended. The views on such a clear day were stunning. Plenty of people were coming up and down but it was hardly crowded. I notice that Matthew Parris went up recently. See here.

Lord's Day August 14 2016

I was sitting in the pew (and it really was a pew) yesterday again, listening to my father-in-law Geoff Thomas. He preached on Mark 1:1 and Matthew 11:28 and had lots of good things to say that were very helpful. I was rather tired and would have appreciated more illustrations but one can't complain. Nice to chat with people, especially over a cuppa after the evening meeting. We also enjoyed the children's story in the morning with its sound effect. My son and his family were in the front pew. Their two year old and my mother-in-law (she has Alzheimer's) were both singing the hymns after their own fashion,as was I. Make a joyful noise, eh?

Murray on J C Ryle

This year sees the anniversary of the birth of J C Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool. Iain Murray has researched and written a masterful account of Ryle's life that not only sets out the trajectory of his days but examines it with an historical and theological awareness that means this is not only a tribute to Ryle and a reminder of the providence of God but also a helpful analysis of what made Ryle great that at the same time frankly points to the limitations imposed by his Anglicanism and, without being dismissive, the far more difficult position those who are Anglicans today inevitably find themselves in. At the same time, rather than being dismissive of such views, Murray challenges us to think it through for ourselves.
One odd thing about the book is that although I read it from cover to cover at the end I was not entirely sure whether Ryle was a fully fledged Calvinist or not. Looking at it again it is pretty clear that Ryle was committed to the 39 articles which are Calvinistic and in agreement with Thomas Scott a five point Calvinist. I suppose I wanted a quote like the one American Charles J Ray unearthed in the commentary on John (1:29)
"Christ is an ALMIGHTY Saviour, and a Saviour for all mankind. He "takes away the sin of the world." He did not die for the Jews only, but for the Gentile as well as the Jew. He did not suffer for a few people only, but for all mankind. The payment that He made on the cross was more than enough to make satisfaction for the debts of all. The blood that He shed was precious enough to wash away the sins of all. His atonement on the cross was sufficient for all mankind,though efficient only to those who believe. The sin that He took up and bore on the cross was the sin of the whole world." (Italics added).

10 Football Codes

1. Association football
2. American football
3. Australian rules football
4. Canadian football
5. Gaelic football
6. Rugby union
7. Rugby league
8. International rules football
9. Circle rules football
10. Teqball 

Aber Conference 2016 Final Day

Aber Conference 2016 Thursday Evening

Aber Conference 2016 Wednesday

The conference continued yesterday with an excellent overview of Revelation 20 by Reformed giant Joel Beeke and then in the evening a look at Isaiah with the distinctive (and slightly taller) Mike Reeves. I heard them both in the afternoon, along with Bill Bygroves, very usefully looking at the subject of evangelism.

Poem by Sir Walter Raleigh

In a final letter to his wife before his execution Sir Walter Raleigh apparently wrote these sound words quoted in Aberystwyth this evening by Bill Bygroves

From thence to Heaven's bribeless hall,
Where no corrupted voices brawl,-
No conscience molten into gold;
No forged accuser bought or sold;
No cause deferr'd, no vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king s attorney;
Who pleads for all without degrees,—
And he hath angels - but no fees.
And when the grand twelve-million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury,
'Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death; and then we live.
Be Thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder!
Thou givest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer's palms.
Then this is mine eternal plea,
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea;
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke of death, my arms being spread,
Set on my soul an everlasting head,
So shall I ready, like a palmer fit,
Tread those blessed paths shown in thy Holy Writ.

Aberystwyth 2016 First Morning (Tues)

Joel Beeke preached this morning on Revelation 19. Good stuff, worth hearing.

Aber Conference 2016 First Evening

The conference proper got off to a good start tonight with a straight evangelistic message from 2 Corinthians 5:17 by Bill Bygroves from Liverpool. The message is on Youtube.

Bible Concordances

In the days before modern translations there were three recommended Bible concordances. These usually hefty times were compiled by
Alexander Cruden whose complete concordance first  appeared in 1761
Robert Young whose analytical concordance first appeared in 1879
Dr James Strong whose exhaustive concordance first appeared in 1890.
Some wag said that Strongs was for strong'uns and Young for young'uns ... and then there is also Crudens.

Lord's Day August 7 2016 Plus

We are in Aberystwyth again. Yesterday morning I took my turn on duty back at home so missed the first of my father-in-laws three messages on The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24). I tuned into the Metropolitan Tabernacle service. Ibrahim Ag Mohammed was preaching from 1 Timothy 6 and it was good to hear. In the evening I heard Geoff give his second message, very evangelistic it was. It was nice to see lots of different people and chat. He gave his third message this morning - again in Seion, Baker Street (not Bethel as usual). I led in prayer and read the Word to start as is our tradition. Looking forward to the week of conference. I liked his Douglas MacMillan story about the teenage boys asking for membership and being asked whether they had changed. They replied that they thought it was Douglas who had changed. About six months before his preaching had suddenly started to get interesting!

10 Novellas

One of my sons famously thought novella was a posh word for a novel. It just refers to a short novel - about 150 pages or less. Here is a list of ten. These are ones I have actually read.

1. Bartleby the Scrivener Herman Melville 1853
2. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson 1885
3. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad 1899
4. Ethan Frome Edith Wharton 1911
5. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck 1937
6. Animal Farm George Orwell 1945
7. The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway 1952
8. Breakfast at Tiffany's Truman Capote 1958
9. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Alexander Solzhenitsyn 1962
10. A Month in the Country J L Carr 1960

Herman Hesse's Siddhartha

In the same section of Waterstones where I saw the Jhumpa Lahiri short story collection I saw a copy of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. I first became aware of this book many years ago reading  James W Sire's very helpful book The Universe Next Door. He mentions it in his chapter on Basic Eastern Pantheistic Monism. The book is certainly a great advertisement for that way of thinking. It relates the story of the eponymous hero from his Brahmin youth, through his time as a samana and encountering the Buddha, through a sansara period of sex, riches and gambling then back into a more traditionally Hindu  approach to life. It is very well written and so lures in the unsuspecting. It was written (in German) in the twenties but reached popular heights only by the sixties when the Beatles and others were looking east for inspiration. It is still worth a read - in order to understand eastern thought and read well written and simple prose.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Looking at books in my local Waterstones the other day I saw a book I knew was on my shelves so back home I pulled it down and started to read. It is a book of nine short stories by the American based Bengali Asian writer Jhumpa Lahiri. The collection actually goes back to the year 2000 but I am rather slow at getting round to things. Some neighbours of mine saw me reading it and were very enthusiastic about it. The stories are gentle and well written and coming from a culture I am not so familiar with have a certain impact beyond the obvious. Perhaps the best done, apart from the title piece Interpreter of maladies is When Mr Pirzada came to dine a childhood reminiscence from the time of the India Pakistan war concerning Bangla Desh. Well worth digging out.

Midweek Meeting August 3 2016

It was good to be at the meeting tonight, We were ten all told. After a hymn based on the opening stanza of Psalm 119 and a prayer we looked at the opening two verses of the psalm. I didn't really feel I'd got hold of the material well enough, may be I was too brief, but in the prayer time someone prayed it through very well, and that was an encouragement. As ever tons of things to pray about. We cover quite a lot I suppose.

10 Popular songs that feature spoken parts

1. The Contours - Do you love me (You broke my heart 'Cause I couldn't dance You didn't even want me around And now I'm back to let you know I can really shake 'em down)
2. Thriller - Michael Jackson ([Vincent Price]
Darkness falls across the land The midnight hour is close at hand Creatures crawl in search of blood To terrorize y'awl's neighbourhood And whosoever shall be found Without the soul for getting down Must stand and face the hounds of hell And rot inside a corpse's shell The foulest stench is in the air The funk of 40,000 years And grizzly ghouls from every tomb Are closing in to seal your doom And though you fight to stay alive Your body starts to shiver For no mere mortal can resist The evil of the thriller Can you dig it?! [into maniacal laugh, in deep echo]
3. Are you lonesome tonight - Elvis Presley ( I wonder if you're lonesome tonight You know someone said that the world's a stage And each must play a part. Fate had me playing in love you as my sweet heart. Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance You read your line so cleverly and never missed a cue Then came act two, you seemed to change and you acted strange And why I'll never know. Honey, you lied when you said you loved me And I had no cause to doubt you. But I'd rather go on hearing your lies Than go on living without you. Now the stage is bare and I'm standing there With emptiness all around And if you won't come back to me Then make them bring the curtain down.)
4. Chantilly lace - The Big Bopper (Hello, baby Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speakin' Ha ha ha ha ha, oh you sweet thing Do I what? Will I what? Oh baby, you know what I like)
5. Green green grass of home - Tom Jones (Then I awake and look around me, at the four grey walls that surround me and I realise, yes, I was only dreaming. For there's a guard and there's a sad old padre - arm in arm we'll walk at daybreak. Again I'll touch the green, green grass of home.)
6. Leader of the pack - The Shangrilas (Mm--"Is she really going out with him? "Well, there she is, Let's ask her" "Betty, is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing?" "Mm-hm" "Gee, it must be great riding with him" "Is he picking you up after school today?" "Mm-mm" "By the way, where did you meet him?")
7. When the man comes around - Johnny Cash ("And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder One of the four beasts saying, 'Come and see.' and I saw, and behold a white horse" There's a man goin' 'round takin' names And he decides who to free and who to blame Everybody won't be treated all the same There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down The hairs on your arm will stand up At the terror in each sip and in each sup Will you partake of that last offered cup Or disappear into the potter's ground ... Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom Then the father hen will call his chickens home The wise man will bow down before the throne And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns When the man comes around Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still Listen to the words long written down ... And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts And I looked, and behold a pale horse And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him")
8. Bye Bye Baby - Four Seasons (If you hate me after what I say  Can't put it off any longer I just gotta tell ya anyway)
9. Bullet the blue sky - U2 (This guy comes up to me His face red like a rose in a thorn bush Like all the colours of a royal flush And he's peeling off those dollar bills Slapping them down One hundred, two hundred And I can see those fighter planes And I can see those fighter planes Across the mud huts where the children sleep Through the alleys of a quiet city street You take the staircase to the first floor Turn the key and slowly unlock the door As a man breathes into a saxophone And through the walls you hear the city groan Outside is America Outside is America, America Across the field you see the sky ripped open See the rain through a gaping wound Pounding on the women and children Who run Into the arms Of America)
10. Ain't no mountain high enough - Diana Ross (Listen baby, ain't no mountain high, Ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough baby If you need me call me no matter where you are, No matter how far; don't worry baby Just call my name; I'll be there in a hurry You don't have to worry,)

Lord's Day July 31 2016

Numbers were down again with more people away than ever but the morning service was not too bad with two fresh Iranian visitors, two  old friends, a Nigerian lady who has not been for a while, a local girl who only comes occasionally and two men present even though their families are away. One lady came but had gone by the time I had finished leading in prayer (always disconcerting when people disappear like that). In the evening we were down to 14. In the morning we said goodbye to my son Rhodri and his family, moving to Aber this week. In the morning I preached from Acts 12 on Herod and the way the Word flourished and spread despite his opposition (quite an unusual sermon in some ways but I think it worked) and in the evening the closing verses of Matthew 9, chiefly on the call to bring in the harvest. See here for sermons.